AUTHOR: Either Judas the apostle (Luk 6:16) or Judas
the half-brother of the Lord (Mat 13:55). The first of these is ruled out by
most commentators on the ground that one who was himself an apostle would not
write: "Remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our
Lord Jesus Christ" (v 17). But why shouldn't he? There is a very close parallel
in 2Pe 3:2: "...that ye should remember the words which were spoken before by
the holy prophets, and of the commandment of our Lord and Saviour through your
apostles". If Peter could write about "your apostles", why should not one of his
fellow apostles do the same? There is also the consideration that if this Jude
were the apostle, then all the epistles of the NT came from apostolic pens. (The
strength of the case for regarding the Epistle of James as written by the son of
Zebedee is not to be set aside.)
On the other hand, this Jude is explicitly "brother of James".
But by analogy with "Judas Iscariot of Simon" (Joh 6:71), "Judas of James" (Luk
6:16) appears to mean "son of James", and not "brother of James". If it can mean
"brother of James", the point is settled.
What grounds are there for identifying Jude with the son of
Mary and Joseph (Mat 13:55)? Exactly none, except that he appears to be the only
alternative to the Judas just discussed. There is, of course, the possibility of
the writer being some other Judas of whom nothing is known, but the likelihood
of this is mighty small.
DATE: The date of the epistle has to be inferred from
the slight incidental indications which the text affords. It is surely a valid
argument that Jude wrote before the troubles of AD 70, for had he written after
that date, he could hardly have let the destruction of the temple go
unmentioned. Indeed, there seem to be several prophetic hints in the epistle of
impending judgement. God destroyed His saved people "who believed not" (v 5). A
judgement of being "plucked up by the roots", such as Jesus foretold regarding
Jewish opposition to the gospel, is implied (v 12). "Wandering stars, for whom
is reserved the blackness of darkness of the ages" (v 13) seems very appropriate
to the dispersion of Israel.
Peter's prophecy concerning evil men "in the last days" (2Pe
3:3) is picked up by Jude as having a fulfillment in the corrupt movement he
excoriated: "These be they..." (vv 18,19). What "last days" if not the last days
of the temple?
PURPOSE: The great enemy of the gospel in the first
century was neither Jewish nor Roman persecution, but the systematic
infiltration of the ecclesia, as part of an insidious Judaistic campaign, by
unscrupulous Jews who were set on wrecking this new movement from within. The
methods employed were, in the main, threefold:
One has the impression that the recipients of the letter were
Jewish believers, and probably Jews of the Holy Land. Some of the phrases seem
to take on special meaning from this point of view. But there is not enough to
go on regarding this.
- The insidious corruption of Christian morals: "lasciviousness...
fornication... defiling the flesh... they corrupt (the ecclesia)... twice dead"
- Abrupt rejection of the authority of the apostles, and the
exaltation of other leaders in their place: "speak evil of dignities.... hard
speeches... murmurers, complainers... having men's persons in admiration" (vv
- One part of the campaign which does not come in for mention in
Jude, but which caused Paul much trouble elsewhere, was an insistence that faith
in Christ must be bolstered up with observance of the Law of
- Introduction: vv 1,2
- Godless men -- their sin and ultimate doom: vv
- Exhortation to perseverance: vv 17–23
- Doxology: vv