JOHN, JUDAH, PAUL & ? COMMENTARY SAMPLE PASSAGES AND VERSES

A Sample Passage from the Comments on Judah (Jude):

John A.T. Robinson sets the writing of this letter from AD 60-62. The author may have been one of the twelve disciples of Jesus (Lu. 6:16; Acts 1:13) or the brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3). From vs. 1, below, it is likely to have been the latter. It is a letter that is not written to a specific called-out, covenant community, but to all who have been called to follow Jesus – to the one new humanity (Eph. 2:15b).

 

The main purpose for this writing is to warn the communities about false teachers who may join their assemblies. Herein we are given a picture of some of the challenging situations which the first century Christians faced within their local groups, and this "becomes of the greatest interest for the history of the earliest church and [is] by no means without relevance for today" (Barclay, ibid. p 157; brackets mine). Like the letters from John, much of what the writer warns about is found in the Gnostic thought of that time, and ever since. Similar to other NT writers, he bases his arguments upon examples from the history of Israel (the OT) and also cites Apocryphal literature (9, 14). Verses 8-16 give descriptions of these folks (in Judah's day). The letter ends with exhortations (17-23) and then a "resounding and magnificent doxology" (Barclay, ibid.) in the last two verses.

 

1. Judah, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of Jacob (= James), to those having been, and yet being, loved (accepted recipients of the drive for reunion; [other MSS: set-apart and made holy]) within God [the] Father, even (or: and) Jesus Christ; to kept and maintained folks, to called ones

(or: for the people being loved in union with and within the midst of Father God, and now being watched over, guarded and protected in and by Jesus Christ – to invited ones):

 

Although none can be certain – and there are other suggestions, tradition assumes that this Judah is the brother of Jesus, as well as of Jacob (James). That he refers to himself as a slave of Jesus Christ expresses his abject allegiance to the Messiah and identifies him as a committed follower of Jesus. Paul, Peter and Jacob all used this term to describe their relationship to our Lord and Owner (Rom. 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jacob 1:1).

 

The letter is written to people or groups who have elsewhere been designated as followers of Jesus Christ, the called-out communities, members of the new covenant and the new creation, or as Paul referred to them, those "within and in union with Christ." Here Judah uses the perfect tense for the participles (showing a past completed action with a result that lasts into the present time) to describe them as "those having been, and yet being, loved" (cf 1 John 3:2; Eph. 1:6) and "kept and maintained folks" (te reo ) and then uses the adjective "called (or: invited)" to complete their picture. The participles are passive, indicating that the action happened TO them so that they continue to be loved, kept and maintained. The adjective "called" gives the same sense of a permanent condition.

 

The sphere of this action by God (by implication of the passive) is "within God [the] Father." The additional phrase "even (or: and) Jesus Christ" gives us the equivalent of the Pauline phrase "in Christ." This first phrase recalls Paul's statement to the Gentiles in Acts 17:28,

For you see, within the midst of and in union with Him we continuously live (or, as a subjunctive: could be constantly living), and are constantly moved about and put into motion, and continue existing (experiencing Being). Even as certain of the poets down among you people have said,

'You see, we are also a family of the One (or: we even continuously exist being a race whose source is the One; or: we also are His species and offspring; we are even a family which is composed of the One and which is the One).'

This quote of their poets shows that Paul regarded God's family as being more than just the covenant community.

 

The parenthetical alternate rendering gives the picture that Judah is writing this "for the people being loved within and within the midst of Father God" who are "now being watched over, guarded and protected" (other meanings of te reo ). The "in and by Jesus Christ" expresses the dative form of the word "Christ." If the dative form of "Christ" corresponds to preposition en (within), as do the words "God" and "Father," then the conjunction kai may be seen as joining "Father God" and "Christ" as a unity, as expressed by rendering it "even." This would be the figure of speech hendiadys: "two words used but one thing meant," as is sometimes found in the Greek of this period. However, by positioning the first participle "loved" between the two in the Greek text, it is more likely that separate references are being made, and the first "within God [the] Father" is being accomplished "by" and "in" Jesus Christ – as also suggested by "even."

 

Expanding the definition of "loved" as meaning "accepted recipients of the drive for reunion," as per Paul Tillich's definition, discloses the posture of our Father, as well as both His action unto us and His desire for us to be in union with Him. Paul expressed this by a different word in 2 Cor. 5:19,

as that God was existing within Christ (God was and continued being in union with [the] Anointed One) progressively and completely transforming [the] aggregate of humanity (or: world) to be other [than it is] (or: progressively bringing [the] ordered System into another level or state; repeatedly changing [the] universe to correspond with other [conditions; perceptions]; progressively altering [the] ordered arrangement of culture, religions, economy and government to be in line with another one; habitually and progressively changing [the] secular realm [of humanity] from enmity to friendship; reconciling [the] world [of mankind]) in Himself, to Himself, for Himself and by Himself, not accounting to them (not putting to their account; not logically considering for them; not reasoning in them) the results and effects of their falls to the side (their trespasses and offences), even placing within us the Word (the Idea; the Reason; the message) of the corresponding transformation to otherness (or: the full alteration; the change from enmity to friendship; the conciliation).

