Testament books of James and Jude
A few questions have been raised regarding the general epistles of James and Jude, both in modern and ancient times. While it is quite easy to see that most New Testament books were written by an Apostle or directly under the authority of an Apostle, it is less apparent for these two short books. The question to be considered here is: Are these books apostolic? At the onset it must be noted that every existing manuscript of the whole New Testament, that has ever been found, contains both of these books. This alone gives great testimony that the books have been found to be, and acknowledged as being, Scriptures throughout church history, even by those who have found reason to question them. Even much later questioners, notably reformer Martin Luther who especially had concerns with the book of James ("an epistle of straw"), subsequently acknowledged its canonicity and included it in his German translation of Scriptures.
Confusion begins for the book of James primarily because the name of the author was very common in New Testament times. Among Jesus' disciples and apostles, there were two who had this name: James, the brother of John and a son of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19-20, 29; Luke 9:28; Mark 3:17, Matthew 10:2; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13), and James, the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).
(#1) James, brother of John and son of Zebedee, became one of the first martyrs of the early church (circa 44 A.D.) and did not author any Scripture.
(#2) James, the son of Alphaeus, has also been commonly called "James the Less." This designation as being "the less" may have come from Mark 15:40 where he is referenced as "James the younger." Very little is said of this James in Scriptures. While he could be a candidate as the author of the book of James, this is not the attribution given it by the early church. It appears that he, like most of the original apostles, never were called upon to write Scripture, with the remainder of their ministries being focused on hands-on preaching and teaching.
(#3) A third James is referenced in the New Testament, namely James the brother Jesus (or quite properly, the half-brother of Jesus). This James is only mentioned twice, by name, in the Gospels...
Additional Scriptures clarify that Jesus' brothers initially didn't believe in him and actually thought Him to be out of His mind.
It is this James, the brother of Jesus, which is held to be the author of the New Testament book. While certainly an unlikely candidate, the same could be said for many who Jesus chose and used as His apostles. Jesus' brother went from unbelief into being a follower of Jesus through gracious revelation! It is recorded specifically in Scriptures that Jesus made a post resurrection appearance to his brother James.
Notice that James is recorded specifically apart from "the Twelve", the original apostles. He is identified rather with the larger "all the apostles" of which he is listed as the first and Paul as the last. Regardless, take note that Jesus appeared specifically to all of His apostles, meaning "those sent", as each were appointed expressly by our Lord. Any of these apostles met the measure (i.e. Canon standard) of being an apostle, whose work could be considered as Scripture if all the other standards applied.
James, the brother of Jesus, is later acknowledged and specifically recognized as being an apostle and leader of the early church. Paul notes his visit with James a few years after his special calling on the road to Damascus.
In regards to Peter, he too singles out this James as someone important immediately following his supernatural release from prison.
Paul recalled James and two other apostles as being the leaders of the church in Jerusalem.
In fact, when men came to one of the Gentile churches from Jerusalem it is said...
Years later, James was still in this position of authority.
Jesus' brothers were numbered among the apostles. Paul, casually singles them out along with Peter, in discussing "other apostles" and their right to take a believing wife along with them.
In case someone protests that Barnabas (i.e. Joseph the Levite from Cyprus, see Acts 4:36) was not an apostle, he is specifically designated such in Acts 14:14 (consider v4 as well). James, like Barnabas, was another apostle of Jesus, one designated after the original twelve.
It was not necessary for James to expand on his qualifications, or specifically state his apostleship at the beginning of his letter - he was so well known by all those who would read it in his day. This, of course, led to early acceptance of the work in applying the measure (canon) of Scripture. Most disputes coming many years later, by those not yet persuaded of its apostolic authorship.
