By Arno C. Gaebelein
The Epistle of Jude immediately precedes the final book of Holy Scripture, The Revelation. I believe the place given to this Epistle is the right one, for the book reveals the religious and moral conditions that will prevail on earth prior to the great event about which Revelation has so much to say. Some have called Jude the “preface” to Revelation.
The Epistle is authenticated by various ancient sources. The Muratorian fragment mentions the letter as Jude’s Epistle, and Clement of Alexandria as well as Tertullian and others cited it as Scripture. The date of the book is about the year 65.
To whom the Epistle was originally addressed is not stated. Some have surmised that, like the book of James and the Petrine Epistles, Jude was originally addressed to Jewish believers. This may be true, for Jude, like Peter, mentioned many Old Testament facts and some Jewish traditions, which were thereby confirmed as facts.
Jude’s testimony is very much like the testimony of the apostle Peter. There has been a long controversy over whether Jude copied from 2 Peter 2, or Peter copied from Jude. If Jude copied from Peter, Jude’s Epistle could not be an inspired Epistle, and vice versa. Jude may have known of Peter’s Epistle, but that does not mean that he used Peter’s Epistle. Rather, the Holy Spirit gave a similar testimony through Jude. A closer examination shows that the two passages are somewhat different.
The Author of Jude
Apart from what the Epistle tells us, we know nothing of its author. He referred to himself in the beginning of his letter as “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” But which Jude (or Judas) is he? Among the disciples were two by the name of Judas. There was Judas Iscariot, who became the instrument of the devil and then ended his miserable career by hanging himself. And there was the Judas referred to in John 14:22 as “not Iscariot.” In Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 his name is given as “Judas
the brother of James”; the words in italics were supplied by the translators, so it is really “Judas of James.” In the list of the twelve in Matthew 10:2-4 the name
Judas occurs only once, and it refers to him who betrayed the Lord; in this passage the other Judas is called “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus.”
A third Judas is found in Matthew 13:55: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?” The question then arises, Is the writer of the Epistle of Jude the apostle “Judas of James,” also called Lebbaeus and surnamed Thaddaeus, or is he the Lord’s brother Judas, the natural brother of the writer of the Epistle of James? I endorse the latter view, that the writer of Jude is the Judas mentioned in Matthew 13:55.
(Publisher’s Note: At the time H. A. Ironside wrote his commentary on Jude [about 1931], he endorsed the former view. He stated, “The writer of this solemn yet comforting letter is the ‘Judas the brother of James,’ mentioned in the list of the apostles, as given twice by Luke [Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13].” See page 159 of this edition. However, Dr. Ironside’s later writings seem to indicate that he may have changed his position and adopted the view that the writer of Jude was the Lord’s brother.)
The Message of Jude
It seems that about the time when Jude wrote his letter, a departure from the faith set in among believers. This is confirmed by the fact that other Epistles written about the same time give warnings of the same nature as those given by Jude. The content of Jude may be described as a prophetic history of the apostasy of Christendom from its beginning in apostolic days down to its consummation at the end of the age. Then all apostasy will be dealt with and completely destroyed by the coming of the Lord. We are living right in the midst of the fulfillment of Jude’s message and therefore it is of great importance for our times.