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Bible Commentaries
Jude 1

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and CollegesCambridge Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-99

The General Epistle of


1 . Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James ] The question who the writer was who thus describes himself has been discussed in the Introduction. Here it will be enough to note (1) that the use of the term “servant” does not exclude a claim to Apostleship (Romans 1:1 ; Philippians 1:1 ); and (2) that it is the term used by the writer whom the author of this Epistle claims as his brother (James 1:1 ). This description of himself as “the brother of James” has no parallel in the New Testament. We might have expected “brother of the Lord,” but probably he shrank from what might have seemed the boastfulness of so describing himself, or felt, perhaps, that that title was now inseparably connected with James, the Bishop of Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19 ). It may be inferred, without much risk of error, (1) that he wished, bearing so common a name, to distinguish himself from others, like Judas not Iscariot, of John 14:22 , Luke 6:16 , the Lebbæus or Thaddæus of Matthew 10:3 , Judas surnamed Barsabas (Acts 15:22 ), and others.

to them that are sanctified by God the Father …] Literally, sanctified in God the Father , i.e. through union with Him, living in Him. Some of the better MSS., however, give “ beloved in God,” in which case the thought would be that they were the objects of the writer’s love, not “according to the flesh,” but with an emotion which had its source in God. So taken it would be analogous to the phrases “salute you much in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 16:19 ), or, “rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4 ).

and preserved in Jesus Christ …] The tense of the participle in the Greek implies a completed act continuing in its results. The word may be noted as specially characteristic of the later Epistles. We have it in 1 Peter 1:4 ; 2 Peter 2:4 , 2 Peter 2:9 , 2 Peter 2:17 , 2 Peter 2:3 :7; eight times in 1 John; four times in Jude. In the sense in which it is used here, it is probably connected with the fact of the delay in the second Advent of the Lord, and was chosen to indicate that those who were waiting patiently for it were being kept or guarded by their union with Christ.

and called ] The idea runs through the whole of the New Testament. The word appears in Matthew 20:16 , Matthew 22:14 as contrasted with “chosen” or “elect,” in Romans 1:1 , Romans 1:6 , Romans 1:7 , Romans 1:8 :28 as the sequel of a predetermining election. Each aspect of the word must be kept in mind.

2 . Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied ] The salutation corresponds with that of 1 Peter 1:2 ; 2 Peter 1:2 , with the substitution of “mercy” for “grace” (the two are united in 1 Timothy 1:2 ; 2 Timothy 1:2 ; Titus 1:4 ), and the addition, as in the latter passages, of “peace.”

3 . Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation …] More accurately, giving all diligence , as a present act connected with the time of writing. The word for “diligence,” as with the cognate verb in 2 Peter 1:10 , 2 Peter 1:15 , 2 Peter 1:3 :14, implies earnest effort. The term “common salvation,” not elsewhere found in the New Testament, has a parallel in the “common faith” of Titus 1:4 . In both passages stress is laid on the “faith,” or the “salvation,” as being that in which all Christians were sharers, as distinct from the “knowledge” which was claimed by false teachers as belonging only to a few.

it was needful for me to write unto you ] Better, perhaps, I found a necessity . The ground of the necessity lies in the fact stated in the next verse. The words have been interpreted as meaning that he was about to write a fuller or more general Epistle, and was then diverted from his purpose by the urgent need for a protest against the threatening errors; and the inference, though not, perhaps, demonstrable, is at least legitimate, and derives some support from the change of tense (which the English version fails to represent) in the two infinitives, the first “to write” being in the present tense, such as might be used of a general purpose, the second in the aorist, as pointing to an immediate and special act.

that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints ] The simple form of the verb for “contend” is found in Colossians 1:29 , Colossians 4:12 , and implies, as it were, “wrestling” for the faith. This expression finds a close parallel in the “striving together for the faith” of Philippians 1:27 . “Faith” is obviously to be taken in its objective sense, as being, so to speak, the belief of the Universal Church. And this faith is described as being “ once for all delivered to the saints.” It was not necessarily embodied as yet in a formal Creed, or committed to writing, but was imparted orally to every convert, and took its place among the “traditions” of the Church (2 Thessalonians 2:15 , 2 Thessalonians 3:6 ), the noble deposit , “the good thing committed to their trust” which all pastors and teachers were to watch over and pass on to others (2 Timothy 1:14 ), identical with the “form of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13 ). In the words that describe the “mystery of godliness” in 1 Timothy 3:16 , and in the “faithful sayings” of the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 1:15 , 1 Timothy 1:3 :1, 1 Timothy 1:4 :9; 2 Timothy 2:11 ; Titus 3:8 ), we have probably portions of this traditional faith. It was now imperilled by teachers who denied it, both in their doctrine and their life, and it was necessary that men should redouble their efforts to maintain it unimpaired.

4 . For there are certain men crept in unawares …] More literally, For there crept in unawares certain men … There is a touch of contempt in the way in which, as in Galatians 2:4 , 2 Peter 2:1 , the false teachers are referred to without being named. Here also, as there, stress is laid on their making their way into the Church insidiously, and, as it were, under false pretences. The words that follow have often been urged as giving a sanction to the Calvinistic theory of a Divine decree predestining men to condemnation, but it is against this view that the word “of old” is never used in the New Testament of the Divine Counsels, which are in their very nature eternal, and are commonly indicated by such words as “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4 ), “from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18 ), the “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11 ) and the like. The Greek word for “of old” may, on the contrary, be used of even a recent past, as in Mark 15:44 , 2 Peter 1:9 . Nor does the Greek word for “ordained” express the thought of a decree like that of the Calvinistic theory, but rather of a public designation, as in Galatians 3:1 . St Jude’s words accordingly are adequately rendered by who were long ago before marked out as on their way to this condemnation , and may refer to previous prophetic utterances of the same type as those of 1 Timothy 4:1 , 1 Timothy 4:2 , or 2 Peter 2:1 , which had already pointed to such men as the coming danger of the Church.

turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness ] The description agrees with that in 2 Peter 2:18 , 2 Peter 2:19 , in pointing to the party who under the pretence of magnifying the grace of God (Romans 6:1 ), and asserting their Christian liberty, led base and licentious lives, the party, i.e., condemned alike by St Paul (1 Corinthians 6:9-18 ), by St Peter (2 Peter 2:0 ) and by St John (1 John 3:7-10 ). See notes on 2 Peter 2:0 .

denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ ] The better MSS. omit the word “God,” and as the Greek word for the first “Lord” is that used in 2 Peter 2:1 (see note there), we are probably justified in applying it also to Christ. On that view, or indeed in any case, it would be better to express the distinction between the two terms by translating, the only Master and Lord Jesus Christ . The “denial” spoken of is two-fold, both in doctrine, as in 1 John 2:22 , 1 John 2:23 , or in life, but the context shews that stress is laid chiefly on the latter.

5 . I will therefore put you in remembrance ] More accurately, I wish to put you in remembrance , or, to remind you . The language presupposes, like that of 2 Peter 1:12 , to which it presents a close parallel, the previous instruction of the readers of the Epistle in the faith once delivered to the saints.

though ye once knew this ] The better MSS. give “knew all things,” reminding us of “ye know all things” of 1 John 2:20 . The word is limited in both cases, by the context, to all the essential elements of Christian faith and duty.

how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt ] The MSS. present a curious variation of reading, some giving “the Lord,” some “Jesus,” and some “God.” St Paul’s use of the name of “Christ” in 1 Corinthians 10:4 is, in some sense, parallel to that of “Jesus,” which seems, on the whole, the best-supported reading. The reference to the judgment that fell upon Israel in the wilderness takes the place of that drawn from the flood in 2 Peter 2:5 , and may, perhaps, be traced to St Paul’s way of dealing with that history in 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 , or to Hebrews 3:12-19 .

afterward ] More literally, secondly , or in the second place .

6 . And the angels which kept not their first estate ] The two last words answer to a Greek term which may either mean “beginning,” i.e. their original constitution, the meaning adopted in the English version, or “sovereignty.” The latter sense may mean either that they rejected the sovereignty of God, or that they abandoned the position of power and dignity which He had assigned them. Looking to the fact that the term is used in the New Testament, as by Jewish writers, as describing a class of angels (the “principalities” of Ephesians 1:21 , Ephesians 1:3 :10, Ephesians 1:6 :12; Colossians 1:16 , Colossians 2:15 ), the latter explanation is probably the true one. On the nature of the sin referred to, see notes on 2 Peter 2:4 .

but left their own habitation ] As this is named as the sin, not as the punishment, it seems to imply a descent from the region of heaven to that of earth, like that implied in the language of Genesis 6:2 .

he hath reserved in everlasting chains …] The words, like those of 2 Peter 2:4 , seem to indicate a distinction between the angels who were thus punished, and the “demons” or “unclean spirits” with Satan at their head, who exercise a permitted power as the tempters, accusers, and destroyers of mankind, the “world-rulers of this darkness” of Ephesians 6:12 , who even “in heavenly places” carry on their warfare against the souls of men. It is possible that St Jude recognised such a distinction. His language, like that of St Peter, follows the traditions of the Book of Enoch, which speaks of fallen angels as kept in their prison-house till the day of judgment (xxii. 4), and those which are represented by the Midrasch Ruth in the Book of Zohar , “After that the sons of God had begotten sons, God took them and brought them to the mount of darkness and bound them in chains of darkness which reach to the middle of the great abyss.” A fuller form of the Rabbinic legend relates that the angels Asa and Asael charged God with folly in having created man who so soon provoked Him, and that He answered that if they had been on earth they would have sinned as man had done. “And thereupon He allowed them to descend to earth, and they sinned with the daughters of men. And when they would have returned to Heaven they could not, for they were banished from their former habitation and brought into the dark mountains of the earth” ( Nischmath Chaim in Nork’s Rabbinische Quellen und Parallelen ). The resemblance between this tradition and that of the Zoroastrian legend of the fall of Ahriman and his angels, and again of the punishment of the Titans by Zeus in the mythology of Hesiod ( Theogon . 729), shews the wide-spread currency of the belief referred to. How far this allusive reference to a tradition which the writers accepted stamps it with a Divine authority as an article of faith is a question the answer to which depends on external considerations as to the nature of the inspiration by which the writers who so referred were guided. The office of the interpreter is limited to stating what, as far as can be gathered, was actually in the thoughts of the writer.

