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Jude

Scripture: Jude 1-25

Overview:

  • A big howdy-do to all you who have listened to God’s call, know his love and are being kept safe through Jesus; this is Jude, James’ bro and life-long slave to Jesus. ‘Sup? I hope you are experiencing mercy, peace and hope in heaps.
  • I wanted to write to you about how cool it is that we all belief the same things about Jesus, but instead I’m going to write to you about fighting your hardest to hold on to the truth that God entrusted to us.
  • There are evil people hanging out in your churches, evil people that we’ve been warned about for a long time, evil people whose criminal acts are written on God’s wanted posters.
  • They’ve slyly showed up in our congregations, but they are not at all like God’s people. They believe that they can freely sin because God gives grace freely. And they don’t believe that Jesus is the one true God. Whaaaa?
  • I know you already know this, but you can’t take your current status for granted. Remember how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt (totally saved them, exodus-style)? Yeah, well, he let those who rebelled against him die in the dessert. They never got to the promise land.  And remember how angels live in the presence of God (the source of light and good)? Yeah, well, some of them chose to rebel and now they live in darkness, waiting for judgement. One more: remember Sodom and Gomorrah? Those were really nice towns at one point. Built in a nice land that was well watered and had good schools and everything. A great place to live. But the people there got so pervy that God rained down fire on them and destroyed them. These are all examples of people who had it made, but threw it all away and now face eternally bad consequences. Don’t be like that.
  • The false teachers among you think their dreams and visions are more important that the gospel. They also don’t think it matters how they act as long as they believe “inside.” Oh, yeah, and they dis angels, too. Not cool.
  • Even Michael, the chief angel who watches over God’s people, showed respect to a fellow angel back in the day when he was sent to bury Moses’ body and ran crossways with the Devil. Satan got all up in Mikey’s grill, but big Mike didn’t fight back, instead he appealed to God to fight back for him because he knows that only God should be the judge.
  • These false teachers are ignorant about the higher things, but think they have it all mastered. Well, the one thing they are not ignorant about, and do have mastered, is their base, primal, animal instincts, and they’re following those to their doom.
  • They are screwed! They’re like Cain–the first murderer–who took a rock and bashed in the head of his Godly brother in hopes of being loved by God himself. They’re like Balaam, the prophet from the old days who sold his prophetic skills to the highest bidder and worked against God’s people. They’re like Korah, that dude who thought he was better than Moses and tried to take over Israel, but who got swallowed up by the earth for his rebellion.
  • These false teachers are like stains on the tablecloths of your potlucks, because they serve themselves before everyone else. Can you imagine anything more despicable than a shepherd who gorges himself on food but never bothers to feed his sheep?
  • They’re like clouds that look like they’re going to rain, but never do. They’re like leafless trees with no fruit–doubly useless. They’re like wild waves at sea, swirling around in their shameful acts. They’re like planets moving across the sky–useless for sailors to trust for navigation.
  • It’s like Enoch, that super holy, righteous dude who live back at the beginning of creation, had said, “God is going to show up one day with a whole army of angels to judge anyone who didn’t want to do things God’s way, and who said bad things about God.”
  • These false teachers love to grumble, they love to criticize, they only follow their own lusts, they brag about how great they are, and if they say anything nice to you, it’s just to use you for what they want to do.
  • Friends, remember what Jesus’ true apostles said, “In the last days before God’s judgment, jerks are going to pop up who only follow their desires, not God’s.” These are them. They’re dividing your church because they’re following their own spirit not the Holy Spirit.
  • But you should remain strong. Pray. Remember God’s love. Don’t forget that Jesus has lots of mercy and grants eternal life.
  • So be nice to those who struggle believing. Save those around you by showing them mercy (but keep a healthy dose of fear inside you so you don’t get sucked into their point of view).
  • In closing: Praise be to God who keeps you from stumbling and who will bring you into his presence purified and filled with joy. Praise be to God, our savior, who showed his true majesty, power and authority when he came to us as Jesus. Praise be to God who has existed forever and will exist forever. So be it!

