When was Jude Written?

While I have always thought of Jude as rather late (post 70 at least, if not in the 90’s), there are good reasons to date the book earlier. In his WBC volume on Jude and 2 Peter, Richard Bauckham argues that the letter is very early, perhaps as early as A.D. 50.  This reading is based on the use of Jewish apocalyptic style found in the letter.  He finds three elements of the book which lean toward the earlier date:  There is a lively hope for the return of Jesus (14-15).  Secondly, the style of the letter is a Jewish midrash which draws together texts from the Hebrew Bible to argue that the false teachers will face judgment at the Coming of the Messiah.  Finally, there is no hint of church offices in the letter – elders, deacons or bishops, nor is there any appeal to human authority.  The institution of the church is limited when the letter was written.

jude01One serious challenge to this early date is the nature of the opponent.  They seem to be libertine, or even antinomian, which has always made me think that the letter must therefore be written later, after Paul’s death at the very least.  But if the letter is written at the time of Paul’s first missionary journey and the controversy of which led to the Jerusalem council, the issue is quite a bit different from Galatians or James.  In Galatians, Gentiles are discouraged from keeping Law (Paul says “gentiles, your are not converting to Judaism”) and in James Jews are encouraged to continue keeping the Law (James says, “Jews, you are not converting away from Judaism.”)

Jude might give witness to some people who took Paul’s gospel of freedom from law to an extreme and lived a life that was not bound by law at all.  These libertines are not really an issue in Acts 15, but they are in Philippians, perhaps in 1 Thessalonians 4, and certainly a problem in Corinth and Romans 6.  That Paul has to answer the objection, “should we sin that grace may abound” implies that someone was in fact sinning so grace might abound!

What made me wonder is the fact that Jude seems Jewish – the letter is a midrash constructed from various texts from the Hebrew Bible. If Jude is writing to Jewish Christians who have antinomians in their midst, it seems like these might very well be Jewish Libertines not Gentiles. If that is the case, then Paul’s gospel of freedom from the Law for Gentiles might have had some traction among Hellenistic Jews which led to a rejection of the Law. Perhaps this is the source of James’ concern in Acts 21, that some think that Paul has rejected the Law.

17 thoughts on “When was Jude Written?

  1. I start wondering why these Jewish Christians are rejecting the Law in the first place. Karen Jobes points out that those who look inward for spiritual truth apart from apostolic teaching find only knowledge that originates in their own base human instincts. With only our human instincts to rely on, we are bound to fail and start fulfilling our own desires. This would make sense in how they would reject any kind of law, since human nature naturally wants to be in control of our lives and resist authority. Jude says that such people,”pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ,” (v. 1:4). Paul was only trying to explain the depths of God’s grace in forgiving and renewing, not give freedom to sin freely, because sin still separates you from God, and that is never His desire for His relationship with His children.

  2. I think that when someone is “sinning so that grace may abound,” or even taking what someone says and taking it to mean that they don’t need to live out the law anymore, is insight that the person really doesn’t care about the deeper meaning about the law. It says they are willing to do whatever they can to make life easier and that their heart really isn’t in it. A person who truly cares and loves God wouldn’t keep on sinning, they would understand the message of grace that the recipients of Jude’s letter clearly don’t. It seems the don’t even care or aren’t even trying. Jobes points out that ungodly people have come in among the church, part of the reason Jude was written. I feel like Paul should be interpreted that a holy life is still necessary, but those ungodly take his word and twist it to what they want to hear. I see this often in today’s world where we will justify our sinful behavior.

  3. I think that the draws from Paul’s literature in Jude are a good indication that the book is a later date. The writing style may be coming from off as such because the author or translator or whatever may be from a tradition of writing in that framework, rather than a style more familiar with the new age writings. The fact that the letter comments on people perverting the law, similar to what Paul taught on leads me to believe that it would have been written later as well.

  4. I feel that because of the timing and the purpose of the Scriptures, the book of Jude was written at a later date. Based on the content being from very similar teachings of Paul, I believe that it could have been written later. You had mentioned in the blog, “Jude might give witness to some people who took Pauls’ gospel of freedom from law to an extreme and lived a life that was not bound by law at all.” The Law is essential is discovering the date of the actual book. Jobes suggests that Jude was written to a Palestinian audience (Jobes 380) instead of being written to a Hellenistic Jews audience stated in a suggestion in the blog. The audience is crucial to know to help decipher the date of the book of Jude.

  5. I feel as though because of the timing and purpose of the scriptures at that time Paul felt it was necessary to make some adjustments to a more relevant audience to which he was speaking. I have questioned for the longest time why this might be the case but as we have come to learn Jesus came to transpose the Law not to abolish it to make it more relevant for the new age. I think this statement serves as a good indicator that Paul’s ideas were along the same lines and that he was just trying to enforce them to be followed. Jobes states that this section was written to a Palestinian audience (Jobes 380) Instead of a Hellenistic Jews audience as was seen in the blog. But I am now questioning doesn’t this Law apply to each and every one of his believers as can be seen in the section of Romans?

  6. I always wonder why the time is important to the point where it is debated. Timing is important though because I forget that the time determines the context. The issue at hand in Jude is the same with either timing, but the angle that the issue is brought upon is different. The angle for A.D. 50 is that the Jews are misinterpreting Paul’s letters. The later dates such as A.D. 70 or 90 come from an angle that Jews are to look out for a group of people who misinterpreted Paul’s letter. Misinterpretations of the Bible leading people astray is the issue at hand. A.D. 50 the audience is the ones who misinterpret and if not corrected they will lead people astray. While the later date, the audience is the ones being lead astray by those who misinterpret the scripture. It is the same issue, but the audience falls into a different part of the issue depending on the date which can influence the approach that needs to be taken.

