Have you read the book by Luke called “The Acts of the Apostles?” This book describes a situation that was setting up that is exactly the spiritual opposite of that book. Jude has been called by theologians, and that would include Drs. MacArthur, Lawson, and Sproul, as The Acts of the Apostates. The writer here in many ways repeats the content of 2 Peter, with 19 of Jude’s verses reading almost exactly like Peter’s. I don’t know what that information does for you, but it makes me want to know more about what this book is about, and that is one of the reasons we study Scripture.
The very first question I like to answer in as book like this is, “Who is Jude?” Jude is an English condensation of the original Hebrew name of Judah. As in Lion of the Tribe of. The Greek version of the name is Judas, incidentally, and there are to my knowledge EIGHT men named Judas in the New Testament. Of those eight men mentioned by name, two are more reasonable candidates for authorship of this letter. The Apostle Jude, or Jude, the half-brother of Jesus (same genetic mother). It cannot be the Apostle Jude, because he was the SON of a man named James. If you’re using a King James, you will want to note this is one of the translation errors. Look in Luke 6:16. The KJV reads,”And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.” You will note the italics in the text of the KJV, which always denotes the words do not occur in the translation. Without turning this into a linguistics lecture, which I am less qualified to do than others here this evening, the NASB and other English translations correctly render this as “the SON of James.” The exact same Greek construction occurs in Luke 6:15 when it names James, the son of Alphaeus. Like things should be translated in like fashion. That’s the short version of it. That really leaves one choice, and it is Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, and he WAS really a brother of James. I’m not asking you to agree, but that’s what I’ve learned and as such I share it with you.
I also find it ironic that the man who wrote most powerfully to warn of the apostacy beginning in Jude’s own time had the same name as the greatest apostate of all time, so there’s that…[chuckle]
It speaks to Jude’s character in that he identifies himself not as the Lord’s brother, but as His servant. His brother James did the same in his own letter to the church if you will recall. Just read James 1:1. “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.” And these guys had the same mother, genetically speaking. We should have the same attitude and approach. Yes, I know that is hard. No one ever promised this would ever be easy.
It goes without saying that very little is known about Jude from outside of this letter. We find him in 1 Cor. 9:5, which reads, “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” We assume here that “the brothers of the Lord” refers to at least James and Jude. So we posit from this that Jude was married, and he had an itinerant ministry as at least an evangelist, though it may have been more. Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History, relates a story (which may just be legend, but it seems right so I will tell it) that Jude’s grandsons were brought before the Roman Emperor Domitian for questions a bout their loyalty all because they were descendants of King David’s royal line. That would certainly make me fearful, but then again, I don’t like to suffer. Anyway, Domitian dismissed them when he learned that they were essentially little more than farmers. Like all other things that Domitian did, that was according to the story, filled with contempt for those around him. Anything else we learn will come from the epistle itself regarding Jude.
As usual, there are so-called “scholars” that attack the authorship of Jude, and it is always for the reason of weakening the authority, sufficiency, and inspiration of Scripture. These individuals, ironically, are some of the individuals that are the subject of the letter Jude wrote to warn us about them, and because it warns us of them, it is one of the most heavily attacked, just like 2 Peter. We’ll talk a little about that so you can understand why they are wrong.
The first of these things is the old trope about how the writings date to after his lifetime. My usual question is something like, “Were you there when Jude went to be with Jesus?” If the answer is no, and it must be, then they have no proof of what they say. Think about this. Why would a forger of some kind want to write a book allegedly from an obscure figure? Let alone a figure that represented a sect of people classed at this time as the people who were responsible for the burning of Rome several years earlier? A sect, I might add, that was illegal and considered for the earlier stated reason as terrorists? One cold argue it was to fleece people of their coin, and that’s a possible motive, but wouldn’t they have picked a major apostle? Works like that, from what is referred to as the pseudepigraphal world, always claimed authorship from Paul or Peter, or James, or Thomas, like that. Also, I don’t know about you, but I think that such a forger would not have missed the opportunity to make hay about how he was the Lord’s brother, so such claims are ironic and comical. Well, they make me laugh anyway.
Other unbelievers calling themselves “textual critics” say that the language is too poetical and has too much learning to be written by a peasant, especially a Galilean peasant. However, the reality is that Greek was spoken widely as a language of commerce throughout the region. Galilee on a map is close to the region known as the Decapolis where the main language of commerce was Greek. Books have been written that at least two, and three languages, maybe even four were commonly spoken in that day (those would be Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin). The people of Galilee were not inferior to the rest of the planet. If I were woke, I would suggest that it would be racist to suggest they were. [chuckle]. Concerns about Jude’s lack of Greek skill are without merit. Also, he may have dictated his letter to a kind of secretary, called an “amanuensis,” whose trade it was to write things down for people. If you think that’s unusual, Paul’s amanuensis was named Tertius, and Tertius identifies himself in the text of Romans (16:22). Later in Paul’s epistles, we learn that as a security measure, he had to write a line of his own so that the authorship of the letter could be confirmed, because of pseudepigraphal writers claiming to be Paul. It caused quite a ruckus among the Thessalonian gathering to say the least.
