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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Jude, Epistle of

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JUDE, EPISTLE OF. This short epistle is an earnest warning and appeal, couched in vivid and picturesque language, addressed to a church or a circle of churches which have become suddenly exposed to a mischievous attack of false teaching.

1. Contents

(1) Text . For its length Jude offers an unusual number of textual problems, the two most important of which are in Judges 1:5 and Judges 1:22-23 . Though the RV [Note: Revised Version.] is probably right in translating ‘Lord’ in Judges 1:5 , many ancient authorities read ‘Jesus.’ Also, the position of ‘once’ is doubtful, some placing it in the following clause. In Judges 1:22-23 editors differ as to whether there are two clauses or three. The RV [Note: Revised Version.] , following the Sinaitic, has three; and Weymouth also, who, however, follows A in his ‘resultant’ text based on a consensus of editorial opinion. But there is much in favour of a two-claused sentence beginning with either ‘have mercy’ or ‘refute.’

(2) Outline

(i.) Salutation, Judges 1:1-2 . The letter opens moat appropriately with the prayer that mercy, peace, and love may increase among the readers, who are guarded by the love of God unto the day when Jesus Christ will appear.

(ii.) Occasion of the Epistle, Judges 1:3-4 . With affectionate greeting Jude informs his readers that he was engaged upon an epistle setting forth the salvation held by all Christians Jews and Gentiles when he was surprised by news which showed him that their primary need was warning and exhortation; for the one gospel which has been entrusted to the keeping of the ‘saints’ had been endangered in their case by a surreptitious invasion of false teachers, who turned the gospel of grace into a plea for lust, thereby practically denying the lordship of Jesus Christ. It had long been foretold that the Church would be faced by this crisis through these persons. (This was a common expectation in the Apostolic age; see 2 Thessalonians 2:3 , 1 Timothy 4:1 , 2 Timothy 3:1 f., 2 Timothy 4:3 , 2 Peter 3:3 , Matthew 24:11-12 .)

(iii.) Warnings from history, Matthew 24:5-7 . Versed as they are in Scripture, they should take warning from the judgments of God under the Old Covenant. His people were destroyed for a postasy, though they had lately been saved from Egypt. Even angels were visited with eternal punishment for breaking bounds, and for fornication like that for which afterwards the cities of the plain perished. These are all awful examples of the doom that awaits those guilty of apostasy and sensuality.

(iv.) Description of the invaders, Matthew 24:8-16 . Boasting of their own knowledge through visions, these false teachers abandon themselves to sensuality, deny retribution, and scoff at the power of a spiritual world. Yet even Michael the archangel, when contending with Satan for the body of Moses, did not venture to dispute his function as Accuser, but left him and his blasphemies to a higher tribunal. But these persons, professing a knowledge of the spiritual realm of which they are really ignorant, have no other knowledge than that of sensual passion like the beasts, and are on their way to ruin. Sceptical like Cain, greedy inciters to lust like Balaam, rebellious like Korah, they are plunging into destruction. Would-be shepherds, they sacrilegiously pollute the love-feasts; delusive prophets, hopelessly dead in sin, shameless in their apostasy, theirs is the doom foretold by Enoch on the godless. They murmur against their fate, which they have brought upon themselves by lewdness, and they bluster, though on occasion they cringe for their own advantage.

(v.) The conduct of the Christian in this crisis, Matthew 24:17-23 . The Church need not be surprised by this attack, since it was foretold by the Apostles as a sign of the end, but should resist the disintegrating influence of these essentially unspiritual persons. The unity of the Church is to be preserved by mutual edification in Divine truth, by prayer through the indwelling Spirit, by keeping within the range of Divine love, and by watching for the day when Christ will come in mercy as Judge. Waverers must be mercifully dealt with; even the sensual are not past hope, though the work of rescue is very dangerous.

(vi.) Doxology, Matthew 24:24-25 . God alone, who can guard the waverer from stumbling, and can remove the stains of sin and perfect our salvation through Jesus Christ, is worthy of all glory.

