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Introduction to Jude

 

OPENING STATEMENTS

A. Jude is a frightening book about the recurrent danger of error, rebellion, and judgment. Believers must always be on guard. Their protection is

1. the Father's call

2. love

3. keeping power

4. knowledge of the Scriptures

5. godly living

6. mercy toward wounded fellow believers

 

B. Yet, even amidst the warnings, the conclusion of Jude (cf. vv. 24-25) is one of the strongest prayers of the keeping- power of God.

 

C. The relationship between Jude and II Peter is uncertain as to:

1. which one was written first

2. why they are so similar yet different

3. how one describes a coming heresy (cf. II Peter 2) and the other a present heresy (Jude)

4. whether there was an early church document from which both authors drew

5. whether any of the examples of rebellion involved believers

 

D. This book illustrates the theological balance between

1. the keeping power of God (vv. 1,24)

2. believers keeping themselves (v. 20-23)

 

AUTHOR

A. Jude (Hebrew, Judah, or Greek, Judas) characterizes himself by two designations

1. "a bond-servant of Jesus Christ" – This is not exactly the same as Paul's usual designation, although they look the same in English. Paul always puts the noun "slave" first, followed by the genitive descriptive phrase. This is also true of II Peter. However, the word order in Jude is the same as the word order in James (descriptive genitive phrase first).

2. "a brother of James" – There are many persons in the NT named James (Jacob), but the name by itself, without any description, reminds one of James 1:1. James, the half-brother of Jesus, was the leader of the Jerusalem church during Paul's missionary journeys (cf. Acts 15). It has been speculated that both half-brothers chose, out of humility, not to identify themselves as biologically related to Jesus.

 

B. The simple opening reflects someone who was well-known and active (cf. I Cor. 9:5) in the early church, but about whom no information has survived. If someone writing at a later period wanted to write in the name of a famous person from the past (pseudography), Jude would not be a good candidate.

 

C. The ancient tradition that Jude was a Hebrew Christian and half-brother of Jesus (cf. Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3) rests on several assumptions

1. a family relationship to James (cf. James 1:1)

2. the extensive use of the OT

3. the characteristic Hebrew literary use of threes

a. three OT events of apostasy

b. three OT characters

c. opening greeting

(1) three verbs: "called," "beloved," "kept"

(2) three prayer requests: "mercy," "peace," "love"

 

D. The Greek style and form of Jude is an artificial Koine Greek (cf. The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol., 1, p. 336), possibly denoting that Greek was his second language.

 

E. As far as personality, he is much like James; he uses a no-nonsense, straight-forward approach to the mandate for godly living in this world of sin and rebellion.

 

DATE

A. There is no certainty, only speculation.

 

B. Let us list some of the parameters

1. during Jude's lifetime if he was the younger brother of James and half-brother of Jesus

2. the book of Jude's literary relationship to II Peter. Of the twenty-five verses in Jude, sixteen (vv. 3-18) have some association with II Pet. 2:1-18. If Peter is the author of II Peter, then the date is close to his lifetime (he died in a.d. 64). It is, however, uncertain who quotes who:

a. II Peter quotes Jude

b. Jude quotes II Peter

c. both use early catechistic documents or church tradition

 

C. The contents of the book imply a mid-first century date. Enough time had elapsed for heresy to develop. The physical presence of the Apostles had just passed (v. 17). However, a uniform doctrine had not developed. Jude mentions the moral problems of the false teachers, but does not discuss the doctrinal errors. He uses OT examples, not Jesus' teachings (quotes or stories).

 

D. In Historical Ecclesiasticus III:19:1-20:6, Eusebius mentions a tradition.

1. that Jude's grandsons were taken to Rome to face Domitian (reigned from a.d. 81-96) on charges of treason

2. that they were descendants of Jewish royalty

3. that they were relatives of Jesus of Nazareth

 

E. A date from the 60's to the 80's is possible.

 

RECIPIENTS AND OCCASION

A. The early church was not theologically monolithic; even the Apostles emphasized different aspects of the gospel. As the Apostles began to die (or at least were too few and too far away to be consulted) and the Second Coming continued to be delayed, the early church faced the challenge of "standardizing" acceptable parameters for gospel teachings. The OT, the words and stories of Jesus, and the preaching of the Apostles became the standards.

 

B. Jude was written in a day of flux and disruption of clear authority. The believers (whether a local church or geographical area is uncertain) were facing massive invasion of error through speculative theology/philosophy. What is known of the heresy:

1. the heretics were part of the church meetings ("love feasts" cf. v. 12)

2. the heretics were immoral, manipulative teachers who were causing divisions among God's people (cf. v. 19)

3. the heretics seem to have used or discussed "angels" in their theology

4. the heretics seem to have emphasized "knowledge" (gnosis)

If one is familiar with the Greco-Roman world of the first and second centuries, these characteristics imply the philosophical/theological movement known as "Gnosticism." We know the specific doctrines of Gnosticism from their second century writings, but aspects of their theological system were a common element of much Near Eastern thought. Elements of the dualism so characteristic of Gnosticism is present in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many of the NT books (the Gospel of John, Ephesians, Colossians, I Timothy, Titus, II Timothy, I John, II John, III John) were written to combat a similar type of false teaching/teachers.