 

Such an opening certainly would promote trust and confidence that God was intimately involved in their lives.

 

2. May mercy, peace and love (unambiguous acceptance; reunion's urge) be multiplied to the full to you (or: be increased to fill you; be multiplied to fullness in, for and by you folks).

 

We should see in this benediction the core character of the message of goodness, ease and well-being. Mercy and compassion are characteristics of our Father as He relates to humanity. We should also act and relate likewise. His presence is what brings His peace to us. And His unambiguous acceptance and love's reunion-urge are things which Paul tells us continually remain and habitually dwell with us (1 Cor. 13:13). These three are Who God is, the last one echoing 1 John 4:7-8. "God is Love."

 

The last part of this verse expresses the vital, constant, growing, filling and increasing nature of God. Judah expresses God's desire for us to be full of Him. He echoes Paul in Eph. 5:18 where he speaks of being "continuously or repeatedly filled full in spirit (within [the] Spirit; within the midst of [the] Breath-effect; in the sphere of attitude; in union with [the] Breath)." Also, in Eph. 1:23 we read of "the One Who is constantly filling all things within all humanity."

 

3. Dearly loved friends, while progressively making all haste and performing every diligent effort to proceed in writing to you concerning our common, communal deliverance

(or: the rescue, salvation, health and wholeness belonging equally to several of us, and in which we share and participate as partners; [Aleph & others add: and life]), I possessed a compressed and constraining necessity to write to you, progressively urging and encouraging [you] to be in the habit of strenuously contending

(or: to continue adding to the contest; to be repeatedly on top, in combat of the public games; to repeatedly fully participate in the race course) by the faith, in the trust and with the loyalty and confidence having been once for all given over to, for and in the set-apart folks (or: sacred groups).

 

The way he addresses them recalls 1 John 3:2 & 4:1. Although a general letter, because of what he affirms in vs. 1, he knows that the recipients of this letter are folks that are loved by God, as well as by himself. In regard to the remaining part of the verse, Barclay writes, "It had been Jude's intention to write a treatise on the faith which all Christians share; but that task had to be laid aside in view of the rise of men whose conduct and thought were a threat to the Christian Church" (ibid. p 158). David H. Wheaton suggests that this was also due to "activities of false teachers" (The New Bible Commentary: Revised, edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer, A.M. Stibbs, D.J. Wiseman, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, 1970, p 1275). Especially considering the last half of the verse which sounds similar to such as 1 John 2:24, "As for you folks, let what you heard from [the] beginning be continuously remaining (abiding; dwelling; staying) within you," it seems likely that he is writing to combat some form of Gnosticism.

 

Although he has just spoken peace to them, in vs. 2, now he encourages them "to be in the habit of strenuously contending." We should note the metaphor that Judah employs: it is not one of war, but of the public games – a wrestling, participating in athletic contests, a running or an adding to the contest with folks who had come into their group or communities. The issues that needed to be addressed were conduct and ideas. They are admonished to do this "by the faith," or "in the trust," and "with the loyalty and confidence" which had been "once for all" given over to them. By, in, and with these aspects of "what [they] heard from [the] beginning," they were to overcome these opponents to their covenant living. Cf 1 Pet. 1:13; 2 Pet. 1:5-8. The path of following Jesus the Messiah is one of interaction both inside the community and outside in the society at large. Here the contest in within the covenant group. And it has continued this way for 2000 years.

 

A word should be said about "our common, communal deliverance," even though Judah did not go into a teaching on this. That he uses the phrase is itself instructive. Our "deliverance" is held in common, or, as I amplified this phrase: "the rescue, salvation, health and wholeness belonging equally to several of us, and in which we share and participate as partners." The adjective is koinos, a cognate of koino nia. Our salvation is not individual or personal: it is "communal, belonging equally to several of us, and in which we share and participate as partners."

 

4. For you see, some people came in unobserved, from the side – those having been previously written of old into this judgment (or: people having from long ago been written into the effects and result of this decision): [to exist being] impious ones, people continuously changing the grace and favor of God into licentiousness, as well as repeatedly denying and disowning our only Sovereign and Lord (or: Supreme Ruler and Owner), Jesus Christ [= Messiah].

