Introducing the New Testament, 2nd Edition

A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey

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29. Jude


This chapter should enable the student to

  • summarize what modern scholarship has to say regarding the historical background for the letter of Jude, including suppositions about authorship, date and place of composition, and the situation this letter was intended to address.
  • articulate the relationship of Jude to 2 Peter.
  • describe the polemic that Jude uses to condemn false teachers and explicate the positive affirmation it offers concerning apostolic faith.
  • engage the issue of apocryphal writings on which Jude appears to draw and the relationship of such writings to canonical Scripture.

Pedagogical Suggestions

1. Jude Reading Jewish Scriptures

What references to the Hebrew Bible stories do students recognize in this letter? Try to brainstorm, as a class, as many of the references to these writings as students can come up with. (You can supply some of the references too, or many study Bibles will point to the references in the notes to Jude.) Students may work in groups or on their own. Ask each group (or student) to read the biblical story that Jude alludes to and to compare the way Jude references that story, the details he emphasizes, the main point Jude draws from that story, and the tone that he uses to frame the story in its new context in Jude’s letter.

Does Jude change the point of the original story? (For example, Sodom and Gomorrah are condemned by God for abuse of hospitality—the sexual nature of the abuse is secondary to the crime against hospitality in the ancient world. This will be one of the harder points for students to see, as two thousand years have shifted the interpretation away from hospitality toward sexual immorality.)

Does Jude add details that are not in the texts we have but may have been part of oral Jewish tradition?

What can we learn about first-century Judaism and Christianity from the way Jude interprets these passages?


Jude offers students another opportunity to flex their analytical muscles. They can identify first-century ways of reading the Hebrew scriptures (compare with Hebrews, 1 Peter, Matthew, and Galatians). They can also see the breadth and depth of the debt Christianity owes to Judaism and the difficulty many followers of Christ had in negotiating this debt in traditions.

Discussion Prompts

  1. What evidence is there in Jude that the canon of Jewish scriptures is still open or fluid (see text p. 512)?
  2. Who is Jude? What is the biblical evidence for his being part of Jesus’s earthly family? What might we learn about Jesus’s family from his brother Jude? From their brother James’s letter?
  3. What do you make of the polemical language in this letter? Did you expect to read such language in the Bible? How is this scriptural? How are modern Christians to read and understand the use of such language, particularly in light of the recent “culture” wars in the US and the polemical language used in world politics to talk about people of other religious points of view?