UBBL343 - General Epistles
Mr. Matt Hauge
April 24, 2004
Jude 8-11: An Exegetical Paper
There are few books in the New Testament that are neglected like Jude. Maybe its because of its size, or placement, but there is something about Jude that just makes it easy to pass by. Yet, within the short, 25-verse letter, there is a large amount of depth. In addition to that, because there is relatively little known about who Jude is writing to, there is a tone with this letter that speaks universally. One of the primary concerns of Jude's is that false teachers have infiltrated the community he deeply cares about, and are leading believers astray. Jude's challenge to them in Jude 8-11 is to recognize their corrupt teachers, and then to know that God will bring judgment on the wolves dressed in sheep's clothing within their community.
Like many of the General Epistles, the context of Jude is hard to nail down definitively. This adds a layer of difficulty in understanding the text because not only is the author not clearly labeled; the audience not mentioned. The author labels himself as Jude, but does not clarify further. A pseudepigrapher would most likely want to clarify which Jude was writing (i.e. the brother of Jesus), or write in a more prominent name. With some degree of confidence, the authorship should be trusted to be that of Jude, the question just remains as to which Jude. Most likely it was the most prominent Jude of the time, who was a brother of James, who was the brother of Jesus. The lack of further clarification as to which Jude it is indicates that the author felt the audience knew of him, and did not need to specify which Jude it was. What is known about the author from the text is that his Greek is sophisticated and his knowledge of Judaism - both from scripture and tradition - is extensive.
likely this text was not a circular letter to a group of churches as many of
the New Testament epistles were. Rather, it was written to a single community
based on the apostolic tradition. The author clearly has a concern for the
spiritual well being of this particular body and goes through vivid detail to
explain the problem.
It is hard to label the specific location of the audience, but some have conjectured that it my have been located to the Cypriot community in Nea Paphos. This was near the legendary location of Aphrodite's birth and would make sense of the "sea-foam" diversion of verse 13 from 1Enoch 80:2-8.
Nevertheless, while the specific
location is uncertain, it is clear that Jude is writing to a Palestinian Jewish
Christian community, that would have had good understanding of Greek mythology.
Jude's epistle is clearly a letter-essay that was a sermon written in the inability for the author to come to the community in person.
The main thrust of Jude's letter is persuasive in nature, with the goal of his audience rejecting the false teachers within the community and returning to the community in line with the teaching of the apostles. His persuasion style can be called a "positive/negative presentation." Jude starts with a common Greco-Roman rhetoric called a laudatio
. This means
the beginning of his letter is extremely positive to the implied readers of his
text. He then moves on to the main thrust of his persuasion by being negative
towards the false teachers in the community.
There has been some discussion as to whether or not
Jude is attempting to defeat Gnostic influences within the community he is
writing. Although there are a few elements within the text that could be
viewed as Gnostic attacks, there are many essential features of Gnosticism
completely missing (i.e. dualism, basic cosmological, etc &). Thus, it can be
concluded that Gnosticism had little or nothing to do with the community Jude
Jude moves into
the next section of his letter by focusing on the wickedness of the false
teachers within the community. He begins by pointing out three methods of corruption
by the false teachers: (1) polluting, (2) rejecting, & (3) slandering.
Jude refers initially to the false teachers as exnupnia "zomai. The only other
occurrence of this word in the New Testament is in reference to Acts 2:17 and
is not in reference to false prophets. However, exnupnia "zomai, is used in
the LXX referring to false prophets (i.e. Deut 13:2, 4, 6).
Given the context, the reference to "dreamers" is not a positive one. The highly Jewish audience would have recognized the reference to Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and Moses' commandment that such a prophet should have been killed.
The reference to dreamers indicates that these men were probably justifying
their teaching and actions by claiming they have had visions from God.
Jude finds this ridiculous and completely unacceptable.
Jude's next charge is that these false teachers reject authority. Authority in verse 8 is the Greek word kurio/th D,
which has ku/rio D at its root, which is the word for Lord. Jude is potentially implying that the false teachers are rejecting the community's human authority - either civil or church leaders. However, given the claim Jude makes in verse 4, it is more probable that his word choice is not accidental, and he is once again making reference to their denial of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The third claim is by far the most confusing. Jude continues in the list of accusations by condemning their slander of the glorious ones (NASB "angelic majesties"). Some have sited that this is a reference to Jude attacking Gnostic influence within the community, and that the reference to angels is associating them with inferior gods.
