The Epistle of Jude
I. JUDE’s POSITION IN THE CANON
II. THE OCCASION OF ITS COMPOSITION
III. DESCRIPTION OF THE LIBERTINES AND APOSTATES
IV. RELATION OF JUDE TO THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER
3. Further Contrasts
5. Evidence of Priority of Peter
6. Corroborative References
V. DATE OF THE EPISTLE
VI. THE LIBERTINES OF JUDE’s EPISTLE
I. Jude’s Position in the Canon.
It is now and for a long while has been an assured one. Its rank, though not altogether that of 1 Peter and 1 John, is high, for centuries indeed undoubted. Almost from the beginning of the Christian era men every way qualified to speak with authority on the question of genuineness and authenticity endorsed it as entitled to a place in the New Testament Scriptures. Origen repeatedly quotes it, in one place describing it as an "ep. of but few lines, but full of powerful words of heavenly grace" (Matt., tom. X, 17). But Origen knew that it was not universally received."gave concise expositions of all the canonical Scriptures, not omitting the disputed books--the and the other Catholic epp." (quoted by Westcott, Canaanite, 322-23 and Salmon, Intro, 493). Tertullian (Cult. Fem. i.3) in striving to establish the authority of the urges as a crowning argument that it is quoted by "the apostle Jude." "We may infer that, Jude’s Ep,; was an unquestioned part of Tertullian’s Canon. Athanasius inserted it in his list of New Testament books, but Eusebius placed it among the disputed books in his classification. The Canon of Muratori includes Jude among the books of Scripture, though it omits the Epistles of James, Peter and Hebrews. This is one of the earliest documents containing a list of the New Testament books now known. By the great majority of writers the date of the fragment is given as circa 170 AD, as it claims to have been written not long after Pius was bishop of Rome, and the latest date of Pius is 142-57 AD. The words of the document are, "The Shepherd was written very recently in our own time by Hermas, while his brother Pius sat in the chair of the Church of Rome." Twenty or twenty-five years would probably satisfy the period indicated by the words, "written very recently in our own time," which would fix the date of the fragment at circa 170 AD. Salmon, however, strongly inclines to a later date, namely, circa 200-210 AD, as does Zahn.
Zahn (Introduction to the New Testament, II, 259, English Translation), and Professor Chase (H D B) are of the decided opinion that the Didache, ii. 7: "Thou shalt not hate anyone, but some thou shalt rebuke, and for some thou shalt pray, and some thou shalt love above thine own soul (or life)," is rounded on
The chief reason why it was rejected by some and regarded with suspicion by others in primitive times is its quotation from the apocryphal Book of Enoch, so Jerome informs us (Vir. Ill., 4). It is possible that Jude had in mind another spurious writing, namely, the, when he spoke of the contention of Michael the archangel with the devil about the body of Moses (1:9). This, however, is not quite certain, for the date assigned to that writing is circa 44 AD, and although Jude might have seen and read it, yet its composition is so near his own day that it could hardly have exerted much influence on his mind. Besides, the brevity of the Epistle and its dealing with a special class of errorists would limit to a certain extent its circulation among Christians. All this serves to explain its refusal by some and the absence of reference to it by others.
II. The Occasion of Its Composition.
Jude, after his brief introduction (1:1,2), explains very definitely why he writes as he does. He indicates distinctly his anxiety on behalf of the saints (1:3): "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." He had received very distressing knowledge of the serious state into which the Christian brotherhood was rapidly drifting, and he must as a faithful servant of Jesus Christ exhort them to steadfastness and warn them of their danger. He had in mind to write them a doctrinal work on the salvation common to all Christians. Perhaps he contemplated the composition of a book or treatise that would have discussed the great subject in an exhaustive manner. But in face of the perils that threatened, of the evils already present in the community, his purpose was indefinitely postponed. We are not told how he became acquainted with the dangers which beset his fellow-believers, but the conjecture is probably correct that it was by means of his journeys as an evangelist. At any rate, he was thoroughly conversant with the evils in the churches, and he deals with them as befitted the enormities that were practiced and the ruin that impended.
