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Jude

Reception

“Moreover, the epistle of Jude… [is] counted (or, used) in the catholic [Church]” (the Muratorian Canon)

“Jude, who wrote the Catholic Epistle, the brother of the sons of Joseph, and very religious, while knowing the near relationship of the Lord, yet did not say that he himself was His brother. But what said he? Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ,— of Him as Lord; but the brother of James. For this is true; he was His brother, (the son) of Joseph.” (Clement of Alexandria, in Cassiodorus, Adumbrationes in Epistulas Catholicas).

“To sum up briefly, he [Clement] has given in the Hypotyposes abridged accounts of all canonical Scripture, not omitting the disputed books, — I refer to Jude and the other Catholic epistles, and Barnabas and the so-called Apocalypse of Peter” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.14.1; cf. Photius, Bibliotheca 109). 

“To these considerations is added the fact that Enoch possesses a testimony in the Apostle Jude” (Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women 1.3.1)

“And Jude, who wrote a letter of few lines, it is true, but filled with the healthful words of heavenly grace, said in the preface, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James.'” (Origen, Commentary on Matthew 10.17.40)

“Among the disputed writings, which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.25.3)

“Jude the brother of James, left a short epistle which is reckoned among the seven catholic epistles, and because in it he quotes from the apocryphal book of Enoch it is rejected by many. Nevertheless by age and use it has gained authority and is reckoned among the Holy Scriptures” (Jerome, On Illustrious Men 4)

Authorship

The traditional position is that the author was Judah/Judas (Ioudas), the brother of Jesus and James. James “the Just” was a highly venerated leader in the Jesus movement and was remembered as the bishop of the Jerusalem Church (Acts 12:17; 15:13-21; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 2:9, 12; James 1:1; Josephus, Antiquities 20.9.1; Thomas logion 12; Hegesippus, in Ecclesiastical History 2.23.4-18), so he needed no further introduction.

  • Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3; cf. Matthew 13:55)
  • Of the family of the Lord there were still living the grandchildren of Jude, who is said to have been the Lord’s brother according to the flesh. Information was given that they belonged to the family of David, and they were brought to the Emperor Domitian by the Evocatus. For Domitian feared the coming of Christ as Herod also had feared it. And he asked them if they were descendants of David, and they confessed that they were. Then he asked them how much property they had, or how much money they owned. And both of them answered that they had only nine thousand denarii, half of which belonged to each of them. And this property did not consist of silver, but of a piece of land which contained only thirty-nine acres, and from which they raised their taxes and supported themselves by their own labor. Then they showed their hands, exhibiting the hardness of their bodies and the callousness produced upon their hands by continuous toil as evidence of their own labor. And when they were asked concerning Christ and his kingdom, of what sort it was and where and when it was to appear, they answered that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly and angelic one, which would appear at the end of the world, when he should come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to give unto every one according to his works. Upon hearing this, Domitian did not pass judgment against them, but, despising them as of no account, he let them go, and by a decree put a stop to the persecution of the Church.” (Hegesippus, in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.20.1-7)

While the authorial modesty (i.e. not exploiting his familial relationship with Jesus), the extensive midrash (i.e. interpretation) on passages from the Hebrew Bible, and the citation of Jewish apocalyptic writings supports the traditional authorship. Yet other scholars question whether a poor Galilean whose first language was Aramaic would have the fluency in Greek to compose this epistle (e.g. there is a rich vocabulary and 14 hapax legomena or words used only once in the New Testament in this relatively short epistle).

Other potential candidates for authorship are less persuasive:

  • Judas Didymus Thomas: didymus is Greek for “twin” and thōmas transliterates the Aramaic te’oma’ for “twin,” Thomas was the authoritative apostle in the Thomasine literature consumed by some Christian communities (e.g. the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Thomas, the Book of Thomas the Contender), and some later Christian traditions interpreted the apostle’s nickname to mean that he was the twin brother of Jesus.
  • The apostle “Judas of James” (Ioudas Iakōbou) in Luke 6:16: the Greek likely meant Judas, the son of James.
  • The prophet Judas called Barsabbas, the emissary who delivered the letter outlining the Jerusalem decree in Acts 15:22-33.
  • An unknown Jude and James: how would the letter have attained an authoritative status if written by unknown figures?

 Date

  • Kevin Brown has a helpful blog post entitled “The Epistle of Jude in Early Christianity” summarizing the Patristic references and early manuscript evidence for the Epistle of Jude. See also Gerald L. Bray’s James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Volume XI).
  • There are extensive parallels between Jude 4 -19 and 2 Peter 2:1-3:3. While there is debate about whether the direction of influence ran from Jude to Second Peter or vice versa or whether both writings employed a common source, the majority of commentators agree that the author of Second Peter copied the epistle of Jude and dropped the explicit references to the apocryphal Jewish writings (Enoch, The Assumption of Moses). Mark Allan Power has posted the chart “Parallels between Jude and 2 Peter” for comparative purposes. Thus, Jude likely predates Second Peter and the composition of Second Peter establishes the terminus ad quem or the “limit to which” for dating the former epistle.
  • Although saint Jude is remembered as a martyr in the later hagiography about him, we do not have much secure historical information about the length of his life or the circumstances of his death. An epistle from Jude would have to be written before his death sometime in the first century, while an epistle written by another author defending the authoritative legacy of Jude could be written earlier or later.
  • Some scholars argue that the epistle is an exemplar of Jewish apocalyptic thought and dates early in the Jesus movement, while others argue that the reference to the faith delivered to the saints in verse 3, the prophecies of the collective “apostles” that are on par with other scriptural prophecies in verses 17-18, and the trinitarian language in verses 20-21 reflect the context of “early Catholicism.” However, Paul speak about the “gospel” that he shared with the Pillars in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:6-10) and Jude does not discuss ecclesiastical offices.
  • Some scholars have associated the opponents of the letter writer with “Gnosticism,” but there are no polemics against the belief in an inferior creator deity, the deprecation of the physical creation, or the role of esoteric knowledge in salvation.

Genre

  • An epistle with an opening salutation (sender, recipients, greetings), body of the letter (scriptural interpretation, exhortations), and postscript (formal doxology). The epistle contains a sermon that may not have been able to be delivered in person.
  • Audience: unspecified. There may be clues to the audience in the esteem for one of Jesus’s brothers, the Jewish modes of interpretation of the Hebrew Bible and the apocryphal texts, and the condemnation of antinomian teachers living among the audience.

Themes

  • The author of the epistle is concerned that false teachers have infiltrated the ranks of his Christ-following audience, participating in their “love feasts” (1:12), and urges them not to fall for their erroneous beliefs and practices. There is debate over whether the description of the opponents’ morally libertine behavior reflects their actual practices or reflects stock ancient polemic leveled at others.
  • The author compares the false teachers to “types” condemned in the Scriptures; These types serve as a warning of the coming apostasy immediately before the eschatological consummation of history.

 

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