An American Commentary on the New Testament

Edited by Hovey, Alvah

Introduction to the Epistle of Jude


The name of our author in Hebrew would have been Yehuda (Judah); in Greek it is Ioudas (Jude). It means praise, honor. A Jude was an apostle. (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13.) That Jude was also called " Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus " (Matt. 10:3); Thaddeus. (Mark 3:18.) In the Common Version, he is called " the brother" of James, but there being in the original no word for brother, the question has been raised whether brother or son should be supplied. In our Epistle brother is not supplied, but is a translation. Was the writer a brother of Jesus and also an apostle? or, was he only a brother of the Lord and not an apostle? Were the "brothers" of the Lord actual brothers? or, were they cousins? These questions have been much discussed. Not even an outline of the argument on either side can be given; the student will find aid in Meyer, Arnaud, Alford, Lange, Schaff, Andrews, Smith's "Bible Dictionary," Ellicott, Farrar, Mombert (an Excursus in Lange), and elsewhere. Such difficulties attend the subject, that a decision seems to be impossible. The " cousin theory "rests upon the assumption that it is not for the honor of Mary to suppose that she had any other children, and not for the honor of Jesus to suppose that he had any brothers; and to this assumption one may be easily led by false views of marriage. He who holds to the perpetual virginity of Mary, never yet proved, must believe that the " brothers" of Jesus were not brothers. With the cousin theory has been connected excessive honoring of Mary (Mariolatry).

Of the life of Jude considered as a younger brother of the Lord, and not as an apostle (the view which seems to have the fewest difficulties), little is known. He was at first an unbeliever. (John 7:5.) His conversion may have occurred soon after the resurrection of Christ. (Acts 1:14.) The Epistle yields almost the only data for estimating Jude's mental traits, and though these prove him to have been a man of clear perception, vivid imagination, intense sensibility, and strong will, they are not sufficient for making a thorough analysis. He may have been of a more tender nature than his Epistle alone would lead us to suppose. The vehemence of his spirit is not vindictiveness, but results from deep conscientiousness. It is the fruit of loyalty to Christ, made more than usually intense by knowledge of the rapid spread and growing insolence of error in the churches. Following, as the epistles stand in the English Testament, John's sweet breathings of love, Jude's concentrated invective, however just and needful, is like a tornado following the still hours of a summer's day


The object is to exhort the readers to contend earnestly for the faith. (Ver. 3.) The necessity for so doing was great. Certain men, who had come stealthily into the churches, were turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and the Lord Jesus Christ. It was of the utmost importance to save the churches from the ruin which threatened them.

The Epistle is very methodical, and as method is sometimes supposed to be unfavorable to feeling, the union here of strict method and intense feeling should be noted. The usual form of salutation precedes. (Ver. 1,2.) After announcing the object (ver. 3), and expressing the urgent necessity for writing and exhorting (ver. 4), the writer first reminds the readers of the destruction sent in ancient times upon unbelieving Israelites (ver. 5), sinning angels (ver. 6), and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Ver. 7.) Then he proceeds to characterize the new class of sinners (ver. 8-16), contrasting them as to one of their traits, with Michael the archangel. In the course of the description he shows by a quotation from the book of " Enoch " (Henoch), that the men in question had been the object of prophetic denunciation. (Ver. 14, 15.) The description closed (ver. 16), the readers are reminded that the coming of such men had been declared by the apostles; are exhorted to make spiritual progress; to expect eternal life through the mercy of God; and to make a wise discrimination in their methods of treating the deceived members of the church. The Epistle closes with an uncommonly rich doxology.


The Epistle is both original and dependent. The latter is seen in its striking resemblance to the Second Epistle of Peter. See Introduction to that Epistle, III. The passages which are similar are the following:


2 Peter 1:5.

2 Peter 2:1.

2 Peter 2:4.

2 Peter 2:6,9, 10.

2 Peter 2:11.

2 Peter 2:12.

2 Peter 2:15.

2 Peter 2:13-17.

2 Peter 2:18.

2 Peter 3:1-3.



Jude 3.

Jude 4.

Jude 6.

Jude 7, 8.

Jude 9.

Jude 10.

Jude 11.

Jude 12, 13.

Jude 16.

