Epistle Of Jude
From Bible Encyclopedia
The Epistle of Jude is a book in the Christian New Testament canon.
Author and date
Though the text claims to come from Judas, who is called also "Lebbaeus" (Matthew 10:3) and "Thaddaeus" (Mark 3:18), its real authorship was called into question when Origen first spoke of the doubts held by some—albeit not him. Eusebius Of Caesarea classified it with the "disputed writings, the antilegomena, and though it was eventually accepted within the canon (as early as the Muratorian canon), later writers largely objected to its citations of apocryphal literature, unusual in New Testament books.
Then, as now, the main thing that renders this short letter so controversial is the fact that it includes a direct quote from the Book of Enoch. This latter book, purporting to be the first book ever written, is known to have been in regular use by Jewish and Christian groups alike, until c. AD 90, when the Pharisee Sanhedrin at Yavneh declared it to be "no longer scriptural" and began its systematic suppression, practically erasing it from history. Were it not for the Epistle of Jude, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Ethiopian Bible, never affected by Yavneh, the Book of Enoch would be unknown today.
The debate has continued over the author's identity as the apostle, the brother of Jesus, both, or neither.
Based on the nature of the allusions to the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, citations of rabbinical works like the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses, the earliest apostolic followers seen by this author from some distance in time, and the appropriation of the authority of the historical Jude, current belief places its composition in Judea, in the first quarter of the 2nd century.
The Epistle of Jude is a brief book of only a single chapter with 25 verses. It was composed as an encyclical letter — that is, one not directed to the members of one church in particular, but intended rather to be circulated and read in all churches. The form, as opposed to the earlier letters of Paul, suggests that the author knew the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians or even that the Pauline epistles had already been collected and were circulating when the text was written.
The wording and syntax of this epistle in its original Greek demonstrates that the author was capable and fluent. The epistle is addressed to Christians in general (1:1), and it warns them about the doctrine of certain errant teachers to which they were exposed. Examples of heterodox opinions that were circulating in the early 2nd century include Docetism, Marcionism, and Gnosticism.
Many examples of evildoers and warnings about their fates are given in rapid succession. The epithets contained in this writing are considered to be some of the strongest found in the New Testament.
The fact that the Epistle of Jude is notably similar to Second Epistle Of Peter indicates the possibility that the writing of one of the epistles was influenced by the content of other. Because this epistle is much shorter than 2 Peter, and due to various stylistic details, the scholarly consensus is that Jude was the source for the similar passages of 2 Peter.
The author was “Judas, the brother of James” the Less (Jude 1:1), called also Lebbaeus (Matthew 10:3) and Thaddaeus (Mark 3:18). The genuineness of this epistle was early questioned, and doubts regarding it were revived at the time of the Reformation; but the evidences in support of its claims are complete. It has all the marks of having proceeded from the writer whose name it bears.
There is nothing very definite to determine the time and place at which it was written. It was apparently written in the later period of the apostolic age, for when it was written there were persons still alive who had heard the apostles preach (Jude 1:17). It may thus have been written about A.D. 66 or 70, and apparently in Palestine.
The epistle is addressed to Christians in general (Jude 1:1), and its design is to put them on their guard against the misleading efforts of a certain class of terrorists to which they were exposed. The style of the epistle is that of an “impassioned invective, in the impetuous whirlwind of which the writer is hurried along, collecting example after example of divine vengeance on the ungodly; heaping epithet upon epithet, and piling image upon image, and, as it were, labouring for words and images strong enough to depict the polluted character of the licentious apostates against whom he is warning the Church; returning again and again to the subject, as though all language was insufficient to give an adequate idea of their profligacy, and to express his burning hatred of their perversion of the doctrines of the gospel.”
The striking resemblance this epistle bears to 2 Peter suggests the idea that the author of the one had seen the epistle of the other.
The doxology with which the epistle concludes is regarded as the finest in the New Testament.
The writer of this short epistle calls himself Jude or Judas (Ἰούδας, Ioúdas). His name was a common one among the Jews: there were few others of more frequent use. Two among the apostles bore it, namely, Judas, mentioned in John 14:22 (compare Luke 6:16), and Judas Iscariot. Jude describes himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (Jude 1:1). The James here mentioned is no doubt the person who is called “the Lord's brother” (Galatians 1:19), the writer of the epistle that bears his name. Neither of the two was an apostle. The opening sentence of Jude simply affirms that the writer is a “servant of Jesus Christ.” This, if anywhere, should be the appropriate place for the mention of his apostleship, if he were an apostle. The appellation “servant of Jesus Christ” “is never thus barely used in an address of an epistle to designate an apostle” (Alford). Philippians 1:1 has a similar expression, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ,” but “the designation common to two persons necessarily sinks to the rank of the inferior one.” In other instances “servant” is associated with “apostle” (Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1). Jude 1:17, Jude 1:18 speaks of the “apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; that they said to you” - language which an apostle would hardly use of his fellow-apostles.
