Who wrote the book of Jude? The little book begins, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James….” (1:1).
I. We know three things about the author:
1. He was a Jewish man.
His name Ioudas is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah. Judah was the son of Jacob and father of the one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
2. He was a Jewish Christian man.
He calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ.”
3. He was a Jewish Christian man directly related to a leading figure in early Christianity named James, and, thereby, to Jesus himself.
He calls himself the brother (adelphos) of James (Iakobos). The reference to James is apparently to James, the elder of Jerusalem, and prominent leader in the early church (cf. Acts 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor 15:7; Gal 1:19; 2:9, 12). Paul refers to him as “James the Lord’s brother” (adelphos; Gal 1:19).
II. There are at least seven persons identified with the name “Jude” in the NT:
1-2. In Luke 3:26 and 3:30 there are two figures listed in the genealogy of Jesus named “Juda” (from Ioudas. Note that the text of 3:26 is disputed with some reading Ioda. This reading is adopted by the modern critical text, so that modern translations render the name in 3:26 as "Joda" [so RSV/ESV, NIV, NASB]). Obviously, neither of these is the author of Jude but there appearance shows the prevalence of the name and its appearance in the family line of Jesus’ household.
3. This is the name of Judas Iscariot the disciple who betrayed Jesus. He may be excluded for consideration of the authorship of this book for obvious reasons. The typical English rendering of his name (“Jude” rather than “Judas,” though it is exactly the same in Greek, indicates a desire to distance the author from the notorious betrayer of Jesus).
4. Another of the twelve apostles has the name of Judas (or Jude). John 14:22 specifically refers to him as Judas “not Iscariot.” In the listing of the apostles in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 he is described as Judas “of James (Iakobou).” The AV translates this as “Judas the brother of James”; the NKJV, however, as “Jude the son of James” (note the italic).
5. In Acts 9:11 there is mention of a man named Judas in Damascus who welcomed the blinded Saul into his home. There is no other known reference to this man in the NT.
6. In Acts 15:22 there is mentioned “Judas surnamed Barsabbas.” He and Silas are recognized by Luke as “chief men among the brethren” (v. 22) and “prophets” (15:32; cf. also v. 27).
7. Finally, there is a Judas (or Jude) who is listed among the brothers of Jesus in Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 (translated “Judas” in the AV of Matthew and “Juda” in Mark). These would have been the half-brothers of Jesus, the children of Joseph and Mary. The order varies between Matthew and Mark. In Matthew the brothers are listed as “James, Joses, Simon, and Judas” and in Mark as “James, Joses, Juda, and Simon.” Note that James is listed first in each list either owing to his being the eldest (after Jesus) or to his later prominence among Jesus’ followers or a combination of both factors.
Now, who wrote the book of Jude? We can look to the men of this name mentioned in the NT. As noted above, we can rule out both the historical Judes of Luke 3:26, 30 and Judas Iscariot. It also seems less likely that Jude (not Iscariot) the apostle is the author. Surely, if the author were an apostle he would have noted his apostolic authority or his eyewitness testimony to Christ’s public ministry as Paul, Peter, and John do (cf. Gal 1:1; 1 Peter 1;1; 1 John 1:1-3). He speaks of the apostles as if he were not among them (cf. v. 17). Finally, it seems more likely that the apostle was the son of a man named James, rather than the brother of James. There is no compelling reason to believe that the author of this book was the obscure Judas of Damascus or Judas Barsabbas. Neither of these are associated with James. This leaves us with Jude the brother of Jesus and James as the most likely author.
The Gospels indicate that the family of Jesus did not at first acknowledge him as the Christ (cf. Mark 3:21, 31-35). John starkly records that early in his public ministry, “neither did his brethren (hoi adelphoi) believe in him” (John 7:5). After the cross and resurrection, however, things change. Luke records that when the early church gathered in Jerusalem, May and his “brethren” were among them (Acts 1:14). Paul alludes to “the brethren of the Lord” engaging in public ministry (1 Cor 9:5).
We can conclude then that Jude, the author of this letter, was a Jewish Christian minister who was the half-brother of Jesus and the brother of James of Jerusalem.
The minister we had when we were first converted taught this too, and I always remember a sermon he preached in Jude and he spoke of Jude's humility in the way he began his letter....'a servant of...', when he could have said, 'I am the Lord's brother - hear me'.
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