Jude - Edwin A. Blum Expositor's Bible Commentary
Edwin A. Blum
Introduction to Jude
The first verse identifies the author of this letter as "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James." "James," an English form of the Hebrew name "Jacob," was a popular name among the Jews in NT times because of its patriarchal connection. Likewise popular was "Judah," the name of Jacob's fourth son, founder of the tribe of Judah. "Jude" is an English form of "Judas" (loudas), the Greek form of "Judah." The name gained added luster from Judas Maccabaeus, a national hero of the Jews, who led the revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. But the perfidy of Judas Iscariot may perhaps have led practically all major English versions (except the RV) to use the form "Jude" rather than "Judas" in translating this letter.
Can Jude be identified with any certainty among the number of men in the NT named Judas? BAG lists eight possibilities (pp. 380-81). The link of Jude with James provides the best clue for identifying the author of the letter. After the martyrdom of James the son of Zebedee under Herod Agrippa I (c. A.D. 44; cf. Acts 12:2), the only James who is well enough known in the early church that the unspecified use of his name would be generally recognizable was James of Jerusalem. Paul called him "James, the Lord's brother" (Gal 1:19). Later, according to Hegesippus, he became known as "James the Just."
If the James of Jude 1:1 can be so identified, Jude was the brother of the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1Cor 15:7, Gal 1:19, 2:9, 12) and the half-brother of Jesus of Nazareth (Matt 13:55, Mark 6:3). If the Jude of this letter was the half-brother of Jesus, he did not believe in the messiahship of Jesus until after the Resurrection (John 7:5; cf. Acts 1:14 ["his brothers"]). This probably explains the humility with which Jude introduces himself in 1:1 as a servant (slave) of the brother (now recognized as the Messiah) he had denied.
In a story that comes from Hegesippus and is related by Eusebius, this trait of humility was shown by the grandsons of Jude, "said to have been the Lord's brother according to the flesh." (This is "the only mention of Jude [the man] in ecclesiastical history" [HDB, s.v.].) The story tells how the grandsons were brought before Domitian, the Roman emperor (A.D. 81-96), and accused of belonging to the royal house of David. The emperor questioned them about the Christ and his kingdom, and they explained that it was a heavenly kingdom that would come at the end of the age. So the emperor dismissed them as simple peasants with no royal pretensions.
Modern objections to the authorship of the letter by a half-brother of Jesus include the fact that its language seems very Hellenistic for an author who grew up in Galilee. In addition, the vocabulary abounds in ornate and rare words (there are thirteen words not found elsewhere in the NT). Yet it is unreasonable to dogmatize about what facility in the Greek language and literature or what knowledge of Jewish apocalytic writings (cf. the possible use of the Assumption of Moses in v. 9 and the Apocalypse of Enoch in v. 14) the half-brother of Jesus might have had. Greek was the lingua franca of the Mediterranean world, and the presence of the Decapolis to the east and to the south of the Sea of Galilee provided ample opportunity for Greek influence on nearby Nazareth.
Hughes has surveyed the evidence regarding the languages Jesus used in his ministry and concludes that, while more work needs to be done in this field, it is certainly probable that Jesus spoke Greek fluently. His half-brother Jude grew up in a multilingual environment. Turner describes the language of Jude as revealing a Jewish Christian author who had a distinctly Hellenistic style. In addition, Turner finds evidence of biblical Greek in Jude's vocabulary.
Schrage opposes the authorship of the letter by the Lord's half-brother on the ground that it bears the marks of the beginning of early Catholicism (Fruhkatholizismus). "Early Catholicism" is a step in the development of the Catholicism of the later Roman church. Schrage finds support for his view in the "Catholic" salutation of the letter as well as in the letter's artistic style and its appeal to tradition (v. 3). From this slender evidential base, he alleges a late date of composition that would rule out the possibility that Jude the half-brother of Jesus wrote the letter (Balz and Schrage, pp. 219-20).
None of these objections are weighty, since the appeal to tradition is common in Paul's letters (cf. 1Cor 11:23ff.; 15:3ff.). The salutation and artistic style of the letter do not prove a late date. Christianity spread rapidly in the ancient world; so a "polished" work may well have been sent to the church at large in Jude's time.
The letter is so short that it contains little to help fix its date of composition other than the points mentioned above and inferences that can be drawn from the heresy the author opposes. If the author was the younger half-brother of Jesus (the older half-brother being the influential James of Jerusalem), the most probable time of writing would be between A.D. 40 and 80. If the letter was used by Peter in 2 Peter, the writing would have to be sometime prior to Peter's death or before A.D. 65. However, Peter's use of Jude is not certain (cf. Introduction to 2 Peter: Special Problem). Guthrie thinks Jude could have been written in the period between 65 and 80. The heresy of the false teachers could have developed quite early. So all things considered, the letter may most probably be dated about 60 to 65.
