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NOTE: Nineteen articles will begin with these same two introductory paragraphs but will then speak specifically about the Bible book in question.
It has often been said [by whom?] that it was an accepted practice in antiquity for a writer to attribute his work to a well-known figure from the past or a teacher who has greatly influenced him. The practice would have been condemned as dishonest by all authorities in antiquity. The book Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Agnostic New Testament Bible scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman contends that this is incorrect. Falsely attributed writings are often referred to as “pseudepigraphs,” but Ehrman maintains that the more honest term is “forgery.” The book suggests that 11 or more books out of the 27 books of the Christian New Testament canon were written as forgeries. This article and others will debunk this claim. In his book, Ehrman points out numerous inconsistencies which he finds within the New Testament which appear to support many of his claims, such as the fact that in Acts 4:13, the statement is made that both Peter and John were illiterate, yet in later years entire books of the Bible were then alleged to have been written by them. This last argument is quickly debunked on two grounds: (1) it was not years later that they wrote their books, it was over thirty years later, and in the case of John, it was over sixty years later; (2) the Greek means unlettered (YLT) that is, not educated in the rabbinic schools; not meaning illiterate. Nevertheless, below are three articles that destroy this argument of Ehrman.
In addition to the eleven books of the New Testament Ehrman identifies as forgeries, he discusses eight originally anonymous New Testament texts that had names of apostles ascribed to them later and are falsely attributed. These are not forgeries since the texts are anonymous but have had false authors ascribed to them by others.
Dr. Norman L. Geisler writes,
Who Wrote It?
The author is Jude, “the brother of James” (Matt. 13:55), both of whom were (half-) brothers of Jesus (see Acts 1:14).
(1) The author claims to be “Jude, … brother of James” (v. 1). (2) Jude was not an apostle. He refers to the apostles in the third person (vv. 17–18). (3) Nevertheless, he spoke with authority (vv. 3–23), as someone closely associated with the apostles. (4) When the name James is used alone in the New Testament, it usually means James the brother of Jesus (see Who Wrote It in chapter 23). (5) Since Matthew puts his name last in the list of Jesus’s brothers, he was probably the younger brother (see Matt. 13:55; see Mark 6:3). (6) Along with his brothers, he was an unbeliever before Jesus’s resurrection (John 7:5). (7) But since he was in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 1:14), we can assume he, like James, became a believer after the appearances of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:7). (8) Likewise, he became an itinerant missionary after Pentecost with the other “brothers of the Lord” (9:5).
There is a significant amount of evidence that this Epistle is genuine. (1) Many of the earliest Fathers allude to it, including the Didache (2.7); Barnabas (2.10); the Shepherd of Hermas (Similitude 5.7.2); and Polycarp (Epistle to Philippians 3). (2) Other early Fathers accepted it as canonical with Jude’s name on it, such as Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Didymus of Alexandria, Tertullian, Athanasius, Augustine, and Jerome. (3) Some of the earliest New Testament Greek manuscripts have Jude in them (for example, Bodmer Papyri, AD 200). (4) The early Muratorian canon contains the book of Jude.
When Was It Written?
Jude was written between AD 67 and 69. It was written after 2 Peter (AD 64), since scoffers are referred to as future in 2 Peter 3:3 and they are present in Jude 18. It must have been composed before AD 70, since the temple was not yet destroyed. If it had been destroyed, surely he would have mentioned it because it would have supported the central point he was making in the book, namely, that apostasy brings the judgment of God.
To Whom Was It Written?
Some say it was written to Gentile believers because of the reference to “our common salvation” (see v. 3). Others say it was to Jewish believers because of Old Testament references, references to other Jewish literature, and no mention of idolatry. Maybe there were both Jews and Gentiles among them.
Where Were the Readers Located?
The recipients of the letter may have been in Antioch where there were both Jewish and Gentile Christians in large numbers and where they could be susceptible to apostate influences.
Why Was It Written?
Four basic reasons for writing are evident. (1) Jude wanted them to be steadfast in the faith (v. 3). (2) He hoped to explain the apostasy from the faith to them (vv. 4–16). (3) He wished to inform them of how to avoid the coming catastrophe (vv. 17–19). (4) He wanted to encourage them to mature in the faith (vv. 20–24).
A DEEPER DIVE INTO AUTHORSHIP
Michael Green writes,
The Authorship of Jude
The external attestation to this small letter is early and good. It finds a place in the second-century Muratorian Canon; Tertullian recognized it as an authoritative Christian document, so did Clement of Alexandria,100 who wrote a commentary on it. Origen hints that there were doubts in his day (‘if anyone should add the Epistle of Jude’, Comm. in Matth. 17:30), but clearly did not share them, for he quotes Jude as authoritative with enthusiasm: ‘And Jude wrote an Epistle, tiny in the extreme, but yet full of powerful words and heavenly grace’ (ibid. 10:17). In addition, Athenagoras, Polycarp and Barnabas seem to have cited the Epistle early in the second century, so it could hardly have been composed later than the end of the first. Eusebius classes it among the disputed books, and it was not admitted into the early Syrian Canon, the Peshitta. The reason is not hard to discover. Jude quoted apocryphal writings, and although in some circles in the West this tended to add stature to the apocryphal works in question, in the East this link with apocryphal material was sufficient to cause Jude’s rejection.105 Jerome says as much. He explains the cause of the doubts about Jude as ‘because he appealed to the apocryphal book of Enoch as an authority it is rejected by some’. As late as the end of the fourth century Didymus of Alexandria had to defend Jude against those who attacked it because of its use of apocryphal material. It is clear that this was the only reason for the hesitation felt in some quarters about Jude. By ad 200 it was accepted in the main areas of the ancient church, in Alexandria (Clement and Origen), in Rome (Muratorian Canon), and in Africa (Tertullian). Only in Syria were there objections, and even there these could hardly have been in unison, because Jude was accepted into the Philoxenian and Harklean recensions of the New Testament.
