Who were Jude’s Opponents?

The opponents in Jude  misuse the grace of God as a license to sin. These seems to be the key problem Jude needs to address. The teachers seem to have been antinomian, a perversion of the gospel which argues that those who are saved are somehow “beyond” the law, so that they can behave however they want without consequence. Antinomianism was a serous problem at the end of the first century and lead to a bad reputation among the Romans, who heard rumors that all Christians engaged in strange sexual rites as a part of their worship.

Jude 4 describes the sin of the opponents as ἀσέλγεια, a word which has the sense of abandoning the restraints of socially accepted behavior, almost always sexual sin. (Only 2x in the LXX: WisSol 14:26, “sexual perversion”, 3 Macc 2:26 uses the word to describe the sexual excess of the Greek king of Egypt; cf., T.Levi 23:1, “lewdness.”)

Some of Jude’s biblical illustrations for these opponents are sexually oriented as well. The fallen angels (Gen 6:1-4, 1 Enoch). The sexual nature of the sins of the angels in Gen 6 is more clear in the 1 Enoch version, perhaps explaining Jude’s use of the more legendary form of the story. Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 14) were legendary for their sexual sins, it is possible that Jude has general sexual excess in mind rather than homosexuality.

Taken along with Jude’s reference to the opponents being “blemishes” on the church’s love feasts, it is likely that these teachers were using church meals as an opportunity for sexual debauchery. While this sounds completely alien to the later church, in a Greco-Roman context this makes more sense. Greco-Roman banquets were known for not only over indulgence in good food and wine. A good meal was often followed by sexual encounters with prostitutes.

Paul dealt with this very problem in Corinth where was a problem with gluttony, drunkenness and going to prostitutes at private banquets (1:Cor 6:12-20). The issue here is attendance at banquets given by the rich elite of the city. There is plenty of evidence concerning the types of things that went on in a Roman banquet of the first century from contemporary writers.

Plutarch described the combination of gluttony, drunkenness and sexual immorality that were a part of the “after-dinners” as he calls them. There was an association between gluttony and sexual excess, as is seen from the well known saying reported by Plutarch, “in well-gorged-bodies love (passions) reside.” The writer Athenaeus said tat the goddess Cypris (Aphrodite) does not visit the poor, “in an empty body no love of the beautiful can reside.” Plutarch also said that in “intemperate intercourse follows a lawless meal, inharmonious music follows a shameless debauch.”

If this is the background for the opponents in Jude, then once again we have evidence for an earlier date to the book, and perhaps another indication that the problems were caused by people, perhaps Jews, failing to challenge their pagan world with their new faith. I suspect that this is one of the more applicable elements of the book of Jude.  These “Christians” are using their religion to promote behaviors which would even shock the Romans.

27 thoughts on “Who were Jude’s Opponents?

  1. These opponents that Jude speaks of have secretly slipped in, and are probably even fitting the Christian image somewhat since they are able to slip into the Christian community as Karen Jobes points out. Maybe they were just Christians who fell away as well. Apparently, they exerted a type of personal power that was very influential, whether because of their socioeconomic status, their education, their political connections, or some other reason (Jobes 242). The type of power that these people are exerting relates to peer pressure and the influence of those in power still today. I think a good lesson to learn from these people who slipped in, and either persuaded or weakened the already weak to conform, is for Christians to be on guard from following those who have high influence. In today’s world, it is a hard fight to go against or even recognize peer pressure, so this is why we must challenge the world’s beliefs and those who have influence on us.

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    • You bring up an excellent point Kerie. Peer pressure is something that comes at and attacks people from all different angels. Whether you know the “peer” well or not, pressure to fit in and do things are always present. Today’s society is very difficult to stand up and always do the right thing, especially when you are placed in unfamiliar situations and groups of people. Ephesians 6:12 comments on this idea of peer pressure as well by stating, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Sometimes it is the rulers who we are being peer pressured by and those are the people that we will have to stand up against. I completely agree with you point that Christians need to be on guard from those who have higher influence than they do.

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  2. I like how you said there were perhaps some Jews who were failing to challenge their pagan world with their new faith. It makes me think that some Jews sinned so that grace may abound, but that others simply did not confront their neighbors about the sin they were committing. It seems that if all of this sexual sin were going on, Jude would not have to address it if other Jews stood up to their faith and to the people. Perhaps some even joined because in because the gospel had been so twisted in their minds that it was correct behavior. I think, however, that the people who sinned so that grace may abound knew in their hearts that what they were doing was wrong and I don’t think there was any way they truly thought it was ok with God. It really seems like they tried to justify what they really wanted all along, sexual immorality, and now Paul had given them something they could twist. I also think sometimes we all can do this. We justify actions and twist rules, maybe not in the same way as it was done here, but we still do to some extent. Jobes makes it clear the church at this point has been infiltrated. It is sad to think that this infiltration gave a bad reputation and that it probably led many good Jews astray.

