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(1, 2) Address and greeting.
(1) Jude.—As to the Jade who here addresses us see Introduction, I.
The servant of Jesus Christ.—Better, a servant of Jesus Christ. There is nothing to show that these words indicate an evangelist, although it is more than probable that he was one: his writing this Epistle is evidence of the fact. The words may have a side reference to the ungodly men against whom he writes, who are not “servants of Jesus Christ.” As he does not say that he is an Apostle, the inference is that he is not one. Contrast Romans 1:1 (where see Note on “servant”); 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1 (where “Apostle” is used without “servant”); and Titus 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1 (where “Apostle” is added to “servant”). Excepting St. John, whose characteristic reserve accounts for it, Apostles proclaim themselves to be such in stating their credentials. Hebrews and the Epistle of St. James must be set aside as doubtful, or be admitted as illustrations of the rule. Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; and 2 Thessalonians 1:1 are not exceptions: St. Paul is there combined with others who are not Apostles. The same may be said of Philemon 1:1. Moreover, there St. Paul naturally avoids stating credentials: he wishes to appeal to Philemon’s affection (Philemon 1:8-9), not to his own authority.
And brother of James.—This is added not merely to explain who he is, but his claim to be heard. It is almost incredible that an Apostle should have urged such a claim, and yet not have stated the much higher claim of his own office: the inference again is that the writer is not an Apostle. Only one James can be meant. After the death of James the brother of John, only one James appears in the Acts (Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18)—James the Just, brother of our Lord (Matthew 13:15), and first Bishop of Jerusalem. (See Introduction, I.) The brother of so saintly a man, one of the “pillars” of the Church (Galatians 2:9), and holding so high an office, might claim the attention of Christians.
To them that are sanctified.—A reading of very great authority compels us to substitute beloved for “sanctified”; and the whole should probably run thus: to those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and preserved for Jesus Christ. Some prefer to take “in God the Father” with both participles: beloved, and preserved for Jesus Christ, in God the Father. The love is such as has existed from the beginning and still continues.
Here, in the first verse, we have a couple of triplets: a three-fold designation of the writer himself, as “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,” and a three-fold designation of his readers, as “called, beloved, preserved.” In the next verse we have another triplet.
By God the Father.—Better, in God the Father. He is the sphere in which the love is displayed: it is in God that Christians love and are loved. The expression, “beloved in God,” is unique in the New Testament. St. Paul sometimes writes “God our Father” (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3, et al.), and at first this was the more common expression; sometimes “God the Father” (Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:3, et al.).
And preserved in Jesus Christ.—Better, preserved for Jesus Christ: i.e., preserved to be His in His kingdom. This preservation has gone on from the first, and continues (John 17:2; John 17:12; John 17:24).
Called.—The word is used, in St. Paul’s sense, for all Christians—all who have been called to a knowledge of God and of the gospel. (Comp. Romans 1:7; and see Note on 1 Corinthians 1:24.)
(2) Mercy unto you, and peace, and love.—Another triplet, which possibly looks back to the one just preceding: called by God’s mercy, preserved in peace, beloved in love. The addition “and love” is peculiar to this Epistle. “Mercy” and “peace” occur in the opening greetings of 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and 2 John. The three are in logical order here: mercy from God to man; hence peace between God and man; hence love of all towards all.
Be multiplied.—By God. The word, as used in salutations, is peculiar to 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude.
(3, 4) The purpose and occasion of the Letter.
(3) Beloved.—“Very unusual at the beginning of an Epistle; Jude 1:2, is the only other example It indicates, possibly, the writer’s wish to be brief and get to his subject at once; and, as his subject is a very unpleasing one, he hastens to assure his readers of affection for them, to prevent his strong language from offending them.
When I gave all diligence.—Better, in giving all diligence: i.e., in having it much at heart. Wiclif and Rheims are nearly right. The expression is unique in the New Testament—2 Peter 1:5 is similar, but the Greek for “giving” differs in verb and tense from the word used here.
Of the common salvation.—The best MSS. insert “our”—of our common salvation: i.e., of those things which pertain to the salvation of us all. (Comp. Titus 1:4.) Some would take these words after “it was needful for me to write unto you.” The Authorised version is better.
It was needful for me to write unto you.—Better, I found it necessary to write at once to you, St. Jude had intended to write on general grounds; then the circumstances stated in Jude 1:4 made him write immediately for the special purpose of warning them against a pressing danger. The “at once” comes from the tense, which is present in the first clause, aorist in the second. That St. Jude had intended to write a longer letter is pure conjecture, for which there is no evidence.
Contend for.—The word is a graphic one, implying standing over a thing to fight in its defence. You must fight as well as build (Nehemiah 4:16; Nehemiah 4:18).
The faith—i.e., that which is believed by Christians: not the expression of the doctrine, nor the holding of it, but the substance of it.
Once delivered.—Rather, once for all delivered. No change in it is possible. (Comp. Galatians 1:8-9.) By “the saints” are meant all Christians; comp. Acts 9:13 (where see Note), Acts 9:32; Acts 9:41. The word is used advisedly here, in marked contrast to the libertines now to be denounced.
