Translation commentary on Jude 1:14

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 continues his criticism of the godless people; of these refers back to these people. To describe them Jude quotes a prophecy of Enoch, who is described here as in the seventh generation from Adam. In Gen 5.1-24 we find that, counting Adam as the first, Enoch is the seventh in the list of ancestors. This means that Enoch is in fact the sixth descendant of Adam, and Good News Translation has expressed it in this way: “the sixth direct descendant from Adam.” However, the number 7 is regarded as the perfect number, and its function here is probably to enhance the authority of the prophecy of Enoch; so the actual number is important in this verse, and if possible it should be retained in translation, provided that the meaning of the verse is clear. In some languages this idea will be expressed through the use of the equivalent of “ancestors,” placing the phrase in the seventh generation from Adam at the end of the verse; for example, “It was Enoch … From Enoch back to Adam there were six ancestors.” It is of course recognized that in many cultures people do not remember or take their kinship systems as far back as the seventh generation; in such cases the restructuring of Good News Translation is perhaps the best thing that can be followed. It is important to make clear in translation that a line of generation is meant, and not that the one man Adam has seven sons.

The word prophesied here means “predicted,” “foretold,” or “said beforehand that something would happen.” The quotation itself comes from 1 Enoch (see the explanation on page 23), and it starts with a Greek word that can literally be translated “Behold” or “Look,” and whose primary function is to catch the attention of the hearer or reader. Many translations have left this word untranslated (for example, Good News Translation, New English Bible); others give a literal rendering (for instance, An American Translation “See,” Translators New Testament [Translator’s New Testament]) “Look”; while still others try to recapture the function of the word by using some other expression such as “I tell you” (Jerusalem Bible [Jerusalem Bible]).

The expression the Lord is not found in 1 Enoch but has been added by Jude in order to make the quotation a Christian one, with the Lord probably referring to Jesus Christ. See verse 4 on the translation of Lord.

The verb came is translated literally in Revised Standard Version from the Greek, which uses an aorist form here (past tense, completed action). Most commentaries, however, interpret the aorist here as having a future sense, since in 1 Enoch the quotation is about God coming as judge in the future. It is quite common for a biblical prophet to speak in the past tense when he is referring to a future event, thus emphasizing his faith that God will surely fulfill what he has predicted. This form of speech (past tense for future events) is likely to create problems for modern-day readers, especially when such a form does not exist in their own language. Accordingly some translations have used the future tense here; for example, Good News Translation “The Lord will come”; others have used the present; for example, An American Translation “the Lord comes.”

The expression his holy myriads most probably refers to angels; many translations include this information. There are quite a number of references that speak of Christ coming to earth accompanied by angels (Matt 16.27; 25.31; Mark 8.38; Luke 9.26; 2 Thes 1.7). The word myriads can mean the number ten thousand but can also mean countless thousands, hence Good News Translation “many thousands,” New International Version “thousands upon thousands.” One may also say “so many they cannot be counted.” These countless angels are described as holy primarily in the sense that they are dedicated to God and continually serve him. Since the word for holy in many languages means “pure” or “clean,” it will be best for translators in such languages to translate “holy angels” as “his angels,” meaning “God’s angels (or, messengers)” or “God’s heavenly servants.”

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 .