 

The stealthy entry into the fellowship shows that they did not at first reveal themselves as they truly were. Verses 5-7, below, give historical examples from Israel's story, and prior to that, of the kind of people to which Judah is referring. But let us first consider the enigmatic clause that describes them in the first part of this verse: "those having been previously written of old into this judgment (or: people having from long ago been written into the effects and result of this decision)." I suggest that this is speaking of "predestination" only in the sense that the decision was made by God in the Garden of Eden. This clause describes the predicament of humanity, the condition of those existing outside the life of Christ. It once applied to everyone. The covenant communities have been "called-out" of that death into union with the Messiah.

 

The context to which Judah was writing was the Gnosticism as was discussed in my comments on 1 John. They denied and disowned the historical Jesus as the Christ. This led to what is described in verses 5-7, as these folks gained entrance into the called-out communities.

 

5. But I am purposing and intending to remind you [p78 adds: brothers] – you folks having once seen and thus being aware of all this – that the Lord [= Yahweh; other MSS: Jesus (= Joshua); some read: God] after delivering (rescuing; saving) a people out of Egypt's land, [in] the second [phase] brought to ruin and loss the folks not trusting, believing or being loyal.

 

He is recalling for them their history book (if they were Jews), or God's story into which they have now been inserted (as former Gentiles; cf Rom. 11:13-26). That was the Exodus story that began in Ex. 3 (the first phase), but in Num.13:31-14:37 we see phase two, referred to in this verse.

 

But since Judah is referencing this story, we should keep in mind that except for the "spies" that brought the bad report about the promised Land, the rest of the people received the care and provision of Yahweh for forty years – for the rest of their lives, until the older folks of that generation had died. They had been saved out of Egypt, and God kept covenant provision for them. They continued to be led by the Spirit of God. But they did not enter into His rest (Heb. 4:1-6). This did not mean that they ceased being a part of the people of God, any more than Moses, who also did not enter into the Land. So we need to draw a complete analogy in regard to the folks spoken of here by Judah.

 

6. Besides that, those agents (or: folks having or bringing a message) not guarding (keeping watch over; maintaining) the beginning of themselves (or: the rule of themselves), but to the contrary, after leaving away from (= abandoning) the personal dwelling place (one's own abode or habitation), He has guarded, kept watch over and maintained under gloom (or: thick darkness) by imperceptible (or: in unobservable, but effecting-all) bonds, with a view to a judging (a sifting and a separation for evaluating; a making of a distinction and a deciding) of a great Day (or: pertaining to or whose source is a great day; or: which is [the] great Day).

 

Because of "transliteration" (instead of "translation") of the Greek angelos and rendering its plural "angels" instead of "agents" or "folks having or bringing a message," and due to non-canonical fanciful stories of "angels," this verse has been turned into mythology in traditional interpretations because of reading sections of The Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch into the text of Judah which we are now investigating.

 

But another interpretation is viable, which reaches back into the canonical story in the book of Genesis. I suggest that those "agents" were the ones that were given dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26) and had a "personal dwelling place ([their] own abode or habitation)" in Eden. These were Adam and Eve. They did not guard "the beginning of themselves (or: the rule of themselves)," but "to the contrary, after leaving away from the personal dwelling place [Eden]" God "has guarded, kept watch over and maintained [them; = humanity, their corporate body] under gloom (or : thick darkness) by imperceptible bonds."

 

We find Jesus coming "to publicly proclaim, as a herald, to (for; among) captives a release and liberation" (Lu. 4:18) and to "constantly shining in the dim and shadowed places, and keeps on progressively giving light within the gloomy darkness where there is no light (or: within the midst the obscurity of The Darkness where there is no light of The Day; or: = in the ignorant condition or system)" (John 1:5a). But like these of whom Judah speaks,

"mankind loves the darkness (or: the people love the dimness of obscurity and gloom;

or: the humans loved the realm of the shadow) rather than the Light, for their works

(deeds; actions) were continuing to be bad ones (unsound ones; wicked ones;

laborious ones; toilsome ones that created bad news; wrongful ones)" – John 3:19.

 

Notice that God "maintained" and "kept watch over" these folks "with a view to a judging of a Great Day" – which we see at the cross of Jesus, the beginning of the Day of the Lord. He took the judgment of humanity upon Himself and gave us His life. But not everyone has yet been existentially given birth into this new creation, for as Paul said, it is "every person in his own class and order" (1 Cor. 15:23). Humanity cannot see their bonds, for they are "imperceptible" (Greek a-idiois: not-seen; un-perceived).

 

A parallel passage is 2 Pet. 2:4,

4. For since (or: if) God did (or: does) not spare agents (or: folks having a/the message) – but who at one point were (or: are) straying from the goal (or: when failing to hit the mark; at missing the target; upon committing error) but rather gave (or: gives) them over into an act of judging – of being repeatedly pruned (cut back for correction), while being constantly watched over, kept, maintained and protected – giving [them] the experience of Tartarus [Hellenistic mythological term and concept: the subterranean world; cf LXX, Job 40:15 (the marshlands and wild areas around the Jordan River) and 41:23 (the caverns and lower parts of deep waters and the abyss)] in dark, gloomy pits (caves; caverns) [other MSS: in ropes (or: chains; bands; cords); = in bondage].