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  3. This problem with rationalizing ones behavior with their religion is an issue continues to plague today. Either one claims that religion makes them do whatever behavior or a circumstance in the religion allows them to do whatever behavior, nonetheless they rationalize till their hearts content and they are able to do whatever they want. Some people exclaim that their religion is the reason they kill. Probably is the same reason back then as it is now, it is easy to fall into temptation because we are cleansed of our sin and some may go as far as we cannot loose salvation so it does not matter anyway. This may be scoped to sexual impurity rationalized by religion, but unfavorable behavior rationalized by religion has occurred throughout history. Some if not most Christians have judged a fellow human being thinking of themselves as higher than the judged because they are a Christian, but God is the only true judge (James 4:12). At the same time, some rationalize what they do by people cannot judge them because God is the only one who can truly judge even though that behavior is displeasing to God. For example, Miley Cyrus’ song “We Can’t Stop” uses that excuse to basically do whatever she wants. Two lines from “We Can’t Stop” that exemplify this are “Shaking it like we at a strip club, Remember only God can judge ya.”

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  4. I would have to agree with Kerri on this one as sexual sin seems to be slipping more and more into what today’s society social norms look like. These could be people who have just fallen away for a short time or have possibly abandoned the religion as a whole but we would never know as we are just the outsiders looking in trying to figure out what is acceptable in a world that has been corrupted by the image of sin. Jobes makes a point that the image has given many of us a bad reputation on what it means to live as a Christian which has probably lead most of us astray into a commitment with our God which I am lead to believe that this is why many churches have dwindled in numbers. But as Proverbs 4:23 teaches we must guard our hearts for everything else that is good flows from it. This is a verse we must keep in mind when dealing with such a controversial subject such as the problem of sin.

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  5. I would also argue that at times Christians feel that they must appeal to the majority culture in order to try and attract more people to join. I think that the problem that were facing the audience in Jude are still very relevant today. It appears today that many modern churches are slowly shifting to views that are more appealing to a progressive population. By allowing sexual sins during feast the audience in Jude would have been attempting to attract the larger Greek and Roman audience, however it appears that this was counterproductive, as the Pagan culture at the time noticed that Christians were not that different from them which ultimately defeats the purpose of Christianity. Romans 12:2 calls for a reforming of our thoughts, we are to change our patterns and cycles in our lives.

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    • I would totally agree with you and say that Christians often conform due to the norm of society and fear of standing out in a crowd. People conform to avoid being judged and standing out. I would also agree with your statement that many modern churches are also conforming to society instead of standing apart from the society and what they stand for. Christianity is becoming a much more con-formative thing than what it truly is meant to be which is to be different and as you say we should look to Romans 12:2 for inspiration.

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  6. It is really interesting how Jude refers to the angels being locked up (v. 6) from way back before the Flood. The word usage here reminds me of the “Drama of Ephesians” where Gombis talks about the worldview that (at least) Paul probably had when he was writing all those things he wrote. Jude talks about how the angels abandoned their post and gave up their authority. It gives a lot of support to his argument honestly. i guess i should finish reading that book to understand his whole argument and system to explain it. But the thing to me is that I don’t automatically think of the Nephilim from Genesis 6 when I read verse 7 here. It makes sense that the references are the same topic, but I guess i just don’t see it right away.

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  7. This issue in Jude is certainly one that has some real world applications for Christians today. I think both the issue of Christians not challenging the culture they live and the sexual aspect of their sins apply very closely to the way many Christians live today. Sexuality is a major issue in our culture, both as a nation and as a church. Speaking from the perspective of someone working in youth ministry, students today are bombarded with loads of explicit sexual content. Most Christians do not confront this issue head on, much like what you discussed about the Jews failing to confront the pagan culture. While I don’t necessarily think that people use Christianity to condone this behavior anymore, it was clearly an issue in Jude. I think people who use grace as a license to behave immorally have an issue with their motivations. Christians are called to follow the law with joy and thankfulness as a response to Christ’s redeeming work on the cross. True Christians should have a genuine desire to follow the law, and it is clear that these “opponents” had no such desire.

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  8. Maybe you should have a warning when you start talking about intercourse on a Christian blog… Anyway, what you said at the end made me curious. If this was a result of the Jews not challenging the pagan beliefs then what would happen if they did go out and challenge them? Would the book not need to be written? Or would it be an undertone to the Church on a different subject. The other thing is that I wonder if we are not doing our jobs as Christians going out and challenging our current world “Pagan” beliefs. If every Christian was well instructed in apologetics and the history of the Bible and the Church; there would be less believers falling away. It ultimately boils down to making sure that we are all aware of the answers before we are tested on them. Like 1 Peter 3:15 says. We have to be prepared to give an answer. The book of Jude might give us a good example of how we can go about it today as well.

