Nearly fifty years ago, Douglas Rowston referred to Jude as “the most neglected book in the New Testament.” Progress has been made, however, and the letter has received more scholarly attention in recent years. Nevertheless, work remains to be done, especially as it relates to the theology of Jude. Many recent studies focus on the destination of the letter, the identity of the opponents, or the use of pseudepigraphal literature, which are important issues, but the theology of Jude has been largely overlooked. This paper will examine the theology of Jude, focusing on the theme(s) of preservation and perseverance in the letter.
The first section introduces the letter of Jude and identifies widely-recognized themes in the book to demonstrate the lack of space devoted to preservation and perseverance. For example, the following themes have been noted by scholars: God, humanity, ethics, divine messengers, eschatology, community, false teaching, judgment, Christology, the Holy Spirit, and salvation. While these themes are certainly present, preservation and perseverance are conspicuously absent. The second section examines the themes of preservation and perseverance in Jude to establish their prominence in the letter. In the letter, the recipients are kept (τηρέω) for Jesus (vs. 1) and kept (φυλάσσω) by God (vs. 24), while the angels do not keep (τηρέω) their proper domain and are kept (τηρέω) in bonds for judgment and the intruders are “like wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved (τηρέω) forever” (vs. 13). At the same time, believers are commanded to “keep yourselves in the love of God” (vs. 21). The repeated use of τηρέω and its connection to every major “figure” in the letter (i.e., God, believers, and interlopers) indicate the concepts of preservation and perseverance play a significant role. The third section demonstrates how the themes of preservation and perseverance should inform how interpreters approach the letter. The use of τηρέω is intentional and multi-faceted, accomplishing at least three objectives: (1) comforting believers who are troubled, (2) warning the believers and interlopers of the inescapable reality of judgment on the ungodly, and (3) encouraging believers to remain in God’s love. In other words, Jude’s proposed solution to the invasion of the church by “grace twisters” is a proper grasp of preservation and perseverance. By reminding believers of their preservation by God and God’s preservation of the wicked for judgment, Jude was able to warn his recipients of the dangers of apostasy and encourage them to persevere by keeping themselves in God’s love.