Translation commentary on Jude 1:25

The pronoun “him” in verse 24 is now made clear by the expression the only God. One of the famous creeds of the Jews is that God is the only God and cannot tolerate rivals. God is described as Savior, which is also a traditional Jewish term for God (note the Old Testament phrase “the God of our salvation” in Psa 64.6; 94.1). God is called “Savior” because he rescued the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and because he saves them from trouble, difficulty, and the threat of enemies. The title “Savior” is used eight times in the New Testament to refer to God, but more frequently (sixteen times) it is used of Jesus Christ. It is possible that the use of the term for Jesus has as its background the Old Testament usage. It is not unusual for functions and attributes of God in the Old Testament to be used of Jesus.

It is also possible that the term Savior has as its background its use in the popular religions of that period, where the term was used of Greek gods and various rulers. If there is truth in this, then this is one case where the pagan environment has influenced the proclamation of the Christian faith, or where the Christian faith has used pagan culture in order to more meaningfully proclaim and communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As for the meaning of the term itself, it refers to the work of “salvation,” for which see the discussion on Jude 3. Considering the focus of the letter on the future, perhaps salvation here also refers to the gift of new and real life at the end of time.

The expression through Jesus Christ is often found in New Testament doxologies and is distinctively a Christian addition to the traditional doxology form (see Rom 16.27; 1 Peter 4.11). But how does this relate to the whole doxology? Is it related to the function of God as Savior in the sense that God saves us through Jesus Christ, as the Revised Standard Version punctuation has it, or does it relate to the words of praise that follow, giving the sense that it is through Jesus Christ that we ascribe glory and majesty to God? Most translations indicate by the punctuation they use that they prefer the second of these alternatives.

There are four qualities ascribed to God. Glory can mean either “praise” (that is, God is worthy to be praised) or greatness. Majesty describes the awesome splendor of God (see 1 Chr 29.11). The next two terms are similar in meaning, with dominion referring to God’s absolute power, and authority to God’s sovereignty as ruler. All four terms are commonly used in traditional doxologies.

But the question still remains, how do we ascribe all of these to God through Jesus Christ? This can be understood to mean either that it is Jesus Christ who enables people to do this, or else that it is because of Jesus Christ (that is, their relationship to him) that they are now able to praise God and acknowledge his majesty, power, and authority.

These qualities are ascribed to God for all eternity. That is what Jude means by before all time (that is, before any time that is past), and now (that is, the present), and for ever (that is, any time in the indefinite future). Before all time is similar to “before the ages” (1 Cor 2.7), “before the foundation of the world” (John 17.24; Eph 1.4; 1 Peter 1.20), and other similar expressions. It refers to the time before the creation of the world and includes any time that is past.

The closing word Amen is a Hebrew affirmation that is regularly used at the conclusion of prayers and doxologies. The meaning of the expression is “so be it,” or “may this come true,” or “may this happen as we have said.” This term is now used among Christians, usually at the end of a prayer. If it is strange to use it at the end of a doxology formula, then of course it will have to be restructured, in order to avoid confusion between a prayer and a doxology.

In many languages translators will need to restructure these two verses and say, for example:

• The only God, our (inclusive) Savior, is able to keep you from giving in to sin, and to bring you to stand in the dazzling light before him, having no faults and with a joyful heart. May Jesus Christ our Lord cause people to give honor to God and praise him. May they recognize that he has power and authority from the beginning of time, presently, and always forever. Amen.

Or:

• … Because people belong to Jesus Christ, they are now able to give honor to God….

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 .