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26. Jude: Introduction, Argument, and Outline

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A. The Author

Verse 1 introduces the author as “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” There are essentially two problems with authorship: (1) which Jude is meant? and (2) is the work really by some Jude, or is it pseudepigraphical?

1. External Evidence

In spite of its brevity, Jude has fairly decent attestation in patristic literature. There are possible allusions to it in Clement of Rome, Shepherd of Hermas, Barnabas, and Didache, and probable allusions in Polycarp. The Muratorian Canon mentions it, as does Clement of Alexandria. Tertullian comments on its use of 1 Enoch, Origen speaks of the doubts of some, Didymus the Blind defended its authenticity, and Eusebius classified it with the Antilegomena. It is really only as time progressed that doubts about its authenticity/canonicity became articulated, principally because of the use of apocryphal material in this little work.

It should be noted, in passing, that Jude did not become part of the Syrian canon until the sixth century—a fact which should help us at least to eliminate one possibility for its destination.

2. Internal Evidence

Most scholars accept Jude as both authentic and written by Jude, the brother of Jesus. There is a growing number today, however, who regard it as pseudepigraphical (including Barnett, Reicke, Kelly), principally because there are internal features which suggest a date after the death of Jude. But not only is the evidence for a late date by no means compelling (see discussion under “Date”), but there is a major hurdle for the pseudepigraphical hypothesis to overcome: Why would anyone use the obscure name “Jude” unless this were a genuine work? To make matters worse, he does not identify himself as “Jude, the brother of the Lord.” Such a designation would at least elevate Jude by virtue of his relation to Jesus. Consequently, a pseudepigraphical piece is almost ruled out “since in such writings one of the major factors was attribution to an already well-known name.”1

Assuming that “Jude” is an authentic appellation, which Jude is in mind? Apart from the Lord’s brother, only two other candidates have any degree of plausibility. The first is Jude the apostle, son of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). If so, one of two texts needs to be reread: Either Jude 1 should be changed or Luke 6:16/Acts 1:13 should be reinterpreted. Some have suggested that ἀδελφός in Jude 1 is an interpolation; hence, “Jude [the son] of James.” Against this is the total lack of textual support2 and the fact that Jude was accepted in the early church so readily, suggesting that at least James was well-known.3 The other possibility is to read ᾿Ιούδας ᾿Ιακώβου in Luke 6:16/Acts 1:13 as “Jude [the brother] of James” rather than “Jude [the son] of James.” Not only is this a rather unusual reading of the genitive of relationship (which almost always indicates paternity), but the fact that Jude does not call himself an apostle in this letter renders this view implausible.

The second alternative is to see Jude as the second-century bishop of Jerusalem (so Grotius). “This necessitates treating the words ‘brother of James’ as equivalent to an episcopal title at Jerusalem. But there are no parallels to support this view.”4 Not only this, but the external evidence is too strong and too early to allow such an identification.

Finally, Jude, the brother of the Lord, may be in view. The strongest reason on behalf of this view is that Jude identifies himself as “the brother of James.” A well-known James is presupposed. The only one to fit the bill is James, the brother of the Lord.

There are really only two problems (of any substance) with this identification. First, why does Jude call himself “the brother of James” rather than “the brother of Jesus”? As Bauckham points out, “Palestinian Jewish-Christian circles in the early church used the title ‘brother of the Lord’ not simply to identify the brothers, but as ascribing to them an authoritative status, and therefore the brothers themselves, not wishing to claim an authority based on mere blood-relationship to Jesus, avoided the term.”5 Such restraint would especially be appropriate if one were writing to Gentiles,6 for Gentilic entrance into a covenant relationship with Israel’s God was now, for the first time, not based on proselytization (in which circumcision would be required), but simply faith. Thus, the very self-identification which opens this epistle not only indicates humility on Jude’s part, but also speaks of authenticity.

Second, the major difficulty in attributing this letter to the brother of the Lord is that the Greek is quite good—perhaps too good for a Galilean peasant.7 Although we have dealt at some length with the probable bilingualism of first century CE Palestine,8 as well as the possibility of an amanuensis reshaping the thoughts of an author, one point is significant here. Jude’s mastery of Greek is more related to his vocabulary than his syntax. “A wide vocabulary, which Jude has, is easier to acquire than a skill in literary style, where Jude’s competence is less remarkable.”9 Consequently, this cannot be considered a decisive argument against authenticity.

In conclusion, there is no reasonable doubt that Jude, the brother of the Lord, was the author of this epistle.

B. Date

“The fact that the suggestions of scholars regarding the date of writing vary between AD 60 and 140 is a sufficient reminder that much of the so-called evidence on this subject amounts to little more than guesses.”10 There are a number of issues relevant to the date of this epistle, such as the relation of Jude to 2 Peter, the question of authenticity, and the false teachers in view. What one decides about these questions has a direct bearing on the date of this epistle. There are other issues as well, which may indeed help to pinpoint the date more precisely.

The three main dates proposed for Jude are: (1) sometime during the apostolic age (c. 50s-60s), (2) the latter part of the first century, and (3) the first half (usually the first two decades) of the second century.

