“Yet, in the same way also these men are dreaming, on the one hand the defile the flesh while on the other they reject sovereignty and blaspheme glories. But Michael the archangel, when disputing with the devil, arguing over the body of Moses, did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment but said ‘May the Lord rebuke you!’ So, these men, on the one hand blaspheme what they have not known and, on the other, the things which they naturally understand like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.”
Jude’s priority is to expose the Zealots plotting rebellion against Rome as ungodly rebels. The historical examples of rebellion of vv. 5-7 form the foundation for the argument he is about to present in vv. 8-10. It is important that we keep in mind that the insurgents Jude referred to in v. 4 are not Christianized heretics or apostates but rather are Israelite Zealots attempting to seduce Judean Christians to join their cause. If Jude were combating false teaching or apostate Christians, then only two of his historical examples are of any relevance. One can easily see the fruit of apostasy in the example of rebellious Israel (v. 5) and angels (v. 6), yet it is difficult to see how the cities of the plain (v. 7) are turncoats and traitors to a cause they once aligned themselves with. They are rebels to be sure, but not apostates. They never pretended to be associated with God. They are rebels through and through.
In this section, Jude develops a theme of blasphemy (βλασφημέω/βλασφημία). What many English versions translate as “revile” or “speak evil” or “railing” is an inconsistent decision regarding the Greek verb βλασφημέω (vv. 8&10) and its cognate noun βλασφημία (v. 9). This term is the origin of our English term “blasphemy” and indicates the act of slander or speaking untrue evil against someone. The translation “blasphemy” is normally reserved for slander against God, which is certainly the case here. Jude has already proven that rebellion of any kind is primarily rebellion against God, whether that be God’s leadership (v. 5), His station (v. 6), or His design (v. 7). Much like his older brother James, Jude connects the heart of sin with the mouth. He exposes the rebellious heart through the speech of blasphemy. Jude not only turns from the facts of history to accuse these Zealots, but in these verses, he provides three proofs that expose rebellion is at the heart of blasphemy.
Connecting Blasphemy to Rebellion (v. 8)
“Yet, in the same way also these men are dreaming, on the one hand the defile the flesh while on the other they reject sovereignty and blaspheme glories”
We would do well to take note of Jude’s reference to “these men” (οὖτοι) as a reference to those first mentioned in v. 4. This designation will be repeated throughout the letter (vv. 4, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 19). These men are first introduced as dreamers. Jude does not suggest that these Zealots profess to have personal divine revelation that excuses their immoral conduct and substantiates their claims, as some suppose. Moses made it clear in Deuteronomy what to do with such men and how to test if their dreams were truly from God (Deut. 13:1-5). No one is to be believed simply because they claim to have had a dream. Many dreams are given in Scripture (Gen. 40; 41; Jud. 7:13-14; Dan. 2). Each was provided with a divinely enabled interpreter, and each came true. If Jude were concerned with ecstatic and charismatic dreamers, would he not have pointed the readers to Deuteronomy? Jude is not saying that the insurgents are false prophets, but that they are out of touch with reality. They dream of freedom and liberty as if in a daze that has no correspondence to the real world. The present tense participle (ἐνυπνιαζόμενοι) describes these men as those in a constant state of dreaming. This dream-like state is made evident by the actions they consistently do.
Three present tense verbs help to define the nature of their daze. Each connects back to the unheeded warnings of history (vv. 5-7) presented in a chiastic structure. Their defiled bodies corresponds to the debauchery of Sodom (v. 7). Their rejection of authority corresponds to the insubordination of the angels (v. 6). And their blasphemy corresponds to Israel’s rejection of God’s leadership (v. 5).
Zealots are Defiled like Sodom
“Defiled” (μιαίνω) is a broad term that usually describes ritual or religious uncleanliness. This fits with the broader picture presented in v. 7 of the cities of the plain. Jude did not focus on the specific sin of homosexuality but presented them in a broader rebellion of sexual immorality to frame his argument of rebellion against God’s design. Here, he again uses a broader term to present the Zealots as those who are stained, impure, and defiled. This accusation goes well beyond sexual appetite to include any manner of things that would render the Zealots as unclean. His point is stronger than only calling them sexual deviants. By calling them defiled, he states that they are unable to fellowship with God in worship. They are in fact godless persons (v. 4). Josephus described these Zealots as those who “trampled upon all the laws of man, and laughed at the laws of God; and for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers.”
The Zealots began as theological conservatives that held to similar doctrine as the Pharisees. They should have had a high respect for the Law and all its commands. Yet when they finally obtained power and held control over Jerusalem, their true colors were shown as they desecrated the Temple, murdered several priests, and disturbed the Temple sanctuary with “polluted feet.” They were never concerned with honoring God and so never bothered to lead a clean or pure life. Their consistent deeds of murder and mayhem made them constantly unclean and thus cut off from worship. They are those who defile their bodies.
Zealots are Insubordinate like the Angels
What many of our Bibles render as “authority” (NASB, NKJV, LSB, ESV) translates the Greek term κυριότης and is related to the term “lord” (κύριος). While “authority” is not inaccurate, the idea of “lordship” or even “sovereignty” must be understood. Jude presents the insurgents as those who reject (ἀθετέω) sovereign lordship. This verb indicates a declaration of invalidity. It means to reject, ignore, disavow someone or something by refusing to recognize it as valid. Some suggest that Jude’s point is to refer to the rejection/rebellion against Jesus as Master and Lord (v. 4). That fact is certainly true and will certainly come into play shortly, but that is not precisely the meaning here. The play on κυριότης/κύριος (lordship/lord) is best made with the nearest antecedent. In v. 5, “Lord” is used to refer to God the Father and His judgments over Israel. This rejection of authority is a rebellion against God’s sovereignty just as the angels rejected God’s placement of them in their perspective domains (v. 6). The chiastic comparison of rebellion continues.
The Zealots were not satisfied with being Roman subjects. They refused to call any man “lord” and thus despised any “authority” or “lordship” claim over them. Their insubordination rivals that of the angels as they sought to carve out for themselves a kingdom while producing their own king.
Zealots are Blasphemous like Israel
The Greek of this phrase is hardly ever translated here in an effort to [wrongly] interpret the text. Jude writes that these men “also blaspheme glories” (δόξας δὲ βλασφημοῦσιν). The obvious question left to the reader is, what does this mean? Most assume that Jude writes of blaspheming angelic or celestial beings. This accounts for the various translations like “angelic majesties” (NASB), “evil dignitaries” (NKJV), and “glorious ones” (LSB, ESV). With this interpretation there is a second debate regarding the nature of these angels. Are they fallen and wicked angels (NKJV)? Or does Jude refer to holy angels (LSB, ESV)? The debate is quite unnecessary as Jude does not refer to angels, fallen or elect, in this passage.
We would do well to note that Jude makes another allusion to 2 Peter where the apostle uses very similar language (2:10). It would be odd if Jude at this point used similar language to Peter with a completely different referent. Both Jude and Peter refer, not to angels, but to the glories of Jesus Christ. We can be confident of this assertion for several reasons. First, the noun δόξα appears 166 times in the New Testament and 438 times in the LXX of the Old Testament. Unless 2 Pet. 2:10 and Jude 8 are the exceptions, not once is it used in reference to angelic or celestial beings.
Second, the pluralized form of δόξα (glories) is quite rare, appearing only 6 times in both the New and Old Testaments (Ex. 15:11; 33:5; Hos. 9:11; 1 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:10; Jude 8). Two of these references (Ex. 33:5; Hos. 9:11) speak of the glories of men such as their decorative adornments and wealth. Two more of these references clearly reference the glories of the Godhead, whether it by Yhwh (Ex. 15:11) or the risen Christ (1 Pet. 1:11). Because δόξα is never used of angelic beings, that leaves only the temporary glories of men or the indescribable glories of the divine as available interpretations for the present passage as well as Peter’s account. No one has ever offered the explanation that either author refers to human glories.
