Who Wrote The Letter of Jude?

Douglas Rowston described Jude as “the most neglected book in the New Testament.” 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.

Another major problem with the book is authorship. 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. This has been the assumption of most Bible readers until relatively modern times. Since the rise of historical criticism, Jude is usually identified as a pseudonym or simply as another Jude other than the brother of Jesus.

Jude is the shortened form of Judas, a very common in the first century. Jesus had a brother named Judas as well as two disciples, and there are several others mentioned in the New Testament. Why was the name so popular? Judas Maccabees was one of the great heros of the Jewish people. He was the “Hammer” who led the rebellion against Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Judah was also the name of the founder of the tribe of Judah, the tribe to which King David belonged.

It was therefore a very patriotic name which brought to mind two very important times in Israel’s history: the founding of the Kingdom of David and the restoration of the kingdom under the Hasmoneans after the Maccabean revolt. Jesus ‘s own name evokes another great moment in Israel’s history, YeShua, the Lord Saves, is translated as Joshua in most English Bibles. Like Judas Maccabees, Joshua drove the Canaanites from the Land when Israel first arrived in the land promised to Abraham. Jesus’ other brother James would be better Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. That there were so many men named Judas might tell us something about Jewish expectations for a rebellion against Rome.

Yet the evidence is thin that the Jude who wrote this short letter was the brother of Jesus. Karen Jobes points out that we know from 1 Cor 15:7 that Jesus appear to his brother James after the resurrection, so “possibly he appeared to others in this family as well” (Letters to the Church, 237). That is certainly possible, but not necessary from 1 Cor 15. There is a strong tradition that Jude was not only a follower of Jesus after the resurrection, but that he became a leader in the Jerusalem church after the death of his brother James. Eusebius says that the grandsons of Jude were alive during the reign of Domitian and were brought to Rome under suspicion of fomenting rebellion. The emperor questioned them but realized they were not rebels at all, but rather simple farmers (H.E. 3.20).

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.

Bibliography: Douglas J. Rowston, “The Most Neglected Book in the New Testament, NTS 21 (1975): 554-563.

19 thoughts on “Who Wrote The Letter of Jude?

  1. The Epistle or Letter of Jude is short, but as you say, so very dense, and filled with great solemnity and “revelation”! As part of the Canon, it is very important, and especially with the message of grave warning. Jude gives these in verses 5-7, here God gave or inflicted severe punishment for sin. The first is taken from Num. 14:1-36. No doubt the lesson here, is no confessing Christian may presume on his privileges, since those who were brought out of Egypt by great miracles nevertheless died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. In 1 Cor. 10:4-9, Christ is said to have accompanied the Israelites in their/thru the wilderness. The second example is the fall of Angels, who “Kept not their “principality” or domain, i.e. the state in which God created them, etc. The last, or third is of course “Sodom and Gomorrah, and other cites about them..” Both, again “fornication”, and “followed strange flesh” (foreign, alien, i.e. different-flesh). This surely appears to be Sodomy!

    In verse 8, these, “In like manner” (likewise), “these dreamers, or sleepers.. ‘sleeping or dreaming in their sin’, “defile the flesh”, by giving themselves over to immorality, like Sodomites. The whole point is their loss from God and creation order!

    Wow, this Letter sure needs reading today, but more than just reading, but believing and acting upon!

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  2. I wonder if Jude really is the brother of Jesus. I really think that P.Long’s last comment about Jude being “humble” in his reference to being a “servant of Jesus Christ”, has more connections to Jude being the brother of Jesus. Jude claims to be a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James; could this be a way to connect himself as a brother of Jesus through James and therefore still retain the humility of the first half of the sentence; him being a servant of Jesus? I don’t have substantial evidence from either argument; however it seems to me that more could be drawn from this first sentence. It could be that I just desire Jude to be written by the brother of Jesus; however it isn’t fully out of the question.

    This would be a great explanation as to why Jude is so well written and full of encouraging truth with its author being the brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem church. But in the end Jobes makes the best conclusion, “…the question of Jude’s identity and role must remain uncertain” (Jobes, 238). This conclusion is drawn from similar arguments about the authorship of James.

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  3. Even Luther with Calvin, and most all the Swiss Reformers, believed that James & Jude, etc. were not blood brothers of Jesus! As we can see with the problematic verses, of Mt. 27: 56 / Mk. 15:40 / Lk. 24:10. And from this, they would see James Mother was obviously in parallel account in John 19:25 that she is to be identified with Mary (the wife) of Cleophas. And James as described as (the son) of Alphaeus / Cleophas…the same, the Aramaic being with Paul’s Greek name closely corresponding to his Jewish name (Saul/Paul). But of course, the major position for these Reformers, was the complete solemnity of the Incarnation of Christ! Note, Mk. 6: 3 closely, “Is not this the carpenter, the (article) son of Mary (singular). There is nothing in scripture or tradition that Mary had a bunch of children (boys and girls). And in fact, if James was Jesus blood brother, he would have had by Jewish law, to be at the crucifixion. Also with Jewish history & tradition, these would have been the members of the “mishpachah” or clan, extended family.

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  4. I have to agree with Adam. I do wonder if Jude is really Jesus’ brother. It also led me to think why Jude referred himself to a “servant to Jesus.” One main reason I think why is because, like P. Long said, he was humbled to say that Jesus is not only his brother, but he is a follower of Christ, a servant to the Lord and I think that Jude did not want to be known for the brother of Jesus, yet a servant and follower of Jesus. I think that Jude did not want this to be said in the letter because he did not want any focus to be on himself but all to the Lord. It can be hard sometimes for someone to be a follower of Christ and not gloat about how you are his brother and how higher up in status you are, yet he humbled himself and said he was a servant of the Son who saved us.

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  5. Jude or “Judas” (Hebrew), perhaps too the writer makes this reference to James “brother”, and calling himself a “bond-slave”, (as all the apostles), to station his place with the Jerusalem Church, James, etc. Literally, “Judas, of Jesus Christ, a slave, and brother of James.” And he even first wanted to write about “Our Common Salvation”. Yes, this Letter is certainly “Apostolic”…”The once for all Faith Delivered to the Saints” (verse 3).

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    • The aim of this Apostolic Letter was to really combat the spread of dangerous doctrines thru “false prophets” (2 Peter) “having not the Spirit” (Jude), and the immoral life/lives it denounces. Myself, I love the end and Doxology of Jude, verses 24-25…”to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord BE…”

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  6. I agree with P. Long and think it is safe to assume that the title “servant of Jesus” is used in a humble way. To say this humbles you as to “bring you down” to a different level rather than trying to build your name up by boasting that you are the brother of Jesus Christ. For someone like me to know information like this, I find myself looking at Jude in a more respectable way. Would I have done the same thing? But maybe this letter wasn’t written by Jesus’ brother Jude and therefore he really is just a servant of Jesus. Along with what Adam was saying, Jude connects himself to Jesus by saying he is the brother of James, and this could be to what I previously stated saying that Jude is humbling himself to be lower than Jesus Christ, or maybe he references himself as James’ brother in the sense of “friendship”. I personally do not know where to take my stand on this argument in the sense of Brother or Not a Brother but I feel as if I want to say that Jude is Jesus’ brother taking the status of a “servant of Jesus” therefore he receives more of my respect.

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  7. Before I get to your question; I would like to make some general observations when I first read this blog post. I think it is a shame that Jude is not often read or preached. I have never once thought of doing a devotional on Jude. But when I do look at Jude, it is a great instructional book on how to identify false teachers. Today, I believe that the occurrence of false teachers is more prevalent and it would be wise of us to be able to discern righteous teachers from false teachers. Now to your questions; why if Jude, the brother of Jesus, wrote Jude did he not identify himself as the brother of Jesus? I think there are several possibilities. One may be that Jude purposefully wanted to remain anonymous. Maybe he wanted his work to get more attention than the fact that he was the brother of Jesus. Or maybe it was not a matter of pride but one of humility. Maybe Jude wanted to remain humble, like you mentioned P.Long, and that he wanted to show his humility through not identifying himself. Maybe he wanted the attention to go completely to God’s Word. If Jude, the brother of Jesus, wrote Jude it would have been easy for him to use name recognition for his book. If Jude identified himself as the brother of Jesus maybe Jude would be read and preached on more often.

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  8. Just seeing it myself, why did Jude/Judas even mention being the brother of James anyway? Myself, as I have noted, I think he was effecting the Apostolic Gospel, and certainly the authority of ‘the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.’

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  9. I feel that Jude intentionally wrote that he was the servant of Jesus (Jude 1:1). By saying that he was the follower and servant of Jesus, he was humbling himself and putting himself below Jesus. I believe that Jude did this for many of the same reasons James did in his epistle. If Jude would have stated himself as the brother of Jesus, it would have given him the authority over his audience automatically. However, this would have also led into the possibilities of some people believing that Jude was Jesus’ equal because they were brothers. This is obviously not the case, but some new believers may not have known that. Being a servant of Jesus still gave Jude the authority over the body of Christ, but it also allowed himself to become submissive to Jesus in a way that no one could confuse or deny.