1. Apostolic Age

This view assumes authenticity and that Jude was the brother of the Lord. It also normally assumes the priority of Jude aver 2 Peter and inauthenticity for the latter. In its behalf is the probability that Jude did not live much past 70 CE. This is based on two inferences: (1) Jude was a younger brother of Jesus, rather than an older brother by a previous marriage of Joseph. If so, and this is the most probable reading of Matt 13:55/Mark 6:3, then Jude would probably have been born sometime between 4 BCE and 10 CE. If he were to write in 70 CE, he would be at least 60 years old and perhaps in his 70s. Though it is of course conceivable that Jude lived much longer than that (our external evidence is almost nil), the 70s CE is a fairly reasonable terminus ad quem. (2) Hegesippus11 relates how Jude’s grandsons were brought before Domitian because they were suspected of attempting to overthrow the Roman government. But they explained that the kingdom for which they were awaiting was eschatological and heavenly in nature, not political and earthly. Domitian then dismissed them and put an end to the persecution of the church. Though much in this story is quite suspect,12 the fact that Jude’s grandsons—rather than their father or Jude himself—were brought before Domitian suggests at least that Jude had died by c. 96 CE. But such an upper limit is already anticipated in our first consideration, the time of Jude’s birth. At most we could say that Jude must have died sometime before 96 CE, and probably in the 70s.

There are a number of arguments against such an early date which we will investigate under the other two time periods. One consideration that must be kept in mind, however, is that if Jude is prior to 2 Peter and if Jude is dated c. 65 CE, then 2 Peter must be pseudepigraphical. Yet, if our conclusions that 2 Peter is authentic are correct, then Jude must be fairly early (e.g., 50s), or fairly late (sometime after Peter died), depending on who borrowed from whom.

2. First Half of Second Century 13

Two arguments are used for this date: (1) references in Jude (vv 3, 17) which seem to indicate that the apostolic age had now passed, and (2) the identification of the false teachers with Gnosticism. This first consideration we will take up in the next section since it does not at all presuppose a date in the second century, only that the apostles had died. Concerning the second argument, Bauckham points out that “they cannot be called Gnostics. What is missing from their teaching is the cosmological dualism of true Gnosticism… . In the absence of cosmological dualism, it is misleading even to call their teaching ‘incipient Gnosticism.’ … If [Jude’s] polemic is really aimed against Gnosticism it is singularly inept.”14

There are two other arguments against such a late date, as we have argued under authorship.15 (1) If this were a pseudepigraphical work (which most late-date advocates hold), why the name Jude? (2) How can the early external attestation of this epistle be explained if the document did not come into existence until the second century?

This leaves us with either a date within the apostolic age or the latter part of the first century. Not only are there arguments against a date within the apostolic age, but there are a number of arguments on behalf of a later date, even assuming authenticity.

3. Latter Part of First Century

Dates suggested within this range are anywhere from 65 CE to 95 CE. Normally a date of c. 70-80 CE is most common. Though most scholars who date Jude to the later first century assume Judan priority over 2 Peter, this is not at all necessary. In fact, for those who hold that 2 Peter is authentic, a date for Jude in this time frame necessitates Petrine priority. It is our conviction that Jude should be dated in this period and that 2 Peter was written first, thought the date for Jude can be established fairly well on other grounds.

There is one very strong argument that is used for a date later than the apostolic age,16 though still within Jude’s lifetime: the references within Jude which suggest that the apostles had died. Although some scholars downplay the evidence,17 a reasonable reading18 of Jude suggests that the apostles with whom he normally associated had died. In fact, in our discussion of the occasion of this letter, the references to an age now past should make perfectly good sense. For now, note the following references:

Verse 3—“the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” Bauckham says this refers simply to the gospel itself, arguing that “this is exactly the tactic which Paul used against false teaching (Gal 1:6-9; Rom 16:17).”19 What he does not explain is why Jude mentions “once for all delivered” (a point absent in the parallels). This sounds suspiciously as though the age of the apostles were past, for only if they were now dead could their written ministries take on such a final note. Most commentators take this verse to be a reference to a fixed body of orthodox belief. There is a great deal of truth in this—and it is not insignificant that such a view well fits into a date within the lifetime of Jude, though after Paul and Peter had died.

Verses 17-18a—“Remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, for they said to you … ” Regarding this text, Bauckham asserts that “it is not the apostles themselves, but their missionary activity in founding these particular churches, which belongs in the past.”20 He goes on to draw a parallel with Paul’s writings, in which he confesses that there is a difference: “Jude’s statement is exactly parallel to many of Paul’s in which he refers his readers back to teaching he gave them when he founded their church … , with the one difference that, since Jude was evidently not one of the founding missionaries of the church(es) to which he writes, he speaks of the apostles’ teaching rather than his own.”21 But this difference is precisely why it is difficult to accept this statement as coming while the apostles were still alive. Why would Jude write to this audience if the apostles were still around to minister to them?22

It is our contention that Jude can be dated c. 65-80 CE. Furthermore, we would tentatively like to propose a date of c. 66-67 (with a greater probability for 66) for the following reasons:

(1) There is the strong probability that Jude used 2 Peter rather than vice versa (see following section for discussion). Assuming this to be true, if 2 Peter is authentic, and if Jude is authentic, then the parameters are indeed c. 65-80.

(2) Verse 18a does indicate, taken at face value, that Jude cannot have written long after the death of the apostles, for the apostles wrote “to you.” This implies that many, if not most, of the original converts are still alive. This would tend to put the date earlier rather than later, but still after 64 CE (the date of Peter’s death).

