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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

- Jude

by Arthur Peake



THE author of this writing describes himself as “ Judas, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James.” He plainly implies ( Jude 1:17) that he was not an apostle, and he must be distinguished from Judas, the son of James ( Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13, where AV wrongly has “ brother of James,” cf. John 14:22, “ Judas, not Iscariot” ). If the epistle is genuine, he must be identified with the Judas mentioned, together with James, in Mark 6:3 ( cf. Matthew 13:55), as one of the “ brethren of the Lord.” He is not mentioned by name elsewhere in the NT, and the only reference to him in ecclesiastical history is in the story, told by Hegesippus, of the arrest, in the reign of Domitian, of the grandsons of Jude, “ said to have been the Lord’ s brother after the flesh” (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist., iii. 19 f.). We may, however, conclude that as one of the “ brethren of the Lord” he joined himself to the apostolic band before the Day of Pentecost ( Acts 1:14) and soon came to occupy a prominent place in the Church ( cf. 1 Corinthians 9:5).


1 . External Evidence. The epistle was accepted by Clement of Alexandria, who wrote a. commentary on it; by Origen, with some reserve; and by Tertullian, who, however, identified the author with the apostle Judas. It is included in the Muratorian Canon ( cf. p. 595 ) and in the Canon of the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397 ). On the other hand, it is classed by Eusebius among the “ disputed books,” and later writers generally show some hesitation in accepting it. This, however, was probably due to the fact that from the third century onwards the Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch, from which Jude freely borrows, were regarded with suspicion. In the time of Tertullian Jude’ s direct reference to Enoch ( Jude 1:9) was regarded as canonising Enoch; but in the time of Jerome, as he expressly says, it led many to reject Jude. We may conclude that the wide circulation and general acceptance of the epistle at the end of the second century, despite its brevity, its lack of positive teaching, and its admittedly non-apostolic authorship, is strong evidence of its authenticity.

2 . Internal evidence. It has been maintained that the epistle dates from the second century, and therefore cannot be the work of Jude, on the following grounds: ( a) That the author looks back on the apostolic age as distant and authoritative” ( Jude 1:3-4; Jude 1:17). But an examination of the passages in question (see below) shows that this interpretation of them is not necessary. ( b) That the false brethren denounced were “ second-century Gnostics” ( Jude 1:4; Jude 1:8; Jude 1:19). But so little is said of their teaching that there are not sufficient data to substantiate this view; further, 1 Cor. shows us that we need not look beyond the apostolic age for the existence within the Church of such evil-livers as are here denounced. ( c) That the author makes use of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses—“ two late Apocryphal books.” At one time great stress was laid on this fact, but as it is now generally held that both were written before or during the life-time of Jesus, this argument breaks down. It may, therefore, be asserted that whatever force there is in these arguments, it is not sufficient to outweigh the strong external evidence. On the other hand, that the author lays no claim to be regarded as an apostle, his humility in describing himself as “ brother of James” rather than as “ brother of the Lord,” and that, after the salutation, he makes no attempt to develop his identity with Jude (contrast 2 P.), render the view that the epistle is pseudonymous improbable.

Date and Destination.— ( 1 ) If the epistle is genuine, it can hardly have been written later than A.D. 80 . (Hegesippus’ s account of the grandsons of Jude implies that their arrest took place early in the reign of Domitian and that Jude was already dead.) On the other hand, it must have been written after Romans ( Jude 1:24 f.) and the Pastorals ( Jude 1:18), i.e. after A.D. 63 . ( 2 ) The vices of the false brethren are similar to those which we see from 1 Cor. to have existed in the Gentile churches, and we may conclude that the readers were Gentiles— a conclusion strengthened by the reference in Jude 1:3 to “ our common salvation”—“ he writes as a Hebrew Christian to Gentile Christians” (Chase). Though the salutation is general, it would seem that the epistle was addressed to some particular church, or churches, in which the author had some special interest and about which he had just received disquieting news ( Jude 1:3 f.). ( 3 ) We can gather nothing from the epistle as to the place of its composition. Chase suggests that it was written at Jerusalem about the same time as the Pastoral Epistles and addressed to the Church at Antioch in Syria. This is a plausible conjecture, but not more can be said. If the epistle belongs to the second century, we really know nothing either as to its author or its destination: of the various views suggested, that of Harnack (see Sanday, Inspiration, pp. 379– 382 ) is the most probable.

Relation to 2 Peter.— A comparison of the two epistles makes it plain that there is some literary connexion between them ( cf. especially Jude 1:4-16 and 2 Peter 2:1-18; Jude 1:17 t. and 2 Peter 3:2 f.). The question arises, which of the two borrowed from the other. Apart from the general grounds on which a late date is assigned to 2 P. (see p. 913 ), an independent comparison of the parallel passages shows the priority of Jude. This is the conclusion of most modern scholars (though Zahn, Bigg, and others maintain the priority of 2 P.). “ The impression which they leave on my mind is that in J. we have the first thought, in P. the second thought; that we can generally see a reason why P. should have altered J., but very rarely a reason why what we read in P. should have been altered to what we find in J.” (Mayor). “ The various lines of argument converge and, so far as demonstration is possible in literary questions, demonstrate the priority of Jude” (Chase).