  7. I read a scholar somewhere (forgive me I forget where I read this) that in the earliest incarnations of what eventually became the Canon, that Jude was the first apostolic text presented, immediately after Acts. This, if true, would support Baukham’s thesis I think.

    • I do not recall ever hearing of a canonical list that had Jude following Acts. But since canonical lists are rarely (if ever) chronological, this might not even help. Let me know if you ever remember where you read this.

      Robert Wall suggested the book was added as a conclusion to the “pillars” collection, with brothers of Jesus (James and Jude) framing the letters from the Pillars, Peter and John. Part of this is a late date for Jude, however.

      • Yeah thanks for that additional clarification. I know it isn’t very helpful for me to mention such a thing without a source to cite. I will eventually remember where I saw that. It’s possible I don’t accurately remember what I read also. Specifically, it was in relation to the Jewish epistles being “pushed” to the back of the corpus of New Testament writings, and emphasizing the Pauline corpus, as part of the triumphalism of the Roman expansion and the rise of Christianity over Judaism. Again, this would be more helpful if I could cite it. I’ll see what I can find.

  8. With respect to article, the time in which Jude was written does seem to be at a later date. Up until now, most of the disciples have either been captured, killed or in prison. The book of Jude exemplifies false teaching and false teachers. Much of the book looks similar to other books previous on the warnings of doing such acts. Rather, the book of Jude came to the party late, and decided to put their two cents input. Jobes mentions Palestine being the audience, but per the blog post it is suggested that the hellenistic jews are. Moreso, the date in which the book is written must have been a long while after the Petrine wrote the books of Peter. Simply put, there seems to be no known date for the book. I could be wrong, and the date provided could be early.

    • Earnestly contend for the faith or body of Christian doctrine as delivered to the believers once for all time ( hapax ) wrote Jude. This to me indicates this micro epistle was written late in the apostolic age 70-90 AD.

  9. This Easter Sunday this post really resonated with me, particularly the last two paragraphs. Jude is, possibly, writing to an audience of readers who have been mistaken into thinking that following the law is irrelevant. Although the Law is no longer the source of salvation, obeying God’s commands is never out of date. In the day of social media, no one can pass by a holiday, i.e. Easter, without making a post. Most of these posts are people in pastel colors with a Bible verse or Hillsong lyric stamped at the bottom. Although I have no problem with this in general, many times I wondered today, “uh, are they even a Christian?”- given that I have never seen or heard any fruits of the spirit that would lead me to think that. Are we still dealing with people who have foregone keeping God’s commandments? I would say yes. I think there are many people who are “christians” but only on Christmas and Easter, and not because they’ve accepted him and now follow his commandments. James and Jude remind readers that the commandments of God are still to be followed.

  10. As we talked about in class, it is hard to date the book of Jude. It is interesting to see the different ideas of dates as to when the letter was written date from anywhere from the late 90’s to the early A.D. 50’s. With the letter being circulated it can make it hard to date as well since different churches had it at different times. One thing that can help to give an idea of the dating of the letter is that in 2 Peter it uses many of the verses that are in the letter of Jude. It is important to know or at least have an idea as to the dating of the letter because it can give us a better idea of how to understand what the readers during that time were dealing with, and going through. Paul encourages believers of freedom from the law, while Jude encourages the people to keep following the law. During this time is it possible that the Gentiles who were told that they were free from the law were acting out in a poor, sinful way. So maybe Jude was trying to encourage them in a different direction and he felt that the law was a good way to keep away from following the bad example of the gentiles?

  11. The dating of Jude seems to be one of the easier ones to debate because we know the likely author. You and Karen Jobes give a similar 20-year window for its authorship, even though they differ. She stops it around 80 A.D. and starts at 65. I find the reasoning behind an earlier date for Jude interesting. Jobes says that if Jude was a half brother of (From a potential first marriage of Joseph), he would have been old enough at 62 A.D. to succeed James after his death, lead for several years then write the letter (Jobes, 320). However, I find Bauckham’s argument for an earlier date near 50 slightly more convincing. The lively hope for the return of Jesus might imply that there were plenty of people still alive who remembered his ministry and pending return. The possibility that the Church was far less established when compared to other letters written is also a good indicator. However, I wonder if the lack of Church government language like Bishop, Elder, etc. is actually a tell of the date for the book, or if it simply shows Jude’s uninterest in the topic pertaining to his purpose for the letter?

  12. I think that it is very possible that Jude was a Jewish writer. This is made obvious by his use of the Hebrew Bible instead of the Greek Bible even though he was writing in Greek. I found it interesting that Jobes described the distinction between the Hebrew translation and the Greek in different Old Testament verses such as: Zechariah 3:3, Proverbs 25:14, Ezekiel 34:2 and Isaiah 57:20. With the way Jobes outlines each of these verses and their translations in each language, it is obvious that the writer was taking the context from the Hebrew Bible. I don’t know why the author would have sourced their information from the Hebrew Bible and then wrote in Greek if they were not more comfortable with this version.
    With that being said, it is likely that Jude was writing to the Jewish population that had gone from super legalistic lifestyle to the complete opposite side of the road and decided that they had Grace and could do whatever they wanted. I believe it is less likely that this was written to the Gentiles because they may not be as familiar with the Jewish translations.

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