In the first installment, I set out the traditional Greco-Roman letter format and looked at the “Judases” and “Jameses” in the New Testament. In the second installment, I weighed the arguments on authorship and decided the best evidence points in the direction of the Judas/Jude who is the brother of Jacob/James and Jesus. I then looked at what this means for the date of the letter and the location, or place, in which the letter was written. In the third installment, I examined the salutation, verses 1-2, in which I studied the letter itself, the reasons the letter was sent, and the goals of the letter. In the fourth installment I studied the “Reason for Writing” in verses 3-4, a part of the letter typically called the “Thanksgiving,” but in Jude lacking that element. In the fifth entry, verses 5-7, I studied the first three charges Jude makes against the “intruders.” In the sixth entry, verses 8-10, I looked at how Jude applies the charges made against the intruders. For the seventh entry, I considered the further charges against these intruders and “dreamers” taken from the Old Testament, and an actual charge made regarding their behavior in the community. We encountered some prophetic charges against the intruders in the eighth entry, but in the ninth installment we find Jude focused on exhorting and building up the recipients of the letter.
6. The Letter of Jude:
To see the breakdown of a typical Greco-Roman letter, the category into which Jude fits, please consult the first entry in the commentary We have now come to the end of the Body of the Letter, which is “hortatory” or an exhortation of the recipients. The letter of Jude is concentrated for the most part on the denunciation of the “intruders” and “dreamers” who have troubled this particular church (or churches), but now Jude switches his attention to the recipients who have remained faithful adherents. Interestingly, however, is that is in this exhortation Jude's attention also switches from denunciation of the “intruders” to a desire to reconcile them and those they have influenced with the community.
d) Body of the Letter: Exhortation to Faithfulness and Steadfastness: verses 20-23
20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some who are wavering; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies. (NRSV)
The exhortation is such a welcome change in the letter of Jude, as the tension seems to dissipate, even if the problems have not yet been solved. Jude tells the Church in v. 20 to “build yourselves up on your most holy faith” (epoikodomountes), which as J.N.D. Kelly points out utilizes a common image found elsewhere in the NT of the “body of Christian believers as a building or temple” (Kelly, 285; see 1 Cor. 3:9-17; Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:5). “Your most holy faith” must certainly be a reference back to the “faith” of verse 3 for which they have been told to contend. This was discussed in entry 4 where I described how Jude is encouraging the Christians with this letter to maintain the traditional faith passed on to them, though his initial intent had been to discuss their “common salvation.” The situation was significant enough to entail a change of topic and Jude uses the language of “contending” for the faith in verse 3, which evokes athletic contests and the need to win this battle. At the end of this letter, Jude can now focus on the more sedate image of “building up,” since he seems secure that they will indeed maintain their faith.