Bonus Post: Extra-Biblical Sources in Jude

Jude does an interesting thing in his letter, he uses a non-Biblical source as though it were from Scripture, and he does so not once, but twice in a 25 verse letter.  Why does he do that?  Should that place the letter in doubt as to its inerrancy? Let’s take a look…

We’ve already seen the first of these in verse 9 when he mentions the story of Michael the Archangel struggling with Satan over the body of Moses. No doubt you will recall that this is found in a paragraph connected with a series of Biblical examples and connected by “in the same way” an unusual context to say the least.  As I mentioned at the time, this story is found in a work called The Assumption of Moses written early in the first century. The second use of a non-Biblical account is to be found in verses 14-15 where Jude actually quotes from the Book of Enoch, sometimes called 1 Enoch. This work was written by multiple authors in the second century B.C.

These two books are part of what scholars call the pseudepigrapha, which is comprised of writings that are attributed to Old Testament characters but actually written at a later date by other authors.  These works were well-known in the first century, and other New Testament writers may have been familiar with them, and may even have been influenced by them, but Jude alone quotes directly from one of them and identifies it as a prophecy. Many people have been disturbed by this over the years, and it has produced some interesting discussion. For instance, Tertullian ((A.D. 160-220) argued that 1 Enoch should be considered inspired since Jude quoted it.  On the other hand, Jerome (A.D. 342-420) reported that there were those who rejected Jude’s letter because he quoted it.  Personally, I think they might have both been operating under a false premise, that Jude quoted it as inspired at all; this isn’t necessarily the case.

Other New Testament writers quoted non-inspired authors because they considered them be to right and useful, if not inspired. Paul for instance, quoted three Greek poets.  In Titus 1:12 he calls the Greek poet Epimenides a prophet since Cretans accepted him as such. The particular quote “Cretans are always liars…” was also an accurate statement. He also quoted Menander in 1 Corinthians 15:33 and Aratus in Acts 17:28.

It’s quite likely that Jude respected The Book of Enoch and considered the “prophecy” to be an accurate one without accepting it as divinely inspired, just as we might quote C.S. Lewis or R.C. Sproul today in making a point. Indeed, I myself have quoted Harry Truman in this blog more than once, because I felt that the remark I quoted was one of great truth and insight: “The only think worth knowing is what you learn after you already know it all.”  President Truman was no prophet and I have never suspected his comments were divinely inspired, and if I had been around back in 1948, I probably would have voted for Dewey, but he sure got that one right!

At any rate, I do not think Jude’s quotes should lessen our respect for the authority of his letter; his message is a vitally important one for us, as it was in the first century: Beware of false teachers!

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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21 Responses to Bonus Post: Extra-Biblical Sources in Jude

  1. scythewieldor says:

    I think of King Josiah of Judah who went to interrupt a war out upon which the king of Egypt had set. Josiah had begun wonderful reforms in Judah. I believe the Deuteronomic Reform began under his reign. Yet, the king of Egypt told Josiah not to interfere with his (i.e., the king of Egypt’s) obedience to God. Josiah engaged, anyway- and, he was killed.
    I believe that God had set up the Egyptian authority. I believe that God had a way of directing that authority. Moreover, God spoke, in a dream, to King Abimelech of Gerar about Sarah’s relationship to Abraham. God spoke in dreams to Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar. Even Baal, son of Beor, prophesied about Christ and Israel.
    That being the case with these men, it could have been the case with others. And, God would know how to direct His inspired writers concerning historical anecdotes of His conversations with others which may have become mixed with useless information.
    (R.W. Sproul?…WOW. Thank God for him, too.)

  2. Lee says:

    Interesting. We were just discussing this in Sunday school this morning. We are studying Revelations.

  3. pipermac5 says:

    If God can speak through a donkey, He can certainly speak through any other means He chooses.

    • Don Merritt says:

      LOL You have a point there!

      • pipermac5 says:

        I am a highly-unlikely “foreign-missionary”, because i have no formal training, I am not ordained and don’t even have a passport, and yet God has used my blog to spread His Word to over forty countries, including several Muslim countries. I didn’t set out to have those kinds of results, but God had other plans. His Word is also reaching people who might never darken the door of a church, and who may even be shunned by the church.

        The wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing. Have we hoisted our sails?

    • Pam says:

      Amen to that!

  4. Excellent commentary! THANK YOU for writing a great piece!

  5. trotter387 says:

    In the letter of Jude we need to focus, as the canonical writers did on the theme of the bible and God’s purpose which Jude covers clearly – that we remain in a position that reconciles each of us to God. Therefore having read 1 Enoch and the apocryphal books we draw the conclusion that only divinely inspired writings that hold to that theme, the means of reconciliation are the core texts.

    However we do find that other writers – Luke for example refer to personal accounts as an accurate basis for the text through research; Apostle Paul refers to secular writings; and Moses must have listened to accounts from others to draw the social history together. The inspiration become unquestioned when we are directed to the theme of the Bible – God’s provision for Humankinds reconciliation and salvation – Jude does that throughout is short account.

    Enjoyed your research and reflection

  6. Pingback: Tell Us How You Really Feel! | The Life Project

  7. Pingback: Bonus Post: Extra-Biblical Sources in Jude | A disciple's study

  8. I am so behind, but I am looking forward to spending my morning catching up on your amazing writings. It almost feels like a gift because there will be much to ponder over a couple cups of coffee. 🙂 Thank you, Don.

  9. Deborah says:

    Reblogged this on Under the Honey Tree and commented:
    An interesting article about non-Biblical references in Jude.

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