(4) Certain men crept in unawares—viz., into the Church. The “certain” shows that these men are a decided minority, and has a tinge of depreciation, as in Galatians 2:12. “Crept in unawares” is analogous to “unawares brought in, who came in privily” (Galatians 2:4, where see Note), and to “privily bring in (2 Peter 2:1). It is this insidious invasion which constitutes the necessity for writing stated in Jude 1:3. Unfaithful Christians are sometimes regarded as an emergence from within, rather than an invasion from without (1 John 2:19).
Close similarity to 2 Peter begins here and continues down to Jude 1:18; the Notes on the parallel passages in 2 Peter 2:0 should be compared throughout. In this Epistle the first three and last seven verses are the only portions not intimately related to 2 Peter.
Who were before of old ordained to this condemnation.—Literally, who have been of old written down beforehand for this sentence; or, perhaps, “written up”; for the metaphor may come from the practice of posting up the names of those who had to appear in court for trial. The text is a favourite one with Calvinists; but it gives no countenance to extreme predestination views. “Of old” cannot refer to the eternal purposes of God, but to something in history. On the other hand, it is doubtful whether it can refer to the recent warnings of St. Paul and St. Peter that false teachers should arise: otherwise one would be tempted to refer it to 2 Peter 2:0 Something more remote from the writer’s own day seems to be required: either the Old Testament prophets, or the Book of Enoch, quoted below. The Greek word here rendered “before ordained” is in Romans 15:4 rendered “written aforetime.” (Comp. Ephesians 3:3.)
To this condemnation.—Literally, to this sentence, or judgment; but the context shows that the judgment is an adverse one. “This condemnation,” viz., the one stated in the denunciations which follow, and illustrated by the fate of those mentioned in Jude 1:5-7. Note the three-fold description of the men thus written down for judgment: they are ungodly; they pervert God’s grace; they deny Christ.
Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness.—Turning Christian liberty into unchristian license. “Our God,” not theirs; they are “without God in the world.” “Wantonness” would be better than “lasciviousness” here, as in 2 Peter 2:18. The Greek word expresses license generally, not merely sins of impurity.
Denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.—Rather, denying the only Master, and our Lord Jesus Christ. “God” is an addition to the original text, and must be omitted. “Lord” represents two words in the Greek quite different one from the other. The Genevan version is right all but the insertion of “God;” the Rhemish quite right—having “Dominator,” however, for “Master.” We are once more in doubt whether one or two Persons of the Trinity are mentioned here. (Comp. 2 Peter 1:1.) Certainly 2 Peter 2:1 countenances our taking “the only Master” as meaning Christ; and the fact that the article is not repeated with “Lord” is in favour of only one Person being meant. But Luke 2:29, Acts 4:24, Revelation 6:10 countenance our understanding these words as meaning the Father; and the absence of the article before “Lord” is not conclusive. The insertion of “God” is, perhaps, a gloss to insist on this latter interpretation. If it be right, the clause is closely parallel to 1 John 2:22 : “He is Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son.” Note the emphatic insertion of “our” once more: they will not have Him for their Lord; His divine authority was precisely what they denied.
(5-7) We now enter upon the main body of the Epistle. Three instances of God’s vengeance: the unbelievers in the wilderness; the impure angels; Sodom and Gomorrha.
(5) I will therefore put you in remembrance.—Or, But I wish to remind you. The “but” indicates opposition to the impiety of those just mentioned.
Though ye once knew this.—The best MSS. and versions compel us to substitute “all things” for “this,” and we must translate, because ye have once for all (as in Jude 1:3) known all things. You have once for all been taught all that I want to say to you; so that I need only remind you, there is no need to instruct. (Comp. Romans 15:14-15, where see Notes; 2 Peter 1:12; 1 John 2:21.) “All things” probably has special reference to Old Testament history, as what follows seems to show.
How that the Lord.—“How that” depends upon “remind,” not upon “have known.” There is very strong evidence in favour of substituting “Jesus” for “the Lord;” a most remarkable reading, showing how, in Christian language, the Man Jesus had become identified with the Eternal Son. The use of “Christ” in 1 Corinthians 10:4, though less striking, is similar.
Having saved the people.—Or, perhaps, having saved a people. A whole nation was rescued. The order of the three examples of signal punishment is in 2 Peter chronological: impure angels, flood, Sodom and Gomorrha; here not. But the order here is quite intelligible. St. Jude’s main object is to warn his readers against that party in the Christian community who, by its abuse of Christian liberty, transformed the gospel of purity into a gospel of wantonness, and to give them a safeguard against such. And the safeguard is this: to hold fast the faith once for all delivered to them, and to remember the consequences of being unbelieving. For this purpose, no warning could be more apposite than the fate of Jude’s own nation in the wilderness. This palmary instance given, two others follow, probably suggested by 2 Peter.