(3) Although v 3 hints at early catholicism, particularly if read as a statement about creedalism, this does not need to have come several decades after Peter’s death. If this epistle is picking up the ball (so to speak) where Peter left off23—that is, if it is attempting to make sure Paul’s churches knew they were not abandoned—Jude would be quite eager to emphasize the common elements between Paul’s Christianity and that of the other apostles. This would be particularly appropriate very soon after Peter’s death, for there would still be a perception that Paul’s churches might defect (or in the least that they needed special encouragement). In this reconstruction of the purpose for this epistle, “our common salvation” in v 3 is a subtle reminder that Paul’s expression of the faith was legitimate.24 This may well argue for a date shortly after Peter’s death, even within weeks. However, there are two other considerations which would tend to date it a bit later.

(4) Once it was known that false teachers had actually crept into the church(es)—something only anticipated in 2 Peter—Jude altered the purpose of his letter, making it now an appeal for his audience “to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” The potential danger had become real. But once again, appeal is made to the common ground (“the faith”) that all the apostles shared. Some amount of time must be allowed for both the invasion of the false teachers after Peter wrote his epistle and for Jude to have learned about it. Not much time is needed, however, for Jude seems to indicate that this is a very recent development.25

(5) Assuming that Jude used 2 Peter—and that in some way he wanted to indicate that the present false teachers were predicted by Peter,26 it is most curious that their denial of the second coming of Christ is not mentioned in Jude. The reason for this would most naturally be that the present false teachers only partially fulfilled Peter’s prophecy. That is to say, they did not deny the second coming of Christ, but they were licentious. If this were the case, what period in nascent Christianity would best fit such a characterization? The answer is quite simple: during the war between Jerusalem and Rome (66-70). Early Christian expectation would certainly be that once some of the events of the Olivet Discourse began to unfold, the Lord’s return would take place.27 Indeed, it was only after 70 CE—and after Jesus did not return—that we have any record of denial about the second coming. A false teacher would only show himself to be a fool if he were to deny the second advent while this great war was taking place.

(6) Even though there is no hint of the false teachers denying the second coming in this epistle, there is an eschatological urgency throughout the letter. This is seen in the apocalyptic imagery, as well as in specific utterances. Such urgency would be spawned both by a sense that the Lord’s return was at hand and by the sudden rise of false teachers who would do what they could, if possible, to deceive even the elect. In v 5, in fact, Jude may be referring to the rapture, for he argues that first God saved his people from Egypt, then afterward (τὸ δεύτερον) he destroyed the unbelievers. The eschatological urgency is also seen in v 18 (for Jude says that “the last time” is taking place right now) and v 21 (“wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ”). Beside this there is the general eschatological note of eternal condemnation of the wicked, and eternal life of the righteous seen throughout. All this would fit well within a period during the Jewish War.

Finally, it is our tentative vie that this epistle was sent to a Gentile church on the coast of Asia Minor.28 Ephesus is the most likely candidate. If so, and if John took up residence there (c. 65 CE), then Jude more than likely did not know that John was there, otherwise he would feel no need to write this letter. This argues that the letter probably was not written very much after the beginning of the Jewish War, 67 CE probably being the outside limit.

In sum, these considerations argue that Jude wanted to write very soon after Peter died, but did not accomplish the task until false teachers had infiltrated the church and after the Jewish War began. Further, if our suggestion as to destination is correct, then Jude would not have written if he had known that John had recently arrived in Ephesus. 66 CE, therefore, seems to be the most probable date. It is possible to be too dogmatic on such slim evidence. It must be reiterated, therefore, that our dating of this letter at 66 (-67) is quite tentative. Many unseen factors could overturn it.

C. Relation to 2 Peter29

1. Arguments for Priority of Jude

The primary reason scholars hold the priority of Jude, it seems, is that they view 2 Peter as pseudepigraphical. But if there are good reasons for the authenticity of 2 Peter (as we believe we have demonstrated), then the question of priority resurfaces.

Bauckham, who shows a remarkable balance in his treatment of these letters, gives a second argument for Jude’s priority: “The most important literary reason for preferring 2 Peter’s dependence on Jude to the opposite hypothesis is that … Jude 4-18 [is] a piece of writing whose detailed structure and wording has been composed with exquisite care, whereas the corresponding parts of 2 Peter, while by no means carelessly composed, are by comparison more loosely structured … It is much more difficult to imagine Jude constructing his elaborate midrash with 2 Pet 2 before him.”30 The problem with this literary argument is precisely that where one would expect to find analogies, he finds them for the opposite conclusion. For example, concerning the Synoptic problem, virtually all scholars would agree that Luke at least used one of the other Gospels. If he used Mark, as most scholars believe, it is significant that not only does Luke “clean up” the grammar of Mark, but he also has his own tightly woven structure.31 This is precisely what we see in the relation between 2 Peter and Jude: not only is the Greek better in Jude,32 but the structure is tighter. Thus, although presupposition may be on Bauckham’s side (though this is doubtful), real evidence is decidedly against him.

