Introduction to Jude

By James M. Rochford

Authorship

Jude was the half-brother of Jesus, and he was the full-brother of James, who wrote the book of James. Apparently, Jude didn’t believe in Jesus during his ministry (Jn. 7:5), but he did later on (Acts 1:14). Geisler and Nix write, “The external evidence for Jude is widespread from the time of Irenaeus (c. a.d. 170). Like 2 Peter, the Bodmer papyrus manuscript P72 from Egypt confirms the use of Jude during the third century. In fact, traces of Jude’s influence may be found in the Didache (2:7).”[1]

Richard Bauckham argues that Jude may have come from Palestine, because he doesn’t cite the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT).[2] Of course, this would fit with the idea that Jude stayed in Israel, alongside his brother James. Bauckham writes, “We should notice that the general character of the letter, its Jewishness, its debt to Palestinian Jewish literature and haggadic traditions, its apocalyptic perspective and exegetical methods, its concern for ethical practice more than for doctrinal belief, are all entirely consistent with authorship by Jude the brother of Jesus.”[3]

Some critics argue that Jude was pseudepigraphical (i.e. a later author using a fake name). But Bauckham argues, “Against the pseudepigraphal hypothesis, it has often been asked why anyone should adopt as a pseudonym the name of so obscure a figure as Jude.”[4] That is to say, if a fake author was trying to impersonate an apostle, why would he adopt the name Jude? Moreover, it would’ve been far more likely that he would’ve called himself “the brother of Jesus” or “the brother of the Lord.”

Which was written first?—Second Peter or Jude?

Even a cursory reading of 2 Peter and Jude reveals that these two books have similarities with one another.

Similarities between 2 Peter and Jude

2 Peter

Jude

2 Peter 1:5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge

Jude 3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
2 Peter 1:12 Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.

Jude 5 Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

Jude 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 2:3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Jude 16 These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.

Jude 6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.
2 Peter 2:6 if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter.

Jude 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

2 Peter 2:10 especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties.

Jude 8 Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.
2 Peter 2:11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.

Jude 9 But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

2 Peter 2:12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed.

Jude 10 But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.
2 Peter 2:15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.

Jude 11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

2 Peter 2:17 These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.

Jude 12-13 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.
2 Peter 2:18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error.

Jude 16 These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

2 Peter 3:2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

Jude 17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3:3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.

Jude 18 that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”

2 Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.

Jude 24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.
2 Peter 3:18 grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Jude 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

But who copied from whom? Most scholars hold that 2 Peter copied from Jude. Richard Bauckham writes, “The judgment of most modern scholars, that 2 Peter is dependent on Jude, not vice versa, is accepted.”[5] Bauckham argues that Jude must have been first, because (1) he uses carefully crafted language and (2) he uses rapid fire allusions to the OT. These evidences imply that Jude was the original and refined letter, while 2 Peter was a rougher version that copied from it.

Yet this doesn’t seem convincing in our estimation. It’s just as likely (or even more likely?) that Jude would write a more robust letter based on Peter’s terse comments. In fact, Bauckham even admits, “There are cases where a more complex literary work is based on a simpler one, and a priori that might even seem a more likely procedure, but consideration of this particular case seems to indicate that it must be one in which the more complex work is prior.”[6]

In addition, Jude 17 seems to cite from an earlier apostolic letter, “You, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts’” (Jude 17-18; cf. 2 Pet. 3:3). We agree with scholar R. Laird Harris who writes, “In Jude vs. 17 and 18 there is a passage where there is a quotation of another book. The relation between other verses in Jude and 2 Peter 2 has been much discussed as to which depended on the other, but Jude 17 and 18 give the words of 2 Peter 3:3 almost verbatim and claim that it was foretold by apostles. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Jude was quoting 2 Peter as the authoritative word of an apostle.”[7]

Critical scholars seem to prefer Jude’s priority because otherwise he would be referring to 2 Peter as a genuine and apostolic letter (Jude 17). Since most modern scholars (Bauckham included) deny Petrine authorship of 2 Peter, it seems that they resist this conclusion (see “Introduction to 1 & 2 Peter”).