This is almost a direct quote of 2Peter 2:10b (or maybe 2Peter directly quotes Jude). The question raised are these "celestial beings" good or evil. Other references to do/xa in the New Testament refer to the angels that surround God's throne, and it should not be considered that Jude is deviating from this. Acts 7:53 refers to the law being "put into effect through angels," and some have said this could be Jude's attempt to label the false teachers as anti-law.
This is a bit of a stretch, especially given the fact that angels have
fulfilled multiple purposes in the New Testament and the word choice for angels
in the Acts passage is a !ggelo D, not do/xa. The angelic reference could also be an attempt by Jude
to associate the evil of the false teachers to that of the inhabitants of
ancient Sodom and Gomorrah.
Yet, still others interpret it to be a reference to the false teaching itself as a "false message" (the normal Greek word for angel is understood as "messenger"). Despite the obscurity and lack of unity in the understanding of what it means to slander the "glorious ones," what is clear is that Jude finds it to be a negative and very evil element of the false teachers.
Jude continues his discourse of the false teachers by incorporating one of his favorite, and trademark elements: quoting apocryphal books. His use of Enoch - which was widely accepted by the church in the second and third centuries but later lost support by the fourth century - created large controversies around the inclusion of Jude into the Canon. Early church members considered Enoch to be divinely inspired, so Jude would not have hesitated at all to include references to it.
Verse 9 is compiled by combining two sources: Zechariah
3:1-5 and the Assumption of Moses
Zechariah 3:1-5 is a narrative of Joshua in a courtroom with Satan accusing him
in front of the Lord. Although Zechariah is the only canonical reference to a
context between Satan and some other being, particularly the archangel Michael,
in a courtroom before God, the theme was quite popular in extra-biblical
sources. The book of Jubilees makes reference to Satan and the angel of the
Lord in contest regarding Abraham and his attempted sacrifice of Isaac.
Jubilees makes further use of this theme when it makes reference to Moses and
the Exodus and a dispute between Stan and the angel.
Another text that is in clear correlation to this passage
is 4QVisions of Amram. Here Moses' father relays a dream he had to Moses. In his dream, two angels were in a legal dispute regarding Moses. One angel was an "angel of light," where as the other angel was an "angel of darkness." The dispute was whether or not Moses was a "son of light" or a "son of darkness." Richard J. Bauckham refers to this contest in his commentary when he says:
At one point [4QVisions of Amram
] is strikingly close to Jude 9: "behold, two of them disputed about me and saidÉand they were carrying on a great contest about me" (1:10-11). The similarity can scarcely be accidental, but probably we should not, as Milik does, conclude that Jude's source was inspired by 4Q'Amram. The similarity may be sufficiently explained by the broader tradition of contests between the devil and the chief of the angels. The idea of the verbal dispute derives from the original courtroom context of accusation and defense.
Assumption of Moses
takes Deuteronomy 34:1-6 further by explaining that it was the archangel Michael's task to bury Moses after he had died. The devil felt that Moses' body belonged to him on two claims: (1) Moses' body was matter and matter was evil, and (2) Moses was a murderer. The point at hand is that Michael is attempting to complete the task that God has assigned to him, whereas the devil is attempting to stop him. The strange thing about the passage is that Michael makes no defense, or takes anything into his own hands. His only response is, "The Lord rebuke you!" There was no evil spoken of the devil, there was no claim that Michael had far greater rights than the devil in this situation, just a simple statement of the Michael's desire for God to intervene. William Barclay puts it this way, "If the greatest of the good angels refused to speak evil of the greatest of the evil angels, even in circumstances like that, surely no human being may speak evil of any angel."