and extra-biblical history2 each
record the life of James, the brother of Jesus, noting directly or
indirectly that he was well known. Virtually all ancient disputes on
the book of James were in the western church, where the book
circulated last. This makes sense as the book would have first
circulated outward from Jerusalem, in the eastern church, most of all
to people who were well aware of James and his apostolic authority. A
number of writing early church fathers where aware of the book and
quote from it in their works. Two of the earliest, in the generation
following the apostles, were Clement of Rome (in his first letter to
the Corinthians which references James 2:21, 23) and the author of
The Shepherd of Hermas (which references James 4:7). Origen,
approximately a century later (lived circa 185-254
A.D.), expressly mentions the book in his commentary on John
[1.19], and Irenaeus makes reference to a verse from it as well
(James 2:23 in Haer. 4.16.2). Another testimony comes from the Old
Syriac translation of Scriptures, one of the earliest translations
including the New Testament. This ancient translation includes James
but again it was notably done in the eastern church where the book
first circulated. This visible absence in the early western church
becomes quite apparent when one notes that no Latin father of the
first three centuries quotes from it. After it became commonly
circulated and subsequently recognized in the western church its
status as canonical was consistently reconfirmed in subsequent
councils of the East and West such as that of Hippo (393
A.D.) and Carthage (397 A.D.).
The book of Jude is closely associated to the book of James, not only because they are both catholic (universal) letters but also because the book's opening has Jude being "the brother of James." The name, Jude, is once again a very common one from that period and could apply to more than one Biblical figure. Jude is a variant of the name Judas, of course the most notorious being Judas Iscariot; whose early and ignoble death ruled out his writing any post resurrection work (including the apocryphal gospel found under his name).
As with the book of James, the author did not feel it necessary to further identify himself, or to explicitly state his apostolic qualifications. This also assumed that the people would be aware either of him, or the one he directly associated himself with, namely James. This fact alone rules out an obscure Jude or, in the least, an obscure James. Because the test for a New Testament work included that it was written by an apostle or under the authority of an apostle, the search immediately is narrowed firstly to those designated or know to be apostles from Scriptures.
(#1) Judas son of James3, listed among the twelve disciples and also designated an apostle (Luke 6:16), is one possibility. The foremost problem here is that Jude clearly referred to himself as "brother of James" and not son of James. Again, understanding that James was a common name (and incidentally still is), it would not have been uncommon for this to be the name of one Judas' father and another's brother. In this case, our book writing Jude was clearly not the Judas son of James.
(#2) Judas brother of James, who could also have been called "Judas son of Joseph." This James, who was also the brother of Jesus, and the one determined to be the author of the book of James, had a brother called Judas.
This Judas, the brother of James, referenced his better known brother - who, as we established above, was well known within the early church, rather than his father who was long since dead. Both he and James did not identify themselves with their best known brother in terms of earthly relations, but both chose to merely identify themselves as His servants. This too was quite appropriate as their apostolic position in the church did not rest in their earthly relationship to Jesus, rather in His gracious conversion and appointment of them.
As we saw in the section on James, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 places Jesus' brother as apostles after the original dozen. This Judas (Jude), then, is also an apostle as was his brother James. Once again this makes the book apostolic in origin, a necessary criteria in recognizing the canon of New Testament Scripture.
Early church father Tertullian states the book of Jude was written by the apostle Jude. Unfortunately this becomes a vague statement because there were two apostles named Jude (Judas), the one that was in the original dozen and the one who came later. It is this later one that he has to be in reference to, as he alone meets the scriptural criteria. It's good that another, even earlier, father was very specific...
While a large portion of this letter (verses 3-16) shares much in subject with 2 Peter (2:1-19), a supposed citation of an extra-canonical work (verses 9,14-15), namely the Book of Enoch, which was never recognized as Scripture, caused some to doubt the book of Jude. Jerome was one who noted this in his day. While it is true that the substance of those three verses has much in common with a small portion of Enoch (though less a direct quotation), merely sharing content with an extra-biblical work does not stamp approval on that work.5 Even a book filled with lies or error can occasionally state the truth. The apostle Paul, likewise, cites a number of non-canonical works, yet never hints at recommending them as being Scriptural.4 All that can be said of any citation from any extra biblical work, within Scriptures, is that God has sanctioned that particular statement as being true.
One popularly circulated argument, which holds that the author of the book of Jude was not an apostle, is based in verse 17. This claim usually sounds like this: "Identifying the apostle Jude with the writer of this epistle is problematical, most of all because in verse 17 there is a reference to 'the apostles', implying that the writer does not include himself." Consider this actual passage in its context...
In this brief passage we can ascertain a number of facts...
#1. Jude was writing to contemporaries of the apostles. "They said to you" states that they had already heard the apostles. A majority of what was taught during the apostolic age was in person, spoken, rather than written. It is not unlikely that this is the first written New Testament scripture that they had received. Certainly this wording refutes the claim that Jude was written when "the time of the apostles was past", as some modern commentators now profess.
#2. Jude was asking them to remember earlier things spoken to them by "the apostles", showing that Jude knew they had heard from other apostles than him. Peter also uses similar language in 2 Peter...
His wording choice may only be to emphasize that it was a past event by others of the apostles, though it does not necessarily exclude himself, in third person, from being referenced in the same statement.
#3. Referring to "the apostles" does not automatically exclude himself from being an apostle; it only definitely denotes that there were other apostles. In fact, Jude's choice of wording in the very next sentence shows that he counted himself among the apostles: "They said to you". If this Jude was not an apostle, the proper wording would have been "They said to us". He was only becoming another of the apostles that spoke to them, reminding of what they already had heard, with the same authority.
Jude was known and widely used very early in the church. Early church works appear to echo its content (compare Didache 2:7 and Jude 22, and greetings within Polcarp's Epistle to the Philippians [108 A.D.] and the Martyrdom of Polycarp are similar to that of Jude). Someone, very early, must have carried the book of Jude to the west. The Muratorian Canon (circa 175 A.D.), seeking to clarify accepted from spurious works, clearly lists the book of Jude as Scriptures:
Clement of Alexandria (lived circa 150-211/216 A.D.) refers to Jude in his Paedagogus ("Instructor", 3:8), Stromata ("Miscellanies"), and Hypotyposes (a multi-volume commentary on books of Scripture).6 Likewise, Tertullian (lived circa 155-222 A.D.), in northern Africa, showed Carthage's familiarity with Jude. The Old Latin translation included the book, but the oldest Syriac did not.8 Perhaps the circulation of this general book had not reached those responsible for this latter translation at that time. Certainly its omission from this important translation contributed to the insecurity of the status of the book in the century which followed. Reflecting this, Eusebius of Caesarea (lived circa 263-339 A.D.) noted that the book was considered spurious or disputed by some [See end of 1 and 6]. By the mid fourth century, Jude appears to have overcome all opposition, by test. Cyril of Jerusalem (who lived circa 313-386 A.D.) provides example:
Jerome (alt. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, lived circa 347-420 A.D.) clearly held the book of Jude to being Scriptures. What some have cited as negative remarks by him, as it being a disputed book, are no more that his accurately noting that it had been in the recent past, yet had been measured (recognized) to be Scriptures over time.
Writing early in the life of Jerome, Athanasius of Alexandria (lived circa 296-373 A.D.) had already - without any reservation or qualification - listed Jude in his canon of authentic Scriptures. This festal letter was composed in 367 A.D. and is an exact match of the 27 New Testament books still recognized today.
In summary, both James and Jude were recognized as being apostolic Scriptures from the beginning. While some disputed the books in later years for various reasons, they were subsequently confirmed as being Scriptures, as each supposed argument against was found to be without merit.
2. First century historian Josephus speaks especially regarding the death of James, the brother of Jesus, and how it led to the overthrow of the high priest. See endnote 1, which shows that that church historian was well aware of these words from Josephus.
3. Luke alone refers to this original apostle by his true given name and father: Judas son of James (see Luke 6:16 below and also Acts 1:13). Mark refers to him quite differently, by another name, Thaddaeus, as does Matthew in Matthew 10:3.
This is not a contradiction, rather Thaddaeus was a nickname (meaning, according to Hitchcock Names, "that praises or confesses"). As with any close knit group having more than one individual with the same name, a nickname is the logical and common solution. Additionally, considering that the gospels were being recorded after the ignoble events of Judas Iscariot's life, how much more would the authors want "the other Judas" to be distanced from him too. Using his commonly used nickname would be an easy out. Perhaps this is the reason why "Jude" is commonly the interpretation of the name for the book (and as it appears in the first verse) rather than using the equally proper Judas - the church too has always wanted to keep them separate. Rather than the easier nickname for Judas son of James, as with Mark and Matthew, the apostle John - who still wanted to make sure they weren't mixed up - took the other way of doing it (see verse below). And yes, the statement within the brackets was in the original text.
