Commentary on Jude 5-10

Notes (NET Translation)

1:5 Now I desire to remind you (even though you have been fully informed of these facts once for all) that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, later destroyed those who did not believe.

A textual problem exists in this verse. Did this verse (and the next verse with the pronoun “he”) originally refer to “Jesus” or to “the Lord” (the Lord could be either God or Jesus)? On the one hand, the reading of “Jesus” is so difficult that the majority of scholars working on the Editorial Committee of the United Bible Societies posited that “the Lord” (meaning God) was the original reading and that “Jesus” originated due to a transcriptional oversight. Elsewhere in the letter Jude always refers to “Jesus Christ” instead of to “Jesus” (Metzger 657). 2 Peter 2:4, which relied on Jude, refers to God. On the other hand, the manuscript evidence strongly favors “Jesus” over “the Lord.” The “Jesus” reading may not be as impossible as some scholars believe. Paul saw Christ as present in the wilderness generation (1 Cor 10:4, 9). 1 Enoch 69:26-29 describes the Son of Man sitting in judgment over the bound angels just as Jude 6 does on this reading. If the “Jesus” reading is correct then Jude believed in Jesus’ pre-existence.

Exodus 6-14 narrates the exodus where the Israelites were saved/delivered from Egypt. Numbers 14 describes how, due to the discouraging report from most of the spies, the wilderness generation was sentenced to wander for forty years and thereby destroyed. “The main point Jude made is clear. No person in the believing community can presume on God’s grace, thinking that an initial decision to follow Christ or baptism ensures their future salvation regardless of how they respond to the intruders” (Schreiner 446).

1:6 You also know that the angels who did not keep within their proper domain but abandoned their own place of residence, he has kept in eternal chains in utter darkness, locked up for the judgment of the great Day.

The angels in this verse are those from Genesis 6:1-4.

The sin the angels committed, according to the Jewish tradition, was sexual intercourse with the daughters of men. Apparently Jude also understood Gen 6:1-4 in the same way. Three reasons support such a conclusion. First, Jewish tradition consistently understood Gen 6:1-4 in this way (1 En. 6-19; 21; 86-88; 106:13-17; Jub. 4:15, 22; 5:1; CD 2:17-19; 1QapGen 2:1; T. Reu. 5:6-7; T. Naph. 3:5; 2 Bar. 56:10-14; cf. Josephus, Ant. 1.73). Second, we know from vv. 14-15 that Jude was influenced by 1 Enoch, and 1 Enoch goes into great detail about the sin and punishment of these angels. Jude almost certainly would need to explain that he departed from the customary Jewish view of Gen 6:1-4 if he disagreed with Jewish tradition. The brevity of the verse supports the idea that he concurred with Jewish tradition. Third, the text forges a parallel between the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah and the angels (“In a similar way,” v. 7; hos and ton homoion tropon toutois). The implication is that sexual sin was prominent in both instances. (Schreiner 448)

Peter H. Davids adds that “there is no example of any other Jewish interpretation of Genesis 6 from two or more centuries before Christ (the formation of the early part of 1 Enoch) to two centuries afterward (R. Simeon b. Yohai)” (49).

The “darkness” (zophos) is probably a reference to the netherworld (Davids 50). This is a temporary imprisonment prior to judgment day. “Jude’s purpose in evoking the story of the angelic fall is to demonstrate that those who hold a privileged position are not exempt from divine judgment if they embrace sin” (G. Green 68). “The evil angels had been too arrogant to keep their position — so God has kept them in punishment. Jude clearly means that the lex talionis cannot be extruded even from the heavenly places” (M. Green 180).

1:7 So also Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns, since they indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in a way similar to these angels, are now displayed as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire.

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is narrated in Genesis 19. In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah the men of the towns tried to have sexual relations with the angelic visitors who saved Lot’s family (the villagers did not know they were angels). While the NET translation has “pursued unnatural desire” the Greek literally reads “pursued strange flesh.” The phrase “strange flesh” cannot “refer to homosexual practice, in which the flesh is not ‘different’; it must mean the flesh of angels. The sin of the Sodomites (not, strictly, of the other towns) reached its zenith in this most extravagant of sexual aberrations, which would have transgressed the order of creation as shockingly as the fallen angels did. The two cases are similarly brought together in T. Napht. 3:4-5″ (Bauckham 54). Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire. “Their fire is eternal in that that their destruction was complete, and, unlike most burned cities in Palestine, they were never rebuilt” (Davids 53).

1:8 Yet these men, as a result of their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and insult the glorious ones

The heretics appealed to their dreams in order to justify their sins. They probably viewed their dreams as divine revelation and approval for their behavior. Jude views them as false prophets. To “defile the flesh” points to sexual immorality (G. Green 76). The authority being rejected in this verse is that of God or Jesus (v 4). The “glorious ones” are angels (cf. 2 Pet 2:10-11). The reason for insulting them is not clear.

Some commentators have thought that the [glorious ones] must be, or at least include, evil angels, partly on the grounds that v 9 provides an example of respect for the devil. But this is a misinterpretation of v 9. The term [glorious ones] is not elsewhere used of evil angels, and seems intrinsically unsuitable for such a use. It also seems most improbable that Jude should have objected so strongly (both here and in v 10a) to insults directed at evil angels. There are no parallels to the idea that evil angels should be treated with respect (at Qumran there were liturgies for the cursing of Satan and his followers: 4Q 280-82, 286-87). While the angels in question may have been regarded as evil by the false teachers, Jude must have seen them as angels of God who deserve to be honored. This conclusion is reinforced  by the close connection between this clause and the preceding. It is unthinkable that Jude should, in the same breath, have accused his opponents of rejecting the authority of the Lord and slandering the forces of Satan. Moreover, if the connection with vv 5-7 is to be preserved, it is relevant that the angels insulted by the Sodomites were messengers of God. (Bauckham 57)

1:9 But even when Michael the archangel was arguing with the devil and debating with him concerning Moses’ body, he did not dare to bring a slanderous judgment, but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!”

The main point of this verse is that Michael the archangel, in contrast to the heretics and though he seemed to have every right to do so, did not insult even the devil but left judgment in God’s hands (cf. 2 Pet 2:10-11). In other words, it “provides a counterexample to the false teachers in that Michael does not overstep his bounds on a topic on which his accusation would be justified, while they do overstep theirs in an area in which their accusations are not justified” (Davids 62).

Deuteronomy 34:6 (MT) implies that God buried Moses and notes that no one knew where Moses was buried (the LXX may imply angels acted on God’s behalf). Jude is alluding to an account in the Assumption (Testament) of Moses (Clement of Alexandria, Fragments on the Epistle of Jude; Origen, De principiis 3.2.1), which is extant in an incomplete Latin manuscript (the exact account in question is lost to us).

From other references to this work the lost ending can be reconstructed: After the death of Moses Michael came to bury his body. The devil (Samma’el, one of a variety of Jewish names for the devil) came and argued that the body should be given to him, for Moses had been a murderer (i.e., he had murdered the Egyptian, Exod 2:12-14) and thus did not deserve an honorable burial. When Michael appealed to the judgment of God with “The Lord rebuke you!” the devil withdrew, knowing that God would decide in favor of Moses’ honor and against his slander. (Davids 60)

The words Michael pronounced, “The Lord rebuke you!” allude to Zech 3:2. The Old Testament context in Zechariah is significant, for the account in Zechariah represents another incident in which Satan attempted to establish the guilt of one of Yahweh’s servants. Joshua, the high priest, was in the Lord’s presence, but Satan accused Joshua since his “filthy clothes” represented his sin (Zech 3:3-4). But Yahweh pronounced a judgment against Satan in saying “The LORD rebuke you” (Zech 3:2). God’s word brings forgiveness, illustrated by the clean garments with which Joshua was clothed. As Kee has shown, the Lord was not merely reprimanding Satan so that the story merely concludes with a verbal rebuke. Rather, the Lord’s verdict was effective, sealing Satan’s defeat in the courtroom and declaring Joshua’s vindication. Those whom the Lord has chosen are vindicated in his sight (Zech 3:2, 4-5).

Michael’s words in Jude, similarly, do not merely indicate a desire for the Lord to reprimand Satan verbally for bringing an accusation against Moses, as if Satan would receive only a verbal “dressing down.” The Lord’s rebuke would function as an effective response to Satan’s accusation so that Moses would be vindicated, and his vindication would secure his proper burial. (Schreiner 458-459)

1:10 But these men do not understand the things they slander, and they are being destroyed by the very things that, like irrational animals, they instinctively comprehend.

The opponents do not understand the angels. They understand their physical desires and this is what causes their destruction. “Though they claim to be guided by special spiritual insight gained in heavenly revelations, they are in fact following the sexual instincts which they share with the animals” (Bauckham 63).

Bibliography

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.

Metzger, Bruce M., ed. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Second Edition. Hendrickson Pub, 2005.

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

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