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 Thess 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 clearly Jewish – it 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.

Who are the “Opponents” in Second Peter?

May We Burn Her?

2 Peter was written in response to some sort of movement from within church which claimed to be Christian, but denied important elements of the faith. They have a overly-realized eschatology and seem to deny the return of Jesus (1:16, 2:1-3, 14, 18). While denial of the return of Christ may seem like a small deviation from the apostolic teaching, it is in fact a denial of the core of Jesus as Messiah, even the Jewish Messiah. This in turn could imply that the opponents reject the standard approach of the apostles to preaching as the Jewish messiah and perhaps a softening on the use of the Hebrew Bible as scripture.

It is possible that 2:5-8 implies sexual immorality, especially since the comparisons to the fallen angels, the time of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah allude to sexual sins. Even the allusion to Balaam can be seen as a sexual sin since Balaam used prostitution to entice the men of Israel. While someone might suggest that this is just standard heretic bashing, it seems that there is some substance to the charge of immorality since it appears again in Jude and Revelation 2-3.

There are several suggested opponents:

Gnostics. This view is often tied to a later date for 2 Peter primarily because Gnosticism is not a factor until well into the second century. It is difficult to describe a Gnostic theology because it was such a broad movement encompassing many different (and sometimes contradictory) themes. With the exception of a radical realized eschatology and sexual sin, there is little on this list present in 2 Peter. Paul deal with a rejection of the resurrection in 1 Cor 15 and there may be some hints at a realized eschatology in 2 Thess 2. Sexual immorality is too generic to be used to prove 2 Peter is dealing with Gnosticism. At best, Second Peter might be aimed at a sort of proto-gnostic doctrine.

Epicureans. Neyrey suggested that the opponents in 2 Peter are teachers who combine Epicurean philosophy with Christianity. Certainly Epicureanism was popular in the Greco-Roman world, and there are some points of the school of thought that resonate with Christianity But Epicureans were not exactly hedonists, so this may not be a complete answer.

Antinomians. Richard Bauckham suggested that the opponents in the letter represent some form of antinomianism (Jude, 2 Peter, 154-6). “Antinomian” refers to any theology which sees itself as separate from law. For the most part, this takes the shape of permitting (or even encouraging) sinful behavior.  These behaviors are not matters of indifference, but rather genuine sin as defined in scripture.  Because the believer is free in Christ, they are free to behave however they want, whether that is judged as immoral or not.

The reference in 2 Peter 3:16 to Paul is important – the opponents are “twisting” Paul’s teaching in order to make it say something that was not intended.  In my view, this is probably the best way to describe these opponents.  They are post-Pauline Christians who have pushed the Pauline doctrine of freedom in Christ well past what Paul did.

The opponents are therefore (in the words of Baukham), “theologically unaware Christians” who compromise with the world on ethical issues (156).   This is the point of application to modern deviations from orthodox Christian theology and behavior.  How do you deal with the person who claims to be a follower of Jesus yet behaves in a way which is clearly sinful?  Do we “shun the unbeliever”?  Should we accept them regardless of the sin?  How does 2 Peter help  with this problem?

Paul, Jude, and the Libertines

Weird things happen when you teach several different things at once.  Since I am teaching a Bible survey for a Men’s Bible study at my church and a Pauline Lit, I found myself reading about Jude but thinking about Paul, especially the early years before the Jerusalem council.

While I have always thought of Jude as rather late (post 70 at least, if not in the 90’s), 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.

One 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 Thess 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 clearly Jewish – it 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.