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|New Testament manuscripts|
The letter of Jude was one of the disputed books of the Canon. Although its canonical status was contested, its authenticity was never doubted by the Early Church. The links between the Epistle and 2 Peter, its use of the Apocryphal Books, and its brevity raised concern. It is one of the shortest books in the Bible, being only 25 verses long.
Jude urges his readers to defend the deposit of Christ's doctrine that had been closed by the time he wrote his epistle, and to remember the words of the apostles spoken somewhat before. He uses language similar to the second epistle of Peter to answer concerns that the Lord seemed to tarry: "How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts..."
Jude then asks the reader to recall how even after the Lord saved his people out of the land of Egypt, he did not hesitate to destroy those who fell into unbelief, much as he punished the angels who fell from their original exalted status.
Jude quotes directly from the book of Enoch, part of the scripture of the Ethiopian and Eritrean churches but rejected by other churches. He cites Enoch's prophecy that the Lord would come with many thousands of his saints to render judgement on the whole world. He also paraphrases an incident in a text that has been lost about Satan and Michael quarrelling over the body of Moses.
The Epistle of Jude is held as canonical in the Christian Church. Although some scholars consider the letter a pseudonymous work written between the end of the 1st century and the first quarter of the 2nd century, arguing from the references to the apostles, tradition; and the book's competent Greek style, conservative scholars date it between 66 to 90.
"More remarkable is the evidence that by the end of the second century Jude was widely accepted as canonical." Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and the Muratorian canon considered the letter canonical. The first historical record of doubts as to authorship are found in the writings of Origen of Alexandria, who spoke of the doubts held by some—albeit not him. Eusebius classified it with the "disputed writings, the antilegomena." The letter was eventually accepted as part of the Canon by the Church Fathers such as Athanasius and the Synods of Laodicea (c. 363) and Carthage (397).
The Epistle title is written as follows: "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James" (NRSV). There is a dispute as to whether "brother" means someone who has the same father and mother, or a half-brother or cousin or more distant familial relationship. This dispute over the true meaning of "brother" grew as the doctrine of the Virgin Birth evolved.
The debate has continued over the author's identity as the apostle, the brother of Jesus, both, or neither. Some scholars have argued that since the author of that letter has not identified himself as an apostle and actually refers to the apostles as a third party, he cannot be identified with the Jude who is listed as one of the Twelve. Others have drawn the opposite conclusion, i.e., that as an apostle, he would not have made such a claim on his own behalf. The many Judes, named in the gospels and among the relatives of Jesus, and his relationship to James the Just called the brother of Jesus has caused much confusion. Not a lot is known of Jude, which would explain the apparent need to identify him by reference to his better-known brother. It is agreed that he is not the Jude who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot.
The Epistle of Jude is a brief book of only a single chapter with 25 verses. It was composed as an encyclical letter—that is, one not directed to the members of one church in particular, but intended rather to be circulated and read in all churches. The form, as opposed to the earlier letters of Paul, suggests that the author knew Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians or even that the Pauline epistles had already been collected and were circulating when the text was written.
The wording and syntax of this epistle in its original Greek demonstrates that the author was capable and fluent. The epistle is addressed to Christians in general, and it warns them about the doctrine of certain errant teachers to whom they were exposed. Examples of heterodox opinions that were circulating in the early 2nd century include Docetism, Marcionism, and Gnosticism.
The epistle's style is combative, impassioned, and rushed. Many examples of evildoers and warnings about their fates are given in rapid succession. The epithets contained in this writing are considered to be some of the strongest found in the New Testament.
The epistle concludes with a doxology, which is considered to be one of the highest in quality contained in the Bible.
Part of Jude is very similar to 2 Peter (mainly 2 Peter chapter 2), so much so that most scholars agree that there is a dependence between the two; that either one letter used the other directly, or they both drew on a common source.
Because this epistle is much shorter than 2 Peter, and due to various stylistic details, some writers consider that Jude was the source for the similar passages of 2 Peter. However other writers, noting that Jude 18 quotes 2 Peter 3:3 as past tense, consider that Jude came after 2 Peter.
Some scholars who consider Jude to predate 2 Peter note that the latter appears to quote the former but excise reference to the non-canonical Enoch.
The Epistle of Jude references at least two other books, with one being non-canonical in all churches and the other non-canonical in most churches.
The Book of Enoch is not considered canonical by most churches, although it is by the Ethiopian Orthodox church. According to Western scholars the older sections of the Book of Enoch (mainly in the Book of the Watchers) date from about 300 BC and the latest part (Book of Parables) probably was composed at the end of 1st century BC. It is generally accepted by scholars that the author of the Epistle of Jude was familiar with the Book of Enoch and was influenced by it in thought and diction. Jude 1:14–15 quotes 1Enoch 1:9 which is part of the pseudepigrapha and is also part of the Dead Sea Scrolls [4Q Enoch (4Q204[4QENAR]) COL I 16–18].
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Online translations of the Epistle of Jude:
Epistle of Jude
Books of the Bible