St Jude, also known as Apostle Jude, is celebrated on June 19 in the Orthodox Church. He was one of the Twelve Apostles and brother of James the Just, Brother of the Lord. Both Jude and James were sons of Joseph the Betrothed. Joseph had a previous marriage before he was betrothed to the Virgin Mary.
Although James and Jude were kinsmen of Jesus, they did not believe in His divinity at first. According to Holy Tradition, when Joseph returned from Egypt, he began to divide his possessions among his sons. He wanted to bequeath a portion to Jesus, however, both Jude and James opposed such gesture. They felt that Jesus was not really their brother because he was not born from the same mother. Later on, James had a change of heart and offered to share his inheritance with Jesus.
As for Jude, he would eventually believe in Jesus as the Messiah. He followed Him, becoming one of His Apostles. In his Epistle, Jude humbly refers to himself as the brother of James and not the Lord’s brother. He was mindful of his sin that he did not offer to share his inheritance with Jesus. For this, he considered himself unworthy to be called the Lord’s brother.
Jude was referred to as Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddeus (Mt 10:3). He is also known as Thaddeus in Mk 3:18 and is called Barsabas in Acts 15:22. His name in Hebrew means Praise. Yet, Jude is not to be confused with Saint Thaddeus who was one of the Seventy. There is scholarly debate, however, if the Apostle Jude, also called Thaddeus or Lebbaeus and the author of the Epistle of Jude is the same person.
The Epistle of Jude was written between 60-80 AD and is a polemic against false teachers within the Church who are jeopardizing the salvation of many. Jude makes his argument with examples from the Old Testament:
But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe (5)… as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cites around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire (7).
Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you (9) !”
Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah (11).
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, “to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him (14-15).”
The intended audience of this epistle is also not clear. On the one hand, Jude makes use of Jewish tradition with the assumption that the readers would understand it. On the other hand, the immorality which Jude attacks is associated more with the Gentiles. It is more likely that the intended audience are Christians from a Hellenistic Jewish background. Jude had envisioned to write a more general letter on salvation, but the danger of false teachers motivated him to write a polemic instead.
A polemic is an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another. It is contentious rhetoric intended to support a specific position with forthright claims while undermining the opposing position. The Epistle of Jude and the Second Epistle of Peter share a similar purpose and similar language. Both speak about false teachers and their horrific fate.
In 2 Peter 2: 1-3: But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who brought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
Furthermore in 2 Peter 2: 12-13: But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime.
Similarly, in Jude 1:3-4: Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, in Jude 1:8: Likewise, also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries…but these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. (1:10) … Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, “to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him (1:15).
St Jude preached the Word of God in Mesopotamia, Arabia, Idumea, Syria, Judea, Galilee and Samaria. In 80 AD, he ended his life as a martyr in Lebanon, being crucified and pierced with arrows.
O Apostle Jude, intercede for us all before the Lord our God!
A graduate of Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, John works to share the richness and beauty of the Orthodox Faith with the wider community.
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