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An Introduction To The Book Of Jude

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I. AUTHOR: Jude the brother of James and half brother of Jesus

A. External Evidence: There are traces of Jude in the following works1 which attest well to its use in an early period. It seems that questions arose because of its use of apocryphal books2:

1. Pseudo-Barnabas3 (c. AD 70-130)

2. Clement of Rome4 (c. AD 95-97)

3. The Shepherd of Hermas5 (c. AD 115-140)

4. Polycarp6 (c. AD 110-150)

5. The Didache7 (c. AD 120-150)

6. Athenagoras8 (c. AD 177)

7. Theophilus of Antioch9 (died, AD 183-185)

8. The Muratorian Canon10 (c. AD 170)

9. Tertullian11 (c. AD 150-220)

10. Clement of Alexandria12 (c. AD 150-215)

11. Origen13 (c. AD 185-254)

12. Synod of Antioch14 (c. AD 264)

13. Didymus of Alexandria15 (died, AD 394 or 399)

14. Eusebius16 (c. AD 260-340)

15. Jerome17 (c. AD 346-420)

B. Internal Evidence: Objections raised do not overturn the conclusion that Jude was the brother of James of Jerusalem and thus the half-brother of the Lord Jesus

1. The writer introduces himself as “Jude, the bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (verse 1)

a. This James was probably the well known James of Jerusalem--the Lord Jesus Christ’s brother18

b. Jude is mentioned as among the brothers of the Lord in Mark 6:3 (cf. Matthew 13:55)

c. This identification by Jude may have been an attempt to identify himself with his brother’s reputation

d. It is not inappropriate for Jude to identify himself as the brother of James rather than the half-brother of Jesus--especially since he desires to emphasize himself as Jesus’ servant

2. Jude may well have been one of those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:5 who engaged in itinerate preaching19

3. Objections to Jude as Author:20 While objections to Jude, the brother of the James of Jerusalem, as author of the epistle range from assumptions of a late date to reinterpretations of verse one, there is no reason to conclude that Jude was other than the Lord’s brother

a. The letter was written too late for Jude to have been its author

1) But if the letter was written by the 90s Jude could still have been alive21

2) Interpretative issues concerning the occasion of the epistle (e.g., the description of the heretics, the connection with Gnosticism, the references to the apostles) do not demand a late date since they could be understood in the first century

b. Verse one really reads so as to describe an unknown Jude as son of an unknown James22

But such a view is unsupported by the textual evidence, and is improbable as a since the letter would not have gained suitable circulation unless it was identified with James of Jerusalem and pseudonymity was identified with well known figures

c. Jude was actually Jude the apostle called “Judas of James” (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13)

1) However it is most probable to understand the phrase in Luke and Acts ( ᾿Ιούδας ᾿Ιακώβου ) to mean “Jude, the son of James” rather than “Jude the brother of James” as Jude 1 reads

2) However, the author of Jude does not seem to identify himself with the apostles, and actually sees the apostles as being apart from himself (17,18)

d. Jude is the second-century bishop of Jerusalem and the phrase “brother of James” is an episcopal title at Jerusalem

However, there are no parallels to support this understanding

4. The identity of Jude as the Lord’s brother would account for the authority with which he writes, and the regard which the letter gained in the Christian church

5. The letter is colored by Jewish images and apocalypses which would match an historical first-century Jude.

II. DATE: Somewhere between AD 65-80

A. Dates have been assigned from AD 60-140

B. If Jude is the brother of James and our Lord (as has been argued above), then the date must fall into what would have been the limits of his life

C. Bigg suggests that Jude was older than Jesus by means of being the son of Joseph by a former marriage23, but there is no evidence to support this view

D. Jude was most probably a younger brother of Jesus, and may even have been the youngest in view of the order in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:5524

E. While it was true that verse three suggests that Christianity has been established enough to have an established body of doctrine25, it does not demand a late date for the letter:

1. A common basis of belief existed from the first among all Christians

2. “Faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” is indefinite as to its timing

