The Eschatology of the Epistle of Jude and Its Rhetorical and

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The Eschatology of the Epistle of Jude and Its Rhetorical and ...

Bulletin for Biblical Research 6 (1996) 139-151 [? 1996 Institute for Biblical Research]

     The Eschatology of the Epistle

     of Jude and Its Rhetorical

    1 and Social Functions



     Jude's eschatology is oriented around the twin poles of eschatological salva-

     tion and judgment with the latter being more prominent. Judgment in Jude

     includes not only past and future judgment but present judgment as well.

     Allusions to past judgment highlight the punishment aspect of the judicial

     process while references to future and present judgment highlight laying

     charges and producing a guilty verdict. The rhetorical function of Jude's

     eschatology is: (1) to convince his readers also to engage in judgment: to

     pronounce the intruders guilty of ungodliness, and (2) to reassure his read-

     ers that they themselves will not be judged but instead are being guarded

     by God. The social function of Jude's eschatology is to bring about a sepa-

     ration between the original community and the intruders. These two func-

     tions address both the external threat of the intruders themselves and the

     internal threat of their negative impact on the readers' ethics, theology, and


     Key words: Jude, eschatology, judgment, rhetoric


The epistle of Jude suffers from being among the most neglected 2books of the New Testament. It has also frequently been seriously

    misunderstood when attention has been paid to it. For example, it has been misunderstood by being characterized as a product of "early 3catholicism." In his superb commentary on Jude, Richard Bauckham has countered this view quite convincingly, arguing that Jude should

     1. I wish to acknowledge several people who have contributed to this article by reading earlier drafts: Gordon Fee, Rodney Remin, Paul Spilsbury, and Sara Winter.

     2. Douglas J. Rowston, "The Most Neglected Book in the New Testament," NTS

    21 (1974-75) 554-63.

     3. E.g., Karl Hermann Schelkle, "Spätapostolische Briefe als frühkatholisches Zeugnis," in Neutestamentliche Aufsätze: Festschrift für Josef Schmid zum 70. Geburtstag

    (ed. J. Blinzler, 0. Kuss, and F. Mussner; Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1963) 225-32.

140 Bulletin for Biblical Research 6

    not be viewed as a product of early catholicism, but rather as having arisen within apocalyptic Jewish Christianity. Not only does the epis- tle manifest a strong Jewish character, it has been significantly influenced by Jewish apocalyptic texts. Bauckham observes that Jude "does not assert apocalyptic eschatology against denials of it (as Paul in 1 Cor 15 does, and as 2 Pet 3 does). Jude's apocalyptic is not at all self-conscious. It is the world-view within which he naturally thinks 4and which he takes it for granted his readers accept."

     A second way in which Jude has been misunderstood is by being pejoratively characterized as concerned almost exclusively with harsh judgment. J. N. D. Kelly describes modern readers as being "put off by 5Jude's almost unrelievedly denunciatory tone." Bauckham has also

    helped to correct this misunderstanding. He has demonstrated that Jude has a careful literary structure in its use of the theme of judg- ment and makes extensive use of midrashic exegesis in the develop- 6ment of this theme.

     In both these examples, Bauckham has contributed to a better understanding of Jude by appreciating its eschatology. The present article builds upon the work of Bauckham by analyzing the nature of the eschatology presented in Jude in order to appreciate the rhetori- cal and social functions that this eschatology has in the strategy of the epistle.


    Jude's eschatology is oriented around the twin poles common to most eschatological schemata: eschatological judgment and eschatological salvation. We examine each of these in turn beginning with eschato- logical salvation.

2.1. Eschatological Salvation in Jude

    The theme of eschatological salvation is most clearly stated in the appeal in verse 21, in which Jude exhorts his readers to be "looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." The term "mercy" (e!leoj) was frequently used to identify the hope of

     4. Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter (WBC 50; Waco, TX: Word, 1983) 8-11, quote

    from 11.

     5. J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and of Jude (BNTC; London:

    Black, 1969) 233. Cf. Charles Bigg, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude (ICC; Edinburgh: Clark, 1901) 311.

     6. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 3-6. For this latter point Bauckham is dependent on the earlier work done by E. Earle Ellis, "Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Jude," in Prophecy

    and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978) 220-36.

     WEBB: The Eschatology of the Epistle of Jude 141

     7eschatological salvation, and the verb "to look forward" (prosde/xomai) 8is used to express anticipation of that hope. Eschatological salvation

    is also hinted at in the opening salutation, in which the readers are 9described as those who are "kept safe for Jesus Christ" (v. 1b). Both 10these references allude to the parousia. In verse 21 the parousia of

    Jesus Christ is not only a time when he will extend mercy to believers, the parousia is itself mercy for believersthat which has been antic-

    ipated is now fulfilled; that which has been endured is now done away. In verse 1 the parousia of Jesus Christ is the anticipated goal for 11which God guards believers.

