II. Date & Place of Writing
As one studies the Background of a biblical book two key issues are the date that is was written the place of writing. With respect to these two issues there is not a lot of data to go on. The most useful piece of information contained within the text of the letter is found in v. 17. There Jude speaks of the “words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles…” In addition to this sentence it is also worth noting that Jude does not mention the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. In all likelihood Jude would have included this in his letter because it is an exceptional example of God’s judgment on the wicked, which is a big theme in this letter. Another key to determining the date of the letter is it’s relation to 2 Peter. As we proceed in our study of Jude we will see a striking resemblance between Jude and 2 Peter. It is not certain, but it is likely, that Jude was written after 2 Peter. When we combine all three of these clues together we are able to come up with an hypothesis on the date of this letter. It would have been after Peter wrote 2 Peter and after Peter died (see v. 17), but before the destruction of the Temple. This puts the date of this letter somewhere between c. A. D. 68-70. As to the place that this letter was written from we really do not have any pertinent information. The two things that could be said are 1) Jude’s family was from Galilee; 2) Jude’s brother, James, was a Pastor in Jerusalem.
The next step in covering the background of a book is to try and determine its original recipients. This, however, is quite difficult with respect to the book of Jude. We really do not know to whom James was writing. The only thing that could possibly be said on this issue is that because Jude used illustrations from the Old Testament and the Jewish apocrypha, his readers likely were primarily Jewish believers. Of course this is not a big stretch since a large portion of the believers at this time were Jewish.
IV. Purpose & Themes
As we introduce the book of Jude it is also important that we discuss the purpose of the book, and the major themes of the book. It is actually quite easy to pin down the purpose for which Jude wrote this letter because it is such a small letter, and more importantly because Jude tells exactly why he wrote the letter (v. 3):
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude had originally planned on writing a very positive letter on the topic of salvation. However, despite his desire to write a positive letter concerning salvation, Jude felt it necessary to write a letter appealing to his readers to contend for the faith. We get a clear picture of why this is in v. 4:
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Here we see that unbelievers had snuck into the church and they were trying to pervert the Gospel, promote a sinful lifestyle, and deny the Christ. With this letter Jude is combating these “spiritual double agents,” or as MacArthur puts it these “spiritual terrorists.” We do not know a lot about what these false teachers were teaching, but we do know that they were ungodly and attempting to pervert the grace of God.
There are two big themes that jump out as you read this letter from the pen of Jude. The first is how Jude deals with sin. Jude uses vivid terms, and illustrations to describe the sin of these infiltrators. The second point that jumps out at the reader is how Jude attacks the false gospel of these false teachers. In both of these points the main thrust is how Jude addresses truth. For Jude truth is an objective fact. This means that the message of the Gospel is not open to reinterpretation, and the moral standards that determine sin are universal. It is for this reason the Jude contends so earnestly for the truth of the gospel to be understood and lived out by real Christians rather than skewed and perverted by false teachers.