Archibald Thomas Robertson

The Epistle of Jude

About A.D. 65 TO 67

By Way of Introduction

The Author

He calls himself Judas, but this was a very common name. In the N.T. itself we have Judas Iscariot and Judas not Iscariot (Joh 14:22; also called Judas of James, son or brother, Luk 6:6), Judas a brother of our Lord (Mat 13:55), Judas of Galilee (Act 5:37), Judas of Damascus (Act 9:11), Judas Barsabbas (Act 15:22). The author explains that he is a “slave” of Jesus Christ as James did (Jud 1:1), and adds that he is also a brother of James. Clement of Alexandria thinks that, like James, he deprecated being called the brother of the Lord Jesus (as by Hegesippus later) as claiming too much authority. Keil identifies him with Jude the Apostle (not Iscariot), but that is most unlikely. The Epistle is one of the disputed books of Eusebius. It was recognized in the canon in the Third Council of Carthage (a.d. 397). It appears in the Muratorian Canon (a.d. 170).

The Relation to 2 Peter

Beyond a doubt one of these Epistles was used by the other, as one can see by comparing particularly Jude 1:3-18 and 2 Peter 2:1-18. As already said concerning 2 Peter, scholars are greatly divided on this point, and in our present state of knowledge it does not seem possible to reach a solid conclusion. The probability is that not much time elapsed between them. Mayor devotes a whole chapter to the discussion of the relation between 2 Peter and Jude and reaches the conclusion “that in Jude we have the first thought, in Peter the second thought.” That is my own feeling, but it is all so subjective that I have no desire to urge the point unduly. Bigg is equally positive that 2 Peter comes before Jude.

The Use of Apocryphal Books

Jude (verse Jud 1:14) quotes from “Enoch” by name and says that he “prophesied.” What he quotes is a combination of various passages in the Book of Enoch as we have it now. It used to be held that part of Enoch was later than Jude, but Charles seems to have disproved that, though the book as we have it has many interpolations. Tertullian wanted to canonise Enoch because of what Jude says, whereas Chrysostom says that the authenticity of Jude was doubted because of the use of Enoch. In verse Jud 1:9 there seems to be an allusion to the Assumption of Moses, another apocryphal book, but it is the use of “prophesied” in verse Jud 1:14 about Enoch that gave most offence. It is possible, of course, that Jude did not attach the full sense to that term.

The Style

It is terse and picturesque, with a fondness for triplets. The use of the O.T. is very much like that in 2 Peter. Alford notes that it is impassioned invective with epithet on epithet, image on image. Bigg remarks on the stern and unbending nature of the author, with no pathos and a harsh view of things and with frequent use of Pauline phraseology. There are some fifteen words not in the rest of the N.T. The grammar is less irregular than that of 2 Peter. There is often a poetic ring in his words.

The Purpose

The author undoubtedly has the Gnostics in mind and is seeking to warn his readers against them, as is true of 2 Peter. This same purpose appears in the Johannine Epistles, as was true also of Colossians, Ephesians, the Pastoral Epistles.

The Readers

Of this we know nothing at all. Dr. Chase believes that the Epistle was sent to Antioch in Syria. That may be true, though it is mere conjecture. Any place or places in Asia Minor would suit so far as we know. The readers were probably both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Jerusalem and Alexandria are urged as the place of composition, but of that we have no real information.

The Date

This really turns on the genuineness of the Epistle. There is no clear indication of the date, for the Gnostics described can belong to the first or to the second century. If it was used by 2 Peter, that would place it slightly before that Epistle. The date suggested, 65 to 67 a.d., is purely conjectural. 

Taken from "Word Pictures in the New Testament" by Archibald Thomas Robertson