7 . the cities about them, in like manner … going after strange flesh ] The words describe the form of evil for which the cities of the plain have become a byword of infamy. In saying that this sin was like that of the angels, it is clearly implied that in the latter case also there was a degradation of nature, such as is emphasized in the words that “the sons of God went in unto the daughters of men” (Genesis 6:4 ). Impurity, and not simply or chiefly pride, as in the mediæval traditions represented in the poems of Cædmon and Milton, is thought of as the leading feature in the fall of the angels ( Book of Enoch , c. 9).

suffering the vengeance of eternal fire ] The words imply a reference to something more than the natural phenomena of the Dead Sea region. The fire which had destroyed them is thought of as being still their doom, as permanent as the “eternal fire” of Matthew 25:41 . For “vengeance,” which admits of a bad as well as a good meaning, it might be better to read “just punishment.”

8 . Likewise also these filthy dreamers …] More accurately, these men dreaming defile the flesh . The English version follows many commentators in suggesting the thought that the words describe the kind of sensual dreams which lead to the pollution described in Leviticus 15:16 , Leviticus 15:17 . This meaning, however, does not lie in the word itself, and as the participle is, by the construction of the sentence, equally connected with all of the three verbs that follow, it is better to see in it a simple description of the dreaming, visionary character of the false teachers. They lived, as it were, in a dream (perhaps exulted in their clairvoyant visions), and the result was seen in impurity like that of the cities of the plain, in “despising dominion” and “speaking evil of dignities.” On the questions presented by the two last clauses, see notes on 2 Peter 2:10 .

9 . Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil …] It is obvious, from the manner in which St Jude writes, that he assumes that the fact to which he refers was familiar to his readers. No tradition, however, precisely corresponding with this statement is found in any Rabbinic or apocryphal book now extant, not even in the Book of Enoch, from which he has drawn so largely in other instances (verses 6, 14). Œcumenius indeed, writing in the tenth century, reports a tradition that Michael was appointed to minister at the burial of Moses, and that the devil urged that his murder of the Egyptian (Exodus 2:12 ) had deprived him of the right of sepulture, and Origen ( de Princ . iii. 2) states that the record of the dispute was found in a lost apocryphal book known as the Assumption of Moses, but in both these instances it is possible that the traditions may have grown out of the words of St Jude instead of being the foundation on which they rested. Rabbinic legends, however, though they do not furnish the precise fact to which St Jude refers, shew that a whole cycle of strange fantastic stories had gathered round the brief mysterious report of the death of Moses in Deuteronomy 34:5 , Deuteronomy 34:6 , and it will be worth while to give some of these as shewing their general character. Thus, in the Targum, or Paraphrase, of Jonathan on Deuteronomy it is stated that the grave of Moses was given over to the special custody of the Archangel Michael. In the Debarim Rabba i.e. the Midrash on Deuteronomy (fol. 263), it is related that Sammael, the prince of the Evil Angels, was impatient for the death of Moses. “And he said, ‘When will the longed-for moment come when Michael shall weep and I shall laugh?’ And at last the time came when Michael said to Sammael, ‘Ah! cursed one! Shall I weep while thou laughest?’ and made answer in the words of Micah, ‘Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me’ ” (Micah 7:8 ). A longer and wilder legend is given in the same book (fol. 246), which must be somewhat abridged. “Moses prayed that if he might not enter into the Promised Land, he might at least be allowed to live; but God told him that unless he died in this world he could have no life in the world to come, and commanded Gabriel to fetch his soul. Gabriel shrank from the task. Michael was next bidden to go, and he too shrank; and then the command was given to Sammael, who found him with his face shining as the light, and he was afraid and trembled. He told him why he was come, and Moses asked him who had sent him, and he made answer that he was sent by the Creator of the Universe. But Moses still held out, and Sammael returned with his task unfulfilled. And Moses prayed, ‘Lord of the World, give not my soul over to the Angel of Death.” And there came a voice from Heaven, ‘Fear not, Moses, I will provide for thy burial,’ and Moses stood up and sanctified himself as do the Seraphim, and the Most High came down from Heaven and the three chief angels with Him. Michael prepared the bier and Gabriel spread out the winding sheet.… And the Most High kissed him, and through that kiss took his soul to Himself” (Nork, Rabbinische Quellen ). It is suggestive that the sin of the angels comes prominently forward in connexion with the legend. The soul of Moses pleads its reluctance to leave the body which was so holy: “Lord of the world! The angels Asa and Asael lusted after the daughters of men, but Moses, from the day Thou appearedst unto him in the bush, led a life of perpetual continence.”

