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Jude and 2 Peter

Terrance Callan
Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies, Athenaeum of Ohio

Course: Introduction to the New Testament
Intended Audience: Undergraduates
Syllabus Section: Catholic or General Epistles


After completing this lesson, students should:

  1. 1. appreciate the relationship between Jude and 2 Peter;
  2. 2. understand the problems Jude and 2 Peter are addressing;
  3. 3. understand the ways Jude and 2 Peter address their respective problems, especially by appealing to scripture; and
  4. 4. understand key historical and interpretive issues in Jude and 2 Peter.

Outline of Lesson Plan

I. Background Information

II. Pre-class Preparation

III. In-class Lecture, Activities, and Discussion Questions

1. Jude and 2 Peter: Some Background

2. The relationship between Jude and 2 Peter

3. Those opposed by Jude and 2 Peter

4. Jude and 2 Peter's scriptural arguments against their opponents

5. Jude and 2 Peter's other arguments against their opponents

IV. Assignments

I. Background Information

1. On Jude

A. NOAB, Introduction to Jude.

B. The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Jude.

C. The Oxford Bible Commentary, Jude.

D. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible, Jude

2. On 2 Peter

A. NOAB, Introduction to 2 Peter.

B. The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 2 Peter.

C. The Oxford Bible Commentary, 2 Peter.

D. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible, 2 Peter.

II. Pre-class Preparation

Students should read the following:

1. NOAB, Introduction to Jude.

2. NOAB, Introduction to 2 Peter.

3. Jude.

4. 2 Peter.

Optional: The Oxford Bible Commentary, Jude: Introduction; The Oxford Bible Commentary, 2 Peter: Introduction.

Optional pre-class questions (for short written responses, online blog posts by students, etc):

Pick 4–6 verses from either Jude or 2 Peter. What is your reaction to this passage? What specific details about the language of the passage stand out to you?

III. Class

1. Jude and 2 Peter: some background

Jude and 2 Peter are letters that are often included in a section of the New Testament called Catholic Letters; in this phrase "Catholic" means "addressed to all Christians." Because the letter form includes stating the sender of the letter, both Jude and 2 Peter indicate the name of their author which is then included in the name by which we know the letter. "Jude" is the conventional English rendering of the Greek "Judas" in this letter, which in turn renders the Hebrew "Judah." There are several men named Judas in the New Testament. It is not clear which of them (if any) says he is the writer of this letter; most scholars think it is the family member of Jesus mentioned in Mark 6:3. However, many scholars also doubt that he is the actual author of the letter; they think it was written in his name by someone else. There is no doubt who is meant by "Peter." This is the chief of Jesus's apostles who is mentioned very frequently in the New Testament. However, most scholars doubt that he is the actual author of the letter.

Partly because of uncertainty about the identity of their authors, the dates of Jude and 2 Peter are also uncertain. Jude is most often dated either 50–80 or toward the end of the first century. Second Peter may have been written about 125 and is probably the last New Testament writing to have been composed.

In the history of Christianity less attention has been paid to Jude and 2 Peter than to other parts of the New Testament. That continues to be true today.

2. The relationship between Jude and 2 Peter

Jude 4–18 and 2 Peter 2:1–3:3 are so similar that there seems to be a literary relationship between them. Most scholars now think that Jude has served as a source for 2 Peter. Read and compare Jude 4–18 and 2 Peter 2:1–3:3, paying special attention to the parallels between:

Jude 5–8a and 2 Pet 2:4–10a
Jude 13b and 2 Pet 2:17b.
Jude 17–18 and 2 Pet 3:2-3.

How are Jude 4–18 and 2 Peter 2:1–3:3 alike? How do they differ? How would you describe the relationship between the two? Does it seem to you that 2 Peter has used Jude as a source? If so, why; if not, why not?

These questions could be discussed by an entire face-to-face class of 20–30 students; or by small groups of 6–8 students in a larger face-to-face class; or answered in writing by members of an online class. They could also be the topic of a paper.

