Translation commentary on Jude 1:21

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’s next instruction to his readers is to keep yourselves in the love of God. The Greek text can mean “Keep yourselves in your love for God,” and some commentators follow this interpretation. This is possible, since in the two previous exhortations Jude is urging his readers to some course of action, and here he may also be exhorting them to continue loving God.

Most commentators, however, take the genitive construction of this phrase as meaning “God’s love for you,” which would be parallel to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ in the next part of the verse. In this case Jude is telling his readers that they should live and act with the consciousness that God loves them; if they believe that God loves them, then such a faith demands an appropriate response: their life must show that they are indeed controlled by God’s love. As previously noted, keep is a favorite term of (see verses 1, 6, and 13). So we may translate “You should continue to live knowing (or, with the assurance) that God loves you.”

Finally Jude exhorts his readers to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. It is obvious that this Revised Standard Version rendering is not a natural English sentence; the reason for this is that it translates the Greek text literally.

The word for wait for is used in the New Testament for the Christian’s expectation of things in the future; that is, the Christian waits with confidence for the coming of the end time, when Jesus Christ will be fully revealed at his coming again. Thus the object of the Christian’s waiting is really Jesus Christ himself, who will show mercy; the object is not his mercy, as a literal translation of the verse seems to indicate. Another way of translating this is “wait expectantly for the Lord Jesus Christ to mercifully….”

Mercy may also be rendered as “pity,” “compassion,” “kindness,” “goodness,” or “love.” Like wait for, mercy is also a term associated with the Christian’s hope regarding the future; it is used to refer to divine compassion that is to be shown at the end of time. In the literature before the New Testament period, this mercy was attributed to God. The New Testament generally attributes it to Jesus Christ, and Jude’s wording clearly reflects the Christian interpretation of this hope. The clause wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ may be translated as “You must wait expectantly (or, with confidence) for our Lord Jesus Christ to show his love.”

The expression eternal life is one of the most common expressions in the New Testament. It has two components of meaning: quality (real life, life that God has promised, life lived according to God’s will) and length (unending, continuous, endless). So we may say “real life that lasts forever.” Eternal life is to be given to the Christians in the end time as a result of Christ’s mercy on them. This is the meaning of the preposition unto.

Perhaps after this analysis the meaning of the clause is much clearer. We can summarize it as follows: The Christians are exhorted to wait with patience for the last days, at which time Jesus Christ will give to them eternal life. He will do this because he has compassion on them.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• You should continue to live knowing (or, with the assurance) that God loves you. Wait expectantly for our Lord Jesus Christ to let you have eternal life. He will do this because he loves you.

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 .