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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament


- Jude

by Heinrich Meyer
























I N revising this Commentary on the Epistles of Peter for the present fourth edition, the work which I had chiefly to consider and subject to a careful examination was the Exposition of the Epistles by von Hofmann. This accordingly I did.

Von Hofmann often seeks to surmount the exegetical difficulties presented in the epistles by a new exposition, and, of course, no exception can be taken to this; but it is to be regretted that the interpretations are not unfrequently of so artificial a nature, that they cannot stand the test of an unprejudiced examination, and are consequently little calculated to promote the true understanding of the text.

As regards the origin of the Second Epistle, my renewed investigations have produced no result other than that which I had formerly obtained. I can only repeat what I said in the preface to the third edition of this Commentary: “If I should be blamed for giving, in this edition also, no decisive and final answer to the question as to the origin of Second Peter, I will say at the outset, that it seems to me more correct to pronounce a non liquet , than to cut the knot by arbitrary assertions and acute appearances of argument.”

Although this Commentary on the whole has preserved its former character, yet it has been subjected to many changes in particulars, which I hope may be regarded as improvements.

I would only add, that in the critical remarks it is principally Tischendorf’s Recension that has been kept in view. Tisch. 7 refers to the editio septima critica minor , 1859; Tisch. 8, to his editio octava major , 1869. Where the two editions agree in a reading, Tisch. simply is put.



The Epistle of Jude



T HE author to his name Jude subjoins the particular designations: Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλος and ἀδελφὸς δὲ Ἰακώβου . The first of these designations is no evidence against his apostleship, as Arnaud correctly observes (see Philippians 1:1 ; Philemon 1:1 ); but the second is, inasmuch as it is not credible that an apostle, in order to make himself known, should have named himself according to his relationship to another, whether that other be an apostle or not. It is true, in order to prove the identity of the author of this Epistle with the Apostle Jude, whom Matthew (Matthew 10:3 ) names Λεββαῖος ( Rec. adds: ὁ ἐπικληθεὶς Θαδδαῖος ), and Mark (Mark 3:18 ) Θαδδαῖος , the fact has been appealed to that Luke (Acts 1:13 ; Luke 6:16 ) calls him Ἰούδας Ἰακώβου ; but it is arbitrary to supply to Ἰακώβου , ἀδελφός , instead of the usual supplement υἱός ; see Meyer on Luke 6:16 . It is to be observed, against Winer ( bibl. Realw . under the word Judas ), who will supply ἀδελφός , because in Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18 , Lebbäus is directly united by καί with James as an apostolic pair, that this is properly only the case in the first passage; but in that very passage where a brotherly relationship exists, as with Peter and Andrew, and with John and James, this is expressly stated; whilst Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, Simon and Judas Iscariot are united together by καί , without any assertion that these pairs so united were brothers. The very mode and manner, then, in which James, the son of Alpheus and Jude are placed together in the apostolic lists, proves that they were not brothers.

Further, if it be possible that an apostle could refer to the apostles generally, as is done in this Epistle (Jude 1:17-18 ), yet that mode of expression is more natural in the mouth of one who was not an apostle than in the mouth of an apostle.

Jude does not more definitely state who this James was, whom he calls his brother. But doubtless he was that James who, from an early period, stood at the head of the church in Jerusalem.

Since, then, from preponderating proofs (see Introd. sec. 1, to commentary on the Epistle of James), it is to be assumed that this James, who was called the brother of the Lord, is not identical with the Apostle James the son of Alpheus, [1] it is also not to be doubted that Jude is not a brother of the latter, but of the former, and consequently likewise a brother of Jesus. That, nevertheless, he does not call himself the brother of Jesus cannot appear strange, since the bodily relationship to the Lord must retire before the spiritual relationship, which he expresses by the appellation Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλος ; it is the same reason which induced James in his Epistle not to designate himself as a brother of the Lord.

We possess only very uncertain notices of the personal history and labours of Jude (for an account of them, see Arnaud), which are the less to be considered as historical, since they are not only frequently contradictory, but also in them the author of the Epistle and the Apostle Jude are confounded together.

[1] Thiersch ( Herst. des. hist. Standp. , etc., p. 430f.) rightly observes: “If ever a critical view concerning historical persons was artificial and unnatural, assuredly that is which regards the brothers of the Lord as the cousins of Jesus, the sons of Clopas and a Mary, a sister of the mother of Christ. Herder’s argument against this view is so obvious and striking, that it is almost unintelligible how such an hypothesis, which does violence to a series of passages, should even down to our times be maintained by critics.” If, on the contrary, Dietlein (“Review of Arnaud’s Researches,” etc., in the allg. Repert. von Reuter , August 1851) maintains the idea of the Messianic family, in order to reckon among the ἀδελφοῖς , besides the cousins, also the uncle, etc. of Jesus, history is thereby subordinated to hypothesis. The same is the case when Schott maintains that “it is opposed to the spirit of the N. T. history of salvation, that an actual brother of the Lord should attain to such a high position in the church, as James obtained as chief of the church of Jerusalem;” and when he declares that “it is a historical necessity that the actual brothers of Jesus should retire into the background.” The other proofs by which Schott, who considers the so-called “brothers of Jesus” as his actual brothers, will attempt to prove that the James and Jude here mentioned belong not to them but to the apostles, are not here, but in the commentary to the Epistle of James, discussed; so also with regard to the view of Hofmann, who likewise regards the author of this Epistle and his brother James as the Apostles Jude and James.

The readers, for whom this Epistle was primarily intended, are described only in the most general terms, and neither their locality nor their condition is definitely stated. There is no indication that the Epistle was written only to Jewish Christians. Arnaud, indeed, with truth remarks: “Jude expounds his proofs in a manner peculiar to the Jews. From the beginning to the end he uses their mode of speech and their manner of expressing an idea; he employs images and comparisons, makes allusions, and uses myths, traditions, and examples which were familiar to them.” But all this might have its reason in the individuality of the writer, without being conditioned by a regard to the readers. Most expositors assume that the readers resided in Asia Minor; on the contrary, Schmidt, Credner, Augusti, Arnaud, and Wiesinger are of opinion that they are to be sought for in Palestine. The question cannot with certainty be decided.


The object of the Epistle is the confirmation of the readers in the gospel published to them by the apostles, in opposition to certain intruders, who, abusing the liberty of the gospel, gave themselves up to immoral excesses, and even to blaspheming the divine majesty. De Wette, Schwegler, Arnaud, Reuss, Bleek, Brückner, and Hofmann consider them to be only vicious men. On the contrary, Dorner ( Entwicklungsgesch. der Lehre von der Person Christi , Thl. I. p. 104) observes: “The opponents of Jude are not only corrupt in practice, but also heretical teachers.” They are not indeed described as actual false teachers; but yet from Jude 1:4 ; Jude 1:8 ; Jude 1:18-19 , we can hardly think otherwise than that their libertinism was conjoined with dogmatic (perhaps Gnostic) errors: on which account also Brückner states that “they had points which bordered on the dogmatic;” and Hofmann says that “they screened their immoral conduct by blasphemous assumptions.” Weiss ( Petrin. Frage II. in Stud. u. Krit. 1866, H. 2) calls them “Libertines on principle.” [2] That they attached themselves to a particular definite Gnostic system, for example, that of the Carpocratians (Clemens Alexandrinus), cannot be proved. Their tendency appears to have been related to the error of the Nicolaitanes and the Balaamites (Revelation 2:0 ); (Thiersch, Wiesinger, Schott). Jude opposes to them simply the apostolic gospel, without particularly characterizing the points of their contradiction to it.

[2] See also Ritschl, Abhandl. üb. die im Br. des Judas charakterisirten Antinomisten in d. Stud. u. Krit. 1861, part I. p. 103 ff. The opinion of Ritschl, that these heretics had retained only abstractly their principle that grace establishes freedom to practise immorality, has been justly rejected by Wiesinger as unwarrantable.