There is one further argument often employed for priority of Jude: Why would Jude even bother to write his epistle if the bulk of it were already contained in 2 Peter? This especially would seem to have force if the audience were the same in both cases (a view we adopt). But such a view loses much of its force since “the most important part of Jude, which fulfills the author’s main purpose in writing, is the appeal (vv 20-23).”33 Since these verses are not part of the common material, and yet are the crescendo to which the epistle is building, this argument cannot be given much weight.34

Altogether, the case for priority of Jude rests primarily on presuppositions about 2 Peter’s inauthenticity. If, however, 2 Peter is authentic, then the literary dependence may be flowing in the opposite direction. What clues are there that this is the case?

2. Arguments for Priority of 2 Peter

In addition to the counter-arguments mentioned above, four positive arguments can be brought forth for the priority of 2 Peter.

First, Jude’s grammar and style are much better than are 2 Peter’s. On the analogy of Markan priority,35 this would argue strongly for the priority of 2 Peter.

Second, 2 Peter speaks of the false teachers as yet to come,36 and Jude speaks of them as having recently infiltrated the church. If 2 Peter and Jude were both written to approximately the same audiences, this argues quite strongly for the priority of 2 Peter.

Third, in Jude 3, as we have argued, the age of the apostles had ended. This could only be true after the death of Peter.

Fourth, v 17 yields three clues concerning the literary relationship of these two letters:

(a) Jude seems to be saying that his audience ought to recall what Peter (and Paul and his associates) had said to them regarding the rise of false prophets. Again, here it should be noticed that the verse is almost identical to 2 Pet 3:2, though Peter is speaking about what would come while Jude is saying that the prophecy was fulfilled.

(b) Again, as in v 3, v 17 seems to indicate that the age of the apostles was past.

(c) Finally, although Jude 17 and 2 Pet 3:2 are almost identical in wording, there are significant differences:

2 Peter 3:2—“you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandments of the Lord and Savior through your apostles” (RSV)

Jude 17—“Remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (RSV)

What shows very clearly the literary connection between these two texts is not only the general thought, but some key terms and expressions, for example:

μνησθῆναι τῶν προειρημε'νων ῥημάτων (Peter);

μνήσθητε τῶν ῥημάτων τῶν προειρημένων (Jude)

There are two major differences, however: (1) 2 Peter speaks of “your apostles” while Jude speaks of “the apostles”; (2) 2 Peter reminds his audience of what the prophets and apostles said while Jude merely mentions apostles. As we have argued in our discussion of 2 Peter, “your apostles” probably refers to Paul and his associates. Peter’s point was to show not only that Paul was a genuine spokesman for God, but also that his message was in line with the OT prophets. Jude, however, drops the mention of the prophets, and makes the apostles more absolute. If anything, this suggests that Jude was written later and depended on 2 Peter. (He might not have personalized the apostles because now such a group would include Peter and Peter was not, technically, one of “your apostles”). It is quite inexplicable for the author of 2 Peter, reading Jude, to add prophets and personalize the apostles, while it is perfectly clear why an author, after the age of the apostles had ended, spoke of them in more absolute terms and quietly dropped mention of prophets since that did not suit his purpose.37 In light of this parallel between the two epistles, it is rather surprising to read Bauckham’s comment that “there is no convincing case of allusion to a written Christian source [in Jude] … ”38

In sum, apart from a presupposition of inauthenticity for 2 Peter, there is every reason to believe that Jude used 2 Peter rather than vice versa.

C. Place of Writing

There is really no internal clue given as to the place of writing. However, there may be external clues which at least can narrow it down some. It must be admitted that much of this is speculative, based on our very tentative reconstruction of the occasion and destination.

First, Jude is aware of Peter’s death (in Rome), but not of John’s recent trek to Ephesus. If John came from Palestine (probably Jerusalem) to Ephesus in c. 65 CE, it is doubtful that Jude was there at the time. But it is not at all necessary for him to have been in Rome, for the news of Peter’s death would certainly spread quicker than the news of John’s departure for Ephesus.

Second, even though it is not necessary for Jude to have been in Rome in order to know of Peter’s death, he would in all likelihood have to have been close either to Rome or to Asia Minor in order to know the contents of 2 Peter as soon as he did.

Third, in order for Jude to be able to know about the rise of false teachers in Asia Minor, yet not know about John’s departure for Ephesus, he either had to be in Asia Minor or else be in a place where communication with Asia Minor was excellent.

Fourth, if Hegesippus’ account of Jude’s grandsons has even the smallest element of truth in it, this suggests that Jude’s grandsons lived in or near Rome in the 90s CE. This, of course, does not necessarily indicate Jude’s domicile, but it is suggestive.

Fifth, Jude was an itinerant preacher (1 Cor 9:5), which at least indicated that he traveled beyond Jerusalem. At the same time, Jude probably did his work among Jewish Christians. This is based on the fact that (a) his brother James wrote to Jewish Christians; (b) most of the apostles apparently worked among Jewish Christians, with Peter being the main “apostle to the circumcision”; (c) in our reconstruction, this epistle is written to one (or more) of Paul’s churches, yet it is written precisely because Jude wants to show the common elements (v 3) in their faith; (d) the utterly Jewish nature of the epistle, in spite of its good Greek, also argues this. What this suggests is that Jude may well have spent most of his time in Palestine, or perhaps among the diaspora Jewish Christians.

Sixth, since this is a letter, Jude was not in the place where the letter was sent. In our view, therefore, he was not in Asia Minor.

