Introduction to Jude
Author, Date, and Recipients
The book was written by Jude, the brother of James and Jesus (see Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3, where “Judas” is the same in Greek as “Jude”). Jude was probably written in the mid-60s a.d. Considering the letter’s apparent Jewish perspective, Jude’s audience was probably Jewish Christians, or a mixture of Jewish and Gentile readers where the Gentiles were familiar with Jewish traditions.
Since Jude addresses a situation similar to the one addressed by 2 Peter and exhibits a literary relationship to ch. 2 of that letter (Jude may have been a source for 2 Peter), the two letters are commonly dated in fairly close proximity, even though evidence for the date of writing within the book of Jude is sparse.
The church must defend the one true faith (v. 3). Believers must be faithful to the end by resisting false teachers and following the truth.
Purpose, Occasion, and Background
Jude warns against following false teachers who have infiltrated the church and are distorting the one true faith. Jude calls the church to defend the truth aggressively against such false teaching.
While the false teachers of Jude were profoundly libertine (morally unrestrained), it would be historically inaccurate to argue that they were Gnostics. This heretical sect (or group of sects) was influential primarily from the second century a.d. onward.
Jude accomplishes his purpose by drawing analogies with OT events, using the same principles of interpretation found in 2 Peter (and elsewhere in the NT). He also draws on Jewish apocalyptic traditions from nonbiblical literature (he refers to 1 Enoch and the Testament of Moses) in building his case. Thus, as literature, Jude has a distinctively Jewish flavor.
The format is of a NT epistle (letter), with its loose divisions of salutation, body, and closing. But the central unit of the letter (vv. 5–16) fits the style of a judgment oracle: it has an object of attack, an attack coming from several directions, a harsh tone, and an implied standard on which the attack is being conducted (“the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”; v. 3). The description of those who left the faith (vv. 8–16) provides a picture of their character and actions. The use of images and allusions (e.g., to Sodom and Gomorrah and the archangel Michael) lends a poetic quality to the letter.
The writer displays horror over the apostasy and the false teachers who have caused it. The only NT passage that goes beyond Jude in these traits is Jesus’ denunciation of the religious leaders in Matthew 23. But this letter begins with the usual soothing notes of NT epistles, and in the last two verses it becomes one of the most moving benedictions in the NT.
- Christians need to defend the doctrines of the faith (v. 3).
- False teachers may be identified by their immoral character (vv. 4, 8, 10, 12–13, 16, 18–19).
- God will judge false teachers (vv. 4, 5–7, 11, 14–15).
- Saints must endure to be saved (vv. 17–23).
- As God grants mercy to those who are called, they must show mercy to others (vv. 2, 21–23).
- God grants the grace to ensure that his people will persevere (vv. 1–2, 24–25).