The Most Neglected Book in the New Testament

Jude has been described as “the most neglected book in the New Testament” (Douglas J. Rowston,  NTS 21 (1975) 554-563).  Perhaps because the letter is so short, or possibly because of the book’s close relationship to 2 Peter, the book is rarely preached on, and few people turn to the book in devotional reading.  It is, however, an important witness to the way the early church responded to false teaching. While the book is brief, it is a very “dense” book, in that nearly every line is packed with allusions to the Old Testament or laced with colorful metaphors to described the false teachers.

Why do many scholars deal with 2 Peter along with Jude?  One factor is the is the similarity between the two letters – virtually the entire book of Jude appears in 2 Peter, with the exception of the two allusions to non-biblical books.  For this reason scholars wonder if Jude used 2 Peter, or vice versa, or if both letters used a third source, perhaps a standard statement against false teachers who abuse their freedom in Christ.  Either way, there are some strange things in Jude that are easier to ignore than sort out.

I have preached out of Jude a few times, mostly because it is so obscure.  But there is a great deal in the book which ought to be a warning to the modern church.  There is a great deal of tolerance for weak teaching in American churches, so much so that the Scripture is not all that important.  “Practical sermons” are far more important than using the Bible to address the issues of our day.
This was the problem in the first century – individual teachers with visionary experiences were more important than the Scripture.  Jude tells us to have nothing to do with these sorts of teachers.  Jude calls the false teachers “blemishes at the love feast,” perhaps I can update this a bit and paraphrase the line as “zits on the face of your communion service.”

Here are a few of the vivid metaphors used for these false teachers:

  • Waterless clouds
  • Fruitless trees in autumn
  • Wild waves on the sea
  • Wandering stars

In each case, there is something intended for good: a could brings rain, a tree gives fruit, a star ought to give guidance.  A “wandering star” is a planet, which is in a different position every night and may not even be visible at some times in the year.  If you were trying to navigate by the planet Venus, for example, you would be lost.  To navigate, you need the Pole Star.  These teachers claim to be guides, but in the end the obscure the truth and people get lost.  There are some obvious implications to present teachers who attain a level of authority without really providing any real spiritual leadership.

24 thoughts on “The Most Neglected Book in the New Testament

  1. It seems like with the similarities between the books of Jude and 2 Peter that one must have used another or as you said they both could have used a third source. But, if they did use a third source what is it? i think that the metaphors that are used in the Book of Jude are great metaphors and they work well for the point he is trying to make. All of the things that he mentioned we expect to lead us a certain way, but we would not know they are leading us a stray until it is too late.

  2. “This was the problem in the first century – individual teachers with visionary experiences were more important than the Scripture. Jude tells us to have nothing to do with these sorts of teachers.” (P. Long) Some would say that is still a problem today. There are certain theologians and teachers that would suggest that scripture is only as useful as it is relevant to our own cultural perspective. It was quite interesting to see this happen even at ETS (Evangelical Theological Society). Although not clearly stated, there are some that seek to ignore certain portions of Scripture in order to tame God, or make him seem less violent. “Jude’s literary-rhetorical strategy, therefore, in this “word of exhortation” is to rebuke in unconditional terms those “certain individuals” who threatened the community by denying Christ’s sovereign lordship and perverting divine grace into licentiousness.”(FttE, 245) Although their doctrine of Christus Victor is not necessarily one that contradicts Christ’s Lordship it is one that perverts the divine grace, not to licentiousness I hope. To say that God, in his divine justice, did not have Christ bear our sins and act as a sacrificial lamb, for our sakes contradicts all of the New Testament writers. (Rom 3:24-27, 1 John 2:2, 1 Peter 1:17-21, Hebrews 9:22, 10:10-14) To me when I read Jude I think of all those who choose to make God and scripture more palatable to the cultural cafe. We don’t need a watered down gospel, we need the truth.

    P.S. I’m not really as passionate as I sound, it’s just what happens when I read Jude.