 

The clause "gave them over into an act of judging – of being repeatedly pruned (cut back for correction)" calls to mind Rom. 1:24. The description of their resultant state of being in Rom. 1:25-32 expands upon 4b, above. This has been the story of unredeemed humanity. But the Light has come:

"It was (or: He was, and continued being) the True and Genuine Light which (or: Who)

is continuously (repeatedly; progressively) enlightening (giving light to) every person

(or: human) continuously (repeatedly; progressively; constantly; one after another)

coming into the world (or: the ordered system of culture, religion, economics and

government; or: the universe)

(or: It was the real Light, progressively coming into the world {organized system}, which is progressively enlightening {or: shedding light on} every human)" – John 1:9.

 

7. As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities round about them [= Admah and Zeboyim – cf Deut. 29:23], in like manner (or: turn) to them, being given to fornication and outlandish prostitution, and then going away after different flesh (= unnatural vice; or: = a different expression of alienation that was formed by the existing System), are continuously lying before [us as] – an example (a specimen; an effect of a thing pointed out or presented to sight) continuing in undergoing an experience of justice (the Way pointed out; fairness and equity; what is right) from fire pertaining to the ages (or: of eonian, or age-lasting, fire; of a fire of undetermined duration whose quality and character are the Age [of the Messiah]).

 

He returns to Genesis for another example. Again it is a story of judgment that happened to people that simply ended their lives early here on earth. There are many such examples in the OT Scriptures. God brought justice to Sodom and Gomorrah just as He did with Egypt in the time of Moses. It was justice "from fire pertaining to the ages," in other words, pertaining to life here on earth during the ages. That fire did not continue burning, once the fuel (what it was burning) was burned up. An interesting thing is that Jesus also referenced that story in Matt. 10:

14. "Also, whoever may not welcome and receive you men, nor even listen to your words or hear your message, as you are going outside, from out of the house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.

[note: Hospitality in those times and countries involved having a servant wash the feet of their guests; further: Jews did this when they left a Gentile country, so this would indicate that this town was being regarded as polluted and unholy, and in the same category as the Gentiles; comment: this could be a metaphor to shake off that incident, so as not to let their “humanity” cling to them]

15. "Assuredly – I now say to you folks – it will be more endurable in the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, in [the] day of separation and decision, than in that city (or: it will be more supportable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, in a day of judging, than for that town)!"

 

So we see that the physical judgment in Gen. 19:24 was not the "end" for those people, even though it was eonian, or age-lasting, fire – or a figure of the fire that pertains to the judgment that would come in the Age of the Messiah. We can read of what Paul revealed of this fire to test the work that people have done in building the community (i.e., God's temple) in 1 Cor. 3:9-17. There, in vs. 15 we see that,

"If anyone's work will be burned down, he will incur a loss (sustain the damage; forfeit [it]), yet he himself will be saved (rescued and delivered; healed and restored to health; returned to his original state and condition), and as in this way – through Fire!"

 

God had Ezekiel use Sodom as a figure for comparing Jerusalem's "abominations" and to speak of the judgment that was going to come upon Jerusalem (Ezk. 16:48-55). Jerusalem's final destruction (in the story of Israel) came in AD 70 through the Romans. These are specimens of eonian fire that "are continuously lying before [us as] an example." Judah is simply saying that God periodically brings judgment in the earth.

 

8. In like manner, indeed, these dreaming ones (folks continuing in sleep, or with imaginary experiences) also pollute flesh (= their or others’ bodies; or: = the estranged human nature). They are continuously setting aside lordship (or: ownership systems) and are repeatedly blaspheming (speaking injuriously of and slandering; vilifying; obscuring the light of; misrepresenting) reputations (or: opinions; notions; glories; manifestations which call forth praise).

 

So just as Jerusalem and Sodom "pollute[d] flesh" so do these folks that had slipped into their community. And how were they "polluting" the community? By "polluting flesh," or "setting aside lordship" or "blaspheming reputations." The "flesh" was often a figure of the natural life or "the estranged human nature." This may have been immoral living (a characteristic of some versions of Gnosticism that reasoned that if the material world was evil then it did not matter how you treated it or what one did with his body), or false teachings that led them astray. By setting aside ownership systems they were setting themselves up as being above local customs and laws. They made themselves to be people of special privilege. Speaking injuriously, misrepresenting people, vilifying folks and obscuring the light of a person's reputation or of what they taught were all examples of "blaspheming [someone's] reputation." This could also be just in the form of putting other peoples' "notions" or "opinions" down. What is being described is an absence of Love. Notice that to "obscure the light of a manifestation that is supposed to call forth praise" can refer to what these folks do to people, or to the light of the community. 2 Pet. 2:10 gives a parallel verse. [note: see the short study on blasphemy at the conclusion of the comments on Judah]

 

Judah characterizes them as "dreaming ones," or "folks with imaginary experiences." Thus, he is likely referring to the type of religious behavior such as Gnosticism produced. Wheaton states that "Dreamings suggests that the false teachers may have claimed to receive some of their teaching by means of visions" (ibid. p 1276).

