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by Donald C. Fleming
It is generally believed that the writer of this letter was Jude (or Judas), one of the brothers of Jesus (Mark 6:3). His older brother was James, a leading man in the Jerusalem church (Jude 1:0; cf. Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13). Like James he was not a believer during the time of Jesus’ public ministry (John 7:3-5), but he was among the disciples at the time of Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:11-14). It is believed that the resurrection had an impact on Jesus’ brothers that helped turn them from unbelief to faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:4-7).
Jude seems to have later become a respected teacher in the church, though his letter does not indicate the region where he worked or the people whom he addressed. Nevertheless, the purpose of his letter is clear. He wrote to oppose a kind of false teaching that was doing great damage to Christianity through encouraging immoral behaviour (Jude 1:3-4).
The false teaching that Jude opposed was widespread during the second half of the first century. It was part of a developing Gnosticism (from the Greek gnosis, meaning ‘knowledge’; see background notes to 1 John). The teaching claimed that self-control was not necessary for those who possessed a higher knowledge of spiritual things. In fact, immoral behaviour might even be a sign of spiritual maturity, as if people found true freedom through their higher knowledge. Jude pronounced God’s certain punishment on those who taught and practised such a religion.
Parts of the letter of Jude are similar to parts of 2 Peter, particularly in the examples and illustrations that are used. The two writers opposed similar errors, and one may have borrowed from the other’s letter. Alternatively, both may have used material that had become a widely accepted standard in dealing with the false teaching of the time.
the Second Week of Advent