Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

- Jude

by Philip Schaff


JUDE, the writer of this Epistle, calls himself the ‘brother of James;’ and as in the list of the apostles there is James’ Judas (the same word in Greek as here), ‘the son’ or ‘brother’ being unexpressed, many commentators have concluded that the author of this Epistle was the apostle. This is the view of Jerome, Origen, and Tertullian among the ancients, and that of Calvin, Lange, Tregelles, and others among the moderns; and they naturally identify him with Jude the son of Alphaeus, called also Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18).

Whether he were the apostle or not, he is widely believed to have been ‘the Lord’s brother’ of that name (Matthew 13:55), a view adopted by Jerome and Origen, and by Bengel, Olshausen, Lange, Hofmann, and Tregelles.

These views are not absolutely inconsistent; but to hold both is to hold opinions not easily reconcileable. The latter is probably true; the former is questionable. There is no real evidence that Jude the apostle was brother of the James mentioned in this Epistle. Generally, the expression ‘Jude of James,’ or ‘James’ Jude,’ would mean in Scripture language ‘Jude the son of James.’ If Jude the writer of this Epistle were an apostle, there seems no reason why he should not have called himself apostle, or why he should have distinguished himself, as he seems to do, from the apostles (Jude 1:17). We are expressly told, moreover, that our Lord’s brethren did not believe on him; and though after the Resurrection and Ascension they formed part of the company of believers (Acts 1:14), they could hardly have believed at the beginning of His teaching, or have been appointed as eye-witnesses of His ministry.

From this and similar considerations, it is inferred that the James who was Jude’s brother is the James who is called ‘the Lord’s brother’ (Galatians 1:19), and who after the death of James the apostle (the son of Zebedee and brother of John) became the representative of the Jewish tendency of the Christian Church (Acts 12:17), and rose to something like apostolic dignity; being, like Barnabas, reckoned among the apostles (Acts 14:14; compare Romans 16:7, and the Greek of Philippians 2:25, and 2 Corinthians 8:23). In the Apostolic Council held at Jerusalem, James’ judgment was accepted as final (Acts 15:13). He is supposed to have written the Epistle of James; and of course, if Judas was brother of this James, he held the same personal relation to our Lord.

On the whole, the most probable conclusion is, though not free from difficulties, that the author of this Epistle is Jude, one of the brethren of Jesus, not the brother of James the apostle, who was the son of Alphaeus, but of James the Bishop of Jerusalem, of whose influence in the Church he availed himself to introduce his Epistle to his readers.

Of his life nothing is known, as nothing is certainly known of the life of Judas the apostle. Eusebius gives an interesting tradition, transmitted through Hegesippus, that two grandsons of Jude, who ‘according to the flesh’ was brother of our Lord (see 1 Corinthians 9:5), were seized and taken to Rome by order of Domitian, whose fears had been excited by what he had heard of the progress of Christ’s kingdom. When, however, he found from their replies to his inquiries, and from the appearance of their hands, that they were plain men supporting themselves by their own labour, and that it was a spiritual kingdom they sought to set up, he dismissed them and stayed the persecution he had planned. They are said to have lived till the time of Trajan. The wife of this Jude is said (Nicephorus, Jude 1:23) to have been Mary.

The relation of the Epistle of Jude to the Second Epistle of Peter has led to much discussion. The parallel passages of the two Epistles are Jude 1:3-18, and 2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 2:1-18. Their resemblances both in thought and in language are close and obvious (though there are differences in every verse), and the writers must have been in communication, or one must have seen the Epistle of the other. Internal evidence is in favour of the prior authorship of Jude. The terseness of the style, the freshness and vigour of the imagery, the close coherence of the thought, the very peculiarity of the words, there being in the twenty-four verses of the Epistle some eighteen found only here in the New Testament, are against the supposition that the Epistle was borrowed; whilst, on the other hand, the parallel passage of Peter appears to differ from Peter’s usual style. If this view be accepted, the probable date of the Epistle is between A.D. 64 and 66. It must have been written late, and yet prior to the date of Peter’s Epistle; and that apostle died about A.D. 68. A later date, subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, makes it necessary to suppose that it was taken in part from 2 Peter, and adds the difficulty that no note is taken of the destruction of Jerusalem, one of the most striking instances of the punishment of the ‘ungodly.’ It addresses the same class as the Second of Peter false teachers who pervert the Gospel, the advocates of that gnostic antinomianism which formed many sects and devastated the churches of Asia Minor, as it did other churches throughout the farther East. On the probable supposition that Peter wrote with a view to the Jewish Christians in Asia Minor, while Jude addressed those of Palestine and Egypt, whence indeed we have one of the earliest recognitions of the authenticity of his Epistle, we have a reason for the repetition of the same teaching in the two Epistles.

