Unger's Bible Dictionary: Jude



JUDE, EPISTLE OF. One of the general letters dealing primarily with false teachers (Jude 4-6) and in this respect resembling 2 Peter. Jude expresses affectionate solicitude for the Christians (1-3, 20-25) and urges them to contend "for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." His language is extremely stern toward heretics. He denounces and threatens them rather than refuting them. Although the epistle deals with conditions that were incipient in the writer's time, nevertheless the scope of the book comprehends conditions at the end of the age and so has a suitable place before the book of Revelation.


Authorship. According to the testimony of the book itself, it was written by "Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James" (v. 1). Since James was one of the brothers of Jesus, Jude was likewise one of His brothers. Matt 13:55 and Mark 6:3 ("Judas" in both places in the NIV) indicate that Jesus had a brother by that name. Six other Judes or Judases are referred to in the NT, but the writer of this epistle is not to be confused with any of them. He differentiated himself from others of the same name by the mention of his brother, rather than his father. The reason for this is that his brother was much better known among his readers. Jude was not an apostle, as indicated by the omission of the apostolic title. Almost nothing is known about the life of Jude. He was apparently convinced of the deity of Christ after the resurrection.


Authenticity. Hermas, Polycarp, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Eusebius give early attestation to the authority of the book. Jude is more strongly attested than 2 Peter. This is somewhat astonishing when one considers its lack of apostolic authorship, its shortness, its polemic character, and its alleged reference to apocryphal literature. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Augustine, Jerome, and other church Fathers maintained that Jude actually made reference to the Apocrypha. For this reason many early Fathers rejected it as authentic. Verse 9 was thought to have been a quotation from the Assumption of Moses and vv. 14-15 were supposed to be taken from the book of Enoch. It is possible that Jude quoted a passage from a known uncanonical book, not by way of endorsement, but because he used this particular statement as divinely given.


Background. The general character of the epistle does not permit a certain determination of the locality of its composition or its destination. It may be that the letter was intended for the same people as those to whom James addressed his letter.


Occasion and Date. The inroads of apostasy and heretical doctrine stirred up the author to write and to warn the faithful Christians against this danger. The author cites important examples of defection in the OT and their result, notably the defection of the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt; defection among angelic beings, evidently in connection with the Flood (v. 6); and the apostasy of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude gives an eloquent and impassioned polemic against the apostate teachers (vv. 8-19). He concludes his epistle with comfort to Christians by reminding them of their first duty. The date is undeterminable; any time from A.D. 66 AD to A.D. 75 AD - 80 AD could be possible. It is commonly dated around A.D. 75 AD by Zahn and others.



BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. Bigg, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude, International Critical Commentary (1961); E. M. B. Green, Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (1968); J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude, Harper New Testament Commentaries (1969); G. L. Lawlor, Translation and Exposition of the Epistle of Jude (1972); F. A. Tatford, Jude's Apostates (1975); W. Jenkyn, An Exposition upon the Epistle of Jude (1976); T. Manton, An Exposition of the Epistle of Jude (1978); J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. Jude and 2 Peter (1978); J. F. MacArthur, Jr., Beware the Pretenders (1979).

(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

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