Home Statement of Faith Contact

  Date: 65-90 AD

Which Jude?

In the list of the Apostles we see a "Judas of James" (Ioudas Iakobou) in Luke's Gospel (Luke 6:16). Is this the same as the Jude/Judas (English variants) of the letter? If we try to identify them as the same person, then we have to interpret "Jude of James" to mean Jude brother of James instead of the typical Greek "son of James", where the genitive of the second name indicates paternity. James, the brother of Jesus is not in that list (James son of Zebedee and James son of Alphaeus are different Apostles), and Jesus' brothers were not believers until later (John 7:1-5). Jesus did have a brother named Jude as well as a James (Mark 6:3).

On the other hand, the genitive of the second name (="of James") could also denote friendships [Edgar Goodspeed, Introduction to the New Testament (1937; 2nd ed. 1946), p.348], so perhaps this could be the brother and not son of James, despite that in Jude's letter he adds "adelphos" (brother) of James. And maybe Jude believed Jesus a little earlier, and John 7:5 simply describes the rest of his brothers.

This I personally find unlikely. If Jude preceded James in terms of faith, then why is he identified as the brother of James, who at that time would've been faithless, and not Jesus? Even if he was less of a leader in later times, it's strange that he believed in his own brother first, yet the Apostolic lists remember him as a brother of James. It's probably a separate Jude, but the bottom line is that it doesn't exactly matter.

He identifies himself as the brother of James, and this is without a doubt the brother of Jesus (James 1:1; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19). There are only two other Apostles with that name: James the son of Zebedee, who was martyred in the 40's, and James the son of Alphaeus (Luke 6:15) who is otherwise almost unknown. If either of these men were the pillar and leader of the Jerusalem Church, they would've not been identified by these lesser titles and places in the list of Apostles in the Gospels. The earliest Church authorities considered this Jude an apostle, but they are of course too late to be decisive.

Because the letter is so short, unspecific in nature (does not name the heretics or heresies other than broad generalizations), and uses such a brief but evidently authoritative identification of the author ("servant of Jesus Christ", "brother of James" - without even saying which James), many times it was supposed that this really was written by some Jude, but not the apostle or brother of James/Jesus. Perhaps some bishop who either used "brother of James" as a title (perhaps because of his name?), or the words were simply added later by an interpolation.

The evidence for these theories, however, has to be invented, and the simple address, so similar to James 1:1, simply suggests that the original author wrote the words and claimed to be Jude the brother of James, brother of the Lord.

The obscure figure of this Jude prompts Robinson to write,
Certainly the epistle could be an attempt to silence latter-day scoffers and heretics in the name and authority of the chief of the apostles - although why anyone should resort for this purpose to the mantle of Jude is far from clear.

But Kümmel accurately responds that Jude was a popular enough figure, citing a few legends about him from Hegesippus (writing c.160):

According to Hegesippus, at the end of Domitian's reign (c. 95), two grandsons ofJude, the brother of the Lord, were accused of belonging to the family of David, whom Domitian had ordered slain. The emperor, having personally examined the two grandsons, dismissed them as harmless. They were then rulers of the churches (eigeisasthai ton ekkleision) and lived until the time of Trajan (98-117). But from that account we learn only that the name of this brother of Jesus was still known toward the end of the first century.
So whether a forgery or not, we can suppose it was the Judas, brother of Jesus mentioned in Mark 6:3 intended. If this is not the "brother of James" who was the brother of the Lord, we are including too many coincidences. As Kümmel says,
Obviously, the Epistle of Jude pretends to be written by this brother of Jesus. For the supposition that the author was an otherwise unknown Jude who had a brother James (Appel, Henshaw) is extremely improbable in view of the linguistic accord between Jude 1 and Jas. 1:1. And the equating of the author of Jude with Bishop Jude named in the old Jerusalem list of bishops (H. Grotius, Streeter; similarly A. Adam, ZKG, 4, Folge 6, 1957, 46, and G. Klein, Die Zwölf Apostel, FRLANT, N.F. 59, 1961, 100) runs aground on the fact that we know nothing as to whether this bishop had a brother named James.