It is clear from these extracts that there was something like a floating cycle of legendary traditions connected with the death of the great Lawgiver, and it is a natural inference that St Jude’s words refer to one of these then popularly received. It is scarcely within the limits of probability that anything in the nature of a really primitive tradition could have been handed down from generation to generation, through fifteen hundred years, without leaving the slightest trace in a single passage of the Old Testament; nor is it more probable to assume, as some have done, that the writer of the Epistle had received a special revelation disclosing the fact to him. His tone in speaking of the fact is plainly that of one who assumes that his readers are familiar with it. The question whether in thus mentioning it he stamps it with the character of an actual fact in the history of the unseen world, will depend, as has been said above, upon the conclusion we have formed as to the nature of the inspiration under which the writers of the New Testament thought and wrote. Most thoughtful students of Scripture are now agreed that that inspirationdid not necessarily convey an infallible power of criticising the materials of history and distinguishing popular belief from contemporary records; and there is nothing, therefore, irreverent in the thought that St Jude may have referred incidentally to a legend which he saw no reason to question, and which supplied an apposite illustration. In comparing this allusion with the parallel passage in 2 Peter 2:11 , the thought suggests itself that the Apostle may have deliberately avoided what appeared to him unauthorized additions to the Sacred Records, and so worded his exhortation as to make it refer to what he found in Zechariah 3:2 .

a railing accusation ] The Greek phrase, literally a judgment , or charge , of blasphemy , though not absolutely identical with that in 2 Peter 2:11 , has substantially the same meaning, not “an accusation of blasphemy,” but one characterised by reviling.

10 . But these speak evil of those things which they know not …] The context leaves no doubt that the region of the “things which they know not” is that of good and evil spirits. The false teachers were, though in another spirit, “intruding into those things which they had not seen,” like those whom St Paul condemns in Colossians 2:18 .

but what they know naturally, as brute beasts …] There is an obvious reference to the natural impulses of sensual desire which the false teachersdid understand only too well, but which they perverted either to the mere gratification of lust, or, as the words and the context seem to indicate, to that gratification in a manner which was contrary to the laws of nature. If we would understand the burning vehemence of the writer’s language, we must picture to ourselves the horror which he would feel at finding sins like those of Romans 1:26 , Romans 1:27 reproduced among those who claimed to be followers of Christ, transcending others in their knowledge of the mysteries of the faith.

11 . Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain …] We ask naturally what was the point of comparison. Probably in the case of those who were in the writer’s thoughts, as in most others, “lust” was “hard by hate,” and the false teachers were murderous and malignant, as well as sensual. The reference to Cain in 1 John 3:12 indicates that his name was used to point a moral as to the issue of the “evil works” in the spirit of hatred and of murder. Possibly, however, here also the writer may have had in his thoughts some of the Rabbinic legends which represented Cain as the offspring, not of Adam, but of Sammael, the Evil Spirit, and Eve, and as the parent of other evil spirits (Eisenmenger’s Entdeckt. Judenthum , i. 832, ii. 428), and therefore as connected with the idea of foul and unnatural impurity.

ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward ] See notes on 2 Peter 2:15 . Here, as there, the main thought connected with the name of Balaam is that of the sin of uncleanness into which the Israelites were led by him.

and perished in the gainsaying of Core ] i.e. by a gainsaying which was in its nature identical with that of Korah in Numbers 16:0 . Completing the parallel thus suggested it is obvious that as the false teachers answer to Korah and his company, so the true apostles and prophets of the Church of Christ are thought of as occupying a position like that of Aaron or Moses. The Greek word for “gainsaying” is the LXX. equivalent for the “Meribah” of Numbers 20:13 , Numbers 20:24 . A strange Rabbinic legend, while it placed the souls of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Gehenna, represented them as not tormented there (Eisenmenger, Entdeckt. Judenthum , ii. 342).

12 . These are spots in your feasts of charity ] Here also, as in 2 Peter 2:13 , the MSS. vary between “deceits” ( ἀπάταις ) and “feasts of charity, or love ” ( ἀγάπαις ), but the evidence preponderates for the latter reading. Some MSS., including the Sinaitic, insert the words “these are murmurers …,” which now stand in verse 16, at the beginning of this verse. The word rendered “spots” ( σπιλάδες ) is not the same as that in 2 Peter 2:13 ( σπῖλοι ), and in other Greek writers has the sense of “reefs” or “rocks below the sea.” It is possible that St Jude may have looked on the two words as identical in meaning, but it is obvious, on the other hand, that the word “rocks,” though it suggests a different image, gives a perfectly adequate sense to the whole passage. The false impure teachers who presented themselves undetected in the Christian love-feasts were as sunken rocks, and, if men were not on their guard, they might easily, by contact with them, “make shipwreck” of their faith (1 Timothy 1:19 ). On these love-feasts and their relation to the life of the Apostolic Church see notes on 2 Peter 2:13 .

