The epistle of Jude opens in typical letter format for the first century: identification of the author, identification of the recipients, and a greeting in the form of a wish prayer.
i] Context: As is generally the case for the epistles in the New Testament, Jude was written to be read out aloud to a congregation of believers. So, although Jude has a typical epistolary opening and conclusion, the body of the letter is in the form of a speech / sermon. The opening consists of an address and greeting, v1-2. Our author, Jude, then moves to explain his reason for writing, v2-4. He originally intended addressing "the salvation we share", but given the heresy infesting his Christian communities, he feels compelled "to contend for the faith", v3. Pseudo-believers have "slipped in among you" , they are an immoral "ungodly" crew who "pervert the grace of God into licentiousness", v4. This verse sets the tone of the letter, virtually serving as its thesis.
In v4-16 we come to the central section of the letter, or more rightly homily / sermon / address. Jude confronts the evil interlopers, the scoffers and opponents; he charges them for their evil, and predicts the punishment that they must now face. This condemnation is balanced by affirming words toward the faithful. This construction of blame and praise is common in Greek rhetoric. Even so, the stress is on the blame - identifying the crime and predicting the punishment. Neyrey suggests that the argument progresses in four paragraphs:
Crimes judged: Three Old Testament examples, v5-7;
Triple crimes and their judgment, v8-9;
Triple example of the deviants judged, v10-13;
Prediction of future judgment, v14-16.
With the argument now complete, our author sums up with a recapitulation of the salient points, v17-23; He has harsh words toward the opponents, but a kindly affirmation and encouragement for the faithful. An epistle would normally conclude with greetings, but our author presses the homily to the end, concluding with a doxology, v24-25.
ii] Background: As noted in the introductory notes, the epistle of Jude serves as a word of exhortation to Christian congregations facing heretical influences from within and without. The concerns expressed by the author are somewhat general, so as to make it difficult to specify the nature of the heresy.
Our author, let us call him Jude, was intending to write "about the salvation we share", v2, but given the changed circumstances, he now writes to "urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God's holy people", v3. The epistle seems intent on confronting libertines who happily import a free-and-easy secularism into the Christian community - "worldly people, devoid of the Spirit." In response to the heretics, believers need to build themselves up in faith and pray in the Spirit, keeping themselves in the love of God, while waiting patiently for the grace found in Christ, a grace that leads to life.
Given the common material between Jude and 2 Peter, especially the second chapter of 2 Peter, it is usually accepted that either one used the other, or that both used a common source. Of course, with these types of questions we can never know for sure, but most commentators suggest that 2 Peter is an expansion of Jude, possibly by the same author. Most commentators hold that 2 Peter, although ascribed to the apostle Peter, is not the work of the same author as 1 Peter (often thought tobe the apostle Peter). As for Jude, he remains unknown. The best we can say of him is that he is likely a Hellenistic Jewish Christian with a sound knowledge of the Old Testament, along with Jewish haggadah and apocalyptic. As to why anyone would want to rework the epistle, so producing 2 Peter, remains unclear, although questions concerning the delay in the coming Great Day of the Lord is what sets 2 Peter apart from Jude.
Most commentators give the epistle a late date, ranging from AD80-130. Bigg, in his now dated ICC commentary, opts for an early date, but most modern commentators push toward AD120. Eusebius, in his history of the Christian church, noted that the epistle was not widely recognised and so was classed with the disputed books of James and 2 Peter.
The language of the epistle reflects a Greek world-view, but the key theological words such as "grace", "saints" (believers), faith, ..... are Pauline, although "faith" is sometimes used as in the Pastoral epistles, ie., "the Christian faith." Scholars view the Greek used by Jude as rich and smooth flowing.