 

9. Yet Michael (The One Who is like God), the ruling agent (the first, chief, or original messenger), when making a distinction (a discernment; a thorough separation) to the adversary (or: the slanderer; the one who thrusts things through folks or situations, and thus causes divisions; the “devil”), reasoned (deliberated; spoke thoroughly; discoursed [as in using the Socratic dialectic method]) concerning the body of Moses. He did not assume to bring a blasphemous or villainous judging upon [him] (or: to bring in addition a judging characterized by an abusive distinction or a slanderous decision; or: bring an added evaluating which hindered the light), but rather, He said, "The Lord [=Yahweh] might hold you in added honor (or: set a value upon you; put respect upon you; award you)."

 

Several early church fathers, including Clement of Alexandria and Origen, said that Judah has here quoted the Assumption of Moses, and thus most commentators agree. This is an early first century Jewish work of non-canonical apocalyptic literature. Recall that Paul cites Hellenistic literature: Aratis, in Acts 17:28, quotes of Menander in 1 Cor. 15:33 and Epimenides in Tit. 1:12. But Paul also reinterpreted the story of Sarah and Hagar in Gal. 4. We saw Ezekiel and Jesus making other use of Sodom in the comments on vs. 6, above. The question then arises: should this non-Biblical story about Michael, Moses and the adversary be taken as cosmological or ontological reality, or like Paul's use of Greek plays and poetry – as a literary tool? I suggest that Judah is using this Jewish literature to make his point.

 

For Michael (found in Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1 and in Rev. 12:7 – both examples of apocalyptic literature: highly figurative and symbolic) I have parenthetically inserted the Hebrew meaning of the name, since we know so little about this character in those two stories. The eighteenth century Bible expositor John Gill says of this name, "By whom is meant, not a created angel, but an eternal one, the Lord Jesus Christ; as appears from his name Michael, which signifies, 'who is as God'" (John Gill's Exposition of the Bible, from BibleStudyTools.com).

 

Also, I gave a translation of arch-angelos, "the ruling agent (the first, chief or original messenger)," to help us decipher this symbol in the story. Creation's first and ruling agent was Adam, in the Genesis story of creation. He was made in God's image – and thus was "like God" in form if not in character. So we have once again entered into God's story of humanity – not into a myth about "spiritual hierarchies" such as we find in dualistic pagan religions. In the figurative setting which forms the preamble to the book of Job, we find God "making a distinction" about Job to the adversary (Hebrew: satan), and "reasoning (deliberating; discoursing)" with the adversary concerning Job's character and situation. I suggest that this is a parallel image. The point of the picture which Judah is painting here is about "speaking respectfully of people" – especially leaders, and he is using this Jewish myth to do so. Michael "did not assume to bring a blasphemous or villainous judging upon [him]." Not blaspheme satan? No, not even this tool of God. Paul tells us to "Bless, and do not curse." Furthermore, the "body of Moses" most likely does not refer to his physical body any more than "the body of Christ" refers to His physical body in the writings of Paul. Here Judah uses it as a tool of his illustration. John Gill, in referring to this phrase in this verse, states, "it is best of all to understand it of the law of Moses, which is sometimes called Moses himself, [cf John 5:45; Acts 15:21; 21:21; 2 Cor. 3:15]; and so the body of Moses, or the body of his laws, the system of them; just as we call a system of laws, and of divinity, such an one's body of laws, and such an one's body of divinity" (Gill, ibid.).

 

Now let us consider the word that Michael used. It is from epi, upon, and timao, to hold in respect, to honor, to value, to award – and thus you see the combined parenthetical amplification in the translation. It is also used in negative connotations, and thus can mean, to assess a penalty upon, or, to respectfully reprove, admonish or chide. But there is no reason not to keep the core meaning of the root: honor, value and respect – especially in an honor/shame-based society such as we find in our first century contexts. Since this passage is contrasting Michael's actions to the negative actions of those who "came in unobserved," I chose the positive translation of epitimao – perhaps turning the Assumption of Moses account on its head.

 

10. Yet these folks constantly blaspheme (slander; speak injuriously of; villainize; hinder the light of) what indeed they have neither seen nor understand (or: know; perceive), but what they naturally (instinctively; by generation; by sprouting and growing) are continuously acquainted with (or: are versed in; became masters of), in these things they are progressively being corrupted (spoiled, ruined).

 

So now you see his point of the literary citation in vs. 9. It was for extreme contrast. These false teachers hinder the Light of the message of goodness, ease and well-being (the Gospel) and slander what others teach about the Truth of Jesus Christ. They use their "natural," fleshly reasoning [Rom. 8:7, "the result of the thinking (disposition; thought processes; mind-set, outlook) of the flesh (= the estranged inner being) [is; brings] enmity, alienation and discord [streaming] into God (or: hostility unto, or active hatred with a view to, God)..."] and with this "they are progressively being corrupted." [note: see the article, BLESS and CURSE NOT, that follows the article on BLASPHEMY, at the end of these comments]

 

11. Alas (or: Tragic is the fate) for them, because they pass along by the way of Cain, and they are (or: were) poured out to the wandering (or: deception) of Balaam's wages, and they lose and destroy themselves in Korah's contradiction (opposing idea; anti-word; message in place of the Logos).

 

In contrast to the three blessing in vs. 2, we have the three negative actions in vs. 8, and now three negative examples from Genesis and Israel's story. Even these false teachers are being woven into the tapestry of Israel's history, for from the beginning of creation light and darkness, good and evil, life and death, blessings and cursings all present contrasting roles in God's epic drama of the story of creation, of humanity, and their goal: redemption and reconciliation through the Christ. Cf Gen. 4:1-16; Nu. 22-24: 31:16.

 

But let us consider these negative comparisons. Cain was judged, but was also shown mercy and a measure of protection (cf 1 John 3:12). Balaam, a non-Israelite prophet of Mesopotamia was hired to curse Israel, but Yahweh caused him instead to bless Israel, and among the oracles attributed to Yahweh are prophesies considered to be Messianic (Nu. 24). Israel eventually killed him, and his infamy is recorded best in Rev. 2:

14. But still I am holding down a few things against you: you have there those

continuously strong to be retaining the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak

to thrust a snare in the sight of the sons of Israel to eat things offered to forms (or:

sacrificed to idols) and to commit prostitution.

Visionaries and prophets can sometimes proclaim truth and be held in high esteem by the community, but they can also lead folks astray into pagan ideas and corrupt practices. What they say should be judged by the group (1 Cor. 14:29).

 

Korah's story (Nu. 16) was one of rebellion against the community leadership which God had established. Here he is cited to represent those within the communities that brought "contradiction (opposing idea; anti-word; message in place of the Logos)" which would cause division among the members. Nonetheless, his punishment was only an early death. We should not read more into the accounts of their punishment than what the stories tell us.

 

For a parallel passage to this verse and 12-16, below, see 2 Pet. 2:12-22.

 

12. These folks are sharply-cleft portions of rocks (or: reefs; = menaces) in your love [relationship]s (or: love-feasts and table fellowships; movements toward acceptance), repeatedly feasting well together, by habit fearlessly shepherding themselves. [They are] clouds without water, being swept along by winds; wasted autumnal trees – unfruitful, twice-died, uprooted;

13. wild waves of the sea, continuously foaming out (or: vomiting forth) their shames (or: disgraces). Wandering and deceived stars, for whom the gloom of darkness (shadowy dimness; obscurity void of Daylight) has been maintained (guarded; kept and watched-over) unto an indefinite time period (or: an age).

 

The metaphor "sharply-cleft portions of rocks" would speak of an uncomfortable environment for having "table fellowship." But this word can also refer to "reefs" that are concealed beneath the surface of the water, "a hidden danger" (Wheaton, ibid. p 1276) that is a menace. These folks joined in with their gatherings, but had a habit of "fearlessly shepherding themselves." This would echo the story of Korah, just mentioned. These false teachers wanted to lead and feed themselves and thus were creating a clique within the community.

 

The next set of metaphors shows that these folks are unstable and are not producing the water of life or fruit of the Vine. "Twice-died" would mean that although they had at first received resurrection life from Christ, they have strayed from the path of Christ and are now "wandering and deceived" so that they have "died on the vine." Either the weeds of life choke them, or their soil is too shallow. They are no longer "folks having been rooted (or: having taken root) and now established and placed on a foundation within the midst of and in union with Love (or: having been grounded and rendered firm, centered in love)" (Eph. 3:17). Like the folks who began following Jesus (the Light) but later returned to Judaism (the Darkness which they loved – John 3:19), these self-proclaimed "lights" were simply "deceived stars" that were wandering back into "the gloom of darkness (the shadowy dimness and obscurity which is devoid of the Light of the Day)" of their various religions (whether Judaism, Gnosticism or paganism). Cf 1 John 1:6, Matt. 7:15-20, and Lu. 6:39 which speaks of "the blind leading the blind."

