A Commentary on the Book of Jude

William Arnold III

Jude 1:1 Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:

The Greek reads "Judas," which is the equivalent of the Hebrew "Judah," but most English translations render "Jude" so as not to be confused with Judas Iscariot. James the disciple (brother of John and son of Zebedee) had died by this time (Acts 12:2) and so the only James which was well known enough for this identification was the bishop of the church at Jerusalem which Paul identifies as "the Lordís brother" (Gal. 1:19). Being the brother of James, Jude was also the half brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55) but apparently chose rather to identify himself as his (douloV) slave.

2 May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.

3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

"Common salvation" is probably a reference to "the salvation we all share" (NLT). Jude is saying that this is what he had originally intended to discuss. However, he felt compelled instead to exhort them to contend for the faith (Grk. Ė "I had the need to write to you . . ."). He goes on in the remainder of this letter to talk about the false teachers which have come in. Apparently he thought this was something which was more important and needed to be dealt with. Ďapax, "once for all" means once and only once. A "hapax legomena" is a word which occurs only once in the Bible.

4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

This is most likely a fulfillment of Peterís prophecy (2 Peter 2:1ff). This book has a lot in common with 2 Peter and it appears that Jude was writing to show that what Peter foretold was being fulfilled among them. "Crept in" means crept in "among you" (cf. 2 Peter 2:1). These were false believers who mingled among the true Christians, what our Lord called the "tares" (or weeds) among the "wheat" (Matt. 13:25). He says they changed grace into aselgeia, "licentiousness" which means "living without any moral restraint" (Friberg Greek Lexicon).

5 Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.

I donít know what clearer way he could have said, "Once saved is not always saved." He would not desire to remind them of this if they were not themselves in danger of the same thing.

6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,

This is most likely a reference to the "sons of God" in Genesis 6, cf. 2 Peter 2:4. (See also my article: Who Were the Sons of God in Genesis 6?)

7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

He seems to say that the angels, Sodom and Gomorrah and these present false teachers have all fallen into the same sin, which he names as ekporneuw, "gross immorality." I find it interesting that he identifies "the punishment of eternal fire" as "an example" to be prokeimai, "exhibited" or put "on public display" (Friberg).

8 Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.

9 But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"

This story of Michael and the devil comes from the apocryphal book, "The Assumption of Moses." Jude says that not even the angels dare to do what these false teacher do.

10 But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.

11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

"The error of Balaam" was enticing Godís people to commit fornication and idolatry (Num 31:16-19, cf. 2 Peter 2:15-16). The "rebellion of Korah" was to disregard Mosesí authority and convince Godís people to return to Egypt (Num. 16:1-35).

12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;

"Hidden reefs" conveys the idea of something very dangerous but not very obvious. This was before the days of fathometers (depth gauges). Running into a reef could cause the boat to sink and possibly cause those onboard to drown. What an analogy for the danger of false doctrine! It is also possible that spilaV could be taken to mean "spot" or "stain" (as in KJV, NIV, NRSV. For "hidden reefs" see NET, NASB, NLT). "Clouds without water" means that they look like they bring a blessing (rain was always seen as a blessing to the agricultural people of Bible days) but in reality they are empty. "Trees without fruit" conveys a similar idea. And "doubly dead, uprooted" is an emphatic way of saying that these men have no life to give.

13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

"Wild waves" and "wandering stars" pictures instability. Stars were used in ancient times for navigation. With all of the comparison Jude has made with ships and the ocean, the original readers would have understood this analogy to show that these "stars" donít lead you to where you want to go. A "fixed" star is useful for navigation, a wandering star is not. Jude pictures hell as "black (or "gloomy") darkness." He also says that it has been "reserved" for these men and that they will be there "forever."

14 It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones,

15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."

This quote of Enoch is found in Pseudapigraphical book, "The Book of Enoch" (See my article: About the Book of Enoch). Probably what Enoch prophesied was passed down orally until it was recorded in this work during the intertestamental period. This seems to be the first recorded prophesy of the second coming of Christ (unless we are to understand Gen. 3:15 this way as well).

16 These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,

18 that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts."

This, more than anything, seems to point to a direct fulfillment of Peterís prophecy (cf. 2 Peter 3:1-3). Peter said that it would happen and Jude is saying that it is now happening.

19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

In addition to "causing division" and being "worldly-minded" (cf. 1 John 2:15), Jude plainly says that these men do not have the Spirit. By this statement he is saying that "they are not one of us" (cf. Rom. 8:9).

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,

21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

"Building," "praying" and "waiting" are all participles which modify the main verb "keep." It seems best to take the first two as means and the last one as attendant circumstance. In other words, we are to keep ourselves in the love of God by "building" and "praying" while at the same time we are "waiting anxiously."

22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting;

23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

Jude gives three different ways we are to treat those who go astray. 1. Show some of them mercy; 2. Some must be snatched out of the fire; 3. Still others need a combination of mercy and fear. (The King James, following the Majority Text has a little different reading here)

24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,

I quote this verse to God when I am struggling. His word says he is able to keep us from falling (KJV).

25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Now here we see Jesus distinguished not from "God the Father, first person in the Trinity" but from the "only God." This cannot be the Trinitarian distinction of two persons in one Godhead because the one whom Jesus is distinguished from is identified as the "only God." This type of distinction can only be understood as recognizing the genuiness of Christ's humanity. As a man, Jesus is often distinguished from God. Jude goes on to say that these virtues have always belonged to the "only God" and that they always will.

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