Who was Jude?

The author of Jude identifies himself simply as Jude, brother of James and servant of Jesus Christ.  There are eight New Testament persons with the name Jude (Greek, Judas, or Hebrew, Judah), but the most likely is Jude the brother of Jesus.  Of the various persons named Jude in the New Testament, only the brother of Jesus and James would be well known enough to identify himself so simply.

If Jude was the brother of Jesus, why does he not say so in his letter?  Why use the title “servant of Jesus?”  The fact that Jude and the other brothers of Jesus were unbelievers until after the resurrection, the title “servant of Jesus” can be seen as a humble acknowledgment of Jesus’ Lordship.

Objections to this identification center on the language of the book, which seems too Hellenistic for an author who grew up in Galilee. The vocabulary is obscure and is full of rare words, including thirteen words not found elsewhere in the New Testament. This objection does not carry much weight since the author is familiar with at least two popular apocryphal texts, indicating some degree of education and sophistication.

We know virtually nothing about Jude, the brother of Jesus, in the New Testament. Jude is listed in Matt 13:55 and Mark 6:3 simply as a brother of Jesus. He likely was not a believer during the ministry of Jesus, (Mark 3:21, 31).  He would have become a believer after the resurrection (Acts 1:14), but we know nothing of his conversion, whether he was a witness to the resurrection, etc. The “brothers of Jesus” are mentioned in 1 Cor 9:5 as having taken believing wives, although it is not clear whether this is literal brothers or not.

According to tradition reported by Julian Africanus, the brothers of Jesus were involved in missionary activity.  Eusebius. (Hist. Eccl. 1.7.14) says that the family of Jesus evangelized Palestine.  In another section (Hist. Eccl., 3.19.1 – 20.8) the grandsons of Jude are arrested during the reign of Domitian.  Since they are in the line of David, they are potential messianic pretenders.  Domitian allegedly interview them but they claimed to be farmers – as evidenced by their calloused hands!  This story has always struck me as legendary, since I cannot imagine Domitian rounding up potential Jewish rebels from Palestine.

It is somewhat intriguing that a brother of Jesus should write a book which is so much dependent on the Hebrew Bible.  Perhaps, like his brother James, Jude was well trained in the Hebrew Bible and able to use the scripture to argue against a false teaching within Jewish Christian communities.

It is not critical that the Jude of the letter of Jude is a brother of Jesus.  This tradition helps explain how a letter like this was accepted as canonical, but it is not required by the text since it does not state that the writer is the brother of Jesus.

16 thoughts on “Who was Jude?

  1. “It is somewhat intriguing that a brother of Jesus should write a book which is so much dependent on the Hebrew Bible. Perhaps, like his brother James, Jude was well trained in the Hebrew Bible and able to use the scripture to argue against a false teaching within Jewish Christian communities.”(P.Long)

    I wonder if the sons of Joseph were better off than the average carpenter’s son? What if Joseph was a rich man able to send his son’s off to be trained under respected rabbis? Or if they had some connection with the Essenes. It just seems that apart from the skills of their respective secretaries, James and Jude, have considerable knowledge of the Old Testament, and Jude specifically has knowledge of 2nd temple literature. “Not only does Jude display astounding economy of thought, ti also demonstrates a thorough acquaintance with and calculated use of Jewish literary sources.” (FttE, 223) Not only is he familiar with these sources he seems to be an expert in written rhetoric. “The modern reader becomes witness to a literary-rhetorical artist at work, as graphic symbolism, word-play, frequent alliteration, parallelism, the use of triplets, typology, midrash and woe-cry in a tightly-packed “word of exhortataion”-all this with the remarkably brief span of only twenty-five verses of text.”(FttE, 224) In fact, I would propose that James and Jude have more features in common in that they both write in the style of the OT prophets. One is reminded of the word-play in Micah 1, as well as the theme of righteous judgment against the unrighteous. If Jude, the brother of Jesus, was the original author of Jude, and James, the brother of Jesus, was the original author of James, then it would seem consistent that the brothers would write in similar fashion, as prophets.