Date

We can date Paul’s letters fairly accurately, because he mentions details that correspond with the book of Acts. Jude, however, is very difficult to date, because he doesn’t mention anything historically significant in his book. Jude does expect his readers to recall the words of the apostle themselves: “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 17). This would mean that he was writing after the other apostles wrote their works.

Jude doesn’t acknowledge his brother James’ death, which occurred sometime in AD 62. If James had already died at the writing of this letter, then Jude probably would have referred to him as “blessed,” “good,” or “the just,” which James typical title after his death (Hegesippus, Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 2.23.4; Gos. Thom. 21). Thus Bauckham writes, “Jude must be dated before James’s martyrdom in a.d. 62. But this cannot be regarded as a very conclusive argument.”[8] Since Peter wrote sometime between AD 62 and 68 (see “Introduction to 1 & 2 Peter”), we might tenuously place Jude somewhere in the AD 60’s.

Canonicity

The Muratorian Canon (AD 200) affirms the canonicity of Jude. Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Origen all refer to this book. In particular, Origen was sure of its canonicity (Hom. Jos. 7.1; Hom. Gen. 6.115-116). Eusebius (4th century) writes:

It is to be observed that its authenticity is denied since few of the ancients quote it, as is also the case with the epistle called Jude’s which is itself one of the seven called Catholic; nevertheless we know that these letters have been used publicly with the rest in most churches.[9]

Bauckham writes, “By the end of the second century Jude was widely accepted as canonical: by Tertullian in North Africa, Clement and Origen in Alexandria, the Muratorian Canon in Italy (for the detailed evidence see Chaine, 263–67). It was only subsequent to this general acceptance that doubts about the book, attested by Origen, Eusebius, Didymus, and Jerome, arose because of its use of the apocryphal books 1 Enoch and the Assumption of Moses (hereafter As. Mos.). (Tertullian, on the other hand, had been able to cite Jude as evidence for the authority of 1 Enoch: De cultu fem. 1.3.) These objections do not seem to have had a serious effect on the acceptability of Jude except in the Syrian church, where it was not accepted as canonical until the sixth century.”[10]

Commentary on Jude

(Jude 1) “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” Our identity is wrapped up “in God,” not just in Jesus.

To be “kept” (teteremenois) by Christ is to “to retain in custody, keep watch over, guard” or “to cause a state, condition, or activity to continue, keep, hold, reserve, preserve” (BDAG).

(Jude 2) “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.” It’s through our identity that God delivers his peace, mercy, and love.

Peace (eirene) refers to a “state of concord, peace, harmony” (BDAG). In the OT, this is the word translated into Greek from the Hebrew shalom. Brown writes, “In the LXX eirēnē is almost invariably used to translate the Heb. šālômh.”[11] It could be the inner peace given to us by Christ (Rom. 15:13; Phil. 4:6-7; Jn. 14:27; 16:33) or peace between believers (Rom. 14:19; Eph. 4:3; 1 Pet. 3:11; Mt. 5:9).

“Mercy” (eleos) is the word that the Septuagint used for translating the Hebrew hesed (“loyal love”).

(Jude 3) “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude states that he was trying to make time to write to this church (or churches?). What might have stopped him from writing such an urgent letter?

To “contend” (epagonizesthai) is the root for “agony” or “agonize.” It means to “extert intense effort on behalf of something, contend. When used in athletic imagery, the dating dependent on it indicates for the most part either the one against whom one is contending (Plut., Fab. 187 [23, 2]), or the person or thing upon whom (which) one depends for support in rivalry (Plut., Numa 65 [8, 16])” (BDAG).

(Jude 4) “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude was writing against false teachers, who were teaching licentiousness—not legalism. They highly covert—not overt. No false teacher ever tells you that they are going to ruin your spiritual life; they “secretly introduce destructive heresies” (c.f. 2 Cor. 11:14; Gal. 2:4).

