The Epistle of Jude
Who is the Author?
In spite of its conciseness, Jude has rather good corroboration in patristic literature. There are possible allusions to it in Clement of Rome, Shepherd of Hermas, Barnabas, and Didache, and probable allusions in Polycarp. The Muratorian Canon mentions it, as does Clement of Alexandria. Tertullian comments on its use of 1 Enoch, Origen speaks of the doubts of some, Didymus the Blind defended its authenticity, and Eusebius classified it with the Antilegomena (Disputed books). It is really only as time progressed that doubts about its authenticity/canonicity became articulated, principally because of the use of apocryphal material in this little work. So this is a case of confidence early on with later, further from the source individuals doubted.
Jude starts with “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James”. So the challenge here would be, which Jude?
Most scholars accept Jude as both authentic and written by Jude, the brother of Jesus. There is a handful of scholars who see it as pseudepigraphical (including Barnett, Reicke, Kelly). They argue there are features in the text that suggest it was written after Jude’s death.
But there are hurdles to the pseudepigraphal hypothesis
- Why would anyone use the obscure name “Jude” unless this were a genuine work?
- Jude does not identify himself as “Jude, the brother of the Lord.” Such a designation would at least elevate Jude by virtue of his relation to Jesus.
As a result, a pseudepigraphical piece is almost ruled out because the hypothesis only works with well known figures like Peter (See articles on 1 & 2 Peter)
Now back to the question we opened with, If we assume that “Jude” is an authentic appellation, which Jude is in mind? Apart from the Lord’s brother, only two other candidates have any degree of plausibility.
The first is Jude the apostle, son of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). If so, one of two texts needs to be reread: Either Jude 1 should be changed or Luke 6:16/Acts 1:13 should be reinterpreted. There are some textual arguments made for this, but they do not hold any weight as discussed more thoroughly of the Greek in Dan Wallace’ article on this.
The second alternative is to see Jude as the second-century bishop of Jerusalem. Some have said that this necessitates treating the words ‘brother of James’ as equivalent to an episcopal title at Jerusalem. But there are no parallels to support this view. Not only this, but the external evidence is too strong and too early to allow such an identification.
The third option is Jude, the brother of the Lord, may be in view. The strongest reason on behalf of this view is that Jude identifies himself as “the brother of James.” This presupposed a well-known James. The only one to fit the bill is James, the brother of the Lord.
There are really only two problems (of any substance) with this identification. First, why does Jude call himself “the brother of James” rather than “the brother of Jesus”? As Bauckham points out, “Palestinian Jewish-Christian circles in the early church used the title ‘brother of the Lord’ not simply to identify the brothers, but as ascribing to them an authoritative status, and therefore the brothers themselves, not wishing to claim an authority based on mere blood-relationship to Jesus, avoided the term.” Such restraint would especially be appropriate if one were writing to Gentiles, for Gentilic entrance into a covenant relationship with Israel’s God was now, for the first time, not based on proselytization (in which circumcision would be required), but simply faith. Thus, the very self-identification which opens this epistle not only indicates humility on Jude’s part, but also speaks of authenticity.
The second argument against is how good the Greek is. Though this is more at Jude’s vocabulary than his syntax. Jude has a wide vocabulary which is far easier to attain than a skill in literary style to which Jude is less elegant in. So this is no decisive argument against authenticity, just a surface objection.
There is no reasonable doubt that Jude, the brother of the Lord, was the author of this epistle.
Manuscript evidence for Jude
Papyrus 72, 200-400AD: Jude 1:1-4. Full 1 & 2 Peter & Jude http://www.csntm.org/Manuscript/View/GA_P72 here found together as a single manuscript.
Other significant early manuscripts
- Papyrus 72: 200-400AD: Jude (complete)
- Papyrus 78: 200-400AD: Jude 1:4-5, 7-8
What is exciting here is having a complete document of Jude, though the date fluctuates, we do have another manuscript of the time period to compare verses to and it’s great to have a complete manuscript of. What’s also interesting is how it is bound up with 1 & 2 Peter considering the content of 2 Peter and Jude have a lot of crossovers. Considering the average deterioration rate of a Papyri manuscript to be within a few hundred years, these manuscripts are very impressive and provide a valid form of external evidence of existence.
Audience & purpose
The occasion, on our reading of the text, can be seen fairly clearly in v 3 alone.
1. Jude originally intended to write to the church at Ephesus to encourage the saints there to continue in the faith. His goal seemed to have been to make sure that they were not discouraged in light of the recent deaths of Paul and Peter. That this objective was not entirely snuffed out due to the more pressing concern of the false teachers is apparent from his benediction (vv 24-25). Also, Jude also wanted to make sure that the church would stay grounded in the apostles’ teaching (“our common faith”). This goal also was woven into the fabric of the letter which he now found was necessary to write.