The heresy Jude addresses is most likely the common Greek Platonic World-view where the spiritual self is all that matters, the material self a mere distraction to be used as one sees fit. With this type of thinking, morality gets downgraded. So, Jude is probably addressing antinomian libertine Christians. Many commentators argue that the heresy is Gnosticism, a kind of pseudo Christian Platonic heresy, but this didn't fully develop until well into the second century. So, they are likely secularised believers, Greek-thinking Christians, most likely members of the Christian fellowship, rather than outsiders; Jude simply calls them the "ungodly".
iii] Structure: The salutation:
Identification of the author, v1;
Identification of the recipients;
Our author introduces himself as Jude, a servant of Jesus, and brother of James, ie., Jude, or more properly Judas, one of Jesus' brothers, Mark 6:3. The name is probably ascribed, but then who knows! The name is possibly used as a poke in the eye to Gnostic heretics, but more likely serves to link the work with the letter of James. Note the opening of James, "James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ." The problems James addresses are the same ones Jude addresses. In the opening salutation of his letter, Jude packs in some powerful truths. We get the impression that he is a Hellenistic Jewish believer who is well versed in the gospel and the letters of Paul, as well as the Old testament. If we were to identify one particular source in describing believers as called, loved and guarded by God, then we need look no further than the Servant Songs in Isaiah. Such was Israel, and thus Christ, the faithful Servant of God, and of course, believers / the church in Christ = the new Israel of God.
In v2 Jude greets his readers. The apostle Paul would usually bring the typical Greek greeting together with the Jewish greeting of "peace" = shalom, although Paul changed cairein to cariV, "greeting" to "grace." Note that in the pastoral epistles we have "grace, mercy and peace." Jude replaces "grace" with "mercy" and adds "love". So, we have something more than just a formal greeting; it expresses the divine blessing Jude desires for the believers he is addressing
Text - v1
The Salutation, v1-2: i] Identification of the author and recipients.
IoudaV (aV) "Jude" - Nominative absolute.
Cristou (oV) gen. "[of Jesus] Christ" - [a servant / slave of jesus] christ. The genitive "Jesus Christ" is adjectival, possessive; "Christ" standing in apposition to "Jesus"; "I Jude am a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James", Peterson.
Iakwbou (oV) gen. "of James" - [and brother] of james. The genitive is adjectival, relational.
toiV .... klhtoiV dat. adj. "to those who have been called" - to the ones called. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of recipient; "to all who are chosen and loved by God", CEV.
hgaphmenoiV (agapaw) dat. perf. pas. part. "who are loved" - having been loved. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the ones called", dative in agreement. The NKJV reads hJgiasmenoV, "having been sanctified", for hgaphmenoiV, "having been loved. It is usually viewed as an assimilation with 1Cor.1:2, prompted by the difficult en qew/, "in God." Manuscripts with this variant date from the ninth century.
en + dat. "in" - in [god the father]. Possibly instrumental, "loved by God the Father", Berkley, but we would expect uJpo. Possibly adverbial, reference / respect, "with respect to the love of God" = "who are beloved as far as God is concerned"; "they are loved by God and his love enfolds them", Kelly. Hort actually gave up trying to pin down the intended meaning. Davids opts for a local sense, as in John's gospel, an abiding in God / in union with God.
tethrhmenoiV (threw) dat. perf. pas. part. "kept" - having been kept. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the ones called", dative in agreement; "those who are ..... kept for Jesus Christ." The perfect tense indicates a past act establishing a present state. "Kept" in the sense of "kept safe, guarded"; "under the protection of Jesus Christ", Barclay.
Ihsou (oV) dat. proper "by / for Jesus [Christ]" - in, by, for jesus [christ]. Probably a dative of advantage, as NIV11, with the dative "Christ" standing in apposition. "The Father is guarding us so that we will belong to Jesus", Davids*.
uJmin dat. pro. "yours" - to you. Technically a dative of indirect object, but possibly a dative of interest, advantage, "for you."
plhqunqeih (plhrow) opt. aor. pas. "be [yours] in abundance" - may [mercy and peace and love] be multiplied [to you]. Optative expressing a wish prayer, although possibly formal, given that "multiplied" is sometimes added to the Semitic expression, "blessings be upon you", cf., Dan.4:1.