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THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF ST. JUDE.

365

CHAPTER XXX.
THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE EPISTLE OF ST. JUDE.

"Judas, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied."—St. Jude 1, 2.

Precisely as in the case of the Epistle of St. James, the question as to the authenticity of this letter resolves itself into two parts: Is the Epistle the veritable product of a writer of the Apostolic age? If it is, which of the persons of that age who bore the name of Judas is the author of it? Both of these questions can be answered with a very considerable amount of certainty.

Let us remember the right way of putting the first of these two questions. Not, Why should we believe that this Epistle was written by an Apostle or a contemporary of the Apostles? but, Why should we refuse to believe this? What reason have we for rejecting the verdict of ecclesiastics and theologians of the fourth and fifth centuries, who were well aware of the doubts which had been raised respecting the authority of the Epistle, and after full and prolonged consideration decided that it possessed full canonical authority. Not only were they in possession of evidence which is no longer available, and which rendered it probable that their decision would be correct; but the universal acceptance of their decision in all the 366 Churches proves that their decision was admitted to be correct by those who had ample means of testing its soundness.

The Epistle of St. Jude, like that of St. James, is reckoned by Eusebius as one of the six or seven "disputed" (ἀντιλεγόμενα) books of the New Testament, which fact, while it proves that misgivings had existed in some quarters respecting the authority of the letter, at the same time proves that it was not admitted into the canon by an oversight. The difficulties respecting it were well known, and were considered to be by no means fatal to its otherwise strong claim to be accepted (see above, pp. 15-18). And the difficulties respecting the two Epistles were similar in kind. 1. Many Churches remained for a considerable time without any knowledge of one or other of the two Epistles; but whereas it was in the West that the Epistle of St. James was least known, it was Eastern Churches that remained longest without knowledge of that of St. Jude. 2. Even when the Epistle did become known it remained doubtful whether the writer was a person of authority. He was possibly not an Apostle, and if he was not such, what were his claims to be heard? 3. To these two difficulties, which were common to both Epistles, must be added another which was peculiar to that of St. Jude. It may be stated in Jerome's words. "Because in it Jude derives a testimony from the Book of Enoch, which is apocryphal, it is rejected by some"102102   A plerisque rejicitur. Possibly this means "is rejected by very many;" it certainly ought not to be rendered "is rejected by most." "Most" is the classical meaning of plerique; but in Tacitus it means no more than "very many" (Hist. iv. 84, etc.), and in Jerome and his contemporaries it need mean no more than "some." Thus in Jerome's letter to Dardamus (Ep. cxxix.) we have licet plerique eam vel Barnabæ vel Clementis arbitrentur (of the Epistle to the Hebrews), where plerique = the τινές of Eusebius and Origen (H. E. VI. xx. 3; xxv. 14). (Catal. Scr. Eccl. iv.). As we shall see hereafter, it probably makes use 367 of yet another apocryphal book; and it was not unreasonably doubted whether an Apostolic writer would compromise himself by the use of such literature. If he were inspired, he would know it to be apocryphal, and would abstain from quoting it; and if he did not know its apocryphal character, how could he be inspired, or his words be of any authority?

That so brief a letter should remain for a considerable time quite unknown to some Churches, is not at all surprising. Its evident Jewish tone would render it less attractive to Gentile Christians. Its making no claim to Apostolic authority raised a doubt whether it had any authority whatever, and this doubt was increased by the fact that it quotes apocryphal writings. Consequently those Christians who knew the Epistle would not always be ready to promote its circulation. Even if we were compelled to infer that silence respecting it implies ignorance of its existence, such ignorance would in most cases be very intelligible: but this perilous inference from silence in some cases can be shown to be incorrect. Hippolytus may possibly have remained ignorant of it; but if, as Bishop Lightfoot suggests,103103   See the Academy of September 21st, 1889, where he shows how much of the Fragment can be turned quite literally into Greek verse, and suggests that the εἰς πάσας τὰς γράφας, "Odes referring to all the Scriptures," mentioned among the works of Hippolytus whose titles are inscribed on his chair (see Kraus, Real. Encykl. der Chris. Alterthümer, I., pp. 661-64), refers to metrical compositions on the contents of the Old and New Testaments. The Fragment says respecting this Epistle, "Epistola sane Iude et superscrictio (sic) Iohannis duas in catholica habentur", where superscrictio is a clerical error for superscripti, "the John mentioned above." he is the author of the supposed Greek original of the Muratorian Canon, he testifies strongly 368 (note the sane) to the general reception of the Epistle. This holds good, however we may deal with the ambiguous in catholica, which may possibly mean "in the Catholic Church," or be a mistake for in catholicis, "among the Catholic Epistles." Cyprian, who never quotes the Epistle of St. Jude, must have known of it from the celebrated passage in "the master" Tertullian, whose works he was always reading. And it is quite incredible that Chrysostom, who in all his voluminous writings does not chance to quote it even once, was not familiar with its contents. The brevity of the Epistle is sufficient to explain a great deal of the silence respecting it.

