THE EPISTLE OF JUDE
Jude or Judas, as our new version makes his name, declares himself to be the brother of James; and by that very fact he seems to intimate that he has no independent standing as an apostle. If Jude had been an apostle, it would seem as if he would have so announced himself in the address of his Epistle, and have gained whatever of authority such an announcement might give. On the other hand, he seems to distinguish himself from the apostles when he urges those to whom he writes to remember the words that were spoken to them by the apostles of our Lord, while Peter says: "Remember the words that were spoken unto you by us, the apostles of the Lord." Jude does not class himself among the apostles. He calls himself simply Jude, the brother of James.
This James cannot be James the greater. John, so far as we know, is his only brother. This James must have been the James who wrote the Epistle; and this James was not an apostle at all, but was a brother of our Lord, a later son of the Virgin, half-brother, so to speak, of Jesus, one of those who up to the time of the Saviour's resurrection had remained unbelieving. For that reason he could not be chosen as an apostle, for an apostle needed to be one who had been an eyewitness of the wonderful works of Jesus from the beginning; and the brethren of Jesus, who did not constantly accompany him during his earthly life, but rather sundered themselves from him, were not witnesses of all the events of that life, and therefore were not so fit persons to be entrusted with the apostolate.
Jude, like James, then, was one of those halfbrothers of Jesus who, though unbelieving during most of our Saviour's life here upon the earth, were converted after the resurrection. Jesus appeared to James in the fulness of a brother's love, convinced him of his error, and brought him to repentance and faith. We do not know that there was any special appearance of the risen Lord to Jude. He may have been one of those five hundred brethren to whom our Lord revealed himself all " at once." At any rate, he became a convert after Jesus' resurrection; and we find him with the other brethren of our Lord, and with the women, and with the apostles, in that upper chamber, where they prayed for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the day of Pentecost.
We know very little with regard to the life of Jude. It is told us that two of his grandsons were apprehended by Domitian; and being brought before him, were accused of being related to Jesus, the Christ: but when Domitian, the emperor, saw that they were plain men, and, on questioning them, found that the kingdom which they intended to set up was not a temporal but purely a spiritual kingdom, it is said that he dismissed them, and stayed the persecution that had begun.
What became of Jude himself we hardly know. Tradition relates that he preached to the Jews in Palestine and in Egypt; and if we are asked to say to what particular portion of the Christian church this letter of Jude was addressed, we may say that it was probably addressed to Jewish Christians in Palestine and in Egypt, for in those countries we find the first recognition of the Epistle. It would almost seem as if Peter and Jude had consented together with regard to the portions of the Christian church which they would address—Peter writing to the Jewish Christians of the Dispersion in Asia Minor, while Jude wrote to the Jewish Christians in Palestine and Egypt. The date of the Epistle must have been in the very latest period of the Apostolic age—that is, just before the destruction of Jerusalem—for Jude speaks as if the apostolic preaching were a thing of the past; " Remember the words that were spoken to you by the apostles," he says, as if some of the apostles had already fallen asleep, and their ministry had come to its close.
And yet, while the Epistle of Jude must have been written very late, it cannot have been written after the destruction of Jerusalem, because there are certain evidences that Peter had read this Epistle and had received some special influence from it. It therefore must have been written some time before Peter's death; and, moreover, there is no reference whatever in it to the destruction of Jerusalem, as there most certainly would have been if Jerusalem had been destroyed.
The Epistle reminds its readers of the various warnings and judgments of God; if Jerusalem had recently fallen, Jude would certainly have mentioned it as the most striking evidence that God's justice, although long delayed, will certainly be executed. We must, therefore, put the date of the Epistle somewhere about the years 64 to 66. Peter suffered martyrdom probably in 68. We must put the date of the Epistle a few years before that. And it is before the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in the year 70. Yet it is at the very close of the Apostolic age, after many of the apostles had ceased to labor, so that this date 64 to 66 is as probable a date as any that can be assigned.
There is a striking resemblance between the Epistle of Jude and the second chapter of the Second Epistle of Peter. Students of the New Testament have marked this resemblance, and have been puzzled by it. The writers of these two Epistles must have been in communication with each other; one of these two had read the work of the other, had been strongly influenced by it, and had actually taken from it some of its thoughts and expressions.
The question as to priority is interesting. Who was the original, and who was the transcriber? It appears that Jude was the original; for there is a certain terseness, vigor, and coherence about the Epistle of Jude which marks it as an original. No one can read the Epistle of Jude without feeling that it is a unit, that it is the work of one man.
On the other hand, when you read the Second Epistle of Peter, you find that the second chapter of Peter is not in Peter's ordinary style; that there are expressions which are diverse from Peter's manner; and, when you compare those divergent expressions with the Epistle of Jude, you find that, in the Epistle of Jude, some of them are there, almost word for word. I do not mean to say that the whole Epistle of Jude has been transcribed by Peter; but the general course of Jude's thought is adopted by Peter, and many of the forms of expression are adopted also.
There is another reason why we should be led to think that Peter was the transcriber and not Jude, viz.: That the Epistle of Peter is the longer, and the Epistle of Jude is the briefer. It is the big fish that eat up the little fish, and not vice versa. It was easier for Peter to take Jude and to incorporate what Jude had written than it was for Jude to take a piece out of Peter, and make his whole Epistle out of that.
You find, moreover, that the striking expressions of Jude are often curtailed. Peter takes them in condensed form. Peter puts them in his own way. When he came to things in Jude which were difficult to understand, expressions that were very uncommon, he simply omitted them, and contented himself with taking the substance of Jude's thought. I explain this curious phenomenon, just as I explain the taking from the Old Testament by the New Testament writers of manifold quotations, without any allusion whatever to the place from which they were taken. You do not blame Paul as he writes the Epistle to the Romans, and, in the second chapter, quotes verse after verse from the Old Testament Scriptures, without any allusion to the parts of the Old Testament Scripture from which they are taken. The inspiring Spirit who directed the mind of Paul had a perfect right to lead Paul's mind to the acceptance and reiteration of truth that, under the influence of that same Spirit, had been spoken before.
Here were Jude and Peter writing to Jewish Christians, and yet writing to Jewish Christians in different regions—Peter writing to Jewish Christians in Asia Minor, Jude writing to Jewish Christians in Palestine and Egypt. It is possible that there was not only communication, but also consultation, between them. Jude may even have had Peter for an amanuensis, and Peter may have taken from Jude's dictation what suited his purpose, may have incorporated it in his own Epistle, and then may have sent it out to Jewish Christians in another part of the earth. In the Old Testament we have a similar appropriation in Micah of a prophecy previously uttered by Isaiah. I see no reason why such a theory as this should not be perfectly consistent with our idea of inspiration. The real author of the Scripture is not Jude, nor Peter, but the Spirit of God; and the Spirit of God has a right to repeat his utterances by whomsoever he will.
The design of the Epistle of Jude is to oppose what we may call antinomian Gnosticism. By Gnosticism I mean the pretense that religion consists mainly in speculative belief, and the corresponding tendency to make mere outward profession the essential thing. Gnosticism claims, moreover, that those who have professed Christianity and are outwardly connected with the church are in no danger of sin and may do what they will. There was the real spirit of licentiousness and the tendency to all manner of sensuality, while at the same time there was an utter disregard of the appointed authorities of the Christian church. The design of the Epistle is to oppose these tendencies, which we find treated in other Epistles of the New Testament, and which seem to have been particularly rife in the churches to which Peter and Jude wrote.
Jude treats his subject in a very orderly way. After
the introduction, in which he speaks of Christians as the peculiar possession of the Lord Jesus Christ, sanctified by God, the Father, and kept for our Lord up to the time of his coming, he urges them to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Notice the peculiar form of statement. This faith is something that can be separated from all the vagaries and speculations of men. It is a wellknown and an easily recognized doctrine of Christ. It is given once for all; it is not to be altered, or added to, or superseded; it is given to all the saints as their common property and possession. It is not an esoteric doctrine, as the false teachers claimed. These false teachers prided themselves upon knowledge that is the possession of the few. They fancied that they alone had the key to the truth, and they excluded from the inner circle of intimacy with God the great mass of the Christian membership. They were self-sufficient and arrogant.
