Bonus Post: Jude and Peter

Why are Jude 4-16 and 2 Peter 2:1-18 so similar?

There are many parallel passages in Scripture, but these two are more than just parallel, they are almost the same, close enough anyway that this deserves a look.  Over the centuries there have been many theories and discussions among scholars of various doctrinal views, and while I’m happy to let them speak for themselves, I guess I should toss my thoughts out for your consideration, and then let you decide for yourself what you think.  If your ultimate conclusion is something like “Who cares? I’ll just study His Word and do my best to be like Jesus”  then you are probably wiser than the scholars…

Seems to me there are four reasonable possibilities for this similarity:

First  this could just be a coincidence.  Jude and Peter both wanted to address a similar problem and came up with almost the same discussion. Maybe God inspired them both to write the same thing… We should probably not assume that inspiration is quite the same thing as dictation, however.  This really isn’t likely when you consider how close the two passages are.

Second.  Jude and Peter could both have taken this material from a third document. Say for instance that Bob sent them both the same letter, and then each one re-wrote it and sent it to their friends.  If something like that happened, Bob’s letter is nowhere to be found, and have you ever heard of Bob?  (OK, I made that one up, but you get the idea) This scenario strikes me as pretty unlikely, especially since it would have made up nearly all of Jude’s letter.

Third. Jude could have read Peter’s letter and adapted 2:1-18 into his own letter; quite a few scholars like this one.  However, it is unusual for one writer to adapt something from another writer and shorten a passage in the process, they usually expand on the original.  Having some practical experience in this area myself, I can attest to the fact that unless the original is excessively wordy, that’s hard to do.

Fourth. Peter could have read Jude’s letter and expanded on it in his second letter to fit a slightly different situation.  I’m not a betting man, but if I were, this would be my choice.


I flipped through a few respected commentaries on this topic before I banged out this post, commentaries from more than one doctrinal view, and I was amazed at how certain commentators will announce to their readers that such and such is an obvious fact as though they knew the answer for a fact; such confidence!  The only problem with this is that they don’t know it for a fact; no one does.  If you are a “regular” Christian, and by that I mean a “non-academic” Christian, as opposed to one with a wall full of degrees from seminaries, I have a valuable tip for you, ready?

Beware commentators, preachers and teachers who always “know” every answer and who cannot or will not admit that sometimes they are going with their best guess!  The truth is that there are some little issues, such as this one, that we just don’t know for certain.

No extra charge for the tip, it’s your lucky day!

I’ll post another “Bonus” topic tomorrow afternoon.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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26 Responses to Bonus Post: Jude and Peter

  1. I love to ponder the early church and the days Jesus birthed it… I wrote a novel called His Kingdom Come. You might find it falls along your thoughts here… Margaret Montreuil

  2. Pam says:

    I’m glad you brought in the various views, and the fact that we should ask the Lord to reveal the truth to us. This is how we should study God’s Word. When I was attending Liberty University, I had to write a 250-word “discussion” on certain topics. As the classes progressed, the subject matter became more difficult. I now regret that I did not save all that work! Anyway…it was interesting to see how various authors and commentators viewed certain topics. I was obligated to speak on the views, and then give my personal understanding of the topic. I always appreciated this portion of the research. Why? Because I could really dig in the Word of God giving my understanding from a biblical viewpoint. The biblical viewpoint, in my view, always outweighed the “supposed biblical view” of the authors. It was interesting to see that the professors said they were learning from me!

  3. Hi Don. What an intriguing post! I’ve noticed the similarities between 2 Peter 2 and Jude before, which prompted me to download the Book of Enoch (which I haven’t finished reading). I’m wondering if Peter and Jude were actively involved in the Jerusalem church at the same time? If so, they were dealing with the same “waterless clouds.” This is a bit off the subject, but do you know who followed James as leader of the Jerusalem church? Was it Jude? There must a record of who followed who in the hierarchy of the Jerusalem church before the church was established in Rome. Do you know where I can get this information?

    • Don Merritt says:

      That’s a tough one. If the author of Jude is the brother of Jesus, which seems likely to me, then about all we can be certain of is that he and James did missionary work in the early church, since Paul mentions them in passing in 1 Cor. 9:5. (I’m going off memory so you might look that up) Paul mentions the “brothers of Jesus” taking wives on mission trips. Beyond that, there aren’t any specific primary sources I can think of. A good Bible dictionary should have some info if the author has found some, but it would probably be more tradition than anything else, colored by the doctrinal background of the author. Sorry I an’t be more specific!

