Jude 1:1-2 “Setting the Theological Stage”

Jude, a slave of Jesus who is the Christ and brother of James; to the elect, beloved by God the Father and kept for Jesus who is the Christ. May mercy and peace and love by multiplied to you.


With a brief glance over these verses, we should notice several pieces of important information. We first read the normal greeting/salutation that provides us with the author and his audience (v. 1). Immediately afterwards we read a purpose statement (v. 3) and the motivation behind such a purpose (v. 4). With so much information resting upon the surface, this should be a walk in the park because Jude has left us plenty of breadcrumbs to follow. Yet, we are forced to admit that Jude does not specify who these “beloved elect” people are, nor does he identify the sort of men who “slipped in.” Everything we say going forward will, out of necessity, depend upon the work we have accomplished in the introduction. At the same time, our conclusions regarding the identity of Jude’s audience (Judean Jewish Christians), timing (eve of Jewish revolt against Rome; 64-66 AD), and the identity of those he warns against (Zealot rebels) will either be confirmed or exposed as erroneous based on a fair and objective treatment of the text. In any event, Jude uses these first few verses as a foundation for the rest of the letter. He begins by setting an important precedent (vv. 1-2) before presenting a very focused purpose statement (vv. 3-4). It is the precedent that Jude sets that attracts our immediate attention.


Because this is a real letter written to real people in a real context, we should not be surprised to see that Jude follows the pattern of any other New Testament epistle. The writer first introduces himself while also adding a credential or two that proves this letter should be read and heeded. Then the audience is addressed followed by a greeting of the authors desire for their well-being. In this case, the author’s desire comes in the form of a prayer. On the other hand, because this letter is divine Scripture breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16), we should expect that the author packs as much into this “simple” salutation as possible. Jude reveals his ability with a pen as well as his subtlety in hinting at the meat of his letter which is yet to come.


A Submissive Author (v. 1a)


Jude, a slave of Jesus who is the Christ and brother of James


As has already been stated, we are assuming that this Jude is the same Jude who grew up in the same household as Jesus (Matt. 13:55) and is therefore the brother of the same James who wrote the epistle bearing the same name (James 1:1). Yet rather than claiming kinship with Jesus he claims the status of a slave. The Greek δοῦλος should never be translated as “servant” when presented in a first century context. The term indicates a person’s social status as one who is devoid of most rights and is the personal property of another. A δοῦλος is one who is morally, legally, and financially bound to their master and is duty bound to do their will from the position of total allegiance and loyalty.[1] Jude identifies his master as Jesus Christ or Jesus who is the Christ.


The genitive Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ is not this person’s full name (First Name: Jesus, Last Name: Christ) and is almost always an appositional genitive in the New Testament (Jesus who is the Christ). Therefore, Jude’s initial statement presents himself as a slave of Israel’s Messiah (Christ/Χριστός = the Hebrew Messiah/מָשִׁיחַ). This is nothing short of a shot across the bow of the Zealots who (1) repudiate the idea of being anyone’s slave and (2) deny that Jesus of Nazareth is Israel’s Messiah. Josephus writes that the Zealots had an “inviolable attachment to liberty; and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord.[2] He goes on to describe the Zealots’ disdain for pain and death stating that no physical pain would entice a member of this sect to call any man “lord.” Joseph credits a man named (ironically) Judas of Galilee as the father of the Zealot movement (JW. 2:118). It seems that in the days August Caesar’s decree that the Roman world be taxed (Lk. 2:1-2), Judas the Galilean (Γαλιλαῖος Ἰούδας) revolted against these taxes (Acts 5:37) stating that no mortal man should be called “lord.

This introduction is calculated to be thoroughly anti-Zealot in its message. The Zealot cause is based in national and personal pride that refuses to be the property of another and looks for no sovereign to whom one must submit. Jude (a different Judas from Galilee) presents himself as a slave, the property of Israel’s one true King. As such, he stands opposed to rebellious Zealots who are making a kingdom for themselves. To this he adds “and the brother of James.”


The δὲ conjunction is not adversative (but) but adds an additional thought of a different kind.[3] As already argued, Jude connects himself to James because he is, in a manner of speaking, taking James’ place as the one to whom these Judean Christians look for guidance. Writing somewhere between 65-66 AD, Jude is writing in place of his brother who died at the hands of rebellious Israelites some three years earlier. He introduces himself as first being a slave in submission to the true Davidic King of Israel on the one hand and as a kinsman of the man who has shepherded them in the past on the other. It is interesting that the original Greek is arranged in something of a chiasm. A very wooden translation that may help bring this out is as follows:


Jude


of Jesus, who is the Christ


slave


also


brother of James



A Selected Audience (v. 1b)


To the elect, beloved by God the Father and kept for Jesus who is the Christ


Those who are familiar with the New Testament epistles may barely notice Jude’s address to his audience. Other authors commonly refer to their audience as “the elect.” Yet this phrase carries a great amount of significance for Jude’s Judean Jewish audience. The nation of Israel is repeatedly called a people chosen/elected/selected by God (Deut. 7:6; 14:2). Within the nation of Israel, her priests (Deut. 21:5) and her kings (1 Sam. 16:12; 1 Kings 8:16) were also chosen or elected by God. By the first century it would be assumed that if one where an Israelite that he was naturally one of the elect. Jude is most certainly writing to an Israelite audience, but he is also writing to a redeemed Israelite audience. To make this point crystal clear, Jude uses two modifying participles that explain what he means by “the elect.” In fact, in the Greek, these participles are inserted between the article (the) and the term “elect.” Jude certainly writes to the elect, but the elect who are (1) beloved by God and (2) kept for Jesus who is the Christ sort of elect.


Some English Bibles read “sanctified” (ἡγιασμένοις) rather than “beloved” (ἠγαπημένοις) due to a majority text reading found in the Byzantine Textus Receptus. This reading is an obvious later replacement when compared to earlier manuscripts.[4] The preposition ἐν indicates a dative of agent and in this way God the Father is the one who loves these elect ones.[5] To this Jude adds those who are kept for Jesus Christ. The temptation is to make this dative phrase another dative of agent (kept by Jesus Christ). Yet, the verb “kept” (τηρέω) is often used in an eschatological context (1 Pet. 1:4; 2 Pet. 2:4, 9, 17; 3:7). The sense here is that of Jesus’ return where God’s beloved elect will be presented to Christ. In the meantime, these same beloved are being kept and secured for that day.


A Submitted Appeal (v. 2)


May mercy and peace and love by multiplied to you


This is Jude’s prayer for the chosen people beloved by God and secured for King Jesus, the Christ. This greeting has no equal in the New Testament. Of the 22 epistles in the New Testament, 14 begin with a prayer for “grace and peace,” 3 desire “grace, mercy, and peace,” 2 say nothing more than “greetings” while 2 more dive right into their proposition without any greeting whatsoever (Heb., 1 John). Only Jude prays for these three things in the introduction to a letter.


Mercy (ἔλεος) describes a position or act of kindness directed to those who are in need of it. Often, we speak of mercy as if it were the opposite face of a coin from grace, yet are these two concepts that different? Neither mercy nor grace take a person’s worthiness into consideration. Mercy is given because mercy is needed. Grace is given because the giver desires to give it. Both are quite objective, never using the subject’s merit as a deciding factor.


Peace (εἰρήνη) is a common enough greeting in Jewish circles. The prayer for peace does not desire peace between peoples so much as it anticipates peace between God and man. This speaks of something far greater than a cessation of hostility or a cease-fire. The idea presents a context of such harmony and tranquility between Creator and creation that prosperity naturally and abundantly flows. A prayer for “peace” is a thoroughly eschatological prayer.


Love (ἀγάπη) is seldom used to address feelings and emotions. The Greek language has several terms that describe love of one nature of another. This term is very objective and describes the actions and attitude of one who desires the wellbeing of another. The focus of ἀγάπη is on the object of love and never on the subject.


The verb from πληρόω indicates two things. First, the singular verb treats all three of these gifts as a whole. The idea seems to be that they are not delivered out piecemeal but rather are multiplied collectively. If one has had love multiplied to him, it is natural to assume that he has also had peace and mercy multiplied to him as well. Second, the concept of these gifts being multiplied indicates that these gifts are already possessed by the readers. Jude does not pray that they receive these things, but that these things be multiplied to them.

This prayer is more than a nicety. It is a necessity. Jude knows that his readers will be in need of mercy, peace, and love. The conclusion of his letter exhorts the use all these gifts that are here prayed to be lavished upon them. The readers are commanded to keep themselves in God’s love (v. 20) while trusting in God’s mercy as well as showing mercy (vv. 20-22). While not stated outright, peace (harmony and tranquility with God) is described and anticipated in Jude’s closing doxology (vv. 24-25). The point is simple: Jude has an idea of what is coming and earnestly prays for the people under his care. This is how a shepherd prays for the sheep.


Conclusion


Mark Twain is credited as saying in a message to a friend “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” The point is that it takes much more effort and thought to convey a message with the fewest possible words. Just because this letter by Jude is only 25 verses in length does not mean his message is insignificant. The opposite seems to be the case. In a very few words, Jude sets a very important precedent for the rest of his letter. Jude writes as a humble servant of Israel’s true King. The readers are now forced to make a choice. Will they read and obey the words written by such a servant? Or will they succumb to the fever of arrogant and open rebellion? To put it another way, will they attempt to bring the kingdom of God in their own lifetime, or will they trust the King to usher in His own kingdom?


Soli Deo Gloria!




[1]Herbert Bateman, Jude, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), p. 103-4. [2]Josephus, Josephus: The Complete Works, trans. William Whiston (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998). p. 573 §Antiq. 18:23. [3]R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 605. [4]Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (United Bible Societies, 1971), p. 725 § ἠγαπημένοις {B}. [5]Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 430-1.

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