     7. E.g., 2 Macc 7:23, 29; Pss. Sol. 8:27-28; 10:4; 14:9; 1 Enoch 5:5-6; 27:4; T Jud. 23:5;

    T Zeb. 8:2; T Naph. 4:5; Matt 5:7; 2 Tim 1:18; 1 Clem. 28:1; Herm. Vis. 3:9:8. Cf. e)lee/w in

    Pss. Sol. 7:10; 10:6; T Dan 5:9; cf. e)leh/mwn in Pss. Sol. 10:7; cf. i3lewj in 2 Macc 2:7 (A



     Jude's use of e1leoj in v. 21 to allude to Christ's parousia may be influenced by the Greek text of 1 Enoch 1:8 in particular, for it describes eschatological salvation as "mercy shall come upon them" (e)p ) au)tou/j genh/setai e1leoj). Jude has

    already cited the

    succeeding verse (1 Enoch 1:9) in vv. 14-15 as a reference to Christ bringing judgment at the parousia.

     8. For the verb prosde/omai, "to wait for, expect" (BAGD, 712), in eschatological contexts see Mark 15:43 = Luke 23:51; Luke 2:25, 38; Tit 2:13. Cf. a)pekde/xomai in

    Rom 8:19, 23, 25; 1 Cor 1:7; Gal 5:5; Phil 3:20; Heb 9:28. Cf. the following synonyms: e)kde/xomai in Heb 11:10; Barn. 10:11; 2 Clem. 12:1; prosdoka/w in Matt 11:3 = Luke


    20; 2 Pet 3:12-14; 1 Clem. 23:5; Ign. Poly. 3:2.

     9. The verb, thre/w, "to keep, guard, preserve" (BAGD, 814-15), is used in early Christian literature with an eschatological orientation. E.g., 1 Thes 5:23; 1 Pet 1:4; 2 Pet 2:4, 9, 17; 3:7; Mart. Pol. 2:3; compare Jude 21 and John 17:11-12; compare Jude 6, 13 with T Reub. 5:5.

     Jude uses the verb thre/w in a wordplay. Believers are "preserved" by God in antici- pation of the parousia (v. 1). The disenfranchised angels (v. 6) did not "preserve" their first position, and so their punishment is that they are "preserved" in eternal chains. Similarly, judgment of deep darkness is "preserved" for the wandering stars (v. 13). In response to what God is dong (v. 1) and the examples of judgment (vv. 6, 13), Jude exhorts the believers in the climax to ensure that they "preserve" themselves in God's love. Cf. the use of the synonym, fula/ssw, in Jude's benediction: "Now to him who is'

    able to 'preserve' you from falling.... "

     1 Enoch 1:9 is quoted in Jude 14-15 as a prophecy of eschatological judgment, but if Jude's readers are aware of this quote's context, then they would be aware that 1 Enoch

    1:8 is a promise of eschatological salvation for the righteous which contrasts with the judgment of the ungodly in 1:9. In the Greek text of 1 Enoch one element of this

    promise of eschatological salvation is expressed with the thra- word group: sunth/rhsij,


     10. For discussion see e.g., Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 26.

     11. The dative )Ihsou= Xristw|= is best understood as a dative of advantage (e.g., Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 19: Karl Hermann Schelkle, Die Petrusbriefe, der Judasbrief

    [HTKNT 13.2; 5th ed.; Freiberg: Herder, 1980] 146; Henning Paulsen, Der Zweite

    Petrusbrief und der Judasbrief [MeyerK, 12.2; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992]

53) rather than a dative of agent (e.g., J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. Jude and the Second

142 Bulletin for Biblical Research 6

     Similarly, in the first half of the letter's concluding benediction, Jude affirms for his readers that God "is able . . . to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing" (v. 24). This reference probably pictures "the eschatological festival of 12worship." After the parousia the people of God are presented

    before him as sacrifices without blemish, who worship the one who 13kept them safe (v. 1b) and guarded them (v. 24).

2.2. Eschatological Judgment in Jude

    While this epistle does refer to eschatological salvation, it is quite evident that the most prominent feature of this epistle's eschatology is the theme of judgment.

     Two general observations need to be made before we proceed to examine this theme more closely. First of all, the concept of eschato- 14logical judgment is an analogy drawn from human judicial systems.

    A judicial system incorporates various elements, including a charge laid against a defendant, evidence to support the charge, a verdict, a passing of sentence, and an execution of the punishment. Eschato- logical judgment incorporates these same elements. It is important when examining the theme of eschatological judgment to distinguish between these various elements that contribute to this theme.