when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear ] Better, feasting with you without fear, pasturing themselves . The adverb is more naturally joined in the Greek with the participle that precedes it, and the English “feeding,” suggesting, as it does, in this context simply the act of eating, fails to give the force of the Greek word for “feed,” which, as being that used in Acts 20:28 , 1 Peter 5:2 , expresses the idea of the pastoral office. What St Jude means is that these teachers of impurity, instead of submitting themselves to the true “pastors” of the Church, came in, like the false shepherds of Ezekiel 34:1 , Ezekiel 34:2 , Ezekiel 34:8 , Ezekiel 34:10 , to “feed themselves,” i.e. to indulge their own lusts in defiance of authority.

clouds they are without water ] The “clouds” take the place of the “wells” of 2 Peter 2:17 . The difference of imagery makes it probable that there may have been a difference of a like kind in the previous verse, and so far confirms the interpretation as to the “rocks” in the first clause of the verse. A like comparison is found in Proverbs 25:14 (“Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain”). Men look in the hot climate of the East to the cloud as giving promise of the rain from heaven. It is a bitter disappointment when it passes away leaving the earth hard and unrefreshed as before. So men would look in vain to these false teachers, shifting alike in their movements and their teaching, borne to and fro by “every wind of doctrine” (comp.Ephesians 4:14; Ephesians 4:14 ), for any spiritual refreshment.

trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit ] Literally, autumn-withering trees . This may mean either simply “autumnal trees,” as “in the sere and yellow leaf” that is the forerunner of decay, or “trees that wither just at the very season when men look for fruit,” and which are therefore fit symbols of the false teachers who are known “by their fruits.” The use of a cognate word in Pindar ( Pyth . v. 161) suggests, however, that the part of the compound word that corresponds to “autumn” may, like our “harvest,” be taken as a collective expression for the fruits of that season, and so the term, as used by St Jude, would mean “trees that wither and blight their fruit instead of bringing it to maturity.” The addition of “without fruit” is accordingly not a mere rhetorical iteration, but states the fact that the withering process was complete. The parable implied in the description was familiar to the disciples from the teaching both of John the Baptist and our Lord (Matthew 3:10 , 7:16 20; Luke 13:6-9 , and the Miracle of the Barren Fig-tree, Matthew 21:19 ).

twice dead ] Better, that have died twice , stress being laid on the repetition of the act of dying. It is not easy to fix the precise meaning of the phrase, either as it affects the outward imagery or the interpretation of the parable which it involves. Probably the tree is thought to die once when it ceases to bear fruit, and a second time when the sap ceases to circulate and there is no possibility of revival. So with the false teachers, there was first the blighting of the early promise of their knowledge of the truth, and then the entire loss of all spiritual life. The end of such trees was that they were “rooted up” and cast into the fire (Matthew 3:10 ). In the interpretation of the parable, this may refer to the sentence of excommunication by which such offenders were excluded from fellowship with the Christian society, or to the judgment of God as confirming, or, it may be, anticipating that sentence.

13 . raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame ] Image follows on image to paint the shameless enormities of the false teachers. In this we trace an echo of the thought, though not of the words, of Isaiah 57:20 . The same image meets us, though in a milder form, and to express a different type of spiritual evil, in James 1:6 . The Greek word for “shame” is in the plural, as indicating the manifold forms of the impurity of the false teachers.

wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever ] The latter words are parallel to 2 Peter 2:17 . The word for “wandering stars” is that which in the terminology of astronomy distinguishes the “planets” from the fixed stars. Here, however, the ordered regularity of planetary motion supplies no fit point of comparison, and we may probably see in the words a reference either to comets or shooting stars, whose irregular appearance, startling and terrifying men, and then vanishing into darkness, would present an analogue to the short-lived fame and baleful influence of the false teachers whom St Jude has in view. They too were drifting away into the eternal darkness.

14 . And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these …] The words that follow are almost a verbal quotation from the Apocryphal Book of Enoch. As that work had probably been in existence for a century before St Jude wrote, and was easily accessible, it is more natural to suppose that he quoted here, as in previous instances, what he thought edifying, than to adopt either of the two strained hypotheses, (1) that the writer had received what he quotes through a tradition independent of the Book of Enoch, that tradition having left no trace of itself in any of the writings of the Old Testament, or (2) that he was guided by a special inspiration to set the stamp of authenticity upon the one genuine prophecy which the apocryphal writer had imbedded in a mass of fantastic inventions. On the general question raised by this use of apocryphal material, see the Introduction to this Epistle; and for the history and contents of the Book of Enoch, the Excursus at the end of this volume. In the description of Enoch as the “ seventh from Adam” there is probably a mystical symbolism. As being such he became typical of the great Sabbath, the millennium, which, according to Jewish thought, was to close the six thousand years of the world’s work-day history.

Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints ] The words appear in the Book of Enoch, as spoken by an angel who interprets a vision which the Patriarch had received as foretelling the judgment of the last day. The latter words run in the Greek literally, with His holy myriads , probably with a reference to Deuteronomy 33:2 , the “saints” or “holy ones” here being not the disciples of Christ, but the “innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22 ; Psalms 68:17 ).

