Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, brother of James, to those who have been loved in God the father, and who have been guarded and called for Jesus Christ: May mercy be to you and may peace and love be multiplied.”
As mentioned earlier, Jude identifies himself not as Jesus’ half-brother, but as Jesus’ servant and brother of James. It is a clear reminder to us that we are to take a humble attitude when we approach leadership roles. We are called to be servants, not masters and Jude’s attitude exemplifies just this mindset. Jude also reminds us as we read this letter, that those of us who are called and elect are beloved to God and kept, not on our own strength but guarded by the power of God and held for Jesus. There is a great eternal wedding that God has planned and He has called a people to himself—the church—to be the bride of his beloved son, Jesus. What a blessing to be called beloved of God. This is the name that God gave to Solomon (Jedidiah: see 2 Samuel 12: 25).
The blessing is also interesting. Not only does he pray for mercy, which is unusual (only 1 & 2 Timothy and 2 John contain mercy in their blessing), but it is the only epistle where mercy is listed first. I think that it is an indication that there are serious problems in this church. The people have clearly, based on the text, fallen astray, following these false teachers, they are in need of God’s mercy.
Note also that Jude’s blessing is for peace and love to be multiplied while mercy stands alone. Though one may argue that all three of these items are connected, as many modern translations would lead you to believe, the Greek sets mercy apart from the other two blessings. Perhaps this is because of the problems that are going on in this church. One of the things that these false teachers are doing is to create disharmony within the fellowship and to pervert the people’s love feasts. All sinners desperately need the mercy of God, yet, given the issues going on within this fellowship, they especially need God’s peace and love to shape their fellowship.
Author: Jude: the half-brother of Jesus. Reference Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13: 55. He is also the brother of James (the author of the epistle James, see Galatians 1:19 as well as Jude 1 for this connection). These were two of the children that Mary and Joseph had by normal means. We know little more than this about Jude other than the fact that Hippolytus (c. 170-232 AD) records that Jude preached in Greece and Macedonia, where he met his martyrdom (there is another tradition that Jude was martyred in Persia, which is in the area of modern day Iran/Iraq, but I have not been able to verify the origin of that tradition).
Why does Jude, which is short for Judas or Judah (Greek and Hebrew respectively), not refer to himself as Jesus’ half-brother? Humility. The brothers of Jesus did not become followers until after Jesus’ resurrection (we do not see them as part of the fold until Acts 1:14). It is a reminder to us that no matter what our pedigree, we are to see ourselves as servants of Jesus Christ.
Date: Little is known about Jude or the timing of the book, so we must be careful that we do not become too dogmatic about our position on this. Usually a date in the late 60s is suggested. The primary guide that we can work with is the second letter of Peter, which contains a remarkable number of parallel statements—so remarkable that it is almost impossible to see these letters as being connected.
While we don’t know much about the dating of Jude, we do have a fairly good idea about the dating of 2 Peter. We know from the early church records that Peter was martyred during the reign of Nero. Nero committed suicide in 68 AD as his power was about to be usurped. We also know that Nero’s persecution of Christians grew as he progressed in his reign.
Peter likely went to Jerusalem in the early sixties to assume a leadership role in the church there. This is the place from which Peter likely wrote both of his epistles. Given that Peter’s first epistle is written to churches that Paul founded and shepherded through written communications, it makes sense that Peter’s first letter was written either after Paul’s martyrdom or at least at the point in Paul’s imprisonment that he could no longer correspond with his churches. This, Peter took over in his stead. Since Paul is usually considered to have been martyred around 64 AD, it is likely that Peter’s first letter was not written until at least that point. And given the internal evidence (2 Peter 3:1) that Peter’s second epistle was written to the same churches as he wrote his first epistle to, that places his second letter later as well. My suggestion is that 2 Peter was probably written between 66 and 67 AD, just before Peter’s own martyrdom (2 Peter 1:14).
The question we must ask, then, was Jude written before or after Peter’s second letter? Or, in other words, was Peter building off of Jude’s letter or was Jude building off of Peter’s. The answer seems to be found in the connection between 2 Peter 3:3 and Jude 18. Both verses speak of the “mockers” who will come in the end times. The difference is that when Jude makes this comment, he does so as a quote from “the apostles.” The word that they both use, which means “one who mocks,” is the Greek word e˙mpai÷kthß (empaiktas). These two verses are the only two occurrences of this term in the New Testament, thus the only Apostle that Jude can be quoting from is the Apostle Peter.
This places the letter of Jude as having been written some time after AD 66/67. This also means that Jude was likely written to the same churches as Peter wrote his epistles to, given that only they would understand the reference that Jude was making. This seems to make sense, given the context of both letters, given that Peter speaks of the false teachers as coming (2 Peter 2:1) and Jude speaks of false teachers being present (Jude 4). Thus Peter is writing as a warning to beware of what is to come and Jude is writing to call people to cast out those who have come.
Though this may seem like a rather meaningless debate, it is important to note that Jude was writing under Peter’s authority. The early church fathers, when they were being led by the Holy Spirit to discern whether a book that was circulating amongst the churches was genuinely authoritative and the prophetic word of God, the primary criterion that they used was that of apostolic authorship (or oversight). Given that there are such striking similarities between Jude and 2 Peter, it is not hard to recognize the influence of one upon the other. Recognizing Peter, the apostle, as influencing the writing of Jude’s letter, then was an important factor in the recognition of this book as authoritative, as Jude himself, was not an Apostle.
Place of Origin: Again, this is an educated guess, no more. If the book is dated shortly after Peter’s death, falling in the late sixties it is likely to have been written in Rome. Were it written in the early seventies, it may have been penned from one of the churches that Jude was preaching at in Macedonia. Since it seems reasonable to date this within a fairly short period of time of the circulation of Peter’s second letter (the power of the language—things being repeated from one letter to the next—would diminish over time),my suggestion is that Jude wrote it from Rome within a few years of Peter’s death.
Destination and Audience: If I am correct in that Jude was writing to the same churches that Peter had been writing to, then the audience would be the churches in what is today modern Turkey. These are churches that were largely founded by the Apostle Paul during his missionary journeys, which adds support to the later dating of this letter. Jude makes a point of introducing himself as the brother of James. This may be simply a way of indicating which Jude he was (there were others) or it may be a way of connecting his letter to James’ earlier letter. Again, these are questions that fall into the realm of reason and not revelation, so we must be content in waiting for a definite answer until we are in a position to ask the author himself.