The Hermeneutics Of Jude And 2 Peter: The Use Of Ancient Jewish Traditions -- By: Walter M. Dunnett

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:3 (Sep 1988)
Article: The Hermeneutics Of Jude And 2 Peter: The Use Of Ancient Jewish Traditions
Author: Walter M. Dunnett

The Hermeneutics Of Jude And 2 Peter:
The Use Of Ancient Jewish Traditions

Walter M. Dunnett*

Like many a preacher after him the writer of the epistle of Jude spent most of his time on his introduction and his illustrations, closing out the rest of his homily in just a few lines and reserving only enough space to include a beautiful benediction. Whatever commentators have seen in Jude it is the section of illustrations that has captivated their attention, not the least due to the generous inclusion of materials outside the (later) declared canon of Scripture.

I would like to center this study particularly on the epistle of Jude, with an occasional tie-in with 2 Peter. Because of the evident relation between the two letters in general structure and language it will not be necessary to deal with each separately.

I. Hermeneutical Issues

The heart of the epistle of Jude is found in vv 5–19, a section excoriating false teachers. A twofold division has been discerned in the body of the letter: (1) Verse 3 contains the appeal to the readers, an appeal not spelled out until vv 20–23, and (2) v 4 contains the background for the appeal, developed in vv 5–19 in a series of texts and interpretations.1 This lengthy series is drawn from various sources in Jewish literature and provides the occasion for a discussion of Jude’s hermeneutical principles and procedures.

Some of Jude’s material is drawn from books found in the Hebrew Scriptures, while some is drawn from other sources—primarily, it appears, the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses, included now among writings called the Pseudepigrapha.

This calls for a brief treatment of basic terminology. The term “Scripture” refers to writings that are in some sense authoritative. These are “inspired” writings—that is, books composed under divine inspiration. “Canon” refers to writings considered authoritative for religious practice and doctrine, representing a closed collection to which nothing can be added or subtracted. Thus according to some a canonical book need not be inspired (e.g. Esther or Ecclesiastes), an inspired book need not be canonical (e.g. as seen in 1 Enoch), and a book can at once be canonical and inspired (as in the current canon).2

*Walter Dunnett is professor of Biblical studies at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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