     Second, in Jude the theme of judgment is not only a future escha- tological event. Past and present are woven together with the future _________________________________________________________________________ Epistle of St. Peter [1907; reprint Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1978] 18; Jerome H. Ney- rey 2 Peter, Jude [AB 37C; New York: Doubleday, 1993] 43) or a dative of reference or location. It is also inadequate to understand the e)n in the preceding clause to govern

    this dative as well (e.g., J. W. C. Wand, The General Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude [West-

    minster Commentaries; London: Methuen, 1934] 196).

     12. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 124.

     13. In light of these allusions to salvation which are eschatologically oriented, Kelly is incorrect to exclude the eschatological dimension of salvation from Jude's ref- erence to "the salvation we share" in v. 3 (Peter and Jude, 246).

     14. I am not claiming here that Jude draws his concept of judgment from human judicial systems rather than themes of judgment in the Hebrew Bible, for he is clearly dependent on themes and motifs drawn from the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Jewish literature. Rather, what I am observing is that, when Jewish and Christian au- thors talk about divine, eschatological judgment, much of their language and imagery are drawn by analogy from human judicial systems. For example, the form of the law- suit oracle used by the biblical prophets portrays God, Israel, and the nations function- ing as judge, defendant, prosecuting attorneyroles taken by analogy from human

    judicial systems. Cf. Kirsten Nielsen, Yahweh as Prosecutor and Judge: An Investigation of the Prophetic Lawsuit (Rîb-Pattern) (JSOTS 9; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1978); W. Eugene

    March, "Prophecy," in Old Testament Form Criticism (Trinity University Monograph

    Series in Religion 2; ed. John H. Hayes; San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, 1974) 165-68; Herbert B. Huffmon, "The Covenant Lawsuit in the Prophets," JBL 78 (1959)


     WEBB: The Eschatology of the Epistle of Jude 143

    to produce a rich tapestry of intimations, allusions, and interpreta- tions. Yet allusions to past and present judgment are still part of the eschatological orientation of the epistle, for they contribute to under- standing the theme of the future, eschatological judgment. Such a relationship between past and future is one of the features of the apocalyptic genre. While Jude is an epistle, not an apocalypse, 15Jude's perspective is clearly informed by an apocalyptic orientation.

    The definition of the apocalyptic genre as developed by the SBL Apocalypse Group included as part of its paradigm the principle that primordial events are often understood to have paradigmatic 16significance for the readers in their own time.

     Applying these two observations to the text of Jude allows us to be more discerning about how this eschatological theme is function- ing in Jude.

     Explicit references to past judgment have been grouped together by the author into two sets of three. The first triad, verses 5-7, sum- marizes three illustrations of judgment gathered from stories of the past: the Israelites being destroyed in the wilderness, the disenfran- chised angels being kept in chains awaiting judgment, and Sodom and Gomorrah being punished with eternal fire. In the second triad, verse 11, the mere names of three infamous characters conjure up images of judgment: Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

     These two sets of triads, however, do not merely refer to judg- ment in the past. They also allude to the present and the future. The disenfranchised angels are not simply described as having been judged in the past, but are described as "kept in perpetual chains under darkness" in the present. And with respect to the future, these chains hold them until "the judgment of the great day" (v. 6). Simi- larly, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were not merely punished in the past; their punishment is "eternal fire" in which they continue 17to be "exhibited as an example" in the present (v. 7). Not only does

     15. Cf. Bauckham who states: "the dominance of the apocalyptic outlook in Jude and his use of the Jewish apocalypses . . . locates him in circles where apocalyptic was not just one influence, but the dominant vehicle through which faith in Jesus found expression" (Jude, 2 Peter, 10).

     16. Cf. John J. Collins, "Introduction: Towards the Morphology of a Genre," Se-

    meia 14 (1979) 7; cf. John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to the Jewish Matrix of Christianity (New York: Crossroad, 1984) 6.

     17. The present participle in the clause di/khn u(pe/xousai ("undergoing punish-

    ment") in conjunction with the present tense verb in the clause pro/keintai dei=gma indi-

    cate the ongoing nature of the punishment and thus its particular effectiveness in continuing to serve as an example.

     Sodom and Gomorrah were understood in the first century to have been located in the south-eastern region of the Dead Sea. The natural features of the region's geogra- phy were interpreted as ongoing evidence of their destruction. For example, Philo describes the site of Sodom and Gomorrah in Vit. Mos. 2:56: "to the present day the

144 Bulletin for Biblical Research 6

    the language used in describing these primordial events suggest they have a paradigmatic significance for the readers, the text makes this explicit by linking these three examples to the readers' own current situation in verse 8: Yet in the same way also these dreamers. . . .

     In much the same way, the brief references to Cain, Balaam, and Korah (v. 11) are not only references to past judgment. They are contained within a woe pronounced upon "them," that is, the intrud- ers Jude is opposing. Past judgment upon these three characters be- comes a present condemnation of the intruders.