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    • I would argue that is did not matter if Jesus’ family were rich or not. Every good Jew would send their kids to a Jewish ‘school’ to learn the scriptures. Even today many Jews in the middle east send their children to ‘Jew’ schools. Usually by the end of the schooling each child has memorized the entire Pentateuch. If this is how Jewish Children were all trained than it is not surprising that Christ’s brothers would be so knowledgable with the Scriptures. It is also possible that Christ’s brothers excelled in their training and were eventually moved on to higher levels of Jewish academic training. The answer can not simply be that Joseph was rich.

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      • I would have to agree with you Jon. Every good Jew of Jesus day studied the scriptures regularly. Even the disciple Peter found himself constantly sticking his foot in his mouth as he rebuked Jesus with his knowledge of the scripture. Little did he know that his knowledge of the scripture was just a bit out of balance. I believe that just as muslims of our day are trained from infancy up to believe in Allah, a majority of Jews living around Jesus lifetime and during the apostolic period had a firm grasp on the holy scriptures. I would even think many of Jews of that time period learned how to read from the Bible. They most likely did not have Dr. seuss books in Jerusalem and the cities surrounding it.

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  2. I think it is very interesting that Jude introduces himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (Jude 1). For one he must be very well known in order to be just known as the brother of James. He must have been well traveled and well known in churches around the country to send out a letter introducing himself with so little of a title. We are obviously expected to know who James is as well. I think it is interesting that Jude may have been one of the brothers of Jesus Christ but that he introduces himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. I like that he does that because it shows us that Jude respects the ministry of Christ and that he values him as a spiritual leader rather than just a brother.

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  3. I really do not know who Jude is. I do not know if he is the brother of Jesus or some random guy. But when he said that he is a servant of Jesus, that could mean a lot of different things, but even though I do not know what it means, I would assume that it means that he is the brother of Jesus. It does help explain why a letter like this would be in the canon, but I also think that it is a powerful piece of writing that a man wrote. Whoever Jude is, I think that we should assume that he wrote Jude and not some other person. But I do think that we have to hold fast that when he said that he was the brother of James, that we assume that he was the brother of a James. We do not know what James, but it would be easy to say that it was the same James as the brother of Jesus also.

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  4. “We do not know what James…” Jessica – I think this is an interesting observation, especially when combined with the observation at the very beginning of the post, “There are eight New Testament persons with the name Jude (Greek, Judas, or Hebrew, Judah), but the most likely is Jude the brother of Jesus.” I agree that with such a simple title, this person must have been well known, or at least have assumed that his brother James would be well known enough for people to recognize that name. It reminds me of when siblings go to the same school. When my sisters would meet people that I might know, they would say, “I’m Holly, Casey’s sister.” It may be the same sort of thing.
    However, is there any evidence that any of the ‘eight’ NT Judes had siblings, and is there any suggestion as to what their names are. It seems very unlikely that each of these eight men would have had a brother named James. Like I said, the simple introduction doesn’t necessarily mean that Jude was extremely well known, but it could just mean that James was a very recognizable person in the Christian movement, which only solidifies more strongly the thought that it would be Jude, the brother of James, the brother of Jesus.

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  5. Many good comments made by all. I too am pretty confident that Jude was probably Jesus’ half brother. James would have been well known. I like Casey’s idea of familarity- identifying yourself with somebody with a reknown reputation. This idea fits in well with Jude being accepted as canonical. Jacob Rodger’s idea of Jesus’ family as being slightly more sucessful than most people thought of and thus accounting for the mastery and knowledge that both James and Jude show is intriguing as well but speculative. Another important, less so now, is it the early church tradition of Jesus’ brothers evangelizing Palestine that Phil Long makes. Taking all these points together makes a pretty solid case for Jude being Jesus’ half brother, the brother of James. It would have been nice however if Jude just came out and said he was Jesus’ half brother. His humility prevented him from doing so and everybody at the time knew it. To mention it would have been seen as bragging- unspiritual. Something his epistle speaks against: “. . .and they mouth great swelling words. . .” (16).

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  6. I would have to agree that Jude the author of the book of Jude was Jesus half brother. The most interesting thing about Jude is his conversion after the resurrection of Jesus. His denunciation of false teachers would lead a reader to believe that he had been well established as a believer for the larger portion of his life. He wrote that “They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4). This comes across as a very bold statement for the half brother of the Son of God who denied the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. If Jude was written by the half brother of Jesus, the book most definitely displays the power of God to change even the most hardened hearts.

