Introduction to the Epistle of Jude
The writer calls himself “the bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (v.1). There are at least another six “Judas”s in the New Testament: 1) Judas the Iscariot (Matt. 10:4); 2) Judas, the brother of the Lord in the flesh (Matt. 13:55); 3) Judas, the son of James (Luke 6:16); 4) Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:37); 5) Judas in Damascus who received Saul after Saul was saved (Acts 9:11); 6) Judas called Barsabas (Acts 15:22).
Only Judas, the physical brother of the Lord Jesus, among the above-mentioned six ones coincides with the description in this book ---- “the brother of James”, for the Lord Jesus also had a physical brother named James (see Matt. 13:55), namely, the writer of the Book of James (see James 1:1), who was also called “the pillar of the church” (see Gal. 2:9). There was another Judas (Luke 6:16), the son of James, but the footnote of the word “son” was “son or brother” (see Acts 1:13). This Judas was one of the apostles, and it was said in verse 17 of this book: “remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ”, which indicated that the writer himself was not an apostle. Therefore, a conclusion can be drawn that the writer of this book is Judas the physical brother of the Lord Jesus, who is also the brother of James.
Some Bible expositors declared the writer of this book was not one of the above-mentioned “Judas”s, but another unknown Judas. And he happened to have a brother named James. However, such an unknown Judas could not have such great authority to be approved by the godfathers who put his writing into the New Testament.
Concerning Judas the physical brother of the Lord
Jesus, his words and deeds had not been recorded in detail in the New
Testament. We know only that he did not believe the Lord in the beginning as
his brother James (see John 7:5). The revelation of the risen Lord to them (see
1Cor. 15:6-7) made them believe Him. Probably, they took part in the continual
prayer in the chamber of
II. The Time and Location the Epistle was Written
Concerning the time the epistle was written, it is mentioned in this epistle: 1) “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (v.3); 2) “remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.17); 3) the tense of the words describing the heretical teachers in the book seemed that all had become the fact, which was not like the future tense in the Second Epistle of Peter: “there shall be …” (2Pet. 2:1); “there shall come at the close of the days…” (3:3);
According to the
three above-mentioned proofs, we may draw such conclusions: this book was
written later than the Second Epistle of Peter; 2) at that time, all the
apostle except for the apostle John had been martyred for the Lord. Therefore,
this epistle might be written during 80-90 AD. Some Bible expositors inferred
that this book might be written before 70 AD, for it was not mentioned in this
Concerning the location this epistle was written, it would not be inferred since there was no material for inference.
III. The Recipients
This epistle was written to “those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” (v.1). Therefore, it was not a specific letter to a certain local church or a special believer, but a common epistle to all those who are called and beloved and saved by grace. No matter the whole church or individual believers, both are the recipients of this epistle.
IV. The Motivation for Writing this Epistle
Since the “common salvation” Christians had obtained was facing a great crisis ---- some heretical false teachers “had crept in unnoticed” and changed the nature of God’s salvation and denied the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the writer here called all believers to contend earnestly for the pure faith so as to avoid repeating the faults of the Israelites again (v.13-14).
V. The Importance of this Book
Since this epistle is the last one of the epistles in the New Testament and the epistle before the Book of Revelation, it can be regarded as the conclusion of the epistles in the New Testament as well as the preface of the Book of Revelation. The truth of salvation is represented in detail in the epistles of the New Testament. According to these epistles, we have obtained and enjoyed “the great salvation” of God (Heb. 2:3). However, without this epistle, we may “slip away”. And the Book of Revelation predicts the end and judgment in the end as well as the reward of the kingdom of one thousand year and the beautiful eternal world. The Epistle of Jude opens the prelude of the Book of Revelation and presents us two ways: all those who keep the sound faith are overcomers kept by the Lord and will be partakers of the coming reward. Contrarily, all those who run to the way of errors will be judged and chastened by God. Obviously, this epistle inherits the past and ushers in the future in the Bible.