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  9. In regards to the post, there is quite a lot of sexual reference and the possibility of falling to the sinful nature of lust is relevent. However, those who are choosing to do this run their risk whether they have a relationship with Jesus Christ or not. The book eludes to false prophet teachings and not abiding by the teachings that were set before the Jews. During the times of the Romans, it was very common for the citizens and leaders to get together and have a major feast. It would then lead to the drinking excessively and then lustful, prostitute acts. In todays culture, it definitely is not a norm, but rather a choice on how women and men view their bodies. If they view themselves as holy to God then they will not openly engage in lustful acts. On the other side of the spectrum, if they don’t value their bodies then they are more apt to be curious about sexual immorailty and commit lustful acts. Jobes shares some of the same similarities that are written in this post, and moreso agreeing with the possible earlier date of being written.

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  10. It is easy to think just like the opponents of Jude. I have heard people who claim to be Christians, use phrases or excuses like, “God forgives, so I can do what I want.” And of course, they live that way. They do what they want relying totally on God’s grace. My question would be whether they were really saved or not. People who think in this mindset are not living in truth, but living in great sin and most likely confusion. Jude warns his readers about this. Karen Jobes gives a great explanation when she says, “Jude’s exhortation implies that it is possible to step outside the love of God by stepping outside of the bounds of orthodoxy. The Christian is to think of life as a time of waiting for that great moment of being brought into God’s presence, faultless and with great joy” (Jobes, 2011, pg. 249). Jude warns his readers that this is not the way to live and it is dangerous. I would say that we still face this danger today and heed Jude’s warning.
    -McKenzie McCord-

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    • I agree with what all you said here. While these people are trusting on God’s grace, they still can’t just go off and do whatever they please, no matter if it involves sin or not. To answer the question you imposed within your post here, I would say that in a way, even though they’re living in confusion like you mentioned, these people are still saved no matter what they do or say. Yes, they can sin and commit some horrid acts, but at the same time Jesus will always have mercy on them. I would also agree with you in the fact that even though Jesus forgives us always that it is a dangerous lifestyle to live. If we are to continue to want to live in a certain way that truly glorifies Christ, we ought to change how we live daily.

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  11. I believe that for a while, people can have this air of, “I am better now, because I have God’s forgiveness.” Obviously, this is not true at all. We are very broken still. Forgiveness is not a ticket to keep repeating the same thing. Yes, you are forgiven, but God wants you to put the work in. He does not want you to say you are a Christian, but not pursue it. What would the point be? If we were to continually wrong our friend in the same way and expect forgiveness every time, I am sure your friend would get tired of it and tired of you. God is gracious, but He is also fierce. If you know who He is and ignore Him in your daily life, there are going to be issues. I honestly do not know if you are fully forgiven. You are suppose to be a changed man/woman. Did you really ask for forgiveness, but not mean it? Sin is evident in our society, it is our choice to fight against it. We need to pursue a healthy relationship with Christ, not a back stabbing one.

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  12. The truth of the matter is that we all struggle with the sins of the flesh. There’s no secret that just because we are saved, does not mean that life is going to be easier. As a matter of fact, the devil has to work even harder to tempt us. There’s a reason that we have to be saved in the first place, and there’s most certainly a reason why God had to send His son to die on the cross for our sins. This is evident throughout the entirety of the bible, but especially evident in the case of discussing Jude.

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  13. Grace can be so commonly misused. In many cases, the word Grace is said to make an excuse for one’s sin. While Gode does grant us grace and mercy, it is not something that we should be taking advantage of. I believe here Jude is addressing people who are using the grace given to them by God as an excuse to live according to the culture, as he should as a leader in the Church. the attitude of “I’m going to do this wrong thing because God will forgive me for it anyway” is the wrong way of looking at this. I believe Jude’s opposers needed the rebuking that was given to them so that they would stop living according to the culture.

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  14. I was reminded of Paul’s famous quote in Romans: “shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound? Certainly not!” It can be really easy to get trapped in the idea that “I’m already forgiven so it’s not a big deal” but I think that this thinking is a sin tactic of Satan. If he can get us caught up in sinful patterns of behavior then we never move closer to being in a relationship with God. We all struggle with sin, and all need forgiveness, but we need to cling to Jesus’ life and truth rather than His unending forgiveness.