If 2 Peter utilized Jude and if Peter wrote 2 Peter (both positions are disputed), then 2 Peter is the oldest witness to Jude, and its "apostolic" character or canonicity is, in principle, settled at a very early date. In the early church fathers, a number of allusions to Jude have been identified (cf. Bigg, pp. 305-9). The Muratorian Canon (c. 200) states that an epistle of Jude was accepted in the Catholic church. Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen all knew the book.
Eusebius, in speaking of the Epistle of James, says, "It is to be observed that its authenticity is denied since few of the ancients quote it, as is also the case with the epistle called Jude's which is itself one of the seven called Catholic; nevertheless we know that these letters have been used publicly with the rest in most churches." Eusebius later ranks Jude as a book of the church that has been spoken against (Antilegomenon) and distinguishes it from the spurious books (Notha). Schelkle (p. 144) says that Jude was considered canonical by the end of the second century in Rome, Africa, and Egypt.
On the other hand, there were doubts about the letter. Those who spoke against it objected to its use of noncanonical writings and noted also the limited number of citations of the letter in the literature of the early church. These doubts were overcome, and the worth of the book was recognized by the church. Didymus of Alexandria (c.395) defended the book, and since then little objection to its canonicity has been voiced.
4. Place of Origin
The lack of internal clues makes determining the letter's place of origin a problem. Egypt and Palestine are common guesses.
Since the address is so general—"To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ" (v. 1)—it is quite possible that the author intended the letter to be circulated to a number of churches. Against this are the internal indications that the author knows the conditions within the church or churches to whom he writes (v. 4). It is possible, however, that Jude itinerated and thus knew the dangers affecting the churches of a region or a circuit of churches within a region. The fixing of the destination remains speculative. Asia Minor, Syrian Antioch, or even Palestine are common suggestions.
Jude had desired to write on the subject of the church's teaching ("the salvation we share," v. 3). But he found it necessary to warn his readers concerning innovators who were smuggling false teaching into the churches. Quite likely, these teachers had an itinerant ministry in imitation of the apostles. Both Paul (cf. Gal, Col) and John (cf. 1 and 2 John) faced the problem of false teachers who promoted a different gospel and erroneous instruction.
Jude's purpose is to give a strong denunciation of the errorists. He evidently hopes that by his concise but vigorous exposure of them, the church will see the danger of their error and be alert to the coming judgment on it. Jude also wants to reassure the church by showing that the fact that such scoffers would come was part of the content of apostolic prophecy. In his last paragraphs, he calls the Christians to exercise their faith within the received common instruction. He also praises God as the one who is able to keep both the church and individuals from falling. Christians may have confidence that the God who began a good work of salvation within them (Philippians 1:6) will keep them (v. 1) and finally bring them safely into his glorious presence (v. 24).
The Book of Jude has been called "the most neglected book in the New Testament." There may be various reasons for its neglect, e.g., its brevity, its citation of noncanonical Jewish writings, and its burning denunciation of error. Yet Christians and the church today need to listen to Jude's contribution to biblical revelation. The emphasis on a "fixed" core of truth known as "the faith" needs to be pondered. Jesus is God's Word to man (cf. Rom 6:17; Heb 1:1-4). "God is light; in Him there is no darkness" (1 John 1:5ff.) is the apostle John's summary of the revelation of God in Jesus. God is righteous and true and he hates sin and error.
Contemporary culture is becoming indifferent to the question of truth. Christians have found truth in Jesus (Eph 4:21). Jude warns of the dangers in the mixture of error with this truth. So his eloquent tract for maintaining the purity and truth of the Christian faith is needed in view of the relativity and syncretism so common today. While it must be granted that some Christians have been and are still intolerantly dogmatic about relatively minor theological issues, there is also the great danger of accepting uncritically all teaching or positions as valid and thus compromising God's once-and-for-all self-disclosure in Jesus.
7. Special Problems
At least two special problems confront the student of Jude: the identity of the heretics and the relation of Jude to 2 Peter. For a discussion of the second problem, see the Introduction to 2 Peter.
Regarding the first problem, the identity of the heretics, Rowston states "that Hermann Werdermann is the only modern scholar to investigate the matter fully." Werdermann called the error "libertine gnosis" and did not identify it with any known system. But since 1913, the time of Werdermann's work, the amount of knowledge concerning Gnosticism has greatly increased. While the exact historical background of Jude is still uncertain, much more information is available (e.g., from Nag Hamadi in Egypt [ancient Chenoboskion]) to supplement previous sources (e.g., Plotinus, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Epiphanius, and Clement of Alexandria.
