Agape Bible Study

THE LETTER OF SAINT JUDE

God of mercy, peace and love,

Down through the Ages Your have reached out to mankind with Your message of hope, love, and life; and yet, down through the Ages there have been men and women ready to pervert Your message of salvation by promoting their own agendas or their own vision of what their relationship with You should and shouldn't be.  Adam and Eve decided to usurp Your authority and sovereignty, Cain refused Your Fatherly correction and preferred his offer of sacrifice over what was acceptable in Your eyes, the children of Israel preferred the image of a golden calf to Your invisible presence, Korah threaten the hierarchy and authority of the ancient priesthood, and Balaam used his spiritual gifts to oppose Your will and to threaten the survival of the Old Covenant Church. The world still produces men and women who apostatize from the true faith; those who follow in the footprints of Cain, Korah and Balaam and who promote their own agendas in rebellion against Your will.  Help us to heed St. Jude's warning to recognize false teaching when we hear it, to vigorously oppose it, and to remain faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ as He handed down those teachings to St. Peter and the Apostles and through them to every succeeding Pope and council of Bishops who govern His earthly Kingdom, the Catholic Church.  Send us Your Holy Spirit to guide us in the truth of Your Living Word as we study St. Jude's letter to the covenant faithful of Your Church.

 

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Jude was the brother of the sons of Joseph, but despite his relationship to the Lord, he did not say that he was Jesus' brother.  What did he say?  He called himself Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, that is, of the Lord, and the brother of James who was the Lord's brother. Clement of Alexandria, Adumbrations

 

Will the real Jude Please Stand Up?

 

The Letter of St. Jude is listed among the seven Catholic, meaning universal, letters of the Church.   The writer of the inspired Letter of St. Jude identifies himself simply as "Jude", which is Ioudas in the Greek text of the New Testament and is normally translated as Judas in the English translations of the New Testament and Judah in the Old Testament.  In English translations of the New Testament this inspired writer of sacred Scripture's name is usually translated as "Jude" to distinguish him from the traitor Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.  The name "Jude" is a shortened form of the name Judas/Judah or Ye'hudah in Hebrew.  Judah was the name of the 4th son of Jacob, who God renamed Israel, and his wife Leah [Genesis 29:35].  Judah was the physical father of the tribe that bore his name. This tribal name became the name of the Southern Kingdom when the nation of Israel split into two nations.  David was of the tribe of Judah and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was ruled by the descendants of King David.  The tribe of Judah was Mary and Joseph's tribe and men who bore this name in the New Testament probably had a hereditary link to the tribe of Judah.

 

There are at least five men named Judas/ Ioudas who appear in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts of Apostles in the New Testament. A sixth man name Judas the Galilean who attempted to lead a revolt against Rome about the time of Jesus birth is mention in a speech by the Rabbi Gamaliel in Acts 5:37, but this man was dead long before Jesus' ministry began.

 

Men name Ioudas/Judas who appear in the other New Testament Books

1. Judas Iscariot, Apostle

2. Judas (son of) James, Apostle

3. Judas, brother/kinsman of Jesus

4. Judas of Damascus

5. Judas Barsabbas

Matthew 10:4; 26:14, 16, 25, 47, 49; 27:3, 5

Matthew 10:3 (as Thaddeus)

Matthew 12:46-49 (brothers);

13:55

 

 

Mark 3:19; 14:10, 43, 45

Mark 3:18

(as Thaddeus)

Mark 3:31-34 (brothers);6:3

 

 

Luke 6:16; 22:3, 4, 47, 48

Luke 6:16

Luke 8:19-20 (brothers)

 

 

John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2; 13:26, 27, 29, 30; 18:2, 3, 5

 

John 2:12 (brothers); 7:3, 5, 10 (brothers)

 

 

Acts 1:16, 18-19, 25

Acts 1:13

Acts 1:14  (brothers)

Acts 9:11

Acts 15:22, 27, 32

 

  1. Judas Iscariot is listed last in all the lists of the Apostles except in the list of Acts 1:13 where he is not included among the Apostles in the Upper Room, having committed suicide 43 days earlier.  In the lists of the Apostles in Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:19 and Luke 6:16, the note is included that Judas Iscariot was a traitor.

 

  1. The lists of the Apostles in Luke 6:16 and in John 14:22 name a man identified as Judas/ Ioudas [son] of James.  However, in the lists in Matthew and Mark the name Thaddaeus appears in the place of the name "Judas."  Most Biblical scholars, ancient and modern, believe there is little doubt that the Apostle bore these two names.  In most English translations of Acts 1:13 this Apostle is called "Jude" [son] of James to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot.

 

  1. A man named Judas/ Ioudas is also listed among the "brothers" / kinsmen of Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3: This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset (Joseph), and Jude (Ioudas) and Simon?

 

  1. A Christian of Damascus name Judas owned the house to which St. Paul was taken after his vision of Christ and blindness on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:11

 

  1. At the Council of Jerusalem the Apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to the Christian communities in Asia Minor to deliver and read the first encyclical of the Universal Church . Among the delegates chosen was a Christian named Judas, known also as Barsabbas [see Acts 15:22].

 

The identity of Jude or Judah, the brother of St. James Bishop of Jerusalem and the writer of the inspired New Testament letter that bears his name is generally narrowed to Judas (son of) James or Judas the brother/kinsman of Jesus.  Early Church histories do cast some light on his identity.  An account is recorded in Bishop Eusebius' 4th century Church History by the 2nd century Jewish-Christian historian Hegesippus that the grandchildren of St. Jude were still being accused of being related to Jesus as well as being descendants of King David in the days of the Roman Emperor Domitian.  Domitian took the information seriously enough to have these men brought before him but after questioning them was convinced that they were only simply farmers and no threat to him or his control over the Jewish province. 

ˇ        Eusebius records in Church History 3:19, When Domitian ordered that those of the race of David be slain, an ancient story holds that some of the heretics accused the grandchildren of Jude (the brother of the Savior, according to the flesh), on the ground that they really were of the family of David and were related to Christ himself.  Hegesippus makes this quite clear.

 

ˇ        Then in Church History 3.32, Eusebius quotes the 2nd century Jewish-Christian Hegesippus: Hegesippus says that other descendants of one of the so-called brothers of the Lord, Jude by name, lived until the reign of Trajan [98-117AD], after giving testimony of their faith in Christ in the time of Domitian [81-96AD].

[Hegesippus' 5 books of memoirs were written circa 155-180AD]

 

Other Catholic scholars, like the Venerable Bede, writing in the 8th century AD, believed that both Jude/Judas the author of the New Testament letter and James the Just, Bishop of Jerusalem were from the select group of the Twelve Apostles: The Apostle Jude, whom Matthew and Mark call Thaddeus in their Gospels, is writing against the same corrupters of the faith as Peter and John condemn in their letters. On Jude, [Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, page 246.   However, the same arguments used to dismiss James the Just as one of the Twelve Apostles can also be used for eliminating Jude [see Introduction to the Letter of St. James Bible Study]:

  1. Jude is never identified as "one of the Twelve", a title used by the Early Church Fathers to identify the Twelve Apostles in early Church documents and letters. Jude is listed as an apostle [with a small "a"] in the same way St. Paul, St. Barnabas, and St. Mark are identified as apostles.

 

  1. In the Gospels Peter and Andrew are identified as "brothers" or kinsmen and John and James Zebedee are identified as "brothers" and sons of a man named Zebedee, but James the Apostle and Jude the Apostle are not identified as brothers, suggesting that these men were not related and there were two other men who bore the same very common 1st century AD names who were James the Bishop and his brother Jude.

 

  1. In his letter, St. Jude urges Christians to remain faithful to the teachings of the Apostles in verse 17 but does not include himself as an Apostle: But remember, my dear friends, what the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.