15 . to execute judgment upon all …] The following is given as a literal translation of the prophecy as it stands in the Book of Enoch: “And He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones, that He may execute judgment upon them and destroy the ungodly, and may plead with all the carnal ones for all the things which sinners and the ungodly have done or wrought against Him.” St Jude’s version differs from this in the reiterated use of the word “ungodly” as noun, adjective, verb and adverb.

16 . These are murmurers, complainers …] The first noun is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but the use of cognate verbs and nouns in Matthew 20:11 ; Luke 5:30 ; 1 Corinthians 10:10 ; Acts 6:1 and elsewhere, suggests that it refers primarily to the temper of a rebellious murmuring against human authority; in this case, probably, against that of the apostles and other appointed rulers of the Church. The Greek word for “complainers” has a more specific meaning, and means strictly blamers of fate , or, in modern phrase, finding fault with Providence . They took, as it were, a pessimist view of their lot of life, perhaps of the order of the world generally. The same word is used by Philo ( Vit. Mos . p. 109) to describe the temper of the Israelites in the wilderness, and appears in the Characters of Theophrastus (c. xvii.) as the type of the extremest form of general discontent, which complains even of the weather.

walking after their own lusts ] This stands in connexion with the foregoing as cause and effect. The temper of self-indulgence, recognising not God’s will, but man’s desires, as the law of action, is precisely that which issues in weariness and despair. The Confessions of the Preacher present the two elements often in striking combination (Ecclesiastes 2:1-20 ).

their mouth speaketh great swelling words ] For the latter words and what they imply, see notes on 2 Peter 2:18 .

having men’s persons in admiration ] Literally, admiring persons . The phrase, which is a somewhat stronger form of the more familiar “accepting persons” (James 2:1 ; Galatians 2:6 ; Matthew 22:16 ) occurs in the LXX. of Genesis 19:21 ; Leviticus 19:15 . The temper characterised is that which fawns as in wondering admiration on the great, while all the time the flatterer is simply seeking what profit he can get out of him whom he flatters.

17 . remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles …] The passage stands in close parallelism with 2 Peter 3:2 , but differs in speaking only of “apostles” and not of prophets, and apparently also in referring only or chiefly to the predictions of the apostles and not to their commandments. If we could assume that 2 Peter was the earlier of the two Epistles, we might see in St Jude’s language a reference to that of the Apostle. It will be noticed also that St Jude does not say, as St Peter does, “of us the apostles” (see, however, note on 2 Peter 3:2 ), and so far leaves it uncertain whether he includes himself.

18 . there should be mockers in the last time …] The word for “mockers” is found in 2 Peter 3:3 , but the general character of those described agrees with the picture drawn in 1 Timothy 4:1 ; 2 Timothy 3:1 . St Jude, it will be noted, does not dwell on the specific form of mockery, the taunts as to the delay in the second coming of the Lord, on which St Peter lays stress.

walk after their own ungodly lusts ] Literally, after the lusts of their own impieties . The last word adds a special feature to the description already given, in nearly the same words, in verse 16.

19 . These be they who separate themselves ] Many of the better MSS. omit the reflexive pronoun. The verb is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but a simpler form, with the same meaning, occurs in Leviticus 20:24 . It was characteristic of the false teachers and mockers who are spoken of that they drew lines of demarcation, which Christ had not drawn, between themselves and others, or between different classes of believers, those, e.g., who had the higher gnosis , or exercised a wider freedom (2 Peter 2:19 ), and those who were content to walk in “the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42 ). They lost sight of the unity of the Church of Christ and preferred the position of a sect or party; and, in so doing, united the exclusiveness of the Pharisees with the sensuous unbelief of the Sadducees.

sensual, having not the Spirit ] The adjective is the same as that which describes the “natural man” of 1 Corinthians 2:14 , and implies that the man lives in the full activity of his emotional and perceptive nature, without rising into the region of the reason and conscience which belong to his spiritual being. “Sensual,” or better perhaps, sensuous , is the nearest English equivalent, but, strictly speaking, it expresses the lower aspect of the character represented by the Greek term. The “sensuous” or psychical man is not necessarily “carnal” in the sense usually attached to that term, but the two words are closely connected with, and indeed overlap each other. The words seem specially directed against the boast of many of the Gnostic teachers, who, looking to St Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:14 , boasted that they alone were “spiritual” in that Apostle’s sense of the term, and that the members of the Church were, as the “natural” or “sensuous,” incapable of knowing the higher mysteries of God (Iren. i. 6. 2 4). St Jude retorts the charge, and says that they, who boast of their illumination, are in very deed destitute of every higher element of the religious life. The word for “Spirit” stands without the article in the Greek, and though this does not necessarily exclude the thought that the Spirit of God is spoken of, it is, perhaps, better to rest in the meaning that the false teachers were so absorbed in their lower, sensuous nature that they no longer possessed, in any real sense of the word, that element in man’s compound being, which is itself spiritual, and capable therefore of communion with the Divine Spirit.