The most serious item in the external evidence against the Epistle is its absence from the Peshitto, or ancient Syriac Version. The considerations already mentioned go a long way towards explaining this absence, and it is a great deal more than counterbalanced by the strong external evidence in its favour. This is surprisingly strong, especially when compared with that in favour of the Epistle of St. James. In both cases the troubles which overwhelmed the Church of Jerusalem and Jewish Christianity in the reign of Hadrian interfered with the circulation of the letters; but it is the shorter letter and the letter of the less-known writer which (so far as extant testimony goes) seems in the first instance to have obtained the wider circulation and recognition. The Muratorian Canon, as we have seen, contains it; so also does the old Latin Version. Tertullian (De Cult. Fem. I. iii.) vehemently contends that the Book of Enoch ought to be accepted 369 as canonical, and he clenches his argument with the fact that it is quoted by "the Apostle Jude." This appeal would have seemed dangerous rather than conclusive, if in North Africa there had been any serious misgivings about the authority of Jude's Epistle. Tertullian evidently entertained nothing of the kind. In a similar spirit Augustine asks, "What of Enoch, the seventh from Adam? Does not the canonical Epistle of the Apostle Jude declare that he prophesied?" (De Civ. Dei, xviii. 38). Clement of Alexandria quotes it as Scripture (Pæd. III. viii., and Strom. III. ii.), and commented upon it in his Hypotyposeis (Eus. H. E. VI. xiv. 1), of which we probably still possess some translations into Latin made under the direction of Cassiodorus. Origen, although he was aware that it was not universally received, for in one place he uses the cautious expression, "If any receive the Epistle of Jude," yet accepted it thoroughly himself, as the frequent citations of it in his works show. In one passage he speaks of it as "an Epistle of but few lines, yet full of the strong words of heavenly grace" (Comm. on Matt. xiii. 55). Athanasius places it in his list of the canonical Scriptures without any mark of doubt. And Didymus, head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, and instructor of Jerome and Rufinus, condemns the opposition which some offered to the Epistle on account of the statement respecting the body of Moses (ver. 9), just as Jerome virtually condemns those who opposed it because of the quotation from the Book of Enoch.

This evidence, it will be observed, is mostly Western. The blank as regards the East is to some extent filled by the letter of the Synod at Antioch against Paul of Samasota, A.D. 269. Portions of this letter have been 370 preserved by Eusebius, and Malchion, the presbyter who chiefly composed it, seems to have had the Epistle of Jude in his mind when he wrote. This is chiefly evident in the tone of the letter; but here and there the wording approaches that of St. Jude; e.g. "denying his God [and Lord]" reminds us of "denying our only Master and Lord" (Jude 4); and "not guarding the faith which he once held" may be suggested by "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). The quotations from Jude in Ephrem Syrus (c. A.D. 308-73) are somewhat discredited, for they occur only in the Greek translations of his works, some of which, however, were made in his lifetime; but the quotations may be insertions made by translators.

