The Epistle of Jude: Introduction

The epistle from St. Jude is the penultimate book of the Christian Bible and it is believed to have been written between 50 and 70 A.D.

I am interested in studying the one chapter book because it carries a lot of questions in its tow, ranging from its debated place in the canon, its authorship, and its use of pseudepigrapha books (1 Enoch and The Assumption of Moses.) I hope that in studying some of these controversial elements, I come away with satisfactory answers.


We’ll start with a reliance on the discussion from wikipedia before branching out into further sources:

The epistle introduces itself with a simple claim of authorship: “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (NRSV). “James” is generally taken to mean James, a brother of Jesus, a prominent leader in the early church. Introductions would typically refer to a father in the era, so the use of a cousin suggests that this would only be done if the cousin was famous within the community. Little is known about Jude himself. As the brother of James, it has traditionally meant Jude was also a kinsman of Jesus, since James is described as being the cousin of Jesus. This is why Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215 AD) wrote in his work “Comments on the Epistle of Jude” that Jude, the author, was a son of Joseph and a brother of Jesus. However, there is a dispute as to whether “brother” means someone who has the same father and mother, or a half-brother, cousin, or more distant familial relationship. This dispute over the true meaning of “brother” grew as the doctrine of the Virgin Birth evolved. For example, Saint Jerome believed that not only Mary but also Joseph were virgins their entire lives, and thus James and by extension Jude were cousins.

Outside the book of Jude, a “Jude” is mentioned five times in the New Testament: three times as Jude the Apostle, and twice as Jude the brother of Jesus (aside from references to Judas Iscariot and Judah (son of Jacob)). Debate continues as to whether the author of the epistle is the apostle, the brother of Jesus, both, or neither. Scholars have argued that since the author of the letter has not identified himself as an apostle and also refers to the apostles as a third party, he cannot be identified with Jude the Apostle. Other scholars have drawn the opposite conclusion, which is that, as an apostle, he would not have made a claim of apostleship on his own behalf.

A reason to doubt that a relative of Jesus wrote the book is that they are unlikely to have been literate. Jesus’s family were common laborers from Aramaic-speaking Galilee, and literary composition skills were overwhelmingly concentrated in the elite in antiquity. Few knew how to read, fewer how to write, and fewer still how to write complicated literary treatises. Jesus himself may have been able to read, presumably in Hebrew, but he was also exceptional and the star of the family. Even if somehow Jude had learned a little of how to read Hebrew, the epistle is written in excellent, complicated Koine Greek, with knowledge of common forms of rhetoric and argument of the era, as well as seeming knowledge of the scriptures in Hebrew. All this would be exceptional for a countryside Galilean. Scholars who support the authorship of Jude generally assume that he must have embarked upon extensive travel and missionary work among Hellenized Jews to master Greek as the author did. Ultimately, it is impossible to know more details of Jude’s life for sure. One early Christian tradition states that Jude’s grandchildren were brought before Emperor Domitian and interrogated; in the story, they defended themselves as not rebels and mere poor laborers eking out what they could from a single patch of land. While the story is clearly apocryphal – Roman emperors did not generally interrogate Galilean peasants – it does suggest that early Christians remembered Jude’s family as lower-class laborers, not literate elites.

If the Jude writing the letter was not Jude the Apostle mentioned in the gospels, then he was possibly an unknown Christian who happened to share the name and coincidentally also had a brother named James. A final possibility is that the epistle is pseudepigrapha – that the author intentionally hinted to readers that it was from the more famous Jude, but only as a false attribution to give the letter more authority

I will note that a factor not considered by the wikipedia article above is that Jude could have been illiterate AND dictated the letter to someone else who then wrote it. Most of Paul’s letters are written in that manner (though Paul as certainly not illiterate.) It is not a reach to believe that Jude could have done the same – especially as a leader within the early church.

It might also be true that in the transition from laborer, to Church leader, many previously illiterate converts learned to read and write as part of their work in ministry.

Further, it is an open question as to what degree the people who interacted with Jesus, during his life, were multi-lingual. Below is an excerpt from an article on that very topic:

Most religious scholars and historians agree with Pope Francis that the historical Jesus principally spoke a Galilean dialect of Aramaic. Through trade, invasions and conquest, the Aramaic language had spread far afield by the 7th century B.C. and would become the lingua franca in much of the Middle East.

In the first century A.D., it would have been the most commonly used language among ordinary Jewish people, as opposed to the religious elite, and the most likely to have been used among Jesus and his disciples in their daily lives.