Afterward destroyed.—Better, secondly destroyed. Wiclif, “the secunde tyme”; Rheims, “secondly.” The Lord twice manifested His power on Israel: (1) in mercy; (2) in judgment. The reference is almost certainly to Numbers 14:35; Deuteronomy 1:35, &c. The destruction of Jerusalem can scarcely be meant, whatever date we assign to the Epistle, although the striking reading, “Jesus” for “the Lord,” gives some countenance to such an interpretation. The most obvious meaning is, that the people destroyed were those who, in the first instance, were saved. Had the destruction of Jerusalem been intended, the reference would probably have been more clear.
(6) And the angels which kept not.—Rather, because they kept not. The construction is similar to that in Matthew 18:25, “Forasmuch as he had not to pay.” (See Note on Jude 1:8.) This second instance of the impure angels has nothing to do with the original rebellion of Satan, or “fall of the angels.” The reference is either to Genesis 6:2, or (more probably), to passages in the Book of Enoch. (See Excursus at the end of this Epistle.)
Their first estate.—The Greek word has two meanings: (1) beginning, which our translators have adopted here; (2) rule or power, which would be better. Wiclif has “prinshood;” Rheims, “principalitie.” The word is translated “rule” (1 Corinthians 15:24) and “principality” (Romans 8:38; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:15; Titus 3:1). The term belongs to the Jewish classification of angels, and here refers rather to their power over things earthly than to the beginning of their state. The two meanings are but two views of the same fact: their power or dignity was their first estate. Some explain the word of the power of God over the angels; but both wording and context are against this.
Their own habitation.—Their proper home. By leaving heaven and coming down to earth, they lost their power over the earth. (Comp. Milton’s Paradise Lost, Book 5)
He hath reserved.—Better, He hath kept, in ironical contrast to “which kept not” just above: the same Greek word is used in both cases. This ironical contrast does not exist in the parallel passage, 2 Peter 2:4. Would a writer, quite willing to copy, have failed to copy this? On the other hand, what more natural than that St. Jude should add a forcible touch?
In everlasting chains.—Speculations as to how this and 2 Peter 2:4 are to be reconciled with such texts as Luke 22:31, 1 Peter 5:8, which speak plainly of the freedom and activity of Satan, and Ephesians 6:12, Romans 8:38, Colossians 2:15, which imply numerous agents akin to him, are not very profitable. The reality of powers of evil may be inferred, apart from Scripture, from their effects. That some of these powers are personal, some not, some free, some not, and that all are to be defeated at last, seems to be implied in Scripture; but its silence is a rebuke to curious speculation. Enough is told us for our comfort, warning, and assurance. It consoles us to know that much of the evil of which we are conscious in ourselves is not our own, but comes from without. It puts us on our guard to know that we have such powers arrayed against us. It gives us confidence to know that we have abundant means of victory even over them.
Under darkness.—The Greek word occurs only here, Jude 1:13, 2 Peter 2:4; 2 Peter 2:17, and possibly Hebrews 12:18. A separate English word, such as “gloom,” is desirable for these passages.
The great day.—So called Revelation 6:17 (comp. Revelation 16:14), and nowhere else in the New Testament. Perhaps it comes from Joel 2:31; Malachi 4:5. St. John’s expression is the “last day” (John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54; John 11:24; John 12:48; and nowhere else). “The day of judgment,” “that day,” and “the day of the Lord,” are other common expressions.
(7) Even as.—Or, possibly, how, like “how that” in Jude 1:5, depending upon “put you in remembrance.” Sodom and Gomorrha are typical instances of divine vengeance both in the Old and New Testament (Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 50:40; Romans 9:29).
And the cities about them.—Adma and Zeboim (Deuteronomy 29:23; Hosea 11:8).
In like manner.—We must read, in like manner to these, and arrange the sentence thus: Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them, giving themselves over to fornication in like manner to these. Who are meant by “these”? Not the ungodly men of Jude 1:4, which would anticipate Jude 1:8; nor the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha, which would be somewhat clumsy in the Greek; but the angels of Jude 1:6. The reference is again to the impurity of certain angels in having intercourse with the daughters of men, of which there is so much in the Book of Enoch. This sin of the angels was strictly analogous to that of the people of Sodom.
Going after strange flesh.—Strictly, going astray after other flesh—i.e., other than is allowed; leaving natural for unnatural uses.
Are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.—It would be possible to take “of eternal fire” after “example,” thus: are set forth as an example of eternal fire in undergoing punishment. (Comp. Wis. 10:7.) The punishment of the submerged cities is perpetual; moreover, there are appearances as of volcanic fire under them. The Greek for “undergoing” occurs here only in the New Testament; but comp. 2Ma. 4:48.
(8-10) Application of these three instances to the libertines who are now provoking God.
(8) Likewise also.—Rather, Yet in like manner: i.e., in spite of these warnings. These ungodly men were like the unbelievers in the wilderness in denying Christ and scoffing at His promises; they were like the impure angels in leaving that “constitution which is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) for the base pleasures of earth; they were like the people of Sodom in seeking even these base pleasures by unnatural courses.