     A closer examination of these references to past judgment clarifies more precisely the aspects of judgment being emphasized. With respect to the first triad (vv. 5-7), the main point of each illus- tration of judgment is expressed by the finite verb. In each case the emphasis is upon the execution of some form of punishment: the wil- derness wanderers are "destroyed" (a)pw/lesen); the disenfranchised

    angels are "kept (teth/rhken) in perpetual chains and darkness," and

    the immoral cities are "exhibited as an example (pro/keintai dei=gma) by

    undergoing the punishment (di/khn) of eternal fire." While the empha-

    sis of this triad is on the execution of punishment, the evidence brought against each of them is also mentioned in a participial clause: the wilderness wanderers were those "who did not believe (tou_j mh_

    pisteu/santaj);" the disenfranchised angels were those "who did not keep their own dominion, but abandoned their proper dwelling (tou_j

    mh_ thrh/santaj th_n e(autw=n a)rxh_n a)lla_

    a)polipo/ntaj to_ i1dion

    oi)khth/rion)," and the cities were those which "indulged in sexual immorality

    and went after different flesh (tou/toij e)kporneu/sasai kai_


    o)pi/sw sarko_j e(te/raj)."

     With respect to future judgment, the strongest statement is the quotation of Enoch's prophecy in verses 14-15. "Behold, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment 18against all, and to convict all the ungodly of all the deeds of ungod-

    liness which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." The parousia, which is anticipated as the time of eschatological salvation, is in this text announced as the time of eschatological judgment. It is important to note, however, that certain elements of judgment are highlighted. Jude's quotation of 1 Enoch 1:9 does not follow any extant

    version. Richard Bauckham has demonstrated that Jude probably ____________________________________________________________________ memorials to the awful disaster are shown in Syria, ruins and cinders and brimstone and smoke, and the dusky flame still arises as though fire were smouldering within." Cf. Wis 10:7. (On the use of the term "Syria" to include the region of the Dead Sea, see

"Syria," OCD 873--74).

18. On the textual variant represented in this translation, see below.

     WEBB: The Eschatology of the Epistle of Jude 145

     TABLE 1 A comparison of Jude 14b-15 with other texts of 1 Enoch 1:9 c Latin ab Jude Greek Ethiopic (Ps.-Cyprian, Ad

    (vv. 14b-15) (1 Enoch 1:9) (1 Enoch 1:9) Novatianum 16)

    i)dou_ h}lqen ku/rioj e)n o#ti e1rxetai su_n Behold, he will

     Ecce venit cum

    a(gi/aij muria/sin tai=j muria/sin au)tou= arrive with ten

     multis milibus

    au)tou= kai/ toi=j a(gi/oij million of the


     au)tou= holy ones suorum

    poih=sai kri/sin poih=sai kri/sin in order to execute facere iudicium de

    kata_ pa/ntwn kata_ pa/ntwn, judgment upon



     kai_ a)pole/sei pa/ntaj He will destroy et perdere omnes

     tou_j a)sebei=j the wicked ones impios

    kai_ e)le/gcai pa/ntaj kai_ e)le/gcei pa=san and censure all

     et arguere omnem

    tou_j a)sebei=j sa/rka flesh carnem de


    peri_ pa/ntwn tw=n peri_ pa/ntwn e1rgwn on account of factis impiorum

    e1rgwn a)sebei/aj th=j a)sebei/aj everything that quae fecerunt

    au)tw=n w[n au)tw=n w[n they have done, impie h)se/bhsan h)se/bhsan

     kai_ sklhrw=n w[n

     e)la/lhsan lo/gwn,

    kai_ peri_ pa/ntwn tw=n kai_ peri_ pa/ntwn w[n that which the

     et de omnibus

    sklhrw=n w[n katela/lhsan kat _ sinners and the verbis impiis quae

    e)la/lhsan kat ) au)tou= a(martwloi_ wicked ones de Deo locuti sunt

    au)tou= a(martwloi_ a)sebei=j committed against peccatores. a)sebei=j him.


     a M. Black, "Apocalypsis Henochi Graece," in Apocalypsis Henochi Graece, Fragmenta

    Pseudepigraphorum Quae Supersunt Graeca (PVTG 3; ed. M. Black and A.-M. Denis; Leiden:

    Brill, 1970) 19.

    b James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 vols.; Garden City:

    Doubleday, 1983-85) 1.13-14. c Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 95.

"knew the Greek version, but made his own translation from the Ara- 19maic." Jude's text, however, differs from other ancient versions in 20several respects, of which two are relevant here. These two redac-

    tional differences provide a clue to the elements of judgment that

     19. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 94-96, quotation from 96.

     20. Jude's text differs significantly from the Greek text of 1 Enoch 1:9 in five addi-

    tional ways: (1) Jude begins with i)dou=, while the Greek text lacks it; (2) Jude uses the

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