 

  1. Jesus' "brothers" / kinsmen are identified in Scripture as not believing in Him until after the Resurrection: Not even his brothers had faith in him [John 7:5].  It wasn't until after the Resurrection, when He appeared privately to James [1 Corinthians 15:7], that they believed and the brothers/ kinsmen of Jesus are listed as being in the company of the Apostles - not as Apostles themselves - in the Upper Room: ...and when they reached the city they went to the Upper Room where they were staying; there were Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Jude son of James.  With one heart all these joined constantly in prayer, together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. Acts 1:13-14.

 

Most modern Catholic scholars believe that the Apostle "Judas of James", which is most likely to be understood as "Judas son of James" [among the Jews it was not customary to name a son after his father; see Redicke page 190] and Jude the brother of St. James the Bishop and kinsman of Jesus, are two different men, but not all scholars agree.  The scholars of the Navarre commentary and the Venerable Bede [died 735AD] who believe the Apostle James [son] of Alphaeus is the author of the Letter of St. James, also believe the Apostle Jude [son] of James is the brother of the Bishop of Jerusalem and both are kinsmen of Jesus.  Biblical scholars Father Patrick Hartin, Father Daniel Harrington, Bo Redicke, and the scholars of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture believe James and Jude are kinsmen of Jesus who were not numbered among the Apostles, citing the reasons listed above.

 

 

The Canonicity of the Letter of Saint Jude

 

Many scholars date the Letter of St. Jude to sometime prior to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD (a catastrophic event which signaled the end of the world for the Jews and which is not mentioned in the letter), but certainly not later than the end of the first century.  Since the early Church histories record that the grandsons of Jude, and not Jude himself, were interrogated by the Roman Emperor Domitian, Jude must have been dead by the time this incident occurred.  Domitian ruled from 81-96AD, therefore, we can at least conclude that the letter of Jude was written prior to 96AD.  The earliest witness as to the acceptance of the Letter of Jude in the canon can be found in the 2nd century among the writings of such Church Fathers as St. Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna, a disciple of St. John the Apostle, whose Letter to the Philippians [c. 110AD] has allusions to the Letter of St. Jude.  References to the Letter of St. Jude also appear in the earliest Church catechism, the Didache, also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, written sometime between 50AD and 70AD.  The Letter to Jude was also accepted as canonical by the Roman priest/apologist Tertullian [c.155/?160-225/?250AD] and by the early Church scholars St. Clement [150-215AD] and Origen [185-254AD], theologians who became heads of the catechetical school in Alexandrian, Egypt and pioneers of Christian Biblical scholarship. In addition to quoting from St. Jude's letter in his writings, and defending its canonicity, St. Clement of Alexandria also wrote a commentary on Jude [see Church History, Eusebius 3.25.3] in which he identified the author of the Letter of St. Jude: Jude was the brother of the sons of Joseph, but despite his relationship to the Lord, he did not say that he was Jesus' brother.  What did he say?  He called himself Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, that is, of the Lord, and the brother of James who was the Lord's brother. Clement of Alexandria, Adumbrations.   

 

The oldest known list of the New Testament canon survives in the document known as the Muratori Canon [circa 150 AD]: The Epistle of Jude, indeed, and the two ascribed to John are received by the Catholic Church." Muratorian Fragment, The Faith of the Early Fathers, volume I, page 108. Only later were both the letters of St. Jude and 2 Peter considered to be suspect by a number of eastern rite churches but both 2 Peter and Jude were fully accepted in the western Church by the 4th century AD and were vigorously defended by such respected Church Fathers as St. Athanasius and St. Cyril of Alexandria.

 

St. Jude's letter is not addressed to any specific faith community nor does it seem to be addressed to the Church as a whole, even though it is numbered among the 7 Catholic Letters.  Since St. James Bishop of Jerusalem is specifically mentioned, it has been suggested by some scholars that this letter was intended for the same faith communities that had received St. James' letter.  St. Jude's letter is addressed to "those who are called" who are "dear to God" [verse 1] and who are Jude's "dear/ beloved friends" [verse 20], which suggests that Jude has visited the faithful to whom his letter is addressed.  Since the letter is richly textured with both Jewish and Christian traditions it seems most likely that the community or communities Jude has in mind are Jewish-Christian faith communities in the Diaspora - the same communities to whom James' letter was addressed.  Jude's letter contains quotations from several popular Jewish 1st century apocryphal non-canonical books, The Assumption of Moses [verse 6], The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs [verse 12], and 1st Enoch [verse 14]; quotations that would have had less impact on Gentile Christians.  These non-canonical apocryphal quotations made the canonicity of this book doubtful as far as some of the Fathers of the Church were concerned and the debate concerning Jude's letter as inspired Scripture centered on debate over these references. 

 

The focus of Jude's letter is to warn the New Covenant faith communities to beware of false teachers, to avoid them, and to prevent them from having the opportunity to share their erroneous teachings in the assembly of the Eucharistic celebration, where false Christians become "stains on our love-feasts."  St. Jude's letter divides into 5 parts:

  1. The Greeting: verses 1-2
  2. The main topic/ purpose (false teachers): verses 3-4
  3. The punishment of false teachers: verses 5-16
  4. How the faithful should respond to false teachers: verses 17-23
  5. The concluding doxology: 24-25

 

SUMMARY OF THE LETTER OF ST. JUDE

Biblical period

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth - the Final Age of Man

Covenant

The New Covenant in Jesus Christ

Focus of message

Introduction

 

False teaching within the Church

 

Conclusion

 

Scripture

Verses 1---3------------5----------------------17--------------24-----------25

Division of

Text

Greeting

 

Purpose

 

Punishment of false teachers

 

Response of the faithful to false teachers

Doxology/ hymn of praise

 

Topic

Identifying and resisting false teaching

The duty of believers

Location

Unknown

Time

Sometime between 35-70AD

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

The tone of Jude's letter is friendly but not as personal as St. James' letter where the dear bishop spoke of those reading his letter in the intimate language of kinship 14 times in 5 chapters ["my brothers/sisters'; "my beloved brothers/sisters"], and spoke of himself as a "teacher".  Like the letter of St. James, there is an underlying eschatological [end times/ last things] theme throughout message, but Jude's letter is more Christological, Trinitarian and apocalyptic [a genre of literature focusing on God's unveiled "revelation"] than the Letter of St. James.  For example:

 

 

 

St. James is a prophet who summons the Old Covenant Church to be renewed and transformed into the New, while St. Jude is a preacher and a spiritual exegete of ancient Jewish texts, providing warnings taken from examples from the stories of sacred Scriptures [the Old Testament] and from Jewish apocalyptic literature.  Verses 4-19 are a skilled midrash [Scriptural interpretation] in the tradition of the Jewish rabbis, on several Old Testament Scripture passages.  Considering the speculation that Jude's brother James "the Just" (or Righteous) Bishop of Jerusalem, may have been the Teacher of Righteousness at the Qumran religious community, it is interesting that many scholars have compared Jude's midrashic techniques to those found in the Dead Sea Scroll commentaries discovered in the caves near the Qumran community.  The Qumran commentaries also expressed the belief that not only did the sacred Scriptures contain prophecies about the End Times, but that the community was living in the age of fulfillment of those prophecies.  Perhaps this is the reason that the Church places Jude's letter next to the Book of Revelation in the order of the Biblical canon. 

 

The structure and language of the letter is, like St. James' letter and the Letter to the Hebrews, written in very good Greek, unlike the Gospels and the majority of St. Paul's letters, but Jude's letter also shows Semitic influence. Jude refers to several Old Testament events and people, uses both Greek and Semitic idioms, and refers to or quotes from three non-canonical apocryphal Jewish literary sources: 1 Enoch; The Testimony of the 12 Patriarchs; and The Assumption of Moses.