Author

Jude (alternatively Judas (Greek) or Judah (Hebrew), which means “praise”) was the youngest of the four brothers of Jesus (Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55).1  He was a Jewish Christian and a Hellenized Galilean Jew who wrote with a cultivated Greek style.According to the Gospel of John, Jesus’ brothers and sisters were unbelievers until after the resurrection (cf. John 7:5).10

The author’s designation of himself as ‘brother of James’ is unique. No other New Testament writer introduces himself by identifying his family connections.It is unusual in the ancient near-east and Greco-Roman world to designate oneself “brother of”; usually it is “son of.” It is possible that both James and Jude were uncomfortable with the title “brother of the Lord” or “brother of Jesus.” Though it is probable that others in the church used this designation for them (cf. Matt. 13:55; John 7:3-10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5; and Gal. 1:19).10

Since the author did not identify himself as an apostle (and actually refers to the apostles as a third party), it is not likely that he is the Jude listed as one of the Twelve Disciples (and, in the Gospel of Luke, is explicitly identified as being as “of James”).  Though according to the surviving fragments of the work Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord of the Apostolic Father Papias of Hierapolis (c. 70–163 AD), Jude’s mother would be Mary the wife of Cleophas (or Alphaeus) and he would’ve also gone by the nickname Thaddeus. His nickname may have occurred due to a resemblance to Jesus or to avoid confusion between Jude (the son of James) and Judas Iscariot.  A local tradition of eastern Syria identifies the Apostle Jude with the Apostle Thomas, also known as Jude Thomas or Judas Didymus Thomas (Thomas means twin in Aramaic, as does Didymus in Greek).1

Hegesippus, a 2nd-century Christian writer, mentions descendants of Jude living in the reign of Domitian (81-96 AD). He tells the story of how Domitian had commanded that the descendants of David should be slain. Some men brought accusation against the descendants of Jude (who was said to have been a brother of the Savior “according to the flesh”), on the ground that they were of the lineage of David and were related to Christ himself.  Domitian asked them if they were descendants of David, and they confessed that they were. Then he asked them how much property they had, or how much money they owned. And both of them answered that they had only nine thousand denarii, half of which belonged to each of them;and this property did not consist of silver, but of a piece of land which contained only thirty-nine acres, and from which they raised their taxes and supported themselves by their own labor. Then they showed their hands, exhibiting the hardness of their bodies and the callousness produced upon their hands by continuous toil as evidence of their own labor. And when they were asked concerning Christ and his kingdom, of what sort it was and where and when it was to appear, they answered that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly and angelic one, which would appear at the end of the world, when he should come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to give unto every one according to his works. Upon hearing this, Domitian did not pass judgment against them, but, despising them as of no account, he let them go. Though it is reported that they later died under Emperor Trajan.1

Judah Kyriakos, great grandson of Jude, was known as last Jewish Bishop of Jerusalem, and lived beyond Bar Kokhba’s revolt (132-136 AD).1

Date

Conservative scholars date it between 66 and 90 AD.1

The second chapter of 2 Peter is most often considered to be based on Jude.  If Peter wrote that book, and died around 65 AD, then Jude must have written his letter earlier.3

Jude also mentions several well-known Old Testament instances of Divine justice in punishing sinners. Had he written after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD then he most likely would’ve have incorporated this example as well. Especially since it was broadly considered that Christ had prophesied the event (Mk  13).7

Audience:

Jude does not address any church in particular, nor does he send greetings to anyone specific in his closing. The similarity of this style to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians lead many scholars to think that this was intended to be a circular letter (one passed from church to church). Also, because Jude says he wants to write to them about their “common faith” it is likely that he is writing to Gentile churches, churches perhaps founded by Paul, who may have recently died (c. 65 AD).13

Jude uses three nautical analogies (v. 12-13) which have no parallel in 2 Peter. Since Jude, in all likelihood, was not a fisherman, it seems that he added the analogies for the sake of his readers, which indicates they lived near a sea, perhaps a major port city along the Mediterranean.13

Jude gives no details about his recipients, but many details about his opponents.6

  • They misunderstand the concept of grace (4)
  • They deny Jesus Christ (4)
  • They prefer their own dreams rather than God’s revelation (8)
  • They do not have the Holy Spirit (19)
  • They were critical toward angels (8)
  • They are licentious, or lawless (4,7,16,18)
  • They unrighteously destroy for their own gain (11,16)
  • They corrupt and pervert for personal gain (11)
  • They blaspheme and rebel against divine authority (11)
  • They are ruled by their passions and defile themselves (8,23)
  • They are arrogant and use people for their own gain (16)
  • They are part of the Christian community (4)

Examples of the heretical opinions that Jude may have been addressing, which continued to circulate and solidify throughout  the early church, include Docetism, Marcionism, and Gnosticism.1

Docetism

The Greek word Dokētaí (literally “illusionists”) referred to those who denied Jesus’ humanity. They believed that Jesus only seemed to be human, and that his human form was, in fact, an illusion.1

Docetists held all angels in contempt because they supposed angels helped God in creating the material universe, and that they (the angels) were therefore spiritually defiled.12

Marcionism

Marcionism was an early Christian dualist belief system that originated in the teachings of Marcion of Sinope at Rome around the year 144 AD.1

Marcion believed Jesus was the savior sent by God, and Paul the Apostle was his chief apostle, but he rejected the Hebrew Bible and the God of Israel. Marcionists believed that the wrathful Hebrew God was a separate and lower entity than the all-forgiving God of theNew Testament.

This belief was dualistic, that is, they believed in opposing gods, forces, or principles: one higher, spiritual, and “good”, and the other lower, material, and “evil.”1

Marcion depicted the God of the Old Testament as a tyrant or demiurge–inconsistent, jealous, wrathful and genocidal. The material world he created was defective, a place of suffering.1

Christ, on the other hand, was not a Jewish Messiah, but a spiritual entity that was sent by the Monad (the most primal, basic aspect of God) to reveal the truth about existence, thus allowing humanity to escape the earthly trap of the demiurge. Marcion called the Monad the “Stranger God,” as this deity had not had any previous interactions with the world, and was wholly unknown.1

Gnosticism

The term Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnostikos, meaning “having knowledge.”1 Gnostics believed that one was saved by secret knowledge of the angelic spheres (aeons) between a high holy god and physical creation.10 They sought to save their “pure” soul from the “corrupt” material world through intellectual means. This effectively disconnected their beliefs from their lifestyle–a topic both Jude and his brother James wrote about.

The basic idea of Gnosticism was that we live in a dualistic universe, a universe with two eternal principles in it. From the beginning of time there had always been spirit and matter. Spirit was essentially good; matter was essentially evil. Out of this flawed matter the world was created. Now God is pure spirit and, therefore, could not possibly handle this essentially evil matter. How then was creation effected? God put out a series of aeons or emanations; each of these aeons was farther away from him. At the end of this long chain, remote from God, there was an aeon who was able to touch matter; and it was this aeon, this distant and secondary god, who actually created the world.3

Aeons are identifiable as aspects of the God from which they proceeded; the progressive emanations are often conceived metaphorically as a gradual and progressive distancing from the ultimate source, which brings about an instability in the fabric of the divine nature. The salvation of the individual thus mirrors a concurrent restoration of the divine nature. Some Gnostics thought Jesus was an embodiment of the supreme being who came to bring the secret knowledge (gnosis) to earth, while others thought Jesus was merely a human who attained divinity through gnosis and taught his disciples to do the same.1

In Gnosticism, the world of the demiurge (the lesser god who made the world, often associated with the Old Testament depiction of God) is associated with matter, flesh, time and, more particularly, an imperfect, ephemeral world. The world of God is represented by the upper world and is associated with the soul and perfection. The world of God is eternal and not part of the physical. It is impalpable and timeless.1

The supreme divine source in Gnosticism is known under a variety of names, including “Pleroma” (fullness, totality) and “Bythos” (depth, profundity).1

Historical Context

The Assumption of Moses

Origen (185-254 AD), an early church father, mentions a now lost book called “the Assumption of Moses,” as the source for the story Jude cites in his letter about the contest between Michael and the devil over the body of Moses.7

Some scholars think Jude is making an allusion to the events described in Zechariah 3:1-2, though the passage is clearly about the high priest in Zecheriah’s time, not Moses.1

Aside from Jude, there is no biblical record of any “contention” or meeting between the devil and Michael the archangel.4

According to Jewish tradition, Satan attempted to claim Moses’ body because he had sinned by killing the Egyptian (Exod. 2:12).10 Michael had been sent by God to bury Moses when he encountered Satan.

The point Jude seems to be making by contrasting the false teachers with the dispute over Moses’ body is that Michael could not reject the devil’s accusation on his own authority. Even though Satan was motivated by malice and Michael recognized that his accusation was slanderous, he could not himself dismiss the devil’s case, because he was not the judge. All he could do was ask the Lord, who alone is judge, to condemn Satan for his slander. The moral is therefore that no one is a law to himself, an autonomous moral authority.6

Michael the Archangel

Michael (which means, “Who is like God?”) is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel, once as a “great prince who stands up for the children of your people”. In the New Testament Michael leads God’s armies against Satan’s forces in the Book of Revelation, where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan.2

According to Jewish tradition, Michael acted as the advocate of Israel, and sometimes had to fight with the princes of the other nations (cf. Daniel 10:13) and particularly with the angel Samael, Israel’s accuser. Michael’s enmity with Samael dates from the time when the latter was thrown down from heaven. Samael took hold of the wings of Michael, whom he wished to bring down with him in his fall; but Michael was saved by God.2

The Jewish belief in angels was very elaborate. Every nation had its protecting angel. Every person, even every child, had its angel. All the forces of nature, the wind and the sea and the fire and all the others, were under the control of angels. It could even be said, “Every blade of grass has its angel.”3

Book of Enoch

The Book of Enoch is an ancient Jewish religious work, ascribed by tradition to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah, although modern scholars estimate the older sections (mainly in the Book of the Watchers) to date from about 300 BC, and the latest part (Book of Parables) probably to the first century BC.5

The first part of the Book of Enoch describes the fall of the Watchers, the angels who fathered the Nephilim. The remainder of the book describes Enoch’s visits to heaven in the form of travels, visions and dreams, and his revelations.5

The Book of Enoch was very influential in the early church; Tertullian quotes it as Scripture. It was cited in the Epistle of Barnabas (as Scripture) and by Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria.10

Jude contains a direct quote of a prophecy from 1 En.1:9. “He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly: and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”4

The title “Enoch, the seventh from Adam” is also sourced from 1 En.60:1. 1

Comparisons of Jude to 2 Peter

There is a strong correlation between Jude’s letter and the second chapter of 2 Peter. Fifteen of the twenty-five verses in Jude appear in 2 Peter.11

The similarity between the two is so striking, both in the general structure of the argument and in the particular expressions, that it cannot have been accidental.7

Because Jude’s letter is much shorter than 2 Peter, and due to various stylistic details, some scholars consider Jude to be the source for the similar passages of 2 Peter. However some scholars note that because Jude mentions the confrontation with false teachers in the present tense, and 2 Peter 3:3 talks about them coming in the future tense, 2 Peter must have been first.1

Observations:

  • Like his brother James, Jude preferred to describe his relationship with Jesus as spiritual rather than physical.6
  • Jude calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ, using the same phrase and word order as James. Paul and Peter use similar phrases to describe themselves, but in different word order, thereby showing Jude’s close connection with his brother.10
  • “Kept” is a key word in this epistle, occurring five times.6
  • When Jude says that the false teachers were those whose “condemnation was written about, long before” he is referencing the Romans custom of publicly posting the names of those who were wanted, or tried in court, or otherwise condemned to death (often times with a reward offered to any one who would kill them).7
  • The phrase “to contend for” is from the Greek word, epagonizesthai, which appears only here in the New Testament. The simple form of the word (Greek: agonizomai, the root word for ‘agonize’ in its English), was commonly used in connection with the Greek stadium to denote a strenuous struggle to overcome an opponent, as in a wrestling match. Involved is the thought of the expenditure of all one’s energy in order to prevail.6
  • The phrase “eternal fire” is one that is often used to denote future punishment–as expressing the severity and intensity of the suffering. Jude is using the analogy of the complete destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to show how the false teachers would be wholly cut off, forever rendered desolate.7
  • Jude mentions that a group of “angels” did not remain in their privileged position near God (“did not keep their own domain”), but left that sphere (“abandoned their proper abode”), and so incurred God’s wrath. This may be an allusion to Genesis 6:1-4 in which the “sons of god” intermarried with the “daughters of men” and thus corrupted the world to the point that God brought about the flood. This may also be a general reference to the rebellion of angels that resulted in Satan’s expulsion from heaven.6
  • The term “eternal” may also generically mean “powerful,” “adequate,” not literally eternal, because the angels are only held temporarily (until judgment day).10
  • “Kept in darkness” likely alludes to Sheol, the Jewish understanding of the resting place for the dead. It was considered to be a literal place underground in which all the dead would go, both the righteous and the unrighteous, where there was only stillness and darkness as they were cut off from life and from God. The Greeks had a similar mythical place called Tartarus, the holding place of men’s souls awaiting judgment (in 2 Pet. 2:4, a parallel passage uses the actual Greek word tartarus). I Enoch (a book Jude was familiar with) describes the abode of rebellious angels as eternal darkness (I Enoch 10:5,12) as a means to bring about the stark contrast to their formerly heavenly brilliance (glory).10
  • Jude’s use of threes (for example: condemnation of Cain, Balaam, Korah) is structured in an OT prophetic pattern of a funeral dirge (Isa. 3:9,11; 6:5; Habakkuk 2) or curse oath (Deut. 27:15-26).10
  • Jude uses Sodom and Gomorrah as another Old Testament example about a once privileged people who were destroyed for their wickedness. The plain of Sodom was well-watered, and therefore very fertile and a good place to live, which is why Lot chose to live there (Gen 13:10).6
  • “Balaam’s error” was compromise with God’s enemies, and teaching the Israelites that they could sin with impunity (Num. 31:16). He counseled the Midianites to seduce the Israelites to commit idolatry and fornication. His “way” was to use the spiritual to gain the material for himself. His “error” was thinking that he could get away with his sins. The false teachers also compromised God’s truth in a way that involved idolatry and immorality. They would likewise perish under God’s judgment, as Balaam did.6
  • “Korah’s rebellion” was against God and His appointed leaders, Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:1-35).6
  • Sunken rocks that lie hidden under the surface of the water, can tear the bottom off a ship if the vessel unsuspectingly runs into it. Likewise, Jude says, false teachers could ruin a local church.6
  • Like clouds without water, the false teachers attracted attention to themselves and promised refreshment, but they proved to be all show and no substance. In Palestine, summer clouds often add to the humidity, and consequently make the intense heat even more unbearable.6
  • When Jude says they are “twice dead” he may mean; they are “dead” through and through; that they are “dead” in reality as well as in appearance; or that they are presently “dead” in sin, as well as destined for eternal death.6
  • An “uprooted” tree is an Old Testament symbol of divine judgment (cf. Ps. 52:5; Prov. 2:22; Jer. 1:10). “Autumn” is literally late autumn in the Greek text, a detail that shows Jude believed he and his readers were living in the last days before the Lord’s return. Late autumn was the time when trees would have had no leaves—much less “fruit”—on their branches.6
  • The ancients recognized that some stars move about in the sky differently from the other stars. We now recognize these as planets, and distinguish them from stars. The Greek word for these stars was planetes, which literally means “wanderer.” Long ago, stargazers observed that these “wanderers” were different from the fixed stars and therefore would not be good for navigation.  Jude concludes that in a similar way the false teachers behaved out of harmony with the other teachers, they had gone off course and were leading people astray.6  In I Enoch this same metaphor relates to seven fallen angels (cf. I Enoch 18-21).10
  • It is notable that with all of the blunt descriptions of false teachers, Jude does not give his audience the command to confront these troublemakers, he only recommends that they avoid them. He simply indicates they are under the condemnation of God.6
  • “Blameless” (Greek: amomos) does not mean without sin. It means having no justifiable ground for accusation.6
  • “Clothing stained by corrupted flesh” is a metaphorical use of the term “stain.”10

Discusion:

  • Jude warns against false teachers slipping into the church unnoticed. What kind of false teaching has slipped into our church? What can we do about it? How can we recognize it?
  • Some of Jude’s opponents were likely early Gnostics. Gnostics believed that their bodies were, by nature, corrupt, and that their souls were, by nature, good. They believed that the ultimate goal was to gain freedom from their bodies and become one with the ultimate spirit (God). They also believed that Jesus was a different person than God, and that God (due to his purity and being only spirit) was, by necessity, distant from mankind. How are these ideas still propagated in the church today though our beliefs in the afterlife, the roles of God the Father vs. Jesus the Son, and in our own dissociation of our mind and body?
  • What does Jude mean when he says, “have mercy on others, mixed with fear”? What does this imply about how we connect with those not in alignment with our beliefs?
  • Jude didn’t tell his audience to argue with the false teachers. He didn’t give them strong intellectual backing for the beliefs he held vs. the beliefs they held. Why not? What does this tell us about how to approach false teaching?

References:

  1. Jude’s Epistle overview
  2. Michael the Archangel
  3. Watton’s commentary
  4. Coley’s commentary
  5. Book of Enoch overview
  6. Constable’s commentary
  7. Barnes’ commentary
  8. Deffinbaugh’s commentary
  9. Morris’ commentary
  10. Utley’s commentary
  11. Malick’s commentary
  12. Coffman’s commentary
  13. Wallace’s commentary
  14. Robertson’s commentary

 

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