These filthy dreamers.—We must add also. “Filthy” is not in the original Greek, nor in any previous English version, but is supplied from the next clause; not rightly, for “dreamers” goes with all three clauses, not with “defile the flesh” only. This being admitted, a number of painful interpretations are at once excluded. “These dreamers also” means these ungodly men, who are deep in the slumber of sin (see Note on Romans 13:11), as well as the three classes of sinners just mentioned. Excepting in Acts 2:17, which is a quotation from Joel 2:28, the word for “dreamer” occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but is found in the LXX. version of Isaiah 56:10, of dogs that dream and make a noise in their sleep. St. Jude perhaps has this passage in his mind. (See below, second Note on Jude 1:12.) “Dreamers” may perhaps refer to the empty speculations of these men.
Defile the flesh.—Like the inhabitants of the cities of the plain. Some of the earliest forms of Gnosticism, on its antinomian as distinct from its ascetic side, exhibit the licentiousness inveighed against here; e.g., the Simonians, Nicolaitanes, Cainites, Carpocratians.
Despise dominion.—Like the impure angels. Insert “and” before “despise.” The “dominion,” or lordship, is that of Almighty God. Set aside, or reject (Mark 7:9; Luke 7:30; John 12:48), would be better than “despise,” to mark the difference between this and 2 Peter 2:10.
Speak evil of dignities.—Like the murmurers in the wilderness. By “dignities,” or glories, are meant unseen powers worthy of reverence. The Greek word is rare in the New Testament; only here, 2 Peter 2:10, and 1 Peter 1:11. Earthly dignities, whether ecclesiastical or civil, are not included. (Comp. the doctrine of Menander, Irenæus, I. xxiii. 5.)
(9) Yet Michael the archangel.—These libertines allow themselves to use language against celestial beings which even an archangel did not venture to use against Satan. In the Old Testament Michael appears as the guardian angel of the people of Israel, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1; in the New Testament he is mentioned only here and in Revelation 12:7. In the Book of Enoch his meekness is spoken of; he is “the merciful, the patient, the holy Michael,” Enoch 40:8.
He disputed about the body of Moses.—To be understood quite literally: to make “the body of Moses” into a metaphor for the people of Israel, or the Mosaic law, is most unnatural. This passage is the only evidence extant of any such incident or tradition. The nearest approach to it is the Targum of Jonathan on Deuteronomy 34:6, which says that Michael was the appointed guardian of Moses’ grave. According to Origen (De Princip. III. ii. 1) the source of it is a book called the Ascension, or Assumption of Moses. Evidently it is something supposed to be well known to those whom St. Jude is addressing, and it appears to be given as a fact which he believes, though we cannot be sure of this. In any case it does not follow that we are to believe in it as an historical fact. Reverent, and therefore cautious, theories of inspiration need not exclude the possibility of an unhistorical incident being cited as an illustration or a warning. St. Paul makes use of the Jewish legend of the rock following the Israelites in the wilderness as an illustration (1 Corinthians 10:4). The strange question, “What did the devil want with the body of Moses?” has been asked, and answered in more ways than one:—(1) to make it an object of idolatry, as the Israelites would be very likely to worship it; (2) to keep it as his own, as that of a murderer, because Moses killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:12).
Durst not . . .—Out of respect to Satan’s original angelic nature. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 6:1.)
A railing accusation.—More literally, a sentence savouring of evil-speaking. Wiclif, “doom”; Tyndale and Cranmer, “sentence”; Rheims, “judgment.” Michael brought no sentence against the devil, but left all judgment to God.
The Lord rebuke thee.—The same rebuke is administered to Satan by the angel of Jehovah, when Satan appears as the adversary of Joshua the high priest, the restorer of the temple and of the daily sacrifice, and one of the Old Testament types of Christ (Zechariah 3:2). It is probable that the tradition here given by St. Jude is derived from this passage in Zechariah, or from a source common to both. We have another reminiscence of Zechariah 3:2 in Jude 1:23.
(10) But these . . .—In strong contrast to the scrupulous reverence of the archangel. “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
Those things which they know not.—The “dignities” of Jude 1:8. This shows that unseen spiritual powers are there meant: these men would know earthly rulers. It is on the unseen that they show their irreverence.
What they know naturally.—The means of gratifying their desires. The two halves of the verse are in emphatic contrast. What they do not know, and cannot know, they abuse by gross irreverence: what they know, and cannot help knowing, they abuse by gross licentiousness. If this Epistle is prior to 2 Peter it is strange that the author of the latter should have neglected so telling an antithesis, and should (from a literary point of view) have so spoiled the passage by his mode of adaptation (2 Peter 2:12). If 2 Peter is prior there is nothing strange in St. Jude improving upon the mode of expression. The word for “know” is not the same in both clauses. The word used in “which they know not” is the most general and common word of the kind in Greek, expressing mere perception, and occurring about three hundred times in the New Testament; that used in “what they know naturally” is more definite, and expresses practical experience productive of skill and science; it occurs fourteen times in the New Testament, mostly in the Acts. (Comp. “Paul I know,” Acts 19:15.)
