Friday, February 16, 2007

Hey Jude!

I. Introduction

Last week I got into a conversation with a Christian friend over the status of the apocryphal citations in Jude.

(Just to forestall any confusion, we’re discussing the canonical book of Jude, and not the ballad by Paul McCartney, which raises a rather different set of higher critical questions.)

My friend had consulted several commentaries, but didn’t come away with any entirely satisfactory answers.

So let’s see if we can’t to a better job on this question. The answer depends on how we nail down a number of key identifications.

II. The Evidence

1.Who was Jude?

We don’t have a lot of direct information about Jude.

i) According to the letter itself, he was the brother of James.

This probably refers to James of Jerusalem. And that, in turn, would make Jude a sibling (half-brother) of Jesus.

For arguments in favor of this identification, see: (Bauckham 1983; Bauckham 1990); (Carson/Moo 2005); (Davids 2006); (Guthrie 1990); (Schreiner 2003).

ii) From the author’s familiarity with the OT, Palestinian pseudepigrapha, and pesher exegesis, it is only natural to identify him as a Palestinian Jew, which would be consistent with, and corroborate, (i).

For supporting arguments, see: (Bauckham 1990); (Ellis 1993:221-26).

iii) Jude was probably one of the missionaries alluded to in 1 Cor 9:5. See: (Bauckham 1990).

2.Who was James?

While we lack much direct information about Jude, there are a number of scriptural and extrascriptural sources of information about James. This makes it possible to draw some likely extrapolations from what we know about James to what we can analogize about Jude.

As it bears on the topic of this particular post, the most salient considerations are:

i) James was a very traditional, Palestinian Jew. A pious law-keeper who resided in Jerusalem and frequented the Temple. Neither a reactionary nor a revolutionary.

For supporting arguments, see: (Moo 2000); (Shanks/Witherington 2003).

ii) After the dispersion of the Apostles, he assumes leadership of the Jerusalem Church.

For more information, see: (Bauckham 1995).

iii) James was the elder brother. In a culture in which primogeniture was a mark of social status, this would mean that he outranked his younger brother.

3.Who were the readers?

From Jude’s appeal to the OT, Palestinian pseudepigrapha, and use of pesher exegesis, it stands to reason that his audience shared his cultural outlook.

Either they were Palestinian Jews, or Jews who, if living abroad, identified with Palestinian Judaism.

4.Who were the false teachers?

i) The only thing we can say for sure is that the false teachers were antinomians. Some scholars have taken this to rule out their Jewish identity. But that’s premature.

ii) To begin with, they may have been radical Paulinists See: (Bauckham 1990:168)

Indeed, there are modern-day theologians who read Paul the same heretical way, viz. Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie, Robert Lightner, R. T. Kendall,

iii) If the false teachers weren’t Jewish, it’s unclear why Jude’s very Jewish audience would give them a hearing.

5.Who were the Essenes?

i) As Beckwith explains, “Both parties [Sadducees and Pharisees] had accepted the Maccabaean high-priesthood, which began when Jonathan Maccabaeus became high priest in 152 BC, but it appears from the Qumran evidence that the Essenes had from the beginning rejected it and started setting up their separate communities under their own priesthood; and before the destruction of the Temple the Essenes had been excommunicated from Temple worship (Josephus, Antiquities, 18:1:5, or 18:19). The separate existence that they led probably explains why they never actually figure in the New Testament” (Beckwith 1996:170).

ii) Beckwith has also argued that the Essenes did not canonize their own sectarian literature. See: (Beckwith 1986:364).

6.Which pseudepigrapha?

This is a bit complicated:

i) The church fathers attributed Jude 9 to The Ascension of Moses. But Bauckham has argued that Jude is alluding to a different work, The Testament of Moses. However, Charlesworth, for one, demurs.

Due to various recensions, and the incomplete state of our extant sources, it’s difficult to be precise.

Beckwith says, “The Assumption of Moses seems, at least in its present form, to be another, though earlier, apocalypse like 2 Esdras, reflecting a mixture of Essene and Pharisaic ideas. Its rejection of the sacrifices offered in the Second Temple (Ass. Mos. 4.7.; 5:1-4; cp. 1 Enoch 89:67,73) is Essene, but its computation of time is Pharisaic” (Beckwith 1986:38-39).

DeSilva says that “after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, E. -M. Laperrousaz has reopened the argument for an Essene provenance for Testament of Moses…We can say for certain that it arises from sectarian circles (the model of Taxo; the rejection of the institution of the Second Temple, at least under its current administration,” (de Silva 2000:1195a).

ii) By contrast, there is common agreement on the attribution of Jude 14-15 to 1 Enoch 1:9. And what was the provenance of 1 Enoch? Beckwith has argued at length that the Enochian literature is Essenic. See: (Beckwith 1981; Beckwith 1996); Cf. (Collins 2000:315a)

III. Evaluation

So where does this leave us with respect to Jude’s use of the Pseudepigrapha?

1.Given that James was, by all accounts, a conventionally and devoutly observant Jew who frequented the Temple, and given the further fact that the Essene literature was sectarian literature, written by a schismatic Jewish party that disowned the religious establishment and was, in turn, disowned by the religious establishment, this creates a very strong presumption against the suggestion that James would regard the Essene literature as either canonical or even inspired (i.e. prophetic).

2.Not only would that conflict with his religious principles, but it would also be at odds with his evangelistic policy. To side with a breakaway sect of Judaism would be very offensive to mainline Jews, and from everything we know about James, he was quite sensitive to the dangers of giving unnecessary offense to the Jewish community at large. So, both on principled and pragmatic grounds, there’s a strong presumption against the idea that James would treat Essene literature as either canonical or inspired.

3. Likewise, it would be very odd of James or Jude to treat Essene literature as canonical if Essenes didn’t even treat their own literature as canonical.

4.What about Jude?

i) He shared the same religious culture. He was subordinate to his older brother. And he collaborated with his older brother.

So, once again, we must presume that he shared his brother’s outlook and practice.

ii) Indeed, there is more than just a strong presumption to that effect. For Jude is the very one who explicitly identifies himself to his readers by reference to his brother James. So he is reinforcing that connection.

5.At the same time, both brothers would be very adept at audience adaptation. Jerusalem was a crossroads of international Jewry. A microcosm of the Jewish macrocosm.

Luke underscores that point in his account of Pentecost (Acts 2). Jewish pilgrims from the far-flung Diaspora.

6.In addition, Jude was probably an itinerate missionary who not only ministered to Jewish pilgrims from the Diaspora, but carried the gospel to the Diaspora.

7.As such, Jude would encounter Jews from a wide variety of Jewish traditions. Cross-culture evangelism would include the various schools and sects of Judaism.

8.Jude seems to cite the Intertestamental literature as authoritative. From this, many scholars conclude that he himself regarded this literature as authoritative.

But that’s a fallacious inference. For he may be mounting an ad hominem appeal, and the ad hominem argument is, almost by definition, an argument from authority.

You appeal to what your audience or your opponent honors as authoritative.

The NT is full of ad hominem arguments.

9.It’s possible that Jude is citing this literature because the false teachers had connections with Essenism. So he’s quoting their own in-house literature against them.

Or it’s possible that Jude is citing this literature because his readers had connections with Essenism, and would therefore find his appeal persuasive on their own grounds.

10.When a Christian apologist critiques Mormonism or Roman Catholicism, he will appeal to Mormon or Roman Catholic literature. And he will cite their literature as authoritative *for them*, given their religious background and social attachments.

We would expect Jude to do no less. And that interpretation gives us the best fit with the overall evidence.


Bauckham, R. “James and the Jerusalem Church,” R. Bauckham, ed. The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting (Eerdmans 1995), 415-80.

_____. Jude, 2 Peter (Word 1983).

_____. Jude and the Relatives of Jesus (T&T Clark 1990).

Beckwith, R. Calendar and Chronology, Jewish and Christian (Brill 1996).

_____. “The Earliest Enoch Literature and its Calendar,” Revue de Qumran 10/39 (1981), 388-98.

_____. The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Eerdmans 1986).

Bruce, F. Men and Movements in the Primitive Church (Paternoster 1979).

Carson, D. & D. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament (Zondervan 2005).

Charles, J. Literary Strategy in the Epistle of Jude (Scranton Press 1993).

Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the New Testament (Cambridge 1987).

Collins, J. “Enoch, Books of,” C. Evans, & S. Porter, eds. Dictionary of New Testament Background (IVP 2000), 313-18.

Davids, P. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude (Eerdmans 2006).

DeSilva, D. “Testament of Moses,” C. Evans, S. Porter, eds. Dictionary of New Testament Background (IVP 2000), 1192-99.

Ellis, Prophecy & Hermeneutics in Early Christianity (Baker 1993).

Guthrie, D. New Testament Introduction (IVP 1990).

Moo, D. The Letter of James (Eerdmans 2000).

Schreiner, T. 1,2 Peter, Jude (Broadman 2003).

Shanks, J. & B. Witherington. The Brother of Jesus (HarperSanFrancisco 2003).


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Interesting article. Jude has always been a hotly contested book because of the sources that it cites. Eusebius and Origen defended Jude, but still frowned on its sources. I have never read 'The Assumption of Moses', but I have read 1 Enoch, and there are places where they are very similar in style, not to mention the obvious direct quotes.

    I am afraid I don't quite agree with your final conclusion. When debating a Mormon, we never cite their own works as scripture, the way Jude does. In the same way you would not debate anybody by quoting what you perceive their falshood to be truth.

  3. HeIsSailing said:

    "I am afraid I don't quite agree with your final conclusion. When debating a Mormon, we never cite their own works as scripture, the way Jude does. In the same way you would not debate anybody by quoting what you perceive their falshood to be truth."

    Jude doesn't use a standard Scriptural citation formula in quoting Enoch or alluding to the Ascension and/or Testament of Moses.

    Likewise, one can quote a falsehood as though it's true for the sake of argument.

    Keep in mind that all we have is his letter to go by, so it's hard for us to read between the lines since we lack a knowledge of the unspoken assumptions between a known author and a known audience.

  4. I have a dispy friend (of the Chuck Missler variety) who really seems like he wants Enoch to be canonical. He makes a bit too much of Jude confirming a prophecy by Enoch (if it's a prophecy, it must be true, right?), and that Enoch was supposedly the first scribe of God. Somehow it all ties in to nephilims riding around in UFOs.

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    Facts on Essene Culture

    Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.
    Bijoy Cletus - Kerala, India