THE LETTER OF JUDE



 

1. Who wrote the Letter of Jude?

1.1. Internal Evidence

1.1.1. The author quotes from 1 Enoch, a second-Temple Jewish writing, (Jude 14 = 1 Enoch 1:9) and another Jewish apocryphal work in Jude 9, possibly what early Christian writers identified as the Assumption of Moses. (Origen claims to know of the work from which the author quotes in Jude 9 [De Prin. 3.2.1; see also Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 6.15.132-33].) What does the fact that imply about the author's religious and ethnic background?

The author's quotation of these texts implies that the author is a Jew, for few non-Jews would have been familiar with these writings, and even fewer inclined to quote from them in a letter.

1.1.2. What does the author's comment in Jude 17 imply about his identity in relation to the apostles?

The fact that the author writes about "what the apostles of Lord Jesus Christ foretold" implies that he is not one of the apostles, for otherwise he would have included himself among this group.

1.1.3. Who is the author according to the salutation of the Letter of Jude (Jude 1)?

The author of the Letter of Jude is Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.

1.1.4. To designate himself simply as "a brother of James" implies that this James has a certain eminence in the early church, or at least among his intended readers, for otherwise he would have to identify this James further. Of which James do you think Jude is a brother? (See Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Gal 2:9, 12; 1 Cor 15:7.) (See also Mark 6:3 = Matt 13:55.)

Since the author refers to his brother as simply James, this James must have been well known in the early church, or at least among his intended readers, which fits James the righteous, Jesus' brother (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Gal 2:9, 12; 1 Cor 15:7). If Jude is the brother of James, who is Jesus' brother then Jude is Jesus' brother also. Jesus did have a brother named Jude (Judas) (Mark 6:3 = Matt 13:55).

1.2. External Evidence

1.2.1. There are some possible traces of the Letter of Jude in the works of the apostolic fathers (Mart. Pol., introd. = Jude 2; Did. 2:7 = Jude 22-23; Did. 4:1 = Jude 8; Barn. 2:10; 4:9 = Jude 3-4; 2 Clem. 20:4 = Jude 6; Herm. Sim. 5. 7. 2 = Jude 8). This indicates that the Letter of Jude was probably influential in the early church, and, therefore, considered authentic.

1.2.2. The Muratorian canon counts the Letter of Jude as canonical and authentic:  “But the letter of Jude and the two superscribed with the name of John are accepted in the universal [church].”  Likewise, according to Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria accepts the Letter of Jude as authentic and, therefore, from the apostle Jude in his work Hypotyposes (see H.E. 6.14.1).  In his Instructor, he quotes from Jude 5-6, 11 and attributes the passages to Jude (3.8); likewise in his Stromata, he attributes Jude 8-17 to Jude (3.2).

1.2.3. Nonetheless, there was some doubt about the Letter of Jude. Eusebius counted it as among the antilegomena: "Such is the story of James, to whom is said to belong the first of the letters called 'universal'. It is to be observed that its authenticity is denied, since few of the ancients quote it, as is also the case with the letter called Jude's" (H.E. 2.23.25). 

How would you account for the less than unanimous acceptance of the Letter of Jude in the early church?

It is difficult to say. Perhaps the Letter of Jude was questioned with respect to its canonicity because Jude was not an apostle or because the letter was so short that it was not well-used and well-known.

1.3.  Little is known of the life of Jude. As indicated, he was Jesus’ brother (Mark 6:3 = Matt 13:55), and, apparently, along with the rest of Jesus’ brothers, did not believe in Jesus until after his resurrection (see John 7:3-8). Probably, he was present in the upper room of a house before the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 1:14). If Paul’s reference to “the brothers of the Lord” includes him, Jude was married and had an evangelistic ministry (1 Cor 9:5). Eusebius cites a tradition from Hegesippus to the effect that c. 95 two grandsons of Jude, the brother of Jesus, were brought before the emperor Domitian because their Davidic descent made them potentially dangerous as political agitators. But since they were determined to be simple farmers, these men were released (H.E. 3.19-20.7; 3.32.5-6).