20 . building up yourselves on your most holy faith …] Both the adjective, which is nowhere used of faith in its subjective sense, and St Jude’s use of the substantive in verse 3, lead us to take “faith” in the objective sense, as nearly identical with “creed,” which attaches to it in the later Epistles of the New Testament (1 Timothy 5:8 and perhaps 2 Timothy 4:7 ). The readers of the Epistle are exhorted to take that faith as a foundation, and to erect on it the superstructure of a pure and holy life.

praying in the Holy Ghost ] The precise combination is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but the fact which it expresses corresponds with St Paul’s language in Romans 8:26 , and the almost identical phraseology of 1 Corinthians 14:15 . What is meant is the ecstatic outpouring of prayer in which the words of the worshipper seem to come as from the Spirit who “helpeth our infirmities” and “maketh intercession for us,” it may be in articulate speech, it may be also as with “groanings that cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26 ). Here again we may recognise a side-glance at the false teachers. Not those who deserted the Church’s faith for a life of impurity, but those who “built” on it a life of holiness, were capable of that height of devotion which is described as “praying in the Spirit.”

21 . keep yourselves in the love of God …] The words admit equally of being taken of our love for God, or God’s love for us, but the latter meaning is more in harmony with the general tenor of Scripture, and, in particular, with our Lord’s language (“continue ye in my love”) in John 15:9 , and probably also St Paul’s (“the love of Christ constraineth us”) in 2 Corinthians 5:14 .

looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ ] The verb implies, as in Luke 2:25 , Luke 2:38 , Luke 2:23 :51, that the “mercy” is thought of as in the future, and probably there is a special reference to the second coming of Christ as that which will manifest His mercy no less than His righteous judgment. There is no ground, however, for limiting it to this significance, and it may well include all acts of mercy to which men were looking forward in patient expectation, as in store for them during the remainder of their earthly pilgrimage.

The reference in this and the preceding verse (1) to the Holy Spirit, (2) to the Father, (3) to the Lord Jesus Christ, may be noted as shewing St Jude’s witness to the “faith once delivered to the saints.”

22 . And of some have compassion, making a difference …] The MSS. present a strange variety of readings. Those of most authority give, Some rebuke (or convict , the same word as that used in John 16:8 ; Ephesians 5:11 ) when they debate with you (participle in the accusative case). The Received Text rests on the evidence of later MSS., but it may be questioned whether the participle (in this case in the nominative), which is in the middle voice, can have the meaning of “making a difference,” and even if we adopt that reading it would be better to render the word rebuke, as you debate with them , as with an implied reference to the same word as used in verse 9. Internal evidence, as far as it goes, agrees with the better MSS. There is more point in the contrast between the teachers who need a severe rebuke and those who may be saved with fear than in the two degrees of pity presented by the Received Text.

23 . and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire ] Here again the MSS. present a striking variation, those of most authority giving “others save, snatching them out of the fire, and have compassion on others with fear .” If we adopt this reading we have two classes of offenders brought before us, those who are to be saved as from the fire, as on the very verge of destruction, and those who are for some reason or other objects of a more tender pity, though they do not come within the range of immediate action. That pity, however, the context shews, was not to be accompanied by any tolerance of the evils into which they had fallen. In “snatching out of the fire” we have probably a reminiscence of the “brand plucked out of the fire” of Zechariah 3:2 .

hating even the garment spotted by the flesh ] The “garment” is the inner tunic worn next to the flesh, and therefore thought of as contaminated by its impurity, and it serves accordingly as a symbol of all outer habits of life that are affected by the inner foulness of the soul that is in bondage to the flesh. As men would loathe the touch of a defiled garment, bearing the stains of a cancerous ulcer, so they were to hate whatever was analogous to it in conduct (comp. Isaiah 30:22 ). The allusion to Zechariah 3:2 in the previous clause makes it probable that here also there is a reference to the “filthy garments;” polluted, i.e., with some ceremonial uncleanness, in which the high-priest Joshua the son of Josedech first appears in the prophet’s vision. In the benediction of Revelation 3:4 on those who “have not defiled their garments,” we have the same imagery.

24 . Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling ] Better, able to keep you from stumbling . See note on the difference between “stumbling” and “falling,” on 2 Peter 1:10 . The form of the concluding doxology is determined naturally by the thoughts that have led up to it. The writer had been dwelling on the various ways in which men had stumbled and fallen. He now directs their thoughts to God as alone able to preserve them from a like disastrous issue.

to present you faultless before the presence of his glory ] The adjective is a favourite one with St Paul (Ephesians 1:4 , Ephesians 1:5 :27; Philippians 2:15 ; Colossians 1:22 ) as describing the character of believers. In Hebrews 9:14 and 1 Peter 1:19 it is used of the stainless purity of Christ. The “glory” spoken of is that which is to be manifested at the coming of Christ “in his own glory, and that of the Father, and of the Holy Angels” (Luke 9:26 ). Comp. also Titus 2:13 .

with exceeding joy ] Both adjective and substantive are expressed in Greek by the one word for “exulting joy” in Luke 1:14 , Luke 1:44 ; Acts 2:46 .

