Skip to content

Jewish Annotated New Testament: Hey Jude

October 27, 2011

In honor of Tim’s study of the Book of Jude (here and here), below is the Oxford Jewish Annotated New Testament introduction and annotations to Jude.

Other links:  I have previously mentioned the Jewish Annotated New Testament here and here.  The Baker Book House blog discusses it here.

The study Bible uses the NRSV translation; here is NRSV Jude.

For added materials, the study Bible uses a sans serif font, so I have tried to capture that by using Arial.

The notes use standard references for Biblical books (Gen=Genesis; Lev=Leviticus; Num=Numbers; Ezek=Ezekiel; Dan=Daniel; Mk=Mark; Lk=Luke; Rom=Romans; 1-2 Cor=1st and 2nd Corinthians; 1 Cor=1 Corinthians; Gal=Galatians; 2 Thess =2 Thessalonians; 2 Pet=2nd Peter).  Less familiar abbreviations are 1 En=1 Enoch; Ps1QS=Sefer Hayahad or Rule of the Community from Qumran Cave 1; Gk=Greek; Heb=Hebrew; T. Moses=Testament of Moses; Tg. Ps.-J.=Targum Pseudo-Jonathan.  Translators’ note g to is to verse 7 unnatural lust and states “Gk went after other flesh.”



Author and Date

The last letter of the New Testament claims to be written by Jude (or Judas) "brother of James." Mark 3.6 lists both Judas and James as brothers of Jesus. By the second century, Judas Didymus Thomas (Didymus and Thomas meant "twin" in Greek and Aramaic, respectively) was associated with extra-canonical documents such as the Gospel of Thomas and Acts of Thomas (the latter sees him as Jesus’ twin brother; e.g. 11, 23, 45). By referring so obliquely to a Judas who may be Jesus’ brother, this letter’s authority may have been attempting to reclaim the figure of Jude from other Christian groups who claimed his authority. some scholars suggest that the epistle may actually have been written Jesus’ brother in the 50s. Others insist that the letter is later (perhaps early second century) and pseudonymous; the reference (v. 17) to "the apostles" as established authorities suggests institutional hierarchies already in place.


The letter warns of immoral "intruders" who laxity challenges institutional authority. Echoes of Paul’s opponents in Corinth (see 1-2 Cor) and Gnostic libertine groups suggest ongoing conflicts over how to understand God’s gift of salvation from sin ("grace," v. 4). Some Christians taught that, thanks to God’s salvation, they were no longer bound to earthly authority and morality. Thus they could not imperil their salvation by any action, since spiritually they were safe. It is also possible that vague and stereotypical accusations of "licentiousness" rhetorically echo prophetic literature, which equated sexual license with impiety generally (see, in a well-known passage, Ezek 16).

Cultural Influences

The letter draws heavily on popular, late Second Temple Jewish cosmic narratives (e.g., 1 Enoch) to shape its understanding of the moral order of the universe. The Torah was elaborated in this period by creative narratives filling in the words and deeds of the patriarchs and great leaders of the Israelites (for instance, in Jubilees, which consists mostly of instructions to Moses from an angelic presence on the mountain at the time of the giving of the Torah.) The author refers, for instance, to a story of the angel Michael and the devil battling over Moses’ corpse. Particularly the focus on angels as historical and moral agents (vv. 6, 8-9) ties this letter to patterns of thought common among first-century Jews. The vast collection of stories known as 1 Enoch, cited directly in v. 14, created an elaborate angelology and promoted apocalyptic expectations. This book interpreted the "sons of God" in Gen 6.2 as fallen angels whose interactions with humanity initiated a division between godly and godless humans, which would last until the end of the world. The author of Jude couples this Jewish apocalyptic worldview with the more stabilizing "predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 17), thereby linking it to Christian tradition. Nonetheless, the prophetic language and angelic outlook of this letter attach it closely, almost intimately, to the Jesus movement’s Jewish roots.

The author of 2 Peter used substantial portions of Jude, particularly the idea that present-day religious divisions are simply the latest act in a cosmic drama pitting the pious against their devious and immoral opponents. Jude and 2 Peter remain certain that, as in the past, present, and future, participants in this struggle will receive appropriate rewards and punishments.


1-2: Salutation. Jude (Heb "Yehudah"), lit. "Jewish man" or "Judean," the name of several NT figures, including Judas Iscariot (Mk 3.19) and another "Judas" who, along with James, is listed as one of the brothers of Jesus (Mk 6.3). Lk 6.16 and Acts 1.13 refer to "Judas son of James"; although this phrase is normally understood as "son of James" it could also be translated as brother of James, if James is a sufficiently well-known figure. The letter writer refers to himself only as the servant (lit. "slave") of Jesus; yet since James was well known as "the Lord’s brother" (Gal 1.19) and the leader of the Christians in Jerusalem (Gal 4; Acts 15), it is likely the author is also indirectly claiming to be Jesus’ brother. Beloved … kept safe … love, the standard letter salutation is expanded with blessing and prayers for well-being of the recipients.

3-4: Reasons for the letter. An otherwise commendable community must be warned against devious intruders. The community is "saved" from being ungodly and from licentiousness, but also for the faith … entrusted to the saints. Salvation we share, communal salvation was a hope shared in this period by Jews (whose covenant bound them through history and followers of Jesus (who understood God’s saving acts as binding them together as a new people.) Long ago … designated for this condemnation, as in many apocalyptic communities, like that at Qumran (which divided humanity into "children of light" and "children of darkness," 1QS 1.9-11), humanity has already been divided into camps of saved and condemned. Licentiousness, accusations against the intruders are vague but suggest sexual immorality.

5-7:  Disobedience is punished.  Reminders of divine punishment from sacred history; cf. 2 Pet 2.4-6.  5:  Destroyed those who did not believe, see Num 14.35.  6:  And the angels, refers to common legends of the “fall of angels” based on Gen 6.1-4 (see Introduction).  7:  Sodom and Gomorrah, Gen 19:4-11, ties disobedience to licentiousness and fiery punishment.  Although this passage has traditionally been take as a condemnation of homosexuality, it may in fact be a further denunciation of unhealthy spiritual practices; unnatural lust, Gk “sarkos heteras,” “other flesh” (see translators’ note g) referring to those who had, or wish to have, intercourse with angels.  In the Tanakh, the “sin of Sodom” was seen as injustice and economic exploitation (e.g., Ezek 16.49).

8-13:  Accusations against intruders.  8:  Dreamers might imply that the false teachers have replace apostolic authority (see v. 17) with personal visions and revelation. Glorious ones (or “glories”), possibly angels, understood as intermediaries (e.g., Dan 9.20-22) between the divine and human realms, and conveyers of insight, moral exhortation, and steadfastness among Second Temple Jews. 9:  Michael contended with the devil, the story of Moses’ body probably drawn from the T. Moses, an incomplete text giving Moses’ last words to Joshua.  As it stands the text does not depict the assumption, that is, taking Moses bodily into heaven.  The legend that the angel Michael and the devil had fought over Moses’ body has no known clear source.  It is used here to combine references to good and bad angels (see vv. 6,8) with overall concern for authority, morality, and truth.  11:  Three villains from the Tanakh:  Cain, fratricide (Gen 4.1-6), also considered in Jewish midrash (Tg.Ps.-J.; Gen 4.1) a son of Eve and the devil; Balaam (Num 22), a false prophet; Korah (Num 16), a rebel against Moses.  12-13:  These intruders are selfish blemishes, fruitless, destructive, and misleading; cf. 2 Pet 2.17-18.  Love-feasts, eucharists that may have included meals for the community (cf. 1 Cor 11.20-21); they were presumably intended to increase the bonds of love in the community.  Twice dead, those baptized who have fallen away; they have died once in baptism (cf. Rom 6.3), and again by betraying their faith.

14-19:  Intruders foretold.  14:  Enoch, descendant of Adam (Gen 5:18-24); his prophecy comes from 1 En. 1.9.  Jude takes “the Lord” to be Jesus.  17-18:  Predictions of the apostles, otherwise unattested (though perhaps meaning those such as 2 Thess 2.3); the last time reinforces the author’s apocalyptic world view (cf. 2 Pet 3.3).

20-23:  Exhortation.  The recipients should hold firm, trust in their reward, and keep those wavering from following the defiling teaching of the enemies.  20:  Faith, the teaching of the community, not a relationship of trust.  Pray in the Holy Spirit, perhaps a reference to the worship practice of ecstatic utterance of words presumed to be from God (cf. 1 Cor 12.3,10).  21-22:  Mercy … eternal life, the love of God as expressed in the compassion of Jesus brings the believers into the kingdom (eternal life, the life of God).  Have mercy, show mercy as you are yourselves shown mercy.

24-25:  Doxology.  An extended, concluding praise of God (cf. Rom 16.27).  Without blemish, language of sacrifice, in which both those serving in the Temple (Lev 21.17-18) and the offered animal (Lev 22.20-21) must be free from defect.  God … Savior, through Jesus Christ, God saves by the agency of Jesus; the text may reflect views of the status of the messiah that do not yet see him as divine.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2011 4:47 pm

    I had just started to read this post when the phone rang. My local bookstore was calling to tell me that my copy of the Jewish Annotated New Testament has come in.

    I think I’ll go pick it up now and read this from a hard copy!



  1. Annotated Jewish New Testament–first impressions « BLT
  2. An unusual study Jewish study Bible « BLT
  3. Jewish Annotated New Testament posts « BLT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: