A Commentary on the Book of Jude

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From this scant portrait, we begin to picture Jude as a man who lived in skepticism for a time but eventually came to a powerful faith in Jesus. And as he traveled on behalf of the gospel—telling the story in city after city with his name Judas butting up against that of Judas Iscariot—he would stand as a living example of faithfulness, a stark contrast to the betrayer.

The book of Jude is notoriously difficult to date, primarily because the Bible and tradition reveal so little about the personal details of its author while the book itself refrains from naming any particular individuals or places. The one clue available to present-day readers is the striking similarity between the books of Jude and 2 Peter. Few words meant that Jude would not waste space dancing around the issue.


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He saw within the church people and practices that were worthy of condemnation, including rejecting authority and seeking to please themselves. In response to these errors, Jude marshaled much biblical imagery to make clear what he thought of it all—anything from Cain killing his brother Abel to the punishment of the sinful people who populated Sodom and Gomorrah Jude , Jude recognized that false teachers often peddled their wares unnoticed by the faithful, so he worked to heighten the awareness of the believers by describing in vivid detail how terrible dissenters actually were.

But more than simply raising awareness, Jude thought it important that believers stand against those working against Jesus Christ. Believers were to do this by remembering the teaching of the apostles, building each other up in the faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and keeping themselves in the love of God Jude , 20— Fight for the truth! Stand up against error! The book of Jude is the very definition of punchy and pithy proclamations—with its short commands and statements popping off the page like machine-gun fire.

But in our day and age, punchy has become rude or unacceptable. In many circles the forcefulness of Jude will not be tolerated, the crowds preferring a softer and gentler side of the Christian faith.

Book of Jude Commentary, Study and Summary

But Jude reminds us that there is a time and a place for the aggressive protection of the truth from those who would seek to tear it down. View Chuck Swindoll's chart of Jude , which divides the book into major sections and highlights themes and key verses. Who wrote the book? We discover that with such simple things as games and skills. If we give up playing a game, we lose the ability to play it. If we give up practising a skill--such as playing the piano--we lose it. We discover that in such things as abilities. We may know something of a foreign language, but if we never speak or read it, we lose it.

Every man can hear the voice of God; and every man has the animal instincts on which, indeed, the future existence of the race depends. But, if he consistently refuses to listen to God and makes his instincts the sole dynamic of his conduct, in the end he will be unable to hear the voice of God and will have nothing left to be his master but his brute desires.

It is a terrible thing for a man to reach a stage where he is deaf to God and blind to goodness; and that is the stage which the men whom Jude attacks had reached. Jude now goes to Hebrew history for parallels to the wicked men of his own day; and from it he draws the examples of three notorious sinners. In Hebrew tradition Cain stood for two things. It may well be that Jude is implying that those who delude others are nothing other than murderers of the souls of men and, therefore, the spiritual descendants of Cain. In Philo he stands for selfishness.

In the Rabbinic teaching he is the type of the cynical man. In the Jerusalem Targum he is depicted as saying: "There is neither judgment nor judge; there is no other world; no good reward will be given to the good and no vengeance taken on the wicked; nor is there any pity in the creation or the government of the world. So Jude is charging his opponents with defying God and denying the moral order of the world. It remains true that the man who chooses to sin has still to reckon with God and to learn, always with pain and sometimes with tragedy, that no man can defy the moral order of the world with impunity.

In Old Testament thought, in Jewish teaching and even in the New Testament Revelation Balaam is the great example of those who taught Israel to sin. In the Old Testament there are two stories about him. One is quite clear, and very vivid and dramatic. The other is more shadowy, but much more terrible; and it is it which left its mark on Hebrew thought and teaching. The first is in Numbers ; Numbers ; Numbers There it is told how Balak attempted to persuade Balaam to curse the people of Israel, for he feared their power, five times offering him large rewards.

Balaam refused to be persuaded by Balak, but his covetousness stands out and it is clear that only the fear of what God would do to him kept him from striking a dreadful bargain. Balaam already emerges as a detestable character. In Numbers there is the second story. Israel is seduced into the worship of Baal with dreadful and repulsive moral consequences. As we read later Numbers ; Numbers , it was Balaam who was responsible for that seduction, and he perished miserably because he taught others to sin. Out of this composite story Balaam stands for two things. So Jude is declaring of the wicked men of his own day that they are ready to leave the way of righteousness to make gain; and that they are teaching others to sin.