The unemphasized credentials ("servant of Jesus Christ," "brother of James", which obviously makes him brother of the Lord if James is one), not even to differentiate from Judas the traitor speak more for an Apostle whose name was no stigma, at least not for him, rather than for a spontaneous, much later imitator. In addition, the non-specific nature (no names or broad groups attacked) and short length suggests the letter is no forgery but at the very least written by some Jude, perhaps a bishop. But this is not suggested by the titles he uses. While like James he speaks with authority, the humble epithets he uses for himself would be extremely odd and uncharacteristic (brother of which James? the Apostle? Why designate himself like this specifically if not an actual brother and which community would've had their bishops do this?).

Why Ioudas for the author's name - identical to the traitor Judas' name? Matthew and Mark painstakingly try to differentiate by renaming the Apostle to Thaddeaus (whereas Luke reverts to the original tradition and John simply notes, "not the traitor"). This isn't really a powerful argument for authenticity, because clearly later tradition kept the original name and Mark+Matthew's "Thaddeaus" is the oddity (also how they change Simon the Pharisee to Simon the Leper, which Luke apparently reverts to the original; evidently a Pharisee Jesus healed from leprosy). Similar qualms over names led some manuscripts of Acts to change the sorcerer at Paulus' court, Elymas, from Bar-Jesus to other names (Acts 13:6).

If it's supposed that Jude was older than Jesus, maybe by a few years, and that he was a son of Joseph from a previous marriage, then a date later than 75 becomes difficult.

Language and Style

Despite having a good grasp of Greek, Jude writes nothing too advanced:

The vocabulary then of the Epistle proves that the author, though a Jew, was yet a man of some culture, and, as it would seem, not without acquaintances with Greek writers. Writers, however, of the 'common' dialect, embodying older strata of the language would suffice to supply him with his vocabulary. A Dictionary of the Bible Vol. II, p.800]
Like the other apostles, the historical Jude probably travelled a lot as 1 Cor. 9:5 tells us. Nothing should have prevented him from having learned Greek well-enough over the decades. Some of Bar Cochbah's letters to fellow Hebrew fighters were also Greek, which is how we know his name in Greek. That Jude quotes the LXX and the Apocalypse of Enoch in its Greek is therefore also not very relevant to authorship: these were more widespread, and he was writing a Greek document anyway. Thus Kümmel concludes that the author is likely a Jewish Christian, since he knows the Jewish apocalyptic works (1:9, 14), and other Jewish writings (1:9, 11).

His language, however, does show familiarity with Pauline terminology: "called" kletai in verse 1; saints, hagioi in verse 3. This is one indicator that the author is writing at least a decade or two after James and Paul. Kümmel adds that the letter fights heretics in the traditional anti-heretical polemic of quoting late Jewish and early Christian prophecies typical of "the late period of primitive Christianity" as well as the exhortation to keep the faith of the saints (1:3), which is so definitive of early Catholicism (80-140). For this reason I can't agree with Robinson that the quotation of 1 Enoch points toward a primitive date. 1 Enoch was cited and considered authoritative as late as Tertullian (c.200) anyway.

But even so, Jude doesn't have to post-date 80 on these grounds. II Thessalonians, written no later than 80, refers to the End Times and man of lawlessness in a way that's similar, though a bit less developed. It's not so impossible that Jude wrote near the end of the 1st century, especially if he was one of the youngest and thus most obscure brothers of Jesus. He is listed second to last in the list of brothers of Jesus, while James is first (Mark 6:3). His youth would fit in with the fact that he calls himself a brother of James and not Jesus: he felt he was a step lower than the elder James on that ladder. Moreover, if he was more than a decade younger than Jesus, he maybe didn't really know him; John 7:3-5 could mean only one leading brother (James?) is speaking for everyone; not that Jude and the others were old or wise enough to make up their own opinions. From Luke 2 where Jesus is 12, it seems Joseph and Mary were preoccuppied enough to not notice Jesus was missing. This would indicate an older brother who was relatively trusted compared to the others, though this can't tell us how many siblings there were. Either way, Jude 1:3 is the same concept found in Paul (1 Cor. 4:17).