They corrupt themselves.—Or, perhaps, they work their own ruin. Note the tense; not future, but present. The corruption, or ruin, is not a judgment hanging over them; it is already going on.
(11) Three examples of similar wickedness: Cain, Balaam, Korah.
Woe unto them!—An echo of Christ’s denunciations in the first three Gospels, whereby the description of these evil-doers takes for the moment a denunciatory form. The past tenses immediately following are owing to the writer’s placing himself in thought at the moment when these men reap the consequences of their sins: their punishment is so certain, that he regards it as having come.
In the way of Cain.—The first great criminal; the first to outrage the laws of nature. Explanations to the effect that these libertines followed Cain by murdering men’s souls by their corrupt doctrine, or by persecuting believers, and other suggestions still more curious, are needlessly far-fetched. John 8:44, and 1 John 3:15, are not strictly apposite: these ungodly men may have hated and persecuted the righteous, but St. Jude does not tell us so. Sensuality is always selfish, but by no means always ill-natured or malignant.
Ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.—The Greek for “ran greedily” literally means “they were poured out in streams;” the Greek for “error” may also mean “deception.” Hence three renderings are possible: (1) as the Authorised version; (2) “they ran greedily after the deception of Balaam’s reward;” (3) “they were undone by the deception of Balaam’s reward.” The first is best. “Reward” in the Greek is the genitive of price. Comp. “the rewards of divination” (Numbers 22:7); “they hired against thee Balaam” (Deuteronomy 23:4; Nehemiah 13:2). Here, again, far-fetched explanations may be avoided. The allusion lies on the surface—running counter to God’s will from interested motives. Possibly, there may also be some allusion to Balaam’s causing the Israelites to be seduced into licentiousness (Revelation 2:14).
Perished in the gainsaying of Core—i.e., through gainsaying like that of Korah; referring to his speaking against Moses in the revolutionary opposition which he headed. These libertines, like Korah; treated sacred ordinances with contempt.
The triplet in this verse, like that in Jude 1:8, is parallel to the three examples of God’s vengeance, Jude 1:5-7. Cain, like the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha, outraged the laws of nature; Balaam, like the impure angels, despised the sovereignty of God; Korah, like those who disbelieved the report of the spies, spoke evil of dignities.
(12-19) Three-fold description of the ungodly, corresponding to the three examples just given. The divisions are clearly marked, each section beginning with “These are” (Jude 1:12; Jude 1:16; Jude 1:19).
(12-15) Description corresponding to Cain.
(12) These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you.—Rather, These are the rocks in your feasts of charity, banqueting with you fearlessly (see next Note); or, These are they who banquet together fearlessly, rocks in your feasts of charity. The former is preferable. But in any case we must probably read rocks—i.e., that on which those who meet them at your love-feasts will be wrecked (see Notes on 1 Corinthians 11:20-22)—not “spots,” which is borrowed from 2 Peter 2:13. But it is just possible that as spiloi, St. Peter’s word, may mean either “spots” or “rocks” (though most commonly the former), so St. Jude’s word (spilades) may mean either “spots” or “rocks” (though almost invariably the latter). In an Orphic poem of the fourth century, spilades means “spots “; but this is rather late authority for its use in the first century. Here “rocks” is the safer translation. St. Peter is dwelling on the sensuality of these sinners, and for him “spots” is the more obvious metaphor. St. Jude, in tracing an analogy between them and Cain, would be more likely to select “rocks.” These libertines, like Cain, turned the ordinances of religion into selfishness and sin: both, like sunken rocks, destroyed those who unsuspectingly approached them. On the difference of reading respecting the word for “feasts of charity,” or “love-feasts,” see Note on 2 Peter 2:13. Possibly the name Agapæ for such feasts comes from this passage. Had it been common when St. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 11:0, he would probably have made a point of it; love-feasts in which there was no love. (Comp. 1 Peter 5:14.)
Feeding themselves without fear. “Without fear” goes better with “feasting with you”; but the Greek admits of either construction. “Feeding themselves” instead of the poorer members of the flock; whereas feeding the poor was one great object of the love-feasts. Others explain, “feeding themselves” (literally, pasturing themselves) instead of waiting to be tended by the shepherds. The former is better, the scandal being similar to that described in 1 Corinthians 11:21. (Comp. Isaiah 56:11, which St. Jude may possibly have had in his mind; and see above, second Note on Jude 1:8.)
Clouds without water.—Comp. Proverbs 25:14. The meaning is not that these men bring much food to the love-feasts and give nothing away: there is no longer any allusion to the love-feasts. Rather, these men are ostentatious generally, and yet do no good inflated and empty. (See on 2 Peter 2:17.)
Carried about of winds.—More literally, borne past (without giving any rain) by winds; or, perhaps, driven out of their course (and so showing their flimsiness) by winds.
Trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit.—There is no such strange contradiction in the Greek, nor in any of the earlier English versions. The meaning rather is, autumn trees (which ought to be full of fruit, and yet are) without fruit; in allusion, probably, to the barren fig-tree. Others, less simply, explain “trees in late autumn”—i.e., stripped and bare. But for this we should expect “winter trees” rather than “autumn trees.”