 

Examples of Greek idioms:

 

Examples of Semitic idioms:

 

The quality of the Greek in St. Jude's letter has led some scholars to question if a Galilean could have written this letter but other scholars have pointed out that Church leaders in the ancient world, as well as Church leaders today, have often availed themselves of the services of a trained secretary, called an amanuensis in Greek, to transcribe their correspondence.  Other unique aspects of Jude's letter that Biblical scholars have noted are the fourteen hapax legomena, Greek words that are found only in Jude and no where else in any other New Testament book, as well as Jude's fondness for "triplets", expressions consisting of three related descriptive words.  For example those "triplets" found in: 

 

St. Jude also uses a number of colorful and descriptive phrases and similes, mostly concentrated in verses 12-16, which our modern translations can somewhat abuse; for example:

 

Biblical scholars, both ancient and modern have noted the close connection between the 2nd Letter of St. Peter and the Letter of St. Jude.  I found 14 similar passages between 2 Peter and Jude.

 

A COMPARISON BETWEEN 2 PETER AND JUDE

2 PETER

JUDE

1:2, Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of our Lord.

Verse 2, ...mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

 2:1, As there were false prophets in the past history of our people, so you too will have your false teachers, who will insulate (infiltrate) their own disruptive views and, by disowning the Lord who brought them freedom, will bring upon themselves speedy destruction.

Verse 4, Certain people have infiltrated among you, who were long ago marked down for condemnation on this account; without any reverence they pervert the grace of our God to debauchery and deny all religion, rejecting our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

1:12, That is why I will always go on recalling the same truths to you, even though you already know them and are firmly fixed in these truths.

Verse 5, I should like to remind you, though you have already learnt it once and for all...

2:4, When angels sinned, God did not spare them: he sent them down into the underworld and consigned them to the dark abyss to be held there until the Judgment.

Verse 6, ...and the angels who did not keep to the authority they had, but left their appointed sphere, he has kept in darkness in eternal bonds until the judgment of the great Day.

2:6-9He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by reducing them to ashes as a warning to future sinners

Verse 7, Sodom and Gomorrah, too, and the neighboring towns, [..], are put before us as an example since they are paying the penalty of eternal fire

2:10-12, ...especially those who follow the desires of their corrupt human nature and have no respect for the Lord's authority.

Verse 8, Nevertheless, these people are doing the same: in their delusions they not only defile their bodies and disregard authority...

2:13, Debauchery even by day they make their pleasure; they are unsightly blots, and amuse themselves by their trickery even when they are sharing your table

Verse 12, They are a dangerous hazard at your community meals, coming for the food and quite shamelessly only looking after themselves.

2:15, ... they have left the right path and wandered off to follow the path of Balaam son of Bosor (Beor)

Verse 11, Alas for them, because they have followed Cain; they have thrown themselves into the same delusion as Balaam for a reward...

2:17, People like this are dried up springs, fogs swirling in the wind, and the gloom of darkness is store up for them

Verse 12b-13, They are like the clouds blown about by the winds and bringing no rain, or like autumn trees, barren and uprooted and so twice dead; like wild sea waves with their own shame for foam

2:18, With their high-sounding but empty talk they tempt back people who have scarcely escaped from those who live in error..

Verse 16, They are mischief-makers, grumblers governed only by their own desires, with mouths full of boastful talk, ready to flatter others for gain.

3:2, Remember what was said in the past by the holy prophets and the command of the Lord and Savior given by your Apostles

Verse 17, But remember, my dear friends, what the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.

3:3, ...that in the final days there will come sarcastic scoffers whose life is ruled by their passions. 

Verse 18, At the final point of time, they told you, 'There will be mockers who follow noting but their own godless desires.

3:15a, Think of our Lord's patience as your opportunity to be saved...

Verse 24, To him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and joyful..

3:18, Instead, continue to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be glory, in time and eternity.  Amen

Verse 25, ...to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, authority and power, before all ages, now and for ever.  Amen

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

The similarity between the two letters might suggest that one inspired writer may have influenced the other, or perhaps that both letters came from a common body of teaching within the early Church.  There are also marked differences between the two letters.  The Greek is better in Jude and his letter is less passionate and less personal that 2 Peter.  The Letter of St. Jude is written in a humble and affectionate manner but without any personal information about the author, unlike 2 Peter in which the inspired author includes his personal apostolic witness, including his recollection of the miracle of the Transfiguration of the Lord into His glory [see 2 Peter 2 12-18; Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36].

 

Jude states his reason for writing his letter in verses 3-4 which is to identify and combat false teachers within the Church who spread heresy by misrepresent the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He assures his readers that there is no other foundation other than that teaching which was passed by Jesus to the Apostles and from the Apostles to the Church.  Jude also accuses these false witnesses to the teaching of the Messiah of indulging in immoral behavior that denies Christian moral values by interpreting the Law of Freedom of the Gospel as a Law of license to engage in sinful behavior, actions that reject Jesus Christ and which marks them down for condemnation on the Day of Judgment.

 

Please read The Letter of Jude verses 1-4: Introduction and Purpose for the Letter

 

[All passages quoted in this lesson are from the New Jerusalem Bible translation].

Jude 1-2: From Jude, servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James; to those who are called, to those who are dear to God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ, mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

Question: How does the writer identify himself?  Who is he?

Answer: He identifies himself simply as "Jude"; Ioudas in the Greek text of the New Testament and Judah in Hebrew.  In English translations of the New Testament his name is usually translated as "Jude" to distinguish him from the traitor Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.  There were two Apostles named "Judah"'one who rejected Jesus' Messiahship and the other, Judas son of Alphaeus, who embraced Jesus as the Messiah.  Both these men represented the reaction of the Jews as a people to the advent of the Messiah, both acceptance and rejection.  The other Judah mentioned in the Gospels is the kinsman of Jesus who is believed by many Catholic scholars to be the author of this inspired letter.

 

Question: What are the similarities and differences between the introduction in Jude's letter, the introduction of St. James' letter, and the introduction to the 1st and 2nd letters of St. Peter?

Answer: Both St. James, St. Peter and St. Jude identify themselves as servants [slaves] of Jesus Christ, but St. Peter includes that he is an Apostle of the Lord.  Neither James nor Jude make this claim of authority in their letters and yet adopting the title "servant of  Jesus Christ" indicates that Jude, like his brother James, exercised a position of responsibility and authority within the Church of Jesus Christ [see the discussion of the title "servant" in the study on the Letter of St. James].

 

The identification of Jude would have been so much easier if he had provided more information about his "brother" James.  Jude clearly considers James such an important leader in the early Church that no other identification is necessary, which is why most Bible scholars believe that the James mentioned as Jude's brother must be the first Christian bishop of Jerusalem, chosen by the Apostles to lead the mother church in the birthplace of Christianity.  James the "brother" or kinsman of Jesus had the unique privileged, along with St. Peter, of receiving a private interview with the Glorified Jesus on Resurrection Sunday [see 1 Corinthians 15:7].  Jesus' kinsman James was also, along with Jesus' other "brothers," which would include Jude, an eye-witness to the miraculous events of the coming of the Holy Spirit at the Feast of Pentecost in Acts 2:14, and was identified by St. Paul as one of the three "pillars" of the Church along with St. Peter and St. John Zebedee in Galatians 2:9.

 

Jude identifies himself as a "servant" or "slave" of the Lord [the Greek word doulos can be translated as either servant or slave], a title used in the Old Testament for those men who offered Yahweh a lifetime of service, especially the prophets.  For example:

 

Question: What does James mean when he addresses his letter "to those who are called"?  Hint: see Romans 1:6-7; 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 1:2-26; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 3:1; and Exodus 19:3-8; Isaiah 41:9; 48:12.

