Jude and 2 Peter are two small-but-mighty NT books that often get overshadowed by the surrounding Hebrews, James, and Revelation. Upon first (and second, and third) reading, it’s apparent that there is some sort of link between the epistles. How are Jude and 2 Peter related? Let’s find out.

The following excerpt is from Focus on the Bible: 2 Peter & Jude by Gardner

Anyone asked to write a commentary on 2 Peter is invariably also asked for one on the epistle of Jude. At first glance this may seem strange. Why shouldn’t commentaries on 1 Peter and 2 Peter be bound together? Why Jude and 2 Peter? The answer to this is not easy but is best explained by comparing 2 Peter chapter 2 with Jude. The similarities between them are obvious even on a superficial reading. This relationship has been explained in a variety of ways.

Generally it falls into three categories:

  1. 2 Peter borrowed from Jude
  2. Jude borrowed from 2 Peter
  3. Both Jude and 2 Peter used a similar or the same source material.

Jude is only twenty-five verses long; fifteen of these appear in at least a very similar form in 2 Peter 2. It is impossible to be absolutely certain who actually wrote first.

However, it should be noted that even if Peter borrowed, in this case from Jude, there is still no need to exclude apostolic authorship of 2 Peter, as some have suggested. They argue that a great apostle would not draw on a minor figure like Jude. Such a suggestion, though, fails adequately to take account of two facts. Firstly, Jude was also regarded as having apostolic authority and secondly, as many have pointed out, literature is full of examples of great writers who have borrowed from those less well known than themselves.

The reasons some say Jude drew on 2 Peter can seem plausible enough but problems arise for both the view that Peter borrowed from Jude and vice versa.

For example, it is said that:

  1. Peter often talks about the false teachers in the future tense, while Jude already views them as present. Some even suggest that Jude 17–18 looks back to 2 Peter 3:2, 3. Yet, it must be added that Peter does not always use the future tense of these heretics (e.g. 2 Peter 2:10, 13; 3:16).
  2. Jude is more polished in its structure than is 2 Peter, and this may indicate a careful and reflective re-working of Peter’s material. However, it may also mean that Peter simply remembered Jude’s work and re-wrote it in a more relaxed way.
  3. It is also often asked why Jude should have bothered to re-write 2 Peter in such a very short letter, while adding a minimum of his own ideas. However, Jude himself tells us that he writes with a certain urgency (Jude 3) and ‘to remind you’. So perhaps he found Peter’s letter to be the most useful message to pass on (again?) to the congregation.

My own view is that probably Jude and 2 Peter were written around the same time; I am unpersuaded by any of the arguments supporting either those who believe Jude or 2 Peter was written first.

One thing I certainly believe is this: the arguments about who came first and who borrowed from whom and the similarities of the epistles have clouded much of the teaching we find in both epistles. Similarities there are, and this may suggest that some of the false teaching in both churches was similar, but the differences are considerable as well. 2 Peter has much more in it that is not found in Jude than is. It tackles some different themes and so we must never be tempted to assume that if we have studied the one book we can virtually ignore the other.

The Audiences of 2 Peter and Jude

Jude

As we read Jude it becomes clear that Jude and his audience had knowledge of Jewish teaching and traditions. Jude knew the Hebrew version of the Old Testament as well as the Greek and could make his own translations. Jude writes in a ‘Jewish’ way. He makes his points by referring to a biblical text or story and then expounding it. This style would be most suitable if the people he was writing to came from a Jewish background.

References to the angels, Michael, Satan, and a preoccupation with the relationship between events in heaven and events on earth, all of which can sound somewhat strange to our ears, would have been common-place in early Jewish Christianity. In using these ideas in his teaching, Jude is following Jewish prophetic and ‘apocalyptic’ traditions.

Just where these Christians to whom Jude was writing lived is an open question, though from the above we may be right to assume the church was made up largely of converted Jews. However, given the way outside false teachers had managed to gain entrance, they probably found themselves living among pagans. Some commentators have plausibly suggested the recipients may have been a church in Syria, but because Jude tells us so little, we cannot be certain of this.

2 Peter

Unlike the epistle of Jude which was probably written to a predominantly converted Jewish congregation, it would seem that Peter was writing to a church of mainly Gentile believers. When he talks of ‘a faith as precious as ours’, Peter is probably comparing the Gentile converts with those like Peter himself who have a Jewish background. We cannot be sure which church or group of churches Peter was writing to, but if they are the same as 1 Peter, and he does call this his ‘second letter to them’ (3:1), then they would have lived in what is now modern Turkey, and the churches would have been made up largely of Gentile converts.

2 Peter 2 is full of allusions not just to the Old Testament but also to some intertestamental Jewish literature and some have suggested this indicates a church of predominantly Jewish background. However, we know from much of the New Testament that converts of all nationalities were quickly taught the Old Testament. Also, unlike Jude, Peter does not actually mention the Book of Enoch even though drawing upon it. This also suggests that, whereas it was known by Jude’s more Jewish audience, it was not known by Peter’s audience. Additionally the Greek that is used in this epistle is fairly sophisticated suggesting perhaps that Peter was writing for Gentiles and adapting the gospel message to their language and world of ideas.

Keep Reading

Focus on the Bible Jude and 2 Peter

The above content can be found in Focus on the Bible. This 41-volume commentary set was written by a range of authors and covers most of Bible. No matter your level of study, this set provides comprehensible depth to your study of the Bible. Visit our store page to find out more about this insightful tool!

Another excerpt from this commentary set: Shamgar: An Overlooked hero in Judges

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