Twice dead.—Utterly dead, and hence “plucked up by the roots.” Spiritually these men were “twice dead” in having returned, after baptism, to the death of sin. The writer piles up metaphor on metaphor and epithet on epithet in the effort to express his indignation and abhorrence. The epithets here are in logical order: in autumn, fruitless, dead, rooted up.
(13) Foaming out their own shame.—More literally, shames, their shameful acts. Isaiah 57:20 is probably in St. Jude’s mind: “The wicked are like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”
Wandering stars.—Nothing is gained by understanding comets, which have their orbits, and do not wander, in St. Jude’s sense, any more than planets do. The image is that of stars leaving their place in the heavens, where they are beautiful and useful, and wandering away (to the utter confusion of every one who directs his course by them) into sunless gloom, where their light is extinguished, and whence they cannot return. This simile suits the “false teachers of 2 Peter better than the “ungodly” of Jude. Would the writer of 2 Peter have neglected to avail himself of it?
(14) And Enoch also.—On the Book of Enoch, and this famous quotation from it, see Excursus at the end of the Epistle. The following passage from Irenæus (IV. Xvi. 2) shows that he was acquainted with the book, and throws light on St. Jude’s use of it:—“Enoch also, pleasing God without circumcision, was God’s ambassador to the angels, although he was a man, and was raised to heaven, and is preserved even until now as a witness of the just judgment of God. For the angels by transgression fell to earth for judgment, while a man, by pleasing God, was raised to heaven for salvation.” The mission of Enoch to the fallen angels is narrated in the Book of Enoch, 12-16.
The seventh from Adam.—This is not inserted without special meaning. It was scarcely needed to distinguish the son of Jared from the son of Cain; in that case it would have been more simple to say, “the son of Jared.” It either points to the extreme antiquity of the prophecy, or else to the mystical and sabbatical number seven. Enoch (see preceding Note) was a type of perfected humanity, and hence the notion of “divine completion and rest” is perhaps suggested here. Thus, Augustine, in his reply to Faustus the Manichæan (xii. 14):—“Enoch, the seventh from Adam, pleased God and was translated, as there is to be a seventh day of rest, in which all will be translated who during the sixth day of the world’s history are created anew by the incarnate Word.” Several of the numbers connected with Enoch in Genesis seem to be symmetrical, and intended to convey a meaning.
With ten thousands of his saints.—Or, among His holy myriads—i.e., encircled by them. (Comp. Deuteronomy 33:2; Hebrews 12:22.)
(15) To execute judgment.—The Greek phrase occurs only here and John 5:27.
To convince.—Better, to convict. (Comp. John 8:46, and see Notes on John 16:8, and on 1 Corinthians 14:24.) The words “among them” must be omitted, as wanting in authority.
Hard speeches.—Comp. John 6:60, the only other place where this epithet is applied to words. The meaning is somewhat similar in each case: harsh, repulsive, inhuman. It does not mean “hard to understand.” Nabal (1 Samuel 25:3) has this epithet with the LXX., where the Authorised version has “churlish.” In the Ethiopic version of the Book of Enoch there appears to be nothing to represent “hard speeches . . . spoken” in this passage.
(16-18) Description corresponding to Balaam.
(16) Complainers.—Literally, discontented with their lot. Men who “shape their course according to their own lusts” can never be content, for (1) the means of gratifying them are not always present, and (2) the lusts are insatiable. Such was eminently the case with Balaam, in his cupidity and his chafing against the restraints which prevented him from gratitifying it. There is a possible reference to this verse in the Shepherd of Hermas (Sim. IX. xix. 3).
Great swelling words.—See Note on 2 Peter 2:18.
Having men’s persons in admiration.—More simply, admiring persons (so the Rhemish version)—i.e., having regard to people of distinction, as Balaam to Balak. These ungodly men were courtiers, flatterers, and parasites.
Because of advantage.—For the sake of advantage—i.e., to gain something by it: like “for reward” (Jude 1:11). Exactly Balaam’s case. Note that each half of the verse falls into an irregular triplet.
(17) But, beloved.—Better, as in Jude 1:20, But ye, beloved. “Ye” is emphatic in both cases: “ye,” in contrast to these impious men. All previous English versions insert the “ye.” While taking the form of an exhortation, the passage still remains virtually descriptive. “Be not ye deceived by their impudent boasting and interested pandering, for these are the scoffing sensualists against whom the Apostles warned you.”
Spoken before of the apostles.—The old use of “of” for “by,” like “carried about of winds” (Jude 1:12). (Comp. 2 Peter 2:19.) St. Jude implies that this warning of the Apostles is well known to those whom he addresses. This appeal to the authority of Apostles would be more naturally made by one who was not an Apostle, but cannot be regarded as decisive. See Introduction, I., and Note on 2 Peter 3:2, to which, however, this is not quite parallel, for the writer there has already declared himself to be an Apostle (2 Peter 1:1). There is nothing to show that the author of our Epistle regards the Apostles as considerably removed in time from himself. “In the last time is their expression, not his; and by it they did not mean any age remote from themselves. (Comp. 1 John 2:18; 2 Timothy 3:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:6; Hebrews 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20.)
