Translation commentary on Jude 1:18

They said to you can be understood in two ways. First, it can mean that the communities to whom Jude is writing have been evangelized directly by the apostles, and that the Christians in those communities have actually heard the apostles speak to them in person. But it is more likely that what is meant here is not that the apostles necessarily spoke directly to the recipients of Jude’s letter, but that, when they spoke, what they said was relevant not only for their own immediate listeners but for all believers, including those of later generations. This interpretation allows the quoted material to be part of a body of Christian teaching that was in circulation during Jude’s time.

A literal translation of course favors the first interpretation, and this is true of most translations, including Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation. However, some translations do allow for the possibility that the apostles did not speak directly to Jude’s readers; for example, Phillips has “the words that the messengers of Jesus Christ gave us beforehand when they said….”

The statement that follows is also found in 2 Peter 3.3 but nowhere else in the New Testament or in any existing writings attributed to the apostles. And since 2 Peter is dependent on Jude, it becomes obvious that the source for Jude’s quotation does not exist today. It is of course possible that this is not a quotation but a summary of the apostles’ thinking regarding this matter. This understanding is allowed by the Greek text itself and may be reflected in a translation by avoiding the use of quotation markers. Most translations, however, translate the statement as a quotation.

In the last time is literally “In the end of time” and is a popular New Testament expression for the period between the time of Jesus’ earthly life and his coming again. It was the belief among the early Christians that the coming of Jesus began a new era in history, characterized by a new way of God dealing with his people. This new era will come to its climax at the second coming of Jesus, at which time all of God’s plans for the universe and for all humankind will be completely fulfilled. There are variations in the form of this expression, as for example “in the last days” or “in the last times,” but these have the same meaning. The use of the term to describe the time of Jude indicates that Jude himself believed that he was living in the last days, and that the end of the world was about to come. We may also translate this phrase as “in the days just before the end time.”

The word scoffers occurs in the Old Testament and describes people who make fun of or despise anything that has to do with God, religion, or morality. As such these people are clearly contrasted with righteous people, that is, people who obey God and live according to his way. These scoffers make fun not only of God and the gospel, but also of people who profess to live by the gospel. This more narrow position is reflected in Good News Translation, which states the object of the ridicule (“make fun of you”; we may also say “laugh at you”). But the broader position (that is, making fun of both God and people) seems preferable in this case.

The scoffers are characterized further as following their own ungodly passions. For following and passions see verse 16, where the same words are used. The word for ungodly is the word used in Jude 1.4 (for which see discussion there) and repeated three times in verse 15. As already noted, it is one of Jude’s favorite words.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• They warned you, “When the days just before the end time come, people will appear who will make fun of (or, laugh at) God and you. These are people whose lives are controlled by their own lusts (or, evil desires).”

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 .