Seventh, the Syrian church did not accept Jude as canonical until the sixth century, suggesting that his labors were not there.

Putting all this rather scanty evidence together, we suggest that Jude was probably outside of Palestine (for he could not have been in Syria or Jerusalem), laboring among Jewish Christians of the diaspora. Rome, or at least Italy, seems to be as likely a place as any for the place of composition.

D. Addressees/Audience

There are two principal questions which must be resolved concerning the audience: (1) What is their racial mixture? and (2) Where did they reside? It is our contention that they were primarily Gentile Christians and that they lived in Ephesus. But once again, the evidence is scanty and no dogmatic statements can be made from it.

1. Gentile Christians

Most scholars regard Jude to have been addressed to Jewish Christians. There are two reasons normally given: “It is natural to think of predominantly Jewish Christian churches, both because they evidently come within the area of Jude’s pastoral concern and responsibility, and also because of the high degree of familiarity with Jewish literature and traditions which Jude’s allusions presuppose.”39

This double argument, however, seems faulty: (1) If our reconstruction is correct (viz., that Jude is writing to Pauline churches to make sure they do not feel abandoned and to emphasize the common elements between the Jewish and Gentile expressions of the faith) then the first argument carries no weight. Indeed, if Jude used 2 Peter, then vv 17-18a (“the apostles …said to you”) most likely are addressing the same audience that 2 Peter addresses. As we argued in 1-2 Peter, that audience was at least Gentile, and probably Paul’s churches in Asia Minor.

(2) Even those who employ the second argument recognize its inherent weakness: “The latter is not necessarily a decisive argument, since such Jewish material was no doubt used in the instruction of Gentile converts and since a writer does not always tailor his allusions to the knowledge of his readers.”40

In support of a Gentile Christian community are the following arguments.

First, the false teachers were antinomian. “None of their characteristics is prominent, if found at all, in Jewish Christianity.”41 Though most recognize that the antinomianism of the false teachers points to their Gentile origin, they argue that this would not necessarily mean that the church was of Gentile origin. But this is hardly convincing, for how could antinomian Gentiles infiltrate into a Jewish Christian congregation so quickly? There are many ‘reverse’ parallels in the NT: Judaizers infiltrating predominantly Gentile congregations—a phenomenon which is completely understandable (since legalism is endemic to human nature). But is there any evidence of Gentiles infiltrating Jewish congregations? This double fact—the antinomian false teachers and their sudden impact on the church—argues quite strongly for a predominantly Gentile audience.

Second, v 3 mentions “our common salvation,” an expression which (as we argued earlier and as Chase, Mayor, et al. make a strong case for) seems to unite Jew and Gentile.

Third, most scholars recognize some literary points of contact with Paul, though they do not give any reason for such (note especially the verbiage in vv 1-2, 20, 25).42 We have seen this pattern before, in 1 Peter. Perhaps Jude is attempting, to some degree, to have the same effect on his audience, viz., the deja vu connection with Paul would warm their hearts toward Jude.

Fourth, if our reconstruction of the occasion is correct, a predominantly Gentile church would indeed be in view. But we must not let the tail wag the dog: the evidence for a Gentile destination is quite solid on other grounds.

2. Ephesus

The specific destination of this epistle has been up for grabs among scholars. Some have suggested Syria, others Egypt, still others, Asia Minor. Syria is in all probability not correct simply because this epistle was not accepted into the Syriac canon until the sixth century. Egypt has nothing specific to commend it (except its early acceptance in patristic literature), and quite a bit against it: in particular, which apostles wrote to the Egyptians (vv 17-18a)?43 Bauckham argues that Asia Minor “with its large Jewish communities, the influence of Paul, and antinomian movements attested by Rev 2:14, 20, is a strong possibility, and the contacts between Jude and the Martyrdom of Polycarp … could point in this direction.”44 We believe that he is moving in the right direction, but many more arguments can be given. Further, since this letter is most likely intended (primarily) for a specific church, rather than as a circular letter,45 there may be some clues as to which one. It is our intention first to establish Asia Minor as the general destination, then Ephesus as the specific destination.

First, if our argument about the racial nature of the church holds up, then neither Palestine nor Syria would fit.

Second, if Jude used 2 Peter, then Jude 17 relates to Paul’s personal missionary work among the readers and Peter’s written ministry. Since they “spoke to you,” the readers are largely the same as that for 2 Peter. We have argued that 2 Peter’s readers were in Asia Minor. Indeed, if Jude is carrying on where Peter left off, and is trying to remind his audience that Peter had foretold the rise of false prophets to these people, then Asia Minor is quite certain as the destination.

Third, as we have already suggested, Jude must have been in a place to get information quickly from this church, for he interrupted his original purpose for writing when the sudden crisis of the false teachers was revealed. In the least, this suggests that there must have been good lines of communication between his locale and that of the church. A sea route, from Rome to Ephesus, would fit this need quite well.46

Fourth, Ephesus had been the hub of Paul’s activity—so much so that this is where John went to minister to pick up where Paul had left off. Consequently, if Asia Minor is the destination, the most strategic church here would be the one in Ephesus.