This brings the reader back to the end of verse 8. Whatever it meant to "slander the glorious ones," Jude makes it clear in this reference to Zech 3:1-5 and The Assumption of Moses
that if Michael himself had no right to speak evil
even about an evil angel
human teachers have no right to slander good angels
. The point is that if Michael left judgment to God,
then so too should the audience of Jude.
continues his discourse of the false teachers by making two strong points:
these teachers are (1) ignorant on matters that are spiritual, and (2) act on
animal instinct on matters that will destroy them. These teachers are have
lost their capabilities of being spiritually discerning, which thus puts them
on the same level as animals.
This ultimately will bring the destruction of their life, and is the divine judgment that is alluded to in verse 9. In addition to their own destruction, Jude's choice of words indicates that not only do they lack spiritual discernment, but as Simon J. Kistemaker says, "they are unable to comprehend spiritual truth and unwilling to admit there foolish."
pulls out a phrase that was common to the Old Testament prophets in order to
express the gravity of the coming rebuke. Some have indicated that oujai 9 does not necessarily imply
that Jude is asking for judgment on these false teachers, as the word is also
used elsewhere in the New Testament to indicate a lament (i.e. Mt 24:19).
However, given the context of the Jude with verse 9 discussing divine
judgment, it appears that instead of lamenting, Jude is warning of coming
judgment. In addition to that, the three Old Testament figures he continues
with following oujai 9
indicate that judgment is coming since all three figures experience divine
judgment of their own.
The Jerusalem Targum on Genesis 4:8 has Cain saying, "There is no judgment, no judge, no world to come; no reward will be given to the righteous, and no destruction meted out to the wicked." As Norman Hillyer puts it, "Éone who takes the attitude of Cain feels free to do as he or she likes, and Cain's example misleads others: Cain is the archetypal false teacher."
Jude appears to be implying by the use of Cain that the false teachers are
murderers just like Cain was, only they are murderers of the soul. In addition
to that, Cain was understood by the Hebrew thinker to be the first willful
unbeliever, as well as a representative of cynicism, and materialism. It was
clear that Cain did not believe in the moral order of the world.
For Jude, the false teachers needed to take a lesson for the archetypal false
teacher that they will not continue to get away with murder.
Balaam is understood to be the great example of the one who taught Israel to sin. There are two references to Balaam in the Old Testament: Numbers 22-24, and Deuteronomy 23. Throughout scripture, Balaam had become an archetype in leading Israel away from God (i.e. Rev 2:14, 2Peter 2:15). Instead of loving God and his people, he had become a lover of money and sold Israel to the king of Moab. Likewise, the false teachers of the community Jude addresses are leading God's people away from God because of their own greed. Just like Balaam, they desire the downfall of their Christian community through their actions.
Numbers 16:1-35 tells of the rebellion of Korah against Moses once they had been taken out of Egypt. Korah was unwilling to accept the divinely appointed priests of the nation and challenge Moses' authority. The result was that him, and his family, perished because he took on a responsibility that did not belong to him. Jude takes the opportunity to condemn the false teachers of the community for doing the same thing. They were defying the divinely appointed leadership and desiring to act within their own will. For Jude, these false teachers would also reap the punishment that fell upon Korah because of their inability to accept authority.
Green sums up verse 11, and the passage for that matter, eloquently when
So in these three pen-pictures from
the Old Testament we see three leading characteristics of the errorists. Like
Cain, they were devoid of love. Like Balaam, they were prepared in return for
money to teach others that sin did not matter. Like Korah, they were careless
of the ordinances of God and in subordinate to church leaders.
"The Lord rebuke you!" The words of Michael to the devil ring true for Jude. It is obvious that he is quite disturbed over the false teaching that has infiltrated a community that he deeply cares about. The community is in real danger of abandoning God because the message of the false teacher's has become so attractive. Even in the beginning of the letter (v. 3), Jude indicates that this is not what he desires to address with them, however, he recognizes the gravity and urgency that requires him to set this community back on the path God has laid out for them. Jude's charge to them is that they build themselves up in faith by praying with the Holy Spirit. Jude recognizes that they have become sheep sent out to the wolves, and the wolves have dressed like sheep in order to cause them to stray. Jude desires the community to recognize the evil within these teachers, which is why he uses such harsh words, illustrations, and biblical characters to get the point across with urgency. As common in any era, the people of Jude's time probably did not even recognize they had been led astray. They looked to the past and said, "oh we would never become like Sodom or Gomorrah," or "we would never follow Balaam to idol worship," but Jude warns them not to be deceived. Not only are they capable of doing that, they are heading down that path as he speaks. In order for them to remain in God, they will have to recognize their leadership is corrupt, and self-seeking, or they too will become like their leaders.
In addition to that, Jude wants the people to know that it is not up to them to bring judgment. They have to trust in the Lord that he will straighten things out when the people return to correct teaching. The passage of Michael and the devil with Moses' body is a little strange, given the context. But Jude wants to make clear that the Lord has the sovereignty to handle all situations, and all forms of evil and straying leadership. If Michael does not take care of the devil, but entrusts that to God, than certainly this community must become a community that also is capable of entrusting judgment to God. Their responsibility is to not follow the current mis-teachings and remain in the teachings of the apostles.
Jude's message is two-fold though. On one hand he is warning the community to become more vigilant in who they follow. At the same time, Jude becomes more prophetic in his rebuke of the leaders themselves. It is no longer going to be acceptable for these teachers to be leading he community away from God. Those that refuse to repent will receive judgment much like the evildoers of the Old Testament. He knows they no longer are following God when making decisions. Whether they have lost their ability to discern God's will for the community or they never had it, either way they have become teachers that no longer are worth anything. They are lead by instinct not the will of God. William Barclay puts it this way:
We may know
something of a foreign language, but if we never speak or read it, we lose it.
Every many can hear the voice of God, and every man has the animal instincts on
which, indeed, the future existence of the race depends. But, if he
consistently refuses to listen to God and makes his instincts the sole dynamic
of his conduct, in the end he will be unable to hear the voice of God and will
have nothing left to be his master but his brute desires. It is a terrible
thing for a man to reach a stage where he is deaf to God and blind to goodness;
and that is the stage which the men whom Jude attacks had reached.
The false teachers
had reached the point where they were deaf to God. They did not have the
ability to hear from Him, but they were still leading as if they could.
Because of this, Jude warns them that there day is coming when they will no
longer be able to do so because god will bring judgment upon them. The
interesting thing is that Jude never gives them a way out. There is no charge
to the teachers to repent. There is no charge to the teachers to change. It
is as if he knows the teachers have hardened their hearts to God and will not
return to Him. All that can be done now is warning to the people to leave this
teaching, and warning to the teachers of pending judgment.
The message for Jude's community has not changed much in 2000 years. What is interesting about Jude is that we have very little clue what context it is written. We have no ability to "explain verses away" because of cultural reasons like we have done with Corinthians. It is as if Jude speaks to us as if it were written to us. Of course, it is always dangerous to believe that whole-heartedly, but Jude has this tone to it that is more sweepingly universal. What is the message to us today? Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-16 to, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them." Christ followers of today should realize their own susceptibility when it comes to being deceived by wolves in sheep's clothing. We think to ourselves that we have advanced so far that we would be unable to be persuaded into believing such fallacies. We leave that unfortunate handicap for a select few are happen to get suckered into a cult every once in a while. Yet, that is exactly where it is dangerous to be. Everything in our culture has the potential to be a false teacher. Entertainment! Church! Education! Everyone has their opinions how life should be. If it isn't the academic system ripping on the church, it is the church ripping on the education system, yet both are capable of being deceiving. Jude's charge to all of us, rings true with Jesus' charge to his disciples, watch out for false teachers. They are nicer than you think.
Like Jude's message to his contemporaries, his message to us is also two fold. While we need to be vigilant followers, we also need to understand the gravity in what it means to be a teacher. James was another General Epistle that was written to a highly Jewish audience. James 3:1 states, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." Jude is a wake up call to all teachers out there that think they are on the right track. Teaching requires the teacher to stay in tune with the Holy Spirit. When it becomes about anything else - whether prestige, influence, money - it will likely bring mis-teaching. It is not an easy thing to maintain correct teaching, especially in a world where information flies. The church needs to make sure they stay attached to the source of the truth, or else they too will become like the Jude's community.
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