corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Jude Overview



Chapter 1


THIS book is to treat of the General Epistle of St. James and the General Epistle of St. Jude. According to the most common, but not invariable arrangement, they form the first and the last letters in the collection which for fifteen centuries has been known as the Catholic Epistles. The epithet "General," which appears in the titles of these Epistles in the English versions, is simply the equivalent of the epithet "Catholic," the one word being of Latin (generalis), the other of Greek ( καθολικος) origin. In Latin, however, e.g., in the Vulgate, these letters are not called Generales, but Catholicae.

The meaning of the term Catholic Epistles ( καθολικαι επιστολαι) has been disputed, and more than one explanation may be found in commentaries; but the true signification is not really doubtful. It certainly does not mean orthodox or canonical; although from the sixth century, and possibly earlier, we find these Epistles sometimes called the Canonical Epistles ("Epistolae Canonicae"), an expression in which "canonical" is evidently meant to be an equivalent for "catholic." This use is said to occur first in the "Prologus in Canonicas Epistolas" of the Pseudo-Jerome given by Cassiodorus ("De Justit. Divin. Litt.," 8.); and the expression is used by Cassiodorus himself, whose writings may be placed between 540 and 570, the period spent in his monastery at Viviers, after he had retired from the conduct of public affairs. The term "catholic" is used in the sense of "orthodox" before this date, but not in connection with these letters. There seems to be no earlier evidence of the opinion, certainly erroneous, that this collection of seven Epistles was called "Catholic" in order to mark them as Apostolic and authoritative, in distinction from other letters which were heterodox, or at any rate of inferior authority. Five out of the seven letters, viz., all but the First Epistle of St. Peter and the First Epistle of St. John, belong to that class of New Testament books which from the time of Eusebius ("H.E.," 3. 25:4) have been spoken of as "disputed" ( αντιλεγομενα), i.e., as being up to the beginning of the fourth century not universally admitted to be canonical. And it would have been almost a contradiction in terms if Eusebius had first called these Epistles "catholic" ("H.E.," 2. 23. 25; 6. 14. 1) in the sense of being universally accepted as authoritative, and had then classed them among the "disputed" books.

Nor is it accurate to say that these letters are called "catholic" because they are addressed to both Jewish and Gentile Christians alike, a statement which is not true of all of them, and least of all of the Epistle which generally stands first in the series; for the Epistle of St. James takes no account of Gentile Christians. Moreover, there are Epistles of St. Paul which are addressed to both Jews and Gentiles in the Churches to which he writes. So that this explanation of the term makes it thoroughly unsuitable for the purpose for which it is used, viz., to mark off these seven Epistles from the Epistles of St. Paul. Nevertheless, this interpretation is nearer to the truth than the former one.

The Epistles are called "Catholic" because they are not addressed to any particular Church, whether of Thessalonica, or Corinth, or Rome, or Galatia, but to the Church universal, or at any rate to a wide circle of readers. This is the earliest Christian use of the term "catholic," which was applied to the Church itself before it was applied to these or any other writings. "Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be," says Ignatius to the Church of Smyrna (8), "just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church,"-the earliest passage in Christian literature in which the phrase "Catholic Church" occurs. And there can be no doubt as to the meaning of the epithet in this expression. In later times, when Christians were oppressed by a consciousness of the slow progress of the Gospel, and by the knowledge that as yet only a fraction of the human race had accepted it, it became customary to explain "catholic" as meaning that which embraces and teaches the whole truth, rather than as that which spreads everywhere and covers the whole earth. But in the first two or three centuries the feeling was rather one of jubilation and triumph at the rapidity with which the "good news" was spreading, and of confidence that "there is not one single race of men, whether barbarians or Greeks, or whatever they may be called, nomads or vagrants, or herdsmen living in tents, among whom prayers and giving of thanks are not offered, through the name of the crucified Jesus, to the Father and Creator of all things" (Justin Martyr, "Trypho," 118.); and that as "the soul is diffused through all the members of the body, Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world" ("Epistle to Diognetus," 6.). Under the influence of such exultation as this, which was felt to be in harmony with Christ’s promise and command, [Luke 24:47; Matthew 28:10] it was natural to use "catholic" of the universal extension of Christendom, rather than of the comprehensiveness of the truths of Christianity. And this meaning still prevails in the time of Augustine, who says that "the Church is called ‘Catholic’ in Greek, because it is diffused throughout the whole world" ("Epp.," 52. 1); although the later use, as meaning orthodox, in distinction to schismatical or heretical, has already begun; e.g., in the Muratorian Fragment, in which the writer speaks of heretical writing "which cannot be received into the Catholic Church; for wormwood is not suitable for mixing with honey" (Tregelles, pp. 20, 47; Westcott "On the Canon," Appendix C, p. 500); and the chapter in Clement of Alexandria on the priority of the Catholic Church to all heretical assemblies ("Strom.," 7. 17.).