The Epistle sets over against all this narrow pretense of a peculiar doctrine the one faith delivered once for all to all the saints, as the common property and possession of all who love our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The church is to contend constantly for this faith against the false teachers who set up something beyond the common truth that belongs to the Christian church.
In the second part of his Epistle Jude speaks of the punishment that comes to those who resist the truth and are unfaithful to the word of God. Three sorts of sin are spoken of as punishable and three illustrations are given of their punishment. There is, first, the sin of unbelief. God brought Israel out of Egypt, and yet, when Israel disbelieved, God destroyed them in the wilderness. The second is the sin of pride. The angels that kept not their first estate God punished by banishing them from heaven and by keeping them in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. The last of all is the sin of sensuality, and of this Sodom and Gomorrah are the example.
Here are three distinct and terrible instances of punishment brought upon persistent iniquity. And now there are three other forms of sin that are mentioned one after another. First, the way of Cain: that is, the way of self-righteousness, unwillingness to accept of God's appointed sacrifice; then, the way of Balaam: that is, the way of avarice, the seeking of earthly good and making our relations to God subordinate to what we can get from them in the way of advantage to ourselves; and then, last of all, there is the way of Korah, the way of pride and rebellion, which are immediately followed by the downfall of destruction. And now, after having thus set before his readers the punishment of those who are rebellious and the character of those thus treated, he comes to what we may call the remedy; and in the seventeenth verse he begins to tell us of what we are to do with regard to this matter. The first thing we are to do is to remember the word of God that has been left us in order to keep us from this transgression and rebellion. Then, secondly, we are to continue in love and faith and prayer, Christian graces and virtues which are antidotes to all evil. Thirdly, we are to bring back those who have gone astray, treating them in different ways according to their peculiar
necessities. Some of them are so involved in iniquity that, in order to save them, we must run some risk ourselves. We must pluck them like brands from the burning, even at the risk of our own burning; others are to be treated more gently and so brought back to Christ.
All this is an inculcation of faithful watch-care and discipline on the part of the Christian church. The Epistle is not speaking of those who are outwardly ungodly, but rather of those who have already professed the religion of Christ, and are in danger of being led astray by false teachers, to the harm of the Christian church and the ruin of their own souls. Last of all, there comes the magnificent exhortation and doxology with which the Epistle closes. It is one of the noblest specimens of eloquence and solemn grandeur in the whole book of God.
There are one or two things in this Epistle of Jude, in addition to those which I have mentioned, which challenge attention at the very outset, and which have constituted an obstacle to the reception of the book as authentic and inspired. There is an apparent quotation from an Apocryphal writing, the book of Enoch. In the early Jewish times a circle of tradition gathered itself around the name of Enoch, the patriarch who walked with God, and was not, because God took him. Enoch came to be regarded not only as a representative of Old Testament piety, but as a representative also of Old Testament science. It was said that Enoch was an astronomer, and that he taught the movements of the heavenly bodies to the men of his time. It was said that he preached not only to man, but also to angels. There comes down to us from remote antiquity a book which purports to be the book of Enoch. Those who have investigated it most fully, and who know most about it, describe it as a delirious dream. I have tried to read it. I doubt whether any one of you could read it through. It is a rhapsody without beginning, middle, or end; it is a series of reflections or meditations upon Old Testament truths by a mind which has in it all the instincts of speculation, but which is bound down by very few ties to solid fact. In it there are a few traces of truth, a few sagacious conjectures with regard to the meaning of Old Testament Scripture; but the most of it is vague, transcendental, and worthless dreaming with regard to Old Testament characters and God's method of dealing with the world.