The address of the Epistle is remarkable for the affection Jude expresses for these saints. Obviously they are distinct from the libertines of whom he speaks with such solemn condemnation. They were the faithful who kept aloof from the ungodly that surrounded them, and who held fast to the truth they had been taught. Jude describes them as those "that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: Mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied." At the close of the Epistle he commends them "unto him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy." A separated and devoted band they certainly were, a noble and trustworthy company of believers for whose well-being Jude was supremely anxious.
III. Description of the Libertines and Apostates.
It is needful to gaze with steady vision on the portrait Jude furnishes of these depraved foes, if we are to appreciate in any measure the force of his language and the corruption already wrought in the brotherhood. Some of their foul teachings and their vicious practices, not all, are here set down.
1. Surreptitious Foes.
"For there are certain men crept in privily .... ungodly men" (
2. Perverters of Grace and Deniers of Christ.
"Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (
3. Censorious and Arrogant Detractors.
"In their dreamings defile the flesh, and set at nought dominion, and rail at dignities" (
4. Ignorant Calumniators and Brutish Sensualists.
"These rail at whatsoever things they know not: and what they understand naturally, like the creatures without reason, in these things are they destroyed" (
5. Hypocrites and Deceivers.
"These are they who are hidden rocks in your love-feasts when they feast with you, shepherds that without fear feed themselves; clouds without water .... autumn trees without fruit .... wild waves of the sea .... wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved forever" (
6. Grumblers, Fault-finders, Pleasure-seekers, Boasters, Parasites.
"These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts .... showing respect of persons for the sake of advantage" (
7. Schismatics and Sensualists.
"These are they who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit" (
Such is the forbidding portrait drawn of the libertines in the Epistle. But Jude adds other and even darker features. He furnishes a number of examples of apostates and of apostasy which disclose even more strikingly the spirit and the doom of them that pervert the truth, that deny the Lord Jesus Christ, and that mock at the things of God. These all mark a fatal degeneracy, a "falling away," which bodes nothing but evil and judgment. Against the corrupters and skeptics Jude writes with a vehemence that in the New Testament is without a parallel. Matters must have come to a dreadful pass when the Spirit of God is compelled to use such stern and awful language.
IV. Relation of Jude to the.
The relation is confined to
However, it must be admitted that there are in the two epistles as pronounced differences and divergences as there are resemblances. If one of the two did actually copy from the other, he was careful to add, subtract, and change what he found in his "source" as best suited his purpose. A servile copyist he certainly was not. He maintained his independence throughout, as an exact comparison of the one with the other will demonstrate.
If we bring them into close proximity, following the example of Professor Lumby in the "Bible Comm." (Intro to 2 Pet), we shall discover a marked difference between the two pictures drawn by the writers. We cannot fail to perceive how much darker and more sinister is that of Jude. The evil, alarming certainly in Peter, becomes appalling in Jude. Subjoined are proofs of the fact above stated:
2 Peter 2:1
But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers ....
2 Peter 2:1
shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them ....
.... ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 2:3
And in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you ....
.... murmerers, complainers, walking after their own lusts (and their mouth speaketh great swelling words), showing respect of persons for the sake of advantage.
These contrasts and comparisons between the two epistles prove
(1) that in Jude the false teachers are worse, more virulent than in Peter, and
(2) that in Peter the whole description is predictive, whereas in Jude the deplorable condition is actually present.
If 2Pe is dependent on Jude, if the apostle cited from Jude, how explain the strong predictive element in his opening verses (
2 Peter 2:4,5
For if God spared not the angels when they sinned .... and spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others ....
.... The Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them .... and angels that .... left their proper habitation ....
3. Further Contrasts:
Peter speaks of the angels that sinned, Jude of their apostasy. Peter makes prominent the salvation of Noah and his family when the flood overwhelmed the world of the ungodly, while Jude tells of those who, delivered from bondage, afterward were destroyed because of their unbelief. He speaks of no rescue; we know of but two who survived the judgments of the wilderness and who entered the Land of Promise, Caleb and Joshua. Peter mentions the fate of the guilty cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but he is careful to remind us of the deliverance of righteous Lot, while Jude makes prominent their nameless crimes and consigns them to "the punishment of eternal fire," but he is silent on the rescue of Lot. Manifestly Jude’s illustrations are darker and more hopeless than Peter’s.
