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The Epistle of Jude
Jude Thaddeus was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, venerated as the patron of lost causes or impossible things. Almost nothing more is known about him for certain. His first name was the same as that of Judas Iscariot, and differentiation was made by using the shortened name or by calling him "Thaddeus" ("chesty") or "Lebbaeus" ("hearty"). In Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 he is referred to in Greek as "Jude of James." Tradition has interpreted this to mean "brother of James" and identified the James with "James of Alphaeus," the Apostle, who was further identified with "James the brother of the Lord" and "James the Less" J Mark 15:40). The Jude "the brother of James" who is given as the author of the Epistle of Jude (verse 1) was thus considered to be the Apostle.
Twentieth century scholarship holds that "of James" in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 more likely means "the son of James," and that the "James" may be any of several mentioned in the New Testament. Scholars also consider the author of the Epistle of Jude to be Jude "the brother of the Lord" (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) and not the Apostle. It may even have been written by someone else using the pseudonym "Jude."
Early accounts of Jude Thaddeus' preaching in various places after the crucifixion of Christ, and of his martyrdom, are considered unreliable. He is, however, venerated as a martyr. His feast is celebrated on June 19 in the Eastern churches. In the West he is remembered, in conjunction with St. Simon, on October 28. St. Jude is often represented with a halberd.
The Epistle of Jude is one of the seven catholic (general or ecumenical) epistles of the New Testament, consisting of one chapter of 17 verses. It is addressed to all Christians, and is universal in character. It lacks any reference to local detail, and the writer does not refer to any of his readers by name. It is unique among New Testament books because of its dependence upon Jewish Apocalyptic literature, especially the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses. Jude was accepted from the beginning as an authoritative book of the New Testament canon, especially in the West. By the 2nd century, it was generally accepted by all the churches.
The author designates himself "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James." Jude or Judas was a common name at the time. According to the title, he was a brother of James, prominent leader of the church at Jerusalem, author of the epistle that bears his name, and one of the brothers of Jesus, mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and in Mark 6:3. These brothers, it seems, did not believe in Jesus during his ministry (John 7:5) but became disciples after the Resurrection (Acts 1:14). If the author was the brother of James and therefore a brother of Jesus, modesty must have prevented him from mentioning the fact. Tradition ascribes the epistle to him. If Jude was the author, then this epistle must have been written between 68 and 90 (or 81) A.D. Since II Peter incorporates nearly all of Jude in its second chapter, Jude must have been written prior to Peter's second epistle (c. 67 A.D.). Further, according to Hege-sippius, quoted by Eusebius, Jude, the Lord's brother, was deceased either before Domitian began his reign in 81 A.D., or shortly thereafter.
However, some scholars regard the words "and brother of James" as an addition which was aimed to give prestige to this tract of the times. The epistle was written by a "servant of Jesus Christ" who wrote in the name of Jude, the brother of James and prominent leader of the church in Jerusalem, to lend weight to his crusade. Scholars who take this position date the epistle late. They seem to find support for this view in the indication that the author speaks of a formulated faith. This is a late development. Besides, it assumes Paul's doctrine of grace. It also regards Paul's missionary work as complete. And the apostles, to him, were an "order of the Church." These indications point to a late date.
However, those who take this position must reckon with long and established tradition. James Moffatt maintains that "Those who date the epistle in the second century by an anonymous author have to explain why so important a figure as Judas the brother of James was used to voice a warning to the Church." Evidently, the Jude to whom the epistle is ascribed, while not an apostle, was a powerful figure in the church and could have written the epistle.
The author had originally intended to write a summary of doctrine about "our Christian salvation" but his intention was changed after he heard reports about the inner peril of the church; instead, he wrote about the heresy which was threatening the "faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3). He heard that certain ungodly men had crept privily into the church and by their heretical views which resulted in immoral practices had turned the grace of our Lord into "lasciviousness" and thereby denied "our only Master and Lord."
The body of the letter (Jude 1:5-6) portrays the evil character of these subversives. They proposed dangerous and disintegrating substitutes for the pure theological thought of the church. This heretical theology resulted in un-Christian behavior and practice. What this heresy was we are not told; nor are we given any intimation as to the location of this issue in the early church. These heretics are described as "waterless clouds," "unfruitful trees," "wild waves of the sea," and "wandering stars." The author announces the judgment that would fall upon these falsifiers of Christian thought: it would be like the punishment received by rebellious Israelites in the wilderness; the fall of angels now enchained until the judgment; the doom of Sodom, Gomorrah and surrounding cities; the tragedy of archangel Michael; the doom of Cain, Balaam and Korah. The same doom pronounced by the preacher Enoch upon all the ungodly who scoffed at him would befall them.
Jude is no fanatical doctrinaire, but the major thesis of his epistle is that sound theology and sound morality go together. Righteousness and faith are inextricably related. James Moffatt speaks of this letter as "a sort of fiery cross sent through the Churches to rally against the new, insidious foe."
The epistle may be simply outlined: (1) Salutation (verses 1-4); (2) Characteristics of and Judgments upon Heretical Subversives (verses 5-16); (3) The Necessity of Being Built upon the Holy Faith in the Love of God, in Patience, in Charity, and in Evangelistic Zeal (verses 17-22); and (4) The Benediction (verses 24, 25). This short epistle closes with one of the most triumphant doxologies and tender benedictions to be found in the Scriptures.