This short book tends to be ignored, and was regarded with contempt (along with Revelation and James) by Luther. Yet for four reasons it deserves attention: its use of non-canonical scripture; the fact that it has very ancient textual testimony in the form of the Bodmer papyri with complex textual problems (evident from the marginal notes in most modern translations); its fiery rhetoric replete with rich metaphors; and the way in which readers and hearers are drawn into a view of reality for which the Bible offers a language with which to interpret and inform.
Little is known of the author other than what can be discerned from the introduction and earlier patristic references that must be treated with caution (though we may note the slight doubt expressed by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.25.1). The writer describes himself simply as ‘a servant of Jesus Christ’, paralleling descriptions in Jas 1:1 and Rom 1:1 . The link with James gives support to attempts to link him with Jude the brother of Jesus and is a reminder of the importance of James within early Christianity before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE (Acts 12:17; 15:13; Gal 2:9, 12 ). A case has been made for apostolic authorship of the letter which helps to explain why the letter was given authority within the early church, where apostolic authorship or authorization was clearly a crucial factor in determining the authority of a book. The emphasis in v. 3 on a common salvation has seemed to many commentators to be an indication of a period after the apostolic age when a common faith was being promoted (cf. Eph 4:4–5 ). Doubts about authorship by a relative of Jesus and the attribution of the text to a pseudonymous writer have to face the vexed question of the extent of pseudepigraphy in early Christianity, a subject that has often received rather superficial treatment in recent study. Even if one doubts a link with Jude, the brother of Jesus, there can be little doubt that the theological ideas contained in the letter, whatever date they were written down, reflect the ideas of Second Temple Judaism. There is clearly a close relationship with 2 Peter. The fact that explicit references to what later were deemed as non-canonical texts are toned down in 2 Peter suggests that the latter is dependent on Jude. Jude would then appear to be a text that was deemed authoritative enough to be the inspiration of a later text and to warrant some limited correction.