The four Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul were the Christian writings best known during the first century after the Ascension, and universally acknowledged as of binding authority; and it was common to speak of them as "the Gospel" and "the Apostle," much in the same way as the Jews spoke of "the Law" and "the Prophets." But when a third collection of Christian documents became widely known another collective term was required by which to distinguish it from the collections already familiar, and the feature in these seven Epistles which seems to have struck the recipients of them most is the absence of an address to any local Church. Hence they received the name of Catholic, or General, or Universal Epistles. The name was all the more natural because of the number seven, which emphasized the contrast between these and the Pauline Epistles. St. Paul had written to seven particular Churches-Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome, Galatia, Philippi, Colossae, and Ephesus; and here were seven Epistles without any address to a particular Church; therefore they might fitly be called "General Epistles." Clement of Alexandria uses this term of the letter addressed to the Gentile Christians "in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia" [Acts 15:23] by the Apostles, in the so-called Council of Jerusalem ("Strom.," 4. 15.); and Origen uses it of the Epistle of Barnabas ("Con. Celsum," 1. 63.), which is addressed simply to "sons and daughters," i.e., to Christians generally.

That this meaning was well understood, even after the misleading title "Canonical Epistles" had become usual in the West, is shown by the interesting Prologue to these Epistles written by the Venerable, Bede, cir. A.D. 712. This prologue is headed, ‘Here begins, the Prologue to the seven Canonical Epistles,’ and it opens thus: "James, Peter, John, and Jude published seven Epistles, to which ecclesiastical custom gives the name of Catholic, i.e., universal."

The name is not strictly accurate, excepting in the cases of 1 John, 2 Peter, and Jude. It is admissible in a qualified sense of 1 Peter and James; but it is altogether inappropriate to 2 and 3 John, which are addressed, not to the Church at large, nor to a group of local Churches, but to individuals. But inasmuch as the common title of these letters was not the Epistles "to the Elect Lady" and "to Gaius," as in the case of the letters to Philemon, Titus, and Timothy, but simply the Second and Third of John, they were regarded as without address, and classed with the Catholic Epistles. And of course it was natural to put them into the same group with the First Epistle of St. John, although the name of the group did not suit them. At what date this arrangement was made is not certain; but there is reason for believing that these seven Epistles were already regarded as one collection in the third century, when Pamphilus, the friend of Eusebius, was making his famous library at Caesarea. Euthalius (cir. A.D. 450) published an edition of them, in making which he had collated "the accurate copies" in this library; and it is probable that he found the grouping already existing in those copies, and did not make it for himself. Moreover, it is probable that the copies at Caesarea were made by Pamphilus himself; for the summary of the contents of the Acts published under the name of Euthalius is a mere copy of the summary given by Pamphilus, and it became the usual practice to place the Catholic Epistles immediately after the Acts. If, then, Euthalius got the summary of the Acts from Pamphilus, he probably got the arrangement from him also, viz., the putting of these seven Epistles into one group, and placing them next to the Acts.

