The Use Of Tradition-Material In The Epistle Of Jude -- By: J. Daryl Charles

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 04:1 (NA 1994)
Article: The Use Of Tradition-Material In The Epistle Of Jude
Author: J. Daryl Charles


The Use Of Tradition-Material In The Epistle Of Jude

J. Daryl Charles

Chesapeake Theological Seminary/
The Wilberforce Forum

The history of the interpretation of Jude, broadly speaking, is one of omission or misunderstanding. Most commentary on the epistle over the last hundred years, while being highly derivative in nature, has lacked thoughtful inquiry. One factor that has discouraged serious study is the writer’s use of OT and extrabiblical tradition-material. Surviving Jewish literature from the last two centuries B.C. and first century A.D. is decisive in helping to explain the religious thought-world reflected in the NT. This is particularly the case in Jude. The use of Jewish tradition-material in the epistle invites the reader to give attention to the writer’s exegetical methodology— a methodology owing to a distinctly Palestinian Jewish-Christian cultural milieu. In Jude, significant theological truth is wrapped in literary arguments of the day. Literary sources, all part of a well-calculated literary strategy, are marshalled for the purpose of addressing urgent pastoral need. Lessons from the past bear forcefully on the present as a means of admonishing the Christian community.

Key Words: Jude, tradition, apostasy, haggadah, paradigms

The epistle of Jude is a remarkable piece of literature. Yet, in spite of its originality in style, vocabulary and imagery, one is hard-pressed to find a single monograph in this century dealing exclusively with exegetical or theological issues raised by the epistle. Much discussion of Jude has traditionally been centered around the epistle’s literary relation to 2 Peter. Rather than treating the question of literary dependence, however, the present analysis represents an attempt to focus on literary strategy.

By means of strategic use of OT themes and characters and extrabiblical Jewish sources, the writer, employing a concise and pungent literary style, mounts a sharp polemic against his opponents who are distorting the faith. He has marshalled selected pieces of Jewish haggadah that are recognized as conventions of his day, for the purpose of addressing specific pastoral needs in the Christian

community. Use of particular sources may in some way be reflective of the readers’ devotion to the Hebrew scriptures and/or Jewish pseudepigraphical literature.1

It should be noted that allusions in Jude to extracanonical source- material are appropriate inasmuch as they amplify particular OT notions that the writer will incorporate into his literary-theological strategy. Although not a single explicit citation f...

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