The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: J

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Jude, background

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:

  1. The insidious corruption of Christian morals: "lasciviousness... fornication... defiling the flesh... they corrupt (the ecclesia)... twice dead" (vv 4,7,8,10,12).
  2. 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 8,15,16).
  3. 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 Moses.
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.


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