Jude

The book of Jude was popular in early times. Origen spoke of it as 'filled with flowing words of heavenly grace' (AD c185-254). As with 2 Peter, Jude is written to denounce godless teachers who had 'crept in', breaking up congregations and setting one Christian against another. These self-appointed and self-aggrandizing false teachers are warned of coming judgment. At the time of writing, divisions in the Christian community are a fact. The new teachers have captured the allegiance of many, both by claiming great things for themselves and by flattering weak and empty-headed Christians so that they in turn imagine themselves to be 'someone great' (Cf. Ac 8:9-10). Jude is concerned at the prospect of whole Christian communities being destroyed from within.



1 1Jude [Ioudas]

Jude's grandsons appeared before the Emperor Domitian who despised them 'as of no account, let them go, and by a decree put a stop to the persecution of the church. But when they were released they ruled the churches because they were witnesses and were also relatives of the Lord' (Eusebius, Church History 3:20).

, a servant [doulos] of Jesus Christ, and brother [adelphos]

There is only one Jude in the NT who has a brother called James, and the two references to him (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3) make it clear that the two men were, with Joseph and Simon, the half-brothers of Jesus and the sons of Mary and Joseph.

of James, to those who are called [klētois], sanctified [hagiazō] by God the Father, and kept [tēreō] for Jesus Christ: 2Mercy to you and peace and love [agapē] be multiplied [plēthynthein]. 3Beloved [agapētoi], while I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I was constrained to write to you exhorting [parakaleō] you to contend earnestly for [epagōnizomai]

Struggle on behalf of; fight for.

the faith [pistei] which was once for all [hapax]

Has the meaning of finality and definiteness; cf. 1 Pet 3:18.

delivered [paradidōmi] to the saints [agiois]. 4For there are certain men who crept in secretly, even those who were long ago written about [prographō]

Also means 'to placard in public'. It has a legal sense of a public accusation (cf. Jer 22:30; Mal 3:16; Gal 3:1).

for this condemnation [krima]: ungodly [asebeis] men, turning the grace [charita] of our God into indecency [aselgeian]

This word covers the full range of sensuality, debauchery and sexual permissiveness.

, and denying [arneomai] our only Master [despotēn]

A much stronger term than the usual title kyrios and a word the NT normally reserves for the sovereignty of God the Father.

, God, and Lord [kyrios], Jesus Christ. 5Now I desire to remind you, though you already know this, that the Lord [kyrios; Heb. Adonai], having saved [sōzō] a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed [apollumi] those who didn't believe [pisteuō]. 6Angels who didn't keep [tēreō] their first domain, but deserted their own dwelling place, he has kept [tēreō]

The grim pun reveals the angels who couldn't keep in their place being kept for judgment.

in everlasting bonds under darkness for the judgment [krisin] of the great day [megalēs hēmeras]. 7Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, having, in the same way as these, given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh [aperchomai opisō sarkos eteras], are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire. 8Yet in like manner these also in their dreaming [enypniazomenoi]

A dreamer of dreams in the OT is one who claims to have a message from God. Many have claimed to hear from God but deliver false messages and so are dealt with severely for telling lies about God.

defile the flesh [sarka], despise [atheteō] authority [kyriotēta]

Lit. 'lordship'.

, and slander [blasphēmeō] celestial beings [doxas]

Lit. 'glories'. 'Angels' makes more sense here than either civic dignities (Calvin) or church leaders, although that is the sense in 2 Cor 8:23.

. 9But Michael, the archangel [archangelos]

A glorious angel whose name means 'who is like God?' and who performs the highest work for God. It is a biblical view that angels were the guardians of God's moral law, and so if anyone could have brought a legal accusation against Moses it would have been Michael.