To sin for the sake of gain is bad; but to teach another to sin is the worst of all. His story is in Numbers The sin of Korah was that he rebelled against the guidance of Moses when the sons of Aaron and the tribe of Levi were made the priests of the nation. That was a decision which Korah was not willing to accept; he wished to exercise a function which he had no right to exercise; and when he did so he perished terribly and all his companions in wickedness with him.

Korah stands for the man who refuses to accept authority and reaches out for things which he has no right to have. So Jude is charging his opponents with defying the legitimate authority of the church, and of, thereto re, preferring their own way to the way of God. We should remember that if we take certain things which pride incites us to take, the consequences can be disastrous. These are the people who at your feasts revel with their own cliques without a qualm.

They have no feeling of responsibility to anyone except themselves. They are clouds which drop no water but are blown past by the wind. They are fruitless trees in autumn's harvest time, twice dead and torn up by the roots. They are wild sea waves, frothing out their own shameless deeds. They are wandering stars and the abyss of darkness has been prepared for them for ever. It was of these, too, that Enoch, who was the seventh from Adam, prophesied when he said:.

Behold the Lord has come with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment upon all and to convict all the impious for all the deeds of their impiousness, which they have impiously committed, and for the harsh things which impious sinners have said against him. For these people are grumblers. They querulously complain against the part in life which God has allotted to them. Their conduct is governed by their desires.

Their mouths speak swelling words. They toady to men for what they can get out of it. This is one of the great passages of invective of the New Testament. It is blazing moral indignation at its hottest. As Moffatt puts it: "Sky, land and sea are ransacked for illustrations of the character of these men. Let us take them one by one.

This is the one case in which there is doubt about what Jude is actually saying but of one thing there is no doubt--the evil men were a peril to the Love Feasts. It was a meal of fellowship held on the Lord's Day. To it everyone brought what he could, and all shared alike.

It was a lovely idea that the Christians in each little house church should sit down on the Lord's Day to eat in fellowship together.

Analysis and Annotations

No doubt there were some who could bring much and others who could bring only little. For many of the slaves it was perhaps the only decent meal they ever ate. But very soon the Agape Greek 26 began to go wrong. We can see it going wrong in the church at Corinth, when Paul declares that at the Corinthian Love Feasts there is nothing but division.


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They are divided into cliques and sections; some have too much, and others starve; and the meal for some has become a drunken revel 1 Corinthians Unless the Agape Greek 26 was a true fellowship, it was a travesty, and very soon it had begun to belie its name. Jude's opponents were making a travesty of the Love Feasts. The Revised Standard Version says that he calls them "blemishes on your love feasts" Jude ; and that agrees with the parallel passage in Second Peter--"blots and blemishes" 2 Peter We have translated Jude's expression "hidden rocks.

The difficulty is that Peter and Jude do not use the same word, although they use words which are very similar. The word in Second Peter is spilos Greek , which unquestionably means a blot or spot; but the word in Jude is spilas Greek , which is very rare. Just possibly it may mean a blot, because in later Greek it could be used for the spots and markings on an opal stone. But in ordinary Greek by far its most common meaning was a submerged, or half-submerged, rock on which a ship could be easily ship-wrecked. We think that here the second meaning is much more likely. In the Love Feast people were very close together in heart and there was the kiss of peace.

These wicked men were using the Love Feasts as a cloak under which to gratify their lusts. It is a dreadful thing, if men enter into the church and use the opportunities which its fellowship gives for their own perverted ends. These men were like sunken rocks on which the fellowship of the Love Feasts was in danger of being wrecked. These two things go together for they both stress their essential selfishness.

This is exactly the situation which Paul condemns in First Corinthians. The Love Feast was supposed to be an act of fellowship; and the fellowship was demonstrated by the sharing of all things. Instead of sharing, the wicked men kept to their own clique and kept to themselves all they had. In First Corinthians Paul actually goes the length of saying that the Love Feast could become a drunken revel in which every man grabbed at all that he could get 1 Corinthians No man can ever claim to know what church membership means, if in the church he is out for what he can get and remains within his own little group.

The false shepherd cared far more for himself than for the sheep which were supposed to be within his care. Ezekiel describes the false shepherds from whom their privileges were to be taken away: "As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have become a prey and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep Behold I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep" Ezekiel The man who feels no responsibility for the welfare of anyone except himself stands condemned.

So, then, Jude condemns the selfishness which destroys fellowship and the lack of the sense of responsibility for others. These two phrases go together, for they describe people who make great claims but are essentially useless. There were times in Palestine when people would pray for rain. At such a time a cloud might pass across the sky, bringing with it the promise of rain.

