The last of the General Epistles that appear between Hebrews and the Revelation. It is "general" in the sense that it does not specify any particular individual or church as its recipient, but is addressed to believers everywhere. The writer identifies himself simply as "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James" (Jude 1). It is generally agreed that the James here referred to is the Lord's brother, later a leader in the church at Jerusalem (see Acts 12:17; 15:13; see James 3). If so, the author of the Epistle of Jude was also a brother of our Lord, since the Gospel writers indicate that Jesus' brothers included a James and a Judas (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3). Two of the Twelve were named Judas--Judas Iscariot (Mk 3:19), and Judas the son of James (see Jn 14:22)--but the epistle (see Jude 17) seems to indicate that the author was not one of the Twelve. The fact that the author simply identifies himself as "the servant of Jesus Christ" (v 1) may reflect a reluctance to take advantage of a relationship to Jesus.
The epistle provides no direct information as to the circumstances under which it was written or as to the believers to whom it was addressed. It notes, however, that there were disruptive elements at work in the church (Jude 4; 8; etc.). References to certain heretical teachers (Jude 4, 8, 10 13, 16, 18; cf. 2 Pe 3:3) are reminiscent of similar warnings sounded by Peter (cf. 2 Pe 2:1 to 3:3) and John (1 Jn 2:18, 19, 22, 23; 4:1 3; 5:10). This similarity suggests that the Epistle of Jude was written as a warning against the same heretical tendencies--the proto-Gnosticism of Cerinthus and the Docetists. A considerable portion of the book of the Jude (vs. 4 18) is very similar to 2 Pe 1 to 3:3; not only the thoughts but in many instances the very same words, some of them being unusual (cf. Jude 4, 16 with 2 Pe 2:1, 3), are used. It would seem that one writer borrowed from the other, or that the two had access to a common source, now unknown. Biblical scholars suggest that Jude may have been the earlier of the two, since it would be difficult to explain why Jude would be writing a letter at all if he had little to say beyond what Peter had written. They conclude that it would be easier to understand why Peter would incorporate some of Jude's thoughts in his epistle along with considerable other material that he added to it. It is often the case that the shorter of 2 similar works proves to be the earlier. However, plausible reasons for the reverse order can be presented, and the matter cannot be settled with certainty. Under any circumstances, the conditions reflected in the epistle existed in the latter half of the 1st cent. a.d.
Jude had originally intended to write an epistle on the general subject of salvation, but learning of the heretical and licentious teachers who were troubling the flock, he decided instead to send a warning against them (Jude 3). So, he unmasks their true character. The libertines of Jude's epistle are doubtless the same persons who held false notions on the character of Christ--the Cerinthian and Docetic heretics. Sensual lusts were indulged openly by the Gnostics, and defended as well.
Following his introduction (Jude 1 4), Jude cites historical incidents as a warning against backsliding (vs. 5 7). In vs. 8 11 he characterises the defiant attitude of the false teachers of his day, and in vs. 12 and 13 sets forth the worthlessness of their course of action. In vs. 14 16 he points forward to their certain doom, and in vs. 17 19 to the appearance of these licentious teachers as an evidence that it is now "the last time." In his conclusion (vs. 20 25) he admonishes the believers to build themselves up in the "most holy faith" and to be patient unto the coming of the Lord.
Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.