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Bible Commentaries

Barclay's Daily Study BibleDaily Study Bible

- Jude

by William Barclay



The Difficult And Neglected Letter

It may well be said that for the great majority of modern readers reading the little letter of Jude is a bewildering rather than a profitable undertaking. There are two verses which everyone knows--the resounding and magnificent doxology with which it ends:

Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you

without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to

the only God our Saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory,

majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and for

ever. Amen.

But, apart from these two great verses, Jude is largely unknown and seldom read. The reason for its difficulty is that it is written out of a background of thought, against the challenge of a situation, in pictures and with quotations, which are all quite strange to us. Beyond a doubt it would hit those who read it for the first time like a hammer-blow. It would be like a trumpet call to defend the faith. Moffatt calls Jude "a fiery cross to rouse the churches." But, as J. B. Mayor, one of its greatest editors, has said: "To a modern reader it is curious rather than edifying with the exception of the beginning and the end."

This is one of the great reasons for addressing ourselves to the study of Jude; for, when we understand Jude's thought and disentangle the situation against which he was writing, his letter becomes of the greatest interest for the history of the earliest church and by no means without relevance for today. There have indeed been times in the history of the church, and especially in its revivals when Jude was not far from being the most relevant book in the New Testament. Let us begin by simply setting down the substance of the letter without waiting for the explanations which must follow later.

Meeting The Threat

It had been Jude's intention to write a treatise on the faith which all Christians share; but that task had to be laid aside in view of the rise of men whose conduct and thought were a threat to the Christian Church ( Jude 1:3). In view of this situation the need was not so much to expound the faith as to rally Christians in its defence. Certain men who had insinuated themselves into the church were busily engaged in turning the grace of God into an excuse for open immorality and were denying the only true God and Jesus Christ the Lord ( Jude 1:4). These men were immoral in life and heretical in belief.

The Warnings

Against these men Jude marshals his warnings. Let them remember the fate of the Israelites. They had been brought in safety out of Egypt but they had never been permitted to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief ( Jude 1:5). The reference is to Numbers 13:26-33; Numbers 14:1-29. Although a man had received the grace of God, he might still lose his eternal salvation if he drifted into disobedience and unbelief. Some angels with the glory of heaven as their own had come to earth and corrupted mortal women with their lust ( Genesis 6:2); and now they were imprisoned in the abyss of darkness, awaiting judgment ( Jude 1:6). He who rebels against God must look for judgment. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had given themselves over to lust and to unnatural vice, and their destruction in flames is a dreadful warning to everyone who similarly goes astray ( Jude 1:7).

The Evil Life

These men are visionaries of evil dreams; they defile their flesh; and they speak evil of the angels ( Jude 1:8). Not even Michael the archangel, dare speak evil even of the evil angels. It had been given to Michael to bury the body of Moses. The devil had tried to stop him and claim the body for himself. Michael had spoken no evil against the devil, even in circumstances like that, but had simply said, "The Lord rebuke you!" ( Jude 1:9). Angels must be respected, even when evil and hostile. These evil men condemn everything which they do not understand, and spiritual things are beyond their understanding. They do understand their fleshly instincts and allow themselves to be governed by them as the brute beasts do ( Jude 1:10).

They are like Cain, the cynical, selfish murderer; they are like Balaam, whose one desire was for gain and who led the people into sin; they are like Korah, who rebelled against the legitimate authority of Moses and was swallowed up by the earth for his arrogant disobedience ( Jude 1:11).

They are like the hidden rocks on which a ship may founder; they have their own clique in which they consort with people like themselves, and thus destroy Christian fellowship; they deceive others with their promises, like clouds which promise the longed-for rain and then pass over the sky; they are like fruitless and rootless trees, which have no harvest of good fruit; as the foaming spray of the waves casts the sea-weed and the wreckage on the beaches, they foam out shameless deeds; they are like disobedient stars who refuse to keep their appointed orbit and are doomed to the dark ( Jude 1:13). Long ago the prophet Enoch had described these men and had prophesied their divine destruction ( Jude 1:15). They murmur against all true authority and discipline as the children of Israel murmured against Moses in the desert; they are discontented with the lot which God has appointed to them; their lusts are their dictators; their speech is arrogant and proud; they are toadies of the great for sake of gain ( Jude 1:16).

