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by Arno Clemens Gaebelein
THE EPISTLE OF JUDE
The Epistle of Jude is the last Epistle preceding the great final book with which the Holy Scriptures conclude, the book of Revelation. We believe the place given to this Epistle is the right one, for as we shall see, it reveals the conditions, religiously and morally, which prevail on earth before the great coming event takes place, of which Revelation has so much to say. Some have called it “the preface to the Revelation.”
We are not left in doubt who the writer is, for he mentions himself in the beginning of it. It is Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James. But who is this Jude or Judas? Among the disciples were two by the name of Judas. There was Judas Iscariot, who ended his miserable career, after he had become the instrument of the devil, by hanging. In John 14:22 we read, “Judas saith unto Him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” The Spirit of God makes it plain that Judas Iscariot did not address Jesus by the name Lord, which expresses faith in His deity, but that there was another Judas in the apostolate who speaks here.
When we turn to the names of the twelve in Matthew 10:2-4, we find the name of Judas but once; it is the name of him who betrayed the Lord. The Judas whose words are recorded in the above passage in the Gospel of John, is called in Matthew 10:3 ... Lebbaeus whose surname was Thaddaeus.” In Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13, his name is given as Judas of James; it must be noticed that the words in the authorized version “the brother” are in italics, which means that they are supplied by the translators. It is not so in the first verse of this epistle; here the writer calls himself “brother of James.”
But there is still another Judas found in the Gospels. His name is recorded in Matthew 13:55. “Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not His mother called Mary? and His brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?” The James, the brother of the Lord mentioned in this passage, is the author of the Epistle of James. (See introduction to the Epistle of James). The question then arises, is the writer of the Epistle before us, the Apostle Judas of James, also called Lebbaeus, surnamed Thaddaeus, or is it Judas, the one who is called one of the Lord’s brethren, and therefore the natural brother of James, the writer of the Epistle of James? Some maintain that Jude is the Apostle Judas, while others see in Jude the brother of James, as given in Matthew 13:55. We endorse the latter view. We give the reasons why the writer of this Epistle cannot be the Apostle Judas.
1. He does not speak of himself as an apostle. He designates himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. Whenever an apostle calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ, he adds his apostleship, as we learn from Romans 1:1, Titus 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1. The only exception is the epistle to the Philippians, in which Paul associates with himself in the address Timothy, and then speaks of himself and Timothy as servants of Jesus Christ.
2. If he were the Apostle Judas, the brother of the Apostle James, the sons of Alphaeus, we have to face great difficulties, as Dean Alford states, involving the wholly unjustifiable hypothesis, that those who are called in Scripture the brethren of our Lord were not His brethren, but His cousins, sons of Alphaeus (Cleopas).
But why does the writer of this Epistle not speak of himself as “the brother of the Lord?” It has been asked. James does not do so in his Epistle either. He is silent about his relationship and so is his brother Jude. “The question, Why does not Jude mention his earthly relationship to the Lord? shows great ignorance of the true spirit of the writers of the New Testament. It would be the last thing I should expect, to find one of the brethren of the Lord asserting this relationship as a ground of reception for an Epistle. Almost all agree that the writer of the Epistle of James was the person known as the brother of the Lord. Yet there we have no designation. It would have been in fact altogether inconsistent with the true spirit of Christ (Luke 20:27-28), and in harmony with those later superstitious feelings with which the next and following generations regarded His earthly relatives. Had such a designation as “Adelphos tou Kyriou” (brother of the Lord) been found in the address of an Epistle, it would have formed a strong a priori objection to its authenticity” (Prolegomena).
Jude is therefore the one mentioned in Matthew 13:55. Apart from this Epistle we know nothing more of him. The date of the Epistle is about the year 65.
It is authenticated by different ancient sources. The Muratorian fragment mentions it as Jude’s Epistle. Clement of Alexandria cites it as Scripture, as well as Tertullian and others. The theories of some objecting critics need not to be considered.
To whom the Epistle was originally addressed is not stated. Some have surmised that like James and the Petrine Epistles Jude addressed originally Jewish believers. This may be true, for Jude mentions, prominently, like Peter, Old Testament facts, besides some Jewish traditional matters, which thereby are confirmed as facts. Concerning the apocryphal writings, which especially the book of Enoch, which Jude is charged with having used in the composition of his Epistle, we shall have more to say in the annotations.
Jude and 2 Peter 2:1-22
As stated in the introduction to the Second Epistle of Peter, Jude’s testimony is very much like the testimony of the Apostle Peter in the second chapter of his second Epistle. Hence there has been a long controversy whether Jude copied from Peter or Peter copied from Jude. We have stated before that if Jude had copied from Peter, his epistle could not be an inspired Epistle, and so if Peter copied from Jude. Jude may have known Peter’s Epistle, but that does not mean that he used Peter’s Epistle, but the Holy Spirit gives a similar testimony through Jude, which is, after a closer examination, somewhat different from Peter’s epistle. This is pointed out in the annotations.
The Message of Jude
It seems about the time when Jude wrote his letter a departure from the faith set in among believers. This is confirmed by the fact that other epistles written about the same time give warnings of the same nature as those given by Jude. The message of Jude may be called a prophetic history of the apostasy of Christendom from its beginning in apostolic days down to the end of the age, when the complete apostasy will be dealt with and completely destroyed by the coming of the Lord. It is the darkest forecast of the end of the age which the Spirit of God has given in the Epistles. While apostasy and antichristianity have held sway all through the history of Christendom, there is coming in the end of this age a consummation, the evils of which are pictured by the Holy Spirit through the pen of Jude. We know that we are living right in the midst of the fulfillment of Jude’s message. The Epistle is, therefore, of great importance for our times.
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