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    • I agree with Sarah. I believe that Jude was humbling himself when he introduces himself as the servant of Jesus, rather than Jesus’ brother. Karen Jobes explains that if this is the case, and Jude is the brother of Jesus, then the Christology is extremely striking. She says, “…what would it take for you to come to a place where you could worship your older brother– the one who sat at the family dining table, whom you played with and squabbled with– as ‘our sovereign and Lord'” (Jobes, 2011, pg. 247). People that witnessed this may have held all of Jesus family members in high regard, but it is obvious from Jude and James that they saw Jesus as more than just an earthly religious leader. They both humble themselves before their brother, Jesus Christ. They also put themselves on an equal playing field with the readers, which I find to be very cool.
      -McKenzie McCord-

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  10. I believe that Jude’s mission was not to point out how close he was to Jesus, and the fact that they were related, but simply to point out what his mission is, and what Jude is setting out to do to help glorify and to serve God. Jude clearly sees that there is more to his calling as a servant to Jesus than there is to his calling of being a brother of Jesus. It is obviously possible to be a servant and a brother as well, but Jude ultimately did his work for a higher purpose.

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  11. Sometimes I grow weary of focusing so much on authorship and less on content. However, I think that the author of Jude was not writing for any sort of personal gain or self-promotion. I think that the writer of Jude wanted to “humble submit” himself to being a lowly servant of Jesus and not bost in being a family member. I think that this speaks a lot for the character of the writer, He goal was to tell others the message that He had from God, and not that he would be marveled at for his relationship with Jesus.

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  12. When it comes to the matters of who wrote Jude, should we really question it when he clearly identifies himself in the letter? Because since scripture is not inerrant we should believe this to be true. But we are humans and we tend to question things out of curiosity. Also, for the reason why he did not just come out and say that he was Jesus’ brother was probably that he could convey his message better. Rather, than seeming biased towards Jesus’ side because they were brothers. He also probably stated that he was a “servant of Jesus” because he wanted to seem lower than Jesus rather than close to the same level. There are a number of arguments that could be made here but these are just a few. One last thing to add is that Jude opens up his letter stating who he is which goes back to my first point (Jude 1:1). We really should not question scripture. However, these are just my thoughts on the post.

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  13. It is very interesting to learn that Jude is Jesus’s brother. I agree with multiple blog posts that I scanned through that Jude purposely did not say how close he was to Jesus. It is very interesting to learn how humble Jude was when using the phase “servant of Jesus”. You would think it could’ve been tempting to brag to others that Jesus is your brother. But reading through our book, Jobes pointed out that Judas (Jude) was a common name back then (Jobes, 236). Jobes says that Judas was one of four brothers of Jesus and that Judas was the son of James, one of the Twelve disciples. So if you look at the other information that is gathered, then this might be one Judas (the disciple) writing this letter. Jobes described the term pseudonymous, which is “when the author is deliterly identified by a name other than his own” (Jobes, 6). In Greek, pseudonymous means: false name. I believe overall, we don’t really know which Judas wrote this book. We can assume that one of his followers wrote it or his brother.

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  14. It is interesting to hear about the different ideas as to which Jude wrote the letter of Jude. Many believe that Jude (Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3) was the brother of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ brothers did not believe that He was actually the Son of God; they thought that He was crazy. They were expecting the Messiah that would come in and deliver the Jewish people from their enemies. They were expecting a King who would rule over everything/ They were not expecting Jesus, who associated with the outcasts and sinners. It is interesting to see the change in their beliefs after Jesus resurrected from the dead. If Jude was the brother of Jesus and did not mention it at the beginning of his letter may be because he was being humble. I agree, I think that being the brother of Jesus, could be a very prideful thing so maybe Jude was just being humble and not thinking of himself too highly.

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  15. I always wonder with books like this if the letter what even meant to be read this far in the future. Even if the letter’s author was intended to be understood by the audience, it is vague enough that it seems the author had little intention to be remembered for it in the future. Paul is a clear exception to this as some of his letters like Philippians and Ephesians, but there are a decent portion of letters without defined authorship. I have to wonder if they ever intended their letters to mean this much two thousand years later, and what they would think of it.

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