 

That he terms them "wild waves of the sea" shows that they lack peace, and this metaphor is usually used to characterize the pagans that were outside of the covenant of Israel, those who have not yet been submitted to Yahweh (Isa. 57:20). And the next picture, "continuously foaming out (or: vomiting forth) their shames (or: disgraces)," speaks to their Gnostic teachings of licenciousness and antinomianism (being without custom or sense of propriety; opposition to law).

 

But note the good news: just as Yahweh maintained Israel during her wilderness wandering, and maintains humanity (vs. 6, above), watching over us until our class arrived (1 Cor. 15:23), this darkness will last only for an age – or, for "an indefinite (i.e., undefined) time period." And please note that this is a "time" word: it does not refer to "eternity" or endlessness. Our Father always judges to bring about positive change. Cf Heb. 6:4-8, where the fire burns off the field of weeds and thorns (and once the unwanted material is burned up, the burning process ends), making it ready for another planting of good seed.

 

14. But Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied to these folks, saying, "Behold, the Lord [=Yahweh] came (or: comes and goes) within His set-apart myriads (or: in union with innumerable holy multitudes, which are Him),

15. to form a separation (or: make a decision; construct a distinction; perform a sifting and a judging) which corresponds to and falls in line with all people (to the level of everyone), and to test (or: search thoroughly) the irreverent folks concerning all their irreverent works (activities; deeds) which they irreverently did, and concerning all the hard things which irreverent outcasts (folks in error; sinners; failures; folks who make mistakes and miss the target) spoke against Him."

 

"This description occurs in the Book of Enoch, as does the quotation which follows. The book was well known in NT days" (Wheaton, ibid. p 1277). But as with the Assumption of Moses, discussed above, let us consider how Judah is using this non-Biblical reference. Notice that the first verb in the quote is aorist, a timeless, fact tense, so I have rendered it first as a simple past "came" and then with a simple present, giving both meanings of the verb erchomai, "comes and goes." So the author of Enoch may be referring to Yahweh's normal activities in regard to the things that people do and say. I suggest that Judah is saying that God will in His own time and way make a decision about these false teachers, after having separated them from the community of faith (recall 1 John 2:19). He comes to test and thoroughly search the irreverent, in regard to their irreverent activities. But His "sifting and judging" is "to the level of everyone," and "corresponds to and falls in line with all people" – He is just.

 

We sometimes hear those outside of Christianity speak "hard things... against Him," but what about all the "hard things" the Christians speak about God because of the past assimilation of pagan ideas into church traditions? Even if we do not consider folks who are presently included within His covenant as being a part of His family (a tradition in Reformation theology), they are a part of His creation. Will a God who is described as Love endlessly torture and torment much of His creation when there is no hope in view from this action? I suggest that "hard things" such as this that are constantly spoken about God in Reformed, Evangelical and Charismatic strains of Christianity will also be sifted and judged, just as the first century false teachers were.

 

To be a catalyst for thought, I rendered the genitive personal pronoun as apposition "which are Him" in the parenthetical expansion of the first clause of the quote (vs. 14). The activities of His agents are His activities: He is working in or through them. God came in judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70 by using the Romans.

 

16. These are, and continue to be, murmurers (or: those who speak privately and in a low voice, making a grumbling buzz of under-toned mutterings of critical and discontented comments), complainers (or: those who find fault with their lot; discontented ones), continuously passing from one place to another according to their strong desires (or: lusts; full passions), and their mouth continually uttering (or: speaking) over-swollen (hyper-weighty; pompous; boastful) things, continually admiring (or: wondering at) faces (= personal presences; = individuals; = personalities) for the sake and benefit of advantage and furtherance.

 

Just when you wonder if this group of people can get any worse, now we find Judah inserting them into Israel's story in another – although negative – way: they are "murmurers [and] complainers." Wheaton (ibid. p 1277) also sees this connection, as he cites the incident from Israel's history in Ex. 16:2, 9; 17:3, and then points to Paul's referencing those times when warning the folks at Corinth where he told them,

"Neither continue habitually murmuring (grumbling with a buzz of under-toned mutterings of critical and discontented comments; [Num. 16:41]) exactly as some of them murmured – and loosed themselves away (or: destroyed themselves) by the Destroyer" [note: same word used in Ex. 12:23, LXX] – 1 Cor. 10:10.

As an aside, from the note in my translation in regard to "the Destroyer," in Ex. 12:12 (in the Passover account) Yahweh tells the people, "For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and I will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt..." So who is going to smite all the firstborn? Yahweh. Then in vs. 23 Moses is telling the people, "... and when He sees the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, Yahweh will pass over the door and will not allow the Destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite [you folks]." The Destroyer was Yahweh Himself, or His agent.

