Glossary of Terms

Letter of Jude


Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Jude, The Letter of ("Jude" is a variation of "Judas"). N.T. book; a letter written to several or all of the churches, combating the false teaching that God's grace allows people to do anything they please. The letter was written toward the close of the first century, after the death of the apostles. The writer may have been a brother of Jesus. Mark 6:3.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

Jude, the Letter of, one of the ‘catholic’ or ‘general’ Epistles of the nt. The author, who describes himself as ‘Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James’ (v. 1), has traditionally been identified with Judas, one of the brothers of Jesus (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). The internal evidence of the book, however, makes such an identification unlikely. The author’s purpose is to challenge his readers to contend for the faith ‘once for all delivered to the saints’ (v. 3) and to summon his readers to ‘remember’ the words of the apostles (v. 17). These appeals to the readers suggest that the author is not a contemporary of the apostles.

The book lacks the common characteristics of an epistle, including the identification of the readers and the closing greetings. Thus, it should be regarded as a tract addressed to Christians generally about the inroads being made by heretical groups who endanger the faith ‘once for all delivered to the saints.’

Because the heretics are described as those who ‘set up divisions’ (v. 19), they are frequently identified by scholars as an early sect of Gnostics. The author’s description of their licentious behavior (vv. 4, 6-8, 12-13, 16) makes such an identification plausible but not certain. Behavior that might be characterized as wanton is a characteristic of some Gnostic groups but not of all, nor is it limited to Gnostic groups.

The denunciations are accompanied by warnings of severe punishment awaiting heretics. The warnings are derived from the ot (v. 7) and from two later Jewish apocalyptic writings, 1 Enoch (vv. 6-15) and The Assumption of Moses (v. 9). Similar material is found in 2 Pet. 2:1-18, suggesting that Jude may be a source for 2 Peter.

The book may be outlined as follows:


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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