Harry Whittaker

6. Sweeping Denunciation (v10-11)

The mild example of Michael the archangel (v. 9) leaving judgement of evil men in the hands of the Almighty plainly meant that in the first century even authorised church leaders did not feel warranted in applying drastic sanctions to enemies of the Truth within the camp of the Truth. But that did not mean that nothing must be done to expose the fifth column in the ranks of the Lord. So Jude speaks out in terms of withering disapproval: "But these speak evil of those things which they know not." What things? The best hint comes from the antithesis, pointedly suggested by the Greek text, in the rest of the verse: "but what they know naturally, as unreasoning creatures, by these things they corrupt (their brethren)". Clearly the ellipsis in the text should be filled out in the way suggested here, for the corruption of the church was Jude's great fear.
Reading between the lines, it is possible now to see that this problematical verse may be paraphrased on these lines: 'These men have no experience of the Holy Spirit's inspiration, yet they speak in derogatory fashion about ecclesial leaders who do have this divine guidance. On the other hand, knowing little or nothing of the real Truth in Christ, they do their utmost to pervert the brethren by pretending to revelations which in actual fact they themselves have made up.'

To drive home this repudiation, there follow three additional Biblical examples of opposition to the Truth -- Cain, Balaam and Korah.

Cain destroyed his brother, then "repented" (see "Genesis 1-4", H.A.W.), then went away from the only source of forgiveness, and with his fellows turned to renewed violence against the Truth. In like fashion, these men, who had been on the side of Christ's crucifiers, came (insincerely: Gal. 2:4) to the fellowship of the Lord's people, but now were showing themselves in their true colours, and would end up with open violence against the Faith; but they would also end up experiencing the open reprobation of God.
Balaam was a true prophet who showed his unworthiness by his hostility to God's people. Even though divine inspiration prophesied good concerning them he chose to side with their enemies just because of material self-interest. He encouraged a vile plot against the people of the Lord, seducing them into apostasy through the worst forms of immorality, and for that he died ignominiously (Num. 31:8, 16). In all these respects he prefigured the men Jude now took to task. They knew the truth and knew that it was the Truth. Yet for the basest reasons they behaved as enemies and sowed foul seeds of evil in the church (Matt. 13:25) by their plausible teaching that there was no harm in fornication, that it was not amiss to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. For this would they escape the wrath of God any more than did Balaam?

"Ran greedily after the error of Balaam" is surely a mistranslation. The more exact reading should be: 'they poured themselves out', possibly with allusion to the pretended prophecies of these false 'men of God'.

It is useful to pause here and ocmpare the Biblical illustrations used by Peter and Jude:

5. Destruction of Israel in the wilderness

6. "Angels" who kept not their own principality
4. Angels that sinned, cast down to Tartarus

5. Noah and the Flood
7. Sodom and Gomorrha
6. Sodom and Gomorrha
9. Michael and the devil dispute about the body of Moses
11. Angels....bring not a railing accusation
11. Cain, Balaam, Korah
15,16. Balaam

In most of these, the two writers are in step with each other. But it is noteworthy that Peter's allusion to the Flood is ignored by Jude; but on the other hand, instead of Peter's extended comment regarding Balaam, Jude has three quickfire references to Cain, Balaam and Korah.

Also, although the evidence of vv. 17,18 seems emphatic that Jude wrote with 2 Peter before his eyes, one of the foregoing Biblical examples does not seem to agree readily with such an assumption:

2 PETER 2:11
But Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not
Whereas angels, although greater in might and power
bring against him a railing judgement but said, the Lord rebuke thee.
bring not a railing judgement against them before the Lord

In this instance it is difficult to believe that Jude had Peter's words before him and blew them up into the more particularised form of allusion in his epistle. A few other details of this sort (e.g. vv. 12,13 compared with 2 Pet. 2:17), none of them separately very impressive, likewise throw a certain amount of doubt on the idea that Jude deliberately makes use of 2 Peter. It is for sketchy reasons of this sort that the suggestion has been put forward that niether Jude nor 2 Peter is the original, but that both were consciously borrowing from some other apostolic writing already in existence. This is not utterly out of the question, but until there is more concrete evidence to go on, the idea can hardly be regarded as more than speculation.

Korah was one of those saved out of Egypt. He was prominent in the worship of the Lord, but then turned in rebellion against the appointed leaders of the people. So, since he rejected an appeal for repentance, he died by dramatic divine judgement. These men who Jude apostrophised likewise knew the saving faith of Christ and had come to prominence in the ecclesias. However, their disparagement of apostles and other properly-constituted authority could mean only one thing -- the judgement of God soon, in the horrors of A.D. 70, and hereafter at the coming of the Lord.

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