The Letter of Jude Online Commentary (8)
In the first installment, I set out the traditional Greco-Roman letter format and looked at the “Judases” and “Jameses” in the New Testament. In the second installment, I weighed the arguments on authorship and decided the best evidence points in the direction of the Judas/Jude who is the brother of Jacob/James and Jesus. I then looked at what this means for the date of the letter and the location, or place, in which the letter was written. In the third installment, I examined the salutation, verses 1-2, in which I studied the letter itself, the reasons the letter was sent, and the goals of the letter.In the fourth installment I studied the “Reason for Writing” in verses 3-4, a part of the letter typically called the “Thanksgiving,” but in Jude lacking that element. In the fifth entry, verses 5-7, I studied the first three charges Jude makes against the “intruders.” In the sixth entry, verses 8-10, I looked at how Jude applies the charges made against the intruders. For the seventh entry, I considered the further charges against these intruders and “dreamers” taken from the Old Testament, and an actual charge made regarding their behavior in the community. Now, in the eighth entry, we encounter some prophetic charges against the intruders.
6. The Letter of Jude:
To see the breakdown of a typical Greco-Roman letter, the category into which Jude fits, please consult the first entry in the commentary. We are now well into the Body of the Letter, which continues with these verses. The basic focus of Jude has been condemnation and criticism of the “intruders” and “dreamers” who have come into this particular church (or churches), though the charges are sweeping and vague and thus far difficult to attribute to particular views, behaviors or positions these “intruders” have taken.
d) Body of the Letter: Prophetic Charges against the Intruders: verses 14-19
14 It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "See, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him." 16 These are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage. 17 But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 for they said to you, "In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts." 19 It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. (NRSV)
About verse 13, in entry 7, I wrote that the “wandering stars could also refer to either fallen angels or to the fallen angels who controlled them (see Kelly, 274).” In fact, in verses 14-15, this assessment seems to be confirmed with a citation from 1 Enoch. The citation is taken from 1 Enoch 1:9, in which a general warning regarding the coming apocalypse is offered, but the warning seems to be for “all” not just the fallen stars, or angels (see 1 Enoch 18:13-16, 21:1-10). Although Jude has cast the intruders in the language of the chaotic, disordered fallen “stars,” it seems he intends this language to apply to these human intruders in the community as well as any other ancillary meaning that attaches to the original text.
1 Enoch as a whole is an apocalyptic text, which in some of its parts might be the earliest in the apocalyptic genre. It focuses on the fallen angels in the cryptic passage of Genesis 6:1-4, angels who came to earth to mate with human women. In 1 Enoch this incident is expanded for over ten chapters, starting at chapter 6, and the fallen angels are attributed with having taught humanity numerous sins. The angels, the children of heaven, desired human women, so they swear an oath with Semyaz (“their leader” – 6:3) that they will all agree to have human wives so that Semyaz is not personally responsible. Two hundred angels agree to this “covenant” (6:6).
Chapter 7:1 describes sexual relations with women, itself an improper melding of the divine and human, and then outlines what the “Watchers” (the name given to these fallen angels) teach: “magical medicine, incantations, the cutting of roots, and taught them about plants” (7:2). I would suggest that all of these things relate to improper revelation and magic. Also out of order is the progeny of the human women and the fallen angels which were “Giants” that “were three hundred cubits” (7:2). A cubit is about 18 inches, so according to 1 Enoch, these Giants are 450 feet tall and hungry. They ate everybody’s food and people themselves (7:3). “They began to sin against birds, wild beasts, reptiles and fish. And their flesh was devoured one by the other, and they drank blood” (7:5). The fallen angels reveal to human beings “every kind of sin” (9:8). For instance, one of the chief fallen angels, Azaz’el, teaches the “making (of) swords and knives, and shields, and breastplates” (8:1).
Human beings could stand it no longer so they cry to God for deliverance: “And then the earth brought an accusation against the oppressor” (7:6); “And the people cried and their voice reached unto heaven” (8:4). It is when the people cry out that God’s faithful angels respond: “Michael, Surafel, and Gabriel observed carefully from the sky and they saw much blood being shed on the earth” (9:1). The angels bring the case to God – oppression is blamed on the improper revelation of Semyaz – and claim “you know everything (even) before it came into existence, and you see (this thing) (but) you do not tell us what is proper for us that we may do regarding it” (7:11).
God sends Asuryal, another angel, to Noah to tell him the flood is coming (10:1-2) and tells Raphael to throw Azaz’el in a pit in the desert (10:4-7). This is not hell, because he is being held here so that “he may be sent into the fire on the great day of judgment” (10:6). According to 1 Enoch, the Watchers and the Giants are doomed, but they are locked up in pits “for seventy generations underneath the rocks of the ground until the day of judgment and of their consummation, until the eternal judgment is concluded” (10:12). At that point all the children of the people will become righteous and “all nations shall worship and bless me; and they shall all prostrate themselves to me” (10:21).
I spend some time outlining the mythology of these chapters because it gives us the proper context for understanding Jude 14-15, the citation from 1 Enoch 1:9: “See, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” This means that the final judgment is the background for Jude’s condemnation of these “intruders,” not a localized judgment. It also points to the high favor in which 1 Enoch was held at this time, for Jude to cite it so favorably. Two points should be made about this citation.
One is that although 1 Enoch does not appear in any biblical “canon,” or fixed list of Scripture – with the exception of the Ethiopic Church - certain texts which were not ultimately included in canonical lists were held in high esteem by ancient Jews and Christians. Larry Hurtado, amongst others, has made the distinction between Scripture and Canon in the ancient Church, that is, some writings had the authority of Scripture, but were ultimately not canonized. This is the sense one gets of 1 Enoch in Jude. For Jude to cite this text so approvingly regarding the coming apocalyptic end indicates the high regard that he held for its prophetic declamations.
Second is that the use of 1 Enoch affirms the Jewish nature of Jude. Patrick Hartin claims that this citation of 1 Enoch, in fact, is closest to the texts found in Qumran than any other existing texts (Hartin, 55). While the whole of the early Christian Church was apocalyptic in character, beginning with Jesus’ own teaching, it seems much more likely that the first generation Jewish followers of Jesus knew 1 Enoch and would award it a high status than Gentile Christians.
After placing these “intruders” and “dreamers” in the apocalyptic context of 1 Enoch, Jude then next describes them as “grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage” (v.16).These charges do not fit the sins listed in 1 Enoch 1:9 except in a general way, namely, they are “ungodly” (asebeis). The one sin found in 1 Enoch as a whole that might fit are the particular charges regarding improper sexuality, such as “they indulge in their own lusts,” although this is a charge that is often made regarding the “coming end” in numerous Jewish and Christian texts of this time. The “grumblers and malcontents” charge might fit in the context of the Israelites who wandered in the desert (vv. 5 and 10). Finally, however, the general charges seem less significant than the fact that these “ungodly” intruders have had their coming end prophesied, not just by 1 Enoch, but by the Apostles of Jesus.
In verses 17-18, Jude encourages his readers to “remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.’” This passage is captivating for it introduces us to the oral tradition of the Apostles, admittedly now captured in writing, and places the community under the authoritative tradition of these same Apostles. The “intruders” are acting against the predictions of the Apostles, who, like 1 Enoch, had predicted ungodliness (like 1 Enoch 1:9), and who they also claimed would act according to their lusts, as did Jude in v.16. Finally, there is a powerful sense of support offered for this church, as what they are experiencing had been predicted in both writing and in word. What they are going through, God already knew they would experience.
The last description of these “intruders” is that “it is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions” (v.19). While the charge of “division” is a significant one on its own, J.N.D. Kelly offers an insightful reading of the community situation. He points out that the verb rendered “causing divisions” (apodiorizein) is “extremely rare” (283) and that reading it in light of the “prevalence of sectarian divisions and schisms” makes some sense, but does not account for the proper force of the verb (284). He writes,
We may doubt, however, whether such a general statement explains the choice of such an unusual verb or does full justice to the idea of definition or classification inherent in it. This difficulty is amply met if we recognize that the words which follow almost certainly throw light on the very nature of the divisions the errorists set up. They create schism in the community by classifying its ordinary members, i.e., the faithful to whom ‘Jude’ writes, as wordly-minded (psuchikoi), and themselves as ‘spiritual’ (pneumatikoi). His immediate retort is that this is just the reverse of the truth: it is the errorists themselves who are wordly-minded and who, so far from being ‘spiritual’, are in fact ‘devoid of’ (RSV)the Spirit. 284
This astute reading fits with the verses to come, in which Jude turns away from the “intruders” and focuses on building up the community.
John W. Martens
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“For the dwelling of the spiritual beings of heaven is heaven” (15:7). See also the passage as a whole: 15:2-7.