In Mark 6:3 are found the names of those of whom Jesus is said to be the brother, namely, James and Joses, and Judas and Simon. It is quite generally held by writers that the James and Judas here mentioned are the two whose epistles are found in the New Testament. It is noteworthy, however, that neither of them hints at his relationship with Jesus; their unaffected humility kept them silent. Jude mentions that he is the “brother of James,” perhaps to give authority and weight to his words, for James was far more distinguished and influential than he. The inference seems legitimate that Jude addresses Christians among whom James was highly esteemed, or, if no longer living, among whom his memory was sacredly revered, and accordingly it is altogether probable that Jude writes to the same class of readers as James - Jewish Christians. James writes to the “Twelve Tribes of the Dispersion.” Jude likewise addresses a wide circle of believers, namely, the “called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1). While he does not designate a special and distinct class, yet as James's “brother,” as belonging to the family of Joseph, and as in some true sense related to the Lord Jesus Himself, it seems probable, if not certain, that his Epistle was intended for Christian Hebrews who stood in urgent need of such testimony and appeal as Jude offers.
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. Clement of Alexandria “gave concise expositions of all the canonical Scriptures, not omitting the disputed books - the Epistle of Jude 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 Book of Enoch 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 (HDB) 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 Jude 1:22. Dr. Philip Schaff dates the Didache between 90-100 AD. L'Abbe E. Jacquier (La doctrine des Douze Apotres, 1891) is persuaded that the famous document was written not later than 80 AD. It appears, therefore, more than probable that the Epistle of Jude was known and referred to as Scripture some time before the end of the 1st century. From the survey we have thus rapidly taken of the field in which the Epistle circulated, we may conclude that in Palestine, at Alexandria, in North Africa, and at Rome, it was received as the veritable letter of Jude, “the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.”
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 Assumption of Moses, when he spoke of the contention of Michael the archangel with the devil about the body of Moses (Jude 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 (Jude 1:1, Jude 1:2), explains very definitely why he writes as he does. He indicates distinctly his anxiety on behalf of the saints (Jude 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” (Jude 1:4). They are enemies who feign to be friends, and hence, in reality are spies and traitors; like a stealthy beast of prey they creep into the company of the godly, actuated by evil intent.
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” (Jude 1:4). They are those who by a vile perverseness turn the grace and the liberty of the Gospel into a means for gratifying their unholy passions, and who in doctrine and life repudiate their Master and Lord.
3. Censorious and Arrogant Detractors.
“In their dreamings defile the flesh, and set at nought dominion, and rail at dignities” (Jude 1:8). Destitute of true reverence, they rail at the holiest and best things, and sit in judgment on all rule and all authority. They have the proud tongue of the lawless: “Our lips are our own: who Is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:4).
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” (Jude 1:10). What they do not know, as something lofty and noble, they deride and denounce; what they know is that which ministers to their disordered appetites and their debased tastes.
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” (Jude 1:12, Jude 1:13). A most graphic picture of the insincerity, the depravity, and the doom of these insolents! And yet they are found in the bosom of the Christian body, even sitting with the saints at their love-feasts!
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” (Jude 1:16). They impeach Divine wisdom, are the foes of peace and quietness, boast of their capacities to manage things, and yet they can be servile, even sycophants, when thereby advantage is secured.
7. Schismatics and Sensualists.
“These are they who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 1:19). It was characteristic of the false teachers and mockers who had invaded the Christian church that they drew lines of demarcation between themselves and others, or between different classes of believers, which the Holy Spirit did not warrant, but which was the product of their own crafty and wicked wills. There seems to be a hint in these words of incipient Gnosticism, that fatal heresy that boasted of a recondite knowledge, a deep mystery which only the initiated possessed, of which the great mass of Christians were ignorant. Jude brands the pretension as the offspring of their own sensuality, not at all of God's 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 Second Epistle of Peter.