3. The Apostle Paul wrote about the standard of teaching to which the Roman Christians were committed (Rom. 6:17), therefore, one could have existed for a first-century Jude26

F. The reference to the Apostles in verse 17 does not have to mean that the apostolic age has passed:

1. Jude is referring to apostolic predictions of scoffers who will arise in the Church, and there does not need to be a long period between prediction and fulfillment

2. There were many NT predictions of scoffers and Jude may have written after the apostolic writings had been well distributed (3,4,17,18), or he may be referring to Peter’s representative statement (2 Peter 3:3ff) as he writes to his same audience

3. It is also possible that the use of the term “spoken” in verse 17 suggests closeness to the oral tradition27

G. The identification of false teachers who have “crept in unnoticed” (verse 4) need not be connected with fully developed Gnosticism of the second-century, but may be an expression of first-century incipient gnosticism

H. The description of false teachers is similar to those found in the Pastoral Epistles, but this is not a problem since they need not be assigned a late date

I. Therefore, although it is difficult to be certain, a view which supports a younger Jude, the distribution of apostolic writings, as well as a development of theology and false teachers may allow for a date which is somewhere between AD 65-80

III. DESTINATION: It is very difficult to be certain about the destination, but it may be a reasoned judgment that it was to Christians who lived in Syrian-Antioch

A. Jude does not identify his audience in the book28

B. The letter was probably not really a general letter because Jude identifies a people with a particular situation (3-5,17,18,20)29

C. The use of the Jewish Apocrypha probably is more of a clue about the author than about the recipients of the letter

D. Some suggests that the letter may have been sent to those in a district within the region of Palestine because verses 17 and 18 suggest that the readers may have heard some of the apostles and had some acquaintance with Paul (cf. Acts 20:29)30

E. The readers may have also been Gentile because it is a Greek letter and the heresy is syncretistic; but the language is not determinative (note the book of Hebrews), and there is insufficient information about this period to identify the heresy with accuracy

F. If Antioch is the location of the letter (which is very speculative but a considered judgment):

1. It would fit a Jewish-Gentile audience

2. It may match the possible pattern of Jude ministering like James in the Palestine area

3. It would match the place where many apostles ministered

IV. THE RELATIONSHIP OF JUDE AND 2 PETER:

A. Its Nature: Similarities between the two works affirm some kind of literary relationship, while differences affirm individual emphases

1. Similarities affirm some kind of literary relationship:

a. Most of 2 Peter 2 is paralleled in Jude and there are parallels in the other chapters of 2 Peter

b. No less than 15 of the 25 verses in Jude appear in 2 Peter

c. Many identical ideas, words, and phrases are parallel to the two writings

2. Differences affirm individual emphases:

a. The common material focuses almost completely on the issue of false teachers

b. Peter emphasizes more positive teaching and Jude concentrates on denunciations

c. The two groups of false teachers are similar, but not identical

B. The Question of Priority: The arguments are not decisive for the priority of either book; the solution may best be found through the postulation of a common source, but even this is not certain.

1. The Options are for priority can be argued with some convincing evidence in each direction, but they are not determinative:

a. Jude is Prior: While there are several arguments31, the stronger ones are as follows:

1) Jude is shorter than 2 Peter so it may have preceded 2 Peter which was an enlargement of Jude (strong)

2) Jude approaches the problem of false teachers with greater spontaneity than 2 Peter which adds an introduction to the problem and does not seem to know the issue first hand (note the tenses of verbs; [not as strong])

3) Jude is harsher than 2 Peter who may have toned down his offensive (weak)

4) Jude uses apocryphal books and 2 Peter does not (perhaps because he has excluded the references because of their unorthodox character [cf. 2 Pet. 2:11; Jude 9])

b. 2 Peter is Prior: Though weak, the arguments for the priority of 2 Peter are as follows:

1) Jude makes reference to 2 Peter in verse 4 and 17 (cf. 2 Peter 3:3)32

2) The use of the future tense in 2 Peter to discuss the false teachers and the present tense in Jude suggests the priority of 2 Peter in that Jude experienced what Peter foresaw, but Peter did not always use the future tense33

3) Jude’s borrowing from Peter (an apostle) is more understandable than for Peter to be borrowing from Jude (weak)

2. Both Jude and 2 Peter depended on a similar source:

a. This is not generally held to for the following reasons:

1) The similarities are considered to be too close to be accounted for in this way

2) The situation of both letters seems to be too concrete for such an explanation

b. If their was a general writing which Peter and Jude refer to, one wonders about its authority in view of Jude 17; if it was apostolic, why did it require its incorporation into these two letters to be preserved; but this is not determinative since there were clearly sources which were apostolic in the Gospel accounts which were not preserved beyond their inclusion in the Gospels

3. Conclusion: This problem cannot be definitively solved with the information which presently exists but the theory of a similar source seems most possible:

a. It is possible that a document like this did exist in the early church as a catechetical tract on false teaching34

b. This may well make all of Jude except the first three verses and verses 19-25 an expression of this tract, but Jude does express his intention to write on another subject, and then he changes due to the pressing nature of the circumstances (verse 3)

c. This may well explain the differences in styles as the two writers adapt the material for their own theological purpose35

V. JUDE’S USE OF APOCRYPHAL AND PSEUDEPIGRAPHON WRITINGS

A. Jude seems to have used the following apocryphal writings:

1. The Assumption of Moses (v. 9)

2. The Book of Enoch (vv. 6,13,14,15)

3. The Testament of Naphtali (v. 6)

4. The Testament of Asher (v. 8)

B. Options Toward Understanding Jude’s Use of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphon Writings:

1. Jude is not quoting these books, but providing information provided to him by inspiration

This is very unlikely due to the close parallels between Jude and the books, especially the book of Enoch36

2. Jude had ancient sources (an oral tradition just as the writer of 1 Enoch had) and the Spirit of God led him to use the inspired text, or to say what was true and reliable (e.g., Jude quotes the actual Enoch and not necessarily the book of 1 Enoch)

But the extra-canonical books were regarded as containing much truth just as works like Chafer’s Theology or by Swindoll are regarded as valuable today even though they are not inspired; there is no reason to suppose that Jude has a source other than the extra-canonical ones

3. Jude is using these “extra-canonical” works but not regarding all of them as Scripture (much as Paul did in Acts 17:28)37

VI. THE NATURE OF THE FALSE TEACHERS IN JUDE

A. It is not possible to identify the exact heresy of the false teachers38

B. The letter does offer characteristics of the heresy propagated by the false teachers:39

1. Their Doctrine:

a. They misunderstand the concept of grace (4a)

b. They deny Jesus Christ (4b)

c. They prefer their own dreamings rather than God’s revelation (8)

d. They misunderstand the doctrine of the Holy Spirit since He is absent (8,19)

e. They were critical toward the orthodox doctrine of angels (8)

2. Their Practice:

a. The are licentious, or lawless (4,7,16,18)

b. They unrighteously destroy for their own gain (11a,16)

c. They corrupt and pervert for personal gain (11b)

d. They blaspheme and rebel against divine authority (11c)

e. They are ruled by their passions and defile themselves (8,23)

f. They are arrogant and use people for their own gain (16)

3. Their Identity:

a. They are part of the Christian community (4)

b. While the descriptions lean toward a Gentile background,40 these are not determinative, and thus, may include Jews

c. Many suggest incipient gnosticism which unfolds in the second century,41 but this may be saying too much from the evidence.42 Childs’ broader, canonical explanation of a general description of heresy which threatens apostolic teaching may be a better choice43

VII. Purposes of Jude:

A. Jude began to write with the purpose of discussing their “common salvation” with his readers (v.3)

B. Because of the urgency of the situation Jude changed his purpose to discuss the problem of false teachers and to denounce them

C. Jude writes to defend the faith against false teachings which lead to antinomianism (or lawlessness)

D. Jude writes to warn believers not to be led astray by false teachers, and to urge them to rescue those who have (v. 23)

E. Jude writes to emphasize that those who do evil will be judge by the Lord

F. As Childs writes, “The Christian community is urged to maintain the faith which has been entrusted to it.”44


1 Charles Bigg offers the actual excepts in the ICC commentary, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude, pp. 305-308.