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  15. The way Jude describes these opponents sound similar to people you might encounter today. Because some people still do abuse the grace God has given to each of us. They think that they can continue to sin no matter the consequences because God will just forgive them. However, they’ll eventually learn that this is not the case and when judgment day comes God will most likely punish them for their sins. According to Jobes, “The Christian is to think of life as a time of waiting for that great moment of being brought into God’s presence, faultless and with great joy” (Jobes, 2011). How can someone be faultless if they continue to sin all time just expecting to be forgiven? These people that do this must learn to forgo these ways and just live the Christian life as Jobes explains. Romans 6:14-15 explains, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” These verses explain how just because we are under sin we should not abuse the grace of God. It is absolutely crazy that people that are Christians do abuse God’s grace without knowing it is wrong. This means that us fellow Christians must steer them in the right direction by telling them this is wrong.

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  16. Although we are free from a destiny bound for hell, we as Christians are not immune to the wrath of God. If we are claiming to be his children, but betraying him and acting sinfully, he does not hesitate to show us that he is in fact still all powerful. There have been many times where I have been a “Christian” but not acting as one and God puts me in my place. He is merciful, but he will not allow sin to be done in the name of Jesus. I also appreciated Emily’s comment that some Christians have the idea that conforming to this world makes the Christian faith more approachable. Although I believe that the church can be unapproachable, sinning is not the solution. People will notice us because we are different, not because we blend in.

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  17. I really love the fact the Bible the Word of God is timeless. I think that the book of Jude does a really good job addressing the Antinomians, but this text is also applicable to “Christians” that live the same lifestyle. I would say I have some friends who claim to be Christians, but they live a lifestyle that is appalling. They do not fight the temptations of their flesh, but they promote them. These actions do not only portray Christ’s death wrong, but it gives a bad look to Grace and the change it brings about in a believers heart. I think Paul speaks to this in his books, and this is not the life Christ portrayed because He was without sin. All in all Antinomians and modern believers who sin because Grace abounds are definitely wrong when it comes to the gift of Grace.

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  18. Everyone has met a Christian that use different kind of phases such as “God forgives me” and think they can do whatever they want. Even though, God does forgive for our sins, we all make mistakes. But people take advantage of that phase and at the end, I don’t believe that God will keep giving you the benefit of doubt if you are purposely doing things that you aren’t supposed to do and hope God forgive you. People living there life like that, are questioned if they are really Christians. If so, how serious do they take their religion. There are some people that has fallen into the temptation and peer pressure that we come across everyday. Even though, it is hard to stand out and stand up for what we believe. From a few past post, I agree with people saying that it is hard to fight against peer pressure, but we need to stand up to the world and challenge people beliefs and those who have influence on us. Jobe talks about in the book that Jude wrote the letter to plea to hold apostolic orthodoxy in the presence of “ungodly people” who “have secretly slipped in” (Jobes, 242). The last few words of the previous sentence is what we have to go through with peer pressure each day. Sometimes we may “slip into” peer pressure, but have must pervert the grace of our God into a license for immortality (Jobes, 242).

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  19. The Christian life is the hardest life to live out but it has the most joy. Similarly to what I mentioned in the previous post, I think of Romans 6 when Paul opens off with “Should we keep sinning so that Grace may abound? By no means?” It can be so easy to have the mindset of “since Jesus died for my sins then I can sin”. But Jude and other books of the New Testament say differently. Jobes mentions slipping into peer pressure (Jobes, 242), and so often that is our excuse for sin; however like Annika said, we should not immune the wrath of God just because we have freedom from sin.

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  20. How many contemporary churches use methods to call to worship that are similar to Wood Stock. “We look like you so come and worship and praise” What refuge, hum? Ask the person sitting next to you in the pew. Leadership, strength, peer-pressure, intuit lemons and weak minds, Christ did not discount any of these. Though he did not give permission to continue to sin, I believe He many times reminded His following that the hardest life will be to Follow Him in every footstep. The Am I worthy enough to be considered, and humans weakness and struggling minds “Trials and tribulations” I believe Christ has the greatest of heart for and desire to see His Body, “US”, share His truth and shed blood for. “So warning from Jude, is more of a calling to the Body of Christ to embrace the stumbling, confused and turned away ‘or Ignored’. There’s no person dead or alive that will not carry some form of sin to their grave. But praise to God and the gift of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, when they are finally judged they have a chance of eternal love and life. Can we the living body actually look the other way or never mirror ourselves as we buried our minds into the Word of our God.

    Signed. Stumbling lover of Jesus

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  21. Situations like these make me wonder how in the heck they took that kind of lifestyle or freedom out of the gospel? I want to know what part of the Gospel even comes close to giving people the freedom to live as pagans without consequence. That is so crazy! That is some serious work of the devil. But in the same vain, I think that happens on a much smaller scale with christians today. Maybe its not as crazy as what the opponents were taking part in but maybe its a simple act that we think, “oh God will give me grace anyway” we may not want to admit we think that but something in the back of our minds tells us that. It is the perversion of the Gospel. Because of the Gospel we are free from our sinful ways, and those things are what God hates. But he paid for it so we don’t have to be associated with it anymore.

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