, when contending with [diakrinō]

There is nothing unusual in biblical writers referring to or quoting books that are not in our Bibles. In the OT we find references to 'The Book of the Wars of the LORD', the records of Nathan the prophet and of Gad the seer, the annals of the kings of Israel, the annals of the kings of Judah and the Book of Jasher. In the NT Luke refers to the many who have attempted to draw up an account (Lk 1:1) and Paul reminded his readers of some words of Jesus that are not recorded in the four gospels: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' (Ac 20:35). Paul even uses the non-biblical tradition to name Jannes and Jambres, and quotes pagan Greek writers such as Cleanthes, Aratus and Menander (2 Tim 3:8; Ac 17:28; 1 Cor 15:33; Tit 1:12). Paul goes so far as to call the Cretan poet Epimenides a 'prophet' which indicates the force of the word in Tit 1:12 and Jude 14. The only time 'prophet' is used in the NT for a citation from the OT is in Mt 15:7 and //s. So Jude's readers may not have assumed that he viewed this material as being on an equal footing with Scripture, but as a piece of well-known wisdom. The story of Michael, Moses and the devil goes back to Moses' death, recorded in Dt 34:5-6. Over time, the moving story of God digging the grave of his servant was elaborated into a story about the rightness of Moses being allowed into heaven. According to Origen, Jude is referring to the story told in a book called the Assumption of Moses. It still exists, but without the quote by Jude. Several early Christian writers refer to it.

the devil and arguing about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him an abusive condemnation [krisin]

Not about rudeness or offense, but a legal phrase to do with passing judgment or making a decision about slander.

, but said, "May the Lord rebuke [epitimaō]

Quoted from Zech 3:1-2. The Joshua here is a high priest assisting Zerubbabel in the attempt at reform and rebuilding of the temple after the return from exile. Here again is a man being accused by Satan of unfitness to perform God's work (symbolized by the wearing of dirty clothes) and a high-ranking angel stands aside and allows God to decide who is fit to serve him. Only he has the right to banish Satan's legally correct accusation.

you!" 10But these speak evil of [blasphēmeō] whatever things they don't know [oida]. What they understand naturally [physikōs], like the creatures without reason, they are destroyed [phtheirō] in these things. 11Woe [Ouai]

Used by Jesus but rarely found elsewhere in the NT except the judgments of Revelation.

to them! For they went in the way of Cain, and ran riotously in the error [planē] of Balaam for hire [misthou], and perished [apollymi] in Korah's rebellion [antilogia]

Cf. Nu 16:1-35. Korah, together with other levitical priests, Dathan, Abiram and On, instigated a revolt of 250 soldiers against Moses, hoping to mount a kind of coup against the small group of leaders with whom Moses worked. They were rebellious, anti-authority and presumptuous. In judgment, God opened the ground which swallowed them up. Although the event is not referred to elsewhere in the NT its style is taken up in 2 Tim 3:1-9; Heb 3:7-19; 4:7; 3 Jn 9-10.

. 12These are hidden rocky reefs [Spilades]

Lit. 'sunken rocks'. ('Blemishes' became a common meaning later.) Originally, the word which parallels 2 Peter 2:13 meant 'reefs', and this was the usual secular meaning. So as a sailor keeps his ship clear of the rocks, so company with such men is to be avoided.

in your love feasts [agapais]

These would have been ordinary meals at which they shared their problems, prayed, sang, ate bread and drank wine in memory of Jesus' death, and at which there would have been some teaching. It would have felt informal, but, since it would have been loosely based on what happened at the synagogue, it probably followed roughly the same shape each week. The Lord's Supper and the Love Feast are probably two names for the same feast.

when they feast with you, shepherds who without fear [aphobōs]

Without shame or fear.

feed themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13wild waves of the sea [thalassēs]

To the desert tribes of Israel, the sea always presented a threat as an image of chaos and danger, cf. Ps 107:25-28; Ezk 28:8; Rev 21:1. Jude is alluding to Is 57:20-21.

, foaming out their own shame [aischunas]; wandering [planētai]

Before compasses and radar, the only sure guides for a traveler on a dark night were the fixed constellations in the sky. But wandering, apparently erratically, all over the sky were the planets, in orbits that make no sense from the Earth. The longer they were followed, the further off course the traveler went, cf. v11.

stars [asteres]

Sky (stars) is the fourth of the elements of the ancient world after air (clouds), earth (trees), water (waves).

stars, for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever. 14About these also Enoch [Enōch]

Cf. Ge 5:21-24, 1 Ch 1:3 and 1 Enoch 60:8. Another Enoch appears earlier in Ge 4:17. There is a possible confusion in LXX with Hanoch of Gn 25:4 or 46:9.

, the seventh from Adam, prophesied [prophēteuō]

Early Church Fathers assumed that Jude is quoting a non-biblical book known as 1 Enoch, which first appeared in the second century BC. It is heavily influenced by the OT and opens with a dramatic setting of the Day of Judgment. Then come an explanation of Genesis 1-6 giving a major role to Enoch; a series of parables on judgment and the last things, an examination of the sun and stars in the light of what will happen at the end; and visions about the end times. It closes with a description of what will happen on the earth before the close of its history. It looks as if this book and others like it were common currency in Judaism at the time of the NT; it was well-known background material, forming a normal part of a Jewish Christian's intellectual background, and certainly that of Jude's opponents.

, saying, "Look [Idou], the Lord [kyrios] came with ten thousands [myriasin] of his holy ones [agiais], 15to execute judgment [krinō] on all, and to convict all the ungodly [asebeis]

This strong word is used four times in this passage to describe total moral and spiritual breakdown.

of all their works of ungodliness which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the hard [sklērōn] things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." 16These are murmurers [gongystai]

Jude sees a vivid and alarming OT prototype of the kind of resentment towards God that he sees around him: Ex 15:24, has the verb goggystō in LXX; cf. also Ex 17:3. Their punishment for resentment towards God and grumbling about conditions on earth is described in Nu 14:26-29.

and complainers [mempsimoiroi]

This description comes from among the stock characters of the situation comedies of Jude's day. One Greek writer summed him up: The querulous man will say to him that brings him a portion from his friend's table: 'You begrudged me your soup or your collops (steak), or you would have asked me to dine with you in person.' When his mistress is kissing him he says, 'I wonder whether you kiss me so warmly from your heart.' He is displeased with Zeus, not because he sends no rain, but because he has been so long about sending it. When he finds a purse in the street, it is: 'Ah! But I never found a treasure.' When he bought a slave cheap with much importuning the seller, he cries: 'I wonder if my bargain's too cheap to be good.' When they bring him the good news that he has a son born to him, then it is: 'If you add that I have lost half my fortune, you'll speak the truth'.

, walking [poreuō] after their lusts (and their mouth speaks proud things [laleō huperogka]

Lit. 'speaks great swelling'.

), showing respect of persons to gain advantage. 17But you, beloved [agapētoi], remember the words which have been spoken before by the apostles [apostolōn] of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18They said [legō]

'They were in the habit of saying to you.' If they were living in Palestine, a continuous traffic of gifted Christian speakers would have passed through to speak at their meetings.

to you that "In the last time [eschatou chronou] there will be mockers [empaiktai], walking after [poreuō] their own ungodly lusts [epithymias ... asebeiōn]

Cf. v10. This pen-portrait smacks of people who are less than fully human, living life on earth in its external, physical aspects.

." 19These are they who cause divisions, and are sensual, not having the Spirit. 20But you, beloved [agapētoi], keep building up [epoikodomeō] yourselves on your most holy faith [pistei], praying in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep [tēreō] yourselves in the love [agapē] of God, looking for [prosdechomai] the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life [zōēn]. 22On some have compassion, making a distinction [diakrinomenous], 23and some save, snatching them out of the fire [pyros]

Cf. Zech 3:1-2 where the fire refers to the exile in Babylon, which was God's judgment on rebellious Israel. Joshua had been chosen to escape that judgment and, with a group of returning exiles, to rebuild the temple. Cf. Am 4:11. In that slavery, Egypt was remembered as a burning furnace (Dt 4:20; Je 11:4).

with fear, hating even the clothing [chitōna]

Just as Joshua's filthy clothes were the result of his exile in Babylon. The change of clothes symbolizes forgiveness.

stained by the flesh [sarkos]

These verses 22-23 are difficult to translate. Did Jude mean that there were three groups of people, confirming his preference for triplets and triads, or only two?.

. 24Now to him who is able to keep [phylassō] them from stumbling [aptaistous], and to present [histēmi]

NT writers like Jude used OT sacrificial words to describe the ultimate purity of Christians who share in the wonderful purity of Christ, cf. 1 Pet 1:19; Heb 9:13-14.

you faultless before the presence of his glory [doxēs; Heb. Sh'khinah] in great joy [agalliasei], 25to God our Saviour, who alone is wise, be glory [doxa] and majesty [megalōsynē]

His 'awful transcendence', his eternal right to rule.

, dominion [kratos]

A word only ever used of God himself and his work describing his unique claim to the throne.

and power [exousia], both now and forever [pantas tous aiōnas]. Amen [amēn].

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