But Netanyahu was technically correct as well. Hebrew, which is from the same linguistic family as Aramaic, was also in common use in Jesus’ day. Similar to Latin today, Hebrew was the chosen language for religious scholars and the holy scriptures, including the Bible (although some of the Old Testament was written in Aramaic).


In addition to Aramaic and Hebrew, Greek and Latin were also common in Jesus’ time. After Alexander the Great’s conquest of Mesopotamia and the rest of the Persian Empire in the fourth century B.C., Greek supplanted other tongues as the official language in much of the region. In the first century A.D., Judea was part of the eastern Roman Empire, which embraced Greek as its lingua franca and reserved Latin for legal and military matters.

As Jonathan Katz, a Classics lecturer at Oxford University, told BBC News, Jesus probably didn’t know more than a few words in Latin. He probably knew more Greek, but it was not a common language among the people he spoke to regularly, and he was likely not too proficient. He definitely did not speak Arabic, another Semitic language that did not arrive in Palestine until after the first century A.D.

HERE is some more information, regarding the pervasiveness of Greek in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire, Judea specifically:

After Alexander, Judea was ruled by the Ptolemies and the Seleucids for almost two hundred years. Jewish culture was heavily influenced by Hellenistic culture, and Koine Greek was used not only for international communication but also as the first language of many Jews. This development was furthered by the fact that the largest Jewish community in the world lived in Ptolemaic Alexandria. Many of these diaspora Jews would have Greek as their first language, and first, the Torah and then other Jewish scriptures (later the Christian “Old Testament”) were therefore translated into standard Koine Greek, i.e. the Septuagint.

Currently, 1,600 Jewish epitaphs (funerary inscriptions) are extant from ancient Judea dating from 300 BC to 500 AD. Approximately 70 percent are in Greek, about 12 percent are in Latin, and only 18 percent are in Hebrew or Aramaic. “In Jerusalem itself, about 40 percent of the Jewish inscriptions from the first century period (before 70 C.E.) are in Greek. We may assume that most Jewish Jerusalemites who saw the inscriptions in situ were able to read them”.


The languages spoken in Galilee and Judea during the first century include the Semitic Aramaic and Hebrew languages as well as Greek, with Aramaic being the predominant language. Most scholars agree that during the early part of the first century Aramaic was the mother tongue of virtually all natives of Galilee and Judea. Most scholars support the theory that Jesus spoke in Aramaic and that he may have also spoken in Hebrew (Dalman suggests for the Words of Institution) and Greek.  Stanley E. Porter concluded: “The linguistic environment of Roman Palestine during the first century was much more complex, and allows for the possibility that Jesus himself may well have spoken Greek on occasion.”

All of the above is an attempt to push back on the objection to a man from Jesus’s family speaking or writing in Greek. Once that objection is removed, or diminished sufficiently, the weight of the evidence suggests that Jude was likely written by a relative of Jesus. “James, the brother of Jesus” was a well-known leader of the early Church. That notoriety is the best explanation for why Jude identifies with James, rather than his own father. If so… then it follows that if Jude is a brother of James, and James is a brother of Jesus, that Jude is a brother of Jesus as well. There is textual evidence to support this.

Matthew 13: 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

Mark 6: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215 AD) wrote in his work “Comments on the Epistle of Jude” that Jude, the author, was a son of Joseph and a brother of Jesus. 

There is another discussion to be had, regarding the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother, perhaps also the perpetual virginity of Joseph (a view held by some) and whether “brother” means having the same mother and father, encompasses being a half-brother, or whether it might be a way to refer to a cousin.

Canonical Status

For reasons which will become more clear as we go through the study, there was some hesitancy toward adding Jude to the canon. From wiki:

The letter of Jude was one of the disputed books of the biblical canon of the New Testament. Despite some opposition, it seems to have been accepted by most churches around the end of the second century. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and the Muratorian canon considered the letter canonical. The letter was eventually accepted as part of the canon by later Church Fathers such as Athanasius of Alexandria. The canon list at the Council of Carthage (c. 397) included the epistle of Jude.

The first historical record of doubts as to authorship are found in the writings of Origen of Alexandria, who spoke of the doubts held by some in the early third century. Eusebius classified it with the “disputed writings, the antilegomena” in the early fourth century. Eusebius doubted its authenticity partially because it was rarely quoted among ancient sources, although he acknowledges it was read in many churches. The links between the Epistle and 2 Peter and its use of the biblical apocrypha raised concern: Saint Jerome wrote in 392 AD that the book was “rejected by many” since it quotes the Book of Enoch.