But there were times when the promise was only an illusion, the cloud was blown on and the rain never came. In any harvest time there were trees which looked as if they were heavy with fruit but which, when men came to gather from them, gave no fruit at all. At the heart of this lies a great truth. Promise without performance is useless and in the New Testament nothing is so unsparingly condemned as uselessness.

No amount of outward show or fine words will take the place of usefulness to others. As it has been put: "If a man is not good for something, he is good for nothing. Jude goes on to use a vivid picture of these evil men. After a storm, when the waves have been lashing the shore with their frothing spray and their spume, there is always left on the shore a fringe of seaweed and driftwood and all kinds of unsightly litter from the sea.

That is always an unlovely scene. But in the case of one sea it is grimmer than in any other. The waters of the Dead Sea can be whipped up, into waves, and these waves, too, cast up driftwood on the shore; but in this instance there is a unique circumstance. The waters of the Dead Sea are so impregnated with salt that they strip the bark of any driftwood in them; and, when such wood is cast up on the shore, it gleams bleak and white, more like dried bones than wood.

The deeds of the wicked men are like the useless and unsightly litter which the waves leave scattered on the beach after a storm and resemble the skeleton-like relics of Dead Sea storms. The picture vividly portrays the ugliness of the deeds of Jude's opponents. Jude uses still another picture. The wicked men are like the wandering stars that are kept in the abyss of darkness for their disobedience.

This is a picture directly taken from the Book of Enoch. In that book the stars and the angels are sometimes identified; and there is a picture of the fate of the stars who, disobedient to God, left their appointed orbit and were destroyed. In his journey through the, earth Enoch came to a place where he saw, "neither a heaven above nor a firmly founded earth, but a place chaotic and horrible. Then I said, 'For what sin are they bound, and on account of what have they been cast in hither? These are the numbers of the stars of heaven which have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and are bound here till ten thousand years, the time entailed by their sins, are consummated'" Enoch The fate of the wandering stars is typical of the fate of the man who disobeys God's commandments and, as it were, takes his own way.

Jude then confirms all this with a prophecy; but the prophecy is again taken from Enoch. The actual passage runs: "And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly; and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him" Enoch 1: 9. This quotation has raised many questions in regard to Jude and Enoch. There is no doubt that in the days of Jude, and in the days of Jesus, Enoch was a very popular book which every pious Jew would know and read.

Ordinarily, when the New Testament writers wish to confirm their words, they do so with a quotation from the Old Testament, using it as the word of God. Are we then to regard Enoch as sacred Scripture, since Jude uses it exactly as he would have used one of the prophets?

Or, are we to take the view of which Jerome speaks, and say that Jude cannot be Scripture, because it makes the mistake of using as Scripture a book which is, in fact, not Scripture? We need waste no time upon this debate. The fact is that Jude, a pious Jew, knew and loved the Book of Enoch and had grown up in a circle where it was regarded with respect and even reverence; and he takes his quotation from it perfectly naturally, knowing that his readers would recognize it, and respect it. He is simply doing what all the New Testament writers do, as every writer must in every age, and speaking to men in language which they will recognize and understand.

In Jude Jude sets down three last characteristics of the evil men.

Jude 1 Commentary - William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

In this picture he uses two words, one which was very familiar to his Jewish readers and one which was very familiar to his Greek readers. The word describes the discontented voices of the murmurers and is the same as is so often used in the Greek Old Testament for the murmurings of the children of Israel against Moses as he led them through the wilderness Exodus ; Exodus ; Numbers Its very sound describes the low mutter of resentful discontent which rose from the rebellious people. These wicked men in the time of Jude are the modern counterparts of the murmuring children of Israel in the desert, people full of sullen complaints against the guiding hand of God.


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It is made up of two Greek words, memphesthai, which means to blame and moira, which means one's allotted fate or life. A mempsimoiros Greek was a man who was for ever grumbling about life in general. Theophrastus was the great master of the Greek character sketch, and he has a mocking study of the mempsimoiros Greek , which is worth quoting in full:. Here, vividly drawn by Theophrastus' subtle pen, is the picture of a man who can find something to grumble about in any situation.

He can find some fault with the best of bargains, the kindest of deeds, the most complete of successes, the richest of good fortune. There are few people more unpopular than chronic grumblers and all such might do well to remember that such grumbling is in its own way an insult to God. To them self-discipline and self-control are nothing; to them the moral law is only a burden and a nuisance; honour and duty have no claim upon them; they have no desire to serve and no sense of responsibility.

