We are beginning a study this morning in the Epistle of Jude. My study of Genesis 6 peeked my interest in this little book. So I decided that before we study the Gospel of John, which I was planning to start, we are going do a verse-by-verse look at the Epistle of Jude. Before we begin to look at the text of this short Epistle, let's talk a little bit about the Epistle in general.
J. Daryl Charles wrote, "The message and world of the Epistle of Jude are strangely unfamiliar to the modern reader. Even among students of the New Testament this unfamiliarity is conspicuous. One is hard-pressed to find a single monograph which deals with the exegetical or theological problems raised by the letter."
Jude has only 25 verses, so it's a very quick read, yet it's one of the least often studied books of Scripture. It is the fourth shortest book in the New Testament. Second John, Third John and Philemon are shorter.
Jude is a letter written to a church (possibly Ephesus) dealing with false teachers who threatened the orthodoxy of the original apostle's message. The church addressed in this letter had already heard the apostle's original message, believed it, and accepted it; however, they had not received any new revelation for some time. The church members were waiting for Yeshua, but were unclear how to live through a time of great change and challenge without new guidance. False teachers, who claimed to have new revelations from a higher source, infiltrated the church, causing division and conflict as they attempted to replace the original apostle's message.
These "certain persons," who have crept in unnoticed, are people who pervert grace. They taught that they were no longer limited by the ethical teachings of Christ and could live any way they wanted to without sinning. In essence, they preached that their new "spiritual" revelation replaced the message the original apostles had brought to the church. So Jude's heretics or apostates were turning the grace of God into an excuse for flagrant immorality:
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Christ. Jude 1:4 NASB
Jude is an Epistle that has to do primarily not with doctrinal apostasy, although that is here, but with moral apostasy. In other words, the apostasy about which Jude is concerned is moral apostasy, departure from the faith in the moral sense.
I said that Jude's audience was possibly the church of Ephesus. Notice what Paul had to say to the Ephesian elders:
"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:28-32 NASB
Paul called for the Ephesian elders to come to him, for he wants to warn them of something that was beginning to happen at that moment and was going to come into more fruition in the future.
Now you can see from the Acts passage that the apostle is not simply interested in the doctrinal side of things, although that is specifically mentioned. But he is very concerned about the wolves that have come into the flock and are "seeking to draw away the disciples after them." In other words, a kind of moral determination that is determining the actions of the wolves that have come in, in the midst of the Ephesian churches. What Paul warned of is what Jude says was now happening.
Jude was writing to the first century saints living in transition between the Old and New Covenants. But what he has to say is applicable to us today. A postmodern rejection of absolute right and wrong for ethical relativism, where the truth is flexible and sin questionable, challenges the modern Church in the same way.
The Church today is weak and compromising and tolerant and shallow; unwilling largely to give biblical truth its rightful place and certainly disinterested, if not outwardly opposed to going to war to protect the truth. The Church today seems to have very little interest in defending the truth against all the assaults. There is a lack of serious theology, and a lack of serious exegetical—that means: "verse by verse, word by word study of the living God's Word." There is a lack of it! And what inevitably comes from a lack of theology, and a lack of an understanding, systematic, book by book, verse by verse knowledge of the Word of God is that, after a period of time, the Church will depart from the living God. Jude's solution remains as viable today as it was in the first century.
The structure of the letter is poetic. Jude displays a remarkable love for triplets. Jude writes using triads (i.e., thoughts expressed in threes) throughout his letter, for a total of 14 triads in just 25 verses.
Jude's letter is unique for the way it quotes from another letter of Scripture. Jude quotes no less than thirteen times from the letter of 2 Peter. If he had quoted Peter anymore, we would have been forced to call this 3rd Peter. It is a hotly debated question whether Peter's second letter or Jude's Epistle is the earlier, and, consequently, which writer drew upon the other. It is quite evident, either that the one used the other's Epistle or that both drew from a common source.
Jude is the only author of Scripture to quote from the apocryphal literature, which are ancient books of wisdom often portrayed as inspired texts. Jude quotes from a book called the Assumption of Moses and from the Book of Enoch. The use of these sources has caused some to reject Jude from the Christian Canon. For example, Jerome wrote, "because … Jude derives a testimony from the Book of Enoch, which is apocryphal, it is rejected by some" (Jerome, "Catal. Scr. Eccl iv"). However, others identify the presence of 1 Enoch in Jude as evidence that 1 Enoch should be included in the Canon. Tertullian wrote, "We ought to accept the Book of Enoch as canonical because it is quoted by the Apostle Jude" (Tertullian, "de cult Fem I iii").
Jude's decision to incorporate quotes from Jewish apocryphal writings causes some Christians to squirm and ask whether those books are therefore to be considered inspired works.
Another interesting thing about Jude is that whenever he refers to the Tanakh, and he refers to it frequently, the text that he evidently has before him is not the Greek translation of the Tanakh, it's the Hebrew Bible as we know it. So here, then, is a Hebrew man, but a man who comes from the background of apocalyptic Jewish Christianity. Jude contains at least fifteen words not found elsewhere in the New Testament.
The beginning of the New Covenant age is described in the Acts of the Apostles. The end of the Old Covenant age is dealt with in Jude, which is sometimes called the "Acts of the Apostates." Acts describes the deeds and teaching of men of God, through whom Christ began to build His church. Jude, the last Epistle, relates the deeds and teachings of apostates who will do everything they can to destroy the truth. Jude is the only book in the Bible entirely devoted to discussing apostasy.
In spite of its brevity, Jude has fairly decent attestation in patristic literature. There are possible allusions to it in Clement of Rome, Shepherd of Hermas, Barnabas, and Didache, and probable allusions in Polycarp. The Muratorian Canon mentions it, as does Clement of Alexandria. Tertullian comments on its use of 1 Enoch, Origen speaks of the doubts of some, Didymus the Blind defended its authenticity, and Eusebius classified it with the Antilegomena. It is really only as time progressed that doubts about its authenticity/canonicity became articulated, principally because of the use of apocryphal material in this little work.
Jude, a bond-servant of Yeshua the Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Yeshua the Christ: Jude 1:1 NASB
As you study this little letter, you will notice that there is a consensus among scholars that the author, date of composition, and audience of this book are difficult to clearly identify. With that in mind, let's look at the author. His name is actually Yehudah in Hebrew. In Greek it would be Ioudas, or Judas. The name Jude or Judas is exactly the same Greek word, but with a different English spelling. This name is derived from the name of Judah, which was the name of one of Jacob's sons and later of one of the tribes of Israel. As we learn in Genesis 29:35, when Leah bore the child, she called his name Judah:
And she conceived again and bore a son and said, "This time I will praise the LORD." Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing. Genesis 29:35 NASB
Therefore, we can come to the conclusion that Judah means: "to be thankful, to praise Yahweh, and to offer up thanksgiving to Him."
Since the name Judas has come to carry a certain negative connotation as a result of Judas Iscariot, they changed it to Jude. When the first English translators came to the letter of Judas, they elected to translate his name to Jude to distance this author from Judas, the traitor.
Isn't it interesting that a book written on apostasy bears the same name as the all-time apostate? The writer's name is Judas, that very name is cursed. Do you know anybody named Judas? People don't even name their pet Judas.
So the writers name was Yehudah. He was a Hebrew, a descendent of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. Therefore, we know that the writer of this Epistle was definitely a Hebrew.
So who is this Jude? There are several men named Jude or Judas or Judah in the New Testament. Two of them are apostles. There is Judas Iscariot and Judas not Iscariot. In Acts 9:11 there was a Judas of Damascus. And then there is Judas Barsabas. According to Acts 15 Judas Barsabas was a leading man in the early church, who with Silas carried the decision of the Jerusalem council to Antioch. So there is Judas of Damascus, who helped Ananias find Saul after his conversion. Then you have Judas Iscariot, the apostate.
Some say that the Jude who wrote this book was the half brother of Yeshua because he had a brother named James:
"Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? Matthew 13:55 NASB
Christ had these half- brothers—one of them was named James and another was named Judas. So many theologians see that Judas, who is writing this Epistle, is the brother of James. Also, in Mark 6:3, we find a very similar reference. It says:
"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him. Mark 6:3 NASB
So we see from these verses that there was a half-brother, rather, of the Lord Yeshua who also had the name Judas and a brother named James. Some conclude then that this Jude is the half-brother of the Lord Yeshua and brother of James. But there is another possibility.
This Jude may have been one of the apostles as Tertullian believed. There were two apostles who were named Judas. If we turn to Luke 6, we will get a run-down on the names of the apostles. In verses 14-16, we read:
Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. Luke 6:14-16 KJV
So here we see that Judas the apostle is called "the brother of James." Now let's look at Acts:
And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. Acts 1:13 KJV
Again we see "Judas the brother of James." Did you notice that both of these texts are from the KJV. Other translations say, "Judas the son of James." So which is right? How can the translator determine if a man is a brother or a son of another individual who is mentioned? Let's look at Matthew 10:
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Matthew 10:2-3 NASB
Here it mentions James the son of Zebedee, how did they know that he is the son of Zebedee when in the original text, it just says "of Zebedee"? And how do they know that James was the son of Alphaeus when that word "son" is not found in the original text either? Well, there is a certain Greek construction that is found.
In verse 2 we see James, and we see him standing in a certain relationship to Zebedee. In the Greek, we would find the name James then the definite article ho (Strong's #3588). Then we find another definite article following that which would be tou (Strong's #3588), and that is in the genitive case. There are two definite articles in front of the name Zebedee; therefore, it would be read literally as "James the one of the Zebedee." The translators realized that this is saying that James is the one, the son of Zebedee. The genitive is relating this one, who is James, back to Zebedee.
This is the same Greek construction in verse 3 of Matthew 10. "James the son of Alphaeus," we have in the English, but in the Greek, we have James and then the definite article followed by the definite article in the genitive case in front of the name Alphaeus—"James the one of the Alphaeus." So we see that wherever we find this kind of construction, it is saying that the one man is the son of the other man whom he has been begotten from. This James was begotten of Alphaeus, and the other James was begotten of Zebedee, and so on.
Actually, in every case that I looked at where we do not have the actual word "son" found in the text, this construction is there, except for one place; that is in Acts 1:13 where we have James the son of Alphaeus, but the definite article is missing. However, since the translators have this verse here in Matthew 10, they did have the definite article standing in that kind of relationship between James and Alphaeus, they knew that he was the son of Alphaeus and translated it as such in Acts 1:13.
Looking again at Judas, let us turn to Luke 6:16:
Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Luke 6:16 NASB
Here in the Greek we have the name Judas, and then we have the name James, and in the text there is no definite article at all.
When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. Acts 1:13 NASB
Here we find "and Judas the son of James." Once again, in the Greek we have the name Judas and the name James immediately following with no definite article. Since there was no other place where the definite article was used to indicate a father-son relationship between Judas and James, the KJV translators followed the guideline that this is not a son, but a brother.
So if the KJV is properly translated, then Jude the apostles also has a brother named James. So Yeshua's half brother Jude has a brother named James,and so does the Apostle Jude. So which one was it? Some say that if the Jude who wrote this Epistle is the half brother of Yeshua, then Jude is the only book of the New Testament Scripture sourced by someone who was not considered an apostle. They would say that neither Luke nor Mark were apostles either, but Luke's material was sourced by Paul, while Mark's material was sourced by Peter. And all other letters were written directly by apostles. So that would mean that apostles were the source for the content in all New Testament books except Jude, which is a possibility. I would not agree with this line of reasoning at all because I do not believe that John the Apostle wrote the Gospel of John.
That being said, most scholars today believe that this book was written by Jude, the half brother of Yeshua. If it was written by an apostle, why wouldn't he say, Jude an apostle of our Lord, as Paul and Peter often do? Why would the Apostle Jude say that he was the brother of James? That adds no weight at all. But if Jude, the brother of our Lord, wrote this, then saying that he was the brother of James adds weight because James was a leader in the Jerusalem Church.
As I said earlier, it is really hard to be dogmatic here. There is also a growing number of scholars today who regard Jude as pseudepigraphical, meaning that someone claiming to be Jude wrote the letter under a pseudonym.
In my opinion there is a major hurdle for the pseudepigraphical hypothesis to overcome: Why would anyone use the obscure name "Jude" unless this were a genuine work? To make matters worse, he does not identify himself as "Jude, the brother of the Lord." Such a designation would at least elevate Jude by virtue of his relation to Yeshua. Consequently, a pseudepigraphical piece is almost ruled out since in such writings one of the major factors was attribution to an already well-known name.
Bottom line here is that God is ultimately the author of the Bible, and that is what we have to keep in mind as we are reading the Word of God. Jude, whichever Jude it was, writes this Epistle under the inspiration of God, and ultimately it does not really matter whether it was Judas or Peter or Paul or any man because, finally, God is the One who is the author of the Bible. The Word of God comes directly from the infinite mind of God. That is why we read:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB
That is why God says in 2 Peter:
for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:21 NASB
So whoever the human author was, this is a word from the Living God Yahweh.
When was this letter written? The fact that the suggestions of scholars regarding the date of writing vary between AD 60 and 140 is a sufficient reminder that much of the so-called evidence on this subject amounts to little more than guesses. I think that the best guesses are around AD 67.
"Jude, a bond-servant of Yeshua the Christ"—this is a very common introduction. Many of the Epistles have this type of introduction where the writer of the Epistle will be introduced as either a servant of Yeshua the Christ or an apostle of Yeshua the Christ.
"Bond-servant"—is from the Greek word doulos. This word meant: "slave" in classical Greek. It was a word used to describe slaves who had no rights. Their masters owned them, and their only justification for being allowed to live was that they fulfilled the wishes of their owners. Doulos has normally been seen as a reference to a bond slave; someone without legal standing or personal claims; someone owned by another, since that is what the doulos was in Graeco-Roman Society. Most Bible students see this meaning and would say a Christian has no rights. But the term doulos has at least two meanings in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the LXX it was used to translate the Hebrew word ebed. An examination of the Hebrew text of the Tanakh, particularly that of Isaiah, shows that ebed was a title for pious men. It was applied to Abraham, Moses, Joshua or David, and to the Servant of Yahweh.
The essential difference between the Hebrew slave, who is sold into the possession of another, and the slave of Yahweh is not merely the status of the owner. The essential difference is one of covenant.
In the LXX doulos described a relationship within the covenant that Yahweh had made with Israel. This is also the case in the New Testament, where the context normally shows it to describe a relationship within the New Covenant which Yahweh has established through Christ. This covenant use does not speak of someone who has no rights, but of someone who is showered with honor and privilege as a result of being a slave of the living Yahweh. We see this use in:
"Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1 NASB
"Servant" here is ebed, which is a slave. The status of "slave" confers on the Church and her members the highest honor as she and they are called to serve the living God. Following the exodus type, Israel was Pharaoh's slave, but through her redemption she became Yahweh's slave. The same is true of believers, by faith we become Yeshua's slaves.
Your slavery to Christ results in a right standing with Yahweh. You are in union with Him who satisfied eternal justice on your behalf, so your union with Him results in full acquittal of your sins and God's declaration of righteousness. Christ accomplished all that was necessary for you to be declared righteous by God.
In verse 6 of Philippians 2, we see that Christ was in the "form of God," which refers to the possession of the essential attributes of deity. In verse 7, He takes the "form of a bond-slave"—the slavery of a person who has submitted Himself to a master in order to do His will in every respect.
So our Lord Yeshua became a slave, and according to verse 5, we are to have the same attitude:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Yeshua, Philippians 2:5 NASB
The word "attitude" here is the Greek word phroneo, which means: "to think, to exercise the mind, to have an opinion or attitude." The position of the pronoun "this" is emphatic and shows that the exhortation reaches back to 2:3-4 for its definition. The attitude that is being called for is the one of verses 3-4, which is one of humility:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 NASB
Here Paul calls believers to have a mind, attitude, or thinking of humility, which was Christ's attitude in becoming a slave. This whole chapter is about humility.
What is humility? Humility is first a feeling toward God that He has absolute rights over your life—that He can do with you as He pleases, and that He has absolute authority to tell you what is best for you; and that's just fine with you. It is a spirit of utterly yielding and submitting to the Lord as master. The humble person sees himself as clay in the Potter's hands, he sees himself as a slave of Yahweh.
So when I ask the question, Whose slave are you? As a Christian, your response should be, "I am a slave of Yeshua the Christ." The apostles saw themselves as slaves to Christ:
"And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, Acts 4:29 NASB
They also saw themselves as slaves of the believers:
For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Yeshua as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Yeshua' sake. 2 Corinthians 4:5 NASB
Since the apostles were examples to all believers, we all should see ourselves as slaves:
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 1 Peter 2:13-16 NASB
We are all to see ourselves as slaves of Yahweh. Notice what Paul wrote to the Romans:
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? Romans 6:16 NASB
Paul lays down a very axiomatic principle in verse 16, and that is that we become the slaves of whomever we choose to obey. All believers are servants of Yeshua once they have become saved. A believer who is here on earth is not here simply to find his own pleasure. He is not here to see how much enjoyment he can get out of life and how much money he can save. He is not here to find out what kind of nice things he can purchase, or how he can make his life as easy and as comfortable as possible. That is not what a servant of Christ should be aiming for. That is not what we should be thinking about or trying to achieve in our lives, but rather our goal in life should be to serve Yeshua the Christ.
While the modern Church might not face exactly the same opponents that Jude did, it does face the danger of "certain persons" who slip into the Church and cause conflict and division with false teaching and destructive lifestyle. Jude warns that these dangers are with us today, just as they were in the Old and New Testament times. Postmodernism shares many of the features of Jude's opponents, and its effect on the modern Church is pervasive and rampant. We must be on our guard, theologically and morally.
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