Some consider Jude 1:17 to be looking back on the Apostles as if from the second or third Christian generations. But is it really impossible Jude refers to the apostles without excluding himself the way Paul does (1 Cor. 12:28, 15:7, Rom. 16:7)?

The "faith delivered to the saints" is explained as the opposite of the actions of the heretics, but is nevertheless not explained nor defended through Scripture except by pointing to examples of similar errors in the Old Testament, a sign of primitiveness. Nothing like 1 Clement (written c.100) which directly points to something said by an Apostle ("the law is good only if used as a mirror for sins, etc.."). The readers are left to deduce from Old Testament halakah just like in Paul's letters (the argument in Galatians 3). I don't see any "traditional style of polemic against heretics" in 1:4,8,10-13,16 as Marxsen does, since the reasoning behind the attacks is clearly explained. Perrin's assessment that, "'the faith once for all delivered to the saints'; faith is the acceptance of authoritative tradition, and the writer denounces the heretics and admonishes the faithful on the authority of that tradition" does not necessitate anything decades after 60, especially seeing Paul's statements in places like 1 Cor. 4:17 (or 2 Thess. 2:2), which seems to imply one of the Apostles could certainly make a statement such as 1:3, given the occasion of heresy spreading and challenging long-established (as seems to be the case from 1:4) values and codes of living. Even so, decades after 60 is well within the life range of Jude.

The Heretics

The opponents are not the Gnostics of the 2nd century, and the Christian Gnostics certainly could have existed in 60-90, having formed an ill-conceived notion of the liberty in Christ, as apparently some along similar lines in Colossae had (mentioned in Colossians, not written later than 75). Beyond their individual indulgences in pagan sins, they don't have any organization or complex beliefs about the nature of Christ and God as do the Gnostics of the 2nd century.

Perrin maintains that verse 19 shows that Jude deals with Gnostics because the word translated as "worldly/natural" is psychikoi, a technical term used by the Gnostics. Ironically it is this exact word among other things that has connected Jude with James who uses it in the same sense in 3:15. Moreover, Paul uses the same word in conjunction with "pneuma" (spirit/spiritual) to contrast (1 Cor. 2:14), and he is certainly not fighting Gnostics. In all three, the word describes the natural tendency to follow temptations, in Jude's case justified by a misinterpretation of Paul's freedom in Christ. Jude would have included more against the later Gnostics than their sins (cf. 1 John).


The old issues of the law are so far behind that the only concerns are not taking liberty too far. This means all Christians are addressed: whether Jew or Gentile, who are united, and the letter is probably an epistle for multiple locations. The fact that verses 3,4,17,22 seem to speak in personal terms is simply a literary device: Jude calls all Christians friends seeing that Jesus' prophecies are obviously for everyone (v.17), and v.22 can be seen applied anywhere.

Textual Witness

Since the earlier witnesses (the 2nd century) are unanimous in accepting Jude, Kümmel is most likely correct in asserting that the doubts over Jude's genuineness in the 3rd and 4th centuries were entirely due to its citation of non-canonical sources:

The early ecclesiastical attestation is at first good but then becomes uncertain. II Peter used Jude, and the Muratorian canon, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria regarded it as canonical. On the other hand, Origen quoted it, but did not regard it as a part of the canon (Eus., EH VI, 25). Eusebius (EH II, 23, 25; III, 25, 3), like Hieronymus, considered Jude as among the "disputed" writings. Nevertheless, this doubt of the canonicity of Jude obviously does not rest upon an independent tradition, but upon the offense caused by Jude's use of the Apocrypha.
In any case, it was apparently somewhat of a practice to quote non-canonical, but instructive, works to prove a point, as is shown by the quotation of Epimenides in Titus 1:12. I cannot agree with Perrin's assessment that verses 20-21 represent a "developing Christian liturgy" testifying to "the liturgical development of a trinitarian formula" since we see such praise in the Pauline letters.


  1. Robinson, J.A.T., Redating the New Testament
  2. Kümmel, W.G., Introduction to the New Testament, pp.300-301
  3. Kümmel, ibid., p.301
  4. Perrin, Norman, New Testament Introduction, p.260
  5. Kümmel, Op.cit.