Book Overview - Jude
by Joseph Parker
(Syria, a.d75, or64)
[Annotations from the best available sources.]
[Note.—"The object of the Epistle is plainly enough announced, Jude 1:3 : "It was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered unto the saints:" the reason for this exhortation is given Jude 1:4, in the stealthy introduction of certain "ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." The remainder of the Epistle is almost entirely occupied by a minute depiction of these adversaries of the faith—not heretical teachers (as has been sometimes supposed), which constitutes a marked distinction between this Epistle and that of St. Peter—whom in a torrent of impassioned invective he describes as stained with unnatural lusts, like "the angels that kept not their first estate" (whom he evidently identifies with the "sons of God," Genesis 6:2), and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah—are despisers of all legitimate authority ( Jude 1:8)—murderers like Cain—covetous like Balaam—rebellious like Korah ( Jude 1:11)—destined from of old to be signal monuments of the Divine vengeance, which he confirms by reference to a prophecy current among the Jews, and traditionally assigned to Enoch ( Jude 1:14-15).
"The Epistle closes by briefly reminding the readers of the oft-repeated prediction of the Apostles—among whom the writer seems not to rank himself—that the faith would be assailed by such enemies as he has depicted ( Jude 1:17-19), exhorting them to maintain their own steadfastness in the faith ( Jude 1:20-21), while they earnestly sought to rescue others from the corrupt example of those licentious livers ( Jude 1:22-23), and commending them to the power of God in language which forcibly recalls the closing benediction of the Epistle to the Romans ( Jude 1:24-25; cf. Romans 16:25-27).
"This Epistle presents one peculiarity, which, as we learn from St. Jerome, caused its authority to be impugned in very early times—the supposed citation of apocryphal writings ( Jude 1:9, Jude 1:14-15)."—Smith"s Dictionary of the Bible.]
1. Jude [may be described as an anonymous name, a name only], the servant of Jesus Christ [rather, a servant], and brother of James [without which relationship he would hardly have any identity. He does not claim to be an apostle; no man was an apostle that ever ignored that fact, the principal fact in any man"s history], to them that are sanctified [rather, beloved; for that is the keynote of the exhortation which crowns the Epistle,—beloved] by [in] God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called [men bound by a threefold call: beloved, preserved, called: there was no mistake about their identity]:
2. Mercy unto you, and peace, and love [a threefold blessing to the threefold captivity] be multiplied [a rare word in the New Testament, coming in wave after wave, and ocean upon ocean].
3. Beloved [Jude is inventive, fertile; he almost alone uses this word as a designation of the saints: John used it], when I gave all diligence [both hands and my whole heart] to write unto you of the common salvation [the salvation which is common to us all], it was needful for me [there was a pressure of necessity upon me I could not escape] to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend [stand over and fight the foe] for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints [in the sense of once for all].
4. For there are certain men [with a tinge of depreciation, with the remotest hint at a sneer:—there are certain men: a handful at the most] crept in unawares [the controversies of the Church do not arise from within the Church; they are created by men who have crept into the Church without having any right to be there] who were before of old ordained to this condemnation [not a Calvinistic term, not the "before of old"which embraces eternity, or the "ordained" which involves any Bible decree: a purely historical term, and nothing more], ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God [negative men: "ungodly," "denying." The enemy always takes the easy part of the task; he builds nothing, so there is nothing to throw down], and our Lord Jesus Christ.
5. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not. [Jude goes back to very old history it takes history a long time to prove its own reality; it is the better for ripening: ancient history is the most modern.]
6. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation [wandering lunatics], he hath reserved [better: he hath kept,—they kept not their first estate, but he kept] in everlasting chains [that they might be kept] under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them [Admah and Zeboim] in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire [a quality of fire rather than a duration of flame: not a time term]
8. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities [not of earthly dignities, for they could toast them every night in the week; not royalties and magistracies: but spiritual dignities, upper ministries, subtle, eternal influences that play upon the soul creatively].
9. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him [remembering his own estate] a railing accusation, but said [with an intelligible reverence], The Lord rebuke thee [I keep no lightning fit for occasions of this kind: the Lord undertake the case].
10. But these speak evil of those things which they know not [and they speak the more freely because of their ignorance: ignorance is not troubled with boundaries and laws of trespass]: but what they know naturally [the word "know" in this verse being taken in two senses], as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves [a present action—they work their own ruin: suicide is not only a question of blowing out the brains or stabbing the heart—they work their own ruin: many are suicides who would shrink from the application of the term to their particular cases].
11. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward [they have been filled with envy and covetousness], and perished in the gainsaying of Core [the separatism that is pride, vanity, self-sufficiency].
12. These are spots in your feasts of charity [literally: these are rocks in your love feasts, wave-covered rocks: take care, for the ship may strike upon them], when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear [turning sacrament into banqueting, gorging, gluttony]: clouds they are without water [shapes, outlines, spectral hints], carried about of winds [even when there is any rain in them the wind comes and blows them away]; trees whose fruit withereth [literally, autumn trees, trees that ought to be rich with fruit: yet] they are without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
13. Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. [Jude does not pause to say, "If I may change the figure": he uses all metaphors, holds them well under hand, and uses them for the more graphic representation of his ardent thought—"wandering stars": not comets; comets do not wander in any licentious sense: wandering stars in the sense of being cut off from the central fire, plunging deeper and deeper into the unfathomable darkness, "to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever."]
14. And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15. To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. [That word "ungodly" seemed to fit Jude well. There are certain terms that are characteristic of certain speakers. He used this instrument "ungodly" with tremendous force.]
16. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men"s persons in admiration because of advantage. [They would applaud anybody they could plunder].
17. But, beloved [a repetition of the title in Jude 1:3], remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ [thus again not claiming apostleship for himself];
18. How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
19. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit [not a reference necessarily to the Holy Spirit, but might be read thus:—"sensuous, having no spirit"].
20. But ye, beloved [the third time], building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
21. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
22. And of some have compassion [whilst they are disputing with you; in the very act of expressing their doubt pity them], making a difference:
23. And others save with fear, pulling [plucking] them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
24. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling [more sweetly and tenderly in the Revised Version, able to guard you from stumbling], and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
25. To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. [After that there could be no music.]
the First Week after Epiphany