Peter instances Balsam as an example of one who loved the hire of wrongdoing and who was rebuked for his transgression. But Jude cites three notable instances in the
Peter speaks of them as "daring, self-willed, they tremble not to rail at dignities: whereas angels, though greater in might and power, bring not a railing judgment against them before the Lord" (
Very noteworthy is
There were others whose peril was greater: "And some save, snatching them out of the fire." These were identified with the wicked, were scorched by the fires of destruction and hence, almost beyond reach of rescue; but if possible they are to be saved, however seethed and blackened. Others still there were who were in worse state than the preceding, who were polluted and smirched by the foul contamination of the guilty seducers, and such were to be saved, and the rescuers were to fear lest they should be soiled by contact with the horrible defilement. This is Jude’s tremendous summary of the shameful work and frightful evils wrought in the bosom of the church by the libertines. He discloses in these trenchant verses how deeply sunk in sin the false teachers were, and how awful the ruin they had wrought. The description is quite unparalleled in 2 Pet. The shadings in Jude are darker and deeper than those in 2 Pet.
The comparison between the two writings warrants, we believe, the following conclusions:
(1) that Peter and Jude have in view the same corrupt parties;
(2) that Peter paints them as godless and extremely dangerous, though not yet at their worst; while Jude sets them forth as depraved and as lawless as they can well be;
(3) that Peter’s is the older writing and that Jude was acquainted with what the apostle had written.
Stronger evidence than any yet produced of Peter’s priority is now to be submitted, and here we avail ourselves in part of Zahn’s array of evidence.
5. Evidence of Priority of Peter:
Jude asserts with great positiveness that (1:4) certain men had crept in privily into the Christian fold, "even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men." Obviously Jude is here speaking of the enemies whom he afterward goes on to describe and denounce in his Epistle. He distinctly affirms that these foes had been of old written of and beforehand designated unto "this condemnation." He clearly has in mind an authoritative writing that spoke of the identical parties Jude himself deals with. He does not tell us whose writing it is that contains the "condemnation" of the errorists; he only declares that there is such a Scripture existing and that he is acquainted with it. Now, to what writing does he refer? Not to any Old Testament prophecy, for none can be found that answers to the words. Nor yet to the prediction of Enoch (1:14,15), for it speaks of the advent of the Lord in judgment at the last day, whereas Jude applies his reference to the ungodly who were then present in the Christian assemblies, corrupting the churches with their wicked teaching and practices. "In
It may be objected that the words, "were of old written of beforehand," denote a long period, longer than that which elapsed between the two epistles. But the objection is groundless. The original term for "of old" (palai) sometimes indicates but a brief space of time, e.g.
6. Corroborative References:
This interpretation of
Peter mentions "your apostles," including himself in the phrase, but Jude does not employ the plural pronoun, for he was not of the apostolic body. But why the plural, "apostles"? Because at least one other apostle had spoken of the perilous times which were coming on the church of God. Paul unites his testimony with that of Peter, and writes, "But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come" (
Here, then, is positive ground for the reference in
V. Date of the Epistle.
There is little or no agreement as to the year, yet the majority of writers hold that it belongs to the latter half of the 1st century. Zahn assigns it to 70-75 AD; Lumby, circa 80 AD; Salmon, before the reign of Domitian (81 AD); Sieffert, shortly. prior to Domitian; Chase, not later than 80 AD, probably within a year or two of the. Zahn strongly insists on 64 AD as the date of Peter’s death. If the 2nd Epistle bearing his name is authentic, the apostle could not possibly have copied from Jude, for Jude’s letter was not in existence when he died. Even on the supposition that he suffered death 65-66 AD, there could have been no copying done save by Jude, for it is almost demonstrable that Jude was written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. If 2 Peter is pseudonymous and written about the middle of the 2nd century, as some confidently affirm, it has no right to a place in the Canon nor any legitimate relation to Jude. If genuine, it antedates Jude.
VI. The Libertines of Jude’s Epistle.
Jude brands them as enemies and apostates. He pronounces their doom in the words of Enoch: "Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment upon all" (
Zahn, Introduction to New Testament; Salmon, Introduction to New Testament; Westcott, Canon of New Testament; Purves,; Alford, Greek Test.; Plumptre, Commentary, "Cambridge Bible Series"; Lillie, Commentary on 1 and 2 Pet; Bigg, ICC; Vincent, Word Studies.
William G. Moorehead