Purveyors of Fake News!
We continue our survey of Jude by looking at the background of his book by observing who the Fake News! purveyors might have been. Remember, not understanding the background of a piece of the Bible text will only cause a rather misinformed view of the text you are reading. (See my eBook: God Has Spoken But What Has He Said?)
Next, we share what the aim of the book might be. Then, we ask: who was its audience? Next, we inquire about what do the Apocryphal books have to do with Jude? Then, we will comment on why Jude and Second Peter look so much alike. Next, we will analyze its literary quality. Finally, we will offer an appraisal of the book of Jude. A look at all this to give us a better grasp of the message of Jude about Fake News!
A Look At The Fake News! Purveyors
In today’s culture, almost regardless of the country you live in, folks consume what is called “post-truth politics.” PTP is a culture of politics where a debate is framed largely by an appeal to emotions that are disconnected from actual facts,[ref]Post-truth politics. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-truth_politics. accessed. May 30, 2018.[/ref] i.e., made up out of thin air by the purveyor.
In the ancient Mediterranean world of the first century, there were two extremes that had to be avoided when trying to determine who the Fake News! purveyors were that caused Jude to be alarmed. The first extremists were a group of teachers in Palestine who were Jesus followers who had relapsed into moral laxity after their conversion to Jesus. The second extremist group was early Gnostics but not fully Gnostic in their thinking. They could not have been fully Gnostic because the complete idea of Gnosticism did not appear until the second century. Since Jude did not bother to tell us who these purveyors of Fake News! were, we must draw conclusions from the letter itself. There are three things that one can observe from the letter about these folks.
- They were Antinomians. Antinomians were a group, which believed and practiced perverting grace. While the word Antinomian was not available until Luther invented it by smashing together two words: anti “against” plus nomos “the Law” in his own arguments in his timeframe, the idea of the word was alive and well in Jude’s own writings about those who denied that there was any law at all in a Jesus follower’s life. These newly formed Jesus followers declared that they now lived fully within the grace of God and that, therefore, it did not matter what they did; God would forgive them. No further discipline and no further effort were necessary on their part. They believed that the law was dead and one now lives under grace only. They reasoned that since the law no longer applies, one can do as he or she wishes under grace. Grace can forgive anything. The more one sins the more opportunities for grace will abound (4, 7, 8, 12, 16). In today’s world, Antinomians believe that they are free to believe whatever they want to believe and then practice that belief system with abandonment. Here are just a few current antinomian practices that are active and alive today that have derived from an antinomian styled belief system:
- While there are anatomical differences between men and women, one can choose which gender he or she is.
- Homosexual identity is acceptable as long as it is within a committed relationship even though there is no real definition of “committed relationship.”
- Jesus was a refugee (which is an arguable point), therefore all countries, especially Western ones, must allow all refugees to come across their borders without any hindrance and partake of all privileges of the host country.
- Sexual activity prior to marriage is acceptable and openly flaunted on TV and movie screens.
- There is a disregard for human life demonstrated by aborting babies by the thousands suggesting that only a woman has a right to make that choice.
- These first purveyors of Fake News! denied Jesus. They somehow had developed a belief about Jesus that was contrary to the teaching of the functioning missionaries, often referred to as apostles. (To understand this concept see my book: Gracelets.[ref]Winn Griffin. Gracelets. Harmon Press. 2015. 181-186. [/ref] As an example, Paul had to address some of these antinomians tendencies in the church at Colosse which bordered on the thought pattern of what has been called “Gnosticism.” Gnosticism was the belief brought into the church from the Greek philosophical teaching of the day. This philosophy was built on a premise of dualism where “spirit” was perceived as good and “matter (the flesh)” was perceived as evil. Salvation in this belief system was an escape from the realm of matter to spirit via knowledge. This Greek way of thinking became most acute in the understanding of the person of Jesus. This view asked: How could Christ be God in the flesh since evil matter could not have anything to do with a good spirit? Some ways the questions were answered were: Jesus only appeared to be in the flesh, while, in reality, he was a ghost. Or, Jesus was a kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One could not know whether Jesus was spirit or flesh.
- The denial of angels was also taught by these Fake News! purveyors (cf. 8). In Jude’s opinion, these teachers, who were coercing the followers of Jesus into untruthfulness, read Fake News!, were not orthodox believers if believer at all (cf. 19).