Third, 2 Pet. 2:10 is a reference to the glories of the risen Christ. The immediate context of 2 Pet. 2:10 is that of Christ’s lordship. Not to mention the overall thrust of the epistle is to call to remember and trust in the apostolic message of Christ as risen Savior and returning Judge.
Fourth, it is difficult to determine how human beings could blaspheme angelic beings. Many have offered suggestions varying from a denial of angelic involvement in eschatological judgment to the miscalculation of their power. Yet, these speculations are tied to the interpreter’s decision regarding these angels as fallen or elect beings. Blaspheme against Christ, on the other hand, is plain to see both in Peter’s context as well as here in Jude.
Finally, the chiastic structure of the historical rebellions (vv. 5-7) and the insurgents’ rebellions (v. 8) point to a blaspheme against God’s leadership. No longer is Yhwh’s servant Moses in view, but the greater Moses, the One who came like Moses (Deut. 18:15), that is, Jesus who is the Christ. The rebellious heart of the Zealot cause is brought out by their lack of reference for Messiah. They refuse to call Him Master and Lord (v. 4) and thus blaspheme Him.
Jude has successfully connected the Zealot rebels to the historical examples and fitted them to their crimes as a perfect mirrored image of each other. They are a tainted, insubordinate, and blasphemous lot. He continues to accuse the Zealots by maintaining this thread of blasphemy. Next comes a contrasting comparison.
Contrasting Submission to Rebellion (v. 9)
Of all the warnings and exhortations that Jude has to offer, it is this verse that seems to attract the most intrigue. People want to know about this dispute between Michael and the devil over the body of Moses. The reason for this is not just rooted in idle curiosity. The fact of the matter is, there is no Scriptural reference to such a dispute. In short, most readers want to know what in the world is going on here.
It is necessary to answer such questions, but we must never lose sight of Jude’s argument and point. We should notice that Jude advances his mini theme of blasphemy one more step in this verse (βλασφημία) and does so in contrast to what he has just mentioned regarding the rebellious Zealots. In other words, v. 9 is set here to contrast v. 8. Michael is presented as a contrast to the insurgent rebels and therefore is an example for the believing readers.
A Combative Situation (v. 9a)
“But Michael the archangel, when disputing with the devil, arguing over the body of Moses”
Several questions immediately come to mind. (1) Who is Michael? (2) What is the nature of this dispute? (3) Why are Michael and the devil arguing over Moses’ body? (4) From where does Jude get this information? We will answer each of these questions in turn.
First, Michael is a common name in the Scriptures with at least 10 different individuals bearing that name. The Hebrew מִיכָאֵל means “Who is like God?” and is akin to the name Micah (מִיכָה – Who is like Yhwh?). Of the five Scriptural references to the angel named Michael (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7), this is the only time he is called an archangel, or rather the archangel (ὁ ἀρχάγγελος). From these references we can surmise several details about Michael and the nature of duties. (1) Michael seems to hold more authority than other angels. Michael is referred to as a prince no less than three times and as such is called “the chief of princes” (indicating his authority above other such princes – Dan. 10:13), “your prince” (a reference to the fact that he is over the nation of Israel – Dan. 10:21), and “the great prince” (again identifying him as stationed above other similar beings - Dan. 12:1). (2) That authority seems to identify him with the nation of Israel (Dan. 10:21). (3) As a prince, his duty includes that of leading other angels in warfare against rebellious angels who follow Satan, the dragon (Rev. 12:7). Hebert Bateman combines what the Scriptures say about Michael with ancient Jewish writings and tradition to create a similar sketch where Michael is (1) one who intercedes for people, (2) a warrior who battles other celestial beings, (3) a protector of Israel, and (4) one who arrests and incarcerates disobedient angels and executes God’s eschatological judgments. In summary, Michael is one of, if not the most powerful of God’s angels.
Second, the dispute between Michael and the devil is not a personal squabble, but a legal courtroom debate. The compound διακρίνω combines the διά preposition with the verb κρίνω which means to pronounce judgment. This disputing is a debate over legal judgment and the pronouncement of sentence. Heat is added to this debate when Jude writes that Michael was arguing (διαλέγομαι) with the devil. The imperfect aspect indicates that Michael’s debate was one of ongoing exchange of contrary points. It is of no small consequence that Jude does not use the term “Satan” but “the devil” (τῷ διαβόλῳ) meaning “the slanderer/adversary.” In this courtroom drama, Michael is set up as the defense council while the devil takes the place of the prosecutor. This brings us to our third question as well as our fourth question.
Third, why are they debating over Moses’ body and finally, where does Jude come by this information? The account of Moses’ death is found in Deut. 34:5-6: “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day” (NASB). The Hebrew text of the Old Testament says, “and he buried him” (וַיּקְבֹּר אֹתוֹ) indicating that Yhwh buried Moses. Yet the LXX uses the plural, “and they buried him” (καὶ ἔθαψαν αὐτὸν). This indicates a tradition existed of other persons being involved with the burial of Moses. At least one apocryphal Jewish writing comments on this passage. The Testament of Moses/Assumption of Moses is supposedly dated to the early part of the 1st century AD, likely just after the reign of Herod the Great. This work states that while the angels were entombing Moses, the devil laid claim to his body on account that Moses was a murderer (Ex. 2:11-12). In this debate Michael opposed him. Several ancient Christian fathers such as Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) and Origen (185-253 AD) attribute this obscure Jewish work as the source of Jude’s statement here. The point is that this tradition was well documented before Jude’s birth and would have been widely known to all Judeans by the mid 60’s AD.
Many other questions arise from such observations such as “should we consider the Assumption of Moses as canonical?” and “should we reconsider the rest of the apocryphal works?” These sorts of questions are short sided and miss the entire point. The only thing that we can say for certain is what Jude tells us; namely, that this event actually happened. There was indeed a debate between Michael and the devil over Moses’ body. That much of the apocryphal work is true. Beyond that, we dare not presume.
The sad part of this discussion is that in answering all of our burning questions, we have utterly missed the point. Jude made a reference to an event that any 1st century Judean would instantly recognize in order to present a contrasting picture to the rebellious and thus blasphemous Zealots. Michael was in a position of power, not only as the archangel but also because he was on a divinely appointed mission. While engaged with this task he was opposed by the chief enemy of God, the devil himself. Engaged in a most difficult verbal struggle (or contention – v. 3), we wonder what will Michael do?
A Submissive Solution (v. 9b)
“Did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment but said ‘May the Lord rebuke you!’”
Jude presents Michael’s response in such a way that depicts Michael’s actions first negatively and then positively. Negatively, Michael did not pronounce a blasphemous judgment. Michael did not overstep his bounds as a created angel. He has no right to pronounce judgment on any creature, if it be the devil arguing contrary to God’s direct orders. He is not like Israel who rejected God’s leadership, nor like the angels who rejected God’s station, nor is he like the cities of the plain who rejected God’s design. Though he had a much (from a human perspective) greater reason for straying outside the lines which God had drawn, he did not trespass them. Yet Michael did not remain silent on the matter.
With the strong contrastive ἀλλὰ (but) Jude introduces what Michael did do. Positively, Michael allowed God to have the final word. By saying “May the Lord rebuke you!” Michael acknowledged God’s exclusive right to pronounce judgment. There is another occasion where the devil stood to accuse one of God’s elect. Zechariah 3 tells of a heavenly scene where Satan stands opposed to Joshua the high priest. Yhwh’s own response is like that of Michael’s here: “the Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” (NASB). Jude will return to this scene of plucking brands from the fire in v. 23. Rather than rebelling against his station and uttering a judgment that would blaspheme God’s exclusive right to judge, Michael submitted to his station and gave God all the glory. What a striking contrast to these rebels who utter blasphemies regarding anything and everything.
Condemning Irrational Blasphemy (v. 10)
With οὖτοι δὲ (but these), Jude returns his attention to the insurgent rebels. The contrast between them and the positive example of Michael is made even stronger by their indiscriminate and irrational blasphemies.
Indiscriminate Blasphemers (v. 10a)
“So, these men, on the one hand blaspheme what they have not known and, on the other, the things which they naturally understand like unreasoning animals”
While the connection to 2 Pet. 2:12 is obvious, there are enough differences to maintain our presupposition that Jude writes with his own intention in mind. The classical μὲν…δὲ construction presents the scene on two fronts (one the one hand…on the other hand) yet both fronts are connected by a single verb: they blaspheme (βλασφημοῦσιν). The point is very clear, it matters not if these men speak of what they do not know or whether they speak of what they know by instinct, they utter blasphemy with every breath. When Jude writes that they (on the one hand) blaspheme what they do not know, he uses the verb οἶδα, which indicates a knowledge through experience rather than only instruction (γινωσκω). When they denounce Jesus as their Master and Lord (v. 4) it is not as if they have not been told otherwise but that they have never submitted to Him and thus have never known Him to be Ἰησοῦς Κύριος. They blaspheme regarding things of which they have no knowledge. Yet (on the other hand) it matters not, for things that they may understand instinctively as any unreasoning animal, they continue to blaspheme. Any dumb animal can recognize superior strength (like the Roman empire) and avoid it. Any unthinking beast can recognize patterns (like God’s judgment of rebels) and curb their actions and patterns accordingly. They continue to blaspheme against all logic and reason. Why? Because they are rebels. As such, there is no control over their mouth. Their ignorant and arrogant speech flows from a rebellious heart. James and Jude attended the same school.
Ironic Corruption (v. 10b)
“By these things they are destroyed”
The NASB correctly understands ἐν (in/with/by) as indicating the cause of destruction. It is by these things (ἐν τούτοις) that these rebels are destroyed (φθείρονται). The present form of φθείρω could be read in the middle voice (they destroyed themselves) or the passive voice (they are destroyed). There is also a question regarding the sense of the verb which can indicate either physical destruction (1 Cor. 3:17; 2 Pet. 2:12) or moral corruption (1 Cor. 15:33; 2 Cor. 7:2; 11:3; Rev. 19:2). It is difficult to decide between the two. Physical destruction would certainly indicate eschatological judgment, which was Peter’s point (2 Pet. 2:12). Yet he used the future tense (φθαρήσονται) to make that point clear. In the context of Jude’s argument, he seems to be coming back full circle to his first connection back in v. 8. These men are those who defile the flesh and as such corrupt themselves. The larger point is that their uncontrolled blaspheming is, ironically, what continues to pollute and defile them. It is by the unending and uncontrolled fruit flowing from their rebellious heart that they corrupt themselves.
Jude’s point is simple: these insurgent Zealots are no different than the rebels of Israel’s history. They care nothing of God’s Law or ways. They are insubordinate of God’s authority over their lives. They blaspheme and slander the glories of the risen Master and Lord. They learned nothing from Michael’s historic self-control with the devil but continue to rush on in self-abandoned blasphemy regardless of whether they understand that of which they speak or not. The string of “blasphemy” is first proven (v. 8), contrasted (v. 9), then explained (v. 10) as spewing from a heart given over to rebellion. These men are not redeemed slaves of Jesus, God’s Messiah. On the contrary, they are servants of Satan, the accuser and chief blasphemer. Why would the church have anything to do with such men, much less embrace their presence in the gathering? The Lord gave shepherds to the church for the church’s protection. May He raise up such shepherds who do not cower from their duty to shepherd the flock of God.
Soli Deo Gloria!
 Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 455.  D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greensville, South Carolina: BJU Press, 1989), p. 243.  Josephus, Josephus: The Complete Works, trans. William Whiston (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), JW, 4.386, p. 818.  Ibid, Antiq, 18.23, p. 573.  Ibid, JW, 4.147-50, p. 804.  Schreiner, p. 456-8.  Hiebert, p. 245-6.  Herbert Bateman, Jude, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), p. 207. Bateman actually argues that δόξας refers to angels, though he strangely admits that the LXX offers no such support.  R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 318-9.  Hiebert, p. 246-50.  Bateman, p. 213.  Archibald Robertson, The General Epistles and The Revelation of John, vol. VI, VI vols., Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), p. 190.