The order which makes the Catholic Epistles follow immediately after the Acts is very ancient, and it is a matter for regret that the influence of Jerome, acting through the Vulgate, has universally disturbed it in all Western Churches. "The connection between these two, portions (the Acts and the Catholic Epistles.), commended by its intrinsic appropriateness, is preserved in a large proportion of Greek MSS. of all ages, and corresponds to marked affinities of textual history." It is the order followed by Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, John of Damascus, the Council of Laodicea, and also by Cassian. It has been restored by Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Westcott and Hort; but it is not: to be expected that even their powerful authority will avail to re-establish the ancient arrangement.

The order of the books in the group of the Catholic Epistles is not quite constant; but almost always James stands first. In a very few authorities Peter stands first, an arrangement naturally preferred in the West, but not adopted even there, because the authority of the original order was too strong. A scholiast on the Epistle of James states that this Epistle has been placed before 1 Peter, "because it is more catholic than that of Peter," by which he seems to mean that whereas 1 Peter is addressed "to the Dispersion," without any limitation. The Venerable Bede, in the Prologue to the Catholic Epistles quoted above, states that James is placed first, because he undertook to rule the Church of Jerusalem, which was the fount and source of that evangelic preaching which has spread throughout the world; or else because he sent his Epistle to the twelve tribes of Israel, who were the first to believe. And Bede calls attention to the fact that St. Paul himself adopts this order when he speaks of "James, and Cephas, and John, they who were reputed to be pillars". [Galatians 2:9] It is possible, however, that the order James, Peter, John was meant to represent a belief as to the chronological precedence of James to Peter, and Peter to John; Jude being placed last because of its comparative insignificance, and because it was not at first universally admitted. The Syriac Version, which admits only James, 1 Peter, and 1 John, has the three in this order; and if the arrangement had its origin in reverence for the first Bishop of Jerusalem, it is strange that most of the Syriac copies should have a heading to the effect that these three Epistles of James, Peter, and John are by the three who witnessed the Transfiguration. Those who made and those who accepted this comment certainly had no idea of reverencing the first Bishop of Jerusalem, for it implies that the Epistle of James is by the son of Zebedee and brother of John, who was put to death by Herod. But it is probable that this heading is a mere blundering conjecture. If persons who believed the Epistle to be written by James the brother of John had fixed the order, they would have fixed it thus-Peter, James, John, as in Matthew 17:1, Mark 5:37; Mark 9:2; Mark 13:3; Mark 14:33; comp. Matthew 26:37; or Peter, John, James, as in Luke 8:51; Luke 9:28; Acts 1:13. But the former arrangement would be more reasonable than the latter, seeing that John wrote so long after the other two. The traditional order harmonizes with two facts which were worth marking-

(1) that two of the three were Apostles, and must therefore be placed together;

(2) that John wrote last, and must therefore be placed last; but whether or no the wish to mark these facts determined the order, we have not sufficient knowledge to enable us to decide.

How enormous would have been the loss had the Catholic Epistles been excluded from the canon of the New Testament it is not difficult to see. Whole phases of Christian thought would have been missing. The Acts and the Epistles of St. Paul would have told us of their existence, but would not have shown to us what they were. We should have known that there were serious differences of opinion even among the Apostles themselves, but we should have had a very imperfect knowledge as to their nature and reconciliation. We might have guessed that those who had been with Jesus of Nazareth throughout His ministry would not preach Christ in the same way as St. Paul, who had never seen Him until after the Ascension, but we should not have been sure of this; still less could we have seen in what the difference would have consisted; and we should have known very little indeed of the distinctive marks of the three great teachers who "were reputed to be pillars" of the Church. Above all, we should have known sadly little of the Mother Church of Jerusalem, and of the teaching of those many early Christians who, while heartily embracing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, believed that they were bound to hold fast not only to the morality, but to the discipline of Moses. Thus in many particulars we should have been left to conjecture as to how the continuity in the Divine Revelation was maintained; how the Gospel not merely superseded, but fulfilled, and glorified, and grew out of the Law.

All this has to a large extent been made plain to us by the providence of God in giving to us and preserving for us in the Church the seven Catholic Epistles. We see St. James and St. Jude presenting to us that Judaic form of Christianity which was really the complement, although when exaggerated it became the opposite, of the teaching of St. Paul. We see St. Peter mediating between the two, and preparing the way for a better comprehension of both. And then St. John lifts us up into a higher and clearer atmosphere, in which the controversy between Jew and Gentile has faded away into the dim distance, and the only opposition which remains worthy of a Christian’s consideration is that between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, love and hate, God and the world, Christ and Antichrist, life and death.

Chapter 30



PRECISELY as in the case of the Epistle of St. James, the question as to the authenticity of this letter resolves itself into two parts: Is the Epistle the veritable product of a writer of the Apostolic age? If it is, which of the persons of that age who bore the name of Judas is the author of it? Both of these questions can be answered with a very considerable amount of certainty.

Let us remember the right way of putting the first of these two questions. Not, Why should we believe that this Epistle was written by an Apostle or a contemporary of the Apostles? but, Why should we refuse to believe this? What reason have we for rejecting the verdict of ecclesiastics and theologians of the fourth and fifth centuries, who were well aware of the doubts which had been raised respecting the authority of the Epistle, and after full and prolonged consideration decided that it possessed full canonical authority. Not only were they in possession of evidence which is no longer available, and which rendered it probable that their decision would be correct; but the universal acceptance of their decision in all the Churches proves that their decision was admitted to be correct by those who had ample means of testing its soundness.

The Epistle of St. Jude, like that of St. James, is reckoned by Eusebius as one of the six or seven "disputed" ( αντιλεγομενα) books of the New Testament, which fact, while it proves that misgivings had existed in some quarters respecting the authority of the letter, at the same time proves that it was not admitted into the canon by an oversight. The difficulties respecting it were well known, and were considered to be by no means fatal to its otherwise strong claim to be accepted. And the difficulties respecting the two Epistles were similar in kind.

1. Many Churches remained for a considerable time without any knowledge of one or other of the two Epistles; but whereas it was in the West that the Epistle of St. James was least known, it was Eastern Churches that remained longest without knowledge of that of St. Jude 1:2. Even when the Epistle did become known it remained doubtful whether the writer was a person of authority. He was possibly not an Apostle, and if he was not such, what were his claims to be heard? To these two difficulties, which were common to both Epistles, must be added another which was peculiar to that of St. Jude. It may be stated in Jerome’s words.

3. "Because in it Jude derives a testimony from the Book of Enoch, which is apocryphal, it is rejected by some" ("Catal. Scr. Ec," 4). As we shall see hereafter, it probably makes use of yet another apocryphal book; and it was not unreasonably doubted whether an Apostolic writer would compromise himself by the use of such literature. If he were inspired, he would know it to be apocryphal, and would abstain from quoting it; and if he did not know its apocryphal character, how could he be inspired, or his words be of any authority?

That so brief a letter should remain for a considerable time quite unknown to some Churches, is not at all surprising. Its evident Jewish tone would render it less attractive to Gentile Christians. Its making no claim to Apostolic authority raised a doubt whether it had any authority whatever, and this doubt was increased by the fact that it quotes apocryphal writings. Consequently those Christians who knew the Epistle would not always be ready to promote its circulation. Even if we were compelled to infer that silence respecting it implies ignorance of its existence, such ignorance would in most cases be very intelligible: but this perilous inference from silence in some cases can be shown to be incorrect. Hippolytus may possibly have remained ignorant of it; but if, as Bishop Lightfoot suggests, he is the author of the supposed Greek original of the Muratorian Canon, he testifies strongly (note the sane) to the general reception of the Epistle. This holds good, however we may deal with the ambiguous in catholica, which may possibly mean "in the Catholic Church," or be a mistake for in catholieis, "among the Catholic Epistles." Cyprian, who never quotes the Epistle of St. Jude, must have known of it from the celebrated passage in "the master" Tertullian, whose works he was always reading. And it is quite incredible that Chrysostom, who in all his voluminous writings does not chance to quote it even once, was not familiar with its contents. The brevity of the Epistle is sufficient to explain a great deal of the silence respecting it.