2 See Guthrie, NTI, p. 906; Bigg, Jude, p. 308; Green, Jude, p. 42.

3 Cf. Barnabas ii.10 with Jude 3,4. This is a possible allusion to Jude.

4 Clement xx.12; lxv.2 and Jude 25.

5 Cf. Sim. v.7.2 with Jude 8.

6 Cf. Martyrium Polycarpi xxi, with Jude 25; Phil. address with Jude 2; iii.2 with Jude 3,20; xi.4 with Jude 20,23.

7 Cf. Didache, ii.7 and Jude 22f; Didache, iii.6 and Jude 8-10.

8 Cf. Suppl. XXIV with Jude 6. Bigg writes, “Here there is a clear reference to Jude” (Jude, p. 307).

9 Cf. ii.15.

10 Bigg writes, “Accepts Jude, but mentions it in a manner which implies that is was doubted by some” (Jude, pp. 14, 307).

11 De cultu fem. i.3.

12 Hypotyposes; cf. Paed. iii.8,44 with Jude 5,6; Strom. iii.2.11 with Jude 8-16.

13 Cf. Matth xvii.30; x.17; tom. xv. 27 with Jude 6. Bigg writes, “Origen treats Jude much as he treats 2 Peter. He acknowledges that there were doubts, but does not appear to have felt them himself” (Jude, p. 306). However, he does identify Jude as scriptura divina in his Comm. in Rom iii.6 (see. Michael Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude: An introduction and Commentary, Tyndale, p. 42 n. 4).

14 Eus. H. E. vii.40.4.

15 Bigg writes, “Comments on Jude, and defends it against those who questioned the authority of the Epistle on the ground of the use therein made of apocryphal books. Migne, xxxix. 1811-1818; Zahn, Forschungen, iii.97.

16 H. E. ii. 23.25 although here he argues against its canonicity.

17 De uir. ill. iv.

18 See James 1:1; Galatians 1:19; 2:9; 1 Corinthians 15:7.

19 “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?

20 See Guthrie, NTI, pp. 906-908.

21 Some argue that since Jude’s grandsons were said to have stood before the Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96; cf. Eusebius, H. E. iii.20.1ff) therefore, he probably was not alive toward the end of the century. But if Jude was the youngest of the brothers of the Lord (due to the word order which the Gospels suggest in Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55), then this may not have been at all improbable in view of the early age of marriage in Judea (see Green, Jude, pp. 44-45; Mayor, Jude, p. cxlviii).

22 For this reading the term for “brother” ( ἀδελφός ) must be understood to be an interpolation (or an interpretative addition).

23 Bigg, Jude, p. 318.

24 See Green, Jude, pp. 44-45. Mayor writes, Jude, as we have seen, was apparently the youngest of the Brethren of the Lord, probably born not later than 10 A.D., if we accept the date of 6 B.C. for the Nativity. Taking into account the age at which marriage generally took place in Judaea, we may suppose that he had sons before 35 A.d. and grandsons by 60 A.D. These may have been brought before Domitian in any year of his reign. Jude himself would thus have been 71 in the first year of Domitian. If his letter was written in 80 a. D. ...he would have been 70 years of age, and his grandsons about 20” (Jude, p. cxlviii).