The relation is confined to 2 Peter 2 through 3:4. A large portion of Peter's Epistle, namely, 2 Peter 1 and 2 Peter 3:5-18, bears no resemblance to Jude, at least no more than does Jas or 1 Pet. Between the sections of 2 Pet indicated above and Jude the parallelism is close, both as to the subjects treated and the historical illustrations introduced, and the language itself to some considerable extent is common to both. All readers must be impressed with the similarity. Accordingly, it is very generally held by interpreters that one of the writers copied from the other. There is not entire agreement as to which of the two epistles is the older, that is, whether Peter copied from Jude, or Jude from Peter. Perhaps a majority favor the former of the two alternatives, though some of the very latest and most learned of those who write on Introductions to the New Testament hold strongly to the view that Jude copied from 2 Pet. Reference is made particularly to Deuteronomy. Theodore v. Zahn, whose magnificent work on Introduction has been but recently translated into English, and who argues convincingly that Jude copied from 2 Pet.
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:
But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers... For there are certain men crept in privily...
Who 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.
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 2 Peter is dependent on Jude, if the apostle cited from Jude, how explain the strong predictive element in his opening verses (2 Peter 2:1-3)? If as Peter-wrote he had lying before him Jude's letter, which represents the corrupters as already within the Christian community and doing their deadly work, his repeated use of the future tense is absolutely inexplicable. Assuming, however, that he wrote prior to Jude, his predictions become perfectly intelligible. No doubt the virus was working when he wrote, but it was latent, undeveloped; far worse would appear; but when Jude wrote the poison was widely diffused, as Jude 1:12, Jude 1:19 clearly show. The very life of the churches was endangered.
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 Old Testament to indicate how far in apostasy and rebellion the libertines had gone. Three words mark their course, rising into a climax, “way” “error” “gainsay.” They went in the way of Cain, i.e. in the way of self-will, of hate, and the spirit of murder. Moreover, they “ran riotously in the error of Balsam for hire.” The words denote an activity of viciousness that enlisted all their eagerness and all their might. Balaam's error was one that led into error, one that seduced others into the commission of the like sins. The reference seems to be to the whole career of this heathen prophet, and includes his betrayal of the Israelites through the women of Moab (Numbers 31:16). Balsam is the prototype of Jude's libertines, both in his covetousness and his seductive counsel. Furthermore, they “perished in the gainsaying of Korah.” This man with 250 followers rebelled against the Divinely appointed leaders and rulers of Israel, Moses and Aaron, and sought to share their authority in Israel, if not to displace them altogether. Comparable with these rebels in ancient Israel are the treacherous and malignant foes whom Jude so vigorously denounces.
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” (Jude 1:10, Jude 1:11). Jude is more specific: These dreamers “defile the flesh, and set at nought dominion, and rail at dignities.” They repudiate all authority, despise every form of lordship, and revile those in positions of power. He cites the contention of Michael the archangel with the devil about the body of Moses, and yet this loftiest of the heavenly spirits brought no railing judgment against the adversary. Jude's description is more vivid and definite: he describes an advanced stage of apostasy.
Very noteworthy is Jude 1:22, Jude 1:23. He here turns again to the loyal and stedfast believers whom he addresses at the beginning of his letter, and he gives them directions how they are to deal with those who were ensnared by the wily foes. (The text in Jude 1:22 is somewhat uncertain, but the revision is followed.) There were some who were “in doubt.” They were those who had been fascinated by the new teaching, and although not captured by it, they were engaged in its study, were drawn toward it and almost ready to yield. On these the faithful were to have mercy, were to convince them of their danger, show them the enormities to which the false system inevitably leads, and so win them back to Christ's allegiance. As if Jude said, Deal with the wavering in love and fidelity; but rescue them if possible.
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 (Jude 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 (Jude 1:14, Jude 1:15), 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 2 Peter 2 through 3:4, we have a prophecy which exactly suits, namely, the announcement that false teachers whose theory and practice exactly correspond to those godless bearers of the Christian name in Jude will appear among a certain group of Jewish Christian churches” (Zahn). Peter's account of them is so particular that Jude would encounter no difficulty in identifying them. He is furnished by the apostle with such characteristics of them, with such illustrations and even words and phrases that he has only to place the description alongside of the reality to see how completely they match.
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” (pálai) sometimes indicates but a brief space of time, e.g. Mark 15:44 (according to the text of Weymouth and Nestle, and the Revised Version (British and American)) relates that Pilate asked the centurion if Jesus had been “any while” (palai) dead, which limits the term to a few hours. In 2 Corinthians 12:19 the word occurs, and there it must be restricted to Paul's self-defense which occupies the part of the Epistle preceding, and hence, does not extend beyond a day or two. Probably some years lie between the composition of these two epp., ample time to justify Jude's use of the word if he is referring to 2 Peter 2 through 3:4, as we certainly believe he is.
6. Corroborative References:
This interpretation of Jude 1:4 is confirmed by Jude 1:17, Jude 1:18. These verses are intimately connected with 2 Peter 3:2-4. Jude's readers are told to keep in remembrance the words spoken by the apostles of Christ, namely, “In the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts.” Peter writes, “that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts.” The resemblance of the one passage to the other is very close, indeed, they are almost identical. Both urge their readers to remember what had been said by the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, and both speak of the immoral scoffers who would invade or had invaded the Christian brotherhood. But Peter distinctly asserts that these mockers shall appear in the last days. His words are, “Knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts.” Jude writes that “in the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts.” The phrases, “the last days,” and “the last time,” denote our age, the dispensation in which we live, as Hebrews 1:2 proves. Peter puts the appearance of the scoffers in the future, whereas Jude, after quoting the words, significantly adds, “These are they who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit.” He means, of course the mockers just mentioned, and he affirms they are now present. With Peter they are yet to come when he wrote, but with Jude the prediction is already fulfilled, so far as the scoffers are concerned. Therefore Jude's writing is subsequent to Peter's, and if there be copying on the part of either, it is Jude who copies.
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” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). His prediction is near akin to that of Peter; it belongs apparently to the same historic time and to the same perilous class of evil-doers and corrupters. In [[2 Peter 3:15 the apostle lovingly and tenderly speaks of his “brother Paul,” and says suggestively that in his Epistle he speaks of these things - no doubt about the scoffers of the last days among the rest. He certainly seems to have Paul in mind when he penned the words. “Knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come.”
Here, then, is positive ground for the reference in Jude 1:4 to a writing concerning those who had crept into the fold and who were of old doomed to this condemnation, with which writing his readers were acquainted; they had it in the writing of the apostles Peter and Paul both, and so were forewarned as to the impending danger. Jude's Epistle is subsequent to Peter's.
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 Pastoral Epistles. 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.
Their character is very forcibly exhibited, but no information is given us of their origin or to what particular region they belonged. They bore the Christian name, were of the loosest morals, and were guilty of shameful excesses. Their influence seems to have been widespread and powerful, else Jude would not denounce them in such severe language. Their guilty departure from the truth must not be confounded with the Gnosticism of the 2nd century, though it tended strongly in that direction; it was a 1st-century defection. Were they newly risen sensualists, without predecessors? To some extent their forerunners had already appeared. Sensuality in some of its greaser forms disgraced the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20). In the common meals of this congregation which ended in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, they indulged in revelry and gluttony, some of them even being intoxicated (1 Corinthians 11:17-22). Participation in a heathen festival exposed the Christians to the danger of sharing in idolatry, and yet some of the Corinthians were addicted to it (1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Corinthians 10:14-32). In reading of the state of things in the church at Colosse, one perceives how fatal certain views and practices there would soon become if suffered to grow (Colossians 2:16-23; Colossians 3:5-11). Twenty years after the probable date of Jude, in some of the churches of Asia Minor, wicked parties flourished and dominated Christian assemblies that were closely allied in teaching and conduct with the ungodly of Jude. The Nicolaitans, and the “woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess; and she teacheth and seduceth my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20) belong to the same company of libertines as those of Jude. It should be no surprise to us with these examples before us, that according to Jude there were found in the bosom of the Christian community moral delinquents and shameless profligates whose conduct shocks our sense of propriety and decency, for the like evils, though not so flagrant, troubled the churches in Paul's lifetime.
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” (Jude 1:14, Jude 1:15). It is generally believed that this prophecy of Enoch is quoted by Jude from the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Granting such quotation, that fact does not warrant us to affirm that he endorsed the book. Paul cites from three Greek poets: from Aratus (Acts 17:28), from Menander (1 Corinthians 15:33; see Earle, Euripides, “Medea,” Intro, 30, where this is attributed to Euripides), and from Epimenides (Titus 1:12). Does anyone imagine that Paul endorses all that these poets wrote? To the quotation from Epimenides the apostle adds, “This testimony is true” (Titus 1:13), but no one imagines he means to say the whole poem is true. So Jude cites a passage from a non-canonical book, not because he accepts the whole book as true, but this particular prediction he receives as from God. Whence the writer of Enoch derived it is unknown. It may have been cherished and transmitted from generation to generation, or in some other way faithfully preserved, but at any rate Jude accepted it as authentic. Paul quotes a saying of the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:35) not recorded in the Gospels, but whence he derived it is unknown. As much may be said of this of Enoch which Jude receives as true.
Zahn, Introduction to New Testament; Salmon, Introduction to New Testament; Westcott, Canon of New Testament; Purves, Apostolic Age; Alford, Greek Test.; Plumptre, Commentary, “Cambridge Bible Series”; Lillie, Commentary on 1 and 2 Pet; Bigg, ICC; Vincent, Word Studies.