The author identifies himself as “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (Jud 1). His Greek name is actually identical to the name Judas, but translators over the years wanted to disassociate him from the negative perception of the name caused by Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16;47-56). There was another disciple of Jesus named Judas (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), but because he is the son of another man named James he doesn’t seem to be the author of this letter, especially because Jude indicates that he himself is not among the apostles (Jud 17).
It seems that calling himself a “brother of James” is sufficient for Jude to identify himself, so this James is most likely the well-known pillar of the early church in Jerusalem known as James the Righteous (see the introductory page for James for more information). Since James is likely the half-brother of Jesus, it appears that Jude is also the half-brother of Jesus mentioned in two of the Gospels (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). While Jude and his brothers may not have believed in Jesus at first (John 7:5; Mark 3:21; Matthew 13:57), it seems as though they not only were brought to faith but also became recognized and respected leaders in the early church (Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5). This Jude also could possibly be one of the representatives mentioned as traveling to Antioch following the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:22).1Schaller, John, Loren A. Schaller, and Gary P. Baumler. The Book of Books: A Brief Introduction to the Bible. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 1990.
It is not entirely clear when or from where Jude wrote this letter. Since much of his letter touches upon examples of judgment on those who have rejected God’s true teaching, it seems that he would most certainly not have missed the opportunity to use the destruction of Jerusalem as an example. Therefore, since the Fall of Jerusalem is not mentioned the letter almost surely would have been written prior to that event, which took place in AD 70.
The only other aspect of the letter that would help us determine when it was written in relation to other books of the New Testament comes from its apparent connection with 2 Peter chapter 2 (see Jude 4-18 and 2 Peter 2:1-3:4). Either Peter is copying from Jude and continuing his warning, or Jude is copying from Peter to verify Peter’s prediction of judgment on false teachers. Arguments have been given to support each side of the debate over the years, but ultimately no one knows for certain either way. In any case, it’s evidence of the close relationship of these two leaders in the early church.
Jude addresses his letter “to those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jud 1). He also refers to them as “dear friends” throughout the letter (Jud 3,17,20). These believers could have been the same people that the apostle Peter wrote to (compare Jude 4-18 with 2 Peter 2:1-3:4) and therefore consisted of Gentile (non-Jewish) believers in Asia Minor. However, there are numerous references to Old Testament people and events (Jud 5,7,9,11,14), so it’s also possible that the letter was primarily intended for Jewish Christians. In any case, Jude feels compelled to write to them to protect them from false teachers who have infiltrated the church (Jud 3-4).
Jude is very clear about the purpose of his letter in the opening verses. He has heard about false teachers threatening God’s Church, and he wants to warn his recipients about their teachings (Jud 3-4). Jude emotionally stresses the fiery judgment that is coming upon them by using intense imagery and examples from the Old Testament (Jud 5-16). This leaves a lasting impression upon his readers concerning the dangers of false doctrine and the importance in remaining in the truth of the gospel message.
In doing all of this, Jude does something that has caused a great amount of discussion among Bible scholars over the years: he quotes from the book of Enoch, which is not a book included in the Old Testament canon. Because of this as well as the fact that Jude is not an apostle (Jud 17), some have spoken against the inclusion of this letter in the New Testament canon. However, Mark and Luke were also not among Jesus’ apostles, and the apostle Paul did not have a problem quoting from writings outside the canon of Scripture to prove his arguments (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12), so we find that these arguments against Jude’s inclusion in the canon fall short.
- Jude 6
- Jude 20-21
- Jude 22-23
- Jude 24-25
Theme: Fight for the faith!
- Greeting (Jud 1-2)
- Reason for writing (Jud 3-4)
- Examples of God’s judgment on unbelief (Jud 5-7)
- Characterization of the godless infiltrators (Jud 8-16)
- Exhortation to the faithful to persevere (Jud 17-23)
- Doxology (Jud 24-25)2Jeske, Mark A. James, Peter, John, Jude. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 2002. 322.