25 See “common salvation” and “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”.

26 See also Galatians 1:8ff; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6,14; 1 Corinthians 11:2.

27 See Green, Jude, p. 47. Guthrie feels that some literary reference is more probable (NTI, p. 910 n. 10).

28 Those who are “called,” “beloved,” and “kept” (verse 1) could refer to any Christians.

29 Guthrie writes that Jude seems to have an, “apparent acquaintance with certain specific people whom he knows to have crept into the church by guile and whose behaviour is so vividly portrayed that it suggests first-hand acquaintance with the false teachers too” (NTI, p. 916).

Nevertheless, Child’s has a theological point when he argues that the subject matter addresses heresy which threatens apostolic teaching and the doxology support a general, or “catholic”, tone (The New Testament as Canon, pp. 492-493).

30 Guthrie, along with Wand, goes so far as to identify the area as Syrian-Antioch (NTI, pp. 916-917; See also Green, Jude, p. 48).

31 See Guthrie, NTI, pp. 921-922.

32 But “long before” of Jude 4 probably refers to the book of Enoch as in verses 14-15, and in verse 17 one would expect Peter to be mentioned by name as James was in 1:1. Also verse 17 may have reference to sayings which the apostles endorsed (Guthrie, NTI, p. 923).

33 The present tense is used to describe false teachers in 2 Peter 2:10,17,18; 3:5.

34 See Green, Jude, pp. 54-55.

35 See Green Jude, pp. 53-54.

36 See verse 14 and 1 Enoch 1:9 (Guthrie, NTI, p. 917).

37 See also 1 Corinthians 10:4; 15:33; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:12.

With some concern to this writer Green suggests that Jude is not concerned with “critical, historical” matters when he cites Plummer who says, “‘St Jude probably believed the story about the dispute between Michael and Satan. But even if he knew it to be a myth, he might readily use it as an illustrative argument, seeing that it was so familiar to this readers’” (Jude, p. 49). Jude cannot affirm as true that which was not. It seems that under inspiration, Jude does adopt true portions of these extra-canonical works to make his point.

38 Guthrie, NTI, p. 912. Childs understands this to be the canonical point of the book of Jude when he writes, “Jude addresses the phenomenon of heresy and not any one specific form of error. Indeed, what characterizes the approach is that heresy is now dealt with as the theological referent, and not simply as an historical danger confronting a particular congregation.... it is constitutive of the Christian faith to be always threatened by this terrifying dimension of falsehood” (The NT as Canon, p. 492). Later he concludes, “the epistle of Jude offers a larger theological appraisal of the phenomenon of heresy by which to interpret the specific historical examples in the rest of the New Testament, and especially of the Pauline letters. On the other hand, the witness of the larger canon provides the actual content of the ‘faith once-and-for-all delivered unto the saints’ which the letter of Jude earnestly strives to preserve” (Ibid, p. 493).

39 Again Childs insightfully writes, “The identification of the threat of heresy by means of Old Testament figures serves to underline the major theological point that the alternative of unbelief was there from the beginning and is nothing new. Cain is the epitome of unrighteousness who murders his own brother. Balaam serves as the classic example of the corrupter perverts for personal gain, Korah personifies blasphemy and rebellion against divine authority .... The selfsame threat continues at work in the false teachers who have secretly gained entrance into the community of faith” (The NT as Canon, p. 492).

40 Guthrie, NTI, pp. 913-914.

41 See Green, Jude, pp. 38-40.

42 Bauckham may provide the most balanced approach when he writes, “It is better to see their antinomianism as simply one of the streams that flowed into later Gnosticism, but which at this stage is not distinctively gnostic” (Jude; 2 Peter, p. 12).

43 See Guthrie, NTI, p. 914; Childs, The NT as Canon, pp. 492-493.

44 Later he writes, “The letter offers a theological description of the phenomenon of heresy rather than attacking a specific historical form of error. Nevertheless, a clear theological profile of heresy emerges. Error consists in ‘denying our Master and Lord’ (v. 4), in perverting God’s grace by immorality and lawlessness (v. 7), and in rejecting divine authority for one’s own advantage (v. 16)” (Childs, The New Testament as Canon, pp. 492-493).

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines