Commentary on Jude 14-16

Notes (NET Translation)

1:14 Now Enoch, the seventh in descent beginning with Adam, even prophesied of them, saying, “Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, 1:15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict every person of all their thoroughly ungodly deeds that they have committed, and of all the harsh words that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Jude cites 1 Enoch 1:9. 1 Enoch is not considered a canonical book by any Jewish or Christian denomination except the Ethiopic Church (and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Mormons] if one wants to consider them Christian). Moreover, 1 Enoch was composed in a piecemeal fashion between the fourth century BC and the first century AD. This raises questions for many Christians: what are we to make of the canonicity of 1 Enoch and Jude? At one extreme a Christian might conclude that since Jude is canonical then 1 Enoch should also be considered canonical (cf. Clement of Alexandria, Eccl. Proph. 3; Tertullian, De cultu feminarum 1.3). At the other extreme a Christian might conclude that since 1 Enoch is not canonical then Jude should not be considered canonical (this was noted by, but not held by, Didymus, In epistula judae enarratio and Jerome, De viris illustribus 4). These are not the only options but they highlight the different theological conclusions that can be drawn from the citation.

Let us begin our examination by noting exactly what Jude is saying. First, Jude quotes 1 Enoch because he believes that the quoted words are God’s truth in some sense. Second, the mere fact that Jude quotes 1 Enoch does not mean that he thought the whole book was inspired. The apostle Paul quoted Greek authors (Aratus and Epimenides in Acts 17:28; Menander in 1 Cor 15:33; Epimenides in Titus 1:12) but no one thinks Paul viewed those authors as inspired by God. There are plenty of things that are “prophesied” (proepheteusen), in the sense of being derived from God, that are not a part of canonical Scripture (e.g., Acts 19:6; 1 Cor 11:4-5; Rev 11:3). The Dead Sea Scrolls community valued 1 Enoch but did not group it among the Torah or Prophets (whether they grouped it among the Writings is unknown). Third, the fact that Jude designates Enoch as the seventh in descent from Adam (1 Enoch 60:8; 93:3) can be read as Jude’s way of designating the book he is citing but is more likely to highlight Enoch’s authority.

While it is possible that Jude quotes 1 Enoch because it was used by the heretics, such an hypothesis is conjectural. The simpler hypothesis is that Jude quotes this part of 1 Enoch as predictive and authoritative revelation. Let us note that Jude’s use of pseudepigraphic literature was always tied in to the canonical text and interpretations surrounding it (Jude 6 is based on an interpretation of Gen 6:1-4; Jude 9 is based on a tradition developed from Deut 34:5-6 and the words of Zech 3:1-2; Jude 14-15 is based on Gen 5:18, 21-24 and an interpretation of Deut 33:2). In other words, the ideas Jude expresses are not contrary to the canon.

I do not claim to have a tidy solution to these issues. Nonetheless, here are my views. First, the relationship between Genesis 1-11 and history is hotly debated. Without wading into that debate too far, this means that there may not have been an historical Enoch at all. And if there was an historical Enoch then Genesis 5:24 tells us very little about him. There is no way to determine whether 1 Enoch depicts the historical Enoch (if he existed) accurately. Second, 1 Enoch is a later document and was not written by Enoch himself (if he existed) or anyone closely related to him. While it is possible that the Holy Spirit could have inspired its author I am not familiar with any convincing argument that the Holy Spirit did, in fact, do so. Therefore, I am of the opinion that 1 Enoch is not divine revelation (which is not to say it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever). Third, as I shall argue in an upcoming post (after completing the commentaries on Jude and 2 Peter), the epistle of Jude was written by Jude, the brother of Jesus, in the 50s-60s. It was probably written in or around Palestine. For this reason alone it is very important to Christians. Fourth, Jude may have held 1 Enoch to be divine revelation on par with what we call the Old Testament, but we can’t know for sure. However, I see no reason why the modern Christian must hold this belief even if Jude did. We can agree with the point of his quotations from the apocrypha without holding the same view of the apocrypha that he did. In closing, I believe we can accept Jude as canonical without accepting 1 Enoch as canonical.

Putting the difficult issue behind us we can move on to the message of vv 14-15. Jude’s point is that at the second coming Christ, with angels (“holy ones”) accompanying him, will judge sinners, such as the opponents, for their ungodly deeds and words.

1:16 These people are grumblers and fault-finders who go wherever their desires lead them, and they give bombastic speeches, enchanting folks for their own gain.

Being “grumblers” and “fault-finders” makes the opponents like the wilderness generation (Ex 15:24; 16:2, 7-9, 12; 17:3; Num 11:1; 14:2, 23, 27, 29, 36; 16:11, 41; 17:5, 10; Deut 1:27; Ps 106:25; Sir 46:7). Instead of being joyous and loving the opponents are critical and quick to detect weakness in others. The object of their grumbling is not specified though it is implied it is against God in some form. The “desires” are sinful passions of an unspecified nature. “Jude’s heretics are truly the ones who are driven by desire but can find no satisfaction in life” (G. Green 109). The phrase “they give bombastic speeches” means that they were arrogant, not so much in boasting about themselves but in rebellion against God (Jude 9-10; cf. Dan 7:8, 20; 11:36). The meaning of “enchanting folks for their own gain” is unclear. Richard J. Bauckham suggests the following meaning (p. 100):

Jude’s opponents set themselves up as teachers in the church, but instead of faithfully presenting God’s moral demands without fear or favor, they set them aside, because, Jude alleges, they hope in this way to make themselves acceptable to those members of the community on whose generosity they depend for their living. This interpretation has the advantage of providing an intelligible connection with the rest of the verse. The whole verse concerns their rejection of the will of God in their teaching. This reflects, says Jude, not only their presumptuous arrogance in relation to God (“Their mouths utter arrogant words”), but also their sycophancy toward men. The same teaching in which they utter their “big words” against God is intended to please their patrons because it offers them freedom from moral restraint.

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.

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

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