The emerging picture of the world of Gnosticism is very complicated. Generally speaking, the Gnostic world-view was hostile toward the world and all worldly ties. From this perspective, Gnosticism branched into ascetic and libertine divisions. For the libertine Gnostic the idea of "thou shalt" or "thou shalt not" does not come from God (who is absolutely transmundane) but from the Archons (or the demiurges) who are related to this world. Salvation (pneumatic freedom) involves the intentional violation of the rules of the Archons. Gnosticism also could cause a nihilism. In some systems, the Gnostic despaired of this world to such an extent that body and soul were meaningless. Only the acosmic pneuma would transcend this universe to reach the unknown God.
Against this kind of thinking, Jude's strong polemic becomes understandable. The heretics were antinomian; they did not observe Christian moral instruction. Though the false teachers spoke about the pneuma (spirit) and claimed to be spiritual, they were really psychikoi ("soulish,' "psychic," "unspiritual") and did not have the "Spirit" (v. 19). Their lives gave evidence of bondage to the world, not liberation from it (v. 8). Their rejection of Jesus (v. 4), their blaspheming of angels (v. 8, 10), their complaining and cynicism (v. 16) all fit libertine Gnosticism.
The ultimate threat of this Gnostic faith to Christianity lay in its denial of God's revelation in Christ. To follow the Gnostic path led to a radical rejection of all God's Word to man and to a substitution of a different salvation. The means of salvation became an esoteric teaching, and salvation did not free the whole person (body, soul, spirit) from the bondage of sin. This world was negated and the knowledge of the one, true God hidden. Jude's vehement opposition to this kind of error was justified in the light of the significant issues that were involved.
(See Bibliography for 1 Peter)
9. Outline (References in outline are tied to commentary.)
I. The Salutation (1-2)
II. The Reason for the Letter (3-4)
III. The Warning Against the False Teachers (5-16)
A. Examples of God's Judgment in History (5-7)
B. The Description and Doom of the False Teachers (8-13)
C. Enoch's Prophecy of the Coming Judgment (14-16)
IV. The Exhortations to the Believers (17-23)
V. The Doxology (24-25)
Exposition of Jude
I. The Salutation (1-2)
1 This brief letter begins with the customary self-identification of the author. He is "Jude" (cf. Introduction: Authorship). There were eight different individuals in the NT with that name; but a process of elimination makes it probable that the Jude of this letter is the brother of Jesus and James (cf. Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3). Modestly he calls himself a "servant" (doulos; lit., "slave") of Jesus Christ, and as such he belongs to him. While Jude's being Christ's servant is not without distinction (e.g., "Moses my servant," Josh 1:2), it is probably mentioned here to imply that what he is about to write is what his Master wants him to say. He also calls himself "a brother of James." The self-identification of linking himself to his brother makes sense only if the brother is well known to the recipients of the letter. The James (Iakobos) spoken of here is one of six persons of that name mentioned in the NT and, on the basis of NT evidence is "the Lord's brother" (cf. Jos. Antiq. XX, 200 [ix. 1]). He was the author of the Epistle of James and became the head of the church in Jerusalem (cf. Introduction: Authorship).
The readers are "the called" (kletois; cf. DNTT, 1:271-76), which in Pauline theology stresses the sovereign activity of God's grace in summoning to salvation. The term "the called" is almost synonymous with "a Christian" (Kelly, p. 243). Second, they are "loved by God the Father" (tois en theo patri egapemenois; lit., "beloved in God the Father"). Many MSS read "sanctified" (hegiasmenois), which is close in appearance to egapemenois and occurs in 1 Corinthians 1:2. These factors may have caused an accidental substitution of the latter for "beloved in God the Father." This reading makes good sense; for the Father, who is love (1 John 4:16), has set his love on his people (cf. Deut 7:6-8). Third, those to whom Jude is writing are "kept [teteremenois] by Jesus Christ." There is no "by" in the Greek text. Some have argued that the "in" (en: NIV, "by") with "God the Father" was displaced (Mayor, EGT, 5:253) and should be taken with Jesus Christ. As the text stands, it could be translated "kept for Jesus Christ," with the thought that God the Father preserves the Christian for his Son (cf. vv. 24-25; John 17:15).
2 "Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance" is typical of the greeting, or prayer, that was customary in ancient letters. Jude omits the word "grace," which is used in the salutations of practically all the other NT letters. Perhaps his reference to "mercy," "peace," and "love" is a way of showing facets of God's grace to men. It seems correct to understand all three as indicative of what God does for us. Mercy is his compassion, peace is his gift of quiet confidence in the work of Jesus, and love is his generosity in granting us his favors and meeting our needs.