 

So as with Paul in 1 Cor., here Judah is addressing more internal problems with the community. They seem to be carousers, "continuously passing from one place to another according to their strong desires (or: lusts; full passions)" – which sounds like the licentious denominations of the Gnostics. It also could describe folks who were just looking for the right group that suited their personal desires, rather than becoming "rooted" within one group in order to give support.

 

These false teachers were proud and considered themselves to be members of the elite and the intellectuals, making a show by how they spoke. Outward appearance and personal presentation were also high on their list. Wheaton (ibid. p 1277) points out that such was "a characteristic quite contrary to that of God (cf Acts 10:34; Jas. 2:1ff)." And all of this was to get an advantage over other folks. None of this aligns with the imparted goal from Christ: love one another.

 

17. But you, dearly loved ones, remember the things spoken (the gush-effects; the results of the flow of what was said; the flowing declarations) by the sent-forth folks (representatives; emissaries) in regard to those things having been told beforehand of (or: foretold from and concerning) our Lord, Jesus Christ,

 

Just as Peter, Paul and John had reminded the called-out communities to remember what they had heard when the good news was first proclaimed to them, Judah also prods them to remember the message – "the gush-effects (a literal rendering which I think paints a vivid picture) and the results of the flow" from the Holy Spirit as the sent-forth folks flowed in their declarations. And mark well: what was told was not about some "super-spiritual" technique for gaining spiritual experiences or being in the "glory realm." They were told about our Lord, Jesus Christ, and about things pertaining to Him and the newly created people of God that He was gathering around Himself.

 

18. that they said to you, "Upon [other MSS: Within (or: During; In union with)] [the] last of the time folks will repeatedly be (or: there will constantly exist) mockers (those acting or playing in the manner of children; sporting, using childish gestures), continuously passing from one place to another according to (or: in correspondence with) their irreverent strong passions (or: their full desires and lusts of things not having the qualities of things approved by God)."

 

This appears to have been a quote that Judah remembered Jesus having said, or which the Spirit brought to mind. Judah was relating this saying to the people to whom he was writing – not to some distant time in the future. He was talking about the folks that were at that time within their very community – as this whole letter has pointed out. This was to happen "upon (or: within) the last [part] of the time." They were in "the last times," as Paul had pointed out in 1 Tim. 4:1,

"Now the Spirit (or: Breath-effect) is explicitly saying that within subsequent seasons (in fitting situations and on appropriate occasions which will be afterwards) some of the faith (or: certain folks belonging to this trust) will stand off and away [from the Path, or from the toward (having a propensity to) wandering and deceptive spirits (or: straying and seducing breath-effects and attitudes) and to teachings of demons

(to teachings about and pertaining to, or which are, demons [note: a Hellenistic concept and term: = animistic influences]; or: to instructions and training which come from animistic influences [= pagan religions])."

1 John 2:18 says virtually the same thing,

"O undeveloped ones or folks of the age to be educated (or: servants, little boys and little girls who might be hit in training and for discipline), it continues being (or: is progressively) a last hour (= an eschaton of the Day, or the closing moment [of the age])... we constantly know by experience that it continues being a last hour (= a closing moment [of the age])."

 

What Judah described in vs. 16 as then being the case, he is restating here in the last half of the verse as something that the folks who had previously been sent off to them had said. They were within that last time.

 

19. These folks are those who are separating by setting boundaries, soulish ones (folks dominated by, or living focused on, those things which characterize the soul [= emotions; will; intellect; "feelings"] or this present, transient life) not having [the] Spirit (or: not habitually holding a [proper] attitude; or: not continually in possession of spirit or Breath-effect).

 

These proud false teachers and elitist Gnostics that were causing division and separations within the group are here described not as "spiritual," but rather as "soulish folks." I have given multiple aspects of this term, any or all of which may have applied. As a contrast to "spiritual," Judah may be using "soulish" as a synonym for "flesh" and thus be referring to those who are still living with the mindset of the Law age and the Jewish religion. They have not yet been born from above (John 3:7, where Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about the Jews, "you folks"), into the new creation of the Spirit.

 

The final clause can be taken in more than one way – as my expanded translation indicates. By not having "[the] Spirit" which created the called-out community (as on the Day of Pentecost), they would be like the situation described in 1 Sam. 4:21, "Ichabod... the Glory is departed," which was due to the worthless activities of the priests who were the sons of Eli.

 

If we take the meaning of pneuma to be "attitude," rather than "the Spirit," the verse also makes sense. If these folks are no longer in possession of the effect of the Breath from God, which came with the proclamation of the Word (which is pneuma – John 6:63), then "soulish" is all that they could be. This is just another way of saying that they have returned into the Darkness. The boundary markers could have been those that defined the Jews, or things which the Gnostics were claiming to identify those who had this special gnosis (knowledge). Whichever, this brought division, and division is always "soulish" – even if it is in the name of "orthodox doctrine.

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