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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Jude: A Forgery for Jesus?


I find it revealing that the "true believers" love the letter of Jude in the New Testament. They love to quote it against their opponents who they think are "false teachers."

Jude
is only one chapter long. You will find it just prior to Revelation. You can read it in about two minutes tops.

Jude is a mixture of mean-spirited paranoia and superstition. I think it is one of least edifying pieces of literature in the Bible. It ranks up there with Nahum and Habakkuk in terms of pure nastiness towards anyone perceived as an enemy or threat.

I wait quietly for the day of calamity to come upon the people who attack us. Habakkuk 3:16b
Jude is a diatribe against people with whom the author disagrees. He calls them "false teachers." He never discusses what these false teachers supposedly teach nor does he mention them by name. He simply attacks:
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. v. 4
That is pretty much the message, sprinkled with bizarre references to Enoch and fallen angels. It is weird stuff. Pure vitriol. It never should have made it into the Bible. The reason it is in the Bible is because of its authorship, or supposed authorship. The author claims to be:
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.
Who is James? Probably the brother of Jesus. This is how the early church saw it. Although there is some debate today, it is unlikely that that the author of this work is Jude, the brother of James and Jesus.

Scholars use a fancy word for works that are written in the name of someone else, pseudepigrapha, which means "falsely attributed." 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus claim to be written by Paul. 2 Peter claims to be written by Peter. All deceptions. You could call them pseudepigrapha.

Or, let's be blunt and call them what they are.

Thanks to Bart Ehrman for calling a forgery a forgery. In his latest work, Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, Ehrman writes:

It is often said--even by scholars who should know better--that this kind of "pseudonymous" (i.e. falsely named) writing in the ancient world was not thought ot be lying and was not meant to be deceitful. Part of what I'll be showing in this book is that this view is flat-out wrong....Ancient authors who talked about this practice of writing a book in someone else's name said that it was both lying and deceitful and that it was not an acceptable practice.




Many early Christian writings are "pseudonymous," going under a "false name." The more common word for this kind of writing is "forgery".... (p. 9)





In regards to Jude, Ehrman writes:
...in his attempt to attack falsehood, the author himself has apparently committed deception. He claims to be Jude (v. 1), and by this claim he seems to be saying that he is the brother of Jesus....But it is almost certain that the historical Jude did not write this book. Its author is living during a later period in the history of the church, when the churches are already well established, and when false teachers have infiltrated them and need to be rooted out....This author is claiming to be Jude in order to get Christians to read his book and to stand opposed to false teachers who hold a different view of the faith. pp. 187-8
If this nasty little piece of vitriol didn't begin with "Jude...brother of James," it never would have made it into the Bible. The author must have realized that so he pretended to be someone he wasn't so he could tell the "truth" about his "false" opponents.

One can only marvel.
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