The Letter of Jude - Introduction
Although the addressees of the Letter of Jude are vaguely defined (v. 1), the emergency identified as its occasion (vv. 3–4) and the concrete descriptions of the opponents indicate that it was addressed to particular recipients. The purpose of the letter is to encourage the addressees “to contend for the faith” against those who “pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness” (vv. 3–4). The date of composition is uncertain, except that it must be earlier than 2 Peter, which uses Jude. The reference to “the predictions of the apostles” (v. 17) may indicate a period in the church when the apostles could be spoken of as a well‐known group from the past. If so, a date late in the first century CE would be likely, although some scholars have dated Jude as early as the 50s.
Jude is the brother of James (Mt 13.55; Mk 6.3 ), who was the Lord's brother (Gal 1.19 ) and leader of the Jerusalem church. Only this James was prominent enough to serve as identification for his brother. Attributing the authorship of a writing to a major figure is well attested in the Bible and in other ancient literature.
The letter is organized by an exhortation to “contend for the faith” (v. 3) and a closing exhortation to keep oneself “in the love of God” (v. 21) and have “mercy” on others who are erring (vv. 22–23). Between these two exhortations, a series of biblical and nonbiblical stories and prophecies are presented as evidence of the error and eventual doom of the writer's opponents. This material incorporates an interpretation of selected judgments from Genesis and Exodus (vv. 5–8) with a note on Michael the archangel (vv. 9–10), an interpretation of selected errors from Genesis and Numbers (vv. 11–13), an application of the prophecy of 1 Enoch 1.9 to the opponents (vv. 14–16 ), and an application of apostolic prophecy (vv. 17–19 ). In each case the transition from citation to interpretation is marked by the word “these” as subject of the sentence: “these dreamers” (v. 8 ); “these people” (v. 10 ); “these” (vv. 12,16 ). The letter closes with an elaborate and beautiful prayer (vv. 24–25 ).