PURPOSE

A. The author desired to write about their common salvation (cf. v. 3).

 

B. The invasion of false teachings and teachers into the inner fellowship of the church (cf. v. 12) caused the author to address the burning issue of "the faith once and for all given to the church" (cf. vv. 3,20). His goal was orthodoxy, but he approached the subject through godly living (orthopraxy), not doctrine (very similar to James 2:14-24). How people lived was a clear window into their theology (cf. Matt. 7:15-23; 13:1-9,19-23; I John).

 

C. The author wants to encourage believers to

1. contend earnestly for the faith (cf. vv. 3,20)

2. be prepared for mockers and false teachers (cf. vv. 18-19)

3. build yourselves up on your most holy faith (cf. v. 20)

4. pray in the Holy Spirit (v. 20)

5. keep yourselves in the love of God (v. 21)

6. wait anxiously for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life (v. 21)

7. have mercy on some of those who are doubting (vv. 22-23)

8. be assured of your salvation (vv. 24-25)

 

CANONIZATION

A. This book was initially accepted (cf. quote by Clement of Rome about a.d. 94), then later disputed and finally fully accepted (Council of Nicea, a.d. 325 and Carthage, a.d. 397).

 

B. Its major problem in acquiring canonical status was Jude's quote of non-canonical books (I Enoch and the Assumption of Moses). These books, especially I Enoch, circulated widely among the believers of the first century and were theologically influential.

1. Why is this a problem? Does it imply that the non-canonical books are authoritative?

a. the OT quotes non-inspired writing (cf. Num. 21:14-15,26-30 [Balaam's prophecies in Num. 22-23]; Josh. 10:13; II Sam. 1:18ff; I Kgs. 11:41; 14:19,29; 15:7,23,31)

b. Jesus used non-canonical sources as illustrative material (cf. Matt. 23:35)

c. Stephen used non-canonical sources (cf. Acts 7:4,14-16)

d. Paul often used non-canonical sources

(1) Rabbinic Midrash concerning Christ as a rock that followed the children of Israel during the wilderness wandering period (cf. I Cor. 10:4)

(2) the names of Pharaoh's magicians from Exod. 7:11,22; 8:7 (cf. II Tim. 3:8) were taken from some intertestamental Jewish writings

(3) Greek writers

a) the poet Aratus (Acts 17:28)

b) the poet Menander (I Cor. 15:33)

c) the poet Epimenides or Euripes (Titus 1:12)

e. James used rabbinical tradition in James 5:17

f. John used the mythology of near eastern cosmologies in Rev. 12:3

2. Why did Jude use these non-canonical sources?

a. possibly they were freely used by the false teachers

b. possibly they were respected and read by the recipients

 

C. Support for Jude's canonicity is supported by

1. quoted or alluded to by

a. Clement of Rome (a.d. 94-97)

b. Polycarp (a.d. 110-50)

c. Irenaeus (a.d. 130-202)

d. Tertullian (a.d. 150-220)

e. Athenagoras (a.d. 177)

f. Origen (a.d. 185-254)

(These are taken from International Critical Commentary, pp. 305-308)

2. named in

a. Clement of Alexandria (a.d. 150-215)

b. Cyril of Jerusalem (a.d. 315-386)

c. Jerome (a.d. 340-420)

d. Augustine (a.d. 400)

3. listed in the canonical lists of

a. Muratorian fragment (a.d. 200)

b. Barococcio (a.d. 206)

c. Athanasius (a.d. 367)

4. affirmed by Councils

a. Nicea (a.d. 325)

b. Hippo (a.d. 393)

c. Carthage (a.d. 397 and 419)

5. present in the translations of

a. Old Latin (a.d. 150-170)

b. Syriac Revision, the Peshitta (5th Century A.D.)

 

D. The later church was unsure of Jude's canonical (inspired) status. Eusebius listed it among the disputed books (Hist. Eccl. III.25). Both Chrysostom and Jerome mention Jude's quoting from non-canonical sources as the reason it is disputed by some as canonical. It was rejected by the early Syrian church along with II Peter, II and III John. This is probably because it was this area of the Empire which was affected by Gnostic use of Jewish angelology. Therefore, Jude and II Peter added fuel to the false teachers' arguments.

 

E. Just a word about I Enoch. It was originally written in Hebrew (but is now lost except for fragments in Aramaic among the Dead Sea Scrolls), translated into Greek (only fragments survive) and by a.d. 600 copied into Ethiopian (one copy survives). The book was written in the inter-biblical period, but was edited many times, as the Ethiopian copy shows. It was very influential in the early church; Tertullian quotes it as Scripture. It was cited in the Epistle of Barnabas (as Scripture) and by Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria. It had lost favor in the early church by the fourth century.

 

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