That so short a letter should have so much testimony in its favour is remarkable; and although it may be a slight exaggeration to say, with Zahn, that about A.D. 200 it was accepted "in the Church of all lands round the Mediterranean Sea" (Gesch. d. Neutest. Kanons, I., p. 321), yet even Harnack admits that this is not much in excess of the truth. The only abatement which he suggests is that the misgivings to which Origen on one single occasion bears witness, show that the Epistle was not everywhere in the East part of the New Testament Scriptures (Das N.T. um d. Jahr 200, p. 79). We may take it, therefore, as sufficiently proved that this letter was written by one who belonged to the Apostolic age. Had it been a forgery of the second century, it would not have found this general acceptance. Moreover, a forger would have chosen some person of greater fame and greater authority as the supposed writer of the Epistle, or would at least have made Jude an Apostle; and above all, he would 371 have betrayed some motive for the forgery. There is nothing in the letter to indicate any such motive. Renan accepts the Epistle as a genuine relic of the Apostolic age, and indeed places it as early as A.D. 54; yet his view of it would lead other people to regard it as a forgery, for it supplies a strong motive. Renan considers it to be an attack on St. Paul. The Clementine literature shows us how a heretic of the second century can make a covert attack on the Apostle of the Gentiles; and if we could believe that the writer of this Epistle had St. Paul in his mind when he denounced those who "in their dreamings defile the flesh, and set at nought dominion, and rail at dignities," we should be ready enough to believe that he was not really "Judas, brother of James," but one who did not dare to say openly in the Church the accusations which he tried to insinuate. But no critic has accepted this strange theory of Renan's, and it is hardly worth while asking, Why was not St. Peter or St. John taken as the authority wherewith to counteract the influence of St. Paul? Of what weight would the words of the unknown Jude be in comparison with his? Renan's literary acuteness recognizes in this Epistle a veritable product of the first century: his prejudices respecting anti-Pauline tendencies among the Apostolic writers lead him amazingly astray as to the meaning of its contents.

It remains to consider the second part of the question respecting the authenticity of this Epistle. We are justified in believing that it is a writing of the Apostolic age, by a person bearing the name of Judas or Jude. But to which of the persons who bore that name in the first age of the Church is the letter to be assigned? Only two persons have to be considered—(1) "Judas 372 not Iscariot," who seems also to have been called Lebbæus or Thaddæus, for in the lists of the Apostles Thaddæus or Lebbæus (the readings are confused) stands in Matthew x. and Mark iii. as the equivalent of "Judas [the son] of James" in Luke vi. and Acts i.; and (2) Judas one of the four brethren of the Lord; the names of the other three being James, Joseph or Joses, and Simon (Matt. xiii. 55; Mark vi. 3). These two are sometimes identified, but the identification is highly questionable, although the Authorized Version encourages us to make it by giving to "Judas of James" the improbable meaning, "Judas the brother of James," instead of the usual meaning, "Judas the son of James."104104   The Genevan Version introduced this rendering. Previous versions either leave the meaning doubtful, "Judas of James," as Wiclif, or translate "James' sonne," as Tyndale and Cranmer. Luther also is for "son." In other words, the Authorized Version assumes that the writer of this Epistle is the Apostle "Judas not Iscariot;" the writer calls himself "brother of James," and the Authorized Version makes this Apostle to be "the brother of James."

We have seen already that both Tertullian and Augustine speak of the writer of this Epistle as an Apostle. So also does Origen, but only in two passages, of which the Greek original is wanting (De Principiis, III. ii. 1; Comm. on Romans v. 13, vol. iv., 549). In no passage of the Greek works, and in no other passage of the Latin translations, does he call Jude an Apostle; so that the addition of Apostle in these two places may be an insertion of his not very accurate translator Rufinus. But even if the authority of Origen is to be added to that of Tertullian and Augustine, the opinion that the author of this letter 373 was an Apostle is not probable. Had he been such, it would have been natural to mention the fact as a claim on the attention of his readers, instead of merely contenting himself with naming his relationship to his much more distinguished brother James. It is not to the point to urge that St. Paul does not always call himself an Apostle in his Epistles. He was a well-known person, especially after his four great Epistles had been published, in all of which he styles himself an Apostle. In the two to the Thessalonians he does not, probably because he there associates Silvanus and Timothy with himself (but see 1 Thess. ii. 6). St. Jude was comparatively unknown, having written nothing else, and having probably travelled little. The charge, "Remember ye the words which have been spoken before by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" (ver. 17), although it does not necessarily imply that the writer himself is not one of these Apostles, yet would be more suitable to one who did not possess Apostolic rank. And when we ask what James is meant, when he styles himself "brother of James," the answer cannot be doubtful; it is James the brother of the Lord, one of the three "Pillars" of the Jewish Christian Church, first overseer of the Church of Jerusalem, and author of the Epistle which bears his name. The Epistle of Jude is evidently by a Jewish Christian, who, while writing to all that have been called to the faith, evidently has Jewish Christians chiefly in his mind. To such a writer it was well worth while to mention that he was brother of that James who was so revered by all his fellow countrymen. Reasons have been given already for believing that this James was not an Apostle (pp. 27-29), and these will confirm us in the opinion that his brother Jude was not such. 374 The question of their relationship to Jesus Christ has also been discussed (pp. 31, 32), and need not be reopened here. If it be argued that, had St. Jude been the brother of the Lord, he would have mentioned the fact, we may securely answer that he would not have done so. "As the author of the Adumbrationes centuries ago remarked, religious feeling would deter him, as it did his brother James, in his Epistle, from mentioning this. The Ascension had altered all Christ's human relationships, and His brethren would shrink from claiming kinship after the flesh with His glorified body. This conjecture is supported by facts. Nowhere in primitive Christian literature is any authority claimed on the basis of nearness of kin to the Redeemer. He Himself had taught Christians that the lowliest among them might rise above the closest of such earthly ties (Luke xi. 27, 28); to be spiritually the "servant of Jesus Christ" was much more than being His actual brother."105105   These words are quoted from a commentary which the writer of this volume wrote in 1879 for Messrs. Cassell, in the New Testament Commentary for English Readers, edited by Bishop Ellicott (p. 505), of which, through the courtesy of the publishers, he is allowed to make use for the present work.

