1 Nov 2008

Out Loud Musings On Jude

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Apocrypha, Church History, Exegesis, Hermeneutics, Jude


Out loud Musings on Jude

Good commentaries on Jude are few and far between. Richard Bauckham’s in the Word Biblical series is the best I have seen. Of course there are numerous mediocre commentaries but the good ones are a little rarer to find. There are a number of helpful articles on Jude out there too.

There are a number of issues that surround this small letter. Significant issues in fact. I have come to the conclusion, based both on the actual character of the work and v. 17 that the readers of Jude are second or third generation folk in the Christian faith. Thus this book dates probably after A.D. 80 and perhaps later. The content of the book reflects, in my view, the beginning of what became the gnostic heresy (Kummel calls it “libertine-Gnostic[ism], Intro to the NT, p. 426). The mention of Cain is interesting in light of the trend of some Gnostics that turned Cain into a hero (they were called “Cainites”). But we must be careful of reading things back into the text yet if Jude is late first century then there is a connection with the teachers that Ignatius is concerned about too.

Keeping firmly grounded in the historical context helps us not to abuse v.3 and make it a proof text on instrumental music. Jude is concerned about the heart of the faith. Often we overlook the marvelous “envelope” that clothes the letter. The front of the envelope is v.1b in the phrase “kept by Jesus Christ”. The back of the envelope is the doxology in vv. 24-25 … “to him who is able to KEEP you from falling …” It is indicative perhaps of an imbalance when we can recite v. 3 in our sleep and have never heard of v.1b or 24-25.

Three big “critical” issues surround Jude. The first one is the relationship to 2 Peter 2. If you have never done this xerox 2 Pt 2 and Jude and lay them side by side. You are in for an interesting read. Clearly somebody “used” somebody here. Most today believe it was 2 Pt that used Jude.

The other two issues regard Jude’s use of the Assumption of Moses and First Enoch. These are not books most will find in the table of contents of their Bible’s. In fact most today simply have never heard of them … even though at one time they were some what popular among Christians.

Now if it is gnosticism that is the ultimate root of the problem in Jude then v.9 makes some sense. It was the “body” that Michael disputed with Satan about. This is important. Gnostics believed the body (human flesh) was worthless and redemption for them was the ultimate shedding of flesh/body. But Jude shows it was not the SPIRIT of Moses that was in dispute but the BODY of Moses (cf Rom 8.23. Ironically most Evangelicals are closer to gnosticism than biblical Christianity on this point). God cared about the body of Moses.

Themes from First Enoch under-gird the entire epistle not simply v.14. Some folks have a really difficult time with Jude quoting First Enoch. And there are some issues that it raises. One person I read tried to down play the issue by pointing out that Paul also quoted Greek poets. This is shallow thinking. Paul does quote the poets. However Paul does not say that the poets “prophesied” about the current situation of a congregation. Therein lies the issue.

Jude first refers to Enoch though in v.4. Jude reads, “For certain men whose condemnation was WRITTEN ABOUT long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign Lord.”

Jude indicates here that there is a “written” source for discussing the false teachers. First Enoch 67.10, which in context is talking about some evil men, says “the judgment shall come upon them, because they believe in the debauchery of their bodies and deny the spirit of the Lord.”

Interestingly enough v.12 mentions Michael, which comes up soon in Jude too. Jude finds this text and applies it to his own situation. Later he not only refers to Enoch but directly quotes the text in v.14. “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men, ‘See the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone and to convict all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

First Enoch 1.9f reads: “Behold he {the Lord} will arrive with ten million of the holy ones in order to execute judgment upon all. He will destroy the wicked ones and censure all flesh on account of everything they have done, that which the sinner and the wicked ones committed against him.”

I have not made up my mind about the significance of Jude’s use of Enoch. His application of the book to the beginnings of the gnostic controversy is interesting and revealing. This little book challenges us to really understand the nature of our own faith. The faith that was delivered “once” to the “saints” is Jewish in orientation. It was born, bred and matured in a Jewish matrix. We need to embrace the full wealth of that heritage. Probably the biggest reorientation that will occur if this takes place is our conception of “spirituality.” Greek philosophy and Gnosticism defined spirituality as “immateriality.” Such a false belief led to two extremes in the early church that remains with us to this very day:

1) If spirituality is concerned only with “spiritual things” or “immaterial things” (souls) then what is done in the body does not matter. There were Gnostics that were both ascetics and some that were libertine … two sides of the same coin. Both deny the value of the material or see it as tainted and worthless … to be shed because it has no “eternal” value. This Jude rejects explicitly.

