As you go through the Daily Office this week, you might notice something surprising about the Epistle readings in the evenings. We just finished 1 Peter, we’re getting into 2 Peter, but next is not 1 John, but Jude! The Epistles are almost finished… but why is Jude moved before John instead of read after like it’s found in the order of the New Testament in the Bible?
Part of the reason might be chronology – some of the Epistles are offered in our daily office lectionary according to the order in which they were written. It is very likely that St. John’s epistles were written later in his life, post-dating pretty much the entire rest of the apostolic writings.
But most likely, in this case, Jude is read immediately after 2 Peter because they are very similar books. For those who tend to be more “critical” of the biblical text, 2 Peter is sometimes looked upon as a “correction” to Jude. Not a correction in that Jude was wrong, exactly; more a correction in that Jude makes some confusing and obscure references, and 2 Peter offers similar teachings with cleaner Old Testament references.
In its extremely brief length, the Epistle of Jude manages to make references to
- the origin of demons: “that did not keep their own position” (v6)
- Sodom and Gomorrah’s indulgence “in unnatural lust” (v7)
- a dispute between the devil and Michael the Archangel over the body of Moses (v9)
- a cited quote from the (very) apocryphal book of Enoch (v14-15)
Despite these difficult lines, Jude has two very popular texts, one at its beginning and one at its end:
I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.
The previous epistle, 2 Peter, contains a similar warning against false teachers and false brethren who practice immoralities, but does so without quite so many oblique references. Chapter 2 references the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Baalam, and the steadfastness of God’s holy angels. So when you get to reading Jude on Sunday, keep Friday’s reading from chapter 2 in mind. The similarities will be very helpful.
Apart from that, 2 Peter has a few unique contributions regarding the eyewitness authority of the apostles, which in turn is subordinate to the witness of the Scriptures (cf. chapter 1); and also reiterates some of the points regarding suffering already covered in 1 Peter.
It’s helpful that these books are short, too, so that we can read through them in fairly rapid succession and be able to notice the connections between them. Still, it’s a good thing our lectionary moves Jude up next to Peter!