  3. “Practical sermons” are far more important that using the Bible to address the issues of our day. – P. Long

    This is one thing that I have noticed a lot of lately, especially in American churches. One advantage of spending time in another culture for a period of time is the fact that your eyes get opened to some of the issues of the culture you return to.

    “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

    It is hard to recognize these “certain” people who “creep” in the church. Creep has the connotation of meaning very slowly, and gradual changes are hard to notice. It is much more easy to recognize deception and false teachers in the church when you can compare them to other cultures, and especially to Scripture. Jude instructs believers to snatch people out of the fire (vs. 23), in order to save them. We need to take people out of situations of deception and false teaching and show them the truth!

    Jake Rodgers, you are right on when you say, “We don’t need a watered down gospel, we need the truth.”

    • Jake Rodgers, you are right on when you say, “We don’t need a watered down gospel, we need the truth.” – Rachel Kieda. I agree as well. I believe that editing the word of God, or watering down the scriptures is a poor way to preach or minister. To be clear and concise with the message of the scriptures is beyond required. But there is still a dire need to be tactful with our delivery of the message of God. At what point do we draw the line between tactful and editorial? I do believe that there is a broad line, though I can’t see it.

    • As I too have spent quite some time in a different culture, I totally agree with you Rachel about the things that we take advantage of in our culture. I think that the way we do church is definitely one of these things. I feel like sometimes in today’s society pastors sometimes tend to take the easy way out, becoming very repetitive in their style and message of communicating the gospel. As the title of this post says, “The Most Neglected Book in the New Testament” I believe that some pastors would rather preach the things that people have heard a million times, using the same scripture… maybe not completely intentionally but it is just easier and more comfortable. What the church in this country seems to be lacking is passion, motivation, and a source of being challenged by the gospel. When we tend to repeat messages or types of messages over and over, people stop being challenged and become comfortable. This book [Jude] along with 2 Peter have some really awesome things to say that could potentially be very challenging, but are we really open to that in our culture or would we rather just be comfortable?

  4. I think that it is a shame that the book of Jude is seen as the most neglected book in the New Testament. It is so full of rich advice and information throughout it. While it is important to have practical sermons in our churches today that teach people how to live, I think it is also very very important to teach the people of our churches today about books like this. They deserve to hear all the words of God even if they might seem obscure.

    • It appears that the types of language used in these last few books is a degree more strong than it has been in some others. Of course I am talking about the fate of false teachers. This continuity in type of language and it’s context is an argument to the legitimacy of Jude. Albeit a small and fairly light point in the argument of Jude’s usefulness. It is indeed a sad thing that Jude is mildly neglected. Is it possible that the mystery of it’s authorship is a heavy attribute to its lack of ballast amongst the other scriptures?

  5. Having studied the Bible for almost 4 years now, with the emphasis in preaching, it is interesting to note the emphasis on application over the actual Scripture itself. As a result of having to prepare my own sermons, I have found that it is easy to teach ethical and moral truths using the Bible. I think that has become a strong emphasis. What I mean is, the emphasis has shifted from studying morality through the lens of the Bible to studying the Bible through the lens of morality. If that didn’t clarify, which it might not have, my point is that many of the messages that are being taught under the context of ‘Practical Sermons’ could be just as easily taught by a secular motivational speaker, or a popular self-help book. People have a tendency to strive so hard for the ‘quick, personal application’ that they just look past the Bible, without actually reading the words of truth that were given to us through the writers from God. Instead of extracting Biblical truths and applying it to their lives, people have a tendency to extract moral truths that should be practiced, and take the emphasis off the Bible.