Answer: God the Holy Spirit has "called" us to rebirth through the Sacrament of Baptism by water and the Spirit into the family of God.  Jude was also "called" into the covenant rebirth in Jesus Christ and although he does not claim kinship to Jesus as his "brother"/ kinsman, as his brother St. James does in his letter, it is clear that for both James and Jude their bond of kinship goes by beyond physical or human kinship and is based on spiritual kinship as Jesus defined covenant brotherhood in Mark 3:35: Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother. To respond to God's "call" sets one aside from the rest of the world. 

 

In the Old Testament Israel was defined as "the called ones", or "the summoned ones" which in Hebrew is the word kahal or qahal and which we would translate as the ekklesia [the assembly of those "called out" of the world] in the Greek, or the "Church" in EnglishGod calls mankind to receive His infinite gift of grace, the destiny for which mankind was created.  Man's free-will response to God's gift of grace is what we call "faith"'a response to grace which is intended to lead to repentance, conversion and re-birth.

Question: In what two other ways does Jude defined the "called" in verse 1?

Answer: They are called [kletio], dear [egapemenous] to God, and kept (safe) [tetermenous] for Jesus Christ.  Both the Greek words for "dear" and "kept safe" are perfect past participles which as Father Harrington points out in his commentary, is a construction that points to an event in the past whose effect continues in the present [like the perfect past participle construction in the Greek phrase kecharitomene in Luke 1:28: "Hail, has been grace", which the angel Gabriel addresses to the Virgin Mary]. 

 

Question: That those Christians who are dear to the Lord and are "kept safe" suggests they are "kept safe" for something in particular.  What has made Christians "dear" to God?  For what are they "kept safe" so that mercy, peace and love will be theirs in abundance, as promised in the conclusion of verse 2?  Hint: see verse 21.

Answer: Christians who have experienced God's love for them and who are "dear" to God the Father have received mercy, peace and love from God's action in their lives in the gift of salvation in their rebirth through the Sacrament of Baptism.  These Christians are now being "kept safe," as Jude assures Christians, "keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life" [verse 21] when they come to the end of their earthly existence. 

 

Jude 3-4: My dear friends (beloved), at a time when I was eagerly looking forward to writing to you about the salvation that we all share, I felt that I must write to you encouraging you to fight hard for the faith which has been once and for all entrusted to God's holy people.  Certain people have infiltrated among you, who were long ago marked down for condemnation on this account; without any reverence they pervert the grace of our God to debauchery and deny all religion, rejecting our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jude will use the endearing address "beloved", agapetoi, three times: here in verse 3, and again in verses 17 and 20.

 

Question: In verses 3-4 Jude first says he intended to write about one subject but then felt the urgent need to write about another topic.  What was the intended subject of his letter and what required Jude to set aside his original plan to make this specific response?

Answer: His original plan was to write about their shared experience of salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ but when a crisis surfaced he felt the need to warn his "beloved friends" of this danger facing the Church.

 

Question: What is the crisis?

Answer: The rise of false teachers who have "infiltrated among you." These false teachers have been baptized into the New Covenant in Jesus Christ but are now spreading heresy.  St. Paul mentions the same treachery in Galatians 2:3-6a: Even then, and although Titus, a Greek, was with me, there was no demand that he should be circumcised; but because of some false brothers who had secretly insulated (infiltrated) themselves to spy on the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, intending to reduce us to slavery, people we did not defer to for one moment, or the truth of the Gospel preached to you might have been compromised...but those who were recognized as important people, whether they actually were important or not...

 

As the Church of Jesus Christ began to move from a predominately Jewish population to becoming a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles, some Jews began to reject the inclusion of Gentiles into the covenant or to insist that all Gentiles first become Jews by observing the Old Covenant rites and sacraments like circumcision.  A delegation from Bishop James' diocese in Jerusalem took it upon themselves to go the largely Gentile Christian community in Antioch, Turkey and to inform the Gentile Christians that they were not members of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ and they were not "saved" because, even though they had been baptized they had not been circumcised: Then some men came down from Judea and taught the brothers, 'Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved' Acts 15:1.  We can only imagine the upset such statements caused among the Gentile converts.  The community at Antioch sent a delegation including Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to consult the Apostles concerning this issue circa 49AD and the result was the Church's first ecumenical council, which is known to history as the Jerusalem Council.  At the council the Apostles and elders denounced the Jewish delegation that had addressed the community in Antioch: We hear that some people coming from here, but acting without any authority from ourselves, have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds...Acts 15:24.  The Council of Jerusalem decided Gentiles did not have to first become Jews to receive baptism.  This decision resulted in the first Church encyclical, and the letter sent out to the churches in Asia Minor can be read in Acts 15:22-35.  Unfortunately the problem of Jews refusing to accept Gentiles as covenant brothers was not completely resolved.  A group of Jewish-Christians known as the Ebionites formed their own congregations, and they refused Gentile admittance to the assembly unless the Gentiles submitted to circumcision and the other Old Covenant purification rites.   It is possible Jude has such a group of Jewish Christians in mind and if so we could date his letter to sometime after 49/50AD.  St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, written circa the early winter of 58AD addressed these issues and the need for Jewish and Gentile Christians to be freed of the restriction of the Old Law and to be united in the faith of the New Law as equally loved children of the same covenant family.

 

 

Question: In Jude 3 who are God's "holy people" and what faith has been "entrusted to them" that they must fight to keep?  See Exodus 19:5; 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Timothy 6:20

Answer: God's holy people are those who are in covenant with Him.  They must fight to keep pure the faith entrusted to them by the Apostles as they received the true practice of the religion = being re-tied or tied again to the Covenant of Jesus Christ.

Question: What 3 offenses do these false teachers perpetrate for which Jude condemns them?  See verse 4.

Answer:

  1. they pervert or exchange the grace of God with debauchery or immoral behavior
  2. they deny (true) religion
  3. they reject Jesus' sovereignty as Master and Lord

 

That they "pervert" or "exchange" the grace of God for something unclean suggests these false teachers once enjoyed God's gift of grace through baptism but they now engage in sexual immorality among other offenses [Jude will return to the subject of sexual immorality in verse 8]. They deny the true religion given to the holy people by Jesus Christ in their reinterpretation and distortions of the true faith and in doing all this they reject the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as Master and Lord.  In 2 Peter 2:1 St. Peter warns: As there were false prophets in the past history of our people, so you to will have your false teachers, who will insinuate their own disruptive views and, by disowning the Lord who bought them freedom, will bring upon themselves speedy destruction.

 

The definition of heresy according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church is: The obstinate denial after Baptism of a truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith. Often heresy develops from an ignorance of Church doctrine and ignorance of Scripture.  The Catechism teaches: Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us.  St. Paul speaks of the 'obedience of faith; as our first obligation. He shows that 'ignorance of God' is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations.  Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.  CCC # 2087

 

Please read Jude 5-10: The Certain Judgment of False Teachers

Jude 5: I should like to remind you, though you have already learnt it once and for all, that the Lord rescued the nation from Egypt, but afterwards he still destroyed the people who refused to believe him; and the angels who did not keep to the authority they had, but left their appointed sphere, he kept in darkness in eternal bonds until the judgment of the great Day.  Sodom and Gomorrah, too, and the neighboring towns, who with the same sexual immorality pursued unnatural lusts, are put before us as an example since they are paying the penalty of eternal fire.

 

In Jude 5-10 Jude provides examples to remind Jewish-Christians of their past history beginning with the great event of the Exodus which defined them as a holy people "called" by God and which has brought them to the present age.  It is the sum of these experiences, Jude tells the readers of his letter, which was given to them as an example or a lesson in what to avoid in living out their faith.  Each example would have been familiar to his audience: to Jewish-Christians from the traditions of their heritage and for Gentile Christians from their catechesis.

Question: Jude recalls the history of Israel through what 3 events in the Old Testament canon?

Answer:

  1. The Exodus experience in which Israel was rescued from slavery in Egypt but also the sin of the Golden Calf where 3,000 perished [see Exodus 1-32].
  2. The fall of Satan and his rebellious angels [see Revelation 12:7-9].
  3. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah [see Genesis 19].

