The book of Jude was probably written by the half-brother of Jesus (cf. Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) who became a believer in Christ only after Jesus’ resurrection (cf. John 7:2-5). Jude is not an apostle like his brother James (Galatians 1:19; 2:9-12; Jude 17) but, like James, he has the same parents, Joseph and Mary. Although he is the half-brother of Jesus, as a sign of humility Jude emphasizes his spiritual and servant relationship to Christ (Jude 1).
When Peter wrote his second epistle, he used the future tense to warn that false teachers would come (2 Peter 2:1; 3:3; cf. Pentecost 1983:918; Fruchtenbaum 2005:428). By the time Jude writes, he notes that false teachers have already crept in unnoticed (Jude 4a) and in Jude 17-18 he quotes 2 Peter 3:2-3. For these reasons, Jude must have been written after 2 Peter, possibly shortly thereafter, in about AD 68, once Jude became aware that the prophecy of 2 Peter had already become true (Tenney 1985:371).
The purpose of Jude is to ‘earnestly contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). Given the numerous references to the Old Testament as well as to two Jewish apocryphal books, Jude addressed this epistolary sermon to Jewish Christians living outside of the land of Israel (Bailey & Constable 1999:601). Given the purpose of Jude, this title may summarise the epistle: ‘Beware of the apostates’ (Pentecost 1983:918).
The following outline of Jude may be presented. The Introduction (1-2) can be paired with the concluding doxology (24-25). The main section of the epistle is a warning against apostate, false teachers (5-16) — referring first to historical examples (5-7) before focusing on the present danger of false teachers (8-16). The warnings concerning false teachers (3-4) can be paired with the exhortations to the faithful to avoid apostasy (17-23). The structure of Jude is therefore basically chiastic (A, B, C, B’, A’).
The Faith vs. Apostacy
The above structure helps to identify that “the faith” delivered to the saints corresponds to the ‘words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Jude 17; cf. Jude 20; 2 Peter 3:1-2). The term “the faith” is also used in Galatians 1:23, Ephesians 4:5, 13 and Philippians 1:27. In 1 Timothy 4:1 the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from “the faith”, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. Jude 4 shows how apostasy progresses by moving from ‘ungodliness, to licentiousness, and then to denial’ (Constable 2017:3). Apostate examples include many Israelites, fallen angels and Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 5-7) whereas actions of apostates include rejecting authority, walking in error, leading falsely and pleasing self (Jude 8-16; Pentecost 1983:920-922). But believers are to yield to God’s authority by obeying the teaching of the apostles and should build themselves up in their faith through prayer, remaining in God’s love and looking for the return of Christ (Jude 17-23).
Our faith is anchored in and focused on Jesus Christ. Contending for this faith is ‘essentially volitional submission to God’s authority’ and behaviour ‘that is morally in harmony with His will’ (Constable 2017:5). Believers can do this: ‘Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 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’ (Jude 24-25; ESV).
Bailey, M.L. & Constable, T.L., 1999, Nelson’s New Testament Survey, Thomas Nelson, Nashville.
Constable, T.L., 2017, Notes on Jude, 2017 edition, Sonic Light.
Fruchtenbaum, A.G., 2005, The Messianic Jewish Epistles, Ariel Ministries, Tustin.
Pentecost, E.C., 1983, ‘Jude’, in J.F. Walvoord & R.B. Zuck (eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, pages 917-924, David C Cook, Colorado Springs.
Tenney, M.C., 1985, New Testament Survey, revised edition, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids.
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