Jude began his letter by expressing his wishes to write about one thing: the salvation we share (3). We should not lose sight of this first intention as we encounter Jude’s words. He plainly intended to give some constructive teaching about the salvation that each Jesus follower shared, but was faced with the problem posed by the teaching of those who had slipped unaware into the Jesus followers gatherings. The focus of what he wanted to do changed to apprising Jesus followers of their need to contend for the faith. His purpose was to persuade his readers to not let themselves be corrupted by the Fake News! and moral examples of the heretics but to stand firm for the already crystallized “faith” propagated by the first missionaries they had encountered. It is the opinion of Jude that sound beliefs and respectable morality were being jeopardized. Jude’s urgency was and is to correct this problem while the other concern was placed on the back burner. The intent of Jude’s letter was to warn his readers and denounce the purveyors of Fake News!
The opening of Jude’s letter gives no clear indication as to who Jude was specifically writing. Such a general salutation could cover any Greek-speaking community. However, it seems fair to say that the Antinomian character of the false teachers places the destination of the book in a Jewish community within the Greek society. The exact area is only guesswork. Some areas, which have been forwarded, are Antioch of Syria, or Northern Egypt.
- Are we to take First Enoch and the Testament of Moses as inspired because Jude quoted from it?
- Do we dismiss Jude from Scripture because of his use of Apocryphal/Pseudepigraphal material?
When Jude quoted an outside source is actually no different than a modern speaker quoting from an outside source to give clarification to her or his topic. The books of First Enoch and the Testament of Moses were well-known books to readers of Jude. Other authors use Apocryphal/Pseudepigraphal books in their writings. Here are a few examples:
- Paul writes about the rock which followed the Israelites (1 Cor. 10.4).
- He names Jannes and Jambres as the two magicians who withstood Moses before Pharaoh (2 Tim. 3.8).
- He writes about the instrumentality of angels in the giving of the law (Gal. 3.19, cf. Heb. 2.2; Acts 7.53).
- Stephen speaks of Moses as learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7.2).
- James limits the drought predicted by Elijah to three and a half years (James 5.17).
All of these illustrations come from the Apocryphal material. William Barclay sums it up best: “Jude is simply doing what all the New Testament writers do, and which every writer must do in every age; he is speaking to men in language, which they recognize and understand.”[ref]William Barclay. Daily Study Bible: Jude. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/jude-1.html accessed 4.15.17.[/ref] The use of Apocryphal material confirms that Jude was a well-versed, well-lived individual and not an ignorant farmer from Palestine.
Analogy Between Jude And 2 Peter
There is a considerable likeness between Jude 4-18 and 2 Peter 2.1-18; 3.1-3.
parallel in language as well as subject matter. There is no doubt that there is some kind of literary relationship between them. There are three alternatives one can consider:
- The priority of 2 Peter argues that Jude makes reference to 2 Peter based on verses 4 and 17. The arguments against this position are:
First, the writing that Jude is referring to in verse 4 is not 2 Peter. The word which is translated in various ways by different translations means “old” and not “lately.” Jude is not referring then to 2 Peter, but to a much older writing, i.e., the Old Testament. Second, it would have been simple for Jude to use the name of Peter if he was quoting him. Third, the statement of verse 17 is attributed to a group of apostles and not just one apostle. Finally, the use of the future tense in 2 Peter and the present tense in Jude would suggest that Jude took what was future to Peter as written during his time.
- The priority of Jude. The argument is that Jude is briefer than 2 Peter that indicates that Jude is the source rather than the borrower. One tends to extend rather than reduce when copying. Jude appears to know the false teachers personally.
- The use of a common source. Common sources were often used in the ancient world. The use of illustrations of the heretics could have come from a common pool of such source material.
Analysis Of Literary Character
Jude’s vocabulary shows considerable similarity to the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, and to Hellenistic literature. His style is direct and vigorous. He likes to put things into sets of “threes.”
Appraisal Of Jude
It is apparent that an understanding of Jude is still needful today. Correct beliefs and right practice go hand in hand and error must be resisted and exposed. Let Jesus followers hear what Jude has to say!
We must keep in mind the background as we begin our study of Jude. These background points will enrich our understanding of the message of Jude by putting us closer to the original writer and his intent and the original readers and what they could have understood by the author’s words.
The prospects of opposing views in this early period of Christian history is not much different than opposing views in today’s world. The activist on both sides of any issue (political or religious, et. al.) rail against the other side often with impunity with a carte blanche attitude!