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 Chapter 2: Jude, Slave, Brother: The Identity of Apologists.
Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ, and a brother of James … (Jude 1)
In June 1989 a young man made headlines – and history – when he singlehandedly slowed the advance of tanks heading for China’s Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government had begun cracking down on anti-communist demonstrations in Beijing. Feeling the crush of military muscle, most of the peacefully demonstrating Chinese dispersed, except for one man whose identity has never been positively confirmed.
Holding shopping bags, the man, dressed in dark pants and a white shirt, strode into the center of the broad street and, turning toward the approaching column of tanks, stood his ground. When the driver of the lead tank tried to maneuver around him, the bystander moved to his left and cut off the tank’s advance. He then climbed onto the tank and tried to talk with the soldiers inside before two unidentified men whisked him away.
“Tiananmen Square Guy,” as he came to be known, stands as a symbol of peaceful opposition to the oppression of totalitarian regimes. Conflicting claims about his name and whereabouts indicate that his true identity may never be discovered.
The names of other famous people in history may never be known, either, or at least positively confirmed – from the kissing sailor and nurse on VJ Day to the Zodiac Killer, and from “the babushka lady” in the Zapruder film of John F. Kennedy’s assassination to Jack the Ripper.
Sometimes famous people remain anonymous by design, and this is no less true of authors of New Testament books. For example, none of the Gospels is self-identified, although we’re quite confident of the writers’ identity. In contrast, the unnamed author of the book of Hebrews remains a mystery. Peter’s authorship of 2 Peter is disputed.
But we face a different challenge with the book of Jude – namely, that Jude (Greek Ioudas, or Judas, Judah) is a common first-century name, and there happen to be eight such characters in the New Testament:
- Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles and the betrayer of Jesus (Matt. 10:4)
- Judas the son of James, one of the twelve apostles (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13)
- Judas, Paul’s host in Damascus (Acts 9:11)
- Judas, called Barsabbas, a leading Christian in Jerusalem and a companion of Paul (Acts 15:22, 27, 32)
- Judas, a revolutionary leader (Acts 5:37)
- Judah, an otherwise unknown person in the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:30)
- Judah, a son of Jacob in the genealogy of Jesus and an ancestor of an Israelite tribe (Matt. 1:2; Rev. 7:5)
- Judas, a half-brother of Jesus and a brother of James (Matt. 13:55)