2. The original purpose for writing was altered when news of false teachers infiltrating into the church at Ephesus reached Jude. The tone of the letter probably changed because of this as well. Jude’s purpose now was to “appeal to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (v 3) because false teachers had crept into the church (v 4), just as Peter (and Paul) had predicted they would (v 17). The fact that Jude speaks so decisively as he does about the finalized form of the faith (vv 3, 5, 17) is therefore due to his desire that the church use the writings of Peter and Paul to discern the ungodliness of the false teachers. Although these statements would normally indicate a time much later than the age of the apostles, if Jude knew of their deaths, and if he wanted to make sure his audience knew that Peter and Paul were united in their doctrine, such language would be especially appropriate.
We can date Paul’s letters fairly accurately, because he mentions details that correspond with the book of Acts. Jude, however, is very difficult to date, because he doesn’t mention anything historically significant in his book. Jude does expect his readers to recall the words of the apostle themselves: “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:17). This would mean that he was writing after the other apostles wrote their works.
We expect this to be sometime in the 60’s considering it has the Appeal of following on from the Death of Peter and Paul (discussed in the previous section). It also doesn’t mention the death of his brother James which is another argument that this should be dated prior to James’ death. Early 60’s is the period we should place this book, perhaps earlier.
What was the acceptance rate of Jude as canonical by those early and later witnesses of the text? Well there are allusions in Clement of Rome, Shepherd of Hermas, Barnabas, and Didache, and probable allusions in Polycarp which would place references form the 1st-2nd century. As well as the Muratorian Canon,Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen and beyond. (I will try to update my chart!)
See this table for a list on who recognised each book as canonical (key(s) below)
It does not mention every Church Father who used the New Testament books, this is just a survey of some of the most known
- Ig = Ignatius
- Po = Polycarp
- M = Marcion
- Va = Valentinus
- JM = Justin Martyr
- IR = Irenaeus
- C = Clement of Alexandria
- T = Tertullian
- MC = Muratorian Canon
- O = Origen
- E = Eusebius
- CS = Codex Sinaiticus
- A = Athanasius
- D = Didymus the Blind
- P = Peshitta (Bible of the Syrian church)
- V = Latin vulgate
taken from ntcanon.org/table.shtml
Jesus, nor the apostles, nor Polycarp, Clement or Irenaeus left much for us to work with in terms of a formal “ok so here’s the rules of determination”. But what they did do is inform us that they had an informative way of knowing what was truth and what was not. And the truth had to have a connection to eyewitnesses.
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.2 Peter 1:16
2“So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrectionActs 1:21-22
One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe.)John 19:34-35
“God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.Acts 2:32
You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact!Acts 3:15
We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”Acts 5:32
“And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross,but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”Acts 10:39-43
[Paul] With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it.Romans 9:1
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.1 Corinthians 15:3-9
And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you:1 Peter 5:1
Caius the church father in 200AD writes how they knew of two fake letters circulating in Paul’s name.
“There are also in circulation one to the Laodiceans, and another to the Alexandrians, forged under the name of Paul, and addressed against the heresy of Marcion; and there are also several others which cannot be received into the Catholic Church, for it is not suitable for gall to be mingled with honey”.Caius, Church leader
How did they work this out? How did they know what was the divinely inspired word of God? We can thank Eusebius for beginning to help us clear up this territory. In his Ecclesiastical History, he mentions his four categories of books with descriptions as to why some were accepted, disputed, rejected and seen as heretical from his survey of the church fathers history going back and into the apostolic age. This is the structure we will take when we assess the books of the New Testament and this includes investigating the books the church rejected.
So these summarised standards are these:
- Apostolicity. Was it written by an Apostle or one of their colleagues?
- Orthodoxy. Was the teaching orthodox? Consistent with Old Testament and the Christian worldview?
- Catholicity. Not the Catholic Church (that doesn’t exist for a few hundred years yet!)… This meaning widely agreed upon
- Relevance. Was it relevant to the church? Or does it seem completely detached from what we already have in the canon? (I.e. everything Gnostic)
- Inspiration. Did it have the ring of truth, the life changing power within?
If it is Jude as we have argued, then it is the brother of James and they are both half-brothers of Jesus and have access to the apostles. So Jude is an associate and an eyewitness to Jesus’ life.
Jude warns of false teaching, a call to Christians to persevere and ends with a Christological doxology we have seen elsewhere in other New Testament books. Many New Testament authors as well as Jesus has called upon the warning of false teachers. The teaching of Jude is wholly consistent with the New Testament.
It is mentioned by figures as early as Polycarp, Clement of Rome and the document named the Didache which gives us reason to believe that this document was accepted early on.
Jude, reminding us and echoing further 2 Peter in places calls for Christians to persevere, watch for false teaching and understand the fate of being separated from God were all relevant for the new and growing Christian movement. Today there are many Christians but in a society of temptation and persecution, many need to persevere psychologically or physically as well as be on guard for false teaching for which we have all sorts of types today.
As an associate of the apostles and brother of James and Jesus, Jude is right placed to have his head screwed on and be a witness to all that has gone on. God could very well use a brother this well placed and associated with James who took a place of prominence in the church eventually (thus the association so people knew who he was incase perhaps he was less known).