Words To The Faithful

Having castigated the evil men with this torrent of invective, Jude turns to the faithful. They could have expected all this to happen, for the apostles of Jesus Christ had foretold the rise of evil men ( Jude 1:18-19). But the duty of the true Christian is to build his life on the foundation of the most holy faith; to learn to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit; to remember the conditions of the covenant into which the love of God has called him; to wait for the mercy of Jesus Christ ( Jude 1:20-21).

As for the false thinkers and the loose livers--some of them may be saved with pity while they are still hesitating on the brink of their evil ways; others have to be snatched like brands from the burning; and, in all his rescue work, the Christian must have that godly fear which will love the sinner but hate the sin and must avoid the pollution of those he seeks to save ( Jude 1:22-23).

And all the time there will be with him the power of that God who can keep him from falling and bring him pure and joyful into his presence ( Jude 1:24-25).

The Heretics

Who were the heretics whom Jude blasts, and what were their beliefs and what their way of life? Jude never tells us. He was not a theologian but, as Moffatt says, "a plain, honest leader of the church." "He denounces rather than describes" the heresies he attacks. He does not seek to argue and to refute, for he writes as one "who knows when round indignation is more telling than argument." But from the letter itself we can deduce three things about these heretics.

(i) They were antinomians. Antinomians have existed in every age of the church. They are people who pervert grace. Their position is that the law is dead and they are under grace. The prescriptions of the law may apply to other people, but they no longer apply to them. They can do absolutely what they like. Grace is supreme; it can forgive any sin; the more the sin, the more the opportunities for grace to abound ( Romans 6:1-23). The body is of no importance; what matters is the inward heart of man. All things belong to Christ, and, therefore, all things are theirs. And so for them there is nothing forbidden.

So Jude's heretics turn the grace of God into an excuse for flagrant immorality ( Jude 1:4); they even practise shameless unnatural vices, as the people of Sodom did ( Jude 1:7). They defile the flesh and think it no sin ( Jude 1:8). They allow their brute instincts to rule their lives ( Jude 1:10). With their sensual ways, they are like to make shipwreck of the love feasts of the church ( Jude 1:12). It is by their own lusts that they direct their lives ( Jude 1:16).

Modern Examples Of The Ancient Heresy

It is a curious and tragic fact of history that the church has never been entirely free of this antinomianism; and it is natural that it has flourished most in the ages when the wonder of grace was being rediscovered.

It appeared in the Ranters of the seventeenth century. The Ranters were pantheists and antinomians. A pantheist believes that God is everything; literally all things are Christ's, and Christ is the end of the law. They talked of "Christ within them," and paid no heed to the church or its ministry, and belittled scripture. One of them called Bottomley wrote: "It is not safe to go to the Bible to see what others have spoken and written of the mind of God as to see what God speaks within me, and to follow the doctrine and leading of it in me." When George Fox rebuked them for their lewd practices, they answered, "We are God." This may sound very fine, but, as John Wesley was to say, it most often resulted in "a gospel of the flesh." It was their argument that "swearing, adultery, drunkenness and theft are not sinful unless the person guilty of them apprehends them to be so." When Fox was a prisoner at Charing Cross they came to see him and mightily offended him by calling for drink and tobacco. They swore terribly and when Fox rebuked them, justified themselves by saying that Scripture tells us that Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the priests, and the angel all swore. To which Fox replied that he who was before Abraham commanded, "Swear not at all." Richard Baxter said of them, "They conjoined a cursed doctrine of libertinism, which brought them to all abominable filthiness of life; they taught God regardeth not the actions of the outward man, but of the heart; and that to the pure all things are pure (even things forbidden) and so, as allowed by God, they spoke most hideous words of blasphemy, and many of them committed whoredoms commonly.... The horrid villainies of this sect did speedily extinguish it." Doubtless many of the Ranters were insane; doubtless some of them were pernicious and deliberate sensualists; but doubtless, too, some of them were earnest but misguided men, who had misunderstood the meaning of grace and freedom from the law.

Later John Wesley was to have trouble with the antinomians. He talks of them preaching a gospel of flesh and blood. At Jenninghall he says that "the antinomians had laboured hard in the Devil's service." At Birmingham he says that "the fierce, unclean, brutish, blasphemous antinomians" had utterly destroyed the spiritual life of the congregation. He tells of a certain Roger Ball who insinuated himself into the life of the congregation at Dublin. At first he seemed to be so spiritually-minded a man that the congregation welcomed him as being preeminently suited for the service and ministry of the church. He showed himself in time to be "full of guile and of the most abominable errors, one of which was that a believer had a right to all women." He would not communicate, for under grace a man must "touch not, taste not, handle not." He would not preach and abandoned the church services because, he said, "The dear Lamb is the only preacher."

Wesley, deliberately to show the position of these antinomians, related in his Journal a conversation which he had with one of them at Birmingham. It ran as follows. "Do you believe that you have nothing to do with the law of God?" "I have not; I am not under the law; I live by faith." "Have you, as living by faith, a right to everything in the world?" "I have. All is mine, since Christ is mine." "May you then take anything you will anywhere? Suppose out of a shop without the consent or knowledge of the owner?" "I may, if I want, for it is mine. Only I will not give offence." "Have you a right to all the women in the world" "Yes, if they consent." "And is not that a sin?" "Yes, to him who thinks it is a sin; but not to those whose hearts are free."

Repeatedly Wesley had to meet these people, as George Fox had to meet them. John Bunyan, too, came up against the Ranters who claimed complete freedom from the moral law and looked with contempt on the ethics of the stricter Christian. "These would condemn me as legal and dark, pretending that they only had attained perfection that could do what they would and not sin." One of them, whom Bunyan knew, "gave himself up to all manner of filthiness, especially uncleanness...and would laugh at all exhortations to sobriety. When I laboured to rebuke his wickedness, he would laugh the more."

Jude's heretics have existed in every Christian generation and, even if they do not go all the way, there are still many who in their heart of hearts trade upon God's forgiveness and make his grace an excuse to sin.

The Denial Of God And Of Jesus Christ

(ii) Of the antinomianism and blatant immorality of the heretics whom Jude condemns there is no doubt. The other two faults with which he charges them are not so obvious in their meaning. He charges them with, as the Revised Standard Version has it, "denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" ( Jude 1:4). The closing doxology is to "the only God," a phrase which occurs again in Romans 16:27; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:15. The reiteration of the word only is significant. If Jude talks about our only Master and Lord and, about the only God, it is natural to assume that there must have been those who questioned the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and of God. Can we trace any such line of thought in the early church and, if so, does it fit in with any other evidence which hints within the letter itself may supply?

As so often in the New Testament, we are again in contact with that type of thought which came to be known as Gnosticism. Its basic idea was that this was a dualistic universe, a universe with two eternal principles in it. From the beginning of time there had always been spirit and matter. Spirit was essentially good; matter was essentially evil. Out of this flawed matter the world was created. Now God is pure spirit and, therefore, could not possibly handle this essentially evil matter. How then was creation effected? God put out a series of aeons or emanations; each of these aeons was farther away from him. At the end of this long chain, remote from God, there was an aeon who was able to touch matter; and it was this aeon, this distant and secondary god, who actually created the world.

Nor was this all that was in Gnostic thought. As the aeons in the series grew more distant from God, they grew more ignorant of him; and also grew more hostile to him. The creating aeon, at the end of the series, was at once totally ignorant of and totally hostile to God.

Having got that length, the Gnostics took another step. They identified the true God with the God of the New Testament and they identified the secondary, ignorant and hostile god with the God of the Old Testament. As they saw it, the God of creation was a different being from the God of revelation and redemption. Christianity on the other hand believes in the only God, the one God of creation, providence and redemption.

This was the Gnostic explanation of sin. It was because creation was carried out, in the first place, from evil matter and, in the second place, by an ignorant god, that sin and suffering and all imperfection existed.

This Gnostic line of thought had one curious, but perfectly logical, result. If the God of the Old Testament was ignorant of and hostile to the true God, it must follow that the people whom that ignorant God hurt were in fact good people. Clearly the hostile God would be hostile to the people who were the true servants of the true God. The Gnostics, therefore, so to speak, turned the Old Testament upside down and regarded its heroes as villains and its villains as heroes. So there was a sect of these Gnostics called Ophites, because they worshipped the serpent of Eden; and there were those who regarded Cain and Korah and Balaam as great heroes. It is these very people whom Jude uses as tragic and terrible examples of sin.

So we may take it that the heretics whom Jude attacks are Gnostics who denied the oneness of God, who regarded the God of creation as different from the God of redemption, who saw in the Old Testament God an ignorant enemy of the true God and who, therefore, turned the Old Testament upside down to regard its sinners as servants of the true God and its saints as servants of the hostile God.

Not only did these heretics deny the oneness of God, they also denied "our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ." That is to say, they denied the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. How does that fit in with the Gnostic ideas so far as they are known to us? We have seen that, according to Gnostic belief, God put out a series of aeons between himself and the world. The Gnostics regarded Jesus Christ as one of these aeons. They did not regard him as our only, Master and Lord; he was only one among the many who were links between God and man, although he might be the highest and the closest of all.

There is still one other hint about these heretics in Jude, a hint which also fits in with what we know about the Gnostics. In Jude 1:19, Jude describes them as "these who set up divisions." The heretics introduce some kind of class distinctions within the fellowship of the Church. What were these distinctions?

We have seen that between man and God there stretched an infinite series of aeons. The aim of man must be to achieve contact with God. To obtain this his soul must traverse this infinite series of links between God and man. The Gnostics held that to achieve this a very special and esoteric knowledge was required. So deep was this knowledge that only very few could attain to it.

The Gnostics, therefore, divided men into two classes, the pneumatikoi ( G4152) and the psuchikoi ( G5591) . The pneuma ( G4151) was the spirit of man, that which made him kin to God--and the pneumatikoi ( G4152) were the spiritual people, the people whose spirits were so highly developed and intellectual that they were able to climb the long ladder and reach God. These pneumatikoi ( G4152) , the Gnostics claimed, were so spiritually and intellectually equipped that they could become as good as Jesus--Irenaeus says that some of them believed that the pneumatikoi ( G4152) could become better than Jesus and attain direct union with God.

On the other hand, the psuche ( G5590) was simply the principle of physical life. All things which live had psuche ( G5590) ; it was something which man shared with the animal creation and even with growing plants. The psuchikoi ( G5591) were ordinary people; they had physical life but their pneuma ( G4151) was undeveloped and they were incapable of ever gaining the intellectual wisdom which would enable them to climb the long road to God. The pneumatikoi ( G4152) were a very small and select minority; the psuchikoi ( G5591) were the vast majority of ordinary people.

It is clear to see that this kind of belief was inevitably productive of spiritual snobbery and pride. It introduced into the church the worst kind of class distinction.

So, then, the heretics whom Jude attacks were men who denied the oneness of God and split him into an ignorant creating God and a truly spiritual God; who denied the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and saw him as only one of the links between God and man; who erected class distinctions within the church and limited fellowship with God to the intellectual few.