We may suppose that Jude, like the rest of his brethren (John vii. 5), did not at first believe in the Messiahship of Jesus, but was converted by the convincing event of the Resurrection (Acts i. 14). We know that he was married, not merely from the general statement made by St. Paul respecting the brethren of the Lord (1 Cor. ix. 5), but from the interesting story told by Hegesippus, and preserved by Eusebius (H. E. III. xx. 1-8), that two grandsons of Jude were taken before Domitian as being of the royal family of David, 375 and therefore dangerous to his rule. "For," says Hegesippus, "he was afraid of the appearance of the Christ, as Herod was." In answer to his questions, they stated that they were indeed of the family of David, but were poor and humble persons, who supported themselves by their own labour; in proof of which they showed their horny hands. When further questioned respecting the Christ and His kingdom, they said that it was not earthly, but heavenly, and would arise at the end of the world, when He came to judge the living and the dead. Whereupon Domitian contemptuously dismissed them as too simple to be dangerous, and ordered that the persecution of the descendants of David should cease. These two men were afterwards honoured in the Churches, both as confessors and as being near of kin to the Lord. A fragment of Philip of Side (c. A.D. 425) lately discovered says that Hegesippus gave the names of these two men as Zocer and James (Texte und Untersuchungen, V. 2, p. 169).

This narrative implies that both St. Jude and the father of these grandsons were already dead, and this gives us a terminus respecting the date of the Epistle. St. Jude was almost certainly dead when Domitian came to the throne, in A.D. 81, and therefore this letter was written before that date. Whether, as Hilgenfeld and others would have us believe, the Epistle is aimed at Gnostic errors which did not arise until the second century, will be considered hereafter, when the nature of the evils denounced by St. Jude is discussed; but the evidence which has been examined thus far entirely agrees with the supposition that the letter was written during the Apostolic age.

It is not impossible that in calling himself "brother 376 of James" St. Jude is thinking of his brother's Epistle, and wishes his readers to consider that the present letter is to be taken in conjunction with that of St. James. Both letters are Palestinian in origin and Jewish in tone; and they are almost entirely practical in their aim, dealing with grave errors in conduct. Those which are denounced by St. Jude are of a grosser kind than those denounced by St. James, but they resemble the latter in being errors of behaviour rather than of creed. They are to a large extent the outcome of pernicious principles; but it is the vicious lives of these "ungodly men" that are condemned more than their erroneous beliefs. St. Jude, therefore, may be appealing not only to his brother's position and authority as a recommendation for himself, but also to his brother's Epistle, which many of his readers would know and respect.

The attempts which have been made to find a locality for St. Jude's readers altogether fail. Palestine, Asia Minor, Alexandria have all been suggested; but the letter does not offer sufficient material for the formation of a reasonable opinion. "To them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ," is a formula which embraces all Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, and whether inside or outside Palestine. The topics introduced are such as would chiefly interest Jewish Christians, and it is probable that the writer has the Jewish Christians of Palestine and the adjoining countries chiefly in his mind; but we have no right to limit the natural meaning of the formal address which he himself has adopted. All Christians, without limitation, are the objects of St. Jude's solicitude.


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