Introduction to Jude

 

 

In addition to the traitor Judas Iscariot, another Jude appears in the lists of

the apostles. In the Gospel histories he is entirely in the background, there

being, indeed, but a single occasion on which he is reported to have taken

an active part even in speech. That is during our Lord’s discourse previous

to His going forth to meet His betrayal; when this one of the twelve breaks

in with the question, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto

us, and not unto the world?” (John 14:22). But in the apostolic lists he

is introduced along with James the son of Alpheus, Simon Zelotes, and

Judas Iscariot. He is generally identified with Lebbeus and Thaddeus

(Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18), although some have attempted rather

to make Levi one with Lebbeus. He is also called “Jude of James”

(Luke 6:16) — a phrase which the Authorized Version renders, “Jude

the brother of James,” but which has on the whole a better title to be taken

as “Jude the son of James.”

 

But the Gospels also speak of a Jude, or Judas, who was one of the

brethren of Jesus. Both Matthew (Matthew 13:55) and Mark (Mark 6:3)

represent the men of our Lord’s “own country” as mentioning him by

name. Of this Jude we know extremely little. The historical books of the

New Testament indicate that these brethren of Jesus were at first

unbelievers (John 7:5), and that afterwards (probably not till the

Resurrection was accomplished) they were of the company of disciples

(Acts 1:14). This will apply, we have every reason to think, to Jude as

well as others. But beyond what these passages suggest, we have nothing

from the New Testament itself. Neither does early ecclesiastical history

furnish us with much. There is, however, one statement of great interest,

which has come down to us from Hegesippus, the father of Church history,

who flourished perhaps about the middle of the second century. It has been

preserved for us by Eusebius, and is of such importance that it may be

given in full. “There were yet living of the family of our Lord,” the

narrative says, “the grandchildren of Judas, called the brother of our Lord,

according to the flesh. These were reported as being of the family of

David, and were brought to Domitian by the Evocatus. For this emperor

was as much alarmed at the appearance of Christ as Herod. He put the

question whether they were of David’s race, and they confessed that they

were. He then asked them what property they had, or how much money

they owned. And both of them answered that they had between them only

nine thousand denarii, and this they had not in silver, but in the value of a

piece of land containing only thirty-nine acres, from which they raised their

taxes, and supported themselves by their own labor. Then they also began

to show their hands, exhibiting the hardness of their bodies, and the

callosity formed by incessant labor on their hands, as evidence of their

own labor. When asked, also, respecting Christ and His kingdom, what

was its nature, and when and where it was to appear, they replied ‘that it

was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom, but celestial and angelic; that it

would appear at the end of the world, when, coming in glory, He would

judge the quick and dead, and give to every one according to his works.’

Upon which Domitian, despising them, made no reply; but treating them

with contempt, as simpletons, commanded them to be dismissed, and by a

decree ordered the persecution to cease. Thus delivered, they ruled the

Churches, both as witnesses and relatives of the Lord. When peace was

established, they continued living even to the times of Trajan” (Eusebius,

‘Eccl. Hist.,’ 3:20: Bohn). As Domitian reigned from A.D. 81 to 96, this

passage helps us so far to determine the limit of Jude’s life.

 

The question of the authorship of our Epistle has been for the most part

question as to which of these two Judes is the writer. The necessity of

making a choice has been superseded, it is true, by some who have

contended that the apostle and the Lord’s brother were one and the same

person. This identification, however, rests upon the two suppositions that

“Jude of James” means “Jude the brother of James,” and that the sons of

Alpheus were brothers of Jesus. But the former supposition is, as we have

said, less probable than another, and the latter has against it the distinct

statement in John 7:5. The theory has also been propounded that the

author is the Judas surnamed Barsabas of Acts 15:22, etc. But this has

met with little favor. With most, therefore, the question is still this —

Which of two Judes is the writer of this Epistle? Is it the apostle with the

three names, or is it the non-apostolic brother of Jesus?

With many, both in ancient and in modern times, the opinion has prevailed

that the apostle is the author. But the difficulties in the way of this are

considerable. Besides the argument drawn from the circumstance that the

Jude who belongs to the twelve is represented rather as the son than as the

brother of James, there is the fact that the writer of our Epistle nowhere

calls himself an apostle, or even hints at his being so, and there is no

apparent reason why he should have avoided mention of his real position.

Further, if he was an apostle, it is difficult to see why he should have

appealed to his relationship to James rather than to the weightier fact of his

official dignity. And again, the manner in which he refers to “the words

which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ”

(v.17) leads us most naturally to the same conclusion. For he appears

there to distinguish himself from them, and to appeal, in support of his

exhortations, to an authority higher than his own.

 

This being the case, the decision must be in favor of the Lord’s brother. It

has been strongly urged by some that, if the writer had held this

relationship to Christ, he would have found in it his most direct and

obvious claim upon the attention of his readers, and would not have failed

to make use of the title. But this is sufficiently met by the explanation

which was given in very ancient times. The death and resurrection and

ascension of Jesus had produced such a change on the position and the

ideas of those who had been most intimately connected with Him on earth,

that religious feeling would restrain them from preferring any claim on the

ground of human relationship or asserting the ties of nature. On the other

hand, the designation, “brother of James,” and other peculiarities of the

Epistle, are easily understood if the writer is not the apostle, and if the

James referred to is the well-known head of the mother Church of

Jerusalem.

 

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