Translation commentary on Jude 1:5

As noted above, Now I desire to remind you is a revision of a traditional formula that would open this part of the Greek letter. Desire can be “wish,” or “want” (Good News Translation). Remind can also be “cause you to remember,” “bring again to your attention,” “bring to your mind,” or “cause you to think about again.” It is a popular term in New Testament letters (as, for example, Rom 15.15; 1 Cor 11.2; 2 Thes 2.5; 2 Tim 2.8, 14; Titus 3.1; 2 Peter 1.12; Rev 3.3), where the readers are reminded of the content of the Christian message; in much the same way, Old Testament writers reminded their readers to keep on remembering God’s mighty acts and his commandments (as, for example, Num 15.39-40; Mal 4.4; and the whole book of Deuteronomy, which consists primarily of reminders).

The expression Now I desire to remind you is related not only to verse 5 but also to verses 6 and 7. This is the reason why Good News Translation starts verses 6 and 7 with the word “Remember.”

Jude appears to be apologizing to his readers when he acknowledges that they are already fully informed of, or “know all about,” what he was going to tell them. The records of the past are fully known to them, and they only need to be reminded of these things. It is of course possible that this is a further case of politeness on the part of Jude, and what he is doing here is similar to a modern speaker who says “I am sure you know,” although he is not at all certain that his audience in fact knows what he is going to tell them.

A comparison between Revised Standard Version and Good News Bible indicates a textual problem involving the Greek word hapax (Revised Standard Version once for all, Good News Translation “once”). Revised Standard Version translates a Greek text that takes hapax with “fully informed,” hence “once for all fully informed.” In this case hapax would have the same meaning as it has in verse 3 (see “once for all” in verse 3 and comments). TEV, however, translates a text that reads hapax with “saved,” hence “the Lord once rescued….” This is the text preferred by the United Bible Societies (UBS) Greek New Testament, although the decision for this is rated “D,” which means that there is very much doubt and uncertainty as to what really was written in the original text. Taken in this manner hapax simply has the meaning “once,” or “in the first instance,” as contrasted with afterward (literally “the second time”), during which time God did not save but destroyed. Most modern translations prefer the text that is reflected in Good News Bible (for example, the New Revised Standard Version [New Revised Standard Version] and Revised English Bible). In this sense this word can also be rendered “at one time.”

A further textual problem concerns the expression he who saved. As the Revised Standard Version footnote indicates, many manuscripts have “the Lord” or “Jesus” instead of “he.” The UBS Greek New Testament prefers the reading “the Lord,” although the reading with the strongest textual support is “Jesus,” which is the same as “Joshua,” as the Good News Translation footnote indicates. It is hard to think of Jude referring to Jesus as leading the Israelites out of Egypt, unless of course we are to think of the preexistent Jesus, but that is quite unlikely. “Joshua” may fit the context, although again we are faced with at least two problems: Joshua did not destroy those who did not believe; and Joshua cannot be the one referred to in the expression “kept by him” in verse 6. Since the Greek text identifies the subject of verse 5 with the person referred to in “kept by him” in verse 6, the participant chosen in verse 5 has to fit the context in verse 6 as well. This is perhaps one reason why the UBS Greek text has decided in favor of “the Lord,” and this is reflected in most modern translations. In this case, therefore, “the Lord” refers to God rather than to Jesus Christ. If translators feel that the use of “the Lord” here for the name of God will confuse readers, it will be helpful to say simply “remind you of how God once….”

The term saved is not used here in its theological sense of “given a new life” or “rescued from sin and given the gift of eternal life,” but in the sense of “brought out safely from a dangerous or perilous situation.” The reference is of course to the act of God in rescuing the Israelites from Egypt, where they were slaves. A people are the Israelites, information that is given directly in Good News Translation. In certain languages translators can say “helped to become free from Egypt” or “helped to escape out of Egypt.”

The rescuing of the Israelites is now contrasted with the punishment or destruction of some of them who did not believe. This refers to Numbers 14 (see especially verses 26-35; also 1 Cor 10.5-11 and Heb 3.16–4.2), where God punished those who refused to enter Canaan; they refused to enter Canaan because they heard the discouraging reports of a majority of the people sent by Moses to spy out the land. Their refusal is a sign of their lack of faith in God, who promised to give them this land. God’s decree was that all Israelites, from age 20 and older, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, would die in the desert and therefore would not set foot on the Promised Land. The Greek word indicates that these people “died” or “were destroyed.” In some languages it will be helpful to say “but afterward caused those who did not believe to die (or, be destroyed).”

The whole purpose of this example is to show how God deals with his people. Although he rescues them from danger, he does not hesitate to punish them if they fail to trust in him.

Alternative translation models for this verse are:

• Now I want to bring it again to your mind (or, attention), even though you know all about this, that the Lord (or, God), who once helped the Israelites to escape out of Egypt, afterward caused those who did not believe to die (or, be destroyed).

Or:

• For even though you know all about this, I want to bring to your attention again how the Lord (or, God), who once….

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 .