Commentary on Jude 1-2

Notes (NET Translation)

1:1 From Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, wrapped in the love of God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.

The author identifies himself as Jude (Ioudas), the brother of James. It was extremely unusual to identify oneself by a reference to one’s brother rather than one’s father. “The only theory which does explain it is that which identifies Jesus as the James whom everyone knew” (Bauckham 23). This James, therefore, is the well-known James the Just, the brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem Church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Jas 1:1; Gal 1:19; 2:9; 1 Cor 15:7). This means the author identifies himself indirectly as Jude, one of the four brothers of Jesus (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3). He did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Mk 3:21, 31; Jn 7:3, 5) but he was a believer after the resurrection (Acts 1:14). Whether he became a believer because of the resurrection or had become a believer before that point is unknown. According to 1 Cor 9:5 Jesus’ brothers, probably including Jude, were itinerant missionaries.

Despite being the brother of Jesus, Jude now identifies himself as a slave (doulos) of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:1; Col 4:12; Jas 1:1; 2 Pet 1:1). “His authority to address his readers does not rest on his kinship to Jesus, which he omits to mention, but on his commission to serve Jesus Christ” (Bauckham 27).

The location of the readers is not specified. Instead their condition is described in a triad, a common feature of the epistle. The content of the letter makes it clear it was written for a specific circumstance and not as a catholic epistle addressed to all Christians. The first description of the readers is that they are called by God.

This calling is further defined by two participles, each connected to a member of the Trinity. The first speaks of Christians as those who are loved by or in God the Father. Paul says the same in Rom 1:7 (although he uses a different grammatical form). The point Paul makes and that Jude would make if we accept the translation “by” is that God called us out of sheer love. It is not that Jesus delivered us and the Father had to accept us, but that the Father loved us and in that love called us. Yet what would the other translational possibility mean, being loved “in God the Father” (NRSV; the NIV has “by”)? Certainly the NIV translation “by” is possible (i.e., it translates the Greek word en instrumentally), but that would be an unusual way of expressing the subject of a passive verb (normally hypo is used). That leads us to suspect that the NRSV is correct with its “in God the Father.” Could this phrase be expressing something similar to the Johannine references to Christians being “in God” (John 17:21 [“in us”]; 1 John 2:24 [“abide … in the Father”]; 3:24 [“abide in him”]; 4:13, 15, 16)? This is probably the case in that Jude 21 commands believers, “keep yourselves in the love of God” (NRSV), and 1 John 4:16 connects abiding in the Father to the Father’s love for us and our abiding in love. Thus Jude is indicating that we are loved by God (God is the implied subject of the verbal noun “called” as well as of the participles) as we are “in God.” (Davids 37)

A translation difficulty also arises with the phrase “kept by Jesus Christ.” The consensus among commentators and most modern translators is that the phrase should be translated “kept for Jesus Christ,” that is, kept until the day of redemption for Jesus Christ (cf. RSV, NASB, NRSV). The syntax is again difficult, and certainty is impossible. Those who support this rendering argue that if the agency of Jesus Christ were in view, we would expect the preposition “by” to be inserted with either the words en or hypo. Furthermore, it makes sense to say that Jude emphasized God the Father as the one who both loves and keeps (cf. v. 24). Finally, such an interpretation fits with the eschatological flavor of the text, emphasizing that believers are preserved “for Jesus Christ” until the final judgment. Despite the arguments supporting “kept for Jesus Christ,” the interpretation proposed by the NIV (“kept by Jesus Christ”) is preferable. According to this view, the words “Jesus Christ” (Iesou Christou) denote agency, the notion of being kept by Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is the agent, then the two clauses are symmetrical: “loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.” Seeing the dative as one of agency is reasonable and fits with Wallace’s own description of a dative of agency: (1) the dative noun must be personal; (2) the person specified by the dative noun must be portrayed as exercising volition; (3) a perfect passive verb is present; and (4) the agent of the passive verb can also function as the subject of an active verb, while the dative of means normally cannot. Verse 1 fulfills all of these requirements. The dative is personal (Jesus Christ), he exercises volition, we have a perfect passive (participle), and the agent also could function as the subject (Jesus Christ keeps).

Whatever interpretation one adopts, the main emphasis of the two participial clauses is clear. Those whom God has called to himself are loved by him and kept until the day of salvation. The grace of God that called believers to faith will sustain them until the end. The emphasis of God’s grace does not cancel out human responsibility. In v. 21 the readers are exhorted, “Keep yourselves in God’s love.” God’s grace does not promote human passivity and laxity. It should stir the readers to concerted action. Nonetheless, the ultimate reason believers will persevere against the inroads of the intruders is the grace of God by which he set his love upon believers, called them to be his people, and pledged to preserve them until the end. (Schreiner 430-431)

1:2 May mercy, peace, and love be lavished on you!

The prayer wish anticipates themes developed in the rest of the letter. Jude prayed for mercy because his readers would resist the opponents only by God’s mercy and because they needed to experience God’s mercy so that they could extend the same to those captivated by the false teachers (vv. 22-23). They needed peace because the interlopers caused division (v. 19) and introduced strife and grumbling wherever they went (vv. 10, 16). They needed love because the intruders cared only for themselves and abused the very purpose of the love feasts (v. 12). Jude prayed that mercy, peace, and love would be multiplied because an abundance of these qualities was needed at a stressful time in the church’s life. (Schreiner 432)


Bauckham, Richard J. Jude, 2 Peter. Word Books, 1983.

Davids, Peter H. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006.

Green, Gene. Jude & 2 Peter. Baker Academic, 2008.

Green, Michael. 2 Peter & Jude. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Holman Reference, 2003.


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