Their one value is pleasure and their one dynamic is desire. If all men were like that, the world would be in complete chaos. It is perfectly possible for a man at one and the same time to be a bombastic creature towards the people he wishes to impress and a flattering lick-spittle to the people whom he thinks important. Jude's opponents are glorifiers of themselves and flatterers of others, as they think the occasion demands; and their descendants are sometimes still among us.

Jude points out to his own people that nothing has happened which they might not have expected. The apostles had given warning that in the last times just such evil men as are now among them would come. The actual words of Jude's quotation are not in any New Testament book. He may be doing any one of three things. He may be quoting some apostolic book which we no longer possess.

He may be quoting, not a book, but some oral tradition of the apostolic preaching; or some sermon which he himself had heard from the apostles. He may be giving the general sense of a passage like 1 Timothy In any event he is telling his people that error was only to be expected in the church. From this passage we can see certain of the characteristics of these evil men. The two things go together. These opponents of Jude had two characteristics, as we have already seen.

They believed the body, being matter, was evil; and that, therefore, it made no difference if a man sated its desires. Further, they argued that, since grace could forgive any sin, sin did not matter. These heretics had a third characteristic. They believed that they were the advanced thinkers; and they regarded those who observed the old moral standards as old-fashioned and out of date. That point of view is by no means dead. There are still those who believe that the once--accepted standards of morality and fidelity, especially in matters of sex, are quite out of date. In that text fool does not mean the brainless man; it means the man who is playing the fool.

And the fact that he says there is no God is entirely due to wishful thinking. He knows that, if there is a God, he is wrong and can look for judgment; therefore, he eliminates him. In the last analysis those who eliminate the moral law and give free rein to their passions and desires, do so because they want to do as they like. They listen to themselves instead of listening to God--and they forget that there will come a day when they will be compelled to listen to him. They set up divisions--they are fleshly creatures, without the Spirit. Here is a most significant thought--to set up divisions within the church is always sin.

These men set up divisions in two ways. By their conduct they were steadily destroying fellowship within the church. They were drawing a circle to shut men out instead of drawing a circle to take them in. There were certain thinkers in the early church who had a way of looking at human nature which essentially split men into two classes. To understand this we must know something of Greek psychology. To the Greek man was body soma, Greek , soul psuche, Greek and spirit pneuma, Greek Soma Greek was simply man's physical construction.

What Is the Book of Jude All About?

Psuche Greek is more difficult to understand. To the Greeks soul, psuche Greek , was simply physical life; everything that lived and breathed had psuche Greek Pneuma Greek , spirit, was quite different, it belonged to man alone, and was that which made him a thinking creature, kin to God, able to speak to God and to hear him. These thinkers went on to argue that all men possessed psuche Greek , but very few really possessed pneuma Greek Only the really intellectual, the elite, possessed pneuma Greek ; and, therefore, only the very few could rise to real religion.

The rest must be content to walk on the lower levels of religious experience. They, therefore, divided men into two classes. There were the psuchikoi Greek , who were physically alive but intellectually and spiritually dead. We might call them the fleshly creatures.

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All they possessed was flesh and blood life; intellectual progress and spiritual experience were beyond them. There were the pneumatikoi Greek , who were capable of real intellectual knowledge, real knowledge of God and real spiritual experience. Here was the creation of an intellectual and spiritual aristocracy over against the common herd of men. Further, these people who believed themselves to be the pneumatikoi Greek , believed that they were exempt from all the ordinary laws governing a man's conduct.

Ordinary people might have to observe the accepted standards but they were above that. For them sin did not exist; they were so advanced that they could do anything and be none the worse. We may well remember that there are still people who believe that they are above the laws, who say in their hearts that it could never happen to them and believe that they can get away with anything. We can now see how cleverly Jude deals with these people who say that the rest of the world are the psuchikoi Greek , while they are the pneumatikoi Greek Jude takes their words and reverses them.

Those whom they despise are, in fact, much better than they are themselves. The truth about these so-called intellectual and spiritual people was that they desired to sin and twisted religion into a justification for sin. In the previous passage Jude described the characteristics of error, here he describes the characteristics of goodness.

That is to say, the life of the Christian is founded, not on something which he manufactured himself, but on something which he received. There is a chain in the transmission of the faith. The faith came from Jesus to the apostles; it came from the apostles to the church; and it comes from the church to us. There is something tremendous here. It means that the faith which we hold is not merely someone's personal opinion; it is a revelation which came from Jesus Christ and was preserved and transmitted within his church, always under the care and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, from generation to generation.

