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Bible Commentaries
Jude 1

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verse 1


The Author —In the inscription of this short epistle we read: ’Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James’. There is no further indication in the letter to identify the writer. In the list of the Apostles two are named Judas, cf.Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13; one is Judas the Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord, the other is called ’Thaddaeus’ or ’Lebbaeus’ or of James’, which according to Catholic interpreters means ’ the brother of James’. Non-Catholic writers are loath to identify the Apostle with the author of the epistle; hence they claim that ’son’ is to be supplied. The fact that the author mentions James indicates that the latter was well known and highly respected by the recipients of the letter. Catholics justify their interpretation of ’brother’ by citing Mark 6:3, where James and Jude are mentioned together as ’brothers of Christ’. The position James the brother of the Lord in the church of Jerusalem is indicated in Acts 15:13 where with St Peter he settles the dispute about the circumcision of Gentile converts; and in Acts 21:18-25, where he acts as head of the church in Jerusalem, and welcomes St Paul after his third missionary journey. He is called an ’Apostle’ by St Paul in Galatians 1:19. An early tradition says that Bishop James was a life-long Nazarite and celibate (Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius, HE 2, 23, 4). But if Jude is an Apostle and a brother of the Lord, why does he not make use of these titles in the letter? The reason is probably the same that prompted James to omit both titles, namely, humility. On the ’Brethren of the Lord’, cf. §§ 672-3.

Canonicity —This epistle is placed on his list of disputed books by Eusebius, HE 3, 25, 3. St Jerome gives the reason why not all accepted it as an inspired writing: ’Jude has left us a short epistle, which is one of the seven Catholic Epistles; but since he quotes the apocryphal Book of Henoch it is rejected by many. Yet it deserves a place in Holy Scripture because of its antiquity and the use that is made of it’ ( De Vir. Illust.4). Early Christian writers of the 3rd cent. who defend its authenticity and quote it as Scripture, are: Clement of Alexandria, Paedag. 3, 8; Strom. 3, 2; Origen, Com. in Mt10, 17 and 17, 30; In Ep. ad Rom 3, 6; 5, 1; Tertullian, De Cultu Femin.1, 3. It is found in the canons of the Muratorian Fragment ( a.d. 160) of SS Athanasius, PG 26, 1176; Cyril of Jerusalem, PG 33, 500; Damasus, Dz 84; Innocent I, Dz 96; of the Councils of Hippo, Laodicea and Carthage III, Dz 92.

The Relation between Jude and 2 Pet—Both letters were written to warn certain Christian communities of a grave danger to faith and morals propagated by false teachers. There is, however, a closer connexion between the two epistles than arises from a common purpose. There is great similarity of thought and language, as may be seen by comparing Jude 3-18 with 2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 2:1-18, Which letter was written first? There is no agreement on the answer, but the priority of Jude has a slightly better claim. The style of Jude is more fluent, and certain obscure expressions that occur in Jude 9, 11, 12 are clarified in 2 Peter 2:10; 2 Peter 2:15 and 2:13 respectively. Others, however, hold that 2 Pet 2 shows direct dependence on Jude.

The Relation between Jude and the Book of Henoch —There is great probability, "as St Jerome asserts above, § 960c, that Jude made use of the apocryphal Book of Henoch. This does not prove that Jude considered the contents of Henoch as inspired; nor does it indicate that he approved of every statement contained therein. Henoch was held in high esteem in the early Church, and it may have contained some genuine Jewish traditions.

Destination and Purpose —The letter is addressed ’to them that are beloved in God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called’, 1, which address might apply to any Christian community. From the tone of the letter it seems to be directed to a definite church or group of churches in a definite locality. The arguments drawn from the OT and Jewish tradition would have greater weight with converts from Judaism, and the fact that the writer calls himself ’the brother of James’ implies that he is writing to Christians who had a high regard for James. Such communities must be sought in Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia, where the majority of the converts were from Judaism; and tradition assigns these very countries to St Jude as the field of his apostolic labours. We may legitimately suppose, therefore, that this epistle was addressed to the churches in these regions.