It is peculiar to this Epistle, that passages occur in it which appear to be taken from the apocryphal book of Enoch, or, if this should not be the case, at least to have arisen from an apocryphal tradition of Enoch; as the quotation contained in Jude 1:14-15 ; the statement about the sin of the angels and their punishment, Jude 1:6 ; the description of the false teachers, Jude 1:8 ; also the reference (Jude 1:9 ) to the apocryphal tradition of the contest of Michael with the devil is peculiar. [3] This admixture of apocryphal traits can, on an unprejudiced consideration, only serve to strengthen the conviction that the Epistle does not proceed from an apostle.

[3] Hofmann disputes this, maintaining that in Jude there occurs only an interpretation or expansion of what is stated in Scripture, and which is as justified as that which occurs in Acts 7:22 f., Acts 13:21 ; Galatians 4:28 ; Hebrews 11:37 ; 2 Timothy 3:8 ; although he grants that more is signified in Jude than in these passages.

The train of thought is as follows: After the address, in which the readers are only generally characterized as Christians, the author states that he esteemed it necessary to exhort them to continue in the faith delivered to them (Jude 1:3 ), and that because of certain intruders, whom he designates as lascivious men and deniers of Jesus Christ, whose condemnation was certain (Jude 1:4 ). That this condemnation will come upon them, he confirms by three examples: that of the people delivered from Egypt, that of the fallen angels, and that of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha (Jude 1:5-7 ). These intruders are then described by two characteristics, namely, as defilers of the flesh and as despisers and blasphemers of heavenly dignities; the greatness of their sin is brought prominently forward by comparison with the conduct of Michael in his contest with the devil, and a woe is denounced upon them as those who walk in the way of Cain, Balaam, and Korah (Jude 1:8-11 ). In the following verses (Jude 1:12-13 ) the author proceeds with his description, adducing their debauchery at the Agapae, and representing in various figurative expressions their vain and impudent conduct, by which he is reminded of the judgment which awaits them, quoting for this purpose a saying of Enoch as a prophecy which holds good of them (Jude 1:14-15 ). To this succeeds some additional characteristics of those erroneous teachers, to which an exhortation to the readers is added to be mindful of the words of the apostles who have prophesied of the appearance of stich mockers (Jude 1:16-18 ). After Jude, with another glance at his opponents, has exhorted his readers to keep themselves by faith and prayer in the love of God, and to wait for the mercy of Christ (Jude 1:19-21 ), he gives a short direction how to behave toward those who have been already perverted (Jude 1:22-23 ). A doxology forms the conclusion of the Epistle (Jude 1:24-25 ).

The Epistle contains no other data for the determination of the time of its composition than the description of the heretics and the exhortation to attend to the preaching of the apostles; but from these it may be inferred that it belongs not to the earlier, but, as most expositors assume, [4] to the later apostolic age; although “there is no necessity, with Reuss, to assign it to the extreme limits of the apostolic literature” (Brückner). Although in the Pastoral Epistles the immoral life of the heretics there attacked is censured, yet libertinism does not appear to have attained to the same stage of development as with the opponents of Jude; and Jude would hardly have appealed to the preaching of the apostles as a thing of the past, if the apostles were yet at the height of their apostolic activity. Bertholdt, Guericke, Stier, Arnaud, and others think, from the fact that there is no mention of the judgment of God on Jerusalem, that it is to be inferred that the Epistle was written before the destruction of that city, since Jude would certainly not have omitted this most fearful and most significant judgment, if it had already taken place, particularly as he mentions almost all the most noted examples of divine judgments. But this conclusion is very uncertain, especially as the hypothesis on which it is founded is incorrect. Jude takes at random only some of many examples, and indeed such at least this is evidently the case with the judgment on the angels, and with that on Sodom and Gomorrha as refer to a definite kind of sin, which is not applicable to the judgment on Jerusalem. He mentions neither the deluge nor the first destruction of Jerusalem. From the relation which exists between this Epistle and the apocryphal book of Enoch, nothing certain regarding the period of composition can be inferred, particularly as the opinion concerning that relation is by no means settled; for whilst early critics assert the origin of this book, at least in its original condition, to pre-Christian times, and assume later interpolations, as Lücke ( Einleitung in die Offb. Joh. , etc.), Ewald, Weizsäcker ( Untersuchungen über die evangel. Geschichte ), Köstlin ( Tübing. theol. Jahrbb. 1856), especially Dillmann ( das Buch Henoch übersetzt und erklärt , 1853), and others; Hofmann and Ferd. Philippi (in his book, das Buch Henoch, sein Zeitalter , etc., 1868) attempt to prove that it belongs to the Christian age, and was composed by a Jewish Christian; the reasons, however, adduced by them are not sufficient to cause us to regard the result of their examination as well founded.

