Jude refers to Jesus by three names: Jesus (5, 6), Jesus Christ(1 – 2x, 4); and our Lord Jesus Christ (17, 21, 24). It is worth noting that Jude often uses threes in his letter and this is but one example of three different ways of referring to the Lord. For example, the recipients of the letter are thrice designated: ‘called’, ‘beloved’ and ‘kept’ (1). There are two triads, each consisting of three examples of judgment: the Exodus people of God (5), the angels (6), Sodom and Gomorrah (7) and Cain, Balaam and Korah (11). The ungodly people Jude is challenging ‘defile the flesh, reject authority and blaspheme’ (8). And in the case of the names of Jesus, the epistle opens with a triadic use of Jesus Christ and closes with another triad, our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us examine the first and last triad of names as they appear in the epistle before examining the shortest form of the Jesus name found in verse 5.
Jesus Christ is encountered immediately following Jude’s name as the author of the letter. The phrase is followed by the subject which it modifies, a servant (1). This description informs the reader that Jesus Christ is a master or owner of the household slaves. He is a powerful person, greater than the author and worthy of submission and service.
The second occasion of the term follows in the next sentence to describe the recipients of the letter as people kept or guarded or preserved for/by Jesus Christ. Again, the context reinforces the authority of Jesus as one worthy of deference for He has the power to protect (more on this later) and the power to watch over. In the final occurrence of the term, Jesus Christ is described as the ‘only Master and Lord’ (4). These twin terms, Master and Lord are related but seem to emphasize different aspects of the relationship between a servant and his master. As the editor of Calvin’s Commentary on Jude notes,
“The word despoten, sovereign, or master, is used by Jude as well as by Peter. It was not the grace, but the ruling power of Christ that was denied; they boasted of his grace, but did not submit to him as a king. Hence the word [Master] is used — one exercising absolute power.”
As Hiebert, commenting on the grammar of the sentence, has noted,
…the use of only one article unites the two nouns “Master and Lord,” thus referring to one Person who is appositionally identified as “Jesus Christ.” The pronoun “our” placed immediately after the second of the two nouns united by “and,” naturally relates to both nouns and underlines how Jude and his readers evaluate this Person in contrast to other men…The two terms underline the greatness of the Person of Jesus Christ. And Bigg remarks, “If Christ may be called [Master], He may also be called [only Master] in distinction not from the Father, but from all false masters.”
Specifically, the opponents of Jude’s letter do not appear to recognize the exclusive, sovereign power of Jesus Christ over their lives. And this is what makes their sin so serious. Jesus is the powerful Lord of Lords (Rev 19:16), the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5), and they are ignoring His instructions.
In my next post, we will explore the second triad of names used for Jesus in the Epistle of Jude.
The second occurrence of Jesus in verse 6 is implied from the verb teth/rhken, ‘he has kept.’ Thus there are only 7 usages of Jesus names in Jude – two triads and a single between the triads.
Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law: Law and Society, vol. 2 (Nutley, N.J.: Craig Press, 1974), 299.
Richard Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, Accordance Electronic Ed., Word Biblical Commentary Series 50 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983), 39. https://accordance.bible/link/read/WBC-NT#57526. “For Jude, ku/rioßis the title of Jesus’ divine authority as the one who exercises the divine function of judgment (v 14, and perhaps vv 5–6, 9); in v 4 he adds despo/thßto convey the thought that, as Christians, the false teachers belong to Jesus as his slaves whom he has bought. They are both disowning him as Master and flouting his authority as universal Judge.”
John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (Complete), trans. John King, Accordance Electronic Ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), paragraph 99981. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Calvin#99981.
D Edmond Hiebert, “Selected Studies from Jude, Pt 1: An Exposition of Jude 3-4,” Bibliotheca Sacra142, no. 566 (April 1985): 150.
Hiebert, 149. The grammar of this construction is telling for the object of their denying is “placed emphatically before the governing particle.”