 

Each case listed by Jude involves a falling away from God followed by divine judgment - the same fate which will fall upon the false teachers who deny Jesus Christ as Lord.  The mention of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in connection with sexual immorality probably relates to the same kind of sin being tolerated or promoted in the problem communities influenced by the false teachers.  Notice the connection in verse 8.

 

Please turn to 1 Corinthians and read what St. Paul teaches concerning the failures of the Old Covenant people of God in the Exodus experience in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.

Question: Why does Paul write that these particular stories from salvation history were written down?

Answer: As an example for us of what not to do and the consequences of God's judgment for being disobedient to the will of God.

Question: According to St. Paul did Jesus play a role in the Exodus experience? How?  Hint: read 1 Corinthians 10:4 with Exodus 17:5-6 and Numbers 20:7-11.

Answer: The pre-Incarnate Christ played a prophetic and anticipatory role in Old Testament history.  In the Exodus experience He was the miraculous rock of living water which followed the children of Israel on their exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land.

 

Jude 5b: But afterward he still destroyed the people who refused to believe him...

Question: Despite God's faithful shepherding of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and the many miracles He worked for their release and their safety in the journey, what was Israel's response to God when left alone those 40 days Moses ascended the mountain to receive the 10 Commandments, the other articles of the covenant, and the instructions for building the Tabernacle?  See Exodus 32:1-6; 25-29 and Numbers 14:26-35

Answer: Aaron was forced to make a golden image of the Egyptian Apis bull for the people to worship.  The civil war that erupted upon Moses' return resulted in the deaths of 3,000 rebels. Israel's failure in faithfulness as a covenant people is a major theme of the Old Testament.  It is a theme which repeats throughout Old Testament Scripture like the solemn refrain in a Requiem Mass.  In the Exodus experience the refusal to submit in obedience to God reaches the point when God promises the children of Israel in Numbers 14:30: I swear none of you will enter the country where I swore most solemnly to settle you... And in verses 32-33 Yahweh pronounces judgment on the Exodus generation: ...but as for you, your dead bodies will fall in this desert and your children will be nomads in the desert for forty years, bearing the consequences of your faithfulness, until the last one of your lied dead in the desert. 

 

Question: Yahweh's redemptive judgment was meant to bring a fallen away people to repentance and back into fellowship with Him. How is Jude applying this lesson to the communities who will receive his letter?

Answer: His point is that if the Old Covenant people could fall from grace it is also possible for Christians, who have received the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, to fall away through lack of faith and to also be visited by God's redemptive judgment calling them to repentance or, if they refuse to turn back, to condemnation and destruction.

 

Question: What does Paul write about apostasy in Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-29?  Apostasy in the Catholic dictionary is defined as: The total rejection by a baptized person of the Christian faith he once professed.  The term is also applied in a technical sense to "apostates from religious life," who without authorization leave a religious institute after perpetual vows with no intention of returning.  Etymology = Latin apostasia, falling away or separation from God; from Greek apostasis, revolt, literally, a standing-off.

Answer: St. Paul's warning is dire:

 

 

In these two passages Paul speaking of deliberate, persistent and unrepentant sins.  He is not saying that God will refuse the sincere repentance of the apostate.  Christ has given the Church the power to forgive all sins of the repentant sinner, no matter how grave [see Matthew 16:18-20; 18:18; John 20:18-20].  Paul is referring the Christian apostates who have been instructed in the faith, who have received spiritual rebirth in the Sacrament of Baptism, who have received the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the miracle of the Eucharist and who have deliberately rejected Christ's sacrifice of redemption.  To persist in this sin offers no forgiveness and achieves only the fire of eternal condemnation as experienced by such men as Korah in Numbers 16:16-35 [see Jude 11].  This is similar to the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit which Jesus spoke of in Matthew 12:32 ' the sin which is the permanent refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit working through the redeeming power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.   

 

Concerning the forgiveness of sin, Pope St. Gelasius [Pope 492-96] explained:  So there is no sin for whose forgiveness the Church does not pray; no sin which by virtue of the God-given power it has, that cannot be forgiven; for it was (the Church) that was told, 'If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven' (cf. John 20:23); 'whatever' covers everything, no matter how grave the sins be, or what sins they be.  That view is correct which argues that there is to be no forgiveness for him who persists in committing sins; but that does not apply to the one who later repents of them. [Gelasius, Ne Forte, as quoted from the Navarre Commentary: Hebrews, page 151].

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church # 679 affirms the teaching of this early Pope: Christ is Lord of eternal life.  Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world.  He 'acquired' this right by his cross.  The Father has given 'all judgment to the Son.'  Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.  By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.

 

Jude 6and the angels who did not keep to the authority they had, but left their appointed sphere, he kept in darkness in eternal bonds until the judgment of the great Day. 

The fall of Satan and the rebellious angels is recorded in Revelation 12:7-9Now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon.  The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven.  The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan who had led all the world astray, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him.

 

In 2 Peter 2:4, St. Peter also refers to the fall of the rebellious angels: When angles sinned, God did not spare them: he sent them down into the underworld and consigned them to the dark abyss to be held there until the Judgment. 

 

Most scholars, however, believe Jude is referring to the account of the fall of the angel allies of Satan in the non-canonical document 1 Enoch 10:4-6, where the archangel Raphael is instructed to bind Satan and throw him into darkness of the pit and 1 Enoch 22:11 where the rebellious "fallen" angels are said to be bound forever until the Day of Judgment.  Jude will refer to the Old Testament patriarch Enoch in verse 13.  In a period from 300BC to 70AD, a collection of apocalyptic writings emerged which were written under the name of the Old Testament patriarchs like Abraham and Enoch and which reveal supernatural revelations of God's plan for humanity.  The ancient text of 1 Enoch no longer exists as complete book except in a Ge'ez (ancient Ethiopian) translation of the a Greek translation of the Aramaic original text, fragments of which have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  DDS scholars date the parts of 1 Enoch discovered at the Qumran site to 50AD although it is believed the original document dated to the 3rd century BC.

 

The three Jewish texts quoted or referenced in Jude, 1 Enoch, The Assumption of Moses, and The Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs, are apocryphal texts.  1 Enoch is also designated apocalyptic literature and 1 Enoch and The Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs are also designated as pseudepigrapha:

 

Some Bible scholars believe Jude may also be referring in verse 6, to Genesis 6:1-2 with the phrase they had, but left their appointed sphere.  In that Genesis passage it is recorded that the son of God, looking at the women, saw how beautiful they were and married as many of them as the chose, interpreting the "sons of God" to refer to the fallen angels. This interpretation is easily refuted by Jesus statement concerning the function of angels as spiritual beings who were not designed to procreate in Matthew 22:29-30, and in Mark 12:25 ' they are purely spiritual beings.  It is far more likely that the "sons of God" were the human sons who remained in covenant with God and the "daughters of men," women of the non-covenant line who were already worshiping false gods.  It seems "bad girls" have always been seductive and these immoral "mixed marriages" produced a line of violent men who craved political power [Genesis 6:6].  Jude's next passage seems to connect this interpretation of human sexual immorality since he addresses "the same" sexual immorality of the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah.

 

Jude 7: Sodom and Gomorrah, too, and the neighboring towns, who with the same sexual immorality pursued unnatural lusts, are put before us as an example since they are playing the penalty of eternal fire.

Question: Why does Jude refer his readers to the story of the destruction of these two prosperous cities on the plain near the Dead Sea as it is recorded in sacred Scripture?

