Epistle of Jude

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The Epistle of Jude, often shortened to Jude, is the penultimate book of the New Testament as well as the Christian Bible. It is traditionally attributed to Jude the Apostle, brother of James the Just, and thus possibly brother of Jesus as well.

Jude is a short epistle written in Koine Greek. It condemns in fierce terms certain people the author sees as a threat to the early Christian community, but describes these opponents only vaguely. According to Jude, these opponents are within the Christian community, but are not true Christians: they are scoffers, false teachers, malcontents, given to their lusts, and so on. The epistle reassures its readers that these people will soon be judged by God. It is possible that the group being referred to would have been obvious to the intended audience, but if a specific group was being referred to, knowledge of the details has since been lost. The one bit of their potential ideology discussed in the letter is that these opponents denigrate angels and their role. If this was indeed a part of the ideology of this group the author opposed, then the epistle is possibly a counterpoint to the Epistle to the Colossians. Colossians condemns those who give angels undue prominence and worship them; this implies the two letters might be part of an early Christian debate on angelology.

Textual witnesses

Papyrus 78, containing the Epistle of Jude verses 4, 5, 7 and 8. Dated to the 3rd or 4th century
Colophon at the Epistle of Jude in the Codex Alexandrinus

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this epistle are:[1]


The epistle introduces itself with a simple claim of authorship: "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James" (NRSV). "James" is generally taken to mean James, brother of Jesus, a prominent leader in the early church. Introductions would typically refer to a father in the era, so the use of a brother suggests that this would only be done if the brother was famous within the community. Little is known about Jude himself. As the brother of James, it has traditionally meant Jude was also a brother of Jesus, since James is described as being the brother of Jesus. This is why Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215 AD) wrote in his work "Comments on the Epistle of Jude" that Jude, the author, was a son of Joseph and a brother of Jesus.[4] However, there is a dispute as to whether "brother" means someone who has the same father and mother, or a half-brother, cousin, or more distant familial relationship. This dispute over the true meaning of "brother" grew as the doctrine of the Virgin Birth evolved.[5][6][7] For example, Saint Jerome believed that not only Mary but also Joseph were virgins their entire lives, and thus James and by extension Jude were cousins.[8]

Outside the book of Jude, a "Jude" is mentioned five times in the New Testament: three times as Jude the Apostle,[9] and twice as Jude the brother of Jesus[10] (aside from references to Judas Iscariot and Judah (son of Jacob)). Debate continues as to whether the author of the epistle is the apostle, the brother of Jesus, both, or neither. Scholars have argued that since the author of the letter has not identified himself as an apostle and also refers to the apostles as a third party, and thus cannot be identified with Jude the Apostle. Other scholars have drawn the opposite conclusion, which is that, as an apostle, he would not have made a claim of apostleship on his own behalf.[11]

A reason to doubt that the historical Jude wrote the book is that he is unlikely to have been literate. Jesus's family were common laborers from Aramaic language speaking Galilee, and literary composition skills were overwhelmingly concentrated in the children of the elite in antiquity. Few knew how to read, fewer how to write, and fewer still how to write complicated literary treatises. Jesus himself may have been able to read, presumably in Hebrew, but he was also exceptional and the star of the family. Even if somehow Jude had learned a little of how to read Hebrew, the epistle is written in excellent, complicated Koine Greek, with knowledge of common forms of rhetoric and argument of the era, as well as seeming knowledge of the scriptures in Hebrew. All this would be exceptional for a countryside Galilean. Scholars who defend the authenticity of the manuscript generally assume that Jude must have embarked upon extensive travel and missionary work among Hellenized Jews to master Greek as the author did. Ultimately, it is impossible to know more details of Jude's life for sure. One early Christian tradition states that Jude was brought before Emperor Domitian and interrogated; in the story, Jude defended himself as not a rebel and a mere poor farmer. While the story is clearly apocryphal - Roman Emperors did not generally interrogate Galilean peasants - it does suggest that early Christians remembered Jude as a lower-class laborer.[12]

If the Jude writing the letter was not Jude the Apostle mentioned in the gospels, then he was possibly an unknown Christian who happened to share the name and coincidentally also had a brother named James. A final possibility is that the epistle is pseudepigrapha - that the author intentionally hinted to readers that it was from the more famous Jude, but only as a false attribution to give the letter more authority.[12]

Canonical status

The letter of Jude was one of the disputed books of the biblical canon. Eusebius doubted its authenticity, although acknowledges it was read in many churches.[13] The links between the Epistle and 2 Peter and its use of the biblical apocrypha raised concern: Saint Jerome wrote the book was "rejected by many" since it quotes the Book of Enoch. The epistle only spread among Christian circles comparatively late, raising concerns that it had not really been written by an apostle, but rather a later figure.

Despite the concerns above, the Epistle of Jude was admitted to the canon in the Christian Church and the New Testament. Christian scholars date it between 70 and 90. Some scholars consider the letter a pseudonymous work that dates to the end of the 1st century AD to the first quarter of the 2nd century AD, due to its references to the apostles[14] and to tradition[15] and because of its competent Greek style.[16][17][18]

"More remarkable is the evidence that by the end of the second century Jude was widely accepted as canonical."[19] Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and the Muratorian canon considered the letter canonical. The first historical record of doubts as to authorship are found in the writings of Origen of Alexandria, who spoke of the doubts held by some, albeit not him. Eusebius classified it with the "disputed writings, the antilegomena." The letter was eventually accepted as part of the biblical canon by Church Fathers such as Athanasius of Alexandria[20] and the Synods of Laodicea (c. 363)[21] and Carthage (c. 397).[22]


Jude urges his readers to defend the deposit of Christ's doctrine that had been closed by the time he wrote his epistle, and to remember the words of the apostles spoken somewhat before. He warns about false teachers who use grace as a pretext for wantonness. Jude then asks the reader to recall how even after the Lord saved his own people out of the land of Egypt, he did not hesitate to destroy those who fell into unbelief, much as he punished the angels who fell from their original exalted status and Sodom and Gomorrah.[23] He also paraphrases (verse 9) an incident in a text that has been lost about Satan and Michael the Archangel quarreling over the body of Moses.

Continuing the analogy from Israel's history, he says that the false teachers have followed in the way of Cain, have rushed after reward into the error of Balaam, and have perished in the rebellion of Korach. He describes in vivid terms the opponents he warns of, calling them "clouds without rain", "trees without fruit", "foaming waves of the sea", and "wandering stars"[24] He exhorts believers to remember the words spoken by the Apostles, using language similar to the second epistle of Peter to answer concerns that the Lord seemed to tarry, "How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts...",[25] and to keep themselves in God's love,[26] before delivering a doxology to "the only, the wise God our savior".[27]

Jude quotes directly from 1 Enoch, a widely distributed work among the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, citing a section of 1 Enoch 1:8 that is based on Deuteronomy 33:2.[28]


The Epistle of Jude is a brief book. It is one of the shortest books of the New Testament, consisting of just 1 chapter of 25 verses, and almost the shortest book in the Bible, with the shortest the Book of Obadiah. It may have been composed as an encyclical letter—that is, one not directed to the members of one church in particular, but intended rather to be circulated and read in all churches.

The wording and syntax of this epistle in its original Greek demonstrates that the author was capable and fluent. The epistle's style is combative, impassioned, and rushed. Many examples of evildoers and warnings about their fates are given in rapid succession.

The epistle concludes with a doxology, which is considered by Peter H. Davids to be one of the highest in quality contained in the Bible.[29]

Identity of the opponents

The epistle fiercely condemns the opponents it warns of and declares that God will judge and punish them, despite them being a part of the Christian community. However, the exact nature of these opponents have been a continuing interest for both theologians and historians, as the epistle does not describe them in any more detail than calling them corrupt and ungodly. Several theories have been proposed. One hypothesis is that related to the role of angels in Christianity, and possibly by extension the authority of Paul the Apostle. Jude writes that "these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority, and heap abuse on celestial beings" (Jude 1:8). Paul's undisputed works indicate that believers are already on the same level as angels, that all existing powers are subject to Christ, and believers are the future judges of angels.[12] Later writings attributed to Paul such as Colossians and Ephesians go even farther, with Colossians decrying the alleged worship of angels.[12] As such, the author may have been attacking forms of Pauline Christianity that were not suitably deferential to angels in their opinion and who "rejected authority". As James was known to be a major figure among Jewish Christians, this might indicate tension between the more Jewish strands of early Christianity represented by James and Jude set against Paul's message to the gentiles.[12] However, the line about "heap abuse on celestial beings" might have essentially been just another insult, in which case this entire line of thought is rendered moot. The inherent vagueness of the epistle means that the identities of these opponents may well never be known.

Similarity to 2 Peter

Part of Jude is very similar to 2 Peter (mainly 2 Peter chapter 2); so much so that most scholars agree that either one letter used the other directly, or they both drew on a common source.[30] Comparing the Greek text portions of 2 Peter 2:1–3:3 (426 words) to Jude 4–18 (311 words) results in 80 words in common and 7 words of substituted synonyms.[31]

The shared passages are:[32]

2 Peter Jude
1:5 3
1:12 5
2:1 4
2:4 6
2:6 7
2:10–11 8–9
2:12 10
2:13–17 11–13
3:2-3 17-18
3:14 24
3:18 25

Because this epistle is much shorter than 2 Peter, and due to various stylistic details, some scholars consider Jude the source for the similar passages of 2 Peter.[33] However, other writers, arguing that Jude 18 quotes 2 Peter 3:3 as past tense, consider Jude to have come after 2 Peter.[34]

Some scholars who consider Jude to predate 2 Peter note that the latter appears to quote the former but omits the reference to the non-canonical book of Enoch.[35]

References to other books

Jude 9 on Codex Sinaiticus (c. 330–360)

The Epistle of Jude references at least three other books, with two (Book of Zechariah & 2 Peter) being canonical in all churches and the other (Book of Enoch) non-canonical in most churches.

Verse 9 refers to a dispute between Michael the Archangel and the devil about the body of Moses. Some interpreters understand this reference to be an allusion to the events described in Zechariah 3:1–2.[36][37] The classical theologian Origen attributes this reference to the non-canonical Assumption of Moses.[38] According to James Charlesworth, there is no evidence the surviving book of this name ever contained any such content.[39] Others believe it to be in the lost ending of the book.[39][40]

Verses 14–15 contain a direct quotation of a prophecy from 1 Enoch 1:9. The title "Enoch, the seventh from Adam" is also sourced from 1 En. 60:1. Most commentators assume that this indicates that Jude accepts the antediluvian patriarch Enoch as the author of the Book of Enoch which contains the same quotation. However, an alternative explanation is that Jude quotes the Book of Enoch aware that verses 14–15 are in fact an expansion of the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 33:2.[41][42][43] This is supported by Jude's unusual Greek statement that "Enoch the Seventh from Adam prophesied to the false teachers", not concerning them.[44]

The Book of Enoch is not considered canonical by most churches, although it is by the Ethiopian Orthodox church. According to Western scholars, the older sections of the Book of Enoch (mainly in the Book of the Watchers) date from about 300 BC and the latest part (Book of Parables) probably was composed at the end of the 1st century BC.[45] 1 Enoch 1:9, mentioned above, is part of the pseudepigrapha and is among the Dead Sea Scrolls [4Q Enoch (4Q204[4QENAR]) COL I 16–18].[46] It is largely accepted by scholars that the author of the Epistle of Jude was familiar with the Book of Enoch and was influenced by it in thought and diction.[47]

The epistle also closely mirrors the Epistle of James, with many similar sentences and borrowed phrases.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Robinson 2017, p. 12.
  2. ^ Aland, Kurt; Aland, Barbara (1995). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Erroll F. Rhodes (trans.). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-8028-4098-1.
  3. ^ Eberhard Nestle, Erwin Nestle, Barbara Aland and Kurt Aland (eds), Novum Testamentum Graece, 26th edition, (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1991), p. 689.
  4. ^ "Jude wrote the Catholic Epistle, the brother of the sons of Joseph, and very religious, while knowing the near relationship of the Lord, yet did not say that he himself was His brother. But what said he? "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ,"—of Him as Lord; but "the brother of James." For this is true; he was His brother, (the son) of Joseph."of Alexandria, Clement. Comments on the Epistle of Jude. newadvent.org. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  5. ^ Jocelyn Rhys, Shaken Creeds: The Virgin Birth Doctrine: A Study of Its Origin, Kessinger Publishing (reprint), 2003 [1922] ISBN 0-7661-7988-5, pp 3–53
  6. ^ Chester, A and Martin, RP (1994), 'The Theology of the Letters of James, Peter and Jude', CUP, p.65
  7. ^ Bauckham, R. J. (1986), Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.50, Word (UK) Ltd. p.14
  8. ^ Ehrman, Bart (January 3, 2015). "The Virgin Birth and Jesus' Brothers". The Bart Ehrman Blog: The History & Literature of Early Christianity. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  9. ^ Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13, John 14:22
  10. ^ Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3
  11. ^ Bauckham, R. J. (1986), Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.50, Word (UK) Ltd. p.14f
  12. ^ a b c d e f Ehrman, Bart (2012). Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. Oxford University Press. p. 309–318. ISBN 9780199928033.
  13. ^ Eusebius, Church History 2 23
  14. ^ Jude 17–18
  15. ^ Jude 3
  16. ^ "scripture".
  17. ^ Norman Perrin, (1974) The New Testament: An Introduction, p. 260
  18. ^ Bauckham, RJ (1986), Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.50, Word (UK) Ltd. p.16
  19. ^ Bauckham, RJ (1986), Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.50, Word (UK) Ltd. p.17
  20. ^ Lindberg, Carter (2006). A Brief History of Christianity. Blackwell Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 1-4051-1078-3
  21. ^ Council of Laodicea at bible-researcher.com. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
  22. ^ B. F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (5th ed. Edinburgh, 1881), pp. 440, 541–2.
  23. ^ Jude 5–7
  24. ^ Jude 8–16
  25. ^ Jude 18
  26. ^ Jude 21
  27. ^ Jude 24–25
  28. ^ Maxwell Davidson Angels at Qumran: A Comparative Study of 1 Enoch 1-36 1992 p32 " ten thousands of holy ones" "this section is modelled in part on Deuteronomy 33 [as noted by J. VanderKam, The Theophany of Enoch 1973 and PD Miller The Divine Warrior in Early Israel 1973] "
  29. ^ Davids, Peter H. (2006). The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eardmans Publishing Co. p. 106.
  30. ^ Introduction to 2 Peter in Expositor's Bible Commentary, Ed. F. E. Gaebelein, Zondervan 1976–1992
  31. ^ Callan 2004, p. 43.
  32. ^ Robinson 2017, p. 10.
  33. ^ e.g. Callan 2004, pp. 42–64.
  34. ^ e.g. John MacArthur 1, 2, 3, John Jude 2007 p101 "...closely parallels that of 2 Peter (2:1–3:4), and it is believed that Peter's writing predated Jude for several reasons: (1) Second Peter anticipates the coming of false teachers (2 Peter 2:1–2; 3:3), whereas Jude deals with their arrival (verses 4, 11–12, 17–18); and (2) Jude quotes directly from 2 Peter 3:3 and acknowledges that it is from an apostle (verses 17–18)."
  35. ^ Dale Martin 2009 (lecture). "24. Apocalyptic and Accommodation". Yale University. Accessed July 22, 2013.
  36. ^ Peter H. Davids; Douglas J. Moo; Robert Yarbrough (5 April 2016). 1 and 2 Peter, Jude, 1, 2, and 3 John. Zondervan. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-310-53025-1.
  37. ^ R. C. Lucas; Christopher Green (2 May 2014). The Message of 2 Peter & Jude. InterVarsity Press. pp. 168–. ISBN 978-0-8308-9784-1.
  38. ^ "ANF04. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second".
  39. ^ a b James Charlesworth Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, p. 76, Google books link
  40. ^ The Assumption of Moses: a critical edition with commentary By Johannes Tromp. P270
  41. ^ Charles R. Enoch OUP, p. 119
  42. ^ Nickelsburg G. 1 Enoch Fortress
  43. ^ Cox S. Slandering celestial beings
  44. ^ AUTOI dative
  45. ^ Fahlbusch E., Bromiley G. W. The Encyclopedia of Christianity: P-Sh page 411, ISBN 0-8028-2416-1 (2004)
  46. ^ Clontz, T. E. and J., The Comprehensive New Testament with complete textual variant mapping and references for the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, Nag Hammadi Library, Pseudepigrapha, Apocrypha, Plato, Egyptian Book of the Dead, Talmud, Old Testament, Patristic Writings, Dhammapada, Tacitus, Epic of Gilgamesh, Cornerstone Publications, 2008, p.711, ISBN 978-0-9778737-1-5
  47. ^ "Apocalyptic Literature" (column 220), Encyclopedia Biblica


Further reading

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Epistle of Jude
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