    • “Instead of extracting Biblical truths and applying it to their lives, people have a tendency to extract moral truths that should be practiced, and take the emphasis off the Bible.”(C. Duke) this is a provoking thought. I think this provides some answer to the perception that a good deal of the Christian faith has been severely watered down and poorly portrayed, often substituted with deistic suppositions but none of which firmly grounded within a thoroughly Biblical Christianity. I think of Glenn Beck and the current political movement that he is heading up called the 9-12 Project. 9-12 stands for 9 core principles and 12 values on which the movement is based. the second principle, of course falling behind the first principles (“America is good”), states a belief in God and a central life-focus on Him. It gets a simple face-value point across without truly having to make any real claims of faith. The entire framework is built around a conservative and patriotic perspective of ethics and I’ve listened to many label this as Christian by standard. But truth is, it’s not Christian by any standard. A level-headed secularist would agree just as well as any Christian, that honesty, respect, gratitude, family, charity, etc. are all good traits to have.Such things make no one Christian, just a good person by social standards.

    • “my point is that many of the messages that are being taught under the context of ‘Practical Sermons’ could be just as easily taught by a secular motivational speaker, or a popular self-help book.” -Casey

      SO TRUE!!! awesome points Casey.

    • I agree with this. I think this is why there are books out there to teach us how to study the Bible. Although, we should take it and apply it to our life we should not be looking at it like how will this help me, how will this allow me to get ahead in life, or anything like this. We should look at it not like a self help book, but like a pathway to our relationship with God. We should use it to worship God through the many ways we can shown in the Bible, not use it to worship the world by getting ahead.

    • “Emphasis has shifted from studying morality through the lens of the Bible to studying the Bible through the lens of morality.” -as above, I completely agree!

      Although I would point out that the emphasis was never on studying morality, or at least never should have been, but that the emphasis was, and of course should always be, studying the Word of God itself, as God reveals Himself and His Son Jesus through the very words of scripture!

      I don’t mean to insult your intelligence, as you know this, but just as a disclaimer for others who read.

  6. It is sad that this book is so neglected. I do not think that we should neglect any book of the Bible. I think that every one is important, no matter who big or small they are. We can learn new things from every page of the Bible and if we leave a book out, we are leaving out something that we can learn and apply to our lives to make us become more like Christ. Even if the book is closely related to 2 Peter, I think that we need to take it as a separate book. But I do not think that there is anything wrong with comparing the two, but it is also a book all by itself.

  7. Another reason I believe Jude is not favored among the NT books is its use of non-biblical material including Enoch and the Testament of Moses. These two books speak of the future judgement of angels and the bones of Moses; two things that we do not come across in the rest of the Bible. We thus toss it aside because we just do not know what to make of it. Did Michael really discuss the bones with Satan, and are there really angels who are kept up grounded until judgment day. Further more how does these extra non-cannon writings further the purpose of Jude’s book.

  8. As FttE discusses, we are not entirely positive about the dating of Jude based off its Gnostic defense. Though it appears to be later perhaps early second century, Gnosticism did take root in the mid-first century. The presence of Gnosticism within Jude is not in question but how far it was developed is another issue. Further beyond the dating of this Gnostic defense, it is interesting to see Jude’s use of scripture to defend against it. He uses what seems to be old examples. The use of Sodom and Gomorah, Moses, and Enoch all point to OT early times that may be well known to Jude’s audience. They are perhaps examples that set the standard for further related issues to come. The depth of these references is interesting and I ponder what will be discussed about theme in class.

  9. I think the only sermon I’ve ever heard on Jude was by Aaron Bulduc at Calvary Church [non-denom] on a Saturday night and he preached on the doxology [verse 24-25]

    “Jude has been described as “the most neglected book in the New Testament” (Douglas J. Rowston, NTS 21 (1975) 554-563)” – P.Long

    Seems like this would make sense because of the many parallels between Jude and 2 Peter. If a book had a quite a bit more to say on a topic, that other one would not be as needed. I think of commentaries, especially when writing a paper. Obviously no commentary is going to have the answers for all the questions, but if there are 2 commentaries that say the same thing, whichever one has more to offer, I’m probably going to use that instead of the other.

  10. Jude is indeed a often neglected book. I can’t remember the last time I read it before this class. It is a gem though. Both 2nd Peter and Jude are similar in that one may be borrowing from another or they are both using a third source. Does it matter? I don’t think it does. Jude is packed and is worth studying by its self. I’m glad I rediscovered this book. I appreciate Casey’s comment on preaching. I think too much emphasis is put on getting the application and not enough on the gospel. The power in preaching is the gospel. The gospel is what changes lives. If a preacher denies Christ the proper place in his preaching it will certainly show up in the life of the church. The church will become what the descriptions of the apostates show in Jude- “grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts. . .” et. cet. (16).

  11. “They deserve to hear all the words of God even if they might seem obscure.” (H. Renberg)

    This hits a critical point, at least from my perspective. I believe that I have more than likely owned a Bible for the good majority of my life, yet for nearly all of those years, it collected dust on some shelf or in some box packed away until finally an 18 year old picked it up one night as a last resort for hope in a hopeless world. And yet it this last resort source of hope was intimidating to the core. And I have witnessed the same experience and concerns from so many friends and acquaintances that look to someone else to help them understand what this book is all about. There is a great gap between the layperson and church-goers and the doctoral student of Biblical scholarship. In attempts to mediate this gap, sermons are cut to shorter lengths of time, difficult concepts are avoided or watered down, Christianity in the church is restructured into a cultural deism with an attached doctrinal statement more or less disregarded save for staffing purposes. What’s frustrating about this is, though it is simple, Christianity is every bit complex all the same, especially in a sense of an educated understanding of its beliefs. And culture and way of life stands against this as churches remain unused and empty most days of the week and pastors typically get 30 – 45 minutes to teach, convict, inspire, and reach out. In fact my initial cause for even finding GBC was out of a search to know more about the Bible. Enrollment as a full-time student is not an option that many have, so how is the gap between the educated and the non to be truly bridged? I think, while the church is handicapped in ways, it has also, I hesitate to say, failed along many of the lines and expressed concerns here in this blog. How is this to be changed?

    • Justin said: “though it is simple, Christianity is every bit complex all the same” Amen! I resent Christians who describe our faith as “just believing in Jesus.” There is an old hymn that has the line, “I need no other argument, I need no other creed, it is enough that Jesus died and that he died for me.” While I understand the point of the hymn, that sort of thinking is soft and ignores a great deal of theology — what does it mean that “Jesus Died for Me”??

      Justin also said, “how is the gap between the educated and the non to be truly bridged?” I think this is a problem for the “educated,” since they have to find a way to express the depth and richness of the Bible in ways that are understandable to larger sections of the population. I think people like Scot McKnight or Craig Blomberg have done this (Maybe N. T. Wright too), but more needs to be done to express theology in ways that are faithful to the core yet resonate with the “hopeless world,” as Justin described it.

  12. The response from Jude to the issue of false teaching is most appropriate and effective. He gives a great example of how false teaching was to be dealt with within the body of Christ. Both 2 Peter and Jude send the same general message to their readers. A direct address is made by the writers in both books on the topics of false teaching and the last days before Jesus return. 2 Peter talks about the scoffers who follow their evil desires and Jude talks about those dreamers who pollute their own bodies and reject authority. Much behavior is labeled as ungodly and incorrect. This is to make very clear the difference between a true believer and a wolf in sheeps clothing.

  13. I think the book of Jude is one of the books that need to be taught at a ETS or Pastor’s conference. Today most lay people are completely unaware of what Scripture really has to say on many topics. The Bible today is giant book full of rules and ways to live, but really has no other value, according to many Christians. I grew up in a CHurch that taught using virtually no references to the Bible at all. When I finally left that Church I knew I believed in Christ, but didn’t even know what that meant. WHen I first went to a so-called Bible Church. THe entire preaching was exegetical and I left the service learning more about Scripture than I had ever learned. I was inspired to read Scripture on my own and my relationship with Christ was all the more closer. I think this is the experience that most Christians have when they go to Churches that preach exegetically. If you think of all the Churches in the area that teach that way, it becomes rather obvious that most of those Churches are the megaChurches. I think this is for a reason.

    • Oddly enough, Jon, the theme of the midwest regional ETS in 2011 is the “Other Voices”, 1-2 Peter, James, and Jude. Have your paper ready.

Leave a Reply