4. Paul cited pagan philosophers but no one seems to think that it would mean that he was sanctioning the entirety of their works, much less that they should be considered as Scriptures. It only appears that books like Enoch, if they are being cited, have a greater implication assumed because they were associated, at least nominally, with the church. No matter how ancient, non-Scripture books are just that and nothing more - useful only wherein they express the truth. Scriptures alone becomes that ultimate test of truth for the church.
5. Origen of Alexandria (lived circa 185-254 A.D.) assumes that Jude is drawing upon an extra-biblical work. Though he doesn't explicitly say so, he leaves open an implied endorsement of that non-canonical work (either by himself or by the "Apostle Jude").
Unquestionably, this quote shows that Origen viewed the book of Jude as being Scripture, recognized as having an apostolic origin.
Tertullian, from Carthage (lived circa 155-222 A.D.), endorses the non-canonical book of Enoch, solely because he holds that Jude's perceived usage of it is an endorsement. With-out-a-doubt he holds the book of Jude to be Scriptures with apostolic origin.
Years later, Augustine of Hippo (lived 354-430 A.D.), held that there had to be "divine writings" from Enoch because of the perceived quotation in Jude which was unquestionably an apostolic work of Scriptures.
Augustine does not appear to be specifically endorsing the extra-biblical book of Enoch that was (and still) is in circulation - this has been full rejected by his time -, rather he may be speculating as to the prior existence of perhaps another more accurate work.
Since people did not always understand that shared, or similar, content to a non-Scriptural work was not an automatic endorsement of that complete work, this became the basis of most opposition to the book of Jude. These disputes, which arose a few generations after the writing and early acceptance of the work, were overcome by test. It was found to be a genuine apostolic work having all the marks of Scripture. This left any perceived positive citation of a non-Scriptural work as being a God ordained affirmation of one cited fact and not the entire work.
6. Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea cites Clement of Alexandria in his Ecclesiastical History written circa 325 A.D.
7. Did Jude quote from non canonical works? This question has been much debated, but it can be said with certainty that he makes statements similar to those found in extra-biblical works. In the least, verse 9 has been thought to be a quotation from the Assumption of Moses and verses 14 and 15 to be from the book of Enoch. The wording, while similar, is not a direct quotation from known copies of these works. The closest direct statement from Enoch is the introductory phrase, "Enoch, the seventh from Adam" which appears in 1 Enoch 60:8, "My grandfather was taken up, the seventh from Adam." As for the Assumption of Moses, it is early church fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen, who make this claim, though known fragments of this extra-biblical work do not include the account found in verse 9. Others now grasp at similar wording in Jude 12-14 when compared to the Assumption of Moses chapter 7 and perhaps Jude 16 and the Assumption of Moses 5:5 which both employ the words "flatterers" and "boastful".
Two possibilities include.
#1. Jude quoted these passages from these known non-canonical books, not as endorsement of the book, but as endorsement of that particular statement. Active inspiration of the Holy Spirit enabled him to know and judge these statements to be true.
#2. Jude made these statements solely by the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which coincidently echoed true statement embedded in these non-canonical works.
Both possibilities may rest in this understanding:
These statements may be in the non-canonical works because they were passed on by word of mouth having been spoken verbally by a past true prophet. Even as other legend grew up around the true statement (ultimately becoming one of these extra biblical works), the core truth was still to be found. Remember, not every word spoken by a prophet, no matter that it was true and revealed by God, was destined (or intended) to be recorded in written Scriptures. Whether it was revealed directly to Jude, apart from any knowledge of the non-canonical works, or verbal legends, is irrelevant. God ensured that only the truth was recorded in His Word by His apostle.
A relevant comment regarding this comes from Fausset's Bible Dictionary:
8. The oldest manuscripts available of the Peshito Syriac, circa early second century A.D., do not include Jude. Perhaps the most prominent of the early church fathers in the Syrian church, Ephraem Syrus (lived circa 306 - 373 A.D.), fully recognized the book and makes no mention of any early controversy or dispute regarding it. This implies that the book had never been disputed in Syrian circles, only gaining more widespread recognition as it circulated over time.
(c) 2008 Brent MacDonald/LTM. Duplication is permitted for non-profit purposes, as long as the source is cited.