The biggest complaint with the epistle is that it quotes from 1 Enoch and seems to quote from The Assumption of Moses, as well, neither of which are canonical. As the article above notes, the complaints grew more over time, as the Church grew farther away in time from the people who knew Jude personally.

However, quoting from non-canonical sources is not overtly an objectional and disqualifying thing to do – and it was not disqualifying in this case, either. For example, the Apostle Paul quotes from Greek dramatist Menander in one of his letters. Doing this neither disqualified Paul’s writings, nor did it elevate Menander into the religious canon.

The Old Testament refers to non-canonical sources on multiple occasions also.

(via wiki)

The following are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible:

  • The Book of Jasher is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18 and also referenced in 2 Timothy 3:8. From the context in the Book of Samuel, it is implied that it was a collection of poetry. Several books have claimed to be this lost text, some of which are discounted as pseudepigrapha. Certain members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints secured the copyright to a particular English translation of one of these and republished it in 1887 in Salt Lake City.
  • The Book of the Wars of the Lord is mentioned in Numbers 21:14. The Book of the Wars of the Lord is also cited in the Book of Jasher (translated by Moses Samuel c. 1840, edited by J. H. Parry 1887) chapter 90:48 as being a collaborative record written by Moses, Joshua and the children of Israel.
  • The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and Chronicles of the Kings of Judah are mentioned in the Books of Kings (1 Kings 14:19, 29). They are said to tell of events during the reigns of Kings Jeroboam of Israel and Rehoboam of Judah, respectively. The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel is again mentioned in 1 Kings 16:20 regarding King Zimri, and both books are mentioned no less than 30 other times throughout 1 and 2 Kings.
  • The Book of Shemaiah the Prophet and Story of the Prophet Iddo (also called Visions of Iddo the Seer or The Annals of the Prophet Iddo) are mentioned in the Second Book of Chronicles. This book has been completely lost to history, save for its title.
  • The Manner of the Kingdom (also called The Book of Statutes or 3 Samuel); referenced in 1 Samuel 10:25.
  • The Acts of Solomon; referenced in 1 Kings 11:41.
  • The Annals of King David (also called The Book of the Annals of King David or The Chronicles of King David, which could be a reference to the rest of 1 Chronicles); referenced in 1 Chronicles 27:24.
  • The Book of Samuel the Seer (also called Samuel the Seer or The Acts of Samuel the Seer, which could be the same as 1 and 2 Samuel); referenced in 1 Chronicles 29:29.
  • The Book of Nathan the Prophet (also called Nathan the Prophet, The Acts of Nathan the Prophet or History of Nathan the Prophet); referenced in 1 Chronicles 29:29, and also 2 Chronicles 9:29.
  • The Book of Gad the Seer (also called Gad the Seer or The Acts of Gad the Seer); referenced in 1 Chronicles 29:29.
  • The Prophecy of Ahijah (also called The Prophesy of Ahijah the Shilonite, which may be a reference to 1 Kings 14:2–18); referenced in 2 Chronicles 9:29.
  • The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (also called The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah); referenced in 2 Chronicles 16:11, 2 Chronicles 27:7 and 2 Chronicles 32:32. May be the same as 1 and 2 Kings.
  • The Book of Jehu (also called The Book of Jehu the son of Hanani) could be a reference to 1 Kings 16:1–7. Referenced in 2 Chronicles 20:34.
  • The Story of the Book of Kings (also called Midrash on the Book of Kings); referenced in 2 Chronicles 24:27.
  • The Acts of Uzziah (also called The Book by the prophet Isaiah); perhaps the same as the Book of Isaiah. Referenced in 2 Chronicles 26:22.
  • The Vision of Isaiah (also called The Vision of the Prophet Isaiah); may be identical to the pseudepigraphal Ascension of Isaiah, and may also refer to the existing Book of Isaiah. Referenced in 2 Chronicles 32:32.
  • The Acts of the Kings of Israel (also called The Acts and Prayers of Manasseh); may be identical to The Book of the Kings of Israel. Referenced in 2 Chronicles 33:18.
  • The Sayings of the Seers (also called The Acts of the Seers); referenced in 2 Chronicles 33:19.
  • The Laments for Josiah (also called Lamentations). This event is recorded in the existing Book of Lamentations. Referenced in 2 Chronicles 35:25.
  • The Chronicles of King Ahasuerus (also called The Book of Records of the Chronicles or The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia); referenced in Esther 2:23, 6:1, 10:2, and Nehemiah 12:23

We will cover the non-canon references in Jude, in a lot of detail, when they occur.

Similarities to 2 Peter

From StudyLight:

1. Resemblances:

The relation is confined to 2 Peter 2 through 3:4. A large portion of Peter’s Epistle, namely, 2 Peter 1 and 2 Peter 3:5-18 , bears no resemblance to Jude, at least no more than does Jas or 1 Pet. Between the sections of 2 Pet indicated above and Jude the parallelism is close, both as to the subjects treated and the historical illustrations introduced, and the language itself to some considerable extent is common to both. All readers must be impressed with the similarity. Accordingly, it is very generally held by interpreters that one of the writers copied from the other. There is not entire agreement as to which of the two epistles is the older, that is, whether Peter copied from Jude, or Jude from Peter. Perhaps a majority favor the former of the two alternatives, though some of the very latest and most learned of those who write on Introductions to the New Testament hold strongly to the view that Jude copied from 2 Pet. Reference is made particularly to Deuteronomy. Theodore v. Zahn, whose magnificent work on Introduction has been but recently translated into English, and who argues convincingly that Jude copied from 2 Pet.

2. Differences:

However, it must be admitted that there are in the two epistles as pronounced differences and divergences as there are resemblances. If one of the two did actually copy from the other, he was careful to add, subtract, and change what he found in his “source” as best suited his purpose. A servile copyist he certainly was not. He maintained his independence throughout, as an exact comparison of the one with the other will demonstrate.

If we bring them into close proximity, following the example of Professor Lumby in the “Bible Comm.” ( Intro to 2 Pet ), we shall discover a marked difference between the two pictures drawn by the writers. We cannot fail to perceive how much darker and more sinister is that of Jude. The evil, alarming certainly in Peter, becomes appalling in Jude. Subjoined are proofs of the fact above stated:

2 Peter 2:1Jude 1:4
But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers…For there are certain men crept in privily…
2 Peter 2:1Jude 1:4
Who Shall Privily Bring in Destructive Heresies, Denying Even the Master That Bought Them…Ungodly Men, Turning the Grace of God into Lasciviousness, and Denying Our Only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 2:3Jude 1:16
And in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…murmerers, complainers, walking after their own lusts (and their mouth speaketh great swelling words), showing respect of persons for the sake of advantage.

These contrasts and comparisons between the two epistles prove (1) that in Jude the false teachers are worse, more virulent than in Peter, and (2) that in Peter the whole description is predictive, whereas in Jude the deplorable condition is actually present. If 2 Pet is dependent on Jude, if the apostle cited from Jude, how explain the strong predictive element in his opening verses (2 Peter 2:1-3 )? If as Peter-wrote he had lying before him Jude’s letter, which represents the corrupters as already within the Christian community and doing their deadly work, his repeated use of the future tense is absolutely inexplicable. Assuming, however, that he wrote prior to Jude, his predictions become perfectly intelligible. No doubt the virus was working when he wrote, but it was latent, undeveloped; far worse would appear; but when Jude wrote the poison was widely diffused, as Jude 1:12 , Jude 1:19 clearly show. The very life of the churches was endangered.

2 Peter 2:4 , 2 Peter 2:5Jude 1:5 , Jude 1:6
For if God spared not the angels when they sinned … and spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others…The Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them … and angels that … left their proper h

3. Further Contrasts:

Peter speaks of the angels that sinned, Jude of their apostasy. Peter makes prominent the salvation of Noah and his family when the flood overwhelmed the world of the ungodly, while Jude tells of those who, delivered from bondage, afterward were destroyed because of their unbelief. He speaks of no rescue; we know of but two who survived the judgments of the wilderness and who entered the Land of Promise, Caleb and Joshua. Peter mentions the fate of the guilty cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but he is careful to remind us of the deliverance of righteous Lot, while Jude makes prominent their nameless crimes and consigns them to “the punishment of eternal fire,” but he is silent on the rescue of Lot. Manifestly Jude’s illustrations are darker and more hopeless than Peter’s.

Peter instances Balsam as an example of one who loved the hire of wrongdoing and who was rebuked for his transgression. But Jude cites three notable instances in the Old Testament to indicate how far in apostasy and rebellion the libertines had gone. Three words mark their course, rising into a climax, “way” “error” “gainsay.” They went in the way of Cain, i.e. in the way of self-will, of hate, and the spirit of murder. Moreover, they “ran riotously in the error of Balsam for hire.” The words denote an activity of viciousness that enlisted all their eagerness and all their might. Balaam’s error was one that led into error, one that seduced others into the commission of the like sins. The reference seems to be to the whole career of this heathen prophet, and includes his betrayal of the Israelites through the women of Moab (Numbers 31:16 ). Balsam is the prototype of Jude’s libertines, both in his covetousness and his seductive counsel. Furthermore, they “perished in the gainsaying of Korah.” This man with 250 followers rebelled against the Divinely appointed leaders and rulers of Israel, Moses and Aaron, and sought to share their authority in Israel, if not to displace them altogether. Comparable with these rebels in ancient Israel are the treacherous and malignant foes whom Jude so vigorously denounces.