“Licentiousness” (aselgeian) means to have a “lack of self-constraint which involves one in conduct that violates all bounds of what is socially acceptable, self-abandonment” (BDAG). Paul had been accused of teaching licentiousness (Rom. 3:8), but true grace doesn’t teach this (Rom. 6:1-2).

(Jude 4) Condemned beforehand?

(Jude 5) “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” We can know the truth, but we need reminded from time to time. He reminds us of the Exodus generation. While the Israelites had seen God move miraculously to rescue them, they quickly forgot about this. Similarly, as believers, we can be rescued by God, but quickly forget about his love, mercy, and grace.

(Jude 6) “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” Angels from the time before the Flood rejected the love of God and took advantage of human women. As a result of forfeiting God’s grace, they were placed under judgment (see Genesis 6:4 Who or what were the Nephilim?).

(Jude 7) “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” God brings people under judgment for licentiousness like this. Some understand the “strange flesh” to refer to angels, while the context of Genesis 19 would simply imply men having sex with other men. After all, the men in Genesis 19 did not know that Lot’s visitors were angels.

(Jude 8) “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.” The term for “dreamers” only occurs elsewhere in Acts 2:17, which refers to dreams of prophecy. Hillyer writes, “The Septuagint employs the same verb to describe false prophets (Deut. 13:2, 5, 6; Isa. 56:10; Jer. 23:25; 34:9; 36:8). Jude is therefore referring to men who falsely claim to have visionary revelations to justify their teaching and actions.”[12] Their visions, prophecies, and dreams were rejecting the faith given “once for all” (v.3), which is the apostolic message and gospel.

In what way did their message “revile angelic majesties”? Green writes, “Perhaps the undue deference paid to angels in some sections of Judaism (see Col. 2:18) produced this revulsion among the headstrong errorists, who became disenchanted with the whole notion of angels, and regarded such enlightened Christians as themselves as emancipated from such primitive ideas. Perhaps they blasphemed the angels as agents of the Demiurge (the inferior god of creation) if they were at all far advanced along the road to developed Gnosticism. But Chaine gives the most probable reason. Judaism saw the angels as mediators of the Mosaic Law (Acts 7:38, 53; Heb. 2:2; Jubilees i:27–29) who watched over its observance. It is hardly surprising that libertines should speak slightingly of guardians of the Law.”[13]

Does this have something to do with how Michael dealt with angelic majesties (i.e. Satan) in the next verse?

We need to remember that “majesty” truly belongs to Christ—not angels (v.25).

(Jude 9) “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” This verse may imply that Satan is a higher ranking angel than Michael. On the other hand, it could simply show that Michael—the archangel—didn’t rebuke Satan on his own authority, but on God’s.

(Jude 9, 14-15) Why does Jude quote the Assumption of Moses (v.9) and the Book of Enoch (v.14-15)?

(Jude 10) “But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.” What was it about the false teaching that led them to not understand angelic majesties? (v.8)

(Jude 11) “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” Why does Jude make a reference to going “the way of Cain”? Did the false teachers hate the righteous Christians? Did they try to murder the Christians?

Why does he make a reference to Balaam? Balaam was a classic prophet for hire. These false teachers were giving their teachings and prophecies “for pay” just like Balaam.

(Jude 12-13) “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” Jude appeals to a number of metaphors derived from nature to describe these false teachers. Like clouds without rain or trees without fruit, the false teachers like to teach, but their teaching is worthless.

“Hidden reefs” are like hidden rocks when you’re sailing. You can’t see them, but they wreck your boat all the same.

Regarding the “love feasts,” Blum writes, “The ‘love feasts’ were communal meals in which the early church ate together and observed the Lord’s Supper. ‘Eating with you’ is too tame a translation of syneuōchoumenoi; with its connotation of sumptuous eating, it might better be translated ‘feasting with you.’”[14]

 (Jude 14-15) “It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’”

(Jude 9, 14-15) Why does Jude quote the Assumption of Moses (v.9) and the Book of Enoch (v.14-15)?

(Jude 16) “These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” One of the signs of a false teacher is to grumble against God.

(Jude 17-18) “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’” We shouldn’t fight false teachers primarily on our own savvy or cleverness, but instead by remembering and appealing to Scripture (i.e. the apostles’ words).

(Jude 19) “These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.” False teachers like to create divisions in the church. God takes a strong stance against those who try to poison the unity of the church (1 Cor. 3:17).

(Jude 20-21) “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” As believers, we should work to keep built up in our faith, prayer, God’s love, and the anticipation of Christ’s return.

(Jude 22) “And have mercy on some, who are doubting.” With all of the fighting with false teachers, we might become hardened toward those who are struggling with their faith. Jude warns us against this (see comments on James 1:6 “Is it a sin to doubt?”).

(Jude 23) “Save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Many Christians get so focused on battling false teaching that they forget about our mission to the lost. Our focus should be focused on our lost world—not just debating with false teachers.

What is the “garment polluted by the flesh”? Green writes, “Chitōn means the inner garment, worn next to the skin. The idea seems to be that they are so corrupt that their very clothes are defiled. This is, of course, a hyperbole, but one with plenty of scriptural background; indeed instructions are given in Leviticus 13:47–52 that the garment worn by a leper should be burnt because it is unclean. Isaiah 64:6 says, ‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’, while Jude’s favourite passage in Zechariah continues, ‘Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you” ’ (Zech. 3:3f.). The Christian worker has the wonderful offer of a change of raiment for the defiled, a robe of righteousness for the man clothed in filthy rags (cf. Isa. 61:10), and he must proffer it in love and mercy. But once he begins to revel in the filthy garment, once he tolerates it and toys with it, he ceases to be a useful servant of Christ at all. Once he treats sin as normal and commonplace, he is on the way to betraying the gospel. For Jude insists, as strongly as John in the Apocalypse, that the man accepted before God is he who has not soiled his garments (Rev. 3:4); and these garments are looked upon both as the standing which God confers on the penitent sinners who ‘have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’ (7:14), and also as that rightness of character which follows in the lives of those who have truly been justified (19:8).”[15]

(Jude 24) “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.” We need to remember that all of us (including the false teachers) will one day stand in front of Christ to give an account.

(Jude 25) “To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” This verse seems to imply that time itself had a beginning, but that God existed in a timeless state before he created time itself.

Discussion questions

Read the entire book: What do we learn about false teachers from this book? What characteristics do they have?

What might be some ways to guard ourselves from false teaching today? (Either as individuals or as a group of Christians)

[1] Geisler, Norman & Nix, William. A General Introduction to the Bible: Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL. Moody Press. 1986. 300.

[2] Bauckham writes, “At no point where he alludes to specific verses of the OT does he echo the language of the LXX. In two of these cases he must depend on the Hebrew text because the Septuagint does not give even the meaning he adopts (v 12: Prov 25:14; v 13: Isa 57:20), while in three other cases his vocabulary notably fails to correspond to that of the LXX (v 11: Num 26:9; v 12: Ezek 34:2; v 23: Amos 4:11; Zech 3:3).” Bauckham, R. J. (1998). 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 50, p. 7). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[3] Bauckham, R. J. (1998). 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 50, p. 16). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[4] Bauckham, R. J. (1998). 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 50, p. 14). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[5] Bauckham, R. J. (1998). 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 50, p. 8). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[6] Bauckham, R. J. (1998). 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 50, p. 142). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[7] Harris, R. Laird. Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scriptures. Greenville, SC, 1995. 240-241.

[8] Bauckham, R. J. (1998). 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 50, p. 14). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[9] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 2.23.25.

[10] Bauckham, R. J. (1998). 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 50, p. 17). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[11] Brown, C. Vol. 2: New international dictionary of New Testament theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 777. Used about 250x in the LXX.

[12] Hillyer, N. (2011). 1 and 2 Peter, Jude (p. 247). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[13] Green, M. (1987). 2 Peter and Jude: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 18, p. 195). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[14] Blum, E. A. (1981). Jude. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 392). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[15] Green, M. (1987). 2 Peter and Jude: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 18, p. 217). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.