The Denial Of The Angels

(iii) It is further inferred that these heretics denied and insulted the angels. It is said they "reject authority, and revile the glorious ones" ( Jude 1:8). The words "authority" and "glorious ones" describe ranks in the Jewish hierarchy of angels. Jude 1:9 is a reference to a story in the Assumption of Moses. It is there told that Michael was given the task of burying the body of Moses. The devil tried to stop him and claim the body. Michael made no charge against the devil and said nothing against him. He said only, "The Lord rebuke you!" If Michael, the archangel, on such an occasion said nothing against the prince of evil angels, clearly no man can speak ill of the angels.

The Jewish belief in angels was very elaborate. Every nation had its protecting angel. Every person, even every child, had its angel. All the forces of nature, the wind and the sea and the fire and all the others, were under the control of angels. It could even be said "Every blade of grass has its angel." Clearly the heretics attacked the angels. It is likely that they said that the angels were the servants of the ignorant and hostile creator God and that a Christian must have nothing to do with them. We cannot quite be sure what lies behind this, but to all their other errors the heretics added the despising of the angels; and to Jude this seemed an evil thing.

Jude And The New Testament

We must now examine the questions regarding the date and the authorship of Jude.

Jude had some difficulty in getting into the New Testament at all; it is one of the books whose position was always insecure and which were late in gaining full acceptance as part of the New Testament. Let us briefly set out the opinions of the great fathers and scholars of the early church about it.

Jude is included in the Muratorian Canon, which dates to about A.D. 170, and may be regarded as the first semi-official list of the books accepted by the Church. The inclusion of Jude is strange when we remember that the Muratorian Canon does not include in its list Hebrews and First Peter. But thereafter Jude is for long spoken of with a doubt. In the middle of the third century Origen knew and used it, but he was well aware that there were many who questioned its right to be scripture. Eusebius, the great scholar of the middle of the fourth century, made a deliberate examination of the position of the various books which were in use and he classes Jude amongst the books which are disputed.

Jerome, who produced the Vulgate, had his doubts about Jude; and it is in him that we find one of the reasons for the hesitation which was felt towards it. The strange thing about Jude is the way in which it quotes as authorities books which are outside the Old Testament. It uses as scripture certain books which were written between the Old and the New Testaments and were never generally regarded as scripture. Here are two definite instances. The reference in Jude 1:9 to Michael disputing with the devil about the body of Moses is taken from an apocryphal book called The Assumption of Moses. In Jude 1:14-15 Jude confirms his argument with a quotation from prophecy, as, indeed, is the habit of all the New Testament writers; but Jude's quotation is, in fact, taken from the Book of Enoch, which he appears to regard as scripture. Jerome tells us that it was Jude's habit of using non-scriptural books as scripture which made some people regard him with suspicion; and towards the end of the third century in Alexandria it was from the very same charge that Didymus defended him. It is perhaps the strangest thing in Jude that he uses these non-scriptural books as other New Testament writers use the prophets; and in Jude 1:17-18 he makes use of a saying of the apostles which is not identifiable at all.

Jude, then, was one of the books which took a long time to gain an assured place in the New Testament; but by the fourth century its place was secure.

The Date

There are definite indications that Jude is not an early book. It speaks of the faith that was once delivered to the saints ( Jude 1:3). That way of speaking seems to look back a long way and to come from the time when there was a body of belief which was orthodoxy. In Jude 1:17-18 he urges his people to remember the words of the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. That seems to come from a time when the apostles were no longer there and the Church was looking back on their teaching. The atmosphere of Jude is of a book which looks back.

Beside that we have to set the fact that, as it seems to us, Second Peter makes use of Jude to a very large extent. Anyone can see that its second chapter has the closest possible connection with Jude. It is quite certain that one of these writers was borrowing from the other. On general grounds it is much more likely that the author of Second Peter would incorporate the whole of Jude into his work than that Jude would, for no apparent reason, take over only one section of Second Peter. Now, if we believe that Second Peter uses it, Jude cannot be very late, even if it is not early.

It is true that Jude looks back on the apostles; but it is also true that, with the exception of John, all the apostles were dead by A.D. 70. Taking together the fact that Jude looks back on the apostles and the fact that Second Peter uses it, a date about A.D. 80 to 90 would suit the writing of Jude.

The Authorship Of Jude

Who was this Jude, or Judas, who wrote this letter? He calls himself the servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James. In the New Testament there are five people called Judas.

(i) There is the Judas of Damascus in whose house Paul was praying after his conversion on the Damascus road ( Acts 9:11).

(ii) There is Judas Barsabas, a leading figure in the councils of the church who, along with Silas, was the bearer to Antioch of the decision of the Council of Jerusalem when the door of the church was opened to the Gentiles ( Acts 15:22; Acts 15:27; Acts 15:32). This Judas was also a prophet ( Acts 15:32).

(iii) There is Judas Iscariot.

None of these three has ever seriously been considered as the author of this letter.

(iv) There is the second Judas in the apostolic band. John calls him Judas, not Iscariot ( John 14:22). In Luke's list of the Twelve there is an apostle whom the King James Version calls Judas the brother of James ( Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). If we were to depend solely on the King James Version we might well think that here we have a serious candidate for the authorship of this letter, and, indeed, Tertullian calls the writer the Apostle Judas. But in the Greek this man is simply called Judas of James. This is a very common idiom in Greek and almost always it means not brother of, but son of; so that Judas of James in the list of the Twelve is not Judas the brother of James but Judas the son of James, as all the newer translations show.

(v) There is the Judas who was the brother of Jesus ( Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). If any of the New Testament Judases is the writer of this letter, it must be this one, for only he could truly be called the brother of James.

Is this little letter to be taken as a letter of the Judas who was the brother of our Lord? If so, it would give it a special interest. But there are objections.

(i) If Jude to use the form of his name with which we are familiar--was the brother of Jesus, why does he not say so? Why does he identify himself as Jude the brother of James rather than as Jude the brother of Jesus? It would surely be explanation enough to say that he shrank from taking so great a title of honour to himself. Even if it was true that he was the brother of Jesus, he might well prefer in humility to call himself his servant, for Jesus was not only his brother but his Lord. Further, Jude the brother of James would in all probability never be outside Palestine in all his life. The church he would know would be that at Jerusalem, and of that church James was the undoubted head. If he was writing to churches in Palestine, his relationship to James was the natural thing to stress. When we come to think of it, it would be more surprising that Jude should call himself the brother of Jesus than that he should call himself the servant of Jesus Christ.

(ii) It is objected that Jude calls himself the servant of Jesus Christ and thereby calls himself an apostle. "Servants of God" was the Old Testament title for the prophets. God would not do anything without revealing it first to his servants the prophets ( Amos 3:7). What had been a prophetic title in the Old Testament became an apostolic title in the New Testament. Paul speaks of himself as the servant of Jesus Christ ( Romans 1:1; Php_1:1 ). He is spoken of as the servant of God in the Pastoral Epistles ( Titus 1:1), and that is also the title which James takes to himself ( James 1:1). It is concluded, therefore, that by calling himself "the Servant of Jesus Christ" Jude is claiming to be an apostle.

There are two answers to that. First, the title servant of Jesus Christ is not confined to the Twelve, for it is given by Paul to Timothy ( Php_1:1 ). Second, even if it is regarded as a title confined to the apostles in the wider sense of the word, we find the brethren of the Lord associated with the eleven after the Ascension ( Acts 1:14), and Jude, like James, may well have been among them; and we learn that the brothers of Jesus were prominent in the missionary work of the Church ( 1 Corinthians 9:5). Such evidence as we have would tend to prove that Jude, the brother of our Lord, was one of the apostolic circle and that the title servant of Jesus Christ is perfectly applicable to him.

(iii) It is argued that the Jude of Palestine, who was the brother of Jesus, could not have written the Greek of this letter as he would be an Aramaic speaker. That is not a safe argument. Jude would certainly know Greek, for it was the lingua franca of the ancient world, which all men spoke in addition to their own language. The Greek of Jude is rugged and forceful; it might well be within Jude's competence to write it for himself and, even if he could not do so, he may well have had a helper and translator such as Peter had in Silvanus.

(iv) It might be argued that the heresy which Jude is attacking is Gnosticism and that Gnosticism is much more a Greek than a Jewish way of thought--and what would Jude of Palestine be doing writing to Greeks? But an odd fact about this heresy is that it is the very opposite of orthodox Judaism. The controller of all Jewish action was the sacred law; basic belief of Jewish religion was that there was one God; the Jewish belief in angels was highly developed. It is by no means difficult to suppose that when certain Jews entered the Christian faith, they swung to the other extreme. It is easy to imagine a Jew who had all his life been in servitude to the law suddenly discovering grace and plunging into antinomianism as a reaction against his former legalism; and reacting similarly against the traditional Jewish belief in one God and in angels. It is, in fact, easy to see in the heretics whom Jude attacks Jews who had come into the Christian Church rather as renegades from Judaism than as truly convinced Christians.

(v) Lastly, it might be argued that, if this letter had been known to have been the work of Jude the brother of Jesus, it would not have been so long in gaining an entry into the New Testament. But before the end of the first century the church was largely Gentile and the Jews were regarded as the enemies and the slanderers of the church. During his life-time Jesus' brothers had in fact been his enemies; and it could well have happened that a letter as Jewish as Jude might have had a struggle against prejudice to get into the New Testament, even if its author was the brother of Jesus.

Jude The Brother Of Jesus

If this letter is not the work of Jude, the brother of Jesus, what are the alternatives suggested? On the whole, they are two.

(i) The letter is the work of a man called Jude of whom nothing is otherwise known. This theory has to meet a twofold difficulty. First, there is the coincidence that this Jude is also the brother of James. Second, it is hard to explain how so small a letter ever came to have any authority at all, if it is the work of someone quite unknown.

(ii) The letter is pseudonymous. That is to say, it was written by someone else and then attached to the name of Jude. That was a common practice in the ancient world. Between the Old and New Testament scores of books were written and attached to the names of Moses, Enoch, Baruch, Isaiah, Solomon and many an other. No one saw anything wrong in that. But two things are to be noted about Jude.

(a) In all such publications the name to which the book was attached was a famous name; but Jude, the brother of our Lord, was a person who was completely obscure; he is not numbered amongst the great names of the early church. There is a story that in the days of Domitian there was a deliberate attempt to see to it that Christianity did not spread. News came to the Roman authority that certain descendants of Jesus were still alive, amongst them the grandsons of Jude. The Romans felt that it was possible that rebellion might gather around these men and they were ordered to appear before the Roman courts. When they did so, they were seen to be horny-handed sons of toil and were dismissed as being unimportant and quite harmless. Obviously Jude was Jude the obscure and there could have been no possible reason for attaching a book to the name of a man whom nobody knew.

(b) When a book was written pseudonymously, the reader was never left in any doubt as to the person whose name it was being attached to. If this letter had been issued as the work of Judas the brother of our Lord, he would certainly have been given that title in such a way that no one could mistake it; and yet, in fact, it is quite unclear who the author is.

Jude is obviously Jewish; its references and allusions are such that only a Jew could understand. It is simple and rugged; it is vivid and pictorial. It is clearly the work of a simple thinker rather than of a theologian. It fits Jude the brother of our Lord. It is attached to his name, and there could be no reason for so attaching it unless he did in fact write it.

It is our opinion that this little letter is actually the work of Judas, the brother of Jesus.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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