Translation commentary on Jude 1:1

The expression servant of Jesus Christ is a popular formula in the opening parts of letters in the New Testament (see Rom 1.1; Phil 1.1; James 1.1; 2 Peter 1.1; also Gal 1.10; 2 Tim 2.24; 1 Cor 7.22; Eph 6.6). Many Old Testament characters are identified as “servants of God,” which means that they understand their calling to be that of serving God and doing his will. In the New Testament this term is also used of Christians in general, suggesting that Christians have been freed by Christ from the slavery of sin and now belong to Jesus Christ as his slaves (1 Cor 7.23). In a special way the term is used of those who are called to a special task, indicating that the Christian leaders are an example in their life of the servant role that all of God’s people are supposed to play. The term therefore includes the components of service, obedience, and complete surrender to Jesus Christ and recognition of his authority. Those who use this title for themselves are recognized as having some kind of authority in the Christian community, but this authority is based primarily on their call to serve Christ rather than on their personal qualities. Certain languages maintain a clear distinction between a person who works for a fixed salary and one who is a personal servant or attendant supported by his master, but who does not have a fixed salary. It is this latter term that should be used in this context, if it is necessary to make such a distinction. There are also languages where people will say “I am Jesus Christ’s man,” meaning “I work for Jesus Christ.” In many languages it is impossible to maintain the structure Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, in which the descriptive expressions are simply placed alongside the name. In such a case we may translate this first section of the verse as “I, Jude, who am a servant of Jesus Christ, and a (younger) brother of James….”

Some translators will find it helpful to begin this epistle in a way that is natural to letter writing in their own languages. So it may be necessary to start this letter in a different way from the English or Greek. In particular it may be desirable to adjust the third person reference to the writer to a first person reference, and the third person reference to his readers to second person reference. Examples are: “I, Jude, who am a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, write this letter to you…” or “This letter comes from Jude, who is a servant….” It may also be necessary in certain languages to combine the opening clause with what follows and say, for example, “I, Jude, who am … write this letter to those people who…” or “to you who….”

Jesus Christ is the usual Greek form of the name of Jesus. The word Christ comes from the word “Messiah,” meaning God’s promised King, but when it follows the name Jesus, it can be treated simply as a name and not as a title. The term Christ is a title if it is used with the definite article (“the Christ” or “the Messiah”). In some cases “Christ” may also function as a title when it comes before “Jesus.” However, this doesn’t seem to be the case in this letter.

The word brother is understood by some to mean “co-worker”; most probably, however, it is used here in its natural biological sense, “blood-brother.” For identifying James see page 2. Since James is not described or identified in any way except by his name, this indicates that the readers of the letter had a very clear idea as to who he was, and that he was a famous personality at that time.

In some languages it is necessary to state whether Jude is the older or younger brother of James. This is not so with Greek, and therefore the text does not clearly give us this information. One clue is sometimes the order in which names are mentioned, and since in Matt 13.55 James is mentioned ahead of Jude, then perhaps Jude is the younger brother of James.

The intended readers of Jude’s letter are not identified, either in terms of who they are or where they come from. This is one reason why it has been suggested that this letter is a “general” letter, addressed to the whole church and to Christians everywhere. However, the letter deals with certain particular problems, as we shall see; and this seems to indicate that Jude had a particular audience in mind.

Although Jude does not identify his readers, he describes them in three ways: they are called, they are beloved in God the Father, and they are kept for Jesus Christ. It should be noted that these three expressions are influenced by and perhaps derived from the passages in Isaiah known as the Servant Songs, where Israel is described in the same manner, that is, called, loved, and kept by God (for “called,” see Isa 41.9; 42.6; 48.12; for “loved,” see 42.1; 43.4; for “kept,” see 42.6; 49.8). It is a common practice among New Testament writers to take descriptions of Israel as the people of God and apply these to Christians. They could do this because of the understanding that the Old Testament promises are fulfilled in Christ, and that those who believe in Christ are in a real sense God’s people.

In the Greek text, called comes last in the series, after beloved and kept. However, it is clear that called is intended both in grammar and in meaning to be primary in the series, and most translations therefore reflect this understanding (for instance, Phillips [Phillips] “to those who have obeyed the call, who are loved by God the Father and kept in the faith…”).

The word translated called is a technical term that in the New Testament is almost identical in meaning with “Christians.” In much the same way that the Israelites were called by God to become his people, and were called out of slavery in Egypt in order to possess the promised land, so also Christians are called by God from a life of sin and evil to a new life of godliness. The use of this term for Christians puts a focus on the fact that it is God who takes the initiative in calling people to trust in him, and that when people respond in faith to this call of God, then they become God’s children. In the New Testament God calls people primarily to trust in Christ and become Christ’s followers. In languages that do not use the passive, translators will need to restructure this event word and say “… whom God has called” or “God has called you.”