Finally, there are three nautical analogies used in Jude 12-13 which have no parallel in 2 Peter. Since Jude, in all likelihood, was not a fisherman, and since this material is not found in his source, it seems that he added the analogies for the sake of his readers.47 In v 12 Jude speaks of false teachers as “[dangerous] reefs at your love-feasts.”48 This is the first metaphor Jude uses to describe the false teachers. The imagery is that of danger lurking beneath the surface, able to sink ships which are presumed to be in safe waters. In v 13 he speaks of “wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame,” a vivid picture of the filth that they bring with them. The final image is that of “wandering stars,” suggesting that they are unreliable guides to sailors who depend on the sure guidance that the stars provide. Thus the false teachers are seen in these pictures to be dangerous, immoral (filthy), and untrustworthy as leaders. Two comments should be made about these nautical illustrations: (1) Although it is possible to find Jewish parallels/sources for the second and third, they are not very convincing. Further, no Jewish parallels have been put forth for the first analogy. (2) It is true that Jude also uses agricultural imagery throughout this epistle, but most of this is already found in 2 Peter, would be common to his own background, and does have excellent parallels in the OT and other Jewish materials. These two considerations seem to support the conclusion that Jude has gone out of his way to introduce this nautical imagery. The best explanation for this is that he is writing to a church on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Once again, Ephesus seems to be the most likely candidate.

In conclusion, though much of our argumentation in this section is highly speculative, if all the pieces of the puzzle of Jude (e.g., date, authorship, occasion, etc.) fit together as we have suggested they do, then a destination to Paul’s church(es) in Ephesus becomes increasingly probable. In the least, this is a falsifiable hypothesis which should hopefully stimulate others to probe some of the introductory questions related to the most neglected book of the NT canon.

F. Occasion/Purpose

Since we have argued passim at length for a particular occasion for this epistle (especially under date and destination), a summary will be given here. The occasion, on our reading of the text, can be seen fairly clearly in v 3 alone.

1. Jude originally intended to write to the church at Ephesus to encourage the saints there to continue in the faith. His goal seemed to have been to make sure that they were not discouraged in light of the recent deaths of Paul and Peter.49 That this objective was not entirely snuffed out due to the more pressing concern of the false teachers is apparent from his benediction (vv 24-25). Further, Jude also wanted to make sure that the church would stay grounded in the apostles’ teaching (“our common faith”). This goal also was woven into the fabric of the letter which he now found was necessary to write.

2. The original purpose for writing was altered when news of false teachers infiltrating into the church at Ephesus reached Jude. The tone of the letter probably changed because of this as well. Jude’s purpose now was to “appeal to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (v 3) because false teachers had crept into the church (v 4), just as Peter (and Paul) had predicted they would (v 17). The fact that Jude speaks so decisively as he does about the finalized form of the faith (vv 3, 5, 17) is therefore due to his desire that the church use the writings of Peter and Paul to discern the ungodliness of the false teachers. Although these statements would normally indicate a time much later than the age of the apostles, if Jude knew of their deaths, and if he wanted to make sure his audience knew that Peter and Paul were united in their doctrine, such language would be especially appropriate.

G. Theme

The theme is co-extensive with the purpose: “Contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (v 3).


Jude opens his letter by greeting his audience with three indicatives of the faith: they have been “called,” “loved,” and “kept” (1). This word of perseverance sets the tone for the whole epistle and concludes it as well.

Jude began to write to these believers something of a treatise on soteriology, probably as a reminder that the gospel as they learned it from Paul was the true gospel—hence, “our common salvation” (3). But news of heretics infiltrating the church changed his plans: he now wrote to them, appealing to them to stand their ground and fight for the faith they had learned (3-4). These heretics who now threatened them were antinomian, abusing God’s grace (4).

Jude links vv 3-4 with 5-7 by pointing out that this kind of false teacher was not new; his character was exposed and condemned in the OT. Three examples are given: unbelieving Israel who doubted God’s promise to bring them into Canaan (5), angels who disobeyed God and are now kept in darkness (6), and the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah who engaged in sexual immorality (7).

The false teachers Jude is dealing with act “in the very same way” (8). The implication is that they deserve the same fate. Their rejection of authority and slanderous speech is contrasted with Michael, one of the archangels, who would not even slander the devil (presumably because of his former authority) (8-9). Yet these false teachers slander all authority, revealing their lack of understanding and triggering the natural consequences which “are the very things that destroy them” (10).

Once again, Jude links them to the OT: they are like Cain in his selfishness and hatred of authority, Balaam in his greed, and Korah in his rebellious spirit (11). “Woe to them!” is a pronouncement that their fate is the same, too.

In vv 12-13 Jude now switches from OT imagery to present analogies—analogies which may well be more understandable to this Gentile audience. In v 12 he speaks of the false teachers as “reefs at your love-feasts.” This is the first metaphor Jude uses to describe the false teachers. The imagery is that of danger lurking beneath the surface, able to sink ships which are presumed to be in safe waters. They are “shepherds” (implying their leadership in the church), yet they feed only themselves. They are waterless clouds who promise satisfaction of one’s spiritual thirst, but in reality are barren. Like uprooted trees, they are dead, neither bearing fruit nor having any stability.

In v. 13 Jude calls them “wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame,” a vivid picture of the filth that they bring with them. Finally, they are “wandering stars,” which suggests that they are unreliable guides. Thus these false teachers are exposed as dangerous, immoral, empty, and untrustworthy.

