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THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JUDE - Chapter 1 - Verse 12

Verse 12. These are spots. See Barnes "2 Pe 2:13".

The word used by Peter, however, is not exactly the same as that used here. Peter uses the word spiloispiloi; Jude, spiladevspilades. The word used by Jude means, properly, a rock by or in the sea; a cliff, etc. It may either be a rock by the sea, against which vessels may be wrecked, or a hidden rock in the sea, on which they may be stranded at an unexpected moment. See Hesychius and Pollux, as quoted by Wetstein, in loc. The idea here seems to be, not that they were spots and blemishes in their sacred feasts, but that they were like hidden rocks to the mariner. As those rocks were the cause of shipwreck, so these false teachers caused others to make shipwreck of their faith. They were as dangerous in the church as hidden rocks are in the ocean.

In your feasts of charity. Your feasts of love. The reference is probably to the Lord's Supper, called a feast or festival of love, because

(1.) it revealed the love of Christ to the world;

(2.) because it was the means of strengthening the mutual love of the disciples: a festival which love originated, and where love reigned. It has been supposed by many, that the reference here is to festivals which were subsequently called Agapae, and which are now known as love-feasts—meaning a festival immediately preceding the celebration of the Lord's Supper. But there are strong objections to the supposition that there is reference here to such a festival.

(1.) There is no evidence, unless it be found in this passage, that such celebrations had the sanction of the apostles. They are nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament, or alluded to, unless it is in 1 Co 11:17-34, an instance which is mentioned only to reprove it, and to show that such appendages to the Lord's Supper were wholly unauthorized by the original institution, and were liable to gross abuse.

(2.) The supposition that they existed, and that they are referred to here, is not necessary in order to a proper explanation of this passage. All that it fairly means will be met by the supposition that the reference is to the Lord's Supper. That was in every sense a festival of love or charity. The words will appropriately apply to that, and there is no necessity of supposing anything else in order to meet their full signification.

(3.) There can be no doubt that such a custom early existed in the Christian church, and extensively prevailed; but it can readily be accounted for without supposing that it had the sanction of the apostles, or that it existed in their time.

(a.) Festivals prevailed among the Jews, and it would not be unnatural to introduce them into the Christian church.

(b.) The custom prevailed among the heathen of having a "feast upon a sacrifice," or in connexion with a sacrifice; and as the Lord's Supper commemorated the great sacrifice for sin, it was not unnatural, in imitation of the heathen, to append a feast or festival to that ordinance, either before or after its celebration.

(c.) This very passage in Jude, with perhaps some others in the New Testament, (comp. 1 Co 11:26; Ac 2:46; 6:2, ) might be so construed as to seem to lend countenance to the custom. For these reasons it seems clear to me that the passage before us does not refer to love-feasts; and, therefore, that they are not authorized in the New Testament. See, however, Coleman's Antiquities of the Christian church, chap. xvi., & 13.

When they feast with you. Showing that they were professors of religion. See Barnes "2 Pe 2:13".

 

Feeding themselves without fear. That is, without any proper reverence or respect for the ordinance; attending on the Lord's Supper as if it were an ordinary feast, and making it an occasion of riot and gluttony. See 1 Co 11:20-22.

Clouds they are, etc. See Barnes "2 Pe 2:17.

Comp. Eph 4:14.

Trees whose fruit withereth. The idea here is substantially the same as that expressed by Peter, when he says that they were "wells without water;" and by him and Jude, when they say that they are like clouds driven about by the winds, that shed down no refreshing rain upon the earth. Such wells and clouds only disappoint expectations. So a tree that should promise fruit, but whose fruit should always wither, would be useless. The word rendered withereth (fyinopwrina) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, autumnal; and the expression here denotes trees of autumn; that is, trees stripped of leaves and verdure; trees on which there is no fruit.—Robinson's Lex. The sense, in the use of this word, therefore, is not exactly that which is expressed in our translation, that the fruit has withered, but rather that they are like the trees of autumn, which are stripped and bare. So the Vulgate, arbores autumnales. The idea of their being without fruit is expressed in the next word. The image which seems to have been before the mind of Jude in this expression, is that of the naked trees of autumn as contrasted with the bloom of spring and the dense foliage of summer.

Without fruit. That is, they produce no fruit. Either they are wholly barren, like the barren fig-tree, or the fruit which was set never ripens, but falls off. They are, therefore, useless as religious instructors—as much so as a tree is which produces no fruit.

Twice dead. That is, either meaning that they are seen to be dead in two successive seasons, showing that there is no hope that they will revive and be valuable; or, using the word twice to denote emphasis, meaning that they are absolutely or altogether dead. Perhaps the idea is, that successive summers and winters have passed over them, and that no signs of life appear.

Plucked up by the roots. The wind blows them down, or they are removed by the husbandman as only cumbering the ground. They are not cut down—leaving a stump that might sprout again—but they are extirpated root and branch; that is, they are wholly worthless. There is a regular ascent in this climax, first, the apostle sees a tree apparently of autumn, stripped and leafless; then he sees it to be a tree that bears no fruit; then he sees it to be a tree over which successive winters and summers pass and no signs of life appear; then as wholly extirpated. So he says it is with these men. They produce no fruits of holiness; months and years show that there is no vitality in them; they are fit only to be extirpated and cast away. Alas! how many professors of religion are there, and how many religious teachers, who answer to this description!

{a} "clouds" Pr 25:14 {b} "carried" Eph 4:14 {c} "fruit" Joh 15:4-6 {d} "twice dead" Heb 6:4-6 {e} "plucked" Mt 15:13

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