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  7. P.Long, it seems to me that you do not sufficiently defend against these objections. You seem to shrug them off, but just because James was well instructed in Scriptures does not quite necessitate or even demand that Jude had the same education. What evidence is there from the first century that Jews (or any one from any ethnicity) had the money to send all their children to be educated in the Law and Prophets? Especially a family from Nazareth.

    I suppose you could argue that a man who is rich enough to take his family (and servants?) to Egypt and then back again to escape persecution would have money enough to educate his children. However, he himself is from Nazareth, and Nazareth is known for being a back water “hick” town, so that when Jesus begins ministering he almost seems laughable when those around him find that he is from Nazareth. With Galilee, and Nazareth particularly, having such a reputation it would seem unlikely (apart from divine help) that even if he owned a carpentry company in town that he would have that kind of money.

    Formal education would have been done in Jerusalem and that it quite the hike to send all his children to be educated there while trying to maintain a practice (or a single job) by himself.

    It would seem that a better choice or at least an equally plausible option would be that Jude is written as an alias and that, even though these words may still be inspired, the author would be someone who wrote with Jude as an authority at best. This is most certainly not unheard of in the ancient world and with Hebrews being anonymous, it doesn’t seem like it would be too out of the realm as affecting the canonicity of the book.

    (How was that P.Long? I was bored so I gave your suggestion a try.)

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    • Jude’s education, whether he is the brother of Jesus or not, is in the Hebrew Bible and clearly represents Palestinian Judaism of the first century. He cites the Hebrew Bible, not the LXX, he alludes the Pentateuch (exclusively? VandeVrede point this out in class), and the non-canonical material is of interest to the Jews only (1 Enoch was popular at Qumran). All of this could point to an education at the feet of a teacher, perhaps a Pharisee but maybe even an Essene. This could take place in Galilee as much as any place.

      If Jude is the brother of Jesus, there is no reason to think he was stuck in Nazareth his whole life!

      I also think that there is some evidence that Galilee is not the backwater that we make it out to be, since there is evidence of wealthy homes using stoneware (as opposed to pottery), and at least one large administrative archive has been found.

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  8. After reading through Jude again, I begin to think that Jude had a humble spirit when he labeled himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. This view may not carry much weight with most theologians, but I tend to believe that the title he gave himself gives credit to his brother Jesus Christ. I believe he is humbly acknowledging the Lordship of Christ with a repentant spirit for his unbelief before the resurrection.

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  9. It is not surprising that Jude does not vocalize that he is indeed the half-brother of Jesus. James the Just, who was also the half brother of Jesus never mentions the fact in Scripture, whether in the book of Acts or in his own writing in the letter of James. It is not critical that the “Judah” who penned the book of Jude is recognized by being the half-brother of Jesus.
    Jobes points out the fact that Jude makes the assumption that people who receive Jude’s letter know who James is when he writes “a brother of James” in Jude 1 (Jobes 236). Although, as Jobes points out, Judas was a very popular name among men of Jesus time, it is clear that the even though there were several men named Judas who interacted with Jesus, the adaptation of claiming to be the brother of James clarifies which Judas it is (Jobes 236-9).
    Jude is in a way writing through the authority of his brother and using him to ensure that his readers were listening to what he had written. This use of authority was not a bad thing but rather gave Jude an active and listening audience to what he had to say.
    It is unfortunate that there is a lack of evidence recorded about Jude, whether in Scriptural or historical writings or even church tradition. Because we know that, like James, Jude experienced life with Jesus in a different way it would have been amazing to see what his perspective was and hear his story of faith.

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  10. As we read through the book of Jude and this article it is trying to better understand who the author of this book really is. As the article talks about there were quite a few other people in that time with the name Jude. But reading farther along in this book I also have to agree it’s the brother of Jesus. As the article reads it would make sense that he would be as then it remains in canonical order. But on the flip side it might not be because it doesn’t state who the author really is. It seems like in the New Testament we don’t know exactly who the author is. But as we read through these books some are very descriptive and have a lot of stories that Jesus did, with this being said we should notice this and connect the dots to the signs in which they could be brothers or disciples. With this being said and noticing how descriptive Jude is I would say it was someone very close to Jesus in his life.

