The author of this epistle simply identifies himself as “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.”  But who is he?  First, Jude is a shortened form of “Judas.”  Of course, we know of Judas Iscariot (of Kerioth).  Yet, the New Testament mentions four other Judases.  One was the Judas of Damascus, who had a house on Straight Street(Acts 9:11).  Another was Judas Barsabas.  He was chosen to go with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch to relay the Council of Jerusalem’s decision (Acts 15:22).  Another Judas was simply referred to by John as “not Judas Iscariot” (John 14:22).  This was the Judas whom Matthew and Mark identified as Thaddeus (Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18).  And finally, we come to Judas, the step-brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3).  He is the author of the book of Jude.

This Jude is also the brother of James, later known as James the Just, who became the first Bishop of Jerusalem.  We know that, at first, Jude and his brothers did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah: “For even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5).  Yet, later, Jude and his brothers did become believers.  In Acts 1:14, he and his brothers are among those believers listed in the post-Resurrection Church.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:5, says they were involved in the work of the Church.



Most hold that Jude wrote his epistle sometime between 64 to 70 AD.


Problems with Jude

The early Church expressed no doubts about the genuineness of the book of Jude.  However, receiving the book as Scripture and canon was slow and difficult.  That’s because Jude authoritatively quoted two non-Scriptural sources, and that it also had no claim to apostolic authorship.

Yet, despite the objections that some ancient authorities raised, most church fathers accepted Jude as canonical.  Clement of Alexandria (about AD 190), Tertullian of Carthage (about AD 200), Origen (about AD 230), and Malchion of Antioch (about AD 270) are among those who referred to this epistle as scriptural and canonical.  In 397 AD, Jude was fully accepted as Scripture at the Council of Carthage.

Because there was some debate about Jude’s canonicity, it is termed an antilegomena book.  Although the Lutheran Church recognizes Jude as Scripture, because of its once-disputed status, the Lutheran Church chooses not to use Jude to make doctrine (thus, we treat the book as scriptural but not canonical).


Read Jude 1:1-2

Romans 8:30: And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.

1 John 3:1: See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

1 Thessalonians 5:23: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

–          Unwrap Jude’s worldview when he refers to Christians as those “who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.”


Read Jude 1:3-4

–          Compare and contrast the idea of a “common salvation” and individual faith.


–          What does Jude mean when he says the faith “was once for all delivered [“traditioned”] to the saints”?


–          How do we contend for that faith today?


–          What were some doing “who have crept in unnoticed”?


Jude now cites several examples of God’s judgment, mostly from the Old Testament, but also two from non-biblical sources, to make the point that they (Jude’s readers) were not above God’s condemnation if they started believing false doctrine.

Read Jude 1:5


God saved a people from Egypt (Exodus 12-14)

God destroyed those who did not believe (Numbers 13-14)

Point: Those who were once delivered by the Lord can still fall back into unfaithfulness and unbelief.  Being “saved” at one time is not enough; we are to persevere in the faith.


Read Jude 1:6

Angels rebelled against God (No OT text; this event predates humanity’s Fall into sin.)

In eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day (No OT text; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12)

Point: If God will punish angels, what will He do to godless men?


Read Jude 1:7

Sodom and Gomorrah acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust (Genesis 18-19).

They underwent a punishment of eternal fire (Wisdom 10:7).

Point: Should we expect different treatment from God if we are willfully committing the same sins?


Read Jude 1:8

–          What were these false teachers doing?


Jude now refers to a text called the “Assumption of Moses.”  The story line Jude refers to is as follows.  Moses died on Moab, forbidden to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).  Archangel Michael goes to bury the body of Moses, but the devil interferes, claiming he as the right to Moses’ body.  The devil assumed that God had not forgiven Moses for the murder of the Egyptian.  Michael simply responded, quoting Zechariah 3:2, “The Lord rebuke you.”  The devil then fled and Michael buried Moses’ body to await the resurrection on the Last Day.


Read Jude 1:9-10

The devil tried to bring Moses, after death, into his kingdom (Assumption of Moses).

The Michael Archangel, although having full authority, did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment on the devil.

Point: If Michael the Archangel acts with such humility, how should we act?


–          What more do we learn about these false teachers, especially their arrogance?


Read Jude 1:11

Way of Cain (Genesis 4:1-16): Cain murdered his brother and became a lasting example of those who profess to care but, instead, harbor hatred.

Balaam’s error (Numbers 22-24): Balaam sought financial gain through false teaching, trying to get the Israelites to follow false gods.

Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16:1-3, 31-35): Korah led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, wanting to establish a priesthood of their own choosing.


Read Jude 1:12-13

–          What were these false teachers doing to their celebration of the Lord’s Supper?


–          What does it mean that they were “waterless clouds”?


–          “Twice dead” and “wandering” point to what about their teachings?


Read Jude 1:14-16

On the Last Day, the Lord will come with His angels to judge all (Enoch 1:9).

These false teachers live by their desires and utter blasphemies.  They will get the reward they earn.

Point: Don’t follow in the footsteps of these false teachers.


Read Jude 1:17-19

–          Is what the faithful are experiencing to be unexpected?


Read Jude 1:20-21

Jude now exhorts his hearers what each is to do about himself.

–          How do you build yourselves up in “your most holy faith,” which was “delivered once for all to the saints”?


–          The false teachers were “devoid of the Spirit.”  Instead, Christians are encouraged to “pray in the Holy Spirit.”  What’s the difference?


–          When Jude says, “Keep yourselves in the love of God,” he is referring to God’s love for them.  How then were the Christians to keep themselves in God’s love and favor?


Read Jude 1:22-23

Jude now turns to contending for the faith outside of oneself, that is, in relation to other Christians.  Jude tells those in the faith to act in three different ways toward others.

–          Toward those who are wavering, how are they to act?


–          For those about to fall, how are they to act?


–          For those whose outer garment is stained by the flesh, how are they to act?  Why with fear?


Read Jude 1:24-25

–          Who is the one who can keep us from stumbling and present us as blameless?


Excursus: Will the Real “Sola Scriptura” Please Stand Up

To make his theological points, Jude liberally referred to parts of the Old Testament, which his readers viewed as authoritative.  He called on such authority to show that he was not simply asserting his own opinion, but the teachings of the Church, that which “was once for all delivered to the saints.”

However, what makes us uncomfortable about Jude’s references are those he includes from the Assumption of Moses and 1 Enoch, both of which are not Scripture.  Yet, Jude quoted and referenced them as if they were Scripture–for he made no distinction between his biblical quotes and his non-biblical quotes!  So, what are we to make of them?

First, we must not deny that Jude, in some way, saw the Assumption of Moses and 1 Enoch as authoritative, for that’s how he referenced those works.  The question is why were they authoritative?

Perhaps, this may help.  The New Testament writers referenced other works in three ways.

  1. They referenced the Old Testament, including the Apocrypha, simply as the authoritative sources they were.
  2. They referenced other, non-biblical writings that had some authority in the Church, based on Church tradition, even though those books were not Scripture.  That is what Jude did when he referenced the Assumption of Moses and 1 Enoch.
  3. New Testament writers also referenced secular works simply to help make a point.  Those works had no authority outside the point being made.  That is what Paul does when he preaches at the Areopagus, in Acts 17.

Jude simply acted from a worldview that did not see Scripture as the only authority.  That’s why he could reference the Assumption of Moses and 1 Enoch as he did.  But Jude was not the only New Testament writer with such a worldview.  The Apostle Paul also saw a role for tradition as authoritative in some way.

–          1 Corinthians 11:2: Paul writing to the church in Corinth, “I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold to the traditions just as I delivered [“traditioned”] them to you.”

–          2 Thessalonians 2:15: Paul writing to the church in Thessalonica, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by our spoken word or by our letter.”

So, what then are we to make of our Lutheran principle of “sola scriptura”?  Today, a different version of “sola scriptura” has taken hold, which asserts that Scripture alone is the only authority in the Church.  Although, at first blush, that sounds fine, a problem exists with such a view–that view contradicts Scripture and is itself unscriptural!  In other words, that distortion of “sola scriptura” is a man-made tradition that goes against the Scriptures it is meant to uphold.

Yet, no problem exists if we understand “sola scriptura” in its original context–that Scripture alone is the final authority.  That worldview does not contradict Scripture.  That is also the worldview in our Lutheran Confessions.  Our Formula of Concord reads:

We believe, teach, and confess that the only rule and norm according to which all teachings, together with all teachers, should be evaluated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament alone. (Ep, Summary, 1)

Because Scripture is “the only rule and norm” that we are to use to evaluate and judge all teachings, our Confessions can assert that a teaching that originated from within the Church (such are the Nicene Creed) can be authoritative.  Our Confessions could only do that because they viewed the traditions of the Church passed down to us as authoritative–in a secondary way–which Scripture is still to evaluate and judge.

Since nothing in the Creed contradicts Scripture, the Creeds, based on Church tradition, become authoritative for us.  Nonetheless, no Church tradition may ever override Scripture.  That is the difference between the real “sola scriptura” and the caricature of it that exists today.

Seeing Scripture as the final authority instead of the only authority is what our Lutheran Confessions teach.  It also allows a role for the Church that Scriptures teaches.  The Apostle Paul, writing to Pastor Timothy, told him that “the Church of the living God, [is] the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).  Note that the Scriptures do not say that Scripture is the pillar and foundation of the truth.  Yet, if Scripture taught that Scripture was the only authority, then Paul could not make such a statement about the Church.

When we see the roles God has given to His Church and to His Scriptures, we see a divine balance.  The Church has a teaching and preaching role to be the foundation of the truth.  This prevents each person from inventing his own truth and interpretations from the Scriptures.  The Apostle Peter wrote, “You should know this: no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20).  This also keeps a “me and Jesus” approach from dominating one’s own faith life at the expense of the Communion of the Saints.

Yet, by having such a prominent judging and evaluating role for the Scriptures, they then can serve as a correcting rod when the Church errs.  Those within the Church then act as “the Berean Jews … for they received the word with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).