II. The Reason for the Letter (3-4)
3 Jude tells his "dear friends" (agapetoi; lit., "loved," "beloved"; cf. vv. 17, 20) how he came to write this letter. He had to write a positive statement of the Christian faith. Whether he was actively engaged in writing or only in the process of thinking about it is not clear from the Greek pasan spouden poioumenos graphein (present participle and infinitive, i.e., "making every effort to write").
"The salvation we share" (tes koines hemon soterias; lit., "our common salvation") is that which all Christians now participate in. 1 Peter 1:5 speaks of a "salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." Both are true. Christians have been saved (Titus 3:5), they now possess salvation (Jude 3; cf. Heb 6:9), and they long for Christ who "will appear a second time, … to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him" (Heb 9:28).
By saying "I felt I had to write," Jude explains that a compelling obligation to the people of God prompted him to write for their spiritual good. His letter is intended to exhort the readers to struggle for "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." "To contend" or "struggle" translates epagonizesthai, a word that occurs only here in the NT. However, related words do occur in the NT (cf. TDNT, 1:135-40). The basic meaning of this word is that of the intense effort in a wrestling match (cf. agonizomenos in 1Cor 9:25). The verb form is a present infinitive, showing that the Christian struggle is to be continuous.
"The faith" is the body of truth that very early in the church's history took on a definite form (cf. Acts 2:42; Rom 6:17; Gal 1:23). Without doubt, the form of the faith as a body of recognized truth became clearer as time passed. Jude stresses that this faith has been entrusted "once for all" (hapax) to the "saints" (tois hagiois—the ones set apart by God for himself). Basically the Christian faith cannot be changed; its foundation truths are not negotiable. (This conviction is not, of course, peculiar to Jude; see the similar emphasis in Gal 1:6-9 and in 2 John 9.)
4 Jude goes on to explain the reasons why he was compelled to write. Ungodly men had "secretly slipped in" (pareisedysan "crept in unawares") among the believers. Paul uses the related word pareisaktos of Judaizers who had "infiltrated" Christian congregations to spy on their freedom in Christ Jesus (Gal 2:4). Concerning these men, the Greek says hoi palai progegrammenoi eis touto to krima, which KJV translates as "who were before of old ordained to this condemnation," while NIV has "men whose condemnation was written about long ago." The word prographo means to "write before," either in the same document or in a previous one. The reference could be to God's writing down from eternity the destiny (i.e., the reprobation or punishment) of the wicked. But it is more likely that it refers to previously written predictions about the doom of the apostates (so Mayor, p. 24; BAG, p. 711; contra Schrenk, TDNT, 1:772).
After stating the destiny of these men, Jude describes them as "impious" or "ungodly" (asebeis), a term often used of notorious sinners. This general word is made more specific by the two specific charges that follow. First, they "change the grace of our God into a license for immorality." Evidently their understanding of grace and perhaps of the forgiveness of sins led them to feel free to indulge in all forms of sexual depravity (aselgeian, cf. comments at 2 Peter 2:2). Second, they "deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." Exactly how they deny Jesus Christ, Jude does not say. Certainly they denied him by their immoral living that ran counter to his commands. Perhaps also they denied him in their teaching of a Christology that denied either his full humanity or his full deity. NIV's translation of ton monon despoten kai kyrion hemon Iesoun Christon ("Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord") is defensible because of the one article (ton) with two nouns and the use of despotes in 2 Peter 2:1 in reference to Christ. However, despotes is commonly used of the Father (Luke 2:29, Acts 4:24; and LXX), and the word "only" (monon) makes it more difficult to apply despotes to Jesus. Thus the translation would be "the only Sovereign [the Father] and our Lord Jesus Christ." If this is adopted, then the error of the godless men was more likely a moral rather than a theological one (cf. Titus 1:16; "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him").
III. The Warning Against the False Teachers (5-16)
A. Examples of God's Judgment in History (5-7)
5 As did Peter in 2 Peter 1:12, Jude states that his readers already know what he is about to say but that he will remind them of it. So he gives them three examples of the Lord's judgments: on the unbelievers at the time of the Exodus, on the fallen angels, and on Sodom and Gomorrah. In each instance the objects of judgment are notable rebels against the Lord. In v. 5 there is a difficult textual problem (cf. Notes). However, NIV gives the sense.
The first example is that of Israel, who experienced the great display of God's grace in the Exodus, saw and heard his revelation at Sinai, and received his care in the wilderness, yet a number of them disbelieved and rebelled. Obviously this is not an instance of people being saved and then losing their salvation. Jude describes the rebels as "those who did not believe" (tous me pisteusantas). The Israelites were physically delivered from bondage, not by their faith as a nation, but by God's covenant love and mercy. The warning in this judgment is against unbelief and rebellion.
