Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beginning the Letter of Judah

The Letter of Jude is a short, but fascinating writing of the New Testament. Much like the equally short Letter to Philemon by Paul, there can be a tendency to fly through these letters without stopping to appreciate the importance of the message. (Hopefully we will be able to do so with this ongoing study.) This letter provides us a small insight into Judah’s fierce reaction to false teachers and bad morality. In many ways, this letter shows that the early Church had real issues it needed to deal with, some of them not unlike ones we deal with today. A couple of further points to consider before we proceed:

In Greek, the writer calls himself Ioudas. For various reasons, most likely do to connection to Judas Iscariot, many translations have preferred to translate the name as Jude. Along with Jude or Judas, it is also possible to refer to this writer as Judah. N.T. Wright prefers to call him Judah, since that name is both “royal and ancient.” I will use them interchangeably during this study, although I tend to prefer Judah. It should be noted that there are a number of people with the same name mentioned in the New Testament, including Judas Iscariot, Judas Barsabbas (Acts 15:22), the Apostle Judas the Son of James (Lk 6:16) sometimes called Thaddeus (Mk 3:18), and another Judas, a kinsman of Jesus and brother to James (Mt 13:55/Mark 6:3). Since the latter Judas is the only one mentioned to have a brother named James, which our letter writer refers to in the opening verse, most scholars tend to believe that this is the Judas who wrote the epistle.

As with many books in the New Testament, it is difficult to give a precise date of composition. Some commentaries date it as early as the 50’s while others think it was composed at the beginning of the second century. The letter is not addressed to any particular person or community, and the opponents to which Jude describes cannot be pinpointed precisely. Many scholars are uncertain as to whether he is arguing against Jews, Jewish-Christians, or Gnostics. Also, there is the issue of the literary connection between Jude and 2 Peter. The possibility that one drew information from another is likely, but did Jude borrow from 2 Peter or vice-versa?

Jude 1-4
Jude 5-16
Jude 17-25

Resources that I will be utilizing:
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament
The Navarre Bible New Testament Compact Edition
The Early Christian Letters for Everyone (NT Wright)
Interpretation: First and Second Peter, James, and Jude (Perkins)
New Oxford Annotated Bible 4th Edition


Theophrastus said...

For me, the literary aspects of this epistle are fascinating, since it is so well written. The author, both in vocabulary and style shows that he was good at Greek (and a good Greek too). Since most of the NT is written in a much cruder Greek, Jude stands out.

Origen famously claimed that Jude "was a small letter, but filled with a vigorous vocabulary."

The words found in Jude and not found elsewhere in the NT include:

apodiorizein (v 19);
aptaistos (v 24);
goggystēs (v 16);
deigma (v 7);
ekporneuein (v 7);
epagōnizesthai (v 3);
epaphrizein (v 13);
mempsimoiros (v 16);
pareisdyein (v 4);
planētēs (v 13);
spilas (v 12);
hypechein (v 7);
phthinopōrinos (v 12); &
physikōs (v 16).

Three additional words are found only in 2 Peter (who largely copies Jude):

empaiktēs (v 18),
syneuōcheisthai (v 12), and
hyperogkos (v 16).

Note that of all these words, only four can be found in Greek translations of the OT.

Another 22 words in Jude are only rarely found in the NT.

Semiticisms in Jude include:

ek gēs Aigyptou (v 5);
ouai autois (v 11);
en tēi hodōi tou Kain eporeuthēsan (v11).

There are a number of good Greek idioms (spoudēn poiesthai, v 7; dikēn hypechein, v 7) and poetic Greek phrases (hypo zophon, v 6; kymata agria, v 13) and the intelligent use of Greek particles (men ... de ... de, vv 8, 10, 22–23).

Jude uses literary triplets for amplification and coherence:

v 1: identification of the addressees:
"beloved ...called ... kept"

v 2: benediction:
"mercy and peace and love be multiplied"

v 4: identification of the opponents:
"proscribed ...turn away ... deny:

vv 5–7: precedents of sinners judged:
Israel in wilderness, angels, Sodom

v 8: identification of the opponents:
"defile ... flout ... insult"

v 11: woe to three sinners judged:
Cain, Balaam, Korah
"gone the way of ...abandoned themselves ... destroyed"

v 12: metaphors of vanity
"rainless clouds ...fruitless trees ... doubly dead"

v 14: the judgment of the Lord
"coming ... pass judgment ... convict"

v 16: identification of the opponents:
"disgruntled ... murmurers ... go the way of passion"

v 19: vices of the opponents:
"create division ... physical ... have no Spirit"

vv 20–21: virtues of the faithful:
"build yourselves up ... praying ... await"

vv 22–23: on dealing with the opponents:
"on the one hand ... on the other"
"snatch ... have mercy ... hate"

v 25: honorable attributes of God:
"glory, majesty, might, and authority"

v 25: duration of God’s honor:
"before all ages, now and forever"

Timothy said...


That is some fantastic information. Of course, I would expect nothing less than that from you. Looking forward to your future comments as we move forward in Jude.

BTW: Could you send me an email, I have an off topic question for you.

Leonardo said...


First of all, maybe this letter was not in my schedule of readings, but I read it, and now I am closer to read the entire Bible.

In the Spanish Bible, this letter is the letter of "Judas", and is written in the same way as the Iscariot.

Chrysostom said...

2 Peter is obviously later than Jude and dependent on Jude, and not the other way around, because Peter went to great lengths to excise anything that might be considered an allusion to the apocrypha from his letter, implying a time where the view of the canon had begun to change more inclusive ("these are the minimum of the inspired writings) to more exclusive ("these are the sum total of the inspired writings").

There are textual arguments to support it, and lower critical ones (dating of the letters, etc.), but the excision of the apocrypha seems to sum it up nicely, and should close the case for anyone who's not a diehard "2 Peter was definitely written by Cephas himself" school.

Chrysostom said...

I just re-read my comment and found that I should have said "higher criticism" when I said "lower". The "textual arguments" are lower criticism, and have to do with the words written and manuscripts, etc., whereas "higher criticism" has to do with dating, provenance, etc.

Francesco said...


One thing I don't understand about the identification of the author of Jude with a relative of Jesus is that it isn't how the author identifies himself. He says he's James' brother and Christ's slave, not that he's a brother/cousin of both Jesus and of James. I can't think of a reason why the author wouldn't mention it, especially since this letter is supposed to be persuasive. If he wants the reader to stop listening to some other preachers and return to orthodox apostolic beliefs, wouldn't being as close to Jesus as possible be useful?

Timothy said...

One point I forgot to mention was that Jude is not read on any Sunday in the three year Lectionary. A portion of it, however, is read on one week day.

T. said...

I consulted the following documents on Jude (in this order):

* International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Orr)
* Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Bible Commentary
* NOAB, 4th ed.
* The New Jerome Biblical Commentary
* The CTS New Catholic Bible

They soundly disagreed with one another on authorship and precedence with regards to 2Peter.

After reading all that they had to offer about the book of Jude, I had almost forgotten the CTS bible which,in no more than a single paragraph, provided the most brief summary of all that had preceded it. Two key sentences are excerpted here:

1. There is no agreement among scholars whether the Letter was genuinely written by Jude, brother of James, or whether it was merely attributed to him as an authoritative figure.

2. Further definition of date, recipients or author does not seem to be possible. It is closely related to 2 Peter, which may well be a re-working of the same material.

WELL, why didn't y'all just say so?!?

I'm starting to think that I should spend less time on reading biblical scholarship and more time attempting to practice the 'morals' of the stories. : )