Background on Jude

Author

Since first verse identifies the author as Jude, we must ask ourselves who Jude is. The name is a derivative of the Judas, which is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah. Unfortunately, Judas was a tremendously common name during the first century. In fact, two of Jesus’ twelve disciples were named Judas—Judas Iscariot being the first and Judas, son of James, being the second (Luke 6:14-16; John 14:22). Because Judas Iscariot was the betrayer of Christ with no displayed repentance, we might be led to believe that the other Judas wrote this letter; however, in the opening verse, Jude calls himself a brother of James, not the son of James. Happily, Matthew and Mark both mention Jesus’ four brothers, two of whom are James and Judas. It is, therefore, concluded that Jude is the half-brother of Jesus.

Theme

Followers of Christ must contend for the faith against false teachers that have crept in among them by persevering in the faith that was delivered once for all to the saints in Christ Jesus.

Background

Because of Jude’s similarity to 2 Peter (particularly to the second chapter), many scholars have assumed that one letter inspired the other. I find the debate to be of little significance except in regards to the dating of the letter. Because Jude is so short, there is scant evidence for forming a precise date, meaning that Jude very well could have been one of the first New Testament letters written or one of the last. I will argue for the latter.

It seems to me that Jude takes place after Peter’s second epistle because of the past tense being used. Allow me to explain. Throughout the New Testament, warnings are given concerning false prophets. Jesus warns that false prophets will come like wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15-16). Paul speaks of the same wolves coming to Ephesus after he is gone and also of the time when people will not endure sound teaching (Acts 20:29; 2 Tim. 4:3). Peter also writes that there would be false teachers among the people of God (2 Pet. 2:1). The future tense is the common thread that ties these warnings together. The false teachers were going to come, but they had not arrived yet. Jude’s language is different. He tells that “certain people have crept in” (Jude 4). This is past tense. The false teachers that Jesus, Paul, and Peter warned were coming were already present when Jude wrote his letter. Therefore, I would place Jude’s epistle as being one of the final writings of the New Testament, likely after the 64/65 AD (the estimated time of Peter’s death). 

Purpose

Jude’s overarching goal is to guide the followers of Christ in defending the faith against false teachers that have infiltrated their ranks. The false teachers where warned about to the saints in Christ; however, at the time of this letter, they were in the church’s midst. They were posing as Christians, trying to lead some astray from sound doctrine. They were indeed wolves in the midst of sheep, and Jude was compelled to aid his flock, just as any good shepherd would do.

Interestingly enough, the subject of false teachers was not Jude’s original plan for his epistle. The subject of “our common salvation” was Jude’s eager desire; however, the Holy Spirit took him in a different direction. Even though the course was changed, the first and final two verses highly reflect Jude’s first goal. In very few words, Jude manages to vividly display the joy of the Christian’s salvation, particularly that our perseverance is contingent upon Christ’s keeping us. With his poetically-developed writing style, one can only imagine the encouragement of the letter that Jude intended to write. However, such thoughts are vanity. The Holy Spirit did not choose to inspire Jude towards the letter that would have been; He inspired the canonical letter that is placed one step from the end of the Bible.

By the wisdom of God, this is the letter that the Church needed, both then and now. Since the false teachers arose in Jude’s day, they have not departed. More than ever, the Christianity is filled with leaders who fit the profile that Jude describes here. Jude articulately defines the behavior and lifestyle of the false teachers rather than any specific doctrinal error.

Because of this, the letter is remarkably applicable today. Though different heretics have appeared throughout the two thousand years since Christ’s resurrection, each of them have one thing in common: their lifestyle. Eventually, every false teacher shows to be unrepentant and depraved at heart. Jude is convinced that unrepentant licentiousness is a clear display of having never known Christ because they do not know the sanctifying work of Jesus. Thus, today’s prosperity teachers are revealed by Jude to be false teachers because of their decadent lifestyle. This applicability makes Jude an ever-fitting word for the Church. The health of the Church is always on the line. It is always threatened by false teaching within. Jude’s pastoral heart longs to see the body of Christ strong and wise so that it can ward off the internal attacks.

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