      • I agree that Jude was probably the brother of Christ. I would love to know what happened between the last chapter of the book of Acts and the founding of the church in Rome. I’ve been to Rome and seen the place where Peter’s bones are supposedly buried in the Vatican. His head is buried elsewhere I was told. I understand that Paul was beheaded in Rome. Beyond that I don’t know much about early church history. For example what happened to James the brother of Jesus? I will make an effort to do some research. I love your blog. Blessings!

  4. vwoods1212 says:

    Wow; great stuff. When you get into studying and reading the scripture, it is very easy to be swell headed and think you have a “greater knowledge” big mistake. You will run into the following: pride, ego, error to name a few. Humility in everything is the safest route. Thanks for the material. vw

  5. Iam Danger says:

    I like the book of Bob theory. If you read Lee Strobel he uses his version of that theory to describe the similarity and differences in the Gospels. He also talks about a Q, a common memorized oral tradition of sayings from which everyone drew material

  6. windleg says:

    I always say there are many things we will not know until we see Jesus face to face…and then, I doubt we will care to know.

  7. paulfg says:

    As always Don, you prompted a little thinking:

    “Jude’s point is that these teachers with their “new truth” are trying to make the people deny Jesus Christ by their actions which would amount to a repudiation of their covenant relationship. In Scripture, this is always a very big deal! In life, it is the way to destruction.” (your “It’s Getting Serious” post)

    Fifth – 2000 years ago: I have seen, touched, was there (with Jesus). I have seen, touched and was there with you (the readers of this letter).

    How much more of a Very Big Deal this would be to these “I was there” bible folk? 2000 years on you point out it is still a very big deal. 2000 years ago why reinvent the wheel? Letters were a big deal back then.

    So my question is why just these two letters? Why did the bible makers and collators choose just these two letters above others with (I guess) a very similar theme?

    Thanks for the thinking.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Seems like they ‘chose’ quite a few more than these 2; maybe you’re really asking why not one that aren’t in the NT…? Many that weren’t included in canon were probably very sound, but not “inspired” those are collected elsewhere if they survived. You may have heard of the collections of the “Early Church Fathers” Bookcases of books written by the early leaders in the 1st trough 4th centuries. Some are amazing, some aren’t, none thought to be inerrant. Worth the read if you’re up to the project! (The set costs thousands)

      Is that what you meant?

  8. scythewieldor says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bob thing was pretty close. The info given to us by Jude and Peter is very old. It could have been put into a formula used by the very God-aware Jews up among whom Jude and Peter grew. It could have been a formula heard in synagogues around the inhabited world for a couple of centuries.

  9. johnorth says:

    Beware dear blog writer I’ve the absolute correct answer.. God wrote it thru those two men of His and its His truth. Beyond that, well we can only speculate. Personally, I’ve encountered two different preachers that had nothing to do with each other. Meaning almost no contact with each other at all. Preach almost the exact same message, on the same day, at two different times. Neither of them talked about it, the second one wasn’t in the morning service but the payout from the morning service was in the evening service under the other minister. That’s just God working and speaking two separate groups of people at two different times. It does happen, if those people are truly listening to God.

    • Don Merritt says:

      God can do that and most of us have seen it.

      • johnorth says:

        Then why the post? Aren’t we supposed to stay away from questions that could possibly cause strife?

        • Don Merritt says:

          Do you think this post is causing strife?

          • johnorth says:

            No I dint but aren’t we supposed to avoid those that do. You did a wonderful job explaining what can be at times a very hard thing to answer. You have some options as to what was possible. Personally, I don’t do that much, just because it can cause more problems than its worth.

            • Don Merritt says:

              OK, I follow you now, thanks for helping me out. You’ve posed an interesting question. I try to show a way to resolve those questions in posts like this, and since I have filled these posts with an emphasis on unity, I try to allow for various views while expressing my own without threatening anybody or being overly dogmatic on what is really a small matter to which there isn’t a sure answer anyway. So far, I’ve had a great deal of success with this approach, as the comments would tend to indicate on quite a few posts. Of course, there are those few who can’t handle anyone not seeing everything their way, but they have a hard time getting the fight they want out of me. 🙂

              • johnorth says:

                I’ve dealt with countless in the argumentative category. I taught five years at a bible school, which is if you’d like to know a prime place to find many who go to school to be taught, but end up wanting to be the teacher. Your doing a good work brother. Your reaching, answering hard questions in a way that is very agreeable.

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