VI. Main Structure and General Description
The theme of this epistle is to contend earnestly for the faith. In the worldly warfare there is defense and attack. And in the spiritual warfare, we shall both know the enemies and build ourselves. If we desire to overcome in the warfare concerning faith, we have to clearly distinguish the nature and means and end of the heretical false teachers and take them as an example. And besides, we have to keep us in the love of God with three specific points: 1) build ourselves up on our most holy faith; 2) pray in the Holy Spirit; 3) look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
VII. Special Points
This epistle has the following characteristics:
1. This epistle is most characterized by ten “triangular combinations” ---- a) three aspects of grace: be called, be sanctified and be preserved (v.1); b) three blessings: mercy and peace and love (v.2); c) three examples: the unbelieving people of Israel, the angels who did not keep their proper domain, and Sodom and Gomorrah ---- those who lived in the cities went after strange flesh (v.5-7); d) three corruptions: the way of Cain, the error of Balaam and the rebellion of Korah (v.11); e) three kinds of ungodliness: who are ungodly, ungodly deeds and ungodly words (v.15); f) three preservations: build up, pray and look for (v.20-21); g) the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit, God and the Lord Jesus Christ (v.20-21); h) three attitudes: mercy, pull out of, save with fear (v.22-23); i) three periods of time: before the whole age, now and forever (v.25); j) three “keep”s: be preserved by the Lord… (v.1), keep oneself (v.21), God keeps… (v.24).
2. This epistle quotes the well-known legendary story among the Jews ---- the archangel Michael contended with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses (v.9). It was said that this story was recorded in the Testament of Moses, but it could not be verified for the book was lost.
3. This book quotes the prophecy of Enoch, the
seventh from Adam, in I Enoch, which is one book of the Apocrypha (v.14-15).
However, it does not mean the writer Jude regards the Apocrypha as the Bible,
for others Scriptures also have also quoted the verses outside of the canonic
New Testament, e.g.: 1) Acts 17:28 quotes the Greek poems; 2) 1Cor.10:4 quotes
the words of the Rabbi Midrash; 3) 2Tim. 3:8 the names of “Jannes and Jambres”
are not out of the Old Testament; 4) Titus 1:12 quotes the words of a local
VIII. Its Relations with Other Books in the Scriptures
Many verses in this book are identical with that of the Second Epistle of Peter (2:1-3:3), and such verses are listed as below: 1) the heretical false teachers and their doctrines crept in unnoticed (Jude v.3; 2Pet. 2:1); 2) the angels who did not keep their proper domain (Jude v.6; 2Pet. 2:4); 3) things of the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude v.7; 1Pet. 2:6); 4) the heretical teachers defiled the flesh and rejected authority and spoke evil of dignitaries (Jude v.8; 1Pet. 2:10); 5) the heretical false teachers were like brute beasts (Jude v.10; 1Pet. 2:12); 6) the apostles prophesied there would be heretical false teachers in the last time (Jude v.17-18; 1Pet. 3:2-3);
The similarities of the two books caused the contention that who copied whose anyways. Beyond all question, the Second Epistle of Peter was written earlier than the Epistle of Jude (please see the Time and Location the Book was Written). Jude might refer to the epistles of the apostle Peter and he also added something that did not appear in the Second Epistle of Peter. Therefore, we may conclude that the Second Epistle of Peter gave the warning beforehand and the Epistle of Jude exposed the fact.
IX. Key Verses
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (v.20-21);
X. Key Words
“Preserve, keep, reserve” (v. 1, 6, 13, 21);
“Mercy” (v. 2, 21, 22, 23);
“Faith” (v.3, 20);
“Ungodly” (v.15, 15, 15, 18);
XI. Outlines of the Book
Contend Earnestly for the Faith
A. Opening words ---- greeting (v.1-2);
B. Reasons for contention ---- for the heretical false teachers appeared in the church (v.3-16);
1. Falsehood of the heretical false teachers ---- distort the faith (v.3-4);
2. Warning examples of the heretical false teachers ---- three historical facts (v.5-7);
3. Words and deeds of the heretical false teachers ---- who are like dreamers and brute beasts (v.8-10);
4. Reasons for the woe to the heretical false teachers ---- three historical facts (v.11);
5. Nature of the heretical false teachers ---- six terrible parables (v.12-13);
6. End of the heretical false teachers ---- the prophecy of Enoch (v.14-16);
C. The equipment for the contention ---- to oneself and to others (v.17-23);
1. Remember the words of the apostle ---- the proof of the Bible(v.17-19);
2. Build oneself up in faith ---- the establishment of faith (v.20);
3. Pray in the Holy Spirit ---- the help of the Spirit (v.20);
4. Keep oneself ---- be strengthened by the love of God and the mercy of the Lord (v.21);
5. Have compassion upon man and save man, and fear and hate the flesh ---- (v.22-23);
D. Closing words ---- praise (v.24-25);
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Mary Zhou