2) The historic church, while rejecting Gnosticism, has failed to screen out all the stuff that makes it possible. Thus monasticism and the attendant denial of “things” is at the most fundamental level a rejection or a radical downplaying of the spirituality of the material. Contemporary Christians still buy into this when they assume they are doing something spiritual by praying but not by feeding the poor.

Jude embraces the full wealth of the Jewish heritage of Christianity. He does it by embracing the doctrine of creation (i.e. remember it was the BODY of Moses that Michael was after). He also does this by using Jewish tradition … even outside the canonical Hebrew Bible to address his readers.

May we also embrace our Jewish heritage …

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

12 Responses to “Out Loud Musings On Jude”

  1. Steve Says:

    There is a paradox about the nature of the spiritual. On the one hand it is contrasted with the material. On the other hand, when we talk about being spiritual, it is often accompanied by descriptions of feeling. Sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and the tactile. All of these have a material referent. The material and spiritual cannot be separated, can they?

    From the heresiarchs such as Irenaeus and Hippolytus,one gets the impression that the Christian faith grew and branched out into quite a multitude of sects by their time, the late 2nd century. There were various types that fit the category we’ve made called gnosticism and still yet other types, like the Montanists, who veiled their women. One of them, Tertullian said “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?”, following one of the themes of your post.

    This flowering and branching of Christianity is what happens when there is no managing elite or government to control it. Its kinda like what has happened to Christianity since the Reformation. Thank you God. And please help us turn up a copy of the Assumption of Moses.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Nicely done.

    You mention comparing 2 Peter 2 with Jude. I suggest specifically comparing 1 Peter 3:18-20; 2 Peter 2:4-9 and Jude 6 & 7. Who do you think the spirits in prison are in 1 Peter 3? And did Jesus go preach to them or did he proclaim his victory by his resurrected body to them?

    Just a few thoughts to mull over, not necessarily expecting an answer…

    As always I enjoy your posts. Hope you’re doing well.

    Russ – TX

  3. mattdabbs Says:

    Bobby,

    If Jude is from 80 AD and 2 Peter borrowed from Jude…then, well…you know 😉

    As far as 1 Peter 3 goes it goes back to the book of Enoch where Enoch says that the disobedient spirits in the days of Noah were locked up. These are not the souls of men. These are evil spirits to whom Christ went and proclaimed the victory of the resurrection to! I think that is pretty awesome myself.

  4. preacherman Says:

    Intersting.
    I have learned much by this post and discussion. I am looking forward to reading more of what other have to say about Jude.

  5. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Matt,

    There are critical problems between 2 Pt and Jude as you know. Second Peter had a hard time getting into the canon. Eusebius outright rejects the book, “the so-called second Epistle {of Peter} we have not received as canonical, but nevertheless it has appeared useful to many, and has been studied with the other scriptures” (H.E. 3.3.1). It is not until after Athanasius that it becomes generally accepted.

    As for relation to Jude even the conservative scholars Carson, Moo & Morris say “Most of Jude is included in 2 Peter, no less than nineteen of his twenty-five verses” are represented in 2 Pt (Intro to NT, p. 437)

    Who the “Fathers” refers to in 3.4 is a telling indicator. Is this the Patriarchs or the Apostles?

    Well these are exciting issues for some …

    Shalom,
    Bobby V

  6. Matthew Says:

    This is a great examination of Jude. Thank you.

  7. Joshua L. Pappas Says:

    Engaging. —JLP

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Hi again Bobby.

    The real issue, ISTM, is one of date and author.

    2Peter and Jude are in the canon because they are in the canon. By definition.

    But, were they really written by Jude and Peter?

    Even Bruce’s book on the canon makes it pretty clear that 2 Peter was VERY unknown for a long time. If Peter wrote it, why? Where was it hiding?

    Similar thing for Jude. Who wrote it?