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  11. I love how Jude simply introduces himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ”. As this article suggests it is a humble admission that Jesus is Lord but I think that it is more than that. It is also Jude admitting that he was wrong about his own brother because he did not believe that his brother was who he said he is. Can you imagine the irritation of having Jesus as your brother? It would be kind of hard for anyone to live with. After the resurrection, Jude was converted and so in saying that he was simply a servant of Christ he was admitting that he was wrong. As far as whether Jude should be in the cannon I think that God is the God of truth. His word is the truth so God would not allow something that is not truth stand in his word. God has protected his word through generations and I believe that he is still protecting his word today. I also believe that the order of scriptures is something that God is in control of and he is protecting it. I do believe that Jude should be a part of the cannon.

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  12. First and foremost, Jude’s familial relationship with Jesus Christ should make this book a much more read and discussed book in the Bible. I reiterated this thought when in a blog post on the book of James, and that thought indicates that a book with a potential viewpoint from a sibling and brother of Jesus should never be ignored. Obviously, no book in the Bible is not important. Therefore, no book in the Bible should be ignored. One would think that it is obvious that Christians and students of the Bible that want to be as close to Jesus Christ as possible, as well as imitate Christ, then they would definitely want to thoroughly read, study, and develop a high-level interpretation of a text that comes from a family member of Jesus. Our family members are the people who typically know us the best and get to see us the most. Therefore, the book of Jude, as well as the book of James, may offer in-depth insights into the life of Jesus that other writers may not be able to offer. This is something that is important to note about Jude and the book of Jude.
    Like other books in the Bible and books that we have studied throughout this course, the author of the book of Jude is not set in stone. However, Jobes (2011, p. 236) indicates that the fact that he is a brother of James, it is expected that he is referring to the half-brother of Jesus, for that is the man who is most likely to be recognized the the audience of Jude is James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, for this James held a position of leadership for the Jerusalem church. This idea is repeated in the original blog post above. This point is an important point because it favors the idea that Jude held a familial relationship with Jesus Christ.
    There are two other concepts and ideas that I noticed on this blog post that caught my attention were the fact that there is not a vast amount of information about who Jude is in the Bible and the fact that the book of Jude includes thirteen rare words that are not found in any other books in the New Testament. First and foremost, it is odd to me that the New Testament has so much to write about in regards to Jesus Christ, but it lacks information and references to his family. This is the case it seems for Mary, Joseph, Jude, etc. Obviously, Jesus is the important figure of the message of Christianity and the gospel, so it is not expected that there are countless stories of Jude in the Bible, but due to his familial relationship with Jesus Christ, one would think that there would be a few more references to Jude in the Bible. Additionally, the fact that the book of Jude has unique language is interesting and offers an insight into the background and upbringing of Jude. How do these thirteen words impact one’s interpretation of the text?

    Jobes, K. H. (2011). The Letters to the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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  13. It is extremely surprising to me that Jude is included in the Bible. While the book is not heretical, it does address texts that are not canonical such as 1 Enoch. This helps promote the argument that Jude was the brother of Jesus. It promotes it because these Jewish texts would have been well known amongst Jewish communities. It seems as though, from the Scriptures, that James the brother of Jesus is well versed in the Jewish Law and is known beyond what a carpenter from Galilee would be. This gives some solidification that another brother of Jesus could also be well versed in Jewish Law, culture, and literature. I think Jake Rodgers is on to something when he proposes that Joseph’s sons may have had the opportunity to have an education. If two of Jesus’ brothers are clearly well versed in the Hebrew Bible and one is versed in second temple literature then maybe these sons of Joseph were able to get a formal education?
    Jude also believing in Jesus as his Savior would have come after the resurrection which makes sense as to why he, along with his brother James, would humble themselves by presenting themselves as “servants” to Jesus (Jude 1:1, James 1:1). This piece of humility that comes from both brothers is a significant sign that these men truly believe in Jesus Christ. This act of humility validates these letters more than they would be otherwise. As a believer, seeing the immediate position of humility from an author makes me want to engage with the text more. The first thing that Jude does when he opens the letter is humble himself and this is exactly what we should do when we approach anything. We need to humble ourselves before the Lord and he will exalt us (James 4:10).

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