Did Jude actually quote from that Apocryphal book? If Jude did quote from it, does he sanction that Apocryphal writing? Could he have quoted from a book that was not the word of God and thereby have given to it his sanction? Was not this a mistake, inconsistent with the real inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, in Jude's writing? These questions presented themselves very early to the Christian Fathers, and led some of them to throw out the book of Jude from its place in the canon.
Two or three things may be said in regard to this. In the first place, we do not certainly know that this book of Enoch was in existence when Jude, the writer of the Epistle, wrote. In fact, one of the most learned of the modern German investigators, one who I think has as much weight of argument upon his side as any one who has written with regard to this matter, declares that this book of Enoch was not written until about 132 after Christ, long after Jude's time. Jude, therefore, does not quote from the book of Enoch at all. Jude is quoting a tradition which had come down through many successive mouths from very early times; this tradition was a true tradition; and, in quoting it, the Holy Spirit vouches for its truth. That may be the proper explanation. Jude may be quoting, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, a tradition which had come down from early times, and to which he gives the sanction of inspiration.
The words quoted begin with this sentence: "The Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment upon the ungodly." The whole quotation gives us nothing new. It is only what in substance is vouched for in other parts of the New Testament and of the Old Testament as well; so that we cannot say, even if Jude quoted from the book of Enoch, that he has taken from that book of Enoch anything which was false or even anything which had not been revealed before. He may have quoted it just as Paul quoted from Epimenides, Aratus, and Menander, the Greek poets. Paul mentioned Jannes and Jambres. Where did Paul get them? Not from the Old Testament, but from some floating tradition. But by so quoting the floating Jewish tradition, he gives the sanction of inspiration to the truth of that tradition to just that extent. So, if Jude quoted from a book of Enoch that existed before his time, he only took from that book of Enoch the germ of truth that it contained and gave the sanction of inspiration to that. So, from whatever point of view we regard it, I do not think we are warranted in maintaining that Jude gives his sanction to an Apocryphal book. He may give his sanction to some statement in that Apocryphal book if that book existed at his time; but the most probable conclusion is that the book did not exist at his time, but was written after his time, and that he quotes simply a floating oral tradition and gives to that oral tradition the sanction of inspiration.
In this reserve which Jude shows in his quotation we see the guidance of inspiration. There are a thousand statements in the book of Enoch which, if Jude had quoted them and given his sanction to them, would have given us almost conclusive proof that his Epistle was not canonical, and that the Holy Spirit had not indited it; but Jude takes nothing that is false, nothing that is not vouched for substantially by other portions of the Scripture. He is prevented from taking material that is not suited to his purpose. He is prevented from taking anything that would cast suspicion upon his general narrative.
A final objection to this Epistle is its tone of continuous invective. The second chapter of Peter's Second Epistle is the nearest parallel in the New Testament, and we have seen reason to believe that here Peter copied from Jude. Jesus' own denunciation of the Pharisees before his death may have served as a model both for Jude and for Peter. We must remember that God denounces sin, and that he commands his ministers, under some circumstances, to denounce it. Jude's fearful arraignment of wilful and persistent iniquity is no objection to its inspiration, but rather a proof. It is a solemn, scorching, withering representation of sin, and of God's just judgment against it. If we consider the various sins that Jude reprobates, we shall see that this Epistle is not without its value today. There is the same unbelief, the same pride, the same sensuality, the same avarice, the same insubordination, the same disregard of authority to-day as in the times when Jude wrote; and these scathing denunciations and threatenings are needed to-day as warnings to watch and to repent.
How beautiful it is that, in connection with these denunciations, there comes in the most sublime doxology that is to be found in the whole New Testament! Can there be anything more solemn, more glorious than those words with which Jude closes? "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory, majesty, dominion, and power through Jesus Christ forever and ever. Amen." It is like Jesus' "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida!" followed immediately by his " Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Jude's sublime utterance of praise is called forth by the judgments of God. There is a refuge from sin and death in God our Saviour. But God also judges and punishes iniquity, and his holiness is a matter of praise to the saints as well as his love. He will not look with favor upon iniquity. Just and true are thy ways, O thou King of saints! That seems to be the spirit of the Epistle of Jude.