25 . to the only wise God our Saviour …] The form of the doxology in the Received Text presents a parallelism to that of 1 Timothy 1:17 . The word “wise” is, however, omitted in many of the best MSS. In the use of the word “Saviour” as applied to God we have a parallelism with 1 Timothy 2:3 . The Father, no less than the Son, was thought of by both writers as the Saviour and Preserver of all men. The MSS. that omit “wise” add, for the most part, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

be glory and majesty, dominion and power ] The Greek has no verb, and the gap may be filled up either with the imperative of ascription or the indicative of assertion. The four words are brought together as expressing the aggregate of the Divine Omnipotence, the last word expressing the “power of authority,” as distinct from that of energy. The better MSS. insert after “power” the words “before all time” (literally, before the whole æon ), so that the doxology includes the past eternity as well as the future. In the words “for ever” we have literally unto all the ages, or æons .

The Epistle ends with the “Amen” which was the natural close of a doxology, and, like the Second Epistle of St Peter, contains no special messages or salutations. The letter was strictly a catholic, or encyclical, Epistle.

Excursus on the Book of Enoch

Jude, Verse 14.

The history of the book which bears this title is a sufficiently remarkable one. St Jude’s reference to the prophecy of Enoch does not necessarily prove that he was acquainted with the book, but it at least shews the existence of traditions that had gathered round the patriarch’s name. Allusions elsewhere to the fall of the angels (Justin, Apol . ii. 5) or to the work of Enoch in preaching to them (Iren. iv. 6), or to his knowledge of astronomy (Euseb. H. E . vii. 32), in like manner do not indicate more than the widely diffused belief that he represented not only the holiness, but the science of the antediluvian world. The first Church writer who seems really to have known it is Tertullian ( De Hab. Mul ., c. 3), who, after giving at length the story how the angels that fell were allured by the beauty of the daughters of men, adds that he knows that the Book ( scriptura ) of Enoch is rejected by some as not being admitted into the Jewish “Storehouse” of holy writings. He meets the supposed objection that such a book was not likely to have survived the deluge by the hypothesis that it might have been committed to the custody of Noah, and been handed down after him from one generation to another, or that he might have been specially inspired, if it had perished, to rewrite it, as Esdras was fabled (2 Esd. 14:38 48) to have re-written the whole Hebrew Canon. He defends his acceptance of it on the grounds (1) that it prophesied of Christ, and (2) that it had been quoted by St Jude. In another passage ( de Idol . c. 15) he names Enoch as predicting certain superstitious practices of the heathen, and so as being the most ancient of all prophets. Augustine, on the other hand, adopting the view that the “sons of God” of Genesis 6:0 were righteous men who fell into the temptation of lust, rejects the book (which he clearly knew) as apocryphal, and while he admits the prophecy quoted by St Jude as authentic, dismisses all the rest as fabulous ( De Civ. Dei , xv. 23). After this the book seems to have dropped out of sight, and it is not again referred to by any ecclesiastical writer. Fragments of it were found by Scaliger in the Chronographia of Georgius Syncellus, and printed by him in his notes on Eusebius in 1658. In 1773, however, Bruce, the Abyssinian explorer, brought over three copies which he had found in the course of his travels, and one of these, presented to the Bodleian Library, was translated by Archbishop Lawrence and published in 1821. Another and more fully edited translation was published in German by Dillmann in 1853.

The book thus brought to light after an interval of some fourteen hundred years, bears no certain evidence of date, and has been variously assigned by different scholars, by Ewald to b. c. 144 120, by Dillmann to b. c. 110, while other scholars have been led by its reference to the Messiah to ascribe a post-Christian origin to it. As regards its contents, it is a sufficiently strange farrago. The one passage which specially concerns us is found in c. ii., and is thus rendered by Archbishop Lawrence. It comes as part of the first vision of Enoch: God will be manifested and the mountains shall melt in the flame, and then “Behold he comes with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment upon them, and to reprove all the carnal for everything which the wicked and ungodly have done and committed against him.” In c. vii., viii. we have the legend of the loves of the angels and the birth of the giants, and the invention of arts and sciences. Then comes a prophecy of the deluge (c. x.), and visions of the city of God (c. xiv.), and the names of the seven angels (c. xx.). He sees the dwelling-place of the dead, both good and evil (c. xxii.), and the tree of life which had been in Eden (c. xxiv.), and a field beyond the Erythraean Sea in which is the tree of knowledge (c. xxxi.). Vision follows upon vision, until in c. xlvi. we have a reproduction of that in Daniel 7:0 . of the Ancient of Days in the Son of Man, who is identified with the Messiah (c. xlvii.), the Chosen One of God. And so the book goes on, leaving on the reader’s mind an impression like that of a delirious dream, with endless repetitions and scarcely the vestige of a plan or purpose. The reader of the English Apocrypha may find the nearest accessible approach to the class of literature which it represents in the Second Book of Esdras, but that, in its profound and plaintive pessimism, has at least the elements of poetry and unity of purpose. The Book of Enoch stands on a far lower level, and belongs to the class of writings in which the decay of Judaism was but too prolific, on which St Paul seems to pass a final sentence when he speaks of them as “old wives’ fables” (1 Timothy 4:7 ).

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jude 1". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/jude-1.html. 1896.
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