Where Does Jude Get This Story?

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the last portion of Chapter 9: Where Does Jude Get This Story?

Previously: What Are “Eternal Chains in Darkness”?

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Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9 HCSB)

The death of Moses is recorded in Deut. 34:1-7, but there is no mention in this passage of Michael and Satan disputing about Moses’ body. There are many Jewish traditions about the death of Moses, but we should always approach non-biblical embellishments with caution.

In Jude’s day, however, there is an apocryphal writing called The Assumption of Moses that records a conflict between Michael and Satan. According to this account, Satan argues over the body of Moses because Moses has killed an Egyptian overseer (Ex. 2:11-12). Satan evidently argues his right to the body because Moses is a murderer.

We should not assume that Jude has erred in quoting from an apocryphal book, nor should we declare The Assumption of Moses divinely inspired because Jude quotes from it. It may help to remember that Paul cites Greek poets and sayings without suggesting their work is authoritative (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12).

“Jude did not intend to put a canonical stamp on Assumption of Moses simply because he cited it,” writes Thomas Schreiner.  “He viewed this story as true or helpful, or he believed it was an illustration of the truth he desired to teach.”
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The oneness of God

This is the second in a series of articles contrasting Allah and Yahweh.

Previously: Tawhid and the Trinity

Muslims and Christians agree that God is one but understand oneness differently.

The Islamic doctrine of tawhid, or absolute oneness, is more than strict monotheism. Tawhid celebrates Allah as singular, indivisible, and monolithic.

Muslims insist that Allah has no “partners.” To say that Jesus is the Son of God, or that God exists as a Trinity, is to commit the unpardonable sin of shirk.

But the Qur’an does not exclude the possibility of Allah existing in tri-unity, according to the late Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi. Rather, Islam’s most holy book rails against polytheism — the worship of multiple gods.

Qureshi writes: “Throughout the Quran, Allah regularly says that there is only one God (e.g., 16.51; 47.19; 112.1), but always as a rejection of polytheism. The Quran never rejects the possibility of one God subsisting in three persons. The omission is noteworthy, as this had been the orthodox doctrine of Christianity for centuries before Muhammad and the advent of the Quran.”
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The Lord Rebuke You: Michael and the Devil

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the first portion of Chapter 9: The Lord Rebuke You: Michael and the Devil.

Previously: What Are “Eternal Chains in Darkness”?

Nevertheless, these dreamers likewise defile their flesh, despise authority, and blaspheme glorious beings. Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these people blaspheme anything they don’t understand, and what they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals – they destroy themselves with these things. (Jude 8-10 HCSB)

Several years ago as I trimmed grass in my yard, a small garter snake slithered out from the weeds. He coiled and struck my electronic weed trimmer. This was an odd scene, as garter snakes generally flee predators and prefer to hide their heads and flail their tails rather than move aggressively. They also discharge a malodorous, musky-scented secretion to ward off danger, or simply slither away into the brush. Even when they do attack, the mild venom in the fangs in the backs of their mouths is muted by large gums in the front, making it difficult to deliver venom to larger predators.

So, the sight of this relatively harmless snake, less than a foot in length, taking the fight to my weed trimmer, was curious to say the least. His open jaws were far too small to capture the housing of the trimmer, and he bounced backward after his first strike. Then, he recoiled and struck again. And again. Then he struck a final time, connecting with the whirring fishing line beneath the housing, which spun him around a couple of times and tossed him several feet into a ditch, where he gave up the fight (and ultimately, the ghost).

How remarkable was the snake’s tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds. But even more notable was the realization that the snake could not distinguish between a lethal living predator and a buzzing weed whacker. It cost him his life.

We see a similar comparison in Jude, as the author likens false teachers to brute beasts who operate on instinct, are incapable of reasoning, and who bring swift and certain destruction on themselves as they speak arrogantly to demons, pollute their souls, and slough off the authority of their Creator.

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Tawhid and the Trinity

This is the first in a series of articles contrasting Allah and Yahweh.

Muslims and Christians agree there is one God but disagree as to His name, nature, and attributes.

The god of Islam is Allah, meaning “the god” in Arabic. In the days of Islam’s founder, Muhammad, this meant that of all the tribal gods worshiped on the Arabian Peninsula, Allah was the only true deity.

Key to the Islamic concept of God is the doctrine of tawhid, or absolute oneness. It’s more than strict monotheism. Tawhid celebrates Allah as singular, indivisible, and monolithic.

Muslims insist that Allah has no “partners.” To ascribe partners to Allah — for example, to say that Jesus is the Son of God, or that God exists as a Trinity — is to commit the unpardonable sin of shirk, which damns a soul to hell.

The Qur’an makes it clear that Allah stands apart from his creation and does not engage in personal relationships. For example, Surah 17:111 reads: “Praise be to Allah, who begets no son, and has no partner in (His) dominion …”

In addition, the Qur’an instructs its readers to reject any notion that God exists as more than one person. It wrongly implies that Christians worship a Trinity consisting of God, Jesus, and Mary (Surah 4:171; 5:73, 116).

Further, Islam understands these to be three separate gods, and the Qur’an strongly warns Muslims against worshiping anyone but Allah. Here, Muslims and Christians may find some common ground, for Christians both reject the notion of Mary as a god, as well as the idea that three separate gods make up the Trinity.

In No God But One, Nabeel Qureshi points out that the Qur’an clearly denounces polytheism but does not exclude the possibility of Allah existing in tri-unity. Put another way, Qureshi says the Qur’an does not explicitly say Allah cannot exist as one God in three persons, even though Muslims strongly reject the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.
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What are “Eternal Chains in Darkness”?

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the last portion of Chapter 8: Kept with Eternal Chains: When Angels Desert.

Previously: Principles of Biblical Interpretation

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and He has kept, with eternal chains in darkness for the judgment of the great day, angels who did not keep their own position but deserted their proper dwelling. (Jude 6)

Whoever these particularly nasty angels are, God is keeping them under wraps until the day they are cast into the lake of fire. The word “kept” in Jude 6 is from the same root word Jude uses in verse 1 to describe believers, who are “kept” by Jesus Christ. Some translations render it “reserved” rather than “kept.” In a parallel passage, Peter writes that these fallen angels are “delivered … to be kept in chains” (2 Peter 2:4 – emphasis added).

The questions, then, are where these demons are imprisoned, and how. Certainly, if they are spiritual beings, physical chains cannot hold them. The Greek actually describes them as being confined, without hope of escape. While Jude does not name this place (or state) of confinement, Peter, in the parallel passage just referenced, calls it Tartarus.

Many translations render this word, found only in 2 Peter 2:4, as “hell,” including the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible, while others, like the English Standard Version and the New International Version, provide footnotes linking the English word “hell” to the Greek name Tartarus.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible simply transliterates the Greek word in this passage, which reads: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but threw them down into Tartarus and delivered them to be kept in chains of darkness until judgment …” A footnote in the HCSB reads, “Tartarus is a Greek name for a subterranean place of divine punishment lower than Hades.”

In the apocryphal Book of Enoch (20:2), Tartarus is used as a place where fallen angels are punished, an interpretation Peter affirms.

So, Tartarus seems to be a place separate from Sheol, the Hebrew term for the abode of the dead; Hades, roughly the Greek equivalent of Sheol; and Gehenna, the lake of fire created for the Devil and his angels (Matt.25:41), where wicked people also spend eternity (Rev. 20:15). Ancient Greeks regarded Tartarus as a place where rebellious gods and other wicked ones are punished.
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