The purpose of the epistle is purely practical; it contains little teaching and is not particularly edifymg.

Literature. Commentaries: ( a) Lumby (Sp.), Plummer, Bennett (Cent.B), Plumptre (CB), Mitchell (WNT); ( b) J. B. Mayor, Bigg (ICC), J. B. Mayor (EGT), James (CGT); ( c) Windisch (HNT), von Soden (HC), Burger (KHS), Hollmann (SNT), Knopf (Mey.), Spitta, de Zwaan; ( d) Plummer (Ex.B), Salmond (PC). Other Literature: Articles in Dictionaries and Encyclopæ dias (especially Chase in HDB), Discussions in Histories of the Apostolic Age, Introductions to NT; JThS, vi. 391 ff. 569 ff.; Jones, The NT in the Twentieth Century, 343– 50 .



THE exact significance of the epithet “ catholic” or “ general,” as applied to the seven writings which bear the names of James , 1 and 2 Peter , 1, 2 , and 3 Jn., and Jude, has been a matter of considerable debate. It has been surmised that they are so entitled because they are the work of the apostles generally as distinguished from the compact body of Pauline letters; or because they contain catholic in the sense of orthodox teaching, or general rather than particular instruction; or again because they were generally accepted in contrast to other writings which bore apostolic names but failed to make good their claim. A more likely reason than any of these is that they were addressed to Christians in general or to groups of churches instead of to individual communities like Corinth and Rome, to which Paul usually wrote. We say “ usually,” because Galatians was written to a group of churches, and there is reason to think that Ephesians was meant as a circular letter. Cf. also Colossians 4:16. Of the seven “ catholic” epistles, two ( 2 and 3 Jn.) hardly satisfy our test, for they were written to a particular, though unnamed, church and to an individual respectively. Their inclusion in the group is thus a mere matter of convenience; they would naturally come to be associated with 1 Jn. Jas. is addressed to “ the twelve tribes of the Dispersion,” 1 P. to Christians in Asia Minor, 2 P. and Jude broadly to the writer’ s fellow-believers; 1 Jn. has no address, and is more like a homily than a letter.

The earliest record of the name appears to be about A.D). 197 , in the anti-Montanist writer Apollonius (see Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., v. 18 ), who declares that the heretic Themiso wrote a “ catholic” epistle in imitation of that of the apostle (? John). Clement of Alexandria ( c. 200 ) refers to the letter of Acts 15:23-29 and to Jude as “ catholic.” Origen ( c. 230 ) applies the epithet to the epistle of Barnabas, as to 1 Jn., 1 P., and Jude. Dionysius of Alexandria ( c. 260 ) uses it of 1 Jn. in opposition to 2 and 3 Jn. Such usage, and that of Eusebius of Cæ sarea ( c. 310 ), who uses the adjective of the whole seven ( Hist. Eccl., ii. 23 ), is sufficient to disprove the opinion that “ catholic” means “ recognised by the whole church.” As a matter of fact, most of the seven were hotly contested, and only gradually secured their place in the NT canon. 1 Jn., which was the first to be so styled, evidently won the epithet because of the encyclical nature of its appeal— it was an exhortation to the church at large rather than to a narrow circle, a single church, or even a group of churches, like the Pauline letters and 1 P., to say nothing of individual persons— and because its contents were official in a sense in which even Paul’ s epistles were not. Most akin in this respect were Jude and 2 P., and perhaps Jas., if the twelve tribes can be taken as representing the new Israel of Christendom. The recipients of 1 P., too, included well-nigh half the Christian world. 2 and 3 Jn. secured their footing because of their name. The little canon of Pauline letters was usually designated “ the Apostle,” and it would only be a question of time for the group of non-Pauline epistles to be entitled “ catholic.” When the name of the group became known in the Western Church, it was misinterpreted and taken in a dogmatic sense as equivalent to “ canonic,” i.e. apostolic or genuine. As “ the canonic epistles” they became known in the West, and the original idea of contrast with the Pauline letters disappeared. Junilius Africanus ( c. 550 ) understands “ canonic” as “ containing the rule of faith.”

