Epistle of Jude
This is the second part of Lesson 43. The first part, on First and Second Peter is found here.
Scholars differ on which Jude is the author of this epistle, whether it is the apostle Jude, the brother of Jesus, or if they are the same individual. All agree that Judas Iscariot is not the author of the epistle.
The epistle was controversial in the early days of Christianity. All early Christian leaders believed in its authenticity, but argued over whether to include it in the canon of scripture, because of controversial concepts contained within it, including its quoting or referencing of non-canonical writings. Origen discusses the early controversy over the epistle of Jude by some church leaders, though he personally accepted it. The controversy continued into the 4th century, as noted by Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History.
The epistle was not directed towards any particular Christian congregation, but was written to be distributed throughout all the churches of Christ. Jude’s few verses are very similar to that found in 2 Peter (mostly chapter 2). Scholars believe that either there was a previous source both used, or that one was the source for the other.
Keeping your First Estate
Jude begins his epistle discussing the importance of contending for the faith, and fighting against apostates who seek to turn believers from following Christ and his gospel.
“ 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude).
Israel in Egypt is compared with the premortal existence. From Egypt, Israel was offered a fresh start, a freedom, as they moved to the Promised Land. Yet, many fought with Moses, thinking they knew better. In doing so, they were destroyed.
So it was in the premortal existence. We were spirit children of God in the prior life. Yet, as only spirits, we were limited to our growth, agency, and free will. To move forward, we required a fresh start in mortality, with the expectation that we would believe in Christ and follow God through his appointed prophets.
In Abraham 3, we read about this premortal experience:
“ 22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
27 And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
28 And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him” (Book of Abraham 3).
Here we see that some chose to rebel, rather than follow the plan God set forth. Lucifer and many others rejected their first estate, or the experiences of the premortal life. Instead of coming down to gain a body and have a chance at choosing eternal life through Christ, they rejected everything and were cast down from heaven, becoming Satan and his demons. As Jude notes, these are they who rejected their first estate and are to be enchained in Outer Darkness in the final day of judgment.
So will it be for those who indulge in fornications and sexual pleasures that do not fall under the mandate of God. Sodom and Gomorrah is noted as a place that was destroyed for its sinfulness. Professor Harold Bloom wrote that Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for its sinful sexual behaviors (including homosexual and heterosexual acts), but for the inhabitants not being hospitable. In other words, God put up with their sinful natures until they attempted to impose that lifestyle upon others (such as on Lot and his angelic visitors).
Jude warns us that such sinful nature is the cause for destruction for a people.
Body of Moses
One of the two very controversial portions of the Epistle of Jude is the story regarding Moses’ body.
“9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”
Here, the greatest of the angels, Michael, contends with Satan for the body of Moses. Origen noted that this was a part of an ancient Jewish text entitled the “Assumption of Moses” (also known as the Testament of Moses), believed by modern scholars to have been written in the 1st century AD. The Assumption of Moses that is now available no longer contains this story, but is believed by many to have been at the end in the original. This is part of the controversy that arises with Jude’s epistle. He is actually quoting from a non-canonical source!
The concept comes forth that rather than dying, Moses is to ascend to heaven, even as Enoch or Elijah did. In Jude, Michael must fight for Moses that he may ascend in a translated or raptured state, rather than die.
“14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Again, Jude quotes from another non-canonical source. This time, it is from one of the various surviving books of Enoch. The writings of Enoch were well accepted by many Jews and Christians from the 2nd century BC and until St Jerome rejected it for his compilation of the Bible. Enoch is quoted or referenced dozens of times in the New Testament, with Jude as the most well known.
Fragments of Enoch writings are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, suggesting that the ancient Essenes accepted Enoch as scripture. Interestingly, the fragments within the Dead Sea Scrolls are only one of two places wherein we find a person named Mahujah/Mahijah who questions Enoch. The other known writing of Enoch that has this encounter is found in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Moses (Moses 6:40)!
Jude’s connection between Moses and Enoch is an important one. Both are called of God to be an important prophet in their days. Both have a heavenly vision and then are sent back to earth with the commandments and teachings of God. Both foresaw the coming of the Lord in glory and power among men. In LDS belief, Enoch prepared his city of Zion to be lifted to heaven, while Moses tried to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God at Sinai, and then into the Promised Land. Enoch saved his people from the evil that occurred before the Flood, while Moses saved his people from the evils in Egypt.
There is another place, besides Jude, where both prophets are discussed and offered as symbols of the coming Lord Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith received a revelation while studying the Bible regarding the Creation, the Fall of Man, and the times of Enoch before the Flood. All of this Joseph received through the eyes of the prophet Moses.
As with Enoch, Joseph Smith also proclaimed that the Lord would return for his Second Coming in great power and glory. Our job is to keep the commandments, be chaste, virtuous, and righteous in following Christ. In doing so, the day may come when the archangel Michael may contend with the devil over us, that we may gain our second estate and receive a crown of glory.
Epistle of Jude - wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistle_of_Jude
Epistle of Jude - Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08542b.htm
Epistle of Jude - Early Christian Writings: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/jude.html
Inhospitality of Sodom - http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/02/lds-gospel-doctrine-class-old-testament_15.html
Lack of Hospitality by Sodom - Book of J, Harold Bloom, pp 299-301: http://www.amazon.com/Book-J-Harold-Bloom/dp/0802141919/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320158037&sr=8-1
Assumption of Moses - wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assumption_of_Moses
Assumption of Moses (AKA Testament of Moses): http://www.piney.com/Testament-Moses.html
Book of Enoch (as quoted by Jude): http://www.piney.com/ApocEnoch1.html
Book of Moses: http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/moses?lang=eng