Answer: As an example for us.  The story of the immorality and judgment of the two powerful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are found in Genesis 19.  The sexual sin that takes its name from the city of Sodom was an abomination to the children of Israel and condemned by God in the Law of Moses in Leviticus 18:22; a sin which was punishable by death in Leviticus 20:13.  The horrible judgment on these cities was recalled in sacred Scripture as a lesson in the necessity of sexual purity:

 

In 2 Peter 2:6-11, St. Peter writes not only of the judgment on these two cities but on God's mercy to the innocent and upright: He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by reducing them to ashes as a warning to future sinners; but rescued Lot, an upright man who had been sickened by the debauched way in which theses vile people behaved, for that upright man, living among them, was outraged in his upright soul by the crimes that he saw and heard every day. All this shows that the Lord is well able to rescue the good from their trials, and hold the wicked for their punishment until the Day of Judgment, especially those who follow the desires of their corrupt human nature and have no respect for the Lord's authority.

Question: Does Peter's example of God's preservation of the righteous give you hope?  What conditions do we live in today, what does 21st American society tolerate and even endorse that is contrary to the will of God according to sacred Scripture and is deserving God's wrath?

 

Some scholars believe there is an allusion to the apocryphal text The Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs in verses 6-7, which also paired the fall of the rebellious angels with the destruction of Sodom.  This text, supposedly but falsely, claims to be written by the 12 sons of Jacob, the physical fathers of the 12 Tribes of Israel, and contains a dissertation by each of the 12 men instructing and admonishing their sons to life righteously.    

 

Archaeological note: Archaeologists believe they have discovered the site of the ancient city of Sodom on the southeastern side of the Dead Sea, at a site known as Bab edh-Dhra.  Archaeologists have found a significant layer of ash and burned debris and evidence of an earthquake associated with a furious fire that had burned at very high temperatures in the Early Bronze Age III level which dates to some time between 2350-2000BC.  The site appears to have been permanently abandoned after this great catastrophe. 

 

 Jude 8-10: "Nevertheless, these people are doing the same: in their delusions they not only defile their bodies and disregard Authority, but abuse the Glories as well.  Not even the archangel Michael, when he was engaged in argument with the devil about the corpse of Moses, dared to denounce him in the language of abuse; all he said was, 'May the Lord rebuke you.' But these people abuse anything they do not understand; and the only things they do understand, merely by nature like unreasoning animals, will turn out to be fatal to them.

 

Question: How does Jude compare the sins of the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah with the sins of Jewish-Christians who are false teachers?  What three charges does he bring against them in verse 8?

Answer:

  1. They defile their bodies engaging in sexual immorality
  2. They disregard authority
  3. They abuse the Glories or glorious ones

The charge of defiling their bodies, which in Christian baptism became Temples of the Holy Spirit, is the first charge.  The charge of rejecting "authority" may be an allusion to the false teachers rejection of the authority our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ in verse 4And the abuse of the "Glories" or the "glorious ones" may refer to the saints or charges 2 and 3 may refer to two classifications in the hierarchy of angels.  Saint Paul lists the hierarchy of the angels in the Heavenly Kingdom in Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16.  The false teachers may be promoting heresy about the angels.  Paul lists these angelic forces as:

ˇ        Thrones (Principalities),

ˇ        Ruling forces,

ˇ        Sovereignties, and

ˇ        Powers

[These designations are also listed in Jewish apocryphal writings].

 

Not even the archangel Michael, when he was engaged in argument with the devil about the corpse of Moses, dared to denounce him in the language of abuse; all he said was, 'May the Lord rebuke you.' The Hebrew name "Michael" means "Who is like God?"  References to the archangel Michael are found in the Book of the Prophet Daniel [10:13, 21; 12:1] and in the Book of Revelation [12:7].  Jude is referring to an episode that is not recorded in sacred Scripture but which can be traced to the lost Jewish apocryphal work known as The Assumption of Moses. According to Deuteronomy 34:1-6 God allowed Moses to view the Promised Land from the top of Mount Nebo before his death.  After he died his people buried him in the valley, in the country of Moab, opposite Beth-Peor; but to this day no one has ever found his grave [Numbers 34:6].  According to the traditions of the Assumption of Moses, parts of which survive, recorded in other documents, the angel Michael was commanded to bury Moses but Satan protested the burial, claiming Moses' body since Satan is "the lord of all matter", and because Moses was guilty of the sin of murder [Exodus 2:11-15].  In this story Satan is fulfilling his role as the Adversary of both man and God who will accuse all sinners after their deaths, before the throne of God at Judgment, just as he accused Moses of his sin.  The archangel Michael showed great patience in refraining from cursing Satan, an angel who may have been equal in rank to himself, for blasphemy, leaving that judgment to God, but simply rebuked Satan by saying, as Jude records: 'May the Lord rebuke you.' In this rebuke Michael is petitioning God to deal with Satan; a phrase that is echoed in Zechariah 3:2 where Satan accuses the high priest Joshua (translated Jesus in New Testament English): He then showed me the high priest Joshua/Jesus, standing before the angel of Yahweh, with Satan standing on his right to accuse him.  The angel of Yahweh said to Satan, 'May Yahweh rebuke you, Satan!  May Yahweh rebuke you, since he has made Jerusalem his choice.  Is not this man a brand snatched from the fire?'

 

Jude brings a 4th charge against the false teachers, followed by a prediction in verse 10:

But these people abuse anything they do not understand; and the only things they do understand, merely by nature like unreasoning animals, will turn out to be fatal to them. 

  1. Denunciation: Condemning what they do not understand
  2. Prediction: What they believe they "understand" through the power of their fleshly desires will lead to their judgment and eternal punishment.

 

The Greek word translated "abuse" is the word blasphemousin, which can also be translated as blaspheme.  The false teachers have no real understanding of the heavenly powers and so they blaspheme the "Glories" or the "glorious ones."  They only understand things of the flesh like the animals, relying on feelings and not on reason, which in the New Testament is defined as Godly wisdom.

 

Question: It is common then, as today, for those who reject the full truth of the Gospel of salvation and the teaching of Mother Church, curse or blaspheme what they do not grasp and do not understand.  Can you think of some examples?

Answer: Abortion rights advocates denounce Christians who support the right to life, the majority of people who support embryonic stem-cell research have not read the statistics on the failure of embryonic stem cells to produce any positive results whereas adult stem-cell research is produced significant results; those who advocate a female priesthood fail to understand the unique relationship between Christ and His Church as the marital bond between the Bridegroom and the Bride and yet they condemn what they do not understand.  Sometimes the more times change, the more times remain the same: What was, will be again, what has been done, will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun! [Ecclesiastes 1:9].

 

Please read Jude 11-19: A Covenant Curse Against the Teachers of False Doctrine

 

Jude 11: Alas for them, because they have followed Cain; they have thrown themselves into the same delusion as Balaam for a reward; they have been ruined by the same rebellion as Korah and share the same fate.

In this passage Jude will use 3 more examples of rebellious behavior from the Old Testament, beginning with the language reminiscent of the Semitic covenant curse: Woe or alas!  It is the kind of language invoked by the Prophets of Yahweh in the Old Testament [see Isaiah 5:8-25] and by Jesus as God's holy Prophet in Matthew 23:13-32.  The word translated in English as "Woe" or "Alas" serves as a Semitic formula for calling down Yahweh's covenant judgment against an apostate people. Also see Matthew 11:21; 18:7; Mark 14:21; Luke 6:24-26; 11:42; Revelation 8:13; 9:12; 11:14; etc.

 

Question: What 3 Old Testament figures does Jude use as examples of men whose rebellion against God led to their separation from the covenant and judgment?  See Genesis 4:3-12; Exodus 6:21-24; 1 Chronicles 6:7; Numbers 22:1-24; Numbers 25:1-5 and 31:16.  How is each example applied to the false teachers and their impact on the Christian communities to which they belong?

Answer:

  1. Cain eldest son of Adam: The perpetrator of the first murder in the history of salvation.  Cain's outrage as being rebuked by God for presenting the wrong kind of sacrifice erupted into the kind of rage that leads to sin and death.  God warned Cain in 4:7, "If you are doing right, surely you ought to hold your head high!  But if you are not doing right, Sin is crouching at the door hungry to get you.  You can still master him. 