The most serious item in the external evidence against the Epistle is its absence from the Peshitto, or ancient Syriac Version. The considerations already mentioned go a long way towards explaining this absence, and it is a great deal more than counterbalanced by the strong external evidence in its favor. This is surprisingly strong, especially when compared with that in favor of the Epistle of St. James. In both cases the troubles which overwhelmed the Church of Jerusalem and Jewish Christianity in the reign of Hadrian interfered with the circulation of the letters; but it is the shorter letter and the letter of the less-known writer which (so far as extant testimony goes) seems in the first instance to have obtained the wider circulation and recognition. The Muratorian Canon, as we have seen, contains it; so also does the old Latin Version. Tertullian ("De Cult. Fern.," I 3.) vehemently contends that the Book of Enoch ought to be accepted ascanonical, and he clenches his argument with the fact that it is quoted by "the Apostle Jude." This appeal would have seemed dangerous rather than conclusive, if in North Africa there had been any serious misgivings about the authority of Jude’s Epistle. Tertullian evidently entertained nothing of the kind. In a similar spirit Augustine asks, "What of Enoch, the seventh from Adam? Does not the canonical Epistle of the Apostle Jude declare that he prophesied?" ("De Civ. Dei," 18:38). Clement of Alexandria quotes it as Scripture ("Paed." III 8., and "Strom.," III 2.), and commented upon it in his "Hypotyposeis" (Eus. "H.E.," VI 14. 1), of, which we probably still possess some translations into Latin made under the direction of Cassiodorus. Origen, although he was aware that it was not universally received, for in one place he uses the cautious expression, "If any receive the Epistle of Jude," yet accepted it thoroughly himself, as the frequent citations of it in his works show. In one passage he speaks of it as "an Epistle of but few lines, yet full of the strong words of heavenly grace" ("Comm.," on Matthew 13:55). Athanasius places it in his list of the canonical Scriptures without any mark of doubt. And Didymus, head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, and instructor of Jerome and Rufinus, condemns the opposition which some offered to the Epistle on account of the statement respecting the body of Moses (Jude 1:9), just as Jerome virtually condemns those who opposed it because of the quotation from the Book of Enoch. This evidence, it will be observed, is mostly Western. The blank as regards the East is to some extent filled by the letter of the Synod of Antioch against Paul of Samosata, A.D. 269. Portions of this letter have been preserved by Eusebius, and Malchion, the presbyter who chiefly composed it, seems to have had the Epistle of Jude in his mind when he wrote. This is chiefly evident in the tone of the letter; but here and there the wording approaches that of St. Jude; e.g., "denying his God [and Lord]" reminds us of "denying our only Master and Lord"; [Jude 1:4] and "not guarding the faith which he once held" may be suggested by "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints". [Jude 1:3] The quotations from Jude in Ephraem Syrus (cir. A.D. 308-73) are somewhat discredited, for they occur only in the Greek translations of his works, some of which, however, were made in his lifetime; but the quotations may be insertions made by translators.

That so short a letter should have so much testimony in its favor is remarkable; and although it may be a slight exaggeration to say with Zahn, that about A.D. 200 it was accepted "in the Church of all lands round the Mediterranean Sea" ("Gesch. d. Neutest. Kanons," I p. 321), yet even Harnack admits that this is not much in excess of the truth. The only abatement which he suggests is that the misgivings to which Origen on one single occasion bears witness, show that the Epistle was not everywhere in the East part of, the New Testament Scriptures ("Das N.T. um d. Jahr 200," p. 79). We may take it, therefore, as sufficiently proved that this letter was written by one who belonged to the Apostolic age. Had it been a forgery of the second century, it would not have found this general acceptance. Moreover, a forger would have chosen some person of greater fame and greater authority as the supposed writer of the Epistle, or would at least have made Jude an Apostle; and above all, he would have betrayed some motive for the forgery. There is nothing in the letter to indicate any such motive. Renan accepts the Epistle as a genuine relic of the Apostolic age, and indeed places it as early as A.D. 54; yet his view of it would lead other people to regard it as a forgery, for it supplies a strong motive. Renan considers it to be an attack on St. Paul. The Clementine literature shows us how a heretic of the second century can make a covert attack on the Apostle of the Gentiles; and if we could believe that the writer of this Epistle had St. Paul in his mind when he denounced those who "in their dreamings defile the flesh, and set at naught dominion, and rail at dignities," we should be ready enough to believe that he was not really "Judas, brother of James," but one who did not dare to say openly in the Church the accusations which he tried to insinuate. But no critic has accepted this strange theory of Renan’s, and it is hardly worth while asking, Why was not St. Peter or St. John taken as the authority wherewith to counteract the influence of St. Paul? Of what weight would the words of the unknown Jude be in comparison with his? Renan’s literary acuteness recognizes in this Epistle a veritable product of the first century; his prejudices respecting anti-Pauline tendencies among the Apostolic writers led him amazingly astray as to the meaning of its contents.

It remains to consider the second part of the question respecting the authenticity of this Epistle. We are justified in believing that it is a writing of the Apostolic age, by a person bearing the name of Judas or Jude. But to which of the persons who bore that name in the first age of the Church is the letter to be assigned? Only two persons have to be considered-

(1) "Judas not Iscariot," who seems also to have been called Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus, for in the lists of the Apostles Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus (the readings are confused) stands in Matthew 10:1-42. and Mark 3:1-35. as the equivalent of "Judas [the son] of James" in Lu 6. and Acts 1:1-26.; and

(2) Judas one of the four brethren of the Lord; the names of the other three being James, Joseph or Joses, and Simon. [Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3] These two are sometimes identified, but the identification is highly questionable, although the Authorized Version encourages us to make it by giving to "Judas of James" the improbable meaning, "Judas the brother of James," instead of the usual meaning, "Judas the son of James." In other words the Authorized Version assumes that the writer of this Epistle is the Apostle "Judas not Iscariot"; the writer calls himself "brother of James," and the Authorized Version makes this Apostle to be "the brother of James."

We have seen already that both Tertullian and Augustine speak of the writer of this Epistle as an Apostle. So also does Origen, but only in two passages, of which the Greek original is wanting ("De Principiis," III 2. 1; "Comm. on Romans" {see Romans 5:13}, vol. 4. 549). In no passage of the Greek works, and in no other passage of the Latin translations, does he call Jude an Apostle; so that the addition of Apostle in these two places may be an insertion of his not very accurate translator Rufinus. But even if the authority of Origen is to be added to that of Tertullian and Augustine, the opinion that the author of this letter was an Apostle is not probable. Had he been such, it would have been natural to mention the fact as a claim on the attention of his readers, instead of merely contenting himself with naming his relationship to his much more distinguished brother James. It is not to the point to urge that St. Paul does not always call himself an Apostle in his Epistles. He was a well-known person, especially after his four great Epistles had been published, in all of which he styles himself an Apostle. In the two to the Thessalonians he does not, probably because he there associates Silvanus and Timothy with himself (but see 1 Thessalonians 2:6). St. Jude was comparatively unknown, having written nothing else, and having probably traveled little. The charge, "Remember ye the words which have been spoken before by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 1:17), although it does not necessarily imply that the writer himself is not one of these Apostles, yet would be more suitable to one who did not possess Apostolic rank. And when we ask what James is meant, when he styles himself "brother of James," the answer cannot be doubtful; it is James the brother of the Lord, one of the three "Pillars" of the Jewish Christian Church, first overseer of the Church of Jerusalem, and author of the Epistle which bears his name. The Epistle of Jude is evidently by a Jewish Christian, who, while writing to all that have been called to the faith, evidently has Jewish Christians chiefly in his mind. To such a writer it was well worth while to mention that he was a brother of that James who was so revered by all his fellow-countrymen. Reasons have been given already for believing that this James was not an Apostle, and these will confirm us in the opinion that his brother Jude was not such. The question of their relationship to Jesus Christ has also been discussed, and need not be reopened here. If it be argued that, had St. Jude been the brother of the Lord, he would have mentioned the fact, we may securely answer that he would not have done so. "As the author of the ‘Adumbrationes’ centuries ago remarked, religious feeling would deter him, as it did his brother James, in his Epistle, from mentioning this. The Ascension had altered all Christ’s human relationships, and His brethren would shrink from claiming kinship after the flesh with His glorified body. This conjecture is supported by facts. Nowhere in primitive Christian literature is any authority claimed on the basis of nearness of kin to the Redeemer. He Himself had taught Christians that the lowliest among them might rise above the closest of such earthly ties; [Luke 11:27-28] to be spiritually the ‘servant of Jesus Christ’ was much more than being His actual brother."

We may suppose that Jude, like the rest of Ills brethren, [John 7:5] did not at first believe in the Messiahship of Jesus, but was converted by the convincing event of the Resurrection. [Acts 1:14] We know that he was married, not merely from the general statement made by St. Paul respecting the brethren of the Lord, [1 Corinthians 9:5] but from the interesting story told, by Hegesippus, and preserved by Eusebius ("H.E.," III 20. 1-8), that two grandsons of Jude were taken before Domitian as being of the royal family of David, and therefore dangerous to his rule. "For," says Hegesippus, "he was afraid of the appearance of the Christ, as Herod was." In answer to his questions, they stated that they were indeed of the family of David, but they were poor and humble persons, who supported themselves by their own labor; in proof of which they showed their horny hands. When further questioned respecting the Christ and His kingdom, they said that it was not earthly, but heavenly, and would arise at the end of the world, when He came to judge the living and the dead. Whereupon Domitian contemptuously dismissed them as too simple to be dangerous, and ordered that the persecution of the descendants of David should cease. These two men were afterwards honored in the Churches, both as confessors and as being near of kin to the Lord. A fragment of Philip of Side (cir. A.D. 425) lately discovered, says that Hegesippus gave the names of these two men as Zocer and James ("Texte und Untersuchungen," 5. 2, p. 169).

This narrative implies that both St. Jude and the father of these grandsons were already dead, and this gives us a terminus respecting the date of the Epistle. St. Jude was almost certainly dead when Domitian came to the throne in A.D. 81, and therefore this letter was written before that date. Whether, as Hilgenfeld and others would have us believe, the Epistle is aimed at Gnostic errors which did not arise until the second century, will be considered hereafter, when the nature of the evils denounced by St. Jude is discussed; but the evidence which has been examined thus far entirely agrees with the supposition that the letter was written during the Apostolic age.

It is not impossible that in calling himself "brother of James," St. Jude is thinking of his brother’s Epistle, and wishes his readers to consider that the present letter is to be taken in conjunction with that of St. James. Both letters are Palestinian in origin and Jewish in tone; and they are almost entirely practical in their aim, dealing with grave errors in conduct. Those which are denounced by St. Jude are of a grosser kind than those denounced by St. James, but they resemble the latter in being errors of behavior rather than of creed. They are to a large extent the outcome of pernicious principles; but it is the vicious lives of these "ungodly men" that are condemned more than their erroneous beliefs. St. Jude, therefore, may be appealing not only to his brother’s position and authority as a recommendation for himself, but also to his brother’s Epistle, which many of his readers would know and respect.

The attempts which have been made to find a locality for St. Jude’s readers altogether fail. Palestine, Asia Minor, Alexandria have all been suggested; but the letter does not offer sufficient material for the formation of a reasonable opinion. "To them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ," is a formula which embraces all Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, and whether inside or outside Palestine. The topics introduced are such as would chiefly interest Jewish Christians, and it is probable that the writer has the Jewish Christians of Palestine and the adjoining countries chiefly in his mind; but we have no right to limit the natural meaning of the formal address which he himself has adopted. All Christians, without limitation, are the objects of St. Jude’s solicitude.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Jude:4 Overview". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology