The letter of Jude was one of the disputed books of the Canon. Although its canonical status was contested, its authenticity was never doubted by the Early Church. The links between the Epistle and 2 Peter, its use of the Apocryphal Books, and its brevity raised concern.
Though it is held as canonical in the majority of Christian churches, some scholars consider the letter a pseudonymous work written between the end of the first century and the first quarter of the 2nd century, arguing from the references to the apostles, tradition; the book's competent Greek style and the opposition to Gnosticism. Nevertheless, conservative scholars date it between 66 and 90.
"More remarkable is the evidence that by the end of the second century Jude was widely accepted as canonical. "  Clement, Tertullian and the Muratorian canon considered the letter canonical. The authorship was called into question when Origen of Alexandria first spoke of the doubts held by some—albeit not him. Eusebius classified it with the "disputed writings, the antilegomena." The letter was eventually accepted as part of the Canon by the Church Fathers such as Athanasius and the Synods of Laodicea (c. 363) and Carthage (397). Doubts regarding Jude's authenticity were revived at the time of the Protestant Reformation.
The Epistle title is written as follows: "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James" (NRSV). There is a dispute as to whether "brother" means someone who has the same father and mother, or a half-brother or cousin or more distant familial relationship. This dispute over the true meaning of "brother" grew as the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth evolved.
The debate has continued over the author's identity as the apostle, the brother of Jesus, both, or neither. Some scholars have argued that since the author of that letter has not identified himself as an apostle and actually refers to the apostles as a third party, he cannot be identified with the Jude who is listed as one of the Twelve. Others have drawn the opposite conclusion, i.e., that as an apostle, he would not have made such a claim on his own behalf. The many Judes, named in the gospels and among the relatives of Jesus, and his relationship to James the Just called the brother of Jesus has caused much confusion. Not a lot is known of Jude, which would explain the apparent need to identify him by reference to his better-known brother. It is agreed that he is not the Jude who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot.
The Epistle of Jude is a brief book of only a single chapter with 25 verses. It was composed as an encyclical letter—that is, one not directed to the members of one church in particular, but intended rather to be circulated and read in all churches. The form, as opposed to the earlier letters of Paul, suggests that the author knew Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians or even that the Pauline epistles had already been collected and were circulating when the text was written.
The wording and syntax of this epistle in its original Greek demonstrates that the author was capable and fluent. The epistle is addressed to Christians in general, and it warns them about the doctrine of certain errant teachers to whom they were exposed. Examples of heterodox opinions that were circulating in the early 2nd century include Docetism, Marcionism, and Gnosticism.
The epistle's style is combative, impassioned, and rushed. Many examples of evildoers and warnings about their fates are given in rapid succession. The epithets contained in this writing are considered to be some of the strongest found in the New Testament.
The epistle concludes with a doxology, which is considered to be one of the highest in quality contained in the Bible.
Jude and 2 Peter
Part of Jude is very similar to 2 Peter (mainly 2 Peter chapter 2), so much so that most scholars agree that there is a dependence between the two; that either one letter used the other directly, or they both drew on a common source.
Because this epistle is much shorter than 2 Peter, and due to various stylistic details, the scholarly consensus is that Jude was the source for the similar passages of 2 Peter.
References to other books
The Epistle of Jude references at least two other books, one of which is non-canonical in all churches, the other non-canonical in most churches.
- Verse 9 refers to a dispute between Michael the Archangel and the devil about the body of Moses. Some interpreters understand this reference to be an allusion to the events described in Zechariah 3:1,2. A passage in a non-canonical book, the Assumption of Moses, also provides an account of such a dispute. According to Origen verse 9 refers to this dispute.
- Verses 14-15 contains a direct quote of a prophecy from "Enoch, the seventh from Adam", indicating that Jude accepts the antediluvian patriarch Enoch as the author of a Book of Enoch which contains the same quotation. The Book of Enoch is not considered canonical by most churches, although it is by the Ethiopian Orthodox church. According to Western scholars the older sections of the Book of Enoch (mainly in the Book of the Watchers) date from about 300 BC and the latest part (Book of Parables) probably was composed at the end of 1st century BC. It is generally accepted by scholars that the author of the Epistle of Jude was familiar with the Book of Enoch and was influenced by it in thought and diction. Jude 1:14-15 quotes 1Enoch 1:9 which is part of the pseudepigrapha and is also part of the Dead Sea Scrolls [4Q Enoch (4Q204[4QENAR]) COL I 16-18].
- Textual variants in the Epistle of Jude
- Eusebius, Church History 2 23
- Jude: 17-18
- USCCB - NAB - Jude
- Norman Perrin, (1974) The New Testament: An Introduction, p. 260
- Bauckham,RJ (1986), Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.50, Word (UK) Ltd. p.16
- Bauckham,RJ (1986), Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.50, Word (UK) Ltd. p.17
- Jocelyn Rhys, Shaken Creeds: The Virgin Birth Doctrine a Study of Its Origin, Kessinger Publishing, 2003 ISBN 0766179885, pp 3-53
- Chester, A and Martin, RP (1994), 'The Theology of the Letters of James, Peter and Jude', CUP, p.65
- Bauckham,RJ (1986), Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.50, Word (UK) Ltd. p.14
- Luke 6:16
- Acts 1:13
- John 14:22
- Bauckham,RJ (1986), Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.50, Word (UK) Ltd. p.14f
- Matthew 13:55
- Mark 6:3
- Jude 1:1
- Introduction to 2 Peter, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Ed. F.E.Gaebelein, Zondervan 1976-1992
- T. Callan, "Use of the Letter of Jude by the Second Letter of Peter", Biblica 85 (2004), pp. 42-64.
- Fahlbusch E., Bromiley G.W. The Encyclopedia of Christianity: P-Sh pag 411, ISBN 0-8028-2416-1 (2004)
- "Apocalyptic Literature" (column 220), Encyclopedia Biblica
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Online translations of the Epistle of Jude:
- Jude in New American Bible
- Online Bible at GospelHall.org
- Jude at Bible Gateway (various versions)
- Early Christian writings: Epistle of Jude: comparable translations and interpretations
- Catholic Encyclopedia
- Comprehensive study the Epistle of Jude
- An Exegesis of Jude by Michael Quandt
- A reaction to the apparent regarding of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses as canonical by Jude
Epistle of Jude
Books of the Bible
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