    Then you have the “borrowing” angle. Would an “inspired” writer borrow from another source? I thought God was indicating what should be written? Did God tell one of them to get a copy of the other book and re-write a lot of it?

    Then you have the “quoting from Enoch” issue. Bruce makes it very plain that some of these non-apocrypha-included books were quite popular among the early Christians.

    Regarding Enoch…My tentative conclusions:

    1. If 1 Enoch were written after Jude, then I don’t see any problems at all. 1 Enoch quotes from Jude and all is well. However, this is incredibly unlikely. 99.99% probability that 1 Enoch came first.

    2. If Jude came after 1 Enoch, I don’t really see any way that 1 Enoch could have accurately given the quote of Enoch seventh from Adam.

    3. If Jude came after 1 Enoch, it sure seems that Jude just got confused and thought that 1 Enoch WAS written by Enoch seventh from Adam.

    4. Wouldn’t this, according to usual Church of Christ thoughts on inerrancy, mean that Jude should not be viewed as inspired? In the canon, certainly since it is in the canon. But not really from God?

    5. What then would “really from God” mean or not mean?

    Lots of questions.

    GW

  9. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Gene,

    Glad to have your questions. My responses are not “set in stone” but I have thought about this issue at some length.

    Second Peter is one of the last books to be recognized as canonical. It took a LONG time for it to be accepted … this does not mean that some folks here and there did.

    It seems highly unlikely that Enoch is written after Jude. Twenty MSS of Enoch were discovered at Qumran. Enoch is clearly a composite work but … The Ethiopian Church has always regarded Enoch as canonical btw and many early Christians did as well.

    The question of an inspired writer quoting a non-inspired writer is not an issue for me in the slightest. Chronicles refers to nearly a dozen “sources” in what are basically biblical footnotes. Luke states he did ‘research’ (1.3) … would this mean every interview he did was of an inspired person? I think not. Was the Book of the Wars of the Lord inspired that Moses quotes? or the poets that Paul quotes or the numerous allusions to and even possibly outright quotations of other apocryphal literature? Jude’s use of 1 Enoch does not present a problem in that regard.

    The Bible never once indicates “how” God inspired a writer. Or what the process was. And there is nothing that says inspiration works the same in every case. The book of Jeremiah is clearly a “built up” book. One can trace how it came together in several different locations.

    Petrine authorship of 2 Peter is almost universally rejected by scholarship. Doesn’t mean the scholars are right but it is interesting that this consensus is not a liberal vs conservative fight. Richard Bauckham’s Word Biblical Commentary is probably the best in English and from a conservative argues that the work is written like a last will and testament in form (a genre that was quite common in Jewish antiquity) and was written by a disciple of Peter in his honor near the end of the first century. There are some very difficult texts in 2 Peter to explain IF in fact the writer was the apostle himself … 3.4 being one of them.

    I think it is indisputable that Jude does quote 1 Enoch and I think 2 Peter used Jude. There are places where it is literally word for word in Greek. And it is easier to explain the use of Jude in 2 Peter than the other way around. And I do believe that Jude was written by the Lord’s Brother … as does Bauckham.

    Perhaps the issue is not inspiration at all. The issue is the concept we have created. Innerrancy is a difficult concept to prove …

    Shalom,
    Bobby V

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for the reply, Bobby.

    I’m not as concerned with Jude quoting Enoch as I am with the “truthfulness” of the statement quoted.

    Enoch says that Enoch, 7th from Adam said “XYZ”. But this is written around 100-50BC, not thousands of years earlier.

    Jude appears to quote Enoch and gives no indication at all that the quote is anything other than something Enoch, 7th from Adam, said.

    So, Jude as “inspired” could easily know that Enoch said “XYZ” thousands of years earlier.

    But, that just means we are left with how the writer(s) of Enoch, not in the canon and not particularly viewed as “inspired” could possibly have known such a thing.

    It is one thing to quote a non-inspired writer and take the quote as being true. After all, an apostle could have quoted me as saying that “cleanliness is next to godliness” and have it end up in the NT. However, if an apostle quoted me in the NT as saying that Eve said “ABC”, then either non-inspired me somehow knew Eve said “ABC” (how?) or it appears to be a mistake…

    That, or I would wonder why 1 Enoch shouldn’t be a candidate for the canon today. 🙂

    GW

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