The expression beloved in God the Father is difficult to understand and has been the subject of much discussion. In the New Testament the expression “in God” is rarely used. A literal translation of the whole expression can give rise to the false meaning “loved (by Jude) in God the Father.” Jude of course was not referring to his love for his readers but to God’s love for them. The preposition “in” can be understood to mean either “by” (as the Revised Standard Version [Revised Standard Version] footnote indicates), hence “loved by God the Father” Phillips, or else “in the sphere of.” This latter meaning seems to be reflected in Good News Translation “who live in the love of God,” which means that they live in the consciousness of God’s love for them, and as a result they experience God’s love and presence with them. A similar expression appears in verse 21 of this same letter. Another way to render this expression is “who live knowing that God loves them (or, you)” or “who live with the certainty that God loves them (or, you).”

It should be noted further that beloved is a perfect participle in Greek, which includes as an element of its meaning the continuing effect of God’s love for these people.

The expression kept for Jesus Christ translates an expression in which the name Jesus Christ is in the dative case and no preposition is used. Since there are several prepositions that can go with the dative case when translated, this has resulted in various interpretations of this phrase:

1. Revised Standard Version represents one interpretation. In this case, kept has God as the unstated agent, and the whole expression can be understood as “kept safe by God until the coming of Jesus Christ,” during which time they will have full fellowship with him (Christ). A less likely sense is “kept safe by God for the sake of Jesus Christ.”

2. Good News Translation represents a second interpretation, where the dative is understood as instrumental: “kept by Jesus Christ,” hence “live … in the protection of Jesus Christ” or “whom Jesus Christ protects (or, keeps safe).” In this case the expression can mean that Christ keeps them safe from the influence of the godless people who threaten their faith (which Jude will discuss later in the letter). If we take the phrase as having a future sense, then it means that Christ keeps them safe in the present so that they can be with him when he comes again. This is probably the more likely interpretation.

3. A third interpretation takes “in” to be the preposition for the dative form. “In Christ” is a favorite expression in the letters of Paul and indicates the Christian’s close relationship with Christ; hence “living in union with (or, united to) Christ.” Some translations have echoed this position, as, for example, Goodspeed, An American Translation [An American Translation] “kept through union with Jesus Christ.”

Like beloved referred to above, kept is a perfect participle which carries the meaning that those addressed continue to be the object of Christ’s (or God’s) care and protection.

One further note: in the Greek text verses 1 and 2 form one rather long sentence; and it may be necessary to divide this into two or more sentences in order to achieve better communication with the audience. How this is done will depend on the requirements of the translator’s language.

Two translation models for the whole verse are:

• I, Jude, who am a servant of Jesus Christ and a (younger) brother of James, write this letter to you whom God has called. You live with the sure knowledge that God the Father loves you, and that you are protected by Jesus Christ (or, Jesus Christ protects you.)

Or:

• I, Jude, who am a servant of Jesus Christ and a (younger) brother of James, write this letter to all of you fellow believers in Christ, who are loved by God the Father and are protected by Jesus Christ.

An example of the way the whole verse is handled in one major Asian language is:

• Dear brothers and sisters, whom God the Father has called and loves very much, and whom Jesus Christ protects. I, Jude, write this letter to you and pray that God bestows his blessings, mercy, and peace on you bountifully.

It is also possible for the three elements (“God has called,” “live with the sure knowledge that God the Father loves you,” and “protected by Jesus Christ”) to be arranged in a different sequence in order to arrive at a more smooth and natural rendering in the translator’s language.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Letter from Jude. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Jude 1:2

After the brief description of his readers, Jude now conveys his greetings to them. The greeting formula that he uses varies somewhat from the traditional greeting in the New Testament; instead of the usual three elements of grace, mercy, and peace, Jude has mercy, peace, and love. Mercy is God’s compassion and kindness, of which his saving action through Jesus Christ is the best example. Peace is a popular word of greeting among Jews and denotes the total well-being that results from a close relationship with God. In many languages peace will be rendered idiomatically; for example, “have coolness and peacefulness.” Love may be interpreted as God’s love for all people which is made known through Jesus Christ, or as the love and concern of Christians for one another. It is quite tempting to take these terms in their fullest theological meaning; it must be remembered, however, that they are used here as elements of a greeting formula and must be translated to fit their function within such a formula.

Be multiplied to you is similar to the expression found in 1 Peter 1.2 and is a distinctive feature of Jewish prayers (compare Dan 4.1; 6.25). It conveys the hope that mercy, peace, and love will be bestowed to them continually and in abundance. (Note Phillips “May you ever experience more and more of mercy, peace and love!”)

Alternative translation models for this verse are as follows:

• May you ever experience more and more mercy, peace, and love from God.

Or:

• I pray that God will continue to be good to you, so that your well-being will increase, and that your love for one another will continue to grow.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Letter from Jude. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .