1. Who and When (v1)
Identification of the writer of this epistle is
very uncertain. The only candidates worth considering are Judas the apostle
(Luke 6:16) and Judas the half-brother of the Lord (Matt.
The first of these is peremptorily ruled out by
most commentators on the ground that one who was himself an apostle would not
write: "Remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our
Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 17). But why shouldn't he? There is a very close parallel
in 2 Peter 3:2: "....that ye should remember the words which were spoken before
by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of our Lord and Saviour through
your apostles". If Peter could write about "your apostles", why should not one
of his fellow apostles do the same?
There is also the consideration that if this Jude
were the apostle, then all the epistles of the New Testament came from apostolic
pens. (The strength of the case for regarding the Epistle of James as written by
the son of Zebedee is not to be set aside.)
On the other hand, this Jude is explicitly
"brother of James". But by analogy with "Judas Iscariot of Simon" (John 6:71),
"Judas of James" (Luke 6:16) appears to mean "son of James", and not "brother of
James". If it can mean "brother of James", the point is
What grounds are there for identifying Jude with
the son of Mary and Joseph (Matt. 13:55)? Exactly none, except that he appears
to be the only alternative to the Judas just discussed.
There is, of course, the possibility of the
writer being some other Judas of whom nothing is known, but the likelihood of
this is mighty small.
The date of the epistle has to be inferred from
the slight incidental indications which the text affords.
It is surely a valid argument that Jude wrote
before the troubles of A.D. 70, for had he written after that date, with the
intention in his mind (see Chapter 3), he could hardly have let the destruction
of the temple go unmentioned.
Indeed, there seem to be several prophetic hints
in the epistle of impending judgement. God destroyed His saved people "who
believed not" (v. 5). A judgement of being "plucked up by the roots", such as
Jesus foretold regarding Jewish opposition to the gospel, is implied (v. 12).
"Wandering stars, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness of the ages"
(v. 13) seems very appropriate to the dispersion of Israel.
Peter's prophecy concerning evil men "in the last
days" (2 Pet. 3:3) is picked up by Jude as having a fulfilment in the corrupt
movement he excoriated: "These be they...." (vv. 18,19). What "last days" if not
the last days of the temple? (With a further fulfilment, certainly, in other
"last days", at the coming of the Lord: see Chapter 9 on this.)
Why did Jude write as he did, and against
The thesis is developed in Chapter 3 and
elsewhere that the great enemy of the gospel in the first century was neither
Jewish nor Roman persecution, but the systematic infiltration of the ecclesia,
as part of an insidious Judaistic campaign, by unscrupulous Jews who were set on
wrecking this new movement from within.
The methods employed were, in the main,
One has the impression that the recipients of the
letter were Jewish believers, and probably Jews of the Holy Land. Some of the
phrases seem to take on special meaning from this point of view. But there is
not enough to go on regarding this.
- The insidious corruption of Christian morals:
"lasciviousness.... fornication... .defiling the flesh....they corrupt (the
ecclesia)....twice dead" (vv. 4,7,8,10,12).
rejection of the authority of the apostles, and the exaltation of other leaders
in their place: "speak evil of dignities....hard speeches....murmurers,
complainers....having men's persons in admiration" (vv.
- One part of the campaign which does not come
in for mention in Jude, but which caused Paul much trouble elsewhere, was an
insistence that faith in Christ must be bolstered up with observance of the Law