Translation commentary on Jude 1:8

The verse starts with three words in Greek, in like manner, yet, and “also,” the function of which is to connect this passage with the verses before it. In like manner and “also” indicate the similarities of the people Jude is writing about with the three groups mentioned in verses 5-7, but particularly with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, the term yet is difficult and can be understood in two ways: Firstly, it may simply serve to strengthen the whole expression; in this case it can be left untranslated, as in Good News Translation. Or secondly, it may emphasize the contrast between the expected attitude of these people and their actual deeds. A knowledge of what God had done, particularly to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, should deter them from doing evil, in order to avoid God’s punishment. However, despite these examples of divine punishment, these people still continue to commit the same sins. If translators follow this second interpretation, another way of rendering this phrase is “Despite this warning, in the same way also…” or “Even though these people received a warning, in the same way also, they….”

These men in their dreamings refers to the godless people mentioned in verse 4. The word for “dream” occurs only one other time in the New Testament, in Acts 2.17, where it is used of prophetic dreams. It is very likely that these people have claimed that through dreams or “visions” (Good News Translation) they receive special revelations from God and thereby gain spiritual insight. Therefore the verse is not suggesting that they perform all these evil acts while experiencing visions, or that they sin in their dreams (which a literal translation may suggest), but that they justify their sinful acts by special revelations they claim to receive from God. If this interpretation is followed, translators may say “These godless people have visions.” In languages that do not distinguish between dreams and visions, the translator may have to use the word for “dream.” However, another possible translation is “special dream.”

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 .

Jude mentions three actions that these people try to justify. First of all, they defile the flesh. The word for defile can also mean “contaminate,” “stain,” “corrupt,” and is used both of ritual and moral defilement. In the present context defilement is related to sexual corruption. Flesh on the other hand can be understood as referring to people in general, or as referring to their own bodies in particular (as, for example, Good News Translation “they sin against their own bodies”). This latter rendering is similar to some references in 1 Enoch, where the fallen angels are described as defiling themselves with women (for example, 1 Enoch 7.1; 9.8; 10.11; 12.4; 15.3, 4). We may also translate defile the flesh as “making their bodies dirty (or, defiled) with sexual sins.”

Secondly, these people reject authority. Authority here is understood in various ways:

1. It may be authority in general, both religious and political. This means that these people reject all forms of authority, which would explain their utter disregard of any rule or regulation.

2. It may refer to angelic authority. The Greek word for authority here is kuriotēta, and there is a group of angelic beings known as kuriotētes (Col 1.16, “dominions”; Eph 1.21, “dominion”).

3. It may refer to human authority, both civil and religious.

4. It may be divine authority. Perhaps this is what Jude had in mind. Here again, there is a play on words. The word for “authority,” kuriotēta, is related to the word for Lord, kurios.

It is likely therefore that reject authority here is equivalent in meaning to “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” in Jude 1.4. This alternative is followed by Good News Translation “despise God’s authority.” Other ways of rendering this are “do not recognize God’s authority” or “do not recognize that God is Master (or, Chief).”

Thirdly, these people revile the glorious ones. The word revile is literally “blaspheme” and can mean “insult,” “slander,” “speak disparagingly,” “speak evil of,” “say bad things about,” or “spoil a person’s name.” Languages tend to have a large range of vocabulary in this area. When this word stands by itself without any object, it is directed toward God. Here, however, a definite object of the blasphemy is mentioned, namely, the glorious ones (literally “glories”). Some take this to mean noble and illustrious people, while others understand it as supernatural beings in general. Most commentators, however, take “glories” to mean angels, since the Greek term is used of angels in many writings, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in Gnostic literature. They are probably called “glories” because they are thought to have a share in the majesty of God. “Glorious beings” can also be rendered as “glorious angelic beings,” and in some languages there is special vocabulary reserved for such beings; for example, “the sacred beings.” Translators may also need to identify the location of these “beings” in relationship to the world (Good News Translation‘s “above”) and say “The glorious beings in heaven.”

Are these angels bad angels or good ones? Some commentators, looking forward to verse 9, think that bad angels are meant. This would mean that in much the same way that Michael did not insult the prince of evil, so these people should not say bad things against the powers of evil. The general opinion, however, is that these are good angels.

How do the godless people insult angels? Here the focus is primarily on words rather than actions: they say evil things about the angels. That the insult is oral is supported by the fact that in verse 9 “reviling judgment” (which translates the same word) definitely refers to words. But what is actually said against the angels is difficult to determine, since the text offers little help in this matter. Three suggestions are worth considering:

1. They insult angels as agents of creation. This would assume a Gnostic background for the whole letter, a system of belief that regards the created material world as evil, and therefore the agents of creation as equally evil. The Gnostic background of Jude is held by many scholars.

2. These people regard themselves as spiritually superior to angels because of their dreams and visions through which they claim to have received spiritual insight and knowledge. This would relate this part more closely to the first part of the verse.

3. They despise the angels, who are the mediators and guardians of the law of God, and who also are guardians of the whole created order. This would relate their attitude toward angels to their attitude toward the law. Since they claim for themselves the right to act in any way they please, with utter disregard for the law, they would despise and insult anyone who would oppose such a law-less way of life.

All of these suggestions are conjectures, of course, and it probably is not necessary to include in the translation the reasons why angels were insulted and the specific ways in which this slander is carried through.

There is, however, one other aspect of the text that is relevant for translation. The order of words in the Greek text seems to indicate that the three negative aspects of these people are somehow related, with the first one being the result of the next two. The Greek text can be restructured as follows: “These men in their dreamings on the one hand defile the flesh, and on the other hand reject authority and revile the glorious ones.” The last two are therefore the basis of the first: they sin against their own bodies because they despise God’s authority and insult the angels. And all three actions find their justification in the dreams and visions. If this analysis is valid, then it is important to show these relationships in the translation.

Using the restructuring above, an alternative translation model is the following:

• These people have visions (or, dreams) that make them refuse to accept God’s authority, make them say evil things about the glorious beings in heavens, and make them commit dirty sexual practices.

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 .