6 The second example is of the fallen angels. The most likely reference here is to the angels ("sons of God," cf. Gen 6:4; Job 1:6; 2:1) who came to earth and mingled with women. This interpretation is expounded in the pseudepigraphical Book of Enoch (7, 9.8, 10.11; 12.4), from which Jude quotes in v. 14, and is common in the intertestamental literature and the early church fathers (e.g., Justin Apology 2.5). These angels "did not keep their positions of authority" (ten heauton archen). The use of the word arche for "rule," "dominion," or "sphere" is uncommon but appears to be so intended here (cf. BAG, p. 112). The implication is that God assigned angels stipulated responsibilities (arche, "dominion") and a set place (oiketerion). But because of their rebellion, God has kept or reserved (tetereken perfect tense) these fallen angels in darkness and in eternal chains awaiting final judgment. Apparently some fallen angels are in bondage while others are unbound and active among mankind as demons.
7 The third example of judgment is that of the cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah. In v. 7 NIV is so concise that it slides over the significance of the pronoun "these" (toutois). Kelly (p. 253) translates this verse thus: "Just as Sodom and Gommorah and the surrounding cities, which practiced immorality in the same way as these and lusted after different flesh, stand out as an example, undergoing as they do a punishment of everlasting fire." The key factors are "these" (toutois—masculine, referring to "angels" [v. 6], not cities [feminine], and the words "different flesh" (sarkos heteras). Thus the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was seeking union with "different flesh" in a way similar to what the "sons of God" (angels?) did (Gen 6:2) when they mingled with "the daughters of men" (humans).
Normally angels do not marry, nor do they have substantial bodies, though at times they have assumed bodies or appeared in a bodily form as divine messengers (Gen 19:1ff.; Zech 1:9ff.; 2:1ff.; Matt 28:2ff.; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4ff.; John 20:12ff.; Acts 1:10f.). In Genesis 19 angelic messengers in the form of men visited Sodom; and the men of the city, motivated by their homosexuality and supposing the messengers to be men, desired them. So they "went after different flesh." God destroyed the cities of the plain by raining fire and brimstone from heaven on the cities (Gen 19:24)—possibly the divine use of a natural catastrophe associated with the volcanic activity of the area.
B. The Description and Doom of the False Teachers (8-13)
8 Jude now links the examples of God's judgment (vv. 5-7) to the false teachers whom he calls "dreamers" (enypniazomenoi). Though this word might refer to pretensions of prophecy, it more likely refers to their carnal sin that leads them to live in a dream world. "In the very same way" (homoios mentoi kai houtoi) points back to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7). The false teachers pollute "their own bodies" (lit., "flesh") in various forms of sexual excess, doubtless including homosexuality. Their rejection of authority (kyrioteta, "lordship") implies that they repudiated Jesus as Lord (kyrios) over their lives.
The third sin of these false teachers is that they "slander celestial beings." How and why, Jude does not say. Perhaps their materialistic and fleshy bent led them to deny all spiritual forces—good or evil.
9 The false teachers should have learned from the example of the archangel Michael. Oral tradition and apocryphal literature tell of a struggle over Moses' body. According to Clement of Alexandria (Adumbr. in Ep. Judae), Origen (De princ. 3.2.1), and Didymus of Alexandria (In Ep. canon brevis enarr), Jude is quoting from the apocyphal Assumption of Moses, only small portions of which have survived. Accordingly, the devil, it seems, claimed the right to the body because of Moses' sin of murder (Exod 2:12) or because he (the devil) considered himself the Lord of the earth. Michael is mentioned in Revelation 12:7, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 refers to "the voice of the archangel." In Daniel 10:13, 21 and 12:1, Michael is a great prince or mightly angel for Israel. Yet in spite of Michael's power and dignity, he dared not bring a "slanderous accusation" against the devil but referred the dispute to the sovereignty of God. So if he, a mighty archangel, had respect for celestial powers, Jude is saying, how much more should the mere human false teachers do so? (On the struggle over Moses' body, cf. TDNT, 4:866, n. 211.)
10 "Yet these men" (houtoi de) connotes contempt. They, unlike Michael, presume to speak evil against what they know nothing about. (Later, in v. 19, Jude explains that they do not have the Spirit.) These "dreamers," however, do have knowledge, but only on the instinctual level of animal passion. So like the "unreasoning animals" (aloga zoa), they are destroyed (by God) through the things they practice.
11 Again Jude turns to the OT—this time for another triad of examples. Because of their coming judgment, he pronounces "woe" (ouai) on the false teachers as Jesus did on the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23:13, 15:16, 23, 25, 27, 29).
1. The false teachers have "taken [eporeuthesan] the way of Cain." The verb poreuomai connotes a moral or religious walk (cf. TDNT, 6:575). Cain's way was the religion of his own works without faith (Heb 11:4) and led to the hatred and murder of his brother (1 John 3:12-13). Like Cain, these men belong to the evil one, manufacture religion, and kill the souls of men by error.
2. They have abandoned themselves to Balaam's error (cf. comments on 2 Peter 2:15-16). Balaam was the prototype of all greedy religionists who lead God's people into false religion and immorality (cf. the events at Baal-Peor, Num 31:16-19). The combination of exechythesan (passive from ekeheo, "pour on," here, "abandoned themselves"; NIV, "they have rushed") and plane ("error") indicates that the false teachers were wholly consumed by their love of money.
3. "They have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion." Numbers 16:1-35 tells of the drastic punishment inflicted on Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and 250 other rebels against Moses' authority. So, with a bold disregard of anachronism, Jude says of the false teachers, "They have been destroyed [apolonto, the aorist tense, i.e., completed action] in Korah's rebellion." It is a striking way of saying that their doom is certain and settled.
12-13 Now, with burning eloquence, Jude piles figure upon figure (six of them in all) to describe the errorists:
1. The false teachers are "blemishes at your love feasts." Translators are divided on which of the two usages of spilas (cf. BAG, MM) is preferable here. Some (e.g., Alford, Weymouth, NASB, Kelly [p. 269]) render it "rocks" or "hidden rocks"; others (e.g., KJV, RSV, NEB, NIV, TEV) render it "spots" or "blemishes." In either case, the metaphor is a striking one. The rendering "hidden rocks" connotes the danger of shipwreck of the faith; "spots" or "blemishes" parallels 2 Peter 2:13 and connotes defilement. The "love feasts" were communal meals in which the early church ate together and observed the Lord's Supper. "Eating with you" is too tame a translation of syneuochoumenoi; with its connotation of sumptuous eating, it might better be translated "feasting with you." "Without the slightest qualm" (aphobos, lit., "without fear") means that the false teachers do not recognize the terror of the Lord against those who mock his Son's death shown in the Supper (cf. 1Cor 11:27-32; Heb 10:26-31).
2. Jude goes on to depict the false teachers as "shepherds who feed only themselves"—a figure that points to all the biblical warnings against the false shepherds who care nothing for the flock (e.g., Ezek 34:8; John 10:12-13).
3. They are like clouds that promise rain but are "blown along by the wind" and "without rain" (anydroi, lit., "waterless"). Thus the false teachers are wind, devoid of refreshment, promise, and performance.
4. They are, Jude says, like fruit trees in late autumn, long past the harvest, bearing no fruit. Furthermore, they are trees not only fruitless but also uprooted—thus "twice dead."
5. Next is the metaphor of the restless sea (v. 13). For modern man, the sea is often a thing of beauty; to ancient man, less able to cope with the sea's fury, it was a terror. (Rev 21:1, with its promise of no more sea, reflects this attitude.) Isaiah (57:20) compares the wicked to the sea: "The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and mud." The errorists are busy, restless, untamed. Their product is like the foam or scum at the seashore. "Foaming" (epaphrizo) is another of Jude's words that occur in the NT only in his book.
6. The final metaphor (asteres planetai, "wandering star") is astronomical. The ancients called the planets "wandering stars" because of their movements. The reference here could be to meteors, shooting stars, comets, or planets; but planets is the most likely meaning. An unpredictable star would provide no guidance for navigation so false teachers are useless and untrustworthy. Their doom is the eternal darkness that is reserved for them (cf. 2 Peter 2:4).
C. Enoch's Prophecy of the Coming Judgment (14-16)
14 Enoch, who "walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away" (Gen 5:24), is not specifically called "the seventh from Adam" in the OT. But in Genesis 5 and also in 1 Chronicles 1:1-3, he is the seventh in order (counting Adam as the first). Here, however, Jude quotes not Genesis but the Book of Enoch (also called "The Ethiopic Book of Enoch")—the longest of the surviving Jewish pseudepigraphical writings and a work that was highly respected by Jews and many Christians. Those who wonder about the propriety of Jude's quotation of this noncanonical book should note that he does not call it Scripture. Paul also quoted from noncanonical writers statements he considered true. See Acts 17:28, where he quoted Cleanthes and Aratus (Phaenomena 5); 1 Corinthians 15:33, where he quoted Menander (Thais 218); and Titus 1:12, where he quoted Epimenides (De oraculis). Lawlor (p. 102) argues that Jude is not quoting the Book of Enoch but a prophecy of his given to Jude by inspiration. This is possible, of course, but unnecessary. The prophecy does not give any startling new information but is simply a general description of the return of the Lord in judgment (cf. Deut 33:2; Dan 7:10-14; Zech 14:5; Matt 25:31).
