ad Dei GloriamMinistries

Home > Bible Book Intros > General Epistles > Introduction to Jude

Introduction to the Epistle of Jude

Table of Contents

General Info

The Book of Jude is named after its author, one of the half-brothers of Jesus.  The Hebrew name is “Judah” (meaning “praise”) and the Greek is “Iouda” (Judas).   It is one of the shortest NT books (only Philemon, 2 John and 3 John are shorter), and is the last of eight general epistles in the NT canon.

Almost all of the Pauline and general epistles devote some text to the problem of false teachers, but only Jude devotes his entire letter to this great apostasy.  Many scholars believe that Jude was the primary source for the second chapter of 2 Peter.

As we read through Jude, we can easily imagine that it could have been written yesterday.  While Jude wrote his epistle to first century Christians, like all other Scripture, its importance has not diminished one iota.  In fact, as we approach the end of the church age, it is possibly more relevant today than ever before.

[TOC]    [Top of Page]

Brief Survey

As the letter opens, Jude identifies himself as a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James, and his audience as all those invited into a relationship by God the Father (v1).  He then identifies the current situation which led to the writing of the letter, that is heretics who had crept into the church (v3-4).

Jude then elaborates on the character of the false teachers, citing three OT examples to demonstrate their inevitable condemnation, and three additional examples to rebuke them for their behavior, using terms that would be quite clear to his first century readers (v5-16).

Jude then shifts his attention back to believers, calling for them to faithfully build each other up in the faith, praying in the power of the Holy Spirit.  He then leaves final instructions for Christians to show mercy to those who faith is wavering and to rescue others from the clutches of the false teachings (v17-23).

Jude then concludes with a doxology (or a prayer of praise) to God the Savior though Jesus Christ the Lord (v24-25).

[TOC]    [Top of Page]

Key Verses

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (3-4)

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (14-15)

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. (17-23)

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (24-25)

[TOC]    [Top of Page]

Author and Date

The book’s first verse identifies the author as “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” and the recipients as “those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”.  Both Jude and James were common names of the time, but this James is almost certainly the half-brother of Jesus, the first leader of the Jerusalem church (Ac 15) and author of the general epistle that bears his name.  Thus Jude, sometimes spelled Judas (not Judas Iscariot or the apostle by the same name – see v17), was also a half-brother of the Lord (Mt 13:55, Mk 6:3).  Jude does not identify himself as a brother of Jesus, probably out of humility and reverence for the Messiah.  Neither James nor Jude followed Jesus during his earthly ministry (Jn 7:5), so they probably became disciples only after the resurrection (Ac 1:9-14, 1Cor 15:7).

Other than the usual modern critics, there have been relatively few challenges to the authenticity of Jude.  Some initially questioned the letter due to its inclusion of quotations from non-canonical sources (v9, 14), but it was recognized by the vast majority that an inspired author making use of certain parts of these sources was acceptable and did not imply that the author was endorsing the entire source as inspired or inerrant.  The apostle Paul frequently quoted extra-biblical sources in his epistles.

Furthermore, the epistle of Jude was accepted as canonical from the early days of the church.  In the first two centuries, we find quotations from or references to the letter in the writings of Clement of Rome in the late first century and from Tertullian, Clement of Alexander, and Origen in the second and early third century.  Additionally, Jude was included in the Muratorian Canon (~170 AD), the only surviving list of Scriptural books dated prior to the fourth century, and later in others such as the Council of Carthage (397 AD).

It is difficult to assign an exact date of destination of Jude’s letter.  As a younger brother of Jesus, Jude would probably have been born between 1 and 10 AD.  The false teaching described within developed in the mid-to-late 40s.  Verse 17 appears to imply that many of readers had heard some of the apostles speak.  Due to the similarities with 2 Peter (written ~65-67), Jude was probably written about the same time.  The date of Jude may also depend on the exact relationship with 2 Peter (see Author of 2 Peter).  If Peter used the letter of Jude as a source, then Jude was probably written in the early 60s.  If Jude used Peter’s letter as a source, then Jude was probably written between 66 and 80 AD.  If they wrote independently (which is certainly possible since both were inspired by the same Spirit), or drew from a third source, then Jude could have been written anytime in the 60s or 70s AD.

[TOC]    [Top of Page]

Historical Background

We know that Jude wrote to Christians, but their exact geographical location is unknown.  Due to the similarities with 2 Peter, it is popularly assumed that Jude wrote at about the same time, although it’s possible that Jude could have been written as much as 10-15 years after Peter’s final letter.

At the time of Jude’s letter, all the other apostles except John had likely been martyred.  Depending on the exact date, Peter could still have been alive, but certainly near the end of his life.  Thus, at this time, the churches were probably very susceptible to false teaching.

Jude focuses primarily on the character of these heretics, rather than the nature of their teaching.  Nonetheless, we can probably assume their teaching was a type of Gnosticism (or at least a fore-runner) that was further cultivated than that combated by the Apostle Paul, but not as developed as that opposed by John in his epistles.  The heresy in John’s letters was probably an early version of the full-blown Gnosticism of the second and third century.  See Interpreting 1st John for more information.

[TOC]    [Top of Page]



30 or 33 (1) Last Supper (Passover), Passion Week, Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection
30 or 33 (1) Pentecost (birth of the Church in Jerusalem)
~ 49 - 50 Birth of the Jerusalem Church with James, the brother of Jesus and Jude, as leader
~ 59 - 62 James is stoned to death in Jerusalem
~ 60 – 80 Jude writes his Epistle
~ 64 - 67 Peter writes his Second Epistle shortly before his death as a martyr under Nero
70 Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem
~ 85 - 90 John writes his 3 Epistles (probably from Ephesus)

(1)  These dates are either one or the other (Nisan 14 Passover falling between Thursday sundown to Friday sundown on the Jewish calendar).  The earlier date is the most popular, but there are good evidences and arguments to support either date.

~ Dates are approximated.

[TOC]    [Top of Page]

Themes, Purpose and Theology

The overriding purpose of Jude’s epistle is to issue a warning to believers concerning the false teachers infiltrating the church.  In accomplishing his objective, Jude draws heavily from the OT and from Jewish Apocalyptic writings and traditions.  This warning also included the call for believers to be discerning, to resist the false teachers and to cling to the truth.

Another purpose and theme that stems from the first is Jude’s exhortation of defending the faith.  In the NT, “faith” usually refers to the act of believing, while “the Faith” refers to the true content of Christian belief delivered by revelation from God.  The insistence on guarding and defending the faith necessarily involves acknowledging and studying God’s truth.

Another theme is the betrayal of the false teachers by their immoral personal lives, allowing them to be easily recognized.  Other themes include the certain judgment of false teachers, the necessity of perseverance by believers, and the requirement to show mercy to others.

No major theological doctrines are contained in the book of Jude.

[TOC]    [Top of Page]

Interpretation Hints and Challenges

We should not allow the length of Jude’s letter mislead us into underestimating its importance.  I’ve known several pastors and scholars who utilized about a dozen 1-hour segments in teaching through this short book.  Much of this time is spent on the many applications for our modern times.

For the sake of briefness, and since there are no doctrinal issues discussed in Jude, we’ll limit ourselves primarily to an interpretation of the text itself.  Yet, even a concise treatment will require a separate discourse.  So, please refer to our Commentary on Jude article in which we provide a brief exposition of the text and attempt to answer a few questions that are frequently asked when reading the book.

[TOC]    [Top of Page]


Jude’s Epistle can be divided into two main sections, plus the greeting (v 1-2) and closing doxology (v 24-25). The first section (v 3-16) contains his purpose and descriptions of apostates and false teachers.  The second section (v 17-23) provides advise on dealing with these false teachers.

1 - 2 Greetings
3 - 4 Purpose for Writing – Contend for the Faith
5 - 7 Historical Examples of Past Judgments against Apostates
8 - 13 Characteristics of Apostates and False Teachers
14 - 16 Future Judgment of Apostates and False Teachers
17 - 23 Defense Against False Teachers; Call for Believer’s Perseverance
24 - 25 Doxology or Benediction

[TOC]    [Top of Page]