Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jude 1-14

Jude 1-2 "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, who are beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ:"

Servant can also be translated as slave. I love the opening of Jude and how much we can learn from it, the author (presumably St. Jude) identifies himself as a slave of Jesus Christ, but in the same verse says that we are 1) called by God, 2) beloved by God and 3) kept safe by God. These are not incompatible statements but rather they are the 4 ways the author describes Christians and those to whom it's written. So Christians are to be overwhelmingly humble about their place in comparison to God's glory but at the same time, are defined by God's overwhelming favour towards them. Strangely we are to be slaves of God, but unlike human slaves we are blessed with "mercy, peace, and love... in abundance"

Jude 3-4 "Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. "

The author writes that we are to "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints". I find it interesting that he claims they are to contend for the true faith. How do they know what the true faith is? They don't have the bible, this is 66AD, the Canon for the Jews would not be settled for another 24 years (Jamnia - though this council also rejected the NT).

How does Jude distinguish the gospel? it is the faith handed down by the saints - the set apart ones, the holy ones. How was it entrusted? ... we don't see any reference at all to scripture, so it must have been entrusted in the oral teachings of the apostles/church, as well as through this letter - which would be recognized as scripture in 360 CE in the Council of Laodicea. What is the author warning them? "about the salvation we share". So in Palestine right after the deaths of St. Paul & Peter, there was a threat to the salvation of the church, and the antidote to the heresy was the faith entrusted to the apostles.

My bible commentary says "the opponents pervert the grace of our God by understanding Christian freedom as freedom to do as they like. They deny Christ's moral authority by practicing and teaching immorality"

Jude 5-7 "Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgement of the great day. Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. "

There are some interesting ideas here which I'd like to discuss. The author is comparing this situation to the Exodus where he says they were all brought out of Egypt BUT, God destroyed those who did not believe, after he had saved them, they disbelieved and were destroyed. He then talks about fallen angels (demons) and compares them to those in Sodom, and says that they in a like manner indulged in unnatural lust and sexual immorality. For both of you reading this, who may be confused as to when fallen angels who are sexless committed sexual immorality, it has been suggested that this refers to the Nephillim in Genesis 6 - fallen angels who had sex with women and gave birth to giants. (there are crazy things in the bible). The story is explained alot more in the Apocryphal book of 1 Enoch 6-19. It is interesting how throughout the book the author used apocryphal references which early Jewish Christians must have been well versed in if the author were to reference them.

Now notice it says "a punishment of eternal fire" and these groups are united. I loved the idea of Hell as an earthly reality, of Hell as a place you hold the key out of as C.S. Lewis describes, or even as a place people want to be in as Rev. Tim Kellar describes. But the author seems oddly clear. Eternal Fire. Painfully obvious it seems, that the author here is saying that those who neglect the faith entrusted to the saints will suffer a similar fate to fallen angels. That seems a little extreme as a human faced with the possibility of Hell, but again it seems the greatest - most significant human action is sin - or evil rebellion against God. Good ol' humanity, exemplified in sin and rebellion.

Jude 8-9 "Yet in the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject authority, and slander the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’"

Here the author references another apocryphal story about the burial of Moses. It's purpose here is to illustrate similarities between 'these dreamers' - the heretics who threaten the church, and Satan. The archangel St. Michael was provoked by the devil to use his own authority to rebuke the devil, and thereby choose his own authority over God's, however Michael says "The Lord rebuke you!'. The commentary in my bible says "the implication of v.9 is to contrast Michael's behaviour with that of the opponents, who claim to be exempt from all moral authority and on their own authority reject all moral charges against them" - I think that's well put. The idea that God is judge on morality, and how do we know which is right? The faith entrusted to the saints.

Jude 10-11 "But these people slander whatever they do not understand, and they are destroyed by those things that, like irrational animals, they know by instinct. Woe to them! For they go the way of Cain, and abandon themselves to Balaam’s error for the sake of gain, and perish in Korah’s rebellion."

The author claims that they "slander what they do not understand" wow... I could write a whole blog about my encounters with similar people in the church today... but another time. It is interesting that each of the sins listed here are leading sins. Cain led humanity into murder, Balaam led Israel into apostasy, and Korah rebelled against Moses. Sacred scripture always shows that those who lead into sin are always more guilty than those simply committing it. *Jesus' woe to those who lead children to sin - remember the millstone around neck story?

Jude 12-13 "These are blemishes on your love-feasts, while they feast with you without fear, feeding themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved for ever. "

I like that the Eucharist/Holy Communion was called a 'love-feast' that's awesome. Another reading of this verse is "They are shepherds who care only for themselves" - which is a throwback to Ezekiel 34 (I had to throw that in as Ezekiel pwns all). This is also contrasted with Christ as the Good Shepherd (John 10) as well as famous shepherds throughout scripture from Jacob, to Moses, to David. It has also been positted that these false teachers espoused their heresy at church gatherings - which were love feasts/Eucharistic Celebrations. I love the imagery he uses as well 'waterless clouds' - a reference to Proverbs 25:14, 'waves' - a reference to Isaiah 57:20 and the wandering stars reminiscent of those who falsely trusted astrology or astronomy I can never remember which one it is.

"for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved for ever" - that's pretty harsh again, but remember that this is almost directly the same as Psalm 23 - a promise to the faithful. "Though I walk through the valley of deepest darkness, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me". Strangely it seems in these two passages that possibly all followers of God must walk through the deepest darkness, however the faithful have a guide, the unfaithful are left to wander eternally. This reminds me of St. Augustine's "God had one son without sin, but he never had one without suffering".

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