Introduction to the Letter of Jude
Copyright ©2000, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington
The writer of this short letter[ 1 ] identifies himself as 'IOUDAS Judas or Jude, brother of James.[ 2 ] Most commentators assume that he was also a half-brother of Jesus. He was certainly not Judas Iscariot. Both Matthew and Mark mention a Jude (Judas) as a brother of the Lord. "Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joseph, and Simon and Judas?" (Mt 13:55). "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses [Joseph], and Judas and Simon?" (Mk 6:3).
The writer was familiar with the OT. He mentions Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 7), Moses (verse 9), Cain (verse 11), Balaam (verse 11), Korah (verse 11) and Enoch (verse 14). Early in His earthly ministry, Jesus' brothers (including Jude) did not believe in Him (Joh 7:5). However, after the resurrection they did (Ac 1:14).
SEVEN MEN NAMED JUDE
[JUDE, JUDA OR JUDAS]
- Brother of Jesus (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3).
- Ancestor of Christ (Lu 3:30).
- Apostle, not Iscariot, son of James (Lu 6:16; Ac 1:13).
- Iscariot, treasurer, traitor (Joh 6:71; 12:4-6; 13:29).
- Surnamed Barsabas, proposed as Judas' successor (Ac 1:23; 15:22, 27, 32).
- Galilean insurrectionist (Ac 5:37).
- Owner of inn, in street called Straight at Damascus (Ac 9:11).
There are several reasons why we believe that the book of Jude was not an "early" letter. For one thing, he speaks of the faith once delivered (verse 3). He calls upon his readers to remember the words of the apostles (verses 17, 18). All of the twelve except John are thought to have died before AD 70. Under the reign of Domitian, Jude's two grandsons were brought in for judgment. Apparently, Jude was not. From these considerations, we may assume the letter was written before AD 81.[ 3 ] Jude may have died by that time. Since he mentions several cases of punishment by God, it is likely he would have alluded to the destruction of Jerusalem if it had already occurred. Since he did not, there is a suggestion that he wrote prior to AD 70. If 2 Peter was penned about AD 67,[ 4 ] Jude must have been written shortly afterwards (see following paragraph).
SIMILARITIES OF JUDE AND 2 PETER
- False prophets to introduce heresies (Jude 4; 2Pe 2:1).
- Sinful angels (Jude 6; 2Pe 2:4).
- Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 7; 2Pe 2:6).
- Despise authority, revile dignities (Jude 8; 2Pe 2:10).
- Angels not abusive (Jude 9; 2Pe 2:11).
- Like unreasoning animals (Jude 10; 2Pe 2:12).
- Balaam (Jude 11; 2Pe 2:15).
- Arrogance of false teachers (Jude 16; 2Pe 2:18).
SIMILARITY TO 2 PETER
Jude and Peter warned against the same or similar false teachers. Both stated that evil men denied their Lord (2Pe 1:1; Jude 4). The false teachers attended assemblies of Christians (2Pe 2:13; Jude 12). Several other similarities are listed in the chart SIMILARITIES OF JUDE AND 2 PETER. The comparison with 2 Peter does not, in itself, prove that one book was written before the other.[ 5 ] The Holy Spirit inspired both of them.[ 6 ] However, in 2 Peter, false teachers are predicted. In Jude, they have appeared. This suggests that Jude was written after 2 Peter.
GENUINENESS AND AUTHENTICITY
The letter of Jude is genuine. That is, it was penned by its claimed writer. It is authentic, trustworthy and reliable. Those who consider the letter a counterfeit need to come up with a rational motive for forgery. Jude's main claim to fame must have been that he was the Lord's brother but that is not even mentioned in the letter. As to recognition by others, the epistle of Jude is listed in the "Muratorian Canon" (about AD 200); also by Tertullian, Clement and Origen (third century).[ 7 ]
TO WHOM WRITTEN
The "postcard" or "memo"[ 8 ] was written to Christians, "to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ" (Jude 1).
PROBLEMS ADDRESSED BY JUDE
- Worldly living.
- Denying the Lord.
- Rebelling against authority.
- Presumptuous speech.
- A hedonistic spirit.
- False teachers who deceive the unstable.
- Corrupting the love feasts.
OCCASION OF THE LETTER
Licentious, false teachers had appeared on the scene as if from nowhere. These men who denied their "only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" had "crept in unnoticed" (Jude 4). They had to be dealt with. Jude sternly warns those who would lead God's people astray. Not only was there an urgent need for Jude's readers, as well as all Christians everywhere and for all time, to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (verse 3). Following false teachers would cause Christians to be lost eternally. "Pull them out of the fire" is Jude's earnest appeal (verse 23).
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[ 1 ] The Bible version used in this Introduction is the American Standard Version (ASV) unless otherwise noted. Occasionally, its archaic language has been updated.
[ 2 ] There were two apostles named James (see Lu 6:14, 15). In Matthew's list, Lebbeus (Thaddaeus) is listed tenth (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18). In Luke's list, the tenth is Simon called the Zealot followed by Judas brother of James (see Lu 6:15, 16). This has prompted some to think the apostles Judas and Lebbeus were the same but this is not conclusive (see also Joh 14:22; Ac 1:13; 15:13; Ga 1:19; 2:9).
[ 3 ] Domitian became emperor of Rome in AD 81. Hegesippus (about 110-180) wrote that two grandsons of Jude were brought before Domitian as descendants of David but were dismissed as harmless peasants. If Jude were still living, it is likely he would have been mentioned or, possibly, as a descendant of David himself, brought before Domitian for trial (Zondervan 456).
[ 4 ] See Introduction to 2 Peter.
[ 5 ] It is possible to explain the similarities between Jude and 2 Peter in one of four ways: (1) One writer got information from the other. (2) The two men talked over what they would write. (3) Both relied upon a third source. (4) The Spirit inspired both of them to write similar words. My view is number 4.
[ 6 ] Instances of writers saying almost the same words are found in the Proverbs, Psalms and Gospels.
[ 7 ] Harrison 1487.
[ 8 ] Jude's "book" of one page (25 verses) is respectfully termed a memo or postcard.
Copyright ©2000, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington, U.S.A.
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