Facts and summary
Jude is the twenty-sixth book of the Christian New Testament. The author is traditionally understood to be Jude, the brother of Jesus. Jude is one of the shortest books of the New Testament at just 25 verses. It is not known where the letter was written, but the recipients are Christians in general. The purpose of the book is to warn against apostates and false teachers, probably early Gnostics. Its teaching emphasis is on apostates, false teachers, and the importance of perseverance.
Eusebius (H. E. iii. 25) reckons Jude among the disputed (antilegomena) scriptures, but recognized by the majority. The doubts about it arose probably from the reference to the mysterious conflict of Michael the archangel with Satan concerning Moses' body, nowhere else mentioned in Scripture, but found in the apocryphal Book of Enoch. So Jerome, Catalog. Scriptor. Eccl. 4. Its being addressed generally, and to no particular church, also retarded its recognition as canonical; also its identity in the main with 2 Pet. 2.
If Jude indeed quotes the passage from the Book of Enoch he thereby stamps with inspired approval that passage, not the whole book, just as Paul sanctions particular sentiments from Aratus, Epimenides, and Menander (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12; 1 Cor. 15:33).
But as Jude differs a little from the Book of Enoch,written probably by a Jew thoroughly imbued with Daniel's sacred writings, it is likely he rather sanctions the current tradition of the Jews as to Enoch's prophecies, just as Paul names the Egyptian magicians "Jannes and Jambres," though the Old Testament does not. Jude, under the Spirit, took the one gem out of the mass of earthy matter surrounding it, and set it in the gold of inspiration.
So Jude also stamps as true the tradition as to the archangel Michael's dispute with Satan concerning Moses' body (Jude 1:9; compare Deut. 34:6).
As John (second and third Epistles) calls himself "the elder," so James and Jude call themselves "servants of Jesus Christ." Clemens Alex. (Adumbr. 1007) says, "Jude through reverential awe did not call himself brother, but servant, of Jesus Christ, and brother of James." He cites Jude 1:as Scripture (ver. 8,17: Strom. 3:2, section 11; and ver. 5 in Paedagog. 3:8, section 44). Tertullian (de Cultu Faem. 3) cites the epistle as that of the apostle Jude. The Muratori Fragm., A.D. 170, asserts its canonicity (Routh Reliq. Sacr. 1:306). Origen (comm. on Mt. 13:55) says "Jude the Lord's brother wrote an epistle of few lines, but full of the strong words of heavenly grace."
Also he quotes ver. 6 (comm. on Mt. 22:23) and ver. 1 (comm. on Mt. 18:10). Jerome (Catalog. Scriptor. Eccl.) reckons it among the Scriptures. The oldest manuscripts of the Peshito Syriac omit it, but Ephraem Syrus recognizes it. It was circulated in the E. and W. in the second century.
To whom addressed
The references to Old Testament history (Jude 1:5,7) and to Jewish tradition (Jude 1:14 ff) render it probable Jude addressed Jewish Christians primarily, then all Christians (ver. 1). The kindred epistle, 2 Peter, is similarly addressed. The persons stigmatized were heretics in doctrine, "denying the only Lord God and our Saviour Jesus Christ," and libertines in practice. Hence Jude urges his readers "earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints." Insubordination, self seeking, and licentiousness, resulting from antinomian teachings, are the evils stigmatized, against which Jude gives the only safeguards, namely, that believers should "build themselves in their most holy faith, and pray in the Holy Spirit."
These evils, combined with mocking scepticism, shall characterize the days immediately before the Lord's coming to judgment, as when Enoch warned the ungodly just on the eve of the flood. As Peter wrote his first epistle (see 1 Pet. 5:13) and probably his second also at Babylon it is not unlikely that Jude too addressed primarily the Jewish Christians in and about Mesopotamian Babylon (a place of much resort of the Jews), or else the Christian Jews dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, whom Peter, his model, addresses.
For Jerome (Annot. in Mt.) says that Jude preached in Mesopotamia; and his epistle of 25 verses contains no less than eleven passages from 2 Peter. Probably Jude 1:4 witnesses to the fulfillment of Peter's prophecy, "there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained (Greek `forewritten,' i.e. announced beforehand, namely, by Peter's written prophecy) to this condemnation, ungodly men, denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." Compare 2 Pet. 2:1, "there shall be false teachers among you who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction."
Also Jude 1:17,18 quote 2 Pet. 3:3," remember the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus; how they told you that there should be mockers in the last time who should walk after their own ungodly lusts." As Peter confirms Paul's inspiration (2 Pet. 3:15,16), so Jude confirms Peter's. The distinction between Jude and Peter is that Jude portrays adversaries of Christianity and heretics in general, Peter heretical teachers in particular.
Time and place of writing
If the time were after the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), some think Jude would have scarcely omitted allusion to an event which uprooted the whole Jewish polity. But John in his epistles, certainly written after the destruction of Jerusalem, makes no allusion to it. The tone is that of a writer in Palestine; the title "brother of James" best suits a region where James was well known as the bishop of its metropolis. Jude 1:17,18 imply some time had elapsed since the date of the second epistle of Peter, written probably A.D. 68 or 69; if so, our epistle was written after the destruction of Jerusalem.