15-16 The stress is on two words, each used four times: "all" (panton) and "ungodly" (asebeia, asebeo, asebes; cf. v. 4). Jude finds Enoch's prophecy a good summary of the universal divine judgment on the impious and all their deeds.
Verse 16 completes Jude's denunciation of the false teachers as "grumblers" (gongystai). In 1 Corinthians 10:10 the related verb gongyzo is used by Paul of the rebels in the wilderness (cf. LXX Exod 16-17; Num 14-17; cf. also TNDT, 1:728-37). Jude also calls the false teachers "faultfinders" (mempsimoiroi), a term that underlines their critical attitude and habitual complaining. (Both gongystai and mempsimoiroi occur only here in the NT.) "They follow their own evil desires" might be translated "they live by their passions." "They boast about themselves" is literally "and their mouth speaks haughty [or bombastic] words," which reminds one of Antiochus Epiphanes (cf. Dan 7:8-11; 11:36). "Flatter others for their own advantage" reinforces Jude's stress on the venality of the false teachers. Here the literal sense of the Greek text ("honoring faces for the sake of advantage") is highly picturesque.
IV. The Exhortations to the Believers (17-23)
17-18 "But, dear friends" (hymeis de, agapetoi; lit., "but you, beloved") makes the transition from the burning denunciation in vv. 9-16 to the preparation of the believers for their necessary struggles. They must remember (cf. v. 5; 2 Peter 1:12-15) the previously spoken words of the apostles. The apostles (the Twelve plus Paul) must have had a wide ministry of which we have little knowledge, and their preaching was part of the oral deposit of faith for the early churches. One of their prophecies was a prediction of mockers in the last time who would live ungodly lives. So the church was to be vigilant, for the last time was seen to be at hand and the ungodly mockers on the scene. The "last time" (Gr., singular) is the age of messianic salvation and judgment that culminates in the judgments of the Second Advent. Since the apostles have predicted this time, the church should not be surprised or discouraged but prepare itself for action.
19 Again Jude returns to his triadic pattern of describing the false teachers.
1. He calls them "men who divide you" (apodiorizontes). This extremely rare word (only here in the NT) may mean that "they made distinctions," perhaps as the later Gnostics divided Christians by classifying them into groups of initiates ("spiritual") and lesser ones, which translates the word psychikoi.
2. Next he calls them men "who follow mere natural instincts," psychikoi (lit., "soulish," "psychic," "unspiritual"; cf. BAG, p. 902; TDNT, 9:656-63). Psychikoi was very likely used by the Gnostics as a slander of the orthodox when the fact was that they themselves were living on the natural level. Here Jude turns the word against the false teachers. The church today is plagued by false teachers claiming superior knowledge and experience; yet their lives are often worse than those of the average pagan.
3. Finally he says that they "do not have the Spirit" (pneuma). Pneuma is without the definite article (ho) in Greek—a fact that has led some to translate this as "they do not have a spirit" and teach that man is dichotomous until conversion, when he becomes trichotomous. But this view is without biblical support. The use of pneuma without the article for the Holy Spirit is common in the NT (cf. John 3:5; 7:39; Gal 5:16). In spite of all their vaunted claims and teaching, the false teachers are devoid of the Holy Spirit.
20-21 The repetition of "beloved" (agapetoi; NIV, "dear friends") personalizes the message and redirects attention back to the believers. (In v. 17 Jude had started his exhortations to the faithful but returned to one final salvo against his opponents.) Now he gives them a fourfold exhortation for their spiritual profit.
1. Christians are to be "building themselves up" (epoikodomountes, present participle) in their "most holy faith." In the NT "the faith" is the orthodox body of truth and practice from the apostles (cf. Acts 2:42; 20:32; Rom 6:17). It is most holy" because the Spirit gave it concerning God's "holy servant Jesus" (Acts 4:27, 30). Christians build themselves by having fellowship with the Lord and his people, by continuing in the gospel and in the Word of God, and by worship especially by remembering the Lord at his table.
2. Christians are to be praying (present participle) in the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 8:26-27; Gal 4:6; Eph 6:18). Because all believers have the Spirit, they are to pray according to the Spirit's will (set forth in the written Word and made known by inner promptings) to accomplish God's work by God's power.
