Jude is a strange little letter, nestled between 3 John and Revelation. It is seldom quoted, and sermons and studies of it are rarer still. It could be that it is neglected because of its size, only 25 verses, or its location, or because it is so similar to 2 Peter 2. A more likely reason could be that it is just strange.
We don’t know for sure who wrote it, nor can we be certain of when it was written, nor can we quite understand some of its quotations, but we do know why it was written, for it was written to warn against false teachers. We will consider these unanswered questions as we continue through it, and we’ll begin with author and date right here and now.
Who was Jude?
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James
Jude and Judas are forms of the name Judah, and we know Judah was one of the sons of Jacob and one of the tribes of Israel. There are four men mentioned in the New Testament named Jude or Judas who could be the author.
1. He could be Jude, brother of Jesus. Mark 6:3 lists four brothers of Jesus, including Jude and James.
2. Judas son of James is mentioned in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13; this guy was an apostle. Some have suggested that the Greek is a little tricky and he could be the brother of James rather than the son of James, but personally, I don’t think so. Even if the Greek was tricky, the author of Jude doesn’t say he is an apostle; in fact he speaks of the apostles in v. 17 as though he weren’t one of them.
3. Judas Barnabas is mentioned in Acts 15:22 and maybe he was a “brother” of James in the sense of a brother in Christ rather than as a literal physical brother. That idea seems unlikely since “brother of” in the Greek appears more of an identification used to identify a literal brother.
4. Judas of Damascus from Acts 9 is the other one, but it would seem that he is way too obscure to have written an authoritative letter to a church, and oh, by the way, was he even a believer?
With these choices, it seems to me that our author must have been a half-brother of Jesus and brother of James. Some have also suggested that “Jude” could be a pen name for someone, but for me that involves way too much speculation to be considered, unless someone can find some evidence somewhere.
When was this written?
Beats me! If we are right about which Jude wrote it, then it must have been between 55 and 80. Since he identified himself as the brother of James, we might think it would have been within James’ lifetime, so that narrows it down to 62 or before. Some have even suggested it might have been written in the second century by an entirely different Jude. I doubt that, but the truth is we really can’t be certain.
There then, is a basic introduction to the book that answers, more or less, the standard questions we should ask about any book of Scripture, except for one: Why was the book written in the first place…
We’ll delve into that question as we go through the text next time…