Jude 17, 18


Farrar (" Early Days of Christianity " ), in his translation of the Epistle has attempted to show what he regards as " the affinity between this Epistle and Second Peter, by printing in italics those identical or closely analogous words and phrases which occur in both. " He presents about fifty-seven instances. In some of the cases adduced the resemblance is very marked: but in several of them it is clearly unjust to allege either designed or undesigned imitation, whether by Peter or by Jude. Some of the words cited are common property. A slave (more correctly a bondservant) of Jesus Christ, is used by Paul in Rom. 1:1; a servant of God, in Titus 1:1; a servant of God, in James 1:1, as well as in Peter and Jude. Kept is used in John 17:11, in 1 Peter 1:5, and elsewhere. Angels is so common a word that it is useless to cite cases. It is difficult to see how the use of such a word shows any special "affinity" between Peter and Jude. The same maybe said of the very common words denied, day, Master, Jesus Christ, Sodom and Gomorrah, flesh, example, blameless, majority, power, now, Amen. The address, beloved, is common to Peter, John, and Jude. To remind ("put you in remembrance," Common Version) is common to Luke, John, Jude, and Peter. Yet some words and phrases are so peculiar as to show that one of the two writers (Jude or Peter) must have been in some degree dependent on the ether. Many hold that Jude wrote first and some that Peter wrote first. If, on literary grounds, it may seem more probable that the former was the original writer, yet it seems improbable that the greatest of the twelve apostles would borrow so freely from one who held a comparatively obscure position in the primitive Church. It has been affirmed that the milder phraseology of Peter proves that the apostle purposely toned down the severe language of Jude. This is possible, but it is equally possible that Jude was stimulated by the apostle's powerful denunciations to write with still greater severity against the error and immorality with which he may be presumed to have been brought into closer contact than even Peter himself, whether Peter were still in the distant eastern city of Babylon (1 Peter 5:13), or in Rome as a prisoner. Assuming that Peter wrote first, concerning which, probably, there will always be opposite opinions, the questions arise: Did Jude deliberately copy from Peter? Or, was he so permeated with Peter's thoughts and language that he unconsciously used his material? In modern times the former would have been plagiarism (Latin, plagium, kidnapping). Kidnapping thought in another's words is a vice which was not unrecognized by literary men in ancient Rome. But, as has been remarked, neither epistle shows slavish dependence, actual copying, literary poverty and incapacity; but whichever should be held as posterior, it was prepared with literary freedom. The question of priority has been discussed by Huther, Dietlein, Farrar, and others. Though, as the present writer thinks, Jude wrote later than Peter, yet his epistle is marked for not a little originality, which is seen even in his bolder and, severer utterances of what the apostle says in a manner more restrained, and of which more particular notice will be taken in our study of the text. All that has been said concerning the style of Peter's Second Epistle, may be said concerning Jude's with added emphasis.


That Jude was its author may be believed for the following reasons: It is mentioned in the Latin Muratorian Fragment, the Greek original of which was written about A. D. 170. This Fragment put the Epistle among those books concerning which there was some difference of opinion; yet it says that it is received in the Catholic [Church], or is reckoned among the Catholic [Epistles]. It is ascribed to Jude by Clement of Alexandria, A. D. 165-220, in Eusebius. Origen, A. D. 186-253, often quotes it; Tertullian also, latter half of the second century; the author of a treatise " commonly appended to the works of Cyprian, in which it is quoted as Scripture " (Westcott); Malchion, A. D. 260272, a presbyter of Antioch ("a clear allusion to the Epistle of Jude "). It is quoted by Palladius, a friend of Chrysostom, A. D. 407. It "is contained in the Laodicene A. D. 363, Carthaginian A. D. 397, and so-called Apostolic catalogues" (Smith's "Bible Dictionary.") Though it was early received as a part of God's word, yet it was not received without some hesitation, this arising not from fear that it was a forgery, but from knowledge of its peculiar character, and from its similarity to the Second Epistle of Peter. Concerning its alleged quotations from the apocryphal book of Henoch, see on verse 14. Its internal character is not inconsistent with Christian teaching elsewhere, and shows the author to have been an intense lover of Christians and Christian truth.


Neither of these can be determined. Palestine may have been the place where, and the time suggested varies from A. D. 64 to A. D. 80. If the Epistle was written later than Peter's and before the destruction of Jerusalem, which latter is highly probable, it must have been written during the interval between the death of Peter and the destruction of the city — that is, before A. D. 70. (Fronmüller.) That it was written before Jerusalem was destroyed is to be presumed from its silence relative to that event. It does not profess to be sent to any given Church. In the latter part of the apostolic period, its warnings were greatly needed.