2. To whom was the Letter of Jude written?

What does Jude 1b indicate about the intended readership of the Letter of Jude?

It indicates that the Letter of Jude was written to "those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ." This is a vague designation indicating that a general readership is in view.


3. When was the Letter of Jude written?

3.1. Internal Evidence

The following data have relevance to the dating of the Letter of Jude.

3.1.1. In Jude 17, Jude speaks about the apostles as if removed temporally from the readers, insofar as he exhorts his readers to remember that the apostles predicted the coming of "scoffers."

3.1.2. In Jude 3, Jude speaks about the "faith once delivered unto the saints," implying that the contents of faith have been settled for some time.

What do these data imply about the date of the Letter of Jude?

They imply that the Letter of Jude was composed relatively late, towards the close of the apostolic era (late first century). The apostles stood in the past, and their teaching could now be referred to as having been once delivered unto the saints.

3.2. External Evidence

3.2.1. The dating of the composition of the Letter of Jude may be tied to that 2 Peter. Of the twenty-five verses in the Letter of Jude, fifteen appear, either in whole or in part, in 2 Peter, primarily in chapter two and the beginning of chapter three, which deal with the problem of false teachers. There are several verbal agreements between the two letters. Thus, there is probably some sort of literary relationship between them. The table below shows the close similarity between the letters. (Bold = verbal agreement)
 

Jude

4 For certain men have slipped in by stealth, those who were long ago destined  to judgment—impious men perverting the grace of our God into licentiousness and denying the only Master and our Lord Jesus Christ….6 And angels who did not keep their positions but left their proper dwelling he has kept under the nether darkness in eternal fetters for [the] judgment of that great day. 7 As Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities…serve as an example (deigma) undergoing the penalty of eternal fire. 8 In the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject the lordship and blaspheme glories

9 But when Michael, the archangel was disputing with Satan in controversy over the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a judgment of abuse (krisin...blasphêmias).

10 But these men abuse whatever they do not know, and whatever they, like irrational animals, by nature understand, in that they are corrupted (phtheirontai). 11 Woe to them because they went on the path of Cain and abandon themselves to the error of Balaam for the sake of gains. 12 These men are the blemishes at your love-feasts, feasting with you without fear, waterless clouds, carried along by the winds…13 For whom the nether darkness of darkness has been reserved forever….16 Their mouths speak extravagances…17 Remember the words spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;

18 That they said to you that in the last time there will be scoffers, walking after their own (heatôn) ungodly lusts.

2 Peter

2:1 False teachers. Men who shall stealthily introduce destructive heresies…denying the Master who bought them. 2:2 And many shall follow their licentiousness….2:3 for whom judgment, pronounced long ago, is not idle. 2:4 For in God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but thrust them into Tartarus, to the pits of nether darkness, and delivered them to be kept for judgment…2:6 turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes…making an example (hupodeigma) of what is coming to the ungodly….2:10 Especially those who walk after the flesh in lust of defilement and despise the lordship. Daring (see Jude 9) and willful, they are not afraid when they blaspheme glories. 2:11 Whereas angels… 

do not bring an abusive judgment (blasphêmon krisin) against them. 

2:12 But these men, like irrational animals by nature born for capture and destruction, abusing things about which they are ignorant, shall also be destroyed (phthrêsontai) in their corruption (phthora). 2:15 They follow on the path of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the gain of evil doing….2:13 Blemishes and blots feasting with you. 2:17 These men are waterless fountains and mists driven by storms…for whom the nether darkness of darkness has been reserved forever. 2:18 uttering futile extravagances. 3:2 Remember what was spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the apostles of your Lord and savior; 3:3 knowing this first of all that in the last days scoffers will come scoffing, walking after their own (idias...autôn) lusts

What are possible explanations for the similarity between the Letter of Jude and 2 Peter?

Coincidence is ruled out as an explanation of the parallels between the Letter of Jude and 2 Peter. This leaves two possibilities. Either the author of one of the letters used the other as a source, or both independently used a common source, written or otherwise.

3.2.2. If one author is dependent on the other's work as a source, it is probable that Peter used the Letter of Jude. It would be less likely for 2 Peter to be a source for Jude, because the Letter of Jude is shorter—the tendency is for texts is to expand—and because Jude does not cite Peter as an authority, which would be unexpected, since he quoted Enoch as such.

3.2.3. The date that one gives to the Letter of Jude must be consistent with the conclusion arrived at concerning the relationship between 2 Peter and the Letter of Jude and the date that you gave to the composition of 2 Peter. If the Letter of Jude is a literary source for 2 Peter and 2 Peter was written in the mid-60's or even as late as 68, what must the terminus ad quem of the Letter of Jude be? Does this agree with the internal, indirect evidence relating to the date of the composition of the Letter of Jude?

The terminus ad quem of the Letter of Jude would be before Peter's death in the 60's. It does not agree with the internal, indirect evidence, because this suggests a later date.

3.2.4. Since it is unlikely that Peter used the Letter of Jude as a source, what should one conclude about the literary relationship between it and 2 Peter?  What does this imply about the possible date of the composition of the Letter of Jude?

The Letter of Jude is probably dependent on a source—oral or written—also used by Peter. This implies that the date of the composition of the Letter of Jude can be later than the composition of 2 Peter.

3.3. What do you conclude about the date of the composition of the Letter of Jude?

The Letter of Jude seems to be late. How late is impossible to say, but late enough to speak about the apostles as figures of the recent past and to refer to the faith once delivered to the saints.


4. Where was the Letter of Jude written?

There is no evidence to conclude anything about where the Letter of Jude was written.


5. What is the Letter of Jude?

5.1. Outline of the Letter of Jude

A. 1-2

This represents the salutation of the letter.

B. 3-23

This represents the main body of the letter.

1. 3-4

Jude explains that the reason for his writing is the emergence of false teachers. He wants his readers to protect the "faith once delivered to the saints" from these false teachers who turn grace into licentiousness and disown the one Lord and master, Jesus Christ.

2. 5-7

Jude reminds his readers that in the past God has judged sin. He gives the examples of the generation of the exodus, fallen angels and Sodom and Gomorrah.

3. 8-19

Jude describes the false teachers as defiling the body and rejecting authority. He adds that they even dare to malign heavenly beings ("glories"), which the archangel Michael refused to do when disputing with Satan over Moses’ body. These men also pour abuse on what they do not know. He uses several comparisons and metaphors to describe them, and says that Enoch predicted their final judgment and destruction. He continues by saying that these men are malcontents, following their desires, speak arrogantly and court favor to gain their desired ends and are unspiritual ("soulish, not having the spirit"), although they make such distinctions. He exhorts his readers to remember that the apostles predicted the emergence of false teachers.

4. 20-23

Jude exhorts his readers to keep themselves in the faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping themselves in the love of God and waiting for the time when Jesus Christ will give eternal life. He tells them to help others who are in danger of the judgment of God.

C. 24-25

Jude concludes with a benediction.

5.2. As already noted, the Letter of Jude quoted directly from what is now know as 1 Enoch and even could be interpreted as believing that Enoch, "the seventh from Adam" (see 1 Enoch 60:8), actually wrote the work (14) (unless this is simply a designation for the purposes of identification). Since the reference to Michael, the archangel, disputing with Satan over Moses' body is not found in the Old Testament, it is likely that his source for this is another apocryphal book (many suggest The Ascension of Moses). Jerome explained the reluctance of some to accept Jude as canonical as due to the fact of these apocryphal quotations (De vir. ill. 110). What is implied about the status 1 Enoch and any other apocryphal work that is cited the Letter of Jude?  In other words, do you think that these works should be considered canonical also?

It is clear that Jude considers his citations as true, so at least some of these works are useful. Whether they should be considered  canonical is another question.
 

6. Why was the Letter of Jude written?

From Jude 3-4, what do you conclude about the reason for Jude's writing his letter?

Jude was writing a general letter to combat false teachers in the church, who were undermining "the faith once delivered to the saints."

 

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