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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Jude

- Jude

by Thomas Constable

Introduction

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Traditionally the writer of this epistle was Judas, the half-brother of Jesus Christ (Mat_13:55; Mar_6:3) and the brother of James, the leader of the Jerusalem church (Jud_1:1; Act_15:13). Some scholars have challenged this identification in recent years, but they have not proved it incorrect. [Note: See Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 690-92.] As such, Jude (Gr. Judas, Heb. Judah, "praise") was a Jewish Christian. Like James he was a Hellenized Galilean Jew who wrote with a cultivated Greek style. As we might expect, Jude normally alluded to the Hebrew Scriptures rather than to the Septuagint, unlike many of the New Testament writers.

Jesus’ physical brothers did not believe in Him while He was ministering (Joh_7:5). James became a believer after Jesus’ resurrection (1Co_15:7), and we may assume that Jude did too. Jesus’ brothers were part of the praying group that awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit (Act_1:14). They were well known in the early church (1Co_9:5).

Jude’s many allusions to the Old Testament suggest that his original readers were very familiar with it. While this could have been true of any Christians, it would have been particularly true of Jewish Christians. Consequently many commentators believe Jude addressed this epistle to Jewish Christians primarily.

". . . we should not see it as a ’catholic letter’ addressed to all Christians, but as a work written with a specific, localized audience in mind." [Note: Richard L. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, p. 3.]

"A predominantly, but not exclusively, Jewish Christian community in a Gentile society seems to account best for what little we can gather about the recipients of Jude’s letter." [Note: Ibid., p. 16.]

The time of writing is very difficult to ascertain. Since Jude was a younger brother of Jesus, he may have lived into the second century. After the Jewish revolts against Rome in A.D. 66-70, Jude probably lived outside Jerusalem and perhaps outside Palestine, if he was still alive. References in the text to the false teachers and the apostles (Jud_1:3-5; Jud_1:17) suggest a condition in the church some years after the day of Pentecost. Similarities with Peter’s writings have led some to date Jude about the time Peter wrote. [Note: For discussion of the relationship of 2 Peter and Jude, see D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude, pp. 196-200; and Charles Bigg, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude, pp. 216-24.] Obviously these are all very tentative guesses. Perhaps a date between A.D. 67 and 80 would be correct. At this time Jude may have been living somewhere outside Palestine. [Note: See Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 3:229-33.]

Fortunately the indefiniteness of the historical background of this epistle does not affect its message or value.

"The Epistle of Jude has stronger attestation than 2 Peter." [Note: Hiebert, p. 185. See pp. 185-92 for evidence of Jude’s authenticity.]

GENRE

Many scholars regard this epistle as an "epistolary sermon." [Note: E.g., Bauckham, p. 3. See Bigg, pp. 305-10, for references to Jude in the writings of the early church.] Jude could have delivered what he said in this epistle as a homily (sermon) if he had been in his readers’ presence. Instead he cast it in the form of a letter since he could not address them directly. Other New Testament epistles that are really written homilies include James, Hebrews, and 1 John.

STRUCTURE

Several students of the book have noted the basically chiastic structure of Jude, though they do not see the chiasms exactly the same. [Note: See Jason Johnston, "The Multichiastic Structure of Jude and Its Contribution to the Purpose of the Epistle" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 2008).]

PURPOSE

"One thought characterizes this epistle: beware of the apostates." [Note: Edward C. Pentecost, "Jude," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 918.]

Incipient Gnosticism seems to be the heresy in view primarily.

"Here, in an undeveloped form, are all the main characteristics which went to make up later Gnosticism-emphasis on knowledge which was emancipated from the claims of morality; arrogance toward ’unenlightened’ church leaders; interest in angelology; divisiveness; lasciviousness." [Note: Michael Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude, p. 39. Cf. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6:184.]

OUTLINE

I.    Introduction Jud_1:1-2

II.    The purpose of this epistle Jud_1:3-4

III.    Warnings against false teachers Jud_1:5-16

A.    Previous failures Jud_1:5-7

1.    The example of certain Israelites Jud_1:5

2.    The example of certain angels Jud_1:6

3.    The example of certain pagans Jud_1:7

B.    Present failures Jud_1:8-16

1.    The nature of the error Jud_1:8-9

2.    The seriousness of the error Jud_1:10-13

3.    The consequences of the error Jud_1:14-16

IV.    Exhortation to the faithful Jud_1:17-23

A.    The reminder to remember the apostles’ warning Jud_1:17-19

B.    The positive instruction of the readers Jud_1:20-23

V.    Conclusion Jud_1:24-25

Bibliography

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