 

Jude's point is that Cain rejected God's warning and murdered his brother just as the false teachers reject correction and will cause the death of their covenant brothers because through their false teaching they commit spiritual murder.

 

  1. Balaam prophet of Yahweh, is condemned as a teacher of false doctrine in 2 Peter 2:16; in Jude, and in Revelation 2:14: When hired by the King of Moab in the Book of Numbers to curse the Israelites, Balaam is powerless to keep from giving the Israelites God's blessings:

 

   Jude's point is that the false teachers are leading the faithful into sexual immorality like Balaam and the result will be God's judgment against both the false prophets and the covenant people who fall into this sin.

 

  1. Korah was a Levite from the clan of Kohath, the same clan as Aaron and Moses:  In Numbers 16 the Levitical priest Korah and the lay leaders Dathan, Abiram, and 250 followers stage a revolt against Moses' and Aaron's authority: These banded together against Moses and Aaron and said to them, 'You take too much on yourselves!  The whole community, all its members, are consecrated, and Yahweh lives among them.  Why set yourselves higher than Yahweh's community?'  The leaders of the revolt were swallowed up by the earth and their followers were consumed by fire [Numbers 16:31-32; 35].

     

            Jude's point is that Christ has established His hierarchy and authority in the        Church and those who challenge that authority face divine judgment.       

 

Jude 12: They are a dangerous hazard at your community meals, coming for the food and quite shamelessly only looking after themselves. The more literal translation from the Greek is: These men are stains on your love feasts... However, the Greek word which can be translated as "stains" can also mean "hidden rocks" or "reefs."  The metaphor can either be taken to mean these false teachers are "stains on your love feasts" or "hidden rocks on your love feasts."  If the second metaphor is intended this interpretation can be comparing these infiltrated false teachers to the hidden reefs upon which an unwary ship can be snagged and capsized just as an unwary faith community might be lured into unsound teaching and be capsized or thrown off the true course to salvation. 

 

The agagai or "love feasts" refer to the early Christian practice of eating a communal meal prior to receiving the Eucharist, as in the tradition of the meal of the Last Supper in which the roasted Passover lamb, the fruit mixture, the herbs, and the unleavened bread were consumed by the assembly before receiving from the hands of Christ His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the miracle of the Eucharist.  The oldest catechism of the Church, a work known as the Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles [written circa 50 -70AD] clearly illustrates that it was the practice of the early Church to eat an entire meal prior to receiving the Eucharist.  This is the order of service in Paul's description in 1 Corinthians 11:17-26 in which he admonishes the Corinthians on their abuse of the agagai, encouraging them to for-go the communal meal [1 Corinthians 11:33-34] where each family brings its own supper, and focus on the Eucharist:

 

It is clear that in the earliest years of the Church that the faithful took part in a common meal which was united to the Eucharist.  The existence of this practice is supported by the instructions given in the Didache. First there is the prayer before the meal which begins the Eucharistic prayer in Didache 9:1-5, and includes the words of consecration in 9:1-4.  At this time the faithful apparently eat the food everyone has contributed.  Article 5 closes with Jesus' quotation from Matthew 7:6: Do not give to dogs what is sacred, which refers to the sacred food of the Eucharist which is the next step in the ritual of the agagai-"love feast". Article 10 instructs the faithful: After you have taken your fill of food, give thanks as follows...  What follows the after-meal prayer is the continuation of the Eucharistic prayer which ends with the invitation to come forward to receive the Eucharist in 10:6: May grace come, and this world pass away!  Hosannah to the God of David!  If anyone is holy, let him advance; if anyone is not, let him be converted.  Marana tha! (Lord, Come)!  Amen.

 

The first interpretation I mentioned associated with Jude's metaphor concerning the abuse of the agagai, "love feast", "stains on your love-feasts" is a fitting metaphor for those who abuse the Eucharist. "Love feasts" are supposed to be pure and holy but these men are an ugly "stain" upon what is meant to be pure.  In 1 Corinthians 11:17-22, St. Paul admonished the Corinthians for bad behavior during the communal meal before receiving the Eucharist, but in 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 he warns them of the consequences of receiving the Eucharist unworthily.  Jude's statement that the false teachers abuse the "love feast" shows the seriousness of the situation in that it appears the false teachers are still participating in the life of the Church in receiving the Eucharist.

 

The false prophets Jude is concerned with do not possess the Spirit, since they are estranged from God and if they are consuming the Eucharist they are in deadly peril. 

Question: What does St. Paul write about consuming the Eucharist unworthily?  See 1 Corinthians 11:26-34.

Answer: When one receives the Eucharist in sin or in unbelief he is drinking and eating to his own condemnation: Therefore anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily is answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.  Everyone is to examine himself and only then eat of the bread or drink from the cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation. 

 

Note: St. Paul's departure from the instructions of the Didache , encouraging the faithful to eat at home prior to coming together to worship and receive the Eucharist in 1 Corinthians 11:33-34, may attest to the early date of the Didache. Most Bible scholars date St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians to circa 54AD.  The Didache may have been written immediately after the Council of Jerusalem in 49AD.

 

Jude 12b-13: They are like the clouds blown about by the winds (waterless clouds) and bringing no rain, or like autumn trees, barren and uprooted and so twice dead; like wild sea waves with their own shame for foam; or like wandering stars for whom the gloom of darkness is stored up for ever.

In beautifully poetic language Jude compares the false teachers to:

  1. waterless clouds
  2. fruitless, uprooted trees
  3. foaming sea waves (an image of scum carried by the waves)
  4. wandering stars or dying stars who give no light

All these descriptions illustrate that unsound teaching is only something impotent and "good for nothing." 

 

The reference to wandering stars may refer to Satan and the fallen angels:

ˇ        Isaiah 14:12: How did you come to fall from the heavens, Daystar, son of Dawn?  How did you come to be thrown to the ground, conqueror of nations?

 

ˇ        Revelation 12:4, 7-8: (The dragon) Its tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them to the ground...[..]  And now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon.  The dragon fought back with his angels, but there were defeated and Satan, who had led all the world astray, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him.

 

ˇ        1 Enoch 18:15-16: And the stars who roll over upon the fire, they are the ones which have transgressed the commandments of God from the beginning of their rising because they did not arrive punctually.  And he was wroth with them and bound them until the time of the completion of their sin in the year of mystery.

 

Jude 14-16: It was with them in mind that Enoch, the seventh patriarch from Adam, made his prophecy when he said, 'I tell you the Lord will come with his holy ones in their tens of thousands, to pronounce judgment on all humanity and to sentence the godless for all the godless things they have done, and for all the defiant things said against him by goodness sinners.'  They are mischief-makers, grumblers governed only by heir own desires with mouths full of boastful talk, ready to flatter others for gain.

Question: Who was the Patriarch Enoch?  See Genesis 5:18-24

Answer: Enoch was the 7th generation from Adam and a descendant of Adam's son Seth in whom the "promise seed" of Genesis 3:15 is protected from whom the Messiah will come.  Enoch was completely faithful and obedient to God and therefore did not taste physical death but was translated into heaven.  Only two men in Old Testament Scripture did not experience physical death:

  1. Enoch: Genesis 5:21-24
  2. the prophet Elijah: 2 Kings 2:1-13   

 

Enoch's translation into heaven foreshadows the Christian's promise of eternal life.  The third person to have been translated into heaven without suffering physical death may have been the Virgin Mary, having been preserved from original sin, the cause of physical death, it is unlikely that she would have died physically before being assumed into heaven.  Enoch is Jude's third good example of faithfulness and obedience to God: Moses, Michael, and Enoch.