3. Those opposed by Jude and 2 Peter

If 2 Peter has used Jude as a source, it is clear that the argument of Jude can also serve the purposes of 2 Peter. There is thus some degree of similarity in the situations addressed by the two letters. One similarity is that those they oppose are other Christians rather than non-Christians. Jude calls those it opposes "intruders" indicating that they have come from outside the community Jude addresses. 2 Peter calls those it opposes "false teachers" and "scoffers." It is not clear whether they have arisen within the community being addressed or have come from outside. In both cases those being opposed are other Christians whose views the authors find inadequate.

Since the recipients of Jude and 2 Peter know who the "intruders" and "false teachers/scoffers" are, Jude and 2 Peter do not describe them in detail. Jude describes the "intruders" in verses 4, 8, 12, 16 and 19. What picture of the intruders emerges from these descriptions?

2 Peter describes the "false teachers/scoffers" in 2:1–3, 10b–22; 3:3–4. What picture of the false teachers/scoffers emerges from these descriptions?

What are the similarities and differences between the "intruders" of Jude and the "false teachers/scoffers" of 2 Peter? As in number 2 above, these questions could be addressed differently by different kinds of classes or serve as a pape topic.

4. Jude and 2 Peter's scriptural arguments against their opponents

Jude and 2 Peter's principal arguments against their opponents are scriptural; both use scripture, especially the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, to show that the opponents should be rejected.


  1. 1. In verses 5–8 the author mentions God's punishment of three groups of wrongdoers, and says that the "intruders" behave the same way. The author implies that God will also punish them; thus those the author addresses should not join the "intruders." The three groups of wrongdoers are:
  2. a) The wilderness generation of the Israelites (v 5). After God had rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as they were traveling toward the Promised Land, they complained against God; therefore God did not bring them into the Promised Land. See Num 14:1–24.
  3. b) The angels who left their proper dwelling (v 6). This refers to Gen 6:1–4 in which the "sons of God" are said to have taken human wives. The passage in Genesis does not call the "sons of God" angels nor does it say that God punished them. Both of these items became part of the story when it was retold in other writings. For an example of this retelling see 1 Enoch 6–12.
  4. c) Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities (v 7). Because of their wickedness God destroyed these cities by raining down sulfur and fire upon them. See Genesis 18–19.

  5. 2. In verse 11 the author makes the same point by briefly comparing the "intruders" to three other notorious scriptural wrongdoers:
  6. a) They go the way of Cain who murdered his brother Abel and was punished for it; see Gen 4:1–16.
  7. b) They imitate the error of Balaam, a prophet who was hired to prophesy against the Israelites, but could not do so even though he tried; see Numbers 22–24. Balaam, however, did suggest sending unbelieving women among the Israelites to lead them away from worship of the true God (see Num 31:16).
  8. c) They are like Korah who rebelled against Moses. He and his followers were swallowed up by the earth. See Numbers 16.

2 Peter

  1. 1. In 1:16–18 the author argues that expectation of Jesus' second coming is not a myth by telling the story of Jesus' transfiguration that is found in Mark 9:2–8/Matt 17:1–8/Luke 9:28–36. Peter, James and John went with Jesus up a high mountain. There they saw Jesus transfigured and speaking with Moses and Elijah; a voice from heaven declared that Jesus was the speaker's beloved son. The passage in 2 Peter should probably be understood as referring to this gospel story, perhaps especially the version in Matthew. How does this story show that expectation of Jesus' second coming is not a myth?

  2. 2. In 1:19–2:10a the author argues that the prophetic word of scripture shows expectation of Jesus' second coming is not a myth:
  3. a) In 1:19–21 the author first argues that one should pay attention to the prophetic word because it is useful; it is like a lamp illuminating a dark place during the night until morning comes (v 19). The lamp that is the prophetic word illuminates the darkness of the present until the morning of Jesus's second coming. The author then says that one should also pay attention to the prophetic word because it comes from God (vv 20–21).
  4. b) In 2:1–3 the author admits that not all prophets are true prophets, and says that not all teachers are true teachers. The false teachers he opposes are expected to appear and will bring destruction on themselves and those who follow them.
  5. c) In 2:4–10a the author argues that three scriptural accounts show that God knows how to rescue the godly and punish the unrighteous (vv 9–10a). He implies that God will therefore do this again by sending Jesus a second time. The author takes the first and third of these scriptural accounts from Jude 6–7; to them he adds the second.
    • God's punishment of the sinful angels (v 4); see Gen 6:1–4 and above comments on Jude's use of this passage.
    • God's destruction of the world by flood in the time of Noah and salvation of Noah and his family from that flood (v 5); see Gen 6:5–9:29.
    • God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and rescue of Lot from that destruction (vv 6–8); see Genesis 18–19.

  6. 3. In 2:15–16 the author expands the comparison of the opponents to Balaam found in Jude 11. The author of 2 Peter adds that Balaam was rebuked by his own donkey and implies that the false teachers deserve the same rebuke. See Numbers 22–24.

  7. 4. After briefly referring to his earlier appeal to prophecy in 3:2, the author responds to the scoffers' question, "Where is the promise of his coming?" (v 4), in 3:5–10. Most of these responses are also based on scripture:
  8. a) The scoffers support their mocking question about fulfillment of the promise that Jesus will come again by saying that nothing has changed since the beginning of creation (v 4); they imply there is no reason to think anything ever will change fundamentally. The author responds by again summarizing the story of Noah (vv 5–6) as he had in 2:5. This earlier destruction of the world by water makes it impossible to assert that nothing has ever changed; thus it supports the expectation that in the future the world will again be destroyed, this time by fire (v 7).
  9. b) The author apparently sees the scoffers' skepticism about the second coming of Jesus as arising partly because it has not happened as soon as expected. He responds to this with two more appeals to scripture.
    • in v 8 he cites Ps 90:4 "a thousand years in your sight are like a day" to show that time is different for God than for humans; therefore, what seems like a long time to humans may not be a long time for God.
    • in v 10 he cites 1 Thess 5:2: "the day of the Lord...like a thief" to show that the time of the end is unknown; therefore it is impossible to speak of a time it is expected to happen.

  10. 5. In 3:15–16 the author says that Paul wrote the same things that he himself has, appealing to the authority of Paul's letters in support of his own.

5. Jude and 2 Peter's other arguments against their opponents

In addition to their argument from scripture, both Jude and 2 Peter make other arguments against their opponents. As noted below, some of these other arguments also make reference to scripture though the arguments themselves are not based on scripture. And in the case of Jude, it is possible that the arguments themselves are also regarded as scriptural though they are not drawn from scripture as it is presently known.


  1. 1. In verses 9–10 the author unfavorably compares the behavior of the "intruders" to that of the archangel Michael. The "intruders" slander what they do not understand (including the glorious ones—v 8), but Michael refrained from slandering the devil. When Michael and the devil were struggling for possession of the body of Moses, Michael did not slander the devil, but instead rebuked the devil by quoting Zech 3:2. This story is not found in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. Many scholars think it may be found in a text called The Testament of Moses (also known as The Assumption of Moses). The author of Jude obviously regards the story as having some degree of authority and may regard its source as part of scripture.

  2. 2. In verses 14–16 the author says the "intruders" fulfill a passage from 1 Enoch that speaks about the Lord's coming to judge sinners, namely 1 Enoch 1.9. Once again, and even more clearly, the author of Jude regards this passage as authoritative and may regard 1 Enoch as part of scripture.

  3. 3. Finally, in verses 17–18 the author says the "intruders" fulfill a saying of the apostles that speaks about the appearance of scoffers in the last time. The source of this quotation is unknown. It could be from oral tradition, or from a lost writing that the author regards as scriptural.

2 Peter

  1. 1. In 2:18–22 the author argues against following the false teachers by saying that it constitutes a return to entanglement in the defilements of the world that the addressees have escaped through their knowledge of Jesus Christ (v 20). The author compares this behavior to that of a dog that eats what he has vomited and a pig that rolls in the mud after being washed. This behavior of the dog is cited from Prov 26:11. Citing Matt 12:45/Luke 11:26 the author also says that returning to entanglement in the defilements of the world is not only returning to the bad situation from which one has escaped, but entering an even worse situation (vv 20–21). Why is this so?

  2. 2. In 3:9 and 15 the author argues against rejecting the expectation that Jesus will come again because it has not happened as soon as expected by saying that God is not delaying but rather showing patience, giving maximum opportunity for repentance.


Both Jude and 2 Peter also argue against their opponents by vilifying them. This can be seen especially in Jude 4, 8, 12–13 and 16; 2 Peter 2:1–3, 10b–22. Accusing one's opponents of licentiousness, greed, and other faults was conventional in Hellenistic polemical rhetoric. This may not be a simple description of the opponents' behavior, but rather be intended to encourage a negative evaluation of the opponents. Something similar is visible in modern political campaigns.

IV. Assignments

A. Short journaling or blog post activity

Pick a passage (approximately 4–8 verses) from either Jude or 2 Peter. Write a one-page response to the passage. What elements discussed in the class above are particularly significant for your passage? What is the effect of the passage overall? How do you respond as a reader?

Optional supplemental activity: After you have finished your one-page response, find two or three commentaries on the passage on the OBSO website. Read them, and then revisit your one-page response. How do the commentaries compare to your reading? How do they differ? What does consulting the commentaries add to your reading experience? With this in mind, revise and expand your one-page response.

B. Possible Paper Topics

For each of these paper topics, you may find it helpful to consult one or more commentaries on the OBSO website. Faculty may consider requiring the use of one or more commentaries.

  1. 1. Who is the author of Jude?
  2. 2. Who is the author of 2 Peter?
  3. 3. Commentators have often suggested that those opposed by Jude and 2 Peter are Gnostics. What is Gnosticism? See Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation, Gnosticism and Gnostic Interpretation. Does it seem to you that the opponents are likely to be Gnostics? Why? or Why not?
  4. 4. Discuss the way Gen 6:1–4 is interpreted in 1 Enoch. See The Apocryphal Old Testament, 1 Enoch especially chapters 6–12.
  5. 5. Compare the account of the transfiguration in 2 Peter 1:16–18 with that found in Matt 17:1–8. How are the two similar? How are they different? How do the two differ in meaning?
  6. 6. Investigate the understanding of prophetic inspiration in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and other Jewish writings. See The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Theology, Prophets and Prophecy. In what ways is 2 Pet 1:20–2:1 like and unlike this understanding?
  7. 7. In 3:15–16 the author of 2 Peter says that he and Paul are in agreement. Read either Paul's letter to the Romans or his first letter to the Corinthians. As far as you can see from this letter, in what ways does Paul agree with 2 Peter? In what ways do the two differ?
  8. 8. Discuss the possibility that Jude 9–10 derives from The Testament of Moses/The Assumption of Moses. See The Apocryphal Old Testament, The Assumption of Moses, Introduction.
  9. 9. Discuss the significance of Jude 9–10's possible use of The Testament of Moses/The Assumption of Moses and Jude 14–16's explicit quotation of 1 Enoch. These are writings not presently regarded as authoritative by Jews or most Christians. What does Jude's use of them imply about the author's understanding of scripture? Does it have any implications for the understanding of scripture today?
  10. 10. Evaluate the effectiveness of 2 Peter's arguments for belief in the second coming of Jesus. Do you think they would have been convincing for the first readers/hearers of 2 Peter? Are they convincing for people today?

Further Reading

Bauckham, Richard J., Jude, 2 Peter. Waco, TX: Word, 1983.

Callan, Terrance, Acknowledging the Divine Benefactor: The Second Letter of Peter.

Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2014.

Davids, Peter H., The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006.

Green, Gene L., Jude and 2 Peter. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.

Oxford University Press

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