That faith is a most holy faith. Again and again we have seen the meaning of this word holy. Its root meaning is different. That which is holy is different from other things, as the priest is different from other worshippers, the Temple different from other buildings, the Sabbath different from other days and God supremely different from men. Our faith is different in two ways. It is not only a mind-changer but also a life-changer; not only an intellectual belief but also a moral dynamic.

It has been put this way: "Real religion means dependence. As Moffatt has it in a magnificent definition: "Prayer is love in need appealing to love in power. Prayer, says Jude, is to be in the Holy Spirit. What he means is this. Our human prayers are at least sometimes bound to be selfish and blind. It is only when the Holy Spirit takes full possession of us that our desires are so purified that our prayers are right. The truth is that as Christians we are bound to pray to God, but he alone can teach us how to pray and what to pray for.

What Jude is thinking of here is the old covenant relationship between God and his people as described in Exodus God came to his people promising that he would be their God and they would be his people; but that relationship depended on their accepting and obeying the law which he gave them. He waits for the coming of Jesus Christ in mercy, love and power; for he knows that Christ's purpose for him is to bring him to life eternal, which is nothing other than the life of God himself.

Others you must rescue by snatching them out of the fire. Others you must pity and fear at the same time, hating the garment stained by the flesh. Different translators give differing translations of this passage. The reason is that there is much doubt as to what the true Greek text is. We have given the translation which we believe to be nearest to the sense of the passage.

Even to the worst heretics, even to those most far gone in error and to those whose beliefs are most dangerous, the Christian has a binding duty not to destroy but to save. His aim must be, not to banish them from the Christian church, but to win them back into the Christian fellowship. James Denney said that, to put the matter at its simplest, Jesus came to make bad men good.

Sir John Seeley said: "When the power of reclaiming the lost dies out of the church, it ceases to be the church. They are obviously attracted by the wrong way and are on the brink of committing themselves to error, but are still hesitating before taking the final step. They must be argued out of their error while there is time. From this two things emerge as a duty. We must know what we believe so that we can meet error with truth; and we must make ourselves able to defend the faith in such a way that our graciousness and sincerity may win others to it. To do this we must banish all uncertainty from our minds and all arrogance and intolerance from our approach to others.

Many a person would have been saved from error of thought and of action, if someone else had only spoken in time. Sometimes we hesitate to speak, but there are many times when silence is cowardly and can cause more harm than speech could ever cause. One of the greatest tragedies in life is when someone comes to us and says, "I would never have been in the mess I am now in, if someone--you, perhaps--had only spoken to me. They have actually started out on the wrong way and have to be stopped, as it were, forcibly, and even against their will. It is all very well to say that we must leave a man his freedom and that he has a right to do what he likes.

All these things are in one sense true, but there are times when a man must be even forcibly saved from himself. Here Jude is thinking of something which is always true. There is danger to the sinner; but there is also danger to the rescuer. He who would cure an infectious disease runs the risk of infection. Jude says that we must hate the garment stained by the flesh. Almost certainly he is thinking here of the regulations in Leviticus , where it is laid down that the garment worn by a person discovered to be suffering from leprosy must be burned.

The old saying remains true--we must love the sinner but hate the sin. Before a man can rescue others, he must himself be strong in the faith. His own feet must be firm on the dry land before he can throw a lifebelt to the man who is likely to be swept away. The simple fact is that the rescue of those in error is not for everyone to attempt.

Those who would win others for Christ must themselves be very sure of him; and those who would fight the disease of sin must themselves have the strong antiseptic of a healthy faith. Ignorance can never be met with ignorance, nor even with partial knowledge; it can be met only by the affirmation, "I know whom I have believed. Three times in the New Testament praise is given to the God who is able. In Romans Paul gives praise to the God who is able to strengthen us.

God is the one person who can give us a foundation for life which nothing and no one can ever shake. In Ephesians Paul gives praise to the God who is able to do far more than we can ever ask or even dream of. He is the God whose grace no man has every exhausted and on whom no claim can ever be too much. The word is aptaistos Greek It is used both of a sure-footed horse which does not stumble and of a man who does not fall into error. To walk with God is to walk in safety even on the most dangerous and the most slippery path.

In mountaineering climbers are roped together so that even if the inexperienced climber should slip, the skilled mountaineer can take his weight and save him. Even so, when we bind ourselves to God, he keeps us safe.


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