3. Christians are to keep themselves in God's love (v. 21; cf. vv. 1-2). The realm of God's love is in Jesus Christ; those who depart from Christ depart from the love of God. Those who reject the commands of Jesus reject his love (cf. John 15:10: "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love").
4. Christians are to keep their attention fixed on the "mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ [that brings them] to eternal life." True eschatology keeps present reality in focus. The mention of mercy reminds Christians that salvation is never a matter of good works and that only in Christ is their hope of salvation (cf. comments on v. 3). "Eternal life" in this verse refers to the future aspects of the presently enjoyed salvation.
22-23 These verses contain certain minor textual problems. The most important is whether three groups are in view (NIV, UBS 3d ed., Nestle 26th ed.) or only two (Nestle 25th ed., B, Clement of Alexandria). The shorter reading of B is split against other good members of its family (e.g., 1739). The stronger MS support for the longer reading is also reinforced by the triadic pattern of Jude's thought. Accepting the longer text, the three groups are (1) those who are hesitating (according to most texts), (2) those who need to be saved from the fire, and (3) those who need pity because of contamination.
The first command is to show mercy to those who are doubting (or hesitating). This group of people are "at odds with themselves" (reading diakrinomenous and understanding this verb as "doubt" or "waver" rather than "dispute"). The teaching and example of the false teachers have caused them to be uncertain about the truth of Christianity. They must be dealt with patiently and mercifully by showing them Christian love. The second group needs to be dealt with directly and vigorously. Salvation is God's work, and here Christians are portrayed as God's instruments for snatching brands out of the fire (cf. Zech 3:2). The picture is of a person slipping into the eternal fire but rescued from error by the grace and truth of God.
The final group of people appears to be deep in the immorality of the false teachers. Their very clothing is "stained by corrupted flesh." Perhaps the figure is that their depravity has made them infectious. Christians are to show mercy as in the first case, but now they are to be fearful lest the infection spread to them. Yet even here God's wondrous grace can exchange the excrement-covered garments (cf. Zech 3:3, Heb. text) for festive garments of righteousness. For no one, not even the most defiled sinner, is beyond salvation through faith in Christ's redeeming work.
V. The Doxology (24-25)
24 Jude's message of warning and doom might have depressed and discouraged his readers. Beset by so much false teaching and immorality, how can Christians ever reach heaven? The answer lies only in the power of God. So this doxology, surely one of the greatest in the NT, reminds us of God's ability to bring every one of his own safely to himself. God "is able to keep [us] from falling" (or "stumbling"). Furthermore, he is able "to present [us] before his glorious presence [lit., `his glory'] without fault" (amomos, used of Christ as a faultless lamb in 1 Peter 1:19; cf. comments there). "With great joy" (agalliasei) is the response of Christians for their completed salvation (cf. DNTT, 2:354).
25 "To the only God our Savior" points to the monotheistic nature of the faith by showing that the Father is the Savior as well as the Son. Whatever the false teachers may say, there is only one God and Savior. To "God our Savior … through Jesus Christ our Lord" (notice the intimate pronouns "our … our") belong four attributes: (1) "glory" (doxa), a word with many associations and connotations difficult to capture in a few words—perhaps "radiance" or "moral splendor" comes close to its meaning (cf. DNTT, 2:44-48; TDNT, 2:232-55); (2) majesty (megalosyne), which refers to God's greatness (Kelly [p. 293] suggests "awful transcendence"); (3) "power" (kratos); and (4) "authority" (exousia)—the last two stressing his might and "the sovereign freedom of actions He enjoys as Creator" (Kelly, p. 293). The solemn time notation "before all ages, now and forevermore" indicates that these attributes of God suffer no change and that therefore his divine plan will surely be carried out. Salvation is completely secure because God's own purpose stands and because he is able to do all that he wills (Isa 46:9-10).
THE OLD TESTAMENT IN THE NEW
OT Text NT Text Subject
Jude 9 Zec 3:2 Rebuking Satan
Notes to Jude
5 This verse has suffered confusion in the history of the transmission. UBS (3d ed.) lists nine different readings and gives its choice as panta, o(ti o( kuriov a(pac (panta, hoti ho kyrios hapax, "all things, that the Lord once"). Nestle (26th ed.) follows UBS. Other readings replace kuriov (kyrios, "Lord") with qeov (theos, "God"), I)hsouv (Iesous, "Jesus"), or even qeo\v Xristov (theos Christos, "God Christ"). The Byzantine tradition has a(pac tou=to o(ti o( kuriov (hapax touto, hoti ho kyrios, "once this, that the Lord") It appears that kyrios is correct, that panta ("all things") is to be accepted above touto ("this"), and that hapax ("once") is being used in a series with to\ deu/teron (to deuteron, "second," "second time").