Peter speaks of them as “daring, self-willed, they tremble not to rail at dignities: whereas angels, though greater in might and power, bring not a railing judgment against them before the Lord” (Jude 1:10 , Jude 1:11 ). Jude is more specific: These dreamers “defile the flesh, and set at nought dominion, and rail at dignities.” They repudiate all authority, despise every form of lordship, and revile those in positions of power. He cites the contention of Michael the archangel with the devil about the body of Moses, and yet this loftiest of the heavenly spirits brought no railing judgment against the adversary. Jude’s description is more vivid and definite: he describes an advanced stage of apostasy.

Very noteworthy is Jude 1:22 , Jude 1:23 . He here turns again to the loyal and stedfast believers whom he addresses at the beginning of his letter, and he gives them directions how they are to deal with those who were ensnared by the wily foes. (The text in Jude 1:22 is somewhat uncertain, but the revision is followed.) There were some who were “in doubt.” They were those who had been fascinated by the new teaching, and although not captured by it, they were engaged in its study, were drawn toward it and almost ready to yield. On these the faithful were to have mercy, were to convince them of their danger, show them the enormities to which the false system inevitably leads, and so win them back to Christ’s allegiance. As if Jude said, Deal with the wavering in love and fidelity; but rescue them if possible.

There were others whose peril was greater: “And some save, snatching them out of the fire.” These were identified with the wicked, were scorched by the fires of destruction and hence, almost beyond reach of rescue; but if possible they are to be saved, however seethed and blackened. Others still there were who were in worse state than the preceding, who were polluted and smirched by the foul contamination of the guilty seducers, and such were to be saved, and the rescuers were to fear lest they should be soiled by contact with the horrible defilement. This is Jude’s tremendous summary of the shameful work and frightful evils wrought in the bosom of the church by the libertines. He discloses in these trenchant verses how deeply sunk in sin the false teachers were, and how awful the ruin they had wrought. The description is quite unparalleled in 2 Pet. The shadings in Jude are darker and deeper than those in 2 Pet.

4. Summary:

The comparison between the two writings warrants, we believe, the following conclusions: (1) that Peter and Jude have in view the same corrupt parties; (2) that Peter paints them as godless and extremely dangerous, though not yet at their worst; while Jude sets them forth as depraved and as lawless as they can well be; (3) that Peter’s is the older writing and that Jude was acquainted with what the apostle had written.

Stronger evidence than any yet produced of Peter’s priority is now to be submitted, and here we avail ourselves in part of Zahn’s array of evidence.

I defer expertise on this to scholars, but I would add the following. It is not a reach to believe that Peter and Jude spent time together in their ministry work in Judea. It is not a reach to believe that Jude and Peter heard each other speak, and that one or both had memorable sermons or speeches. Literal proximity between the two – due to shared events and experiences – could easily explain many of the similarities in the two texts. We also see similarly recounted events in the first three Gospels.


The date of the original Epistle is a point of contention. The letter is so short that it does not provide markers that would help in that process (mention of specific people, events, etc.) It is generally agreed though that the letter was written prior to 70 AD due to the fact that it does not mention the destruction of the Temple, which occurred that year. Many believe that such an event would have been mentioned. However, there are others who date the letter to as late as a decade after the Temple’s destruction.

As mentioned above, the relationship with 2 Peter is a complicating factor. It is almost universally agreed that St. Peter was martyred in the mid 60s AD. If Peter “copied” from Jude, then Jude’s letter must be prior to Peter’s death. If Jude copied from Peter, though, then the dating need not be as early.

Finally, if Jude is a half-brother of Jesus, particularly if he is a half-brother who was older than Jesus (most who argue that he is Joseph’s son make the case that he was a son from a prior marriage) then Jude would be very old indeed by 80 AD.

I tend to favor the argument that the letter pre-dated the destruction of the Temple, but as I said, I do not hold that opinion firmly.

Overall, my approach to this study will be to go through it, verse by verse, and to lean on Bible Commentaries and other outside sources (general sources like Wikipedia and scholarly articles of various stripes) for help in understanding the material.

I hope that anyone who reads my posts on Jude gets something beneficial out of it.

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