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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible


- Jude

by Daniel Whedon



OF JUDE, (Greek form of name Juddas, Hebrew, Juah,) there is very little recorded history. He styles himself “brother of James,” by which we know that there are two epistles from brothers, who were also brothers of Jesus. The only mention of his name in the Gospels occurs in the list given by the Nazarenes of the brothers of Jesus, Matthew 13:55, and Mark 6:3. From that remarkable passage we note something of the family of Nazareth. The brothers and sisters and father are ordinary folk in comparison with that strange phenomenon, the eldest son, Jesus. We can thence trace Jude only as one of the four brethren, collectively, whose conduct is mentioned in the Gospels and Acts, as noticed in our Introduction to the Epistle of James.

The next point of his history can be only inferred from his epistle. That brief, intensive fragment was written, probably, either in Palestine or Asia Minor. From it we learn that he is a persevering and powerful assertor of Christianity, and arraigner of the heretical demoralizers of the Church.

Of his subsequent history we have nothing but contradictory traditions. Eusebius gives a narrative of a correspondence between Jesus and Abgar, king of Edessa, the letters between whom the historian professes to have seen in the archives of that city, and furnishes a copy of them. Jesus is invited by the king to visit his capital, but declines; promising, however, that after his own death a missionary of Christianity should be sent. After his death the missionary arrived, and proved to be Thaddeus the apostle. Those who identify our Jude with Thaddeus find here a trace of his career, somewhat legendary, but with, perhaps, some historic basis. This identification, however, we do not adopt.

A more authentic narrative is given by Hegesippus, as quoted by Eusebius, of the dealing of the Roman Emperor Domitian with the grandsons of Jude. Disturbed, like Herod of old, by the reports of spies that there were descendants of David who really claimed the throne of empire, Domitian sent an officer to bring the two descendants of “the Lord’s brother according to the flesh” (as both Hegesippus and Eusebius style him) into the royal presence. The emperor asked them if they were of the line of David. Both confessed the fact. He then asked them the amount of their wealth, and what resources they possessed. They both named a few thousand denarii of money shared between them, and a few acres of ground, cultivated with their own hands, from which (an important fact to the emperor) they paid their taxes and eked out a living. Their hard hands and compact bodies fully established the truth of their statements. The emperor inquired about the Christ and his kingdom; what its nature and when it would appear. They replied that it was not a secular or earthly kingdom, but celestial and angelic; that it would take place at the end of the dispensation, when he, coming in glory, would judge the living and the dead, and give to each one according to his doings. The emperor recognised their innocence, and despised their simplicity, and thereupon dismissed them from his presence, and ceased the then existing persecution against the Christians.


Eusebius tells us, that though not recognised by some, this epistle was read in the service of most churches; a very sure test of a canonical book. The Muratorian fragment accepts its canonicity at Rome; and Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, in Africa. After the reception of the epistle in such distant quarters, one is inclined to wonder that the Peshito, at home, did not contain it; yet it was recognised by Ephrem Syrus, the greatest light of the Syrian Church in the fourth century. Considering its brevity, its lateness, and the prejudices arising, as Jerome tells us, from the apparent quotation of the book of Enoch, the testimony in favour of the book is very decisive.

From this early non-recognition of the book in Syria, there arises reason of doubt whether it was written in Palestine. Yet its entire character points to Asia rather than to Europe or Africa.

The date we think to be later than the Second Epistle of Peter, inasmuch as a state of things predicted in Peter as future is vividly painted by Jude as present. Its exhibition of the facts of the age, and in the Church, correspond more nearly with that of the Epistles of John. The heretics are in the Church, or pressing hard upon it, yet have in some cases seceded, and the whole are more or less separatists in spirit. We place it, then, after the destruction of Jerusalem. The fact that that event is not enumerated among the examples of divine judgment has no bearing, since Jude quotes none but the most ancient instances, as the Exodus, the fallen angels, and Sodom. A number of destructions of Jerusalem had since taken place, with captivities and desolations; but none of them is mentioned. Jude deals with only examples of the most archaic character, which had long been consecrated by public thought as established monitions from God for all ages.