There is even more criticism and some from conservative camps that fault Jude for using what is known as “apocryphal material.” What that means is in this case is not having to do with the “Apocrypha” in this case, which are Old Testament books taken out of the canon of Scripture by the Jews whose province that is, but rather material that is of questionable authorship or authenticity. Jude has potentially used two sources. One of those is 1 Enoch, which he quotes directly in the text (14-15). We will leave a discussion of that until when we reach that in our studies, and the other potential source was a new one for me, The Assumption of Moses, which I can only assume has something to do with the story of Michael and Lucifer’s argument over the body of Moses (9). What we need to remember is that Jude was not without knowledge as was probably familiar with what HE called ancient writings. Beloved, I read a lot of books. Not all of those books are the Bible. Charles Spurgeon recommended being well-read when he said, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” Quoting a work does not mean that it is endorsed fully by the one who quotes. I could quote biology textbooks to you and still not believe the theory of evolution, for example. Just because Jude quotes a book does not mean he believes everything it says, and in fact may have only been quoting portions he knew to be relevant.
So when was it written? Well, like all the other letters of the New Testament, none of them are dated, but it is my firm opinion that this letter was written after 2 Peter. Most of this comes from the verb tenses used by Peter and Jude. Peter wrote from the perspective that the false teachers were coming, but Jude wrote from the perspective of them already being present when he wrote. Those who deny Jude as Scripture often say that this letter was written well into the second century, but there is no proof of that. They use verse 17 as the proof of that, but that isn’t proof of anything but the words on the page. I could make the same statement about John Owen as I could about Charles Spurgeon in that they both wrote sermons that said things about Christianity. That statement is true, but it says nothing about when they were written. To insist that is to “exceed what is written,” so to speak (1 Cor. 4:6). “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” In fact verse 18 of the text suggests that if all the Apostles were dead, they hadn’t been dead long, and many of the target audience of the letter itself had heard the Apostles personally!
Alongside of such assertions usually comes the claim that Jude was addressing his warnings regarding the Gnostics of the second century, but again, that’s spurious. These were what we have been classing as the proto-Gnostics. They had all the arguments, but not a cohesive way of stating them yet. Also, it should be noted that Jude doesn’t deal with their philosophistry, but more critically with their behaviour. He isn’t writing a treatise on how to argue with them, but rather is giving instruction on what to look for and how to live a holy life instead of the nonsense they were purveying.
Those individuals that place Jude in the Apostolic age must be precise with their times. If you will remember what we said about 2 Peter, we think it was written immediately before Peter’s execution by Nero in about AD 64. That places the writing of this letter by Jude to a group of Christians of largely Hebrew extraction in a shorter period after that, say within 10 years, assuming that Jude was safe and had the time within that time. Is it conjecture? Yes, but it isn’t a blind guess. We do not have even a guess at Jude’s location when he wrote the letter, though given it was probably primarily to Jewish believers, perhaps in the area around Jerusalem, where he was in Leadership capacity in the church.
Jude’s original intent was to write a letter that would inspire people to joy in their shared faith, and I would really have preferred that, as I’m sure would all other believers, but that isn’t what he wrote. Instead, he informs us that the Holy Spirit wanted him to warn us about the lifestyle with which these false teachers live so that they may be avoided. Interestingly, this is the same story that Jesus gave us about false teachers in Matthew 7:15-20: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” As stated before, it wasn’t his purpose to debate their insanity, because no matter what brand of insanity to which they adhere, their behaviour is their true common ground. In the church at large today, there seems to be this emphasis on “being nice” about and to people. Although I have no issue in being civil and cordial no matter the circumstance, the gospel of “being nice” has no redemptive power. These individuals need to be marked publicly and the holy brethren need to be warned about them. This is Jude’s actual intent in writing the letter.
Thomas Schreiner in his work titled, 1, 2 Peter, Jude in the New American Commentary says it this way: “…by revealing their character Jude stripped them of any authority in the congregation. No thinking Christian would follow people who are fundamentally selfish. He unveiled who they truly were, removing any grounds for their influence in the church.” Jude in fact paints a picture so severe of the behaviour of these individuals that Dr. MacArthur calls it “shocking” in his New Testament Commentary on 2 Peter and Jude. Verses 12 and 13 of the letter itself speaks of this: “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” Though they were in the church, they were not a part of it, as the Apostle John said. Verse 19 of the text puts it like this: “These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.” Think about that! Jude is telling us that these individuals are unregenerate. The Holy Spirit comes to line inside all real believers. If they are devoid of the Spirit, then they are not believers, and are therefore unregenerate! And they are today all over in church leadership. We should not be surprised, because this was beginning to be true even in Jude’s day.
When we studied 2 Peter, I made a statement on how the letter was related to Jude. I said, “There are a number of unsuccessful attempts by so-called “higher critics” to attack Peter’s authorship, and to be honest it isn’t anything earthshattering or new in the realm of nonsense they have tried to proclaim in order to attack the sufficiency and infallibility of Scripture. However, the same old Pinnochios have been used against this letter more than any other book in the New Testament.” Would you like to take a guess on the number two book for this to happen to? Neither would I, but if I had to guess, it would be this letter of Jude. As I said then, the books of 2 Peter and Jude form a dark corner of the New Testament where things are contested greatly. It is for the real believer to search out what is the truth, and a cursory look at the books together tell you they are related.
Back when we looked together at 2 Peter as a whole, I also said that “all of the church fathers in the second century and at the canon conference in I want to say 375ish, hesitated the longest on the authorship of this letter (2 Peter). However, every single one of them accepted this into the canon of Scripture, including Origen, who for some reason seemed to be a critic [or he was being polemical, I don’t know]. Jude, we think, references 2 Peter in at least 18 verses of his letter, and for that reason…we think 2 Peter was written first.” It sure helps to have everything written down. However, it seems that scholarship on this topic is divided, and I have to address that.
I have stated more than once this evening that I think 2 Peter came first, and here is why. The question at hand is whether Peter used Jude as a source or Jude used Peter as a source. The arguments here are in my thinking not relevant. Hear me out. This is somewhat of a false dichotomy. There is a third option that Dr. MacArthur points out in his New Testament Commentary on the books: They shared a common source for inspiration. Doctor MacArthur even inserts a little wry textual humor into the statement by claiming that there is no evidence whatsoever of a common source from which the two believers could draw inspiration. For the new believers, non-believers, or false converts in the crowd who didn’t get the joke, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in all believers. Being God Himself, He can do that. If you didn’t get that, you’re one of the above three options in my opinion. Just a little spiritual self-examination check for you. Most of the contradictory arguments for either writer cancel each other out, so to speak, so again it comes down to textual analysis.
There are two arguments primarily that argue for 2 Peter to have been first and Jude later. Peter writes, as I have already stated, of these false teachers in the future tense primarily, while Jude writes in the present tense because they have arrived. This is a strong implication that Jude was the latter of the two letters. However, “higher textual critics” of the liberal persuasion are not idiots, and they insert some nuance into the textual argument. Peter, it seems, referred to some of these false teachers as present tense! Oh no, oh no, whatever shall we do? Well, again, we look at what the text tells us. First, realize that such an argument does not invalidate the argument as a whole, because maybe they were just starting to come in in Peter’s day. Then, as we look closer at the text, we realize that Peter uses the present tense to speak about the CHARACTER of the false teachers, and the future tense to describe their arrival onto the scene as it were. If Peter had used Jude as a source, his use of future tense at all would make no sense. This means 2 Peter was first to press as it were.
The second argument that puts 2 Peter as the prior letter over Jude is that the wording of verses 17-18 of our text is almost the same as 2 Peter 3:3. Let’s compare those.
Jude 17-18: But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”
2 Peter 3:3: Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts…
Now I’m no expert, but this looks to me like Jude is quoting Peter as an Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. Liberal critics have here said that this means the apostles were long dead. I don’t think this is proof of that at all. All it says is that at some point, more than one Apostle said that mockers will come in their mocking and following their own lusts. The only passage in Scripture that matches this is 2 Pet. 3:3. Paul used similar language, but was less specific. Compare 2 Tim. 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” This text places at least some of the responsibility on the hearers, where Peter and Jude are both talking about the charge against the false teachers that lead the willing astray.
What this means is that even in the days of the Apostles and writers of the New Testament, we all have a responsibility to live as followers of Jesus and walk in a worthy manner by which He has called us. To do otherwise is a form of spiritual sedition and treason. If you are a real Christian, you will recognize that and at least try to follow Christ in a worthy manner, as described by His Apostles. If you aren’t, then you won’t. It’s that simple. And I even include those who follow religion in order to gain salvation in that remark. You CANNOT earn your way into God’s free gift, God must give it to you and you must take it. You will repent willingly when you see your sin for what it truly is, cosmic treason against a holy God that will not look on sin. Don’t suffer for the rest of eternity, accept the gracious and benevolent offer of the free gift God has for you in Christ! Turn from you sins! Change your mind about them! Admit they are sin! To God, and to yourself! And then be persuaded that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was enough to pay the penalty for your sins personally. There is literally no other name under heaven by which anyone may be saved! And He is waiting for you to accept His gracious gift so that He can remake you into the image of who He wants you to be.
With that said, I broke the letter down like this:
KV3: Dire Warnings for All Believers
3: Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
1-2: Greetings and credentials
3-4: The reasons for writing
5-7: Two examples of society and its decay
8-13: What makes false teachers bad
14-16: Ancient confirmation of false teachers being bad
17-23: But you… (A Case for Discipleship)
We have already gone over the whys and wherefores of the content of the letter in some measure. What we gain from the breaking down of the text into thought units is that we can see a sort of analogous 20,000-foot view of the letter and take it all in at once. As we get into the text, we will pick meaning apart for our own consumption, but this is a good start on the letter written by Jude.
That’s what I saw in the overview.
Notes: 1-7 | 8-16 | 17-25
Video: 1-7 | 8-16 | 17-25