Translation commentary on Jude 1:17

But you is emphatic and indicates a sharp contrast between Jude’s readers and the godless people referred to in the previous section. The last mention of those people was at the beginning of verse 16.

Must remember is an imperative; that is, it is grammatically a command. However, the readers are not exactly commanded to remember something in the sense of putting some new fact into their memory; rather they are exhorted to call to mind or recall something they already know. Therefore you must remember can be rendered as “it is necessary for you to recall,” or “it is important for you to bring to mind,” or “… not to forget.”

What they are supposed to recall or remember are the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. Predictions is literally “words spoken before” or “words said beforehand.” The focus is not so much on whether these words are predictions or prophetic utterances, but on the fact that these were spoken before the time of the writing of Jude’s letter.

This is the first time in the letter that Jude uses the word apostles, which describes persons who are sent with a message and a mission, and who can speak and act with the authority of the sender. The word has both a restricted and a general usage. It refers in particular to the first disciples of Jesus (sometimes known as the Twelve). This list includes Matthias, who took the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1.26). Generally, however, apostles is used to refer to Christian missionaries, evangelists, and other Christian workers (Acts 15.5; Rom 16.7; 2 Cor 8.23). In the early church the apostles were recognized as people of authority; they derived this authority from the fact that they were with Jesus while he was on earth and were eyewitnesses to the events in Jesus’ life. It is therefore proper for Jude to appeal to apostolic authority. The plural form here, the apostles, perhaps refers not to the general meaning of the term but to its restricted usage, meaning the original twelve disciples of Jesus. This is probably why Jude clearly excludes himself from the group. In some languages apostles will be referred to as “sent ones” or “messengers of Jesus Christ”; but in others a term similar to “ambassador” will be used, referring to an individual who is sent by someone to convey a message—in this case the Good News. So one may translate “ambassadors from Jesus Christ,” or even “special ambassadors from….”

For Jesus Christ see comments on Jude 1.1; and for Lord see comments on Jude 1.4. The close relation between the Christians and Jesus is indicated by the use of the pronoun our. It should be translated here in an inclusive sense, to include Jude and his readers.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• But it is important for you, my dear fellow Christians, not to forget (or, to bring to mind) the words that the apostles spoke in the past about our Lord Jesus Christ.

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 .