Clement of Alexandria in the Adumbrations says that this letter was written by Jude, the brother of James the Lord’s brother. So does Epiphanius, but he calls him an apostle as well, as do many of the Fathers (Origen, Athanasius, Jerome, Augustine). That the Lord’s brethren were loosely known to others as apostles appears from Galatians 1:19. But Jude was no apostle. He styles himself ‘a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James’. There can be no doubt who is meant. Kümmel summarizes the matter well when he writes ‘As “brother of James” he is characterized clearly enough. There was only one eminent, well known James, the brother of the Lord (Jas. 1:1; Gal. 1:19; 2:9; 1 Cor. 15:7). Then Jude is one of the brothers of Jesus, the third named in Mark 6:3, the fourth in Matthew 13:55. Otherwise we know nothing about this Jude.’ The author could hardly be Judas, the son (or brother) of James (Luke 6:16), one of the twelve, because the author of this letter expressly dissociates himself from the apostles (v. 17). Nor is Streeter’s suggestion likely, that it was written by the third bishop of Jerusalem who, according to the fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions (but not according to Eusebius) was Judas. But even if this was the case, did he have a brother called James, and, furthermore, a brother of such distinction that one had only to mention his name in order to identify him? Surely this is special pleading. The letter claims to be by Jude, the brother of James and therefore of the Lord. Can this claim stand?
Many scholars accept it, noting the deeply Jewish colouring of the letter, especially the love for Jewish apocalypses and the Aramaic sentence structure with its triple arrangements coupled with the good Greek that one might expect from a native of bilingual Galilee. Mayor has made an interesting study of the affinities in thought and expression between the Epistles of Jude and James and this, so far as it goes, supports the attribution.
But why, if Jude is the brother of the Lord, does he not say so? The answer, as old as Clement of Alexandria, is his humility. The church called James and Jude brothers of the Lord (1 Cor. 9:5), but they preferred to think of themselves as his servants, remembering, no doubt, that in the time of their actual intercourse with him as brethren, they did not believe in him (John 7:5). But both letters combine unquestioned authority with personal humility, which is precisely what one would expect from a converted member of the family circle of Jesus.
But could Jude have lived long enough to write this letter? It manifestly comes from the close of the apostolic age. The apostolic faith is crystallized (v. 3), the apostolic words are remembered (v. 17), and the apostolic warnings have been fufilled (v. 18). This could hardly be the case much before about ad 70, though there is no need to assume with Luther that the writer ‘speaks of the Apostles as a disciple long afterwards’. Could Jude have survived till the last quarter of the first century? If Jude was a younger brother of Jesus (as his placing in the lists in the Gospels suggests) there would be no difficulty about this dating, were it not for a story recorded by Hegesippus. He tells us that the grandsons of ‘Jude the brother of the Lord after the flesh’ were brought before the Emperor Domitian (ad 81–96) as potential revolutionaries (belonging, of course, as they did to the line of David), but were released when their horny hands attested that they were small farmers with no political aspiration, and their kingdom was seen to be a heavenly one! Hegesippus informs us that they became bishops in the church, and survived to the time of Trajan (ad 98–117). Surely, it is argued, if Jude had grandsons who were mature men in Domitian’s time, he must have died long before, and too early to have written this Epistle. J. B. Mayor makes short work of this view: ‘Jude, as we have seen, was apparently the youngest of the Brethren of the Lord, probably born not later than ad 10, if we accept the date of 6 bc for the Nativity. Taking into account the early age at which marriage generally took place in Judea, we may suppose that he had sons before ad 35 and grandsons by ad 60. These may have been brought before Domitian in any year of his reign. Jude himself would thus have been 71 in the first year of Domitian. If his letter was written in ad 80, he would have been 70 years of age, and his grandsons about 20.’
The other objections against Jude’s authorship of the Epistle are trifling. The fairly good quality of his Greek should surprise only those who are unaware of the extent of Hellenization in first-century Palestine, particularly Galilee. The fact that the quotation of Enoch in verse 15 corresponds fairly closely to the Greek translation of that work need not tell against Jude’s authorship; after all he would hear the Septuagint read each sabbath in the synagogue. In any case, it is not improbable that the substance of Jude and 2 Peter 2 comes from a common source, a catechetical tract against false teaching; in which case it may well have been an unknown catechist, not Jude, who made this citation of the Greek of Enoch. We have already examined the view that the nature of the false teaching denounced in Jude is indicative of a late date.
There is, then, a good deal to support and little to militate against the traditional view that Jude wrote this letter. If we reject this, we are reduced either to the improbable conjecture that an unknown Jude whose brother was an important (but unknown!) James wrote the letter, or else to pseudepigraphy. And the failure to specify just who this Jude was is most unlikely on either supposition. In the case of pseudepigraphy, it is very hard to see why so obscure a person as Jude should have been chosen for the attribution. It was normal to choose some well-known person on whom to ‘father’ pseudepigraphic writings. A pseudepigraph attached to the name of someone of whom nothing else is known is almost inconceivable.
Barclay’s conclusion is fair. He writes, ‘When we read Jude it is obviously Jewish; its references are such that only a Jew could understand them, and its allusions are such that only a Jew could catch them. It is simple and rugged; it is vivid and pictorial. It is clearly the work of a simple thinker rather than a theologian. It fits Jude the brother of the Lord. It is attached to his name, and there could be no reason for so attaching it unless he did in fact write it.’