So late as Junilius’ day, 1 Jn. and 1 P. stood apart for him, though he says that very many add the other five. This majority opinion was due to Jerome and Augustine. Chrysostom’ s Synopsis names only three ( 1 Jn., 1 P., Jas.), thus following Lucian and the school of Antioch, which also influenced the Peshitta or “ Vulgate.” Syriac. Eusebius puts 1 Jn. and 1 P. in the class of universally accepted books, while Jas., Jude, 2 Peter , 2 and 3 Jn., are a second class, “ disputed,” but making their way towards the first class ( Hist. Eccl., iii. 25 ). Cyprian of Carthage ( d. 259 ) received only 1 Jn. and 1 P. The Muratorian Fragment (if we admit Zahn’ s very tempting emendation [108] ) shows that at Rome, c. 180 , these two books were received. 2 P. was not generally accepted for reading in church, while Jude 1:2 and 3 Jn. formed a little group scarcely regarded as apostolic (for they are linked with the Wisdom of Solomon), yet “ accepted in the Catholic Church.” Jas. is not mentioned.

[108] Gwatkin, Selections from Early Christian Writers, p. 87.

The influence of Augustine has been mentioned. In De Fide et Operibus (xiv. 21 ) he points out that Paul pressed his doctrine of justification by faith so far as to be in peril of being misunderstood. Paul lays the foundations, the Catholic Epistles raise the superstructure; he is careful for the genuineness of the root, they for the good fruit; he feels himself a minister of the Gospel, they speak in the name of the (nascent Catholic) Church.

It may be granted that there are certain points of relationship between the seven epistles, despite their varied authorship. They lack in general the personal note, and seek to meet more widespread need by general counsel. Jü licher ranks them as a class in which the epistle is merely a literary form whereby the unknown writer holds intercourse with an unknown public. The transition from the Pauline letters to the Catholic Epistles is by way of Ephesians, Hebrews, and the Pastorals ( cf. p. 603 ). None of them is lengthy, none starts a far-reaching train of thought, or contributes much to pure theology. They are concerned mainly with practical advice and edifying exhortation. Their modest dimensions gave them an advantage over such longer works as the Epistles of Clement and Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas. in circulation, and therefore in recognition; apart from the fact that these works, favourites in the Early-Church, bore no apostolic names.

The critical questions, often very perplexing, connected with the separate epistles are discussed in the commentaries that follow. We may note here that, apart from the titles (which are late), 1 Jn. is anonymous, 2 and 3 Jn. simply purport to be from “ the elder,” 1 and 2 P. definitely say they are by Peter the apostle; “ James” and “ Judas, the brother of James” are the slender descriptions given by the authors of the other two epistles. John, James, and Judas (or Jude) were all very common names, and give us no clue to the identity of the authors. As to date, 1 Jn. and 1 P. were in circulation early in the second century, and were attributed to the two apostles before its close. Jude and 2 Jn. were circulated and attributed by about 160 . Jas. was also in circulation then, but no attribution of authorship was made for another half century. Clear traces of 3 Jn. and 2 P. appear a little before 200 . Perhaps the earliest and the least uncertain as to authorship is 1 P., the latest 2 P. The seven epistles cover the sub-apostolic age from, say, A.D. 64 to 150 , and are a valuable reflection of the life and thought of the church during that period. In 1 P. (nearest to Paul in time and in thought, [109] and to many minds one of the choicest books of NT) we see something of the peril that assailed a church from without; in 1 , 2 , and 3 Jn. we are shown the danger from within in matters of doctrine and problems of organisation. Jude is the effort of a teacher who is similarly alarmed by the growth of an antinomian gnosticism and the sins of unbelief, pride, and sensuality. 2 P. is an elaboration of Jude, and also reflects the disappointment felt at the delay of the Second Advent. Jas. is in a class by itself, and resolutely defies any agreed solution of its date and authorship. It sets forth Christianity as the new law.

[109] This commonly received opinion is questioned by H. A. A. Kennedy in ET 27264 (March 1916).

The epistles, though modern scholarship cannot unhesitatingly accept their apostolic authorship, at least represent what the Early Church regarded as apostolic teaching, and subsequent generations have confirmed their practical value. Some may feel that because there is no certainty about their apostolic authorship they should not be included in the KT; but the Early Church was often guided by the intrinsic merits of a book, and accepted it as. apostolic because of its worth. We have to remember, too, that the ancient conception of authorship was widely different from our own— a book would be called John’ s because its teaching agreed with that of John. A writer might go so far as to assume the name of a great teacher in order to gain a reading for his book; and if he succeeded in presenting what might fairly be regarded as the views of the man whose name he assumed, no one felt aggrieved. The practice was especially common in apocalyptic literature. We do not argue in this way now; and similar literary devices when they are practised are tolerated only because we know that they are devices, and generally know also the name of the real author.

The order in which we have the seven epistles has come to us from the fourth century, but there were many earlier variations. The position of the group in early MSS. and versions is also far from fixed. Most Gr. MSS. arrange thus: Gospels, Acts, Cath. Epp., Paul, Rev. The Syrian order is Gospels, Paul, Acts, Cath. Epp., Rev. In Egypt: Gospels, Paul, Cath. Epp., Acts, Rev. In the Muratorian Canon, representing the early West, we have apparently Gospels, Acts, Paul, Cath. Epp., Rev., which is the order followed in the Vulgate and in the English versions.

( See also Supplement)

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