The evidence on its canonicity is as follows. It is wanting in the common Peshito-Syriac, though found in the MS. in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and is quoted as apostolic by Ephrem the Syrian. It is found in the Muratorian Fragment (about A.D. 170). Clement of Alexandria is the first writer who speaks of its authority. Eusebius tells us that it was among the canonical books that were expounded in public, while some regarded it as spurious. Origen refers to it as the work of the Lord’s brother, and quotes it several times as ‘filled with vigorous words of heavenly grace.’ Tertullian and Jerome quote it as the work of an apostle. And it is contained in most of the lists (Laodicaean, A.D. 363; Carthaginian, 397, etc.). The difficulties felt as to its canonicity originated in the uncertainty of its authorship and of its author’s standing in the Church, the nature of the contents and their resemblance to those of 2 Peter, and the supposed quotations from apocryphal books. The preponderance of belief, however, both in ancient and in modern times, is decidedly in its favour.


After the usual salutation and prayer (Jude 1:1-2), there comes a statement of the design of the Epistle (ver. 3), with the reasons for writing (Jude 1:4). Then follows Part I., giving in section ( a) examples of the punitive justice of God when dealing with such ungodly and corrupt persons as are described in three leading examples: Israel (Jude 1:5), the fallen angels (Jude 1:6), and the Gentile people of Sodom and Gomorrha (Jude 1:7); and giving in ( b) a more particular account of those men and their deeds: they defile the flesh; they despise and rail at authority; they copy the sins of Cain, and Balaam, and Korah (Jude 1:8-11). Their detestable character is further described in Jude 1:12; Jude 1:16; Jude 1:19, with a parenthetic description of them and of their destiny and of those like them, as foretold in the prophecy of Enoch (Jude 1:14-15). Their voluptuousness, selfishness, discontent, their pride and flattery, their tendency to create separations from the faith and purity of the Church, and their gross carnality, are all set forth in terse and strong language.

Part II. calls upon believers ( a) to show mindfulness of the words of the apostles, who foretell the coming of such deceivers and scoffers (Jude 1:17-18); ( b) to continue in faith and prayer and love and hope (Jude 1:20-21); ( c) to exercise a kindly, prompt, and earnest treatment of those who may be led astray by these false teachers, according to the character of each, yet with earnest hatred of their sin (Jude 1:22-23); and concludes with the usual doxology, expressed in words which abound in consolation.

Dean Alford has well described the Epistle as an ‘impassioned invective, in which the writer heaps epithet on epithet, and image on image, and returns again and again to the licentious apostates against whom he warns the Church, as though all language were insufficient to give an adequate idea of their profligacy and of his own abhorrence of their perversion of the grace and doctrines of the Gospel.’ It may be added that the Gospel is still abused and perverted through the selfishness and worldliness of professedly Christian men, and that the admonitions of this Epistle and the coming judgment of which it speaks are well fitted to arouse men to watchfulness and repentance. The practical comments of Perkins, Jenkyn, Bickersteth, Stier, and others show how rich it is in lessons which apply to every age.


Other Commentaries of this Epistle may be named and characterized:

MANTON, Thomas, D.D. A Practical Commentary, delivered in weekly lectures at Stoke-Newington. Lond. 1658. Practical and characteristic.

WITSIUS, H. Comm. in Epis. Juda. Meletemata Leidensia (first published in 1703). Basel, 1739. Written with learning and judgment.

LANGE’S Biblical Comm., vol. 9 Translated from Fronm├╝ller, with useful additions by Dr. J. I. Mombert, 1867.

LILLIE’S Epistle of Judas. Translated from the Greek, with notes. New York (Amer. B. Union), 1854. An able and careful work.

MUIR, W., D.D. Discourses Explanatory and Practical. Glasg. 1822.

GARDINER, F. A Commentary on Jude. Designed for the general reader and exegetical student. Boston, U.S., 1856.