2. Situation of the readers . The recipients of Jude may have belonged to one church or to a circle of churches in one district. They were evidently Gentiles, and of come standing ( Matthew 24:3; Matthew 24:5 ). The Epistle affords very little evidence for the locality of the readers, but Syria or the Hellenistic cities of Palestine seem to suit the conditions. Syria would be a likely field for a distortion of the Pauline gospel of grace ( Matthew 24:4 ). Also, if Jude was the brother of James of Jerusalem, whose influences extended throughout Palestine and probably Syria ( Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:12 ), the address in Galatians 2:1 is explained. Syria was a breeding-ground for those tendencies which developed into the Gnostic systems of the 2nd century. Even as early as 1 Cor. ideas similar to these were troubling the Church ( 1Co 5:10; 1 Corinthians 11:17 ff.), and when the Apocalypse was written the churches of Asia were distressed by the Nicolaitans and those who, like Balaam, led the Israelites into idolatrous fornication ( Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:14-15 ). In 3 Jn. there is further evidence of insubordination to Apostolic authority. New esoteric doctrine, fornication, and the assumption of prophetic power within the Church for the sake of personal aggrandizement, are features common to all. Jude differs in not mentioning idolatry. Possibly magic played no inconsiderable part in the practice of these libertines. We know that it met the gospel early in its progress ( Acts 8:9-24; Acts 13:6-12; Acts 19:18-19 ). There is, however, no trace in Jude of a highly elaborated speculative system like those of the 2nd cent. Gnosticism. These persons deny the gospel by their lives, a practical rather than an intellectual revolt against the truth. The inference from Acts 19:5-7 is that these errorists would not refuse to acknowledge the OT as a source of instruction; being in this also unlike Gnostics of the 2nd century. The phenomenon, as it is found in Jude, is quite explicable in the last quarter of the 1st century.

3. Authorship . The author of this Epistle is very susceptible to literary influence, especially that of Paul. Compare Judges 1:1 with 1Th 1:4 , 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Judges 1:10; Judges 1:19 with 1 Corinthians 2:14; Judges 1:20-21 with Romans 5:5; Romans 8:26 , Colossians 2:7; Judges 1:24-25 with Romans 16:25-27 , Colossians 1:22; and with the Pastoral Epistles frequently, e.g. , 1 Timothy 1:3; 1Ti 1:17; 1 Timothy 5:24; 1Ti 6:5 , 2 Timothy 3:6; 2Ti 3:8; 2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Timothy 4:3 f. His relation to 2Peter is so close that one probably borrowed from the other, though there is great diversity of opinion as to which. See Peter [Second Ep. of], 4. ( e ). Bigg suggests ‘that the errors denounced in both Epistles took their origin from Corinth, that the disorder was spreading, that St. Peter took alarm and wrote his Second Epistle, sending a copy to St. Jude with a warning of the urgency of the danger, and that St. Jude at once Issued a similar letter to the churches in which he was personally interested.’ Jude is also unique in the NT in his use of apocryphal writings the Assumption of Moses in 2 Timothy 4:9 , and the Book of Enoch in v. 6, 14, 15 almost in the same way as Scripture.

The Jude who writes cannot be the Apostle Judas (Luke 6:16 , Acts 1:13 ), nor does he ever assume Apostolic authority. James ( Acts 1:1 ) must be the head of the Jerusalem Church, and the brother of our Lord. Jude probably called himself ‘servant’ and not ‘brother’ of Jesus Christ ( Matthew 13:55 , Mark 6:3 ), because he felt that his unbelief in Jesus in the days of His flesh did not make that term a title of honour, and he may have come to understand the truth that faith, not blood, constitutes true kinship with Christ. The difficulty of accounting for the choice of such a pseudonym, and the absence from the letter of any substantial improbability against the traditional view, make it reasonable to hold that Jude the brother of our Lord was the author. He may have written it between a.d. 75 and 80, probably before 81, for Hegesippus (170) states that Jude’s grandsons were small farmers in Palestine, and were brought before Domitian (81 96) and contemptuously dismissed.

4. External testimony . In the age of the Apostolic Fathers the only witness to Jude is the Didache , and that is so faint as to count for little. By the beginning of the 3rd cent. it was well known in the west, being included in the Muratorian Fragment ( c [Note: circa, about.] . 200), commented upon by Clement of Alexandria, and accepted by Origen and by Tertullian. Ensebius places it among the ‘disputed’ books, saying that it had little early recognition. It is absent from the Peshitta version. The quotations from apocryphal writings hindered its acceptance, but the early silence, on the assumption of its genuineness, is to be accounted for chiefly by its brevity and its comparative unimportance.

R. A. Falconer.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Jude, Epistle of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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