 

'I tell you the Lord will come with his holy ones in their tens of thousands, to pronounce judgment on all humanity and to sentence the godless for all the godless things they have done, and for all the defiant things said against him by goodness sinners.' 

Jude's quote is from the original Aramaic translation of 1 Enoch 1:9.   The works of 1 and 2 Enoch must have been very popular in the 1st century AD, multiple fragments of copies of  Enoch were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  This passage is a vision of Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of the Hosts of the Heavenly armies coming in judgment upon the ungodly who have abused his Name and to bring justice to the righteous found in Daniel 7:10 in Daniel's vision of the Judgment seat of God in the heavenly throne room:  A stream of fire poured out, issuing from his presence.  A thousand thousand waited on him, ten thousand times then thousand stood before him.  The court was in session and the books lay open.  It is the fate that awaits all of us, the righteous and the unrighteous, to stand in judgment before the throne of God.

 

They are mischief-makers, grumblers governed only by heir own desires with mouths full of boastful talk, ready to flatter others for gain. Jude describes the false teachers with three adjectives:

  1. mischief-makers
  2. grumblers
  3. boasters

Their entire motivation is for personal gain

 

In verses 17-23 Jude turns from denouncing the false teachers to reminding the faithful about the sound teaching which the Apostles have passed on to them.

Jude 17-19: But remember, my dear (beloved) friends, what the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.  At the final point of time, they told you, 'there will be mockers who follow nothing but their own godless desires.'  It is they who cause division, who live according to nature and do not possess the Spirit.

 

Question: What is the reminder/warning that Jude gives in verses 17-19?

Answer: He reminds his beloved friends that the Apostles warned this time would come when false teachers would try to deceive the faithful.  This passage does not seem to be a direct quote or at least a quote from any surviving source but it is reminiscent of St. Peter's warning to the universal Church in 2 Peter 3:2-3; St. Paul's warning to the Christians of Ephesus and Jesus' warning to His disciples:

ˇ        St. Peter in 2 Peter 3:2-3: Remember what was said in the past by the holy prophets and the command of the Lord and Savior given by your Apostles.  First of all, do not forget that in the final days there will come sarcastic scoffers whose life is ruled by their passions.

 

ˇ        St. Paul in Acts 20:28-30: Be on your guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you the guardians, to feed the Church of God which he bought with the blood of his own Son.  I know quite well that when I have gone fierce wolves will invade you and will have no mercy on the flock.  Even from your own ranks there will be men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their lips to induce the disciples to follow them.

 

ˇ        Jesus in Mark 13:21-23: And if anyone says to you then, 'Look, here is the Christ' or, 'Look, he is there,' do not believe it; for the false Christ's and false prophets will arise and produce signs and portents to deceive the elect, if that were possible. You, therefore, must be on your guard.  I have given you full warning.

[also see 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5].

 

Question: What is it that Jude says motivates these false teachers to cause division in the faith community?

Answer: They do not possess the life of the Holy Spirit. They are "natural" as opposed to "spiritual."  Their concerns are things of the flesh, material and earthly desires.

 

Please read Jude 20-25: The Duty of the Faithful and Jude's Solemn Closing

Jude 20-23: But you, my dear (beloved) friends, must build yourselves up on the foundation of your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life.  To some you must be compassionate because they are wavering; others you must save by snatching them from the fire; to others again you must be compassionate but wary, hating even the tunic stained by their bodies.

 

Jude writes that as Christians we must build yourselves up on the foundation of your most holy faith,

The foundation of our faith was firmly established in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the Church that Jesus established and entrusted to His Apostles.  It is Mother Church who carefully safeguards that deposit of faith handed on by Jesus to His Apostles and from them to the first bishops of the Church and from them, down through the generations of the faithful: The Church, 'the pillar and bulwark of the truth,' faithfully guards 'the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.'  She guards the memory of Christ's words' it is she who from generation to generation hands on the apostles' confession of faith.  As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church # 171

 

Jude addressed the 3 Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity in verses 20-21 in connection with the blessings of prayer, love and mercy:

  1. praying in the Holy Spirit
  2. keep yourselves within the love of God
  3. wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

Jude addresses 3 different degrees of Christians who have lapsed in their faith and gives sound advice on how to deal with them within the community.  He classifies them as:

1.      Those who are wavering to whom compassion must be shown

2.      Those who are deep into sin but still have a chance to be saved: "snatched from the fire"

3.      Those who are completely lost in their apostasy, one must be compassionate but careful not to be tainted by their destructive influence. 

It is important to note that Jude councils Christians not to withdraw their love from the unrepentant false teacher or Christian brother, but to offer compassion and to hate the sin but love the sinner.  St. Augustine taught, It is a characteristic of the perfect not to hate anything in sinners other than their sins; and to love those people themselves. [Contra Adimantum, 17;5].

 

In commenting on the "stained tunics" of the false teachers in verse 23, St. Clement of Alexandria writes: The spotted tunic of the soul is a spirit which has been corrupted by worldly lusts. The Greek theologian Maximus [circa 580-622] compared the stains on a garment to sin on the soul: What is meant by 'a cloak stained by corrupted flesh'? This is said of those who have a life stained by the lusts of the flesh.  We all have clothes which bear the marks of our life, whether we are righteous or not.  The person who has a clean cloak is one who leads a pure life, whereas the one who has a soiled one has got mixed up with evil deeds.  Or a cloak may be soiled by the flesh if the latter is formed in its conscience by the memory of those evil deeds which spring from the flesh and which still work on the soul.  Just as the Spirit can make a cloak for the soul out of the virtues which come from the principle of incorruptibility, so by analogy the flesh can produce an unclean and soiled cloak from the lusts which belong to it. Maximus, Catena

 

Jude 24-25: To him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and joyful, to the only God and our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, authority and power, before all ages, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

Jude ends his letter with a triumphant hymn of glory in this stirring doxology.  It is addressed to "Him who can keep us from falling." Beginning with Adam, every champion in the Old Testament, with very few exceptions, experienced his own fall from grace.  Adam in the garden of Eden, Noah in his drunkenness and resulting debasement; Abraham for his cowardliness in calling his wife his sister; Israel in her sin of the Golden Calf; the adultery of King David and the woman Bathsheba that escalated from lust to murder; the list goes on.  And yet we have the assurance that God can not only keep us from falling but He can pick us up and forgive us after we fall if we only have the faith and humility to come to Him in repentance in the sacrament He has given us for just this purpose. And when we have been forgiven our sins through the atoning work of the blood of His Son we can come into His presence and share a meal at His table and He will raise us up to eternal life.

 

In this letter Jude has invoked each of the 3 divine persons of the Most Holy Trinity in verses 20-21.  In the conclusion of his letter he urges us to pray in the Holy Spirit and in his lovely doxology announces the mystery of the Godhead when he acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and God: to the only God, our Savor, through Jesus Christ our Lord.    Jude closes by giving a 4 part tribute to the One True God:

 

In this verse Jude gives equal glory to the Father and the Son in all things and for all time and eternity by saying that glory, majesty, dominion and power should be attributed to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ, refuting those who teach falsely that the Son is inferior to the Father.

 

St. Hilary of Arles approved of Jude's farewell when he wrote: Praise is given to God alone, for he is the only one who deserves our worship.  He is our Savior, because 'he has saved his people from their sins.'  Glory is ascribed to him because he is the victor in every battle, majesty, because the praise of the heavenly virtues is so great. Dominion, because he rules over all he has made; and authority, because he has the power to destroy or to set free everything in creation.  He exists from the beginning, in the present and forever!

 

Expressing the hope of our promised destiny in eternity Jude closes with the assurance that, Jesus Christ the Son does not have his beginning at one point in time but He has been present from all ages, is here now and will be here tomorrow and will be here forever as Jude closes with the words: before all ages, now and for ever. Amen!

 

Saint Jude, pray for us!

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2002, revised 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.