Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hey Jude! Some Thoughts on Authorship

     As with other NT documents, Jude (Ἰούδας, Judah) begins his letter with the standard Greco-Roman greeting of his day. He identifies himself as Ἰούδας Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλος, ἀδελφὸς δὲ Ἰακώβου [Jude (Judas), a slave of Jesus Christ, and brother of James] (Jude 1). But which "Judas" are we speaking of here?
     Judas (Ἰούδας, יְהוּדָה ) was a common name in those days. In the NT the name appears some forty-four times, with the majority of those appearances happening in the Gospels. In Jesus' inner circle, there were two with the name Judas, one of whom we know could not have been the writer of this letter. But what of the second Judas? According to Lk 6.16 (cf. John 14.22, where Judas is simply described as "not Iscariot [οὐχ ὁ Ἰσκαριώτης]; Acts 1.13), the other Judas in the group was one Ἰούδαν Ἰακώβου [Judas, son of of Jacob (Ἰάκωβος=James). As with the former Judas, the latter is also disqualified from authorship because he is the son of James/Jacob.
     In Acts we find three new characters with the name Judas. In Acts 5.37 we meet the revolutionary Ἰούδας ὁ Γαλιλαῖος (Judas of Galilee). In Acts 9.11, Ananias is told to go to the house of house of Judas (οἰκίᾳ Ἰούδα) to look for Paul. After the Jerusalem Council, Paul and Barnabas take with them two men to help deliver the decision of the Council to the churches, Ἰούδαν τὸν καλούμενον Βαρσαββᾶν [Judas, who is called Barsabbas and Silas] (Acts 15.22, 27, 32). The first Jude-the revolutionary-we can rule out, for the text says that he died. The second Jude most likely is not the author of the epistle because we have no record of association with or relationship with a James/Jacob. The four other mentions of Judas are references to the tribe of Judah (Heb 7.14; 8.8; Rev 5.5; 7.5).
     The best candidate for authorship is Judas the brother of James (cf. Mt 13.55; Mk 6.3) simply on the basis of the description in Jude 1. Issues have arisen regarding the upbringing and education of Jude, which has shed doubt on the likely-hood that a lowly man from Galilee could have published such a well composed letter. That is something for another time, but I accept the traditional authorship of this epistle as that of Jude the brother of James.

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