Reading through his introduction to Jude, I see that Gene Green confirms something I’ve been saying for years: the use of judgmental, ad hominem language to characterize your theological opponents is a part of Biblical discourse. As such, there’s no reason to treat this mode of discourse as inherently unchristian or unscriptural. Of course, certain conditions must be met to justify this usage.
“We can recognize in Jude’s rhetorical strategy the use of techniques common to vituperatio, the ‘rhetoric of slander’ (Johnson 1989: 420), which was the counterpoint to laudatio, the praise of noble character and deeds. As du Toit (1994: 403) observes, ‘Vilifying your opponent, like praising your addressees, has through the centuries been a useful persuasive weapon from the arsenal of a skilled speaker or writer.’ Vituperatio was a recognized skill that was even taught to students or rhetoric,” G. Green, Jude & 2 Peter (Baker 2008), 20-21).
“Jude’s rhetorical strategy is clearly formative as well. He wants the readers to continue in Christian virtue and avoid the vice of the heretics. He does not intend to persuade the heretics. In vituperatio, a person would employ well-known topoi in the denunciation of others…These themes were so well used that they even became part of the syllabus of rhetoric. Jewish rhetoric likewise employed vilification for similar ends…the categories used in Jewish rhetoric were quite similar to the gentile counterparts, even among Palestinian Jews (Johnson 1989:434-41),” ibid. 21.
“In light of ancient techniques of vilification, how should we read Jude’s denunciation of his opponents? Analyzing Jude along with 2 Peter in the light of speech act theory, du Toit (1994: 403) states, ‘For many a long day the performative dimension of language has been neglected in favor of the propositional. This is also true for NT studies. We have too long neglected the fact that in one way or another each of these writings seeks to persuade its readers/audience in a certain direction. To ask what a NT text is doing is at least as important as asking what it is saying.” He concludes, “Ideological literature works with contrasts; it does not seek the neutral middle-field. It creates heroes and villains’,” ibid. 21-22.
“So while the standard denunciations were employed in vituperatio, they could become specific when directed at a particular case. This is precisely what happens in Jude…Jude employs these conventional charges in ways specific to the situation his readers faced,” ibid. 22.