The later date of Jude is, we think, conclusively proved by the fact that Peter predicts the errorists as future, and Jude narrates their present existence. Peter gives the prophecy, Jude portrays the terrible fulfilment. Dr. Frederick Gardiner, in his scholarly monograph on Jude, (Boston, 1856,) takes issue with this view of the tenses of the two writers, on the grounds that Peter’s are not “exclusively future.” “The false teachers are described with equal clearness as already come.” But, 1. While Peter’s main verbs are uniformly future, Jude’s never are, but are past or present.

2 . In fact, Peter’s entire description is of a future. Even while he uses terms in the present tense which are descriptive of objects, they are descriptive of objects he has declared to be future. His expressions of time are like this: The corruptionists will in due time come; and their actions and characters are of such and such a character. It is never once said nor meant that they have come. 3. Thus in 2 Peter 2:1, it is said, “There shall be false teachers, denying, etc.; where surely the present participle does not vary the future of the verb. And this applies to Peter’s Second Epistle throughout. On the contrary, in Jude these “men” have “crept in unawares.” “These speak evil of things they know not.” “These are spots,” “are murmurers,” “their mouth speaketh.” St. Jude is giving a sharp sketch from present real life. His objects are present, both in place and time. Hence he is vivid, brief, and profoundly impassioned. And this self-consistency of Jude’s in tenses, goes to justify us in saying, that, while Paul to the Ephesian elders and to Timothy, and Peter in the second chapter of his Second Epistle, predict these errorists, Jude, and John in his Epistles and in the earlier part of his Apocalypse, describe the fulfilment.

Both Dr. Gardiner and Alford found an argument for the posteriority of Peter on his greater diffuseness. The brief and more condensed must, they assume, be the original; of which the more extended must be an expansion. Why not assume the exact reverse? If Peter gave a full prediction of the future coming of the corruptionists, why might not Jude afterwards take his prediction, and by a few bold strokes a few brief, vivid pictures, a few concentrated denunciations describe accordantly, and often in similar terms, the present fulfilment? A condenser may just as easily omit some things, abbreviate others, interspersing now and then a few original touches, as an expander performs the reverse feat. This we believe Jude has done. The vivid, graphic conciseness of his style, while evidently natural to his genius, are rendered still more graphic by the living presence of the characters who awaken his holy indignation.


SECOND PETER. JUDE 2 Peter 2:1. But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you. Jude 1:4. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation. 2 Peter 2:4. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment, Jude 1:6. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 2 Peter 2:6 . And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly, Jude 1:7. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, 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. 2 Peter 2:11 . Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. Jude 1:9. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. 2 Peter 2:12 . But these, as natural brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption, 10. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. 2 Peter 2:13 . Spots they are and blemishes. Jude 1:12. These are spots in your feasts of charity… clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots, 2 Peter 2:17. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. Jude 1:13 . Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. A comparison of the above and numerous other parallel passages, induces us to say, that if Jude be the earlier, Peter seems to have copied him very unskilfully; not only expanding, but often omitting many of the happiest points, and weakening nearly all he imitates. The additional strokes which Jude furnishes are often master-strokes.

1. Jude The Hebrew name Judah of the Old Testament becomes, in the New, the Greek Judas. and is abbreviated in English to this Jude. In the first it is the name of the greatest of the twelve patriarchs and of the twelve tribes; in the second it is dishonoured by the traitor among the twelve; but it is again made illustrious by the author of this remarkable epistle.

Servant of Jesus Christ Though the maternal brother of Jesus Christ, Jude shrinks with reverent modesty from holding forth that relationship. On the brothers of Jesus see our notes, Matthew 12:46; Matthew 13:55, and Introduction to James.

Brother of James Touching the three Jameses of the Gospels, see our note on Matthew 10:3. This could be no other than the third James, resident apostle or bishop of Jerusalem, and author of the epistle. Hence we have two epistles from two maternal brothers of Jesus.

To them Our Jude addresses this epistle to the whole Church of the sanctified. His descriptive title of that holy body is marked by his terseness of style, and may thus be literally translated: To those in God the Father beloved, and by Jesus Christ preserved, and [by the Holy Spirit] called. We supply “by the Holy Spirit” because the trinal clauses indicate the trinal work of the three persons of the Trinity. Sanctified, or made holy, is here, in a degree, affirmed of all true Christians. They are preserved, not like inanimate objects, physically and absolutely, but as free agents, conditionally upon their consenting to be preserved.

Called With an obeyed, and so a permanent calling. Note on 1 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 7:20.