Having described these heretics in terms clear to his audience, Jude now addresses their fate (14-19). First, Enoch predicted that the day would come when the ungodly would be judged (14-16).Much more recently, Paul and Peter had even written to these believers, prophesying of such men (17-19). Jude now reminds them of the apostolic writing as an implicit commendation of Paul’s gospel and therefore of his apostleship and authority. Further, he speaks decisively about the finalized form of the faith (17; cf. also 3, 5) because he wants the church to use the writings of Paul and Peter to combat the ungodliness of the false teachers. Thus the body of the letter begins and ends with an appeal to contend for the faith handed down once for all to the saints.

Jude now returns to the positive note with which he began his letter, reminding the church to continue in faith, love, and mercy (20-21). Regarding mercy, Jude gives final instructions on how and to whom one should show it (22-23).

The epistle concludes with a doxology with the emphasis on God’s perseverance once again, displaying Jude’s confidence that God “is able to keep you from falling” (24-25).


I. Salutation (1-2)

II. The Occasion for Writing (3-4)

A. The Change of Subject: From Common Salvation to Contending for the Faith (3)

B. The Reason for the Change: The Infiltration of Ungodly Antinomians (4)

III. The Judgment of the Ungodly (5-19)

A. Precedent: God’s Judgment of the Ungodly in the Old Testament (5-7)

1. Unbelieving Israel (5)

2. Fallen Angels (6)

3. Sodom and Gomorrah (7)

B. Parallel: Character of the Present Ungodly is the Same (8-13)

1. Their Slanderous Speech Exposed (8-10)

2. Their Ungodly Character Portrayed (11-13)

C. Prophecy: The Destruction of the Ungodly is Sure (14-19)

1. The Prophecy of Enoch (14-16)

2. The Prophecy of the Apostles (17-19)

IV. The Exhortation to Believers (20-23)

A. A Call to Persevere (20-21)

B. A Call to Show Mercy (22-23)

V. Doxology (24-25)

1Guthrie, 903. In passing, we can note that if this is true also of OT works, then the book of Daniel has some internal weight for authenticity, for the only other reference to Daniel in the OT is in Ezekiel, and even there the name is spelled differently.

2It should be noted that this becomes especially problematic for a book which has such good external support. Not only do Codices Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus contain Jude, but ¸72 (III/IV century) contains this letter. Textual emendation theories must always be regarded with suspicion anyway, but when the external evidence is good (early and solid) and when there is another, reasonable explanation, conjecture must give way to hard data.

3Moffatt’s view that the author was an unknown Jude, brother of an unknown James, “fails to take account of the fact that to identify oneself by one’s brother, rather than one’s father, was extremely unusual and requires an explanation. (The only theory which does explain it is that which identifies James as the James whom everyone knew)” (Bauckham, Jude, 23).

4Guthrie, 904. An additional argument could be used against this identification: the false teachers in Jude are condemned for their licentiousness, not for their denial of the parousia. Yet, if Jude is using 2 Peter (as this view suggests), then Jude is saying that the false teachers predicted by Peter have appeared in Jude’s day. But 2 Peter 3 specifically says that they deny the parousia—and such denials were commonplace in the second century. If a second century Jude were writing, how could he overlook such an important point?

5Bauckham, 21. Similarly, James refers to himself merely as “the servant of the Lord” (Jas 1:1).

6This is the view I take for the audience.

7See Bauckham (6-7) for a tidy summary of Jude’s style and lexical skills.

8Cf. our discussions in ExSyn and the bibliography there.

9Bauckham, 15. In passing, it should be noted that several critical scholars (Bauckham included) seem to have no problem with Jude’s quality of Greek while at the same time they do have problems with the lexical skills in 2 Peter. Yet Jude displays better Greek than 2 Peter by far—especially on a syntactical level! Not only this, but Bauckham denies any Semitisms for 2 Peter, while accepting several for Jude. But once again, a much stronger case could be made for the reverse. One suspects that presuppositions are driving too much of scholarship when questions of authenticity are at stake.

10Guthrie, 905. Actually, Bauckham (13) has suggested an even lower limit, the mid-50s: “once one has cast off the spell of the early Catholic and anti-gnostic reading of Jude, the letter does give a general impression of primitiveness. Its character is such that it might very plausibly be dated in the 50s, and nothing requires a later date.”

11As recorded by Eusebius, HE 3.19.1-20.8.

12Bauckham has a nice discussion of the problems (14-15), though he is probably overly skeptical.

13Although this should normally come third in the order of discussion, since we will have an extended discussion on the dating of Jude to the last third of the first century, it is less cumbersome to the argument to place this date here.

14Bauckham, 12.

15For fuller discussion, see that section.

16By apostolic age we mean the time up until Peter and Paul died (c. 64 CE), rather than up until the death of all the apostles, for we believe that John probably lived into the 90s CE.

17E.g., Bauckham (13): “The tendency of modern scholars to prefer a date at the end of the first century or the beginning of the second has resulted not only from the early Catholic reading of v 3 and the gnostic interpretation of the false teachers, but also from the usual interpretation of v 17, in which Jude is thought to be looking back on the apostolic age as an era now past. This is a misunderstanding… . It is not the apostles themselves, but their missionary activity in founding these particular churches, which belongs to the past.”