The epistle was occasioned by the spread of a dangerous heresy, which threatened to undermine Christian life and belief. A band of godless men, who denied God’s sovereignty and led immoral lives, were deceiving many and leading them astray. St Jude earnestly warns his readers against such deceivers, and urges them to hold fast to the true faith and persevere in the love of God. /par/parTime and Place of Composition —Nothing definite is known about either. The date usually given by those who admit the authenticity is somewhere between 62 and 67, the dates assigned to the deaths of SS James and Peter.

Analysis —After the greeting the Apostle begs his readers to contend earnestly for the faith, preached to them by the Apostles, against the ungodly men who are advocating lawlessness and immorality, 3 f. He calls their attention to the punishments which God had inflicted on unbelievers, rebels and profligates in the past, 5-7. Despite such warning examples, these seducers defile the flesh, despise authority and speak evil of those who exercise it, 8-10. Their sin is like that of Cain, of Balaam and of Core, 11-13. Henoch foretold their condemnation, 14-15. May the readers be forewarned, and use the safeguards provided by faith, namely, prayer, love of God and hope in Christ, 17-21. Let them encourage the wavering, bring back the fallen, but avoid the profligates, 22 f. God can preserve them from sin. May they give him glory and honour now and forever, 24 f.

Text and Style —The Greek text varies only in two or three places, and the variants are of little importance. Vg follows the Greek closely. The style is impassioned, somewhat vague, picturesque and vigorous.

Verses 2-25

1-2 Salutation —Although the writer was a relative of our Lord, he does not mention the fact, but humbly refers to himself as a ’bond-servant’ of Jesus Christ, and gives his relationship with James, Bishop of Jerusalem, who was everywhere well known to converts from Judaism. He addressed those whom God in his love called to the faith and whom he preserved in it by uniting them to his Son Jesus Christ. 2. The Apostle wishes them a threefold divine blessing in fullest measure: mercy from God, peace with him, and charity towards their fellowmen. 961a

3-4 Purpose of the Letter —It seems probable that the Apostle planned to write a general letter about what is most necessary for salvation; but a sudden danger immediately caused him to send in writing a warning plea, urging the faithful to preserve unchanged the deposit of the faith which had been transmitted to them by the Apostles. 4. Ravenous wolves have entered the Christian flock to destroy it. Long ago did Christ indicate such deceivers as constituting a real menace to the church, John 10:1. Two charges are brought against these particular seducers: they abused the grace of God by indulging in licentiousness, and by their immoral conduct they denied in practice the authority of God and of Jesus Christ.

5-7 Warning Examples —5. The Apostle calls attention to several instances, already well known to them, in which God inflicted severe punishment for sin. The first is taken from Numbers 14:1-36. The lesson inculcated by the destruction of the unbelieving Israelites is that no Christian may presume on his privileges, since those who were brought out of Egypt by a series of astounding miracles nevertheless died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. There are three variant readings for 5b: the oldest Greek MSS and Vg have ’Jesus’; others have ’the Lord’; and a few have ’God’. Here, as in 1 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Corinthians 10:9, Christ is said to have accompanied the Israelites in their wanderings through the wilderness.

6. The second example is the fall of the angels. ’Kept not their principality’, i.e. the state in which God created them; ’forsook their own habitation’, i.e. they forgot their proper rank by aspiring to equality with God their Creator; ’unto the judgement of the great. day’, i.e. the day of general judgement, referred to in Acts 2:20; Apoc 6:17, when the rebel angels will receive their final sentence. 7. The third instance is recorded in Genesis 19:25; ’suffering the punishment of eternal fire’, i.e. the effects of the fire which destroyed these sinners are depicted as permanent, cf.Wis 10:7.

8-13 The Nefarious Conduct of the Seducers —8. Now follows the application of the preceding examples to the false teachers. ’In like manner these in their dreams’, i.e. dreaming in the sleep of sin, ’defiled the flesh’, by giving themselves over to immorality, like the Sodomites; ’and despise dominion’, i.e. scorn authority, like the disgruntled Israelites; ’and revile majesty’, speak ill of those who exercise authority. Some interpret ’d??a?’ as angels, i.e. beings in whom the divine Majesty is reflected.

9. In contrast to their outrageous conduct is the restraint used by St Michael in his dispute with Satan over the body of Moses. This incident is not mentioned in Scripture, but may have been a Jewish oral tradition, which is well known to the readers of this epistle. According to Clement of Alexandria, Adumbrat. in Ep. Jud. and Origen, De Princ. 3, 2, 1, St Jude is quoting an apocryphal work, The Assumption of Moses. In the fragment of the work that has come down to us, this story is not found. The passage claims that the Archangel Michael passed no hasty judgement on the arch-enemy, but left his condemnation in God’s hands. 10. ’Blaspheme’, i.e. revile, speak abusively of; ’things they know not are spiritual things; ’things they naturally know, like dumb beasts’, sensual passions, natural cravings.

11. Next the Apostle likens the false teachers to three notorious sinners mentioned in OT: Cain, Balaam and Core. Throughout the epistle the author has a liking for triads; e.g. 1, 2, 4, 5-7, 11. By not curbing their passions, in contempt of God’s warning, Genesis 4:7, they resemble Cain. Balaam allowed selfish avarice to stifle conscience, and disregarded the threats of divine punishment, Numbers 1:8. Core rebelled against the authority of Moses, Numbers 16:1-36.12. Using a series of metaphors to describe their shameless conduct, St Jude says: ’These are spots in your love-feasts, when they feast with you without fear’, i.e. at the liturgical banquets, ’??apa?’, when Christians gathered to share with one another the food they brought as a sign of union and mutual love, and which was followed by ’the Lord’s supper’ (cf.1 Corinthians 11:20 f.); these deceivers were blots, misfits, or as some’ texts read, ’rocks’ or hidden reefs to wreck the faith of those assembled. ’Fear’ refers to the fear of God. Their boastfulness, which produced nothing, is likened to clouds that promise rain but are driven before the wind. Their lack of virtuous deeds causes them to resemble trees in autumn, that should be loaded down with fruit but are barren. This proves that they are utterly dead, and deserve nothing better than to be uprooted.

13. Their boisterous and obscene conduct is illustrated by the turbulent waves of the sea that wash ashore filth and slime. Their departure from sound doctrine and morality is similar to the course of a wandering star that disappears in the darkness forever.

14-16 Henoch’s Prophecy of Judgement —14. The prophecy of Henoch is not contained in Scripture, but is found almost verbatim in the apocryphal Book of Henoch, 1, 9. By quoting this passage, St Jude does not approve of everything contained in this strange work. He merely vouches for the fact that the prophecy is recorded that the Lord will execute judgement upon all ungodly sinners, such as the men in question. 16. Enlarging further on the character of the false teachers, he calls them ’murmurers full of complaints’, i.e. men who are discontented with their lot, who do as they please, whose speech is boastful and vain for the most part, but who will stoop to flattery when this is advantageous to them.

17-19 Warning of the Apostles —That false teachers and seducers will appear ’in the last days’, and will resemble in character the men here characterized as ’mockers walking according to their own desires in ungodliness’, is stated by St Paul, 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1, and less clearly by our Lord, Matthew 24:11. Similar prophecies, no doubt, were uttered by all the Apostles of Christ in their instructions to the people, but their words have not been recorded.

20-23 Final Exhortation —20. Whereas the heretics are pulling down the church of Christ stone by stone, St Jude desires his readers to build up their character firmly’ upon your most holy faith’, i.e. according to its holy teachings and after the example of its holy Founder. This can only be accomplished with the help of the Holy Ghost, whose assistance must be sought through prayer. 21. Love of God, and the mercy of Jesus Christ will bring them ’unto life everlasting’. 22-23. The Greek text is rather uncertain. In some MSS there are two clauses, in others three. Most textual critics prefer the reading in which three classes of offenders are mentioned. The first class seem to be wavering; they are to be taught the truth by instruction and argument. The second class seem to have yielded, but can still be rescued. The third class are utterly depraved and their condition is hopeless. They should judge them mercifully, but hold them in fear and keep them at a safe distance, as they would a contaminated garment.

24-25. The epistle concludes with a solemn doxology.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Jude 1". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/jude-1.html. 1951.
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