[4] The reasons by which Schott endeavours to prove that the Epistle was written at the end of the year seventy, or the beginning of the year eighty, are too uncertain to enable us to draw this conclusion with certainty.

Mayerhoff ( Einl. in die Petrin. Sehriften , p. 195) supposes the place of composition to be Egypt, because Clemens Alexandrinus first quotes it, because the images employed in Jude 1:12 refer to a country which bordered on the sea, and was frequently exposed to drought by the east and south winds, and because the book of Enoch was first used in Egypt. But Schwegler has correctly rejected these reasons as insufficient.


Eusebius reckons this Epistle, as indeed all the Catholic Epistles, except First John and First Peter, among the Antilegomena. The earliest Fathers who mention it are Tertullian ( de habit. mul. c. 3) and Clemens Alexandrinus ( Strom. iii. p. 431, Paedag . iii. 8, p. 239, ed. Sylb.), who has also commented on it. Origen often quotes it, and distinguishes it by special praise; Comm. on Matthew 13:55 : Ἰούδας ἔγραψεν ἐπιστολὴν , ὀλιγόστιχον μὲν , πεπληρωμένην δὲ τῶν τῆς οὐρανίου χάριτος ἐῤῥωμένων λόγων . He, however, indicates that its genuineness is doubted by many. Jerome also mentions these doubts, saying that many rejected it on account of the quotation from the apocryphal book of Enoch; he himself, however, considered it as genuine. It is wanting in the Peshito (but not in the MS. in the Bodleian Library at Oxford; see Guericke, Einl. p. 42); but, on the other hand, it is mentioned in the Muratorian Canon. Since the fourth century it has been generally acknowledged as a genuine canonical writing. As the author does not call himself an apostle, criticism in more recent times was more inclined to consider it authentic than some other writings of the N. T. Even de Wette observes, that there is no reason why Jude should not be the author of this Epistle; neither its use of the book of Enoch, nor its probable acquaintance with the Epistle to the Romans, nor its harsh style, though betraying a familiarity with the Greek language, are opposed to this.

Schwegler judges otherwise. He infers from Jude 1:17-18 that the Epistle belongs to the post-apostolic times, although in point of doctrine its character is very simple and undeveloped. He thinks that the forger chose the name of Jude, the brother of James, in order to indicate the community of principle with this latter person. In opposition to this it is to be observed, that, had the Epistle been written in the interests of Jewish Christianity against Pauline, we should surely have found indications of this; and a forger would hardly have attributed his writing to Jude, a person otherwise so entirely unknown. The above-mentioned verses by no means point to a post -apostolic age, since they rather suppose that the readers have heard the preaching of the apostles. The fact that we find no definite references to this Epistle among the early Fathers, and that its genuineness at a later period was not wholly undoubted, is easily accounted for, partly from its special tendency (particularly from doctrine being so little referred to), partly from the apocryphal traits with which it is pervaded, and partly from the fact that the author did not belong to the apostles.