Translation commentary on Jude 1:10

Continuing the theme of “reviling” and going back to the same people, Jude now mentions the consequences of their acts, namely, their own destruction. These men is equivalent to the same expression in verse 8 and refers back to the godless people. The word for revile is once again “blaspheme,” the same word used in verse 8 and in verse 9 (“a reviling judgment”). Here it has the primary meaning of “insult,” hence Good News Translation “attack with insults.” We may also say “say bad words against” or “use abusive language against.”

There is some difficulty in determining what the expression whatever they do not understand means. This goes back to verse 8 and refers to their attitude toward angels and God’s authority, or in other words, to the spiritual world in general, and so to the Christian message itself in particular. These people claim spiritual superiority, but Jude now asserts that in actual fact they know little if anything of the spiritual world that they despise and abhor. In fact, the opposite is true: they are experts in things that they know by instinct. Instinct translates a Greek word that means “naturally” as opposed to something learned or developed, and hence the use of natural or instinctive powers as opposed to the use of developed reason or acquired knowledge. Included in this are impulses of appetite, sensual pleasure, sexual desire, and perhaps evil violence and rebellion.

There is definitely a sense of sarcasm here; these godless people are denounced for claiming that they know everything about the spiritual world, when in fact what is true is the opposite—all their knowledge is based on raw and uninformed instinct. Translators will do well to capture this sense of sarcasm in the translation.

In simply following their instincts, these people are compared to irrational animals. Irrational translates a Greek word that can literally mean “without reason,” “unreasoning,” “unreasonable,” but when used with animals it can mean “wild” (as in Good News Translation). In this sense irrational animals will be expressed in many languages as “forest animals” or “jungle animals.”

It is the things that they only know by instinct that bring about the destruction of these people. However, it is not the knowing of these things that leads to their destruction, but doing them and acting by them. The expression by instinct means negatively “without using reason (or, logic).” Destruction here refers not primarily to physical sickness or death, or even to moral and spiritual decay, but to God’s judgment and punishment, perhaps at the end time.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• But those godless people (or, people who do not worship God) use abusive language (or, bad words) to attack anything that they do not understand; and when they act like wild animals and do these things that they know without thinking (or, without using human reason), they will suffer God’s punishment (or, God will punish them).

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 .