(18) How that they told you.—Or, perhaps, used to tell you: but we cannot infer from this that oral teaching exclusively is meant. This, again, leaves the question of the writer’s position open. Had St. Jude written “how that they told us,” it would have been decisive against his being an Apostle.
There should be mockers.—Better, that there shall be scoffers. The quotation is direct, and is introduced formally by a word which in Greek commonly precedes a direct quotation. This, however, scarcely amounts to proof that the quotation is from a written document. The word for “mockers” here is the same as that translated “scoffers” in 2 Peter 3:3. The translation should be the same in both passages.
In the last time.—These words had better come first: that in the last time there shall be scoffers.
Who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.—Better, walking according to their own lusts of impieties. The force of the genitive may be merely adjectival, as the Authorised version renders it: but as it may indicate the things lusted for, it is better to keep a literal rendering of it.
(19) Description corresponding to Korah.
(19) These be they.—Better, These are they—for the sake of making the openings of Jude 1:12; Jude 1:16; Jude 1:19 exactly alike, as they are in the Greek.
Who separate themselves.—“Themselves” must be omitted, the evidence against it being overwhelming. “Who separate:” who are creating a schism, like Korah and his company; claiming to be the chief and most enlightened members in the community to which they still profess to belong, though they turn upside down its fundamental principles. The context rather leads us to suppose that these libertines claimed to be the only “spiritual” Christians, inasmuch as they said that to their exalted spiritual natures the things of sense were purely indifferent, and might be indulged in without loss or risk; while they taunted other Christians, who regulated their conduct carefully with regard to such things, with being psychic or “sensuous.” Note the three-fold division of the verse.
Sensual.—The Greek word is psychic, and has no English equivalent; “sensuous” would perhaps be best. The LXX. do not use it, but it occurs six times in the New Testament. Four times (1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:44; 1 Corinthians 15:46) it is translated “natural” (see Note on 1 Corinthians 2:14); once (James 3:15), “sensual,” with “natural” in the margin; and here simply “sensual.” In 1 Corinthians 15:44; 1 Corinthians 15:46, the moral meaning is in the background; in the other three passages the moral meaning is prominent and is distinctly bad. Psychic is the middle term of a triplet of terms, “carnal, psychic, spiritual.” “Carnal” and “spiritual” speak for themselves—the one bad, the other good. Psychic, which comes between, is much closer to “carnal,” and with it is opposed to “spiritual.” This is more clearly seen in the Latin equivalents—carnalis, animalis, spiritalis. The carnal man is ruled by his passions, and rises little above the level of the brutes. The psychic man is ruled by human reasoning, and human affections, and does not rise above the world of sense. The spiritual man is ruled by his spirit—the noblest part of his nature—and this is ruled by the Spirit of God. He rises to and lives among those things which can only be “spiritually discerned.” Our Christian psychology is seriously affected by the absence of any English word for psychic—the part of man’s nature which it represents is often lost sight of.
Having not the Spirit.—Or, perhaps, because they have no spirit. The Holy Spirit may be meant, although the Greek word has no article; but more probably spiritual power and insight is what is meant. These men had allowed the spiritual part of then nature, of which they talked so much, to become so buried in the mire of sensual indulgence and human self-sufficiency, that it was utterly inoperative and practically non-existent. The form of negative used in the Greek seems to imply that their “having no spirit” is the reason why they are justly called “sensuous.”
Each of these three descriptions (Jude 1:12-19) is shorter than the preceding one. The writer hurries through an unpalatable subject to the more pleasing duty of exhorting those faithful Christians for whose sake he is writing.
(20, 21) Exhortation to strengthen themselves in the faith by prayer, godliness, and hope.
(20) But ye, beloved.—Exactly as in Jude 1:17 : “ye” in emphatic contrast to these sensuous and unspiritual men.
Building up yourselves.—Making yourselves firm on the sure foundation of faith, in contradistinction to those “who separate,” and fancy themselves firm in their impious conceits. The notion is not so much that of increasing and completing an edifice as of strengthening its foundations. Faith and its object are here almost identified. To have faith as one’s foundation is the same as having Christ as one’s foundation. “Your faith,” that which has been “once for all delivered” to you (Jude 1:4). “Most holy faith,” as opposed to the most unholy quick sands of the doctrines condemned in this Epistle.
Praying in the Holy Ghost.—Only in this way can Christians make firm their foundation. The Greek admits of “in the Holy Ghost” being taken with the previous clause; but our version is better. The expression “praying in the Holy Ghost” is not found elsewhere. It means that we pray in His strength and wisdom: He moves our hearts and directs our petitions. (See Notes on Romans 8:26.)
(21) Keep yourselves in the love of God.—Not our love of God, but His love of us. Consequently it is not the case that the three great Christian virtues—Faith, Hope, and Charity—are inculcated here, although at first sight we are tempted to think so. God’s love is the region in which those who are built up on faith, and supported by prayer, may continually dwell.
The mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.—The mercy which He will show as Judge at the Last Day. By prayer in the Spirit we are kept in the love of the Father for the mercy of the Son.
Unto eternal life.—These words may be taken either with “keep yourselves,” or with “looking,” or with “mercy”: best with “keep yourselves.”
(22, 23) Exhortation to treat these libertines with discrimination, making three classes.
(22) And of some have compassion, making a difference.—The evidence is very strong in favour of a widely different reading: And some indeed convict (Jude 1:15) when they are in doubt (Matthew 21:21; Acts 10:20; Acts 11:12; Romans 4:20; Romans 14:23; James 1:6); or, when they contend with you (Jude 1:9; Acts 11:2); or, when they separate from you. The first seems best, though the second also makes excellent sense, and has Jude 1:9 in its favour. This, then, is the first and least hopeless class—those who are still in doubt, though inclined the wrong way. They may still be remonstrated with, convicted of error, and reclaimed (Matthew 18:15; Titus 1:13; James 5:20). Some would make this first class the worst and most hopeless—those who are to be argued down in disputation, but without much chance of success. Such interpreters make the third class the best: those who can probably be saved by gentle means. The Greek here is so ambiguous that we cannot be certain of the meaning. But the addition of “in fear” and “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” to the directions respecting the third class, seems to indicate that that class is the worst.
(23) And others save with fear.—“With fear” must certainly be omitted, as no part of the true text. “Save” should perhaps be try to save. It is the present imperative, not the aorist.
Pulling them out of the fire.—Better, snatching them out of the fire. We have here another reminiscence of Zechariah 3:1-3 : we had one in Jude 1:9. (Comp. Amos 4:11.) The fire of the judgment to come is probably not meant; rather the imminent danger (as of one who is asleep in a burning house) in which the fire of their sins keeps them. This is the second class: those who can still be rescued, but by strong measures.
After the words “out of the fire” we must insert another clause omitted from the inferior Greek texts used by our translators: “and on others have compassion in fear.” Wiclif and the Rhemish version, following the Vulgate, have this clause. This is the third and worst class: those on whom profound pity is all that we dare bestow, and that in fear and trembling, lest by contact with them we may be brought within the influence of the deadly contamination that clings to all their surroundings. Abhorrence must be shown to the very externals of pollution. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:22; Titus 3:10-11; 1 John 5:16; 2 John 1:10-11.)
(24, 25) Concluding Doxology.
(24) Now unto him that is able.—Comp. the conclusion Romans 16:25. It would be rash to infer from the similarity that St. Jude must have known the Epistle to the Romans; although there is nothing incredible in the supposition that he was acquainted with it. The Epistle had been in circulation probably for some ten years before St. Jude wrote. Doxologies no doubt became elastic formulas almost from the first.
To keep you from falling.—Better, to keep you unfallen. From his own warnings, denunciations, and exhortations, which have been severe and sombre throughout, St. Jude turns in joyous, exulting confidence to Him who alone can make them effectual. “Keep you,” or, guard you: not the more general word translated “preserved” in Jude 1:1, but another more in harmony with the present context, as indicating protection against the great perils just pointed out. A reading of much authority has “them” for “you”—to keep them unfallen. If it be correct, it may be explained as being in thought, though not in form, addressed to God, so that those to whom he is writing are spoken of in the third person.
Before the presence of his glory.—The glory that shall be revealed at the day of judgment. The meaning is, “Who can bring it to pass that you stand blameless before the judgment-seat” (Colossians 1:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:13).
(25) To the only wise God our Saviour.—The coupling of “Saviour” with “God” is common in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 1:1; 1 Timothy 2:3; Titus 1:3; Titus 2:10; Titus 3:4). “Wise” must be omitted as wanting in authority. (See Note on Romans 16:27.) Doxologies became well-known forms with many variations: changes to something more familiar to the copyist might easily be made in transcribing.
After “Saviour” must be inserted, on the highest MS. authority, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Wiclif and the Rhemish have the missing clause.
Glory and majesty, dominion and power. Omit the first “and.” “Glory” and “dominion” are frequent in the New Testament doxologies: the Greek words represented by “majesty” and “power” occur here only. After “power” we must supply, on overwhelming authority, “before all time.” Consequently “is” may be substituted for “be” before “glory;” but no verb is needed.
Both now and ever.—Better, and now and to all the ages; so that the whole will run thus: To the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, glory, majesty, dominion, and power, before all time, and now, and to all the ages. Thus we have a most comprehensive phrase for eternity—before time, time, after time—and thus the three-fold arrangement runs through to the very end.
Amen.—Common ending of a doxology. (Romans 1:25; 1 Peter 4:11; 2 Peter 3:18.) These ungodly men may “despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities,” may utter “great swelling words” about their own knowledge and liberty, and scoff at those who walk not with them; but still, ages before they were born, and ages after they have ceased to be, glory, majesty, dominion, and power belong to Him who saves us, and would save even them, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Jude 1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17