18What is most significant is that such statements as Jude makes would almost surely be taken as an indication that the apostles had died if it were not for one thing: If Jude is prior to 2 Peter, then Jude cannot be dated too late. Thus Bauckham, in dating 2 Peter c. 80, must have Jude come earlier. He argues at length against the early catholic interpretation of this epistle, but not convincingly.

19Bauckham, 9.

20Bauckham, 13.


22Bauckham tries to draw the parallel with Rom 6:7 and 16:17, but this will not do because (1) no apostle founded the Roman church, and (2) Paul’s purpose in writing to the Romans had to do, more than likely, with a visit he intended to make to Rome, while Jude’s purpose is related to him exercising authority over the church from a distance. This certainly presupposes that there is no local authority. Furthermore, there is no parallel with 2 Pet 3:2, for Peter speaks of “your apostles” implying at least that not all the apostles are in view.

23See “Occasion” for 2 Peter.

24The phrase “our common salvation” (τῆς κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας) would seem to be an unusual expression if Jude had already had much contact with his audience. Further, it sounds very much as though the intended letter was going to be an attempt either to patch up differences or to bridge the gap between two parties. It is as if Jude were speaking about “the salvation that you and I have in common.” Mayor thought the expression meant that Jude was writing to Gentile Christians (The Epistle of St. Jude, 19). Though this is disputed today by many scholars, no good explanation is given why a Jewish Christian, writing to Jewish Christians, would speak of their “common salvation.”

25This is seen plainly in the shift in his purpose for writing (v 3).

26This point will be developed under the next section.

27This, in fact, is the only probable reading of the Olivet Discourse by early Christians before 70 CE.

28See later discussion.

29See Bauckham, 141-42, for a discussion of other possible literary relationships (e.g., both are dependent on a common source, both are by the same author, etc.).

30Bauckham, 142.

31See C. H. Talbert, Literary Patterns, Theological Themes and the Genre of Luke-Acts for the best discussion on Luke’s architectonic structure.

32This, by itself, should be a fairly convincing argument for priority of 2 Peter, on the analogy that this, by itself, is a fairly convincing argument for Markan priority.

33Bauckham, 141-42.

34We could add further that Jude may well have wanted his audience to see that he was using 2 Peter, both to show that the prophecy had come true and because 2 Peter was part of the “faith once for all handed down to the saints.”

35E.g., Mark’s 150+ historical presents are reduced to eleven in Luke, since that is a stylistic feature not usually found in the better authors.

36Most scholars recognize that 2 Peter uses the future tense in his description of the false teachers. But they are also quick to point out that it is intermingled with the present tense. Though this is true, the present tense is used consistently to describe the character of the false teachers, while the future tense is used to describe their coming.

37Once reason that the prophets were no longer necessary to mention is that Jude was simply trying to draw the connection between Peter and Paul, while Peter was trying to make the connection between Paul and true religion. Another reason would seem to be that, as time progressed in the early church, the message of the apostles came to have more and more force, in which case they did not need to “piggy-back” on the authority of the OT prophets.

38Bauckham, 7.

39Bauckham, 16.


41Guthrie, 919.

42What is interesting about the terms/expressions used in these verses is that they find their closest parallels in Ephesians and 1 Timothy. This is interesting not only because these two letters are among the most disputed of the corpus Paulinum, butbecause they were also sent to Ephesus.

43It might be argued further that, in Jude’s use of 2 Peter, he adds a very telling illustration: in v 5 he says that God “who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” How would such a line been received if Egypt were the original destination?

44Bauckham, 16.

45The very fact of the crisis of false teachers infiltrating the church indicates a concrete situation and hence a specific church.

46At the same time, in our hypothesis Jude was not aware of John’s recent departure (or perhaps arrival) for Ephesus. This possibility would be in keeping with the better lines of communication between Rome and Ephesus than between Rome and Jerusalem (especially since war was imminent in 65 CE). Nevertheless, since this too is speculative, one must be careful not to build one speculation on top of another. (At this stage one might wonder whether we have done that all along for Jude; but once again, we insist that we are merely coming to rather tentative conclusions and are trying to grapple with all the data in the process. After all, very concrete hypotheses are necessary in order for one to have a target at which to aim!)

47It should be noted further that all three of the nautical analogies fit better with the Mediterranean Sea than with an inland body of water (such as the Sea of Galilee). Thus, even if Jude had been a fisherman (which is doubtful since Jewish fathers raised their sons in their own occupation), such analogies would not readily be part of his own background. This suggests a further point: in light of the well-worn Jewish aversion to the sea, these nautical illustrations would seem to relate better to Gentiles, giving further evidence of a Gentile audience.

48RSV (in agreement with most scholars) has “blemishes on your love-feasts” (NASV correctly has “reefs”). This rendering is based on the assumption that σπιλάς = σπίλος (cf. 2 Pet 2:13) and that Jude simply wrote the wrong word. “In view of Jude’s good command of Greek vocabulary it is not likely that he simply confused the two words” (Bauckham, 85). We could add further that since Jude follows this up with two more nautical illustrations, he is probably using one here.

49πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος in v 3 seems to indicate some urgency on Jude’s part for this original purpose of writing about their common salvation, indicating that this letter was penned very shortly after the death of Peter.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

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