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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Jude's Use of Scripture.

Scripture usage is typological. That is, it includes the juxtaposition of two different sets of persons (in this case the contemporaries of Jude and certain OT figures). Typological exegesis is distinguished from the related but slightly different form of interpretation in which Scriptures are juxtaposed with contemporary people and events, for example, in the pesher exegesis found in some of the Dead Sea scrolls, such as the Habakkuk Commentary. What distinguishes the latter from the form of interpretation we find in Jude is that the meaning of scriptural passages, particularly enigmatic prophetic oracles, is offered by an authoritative interpreter who is able to discern their truth in the light of recent experience (the kind of interpretation found in the Gospel of Matthew, for example, in Mt 1:23 ). Jude's biblical exegesis is different. His is a form of interpretation in which Scripture acts as a lens through which the present can be viewed aright. There is no suggestion that the text has its meaning only in the events of his day, and that the true identity of Cain or Balaam has been discerned. Scriptural types remain ‘open’ for future use, in which the possibility of their excess of meaning can be further used rather than being closed off by application to a particular person or event (as was often the case with Christological exegesis of the OT). The scriptural type serves to illuminate the significance of figures much as in 1 Cor 10 Paul recalled scriptural passages to admonish those who had a special importance in salvation history (a technique evident in v. 5 just as it is in 1 Cor 10:11 ). This use of typology (the situation where the present is illuminated by past words and events: ‘this is that…’) means that the particular identity of the people and events referred to in the text of Jude are lost behind the biblical imagery. In a sense exactly what they were actually doing is less important than the way in which the writer treats them. They cannot be viewed normally as people with the names they were given conventionally. Like Simon after his confession, who is described by Jesus as Peter, ‘Rock’, and then almost immediately called ‘Satan’ (Mt 16:17–23 ), the opponents of Jude are identified differently as the result of his writing. Their characters cannot properly be comprehended without the perspective of scriptural narrative. In Jude (just as in Revelation) the individuality of the contemporary person is lost in the reading of people and events in the light of Scripture. They are Cain, or Balaam. For Jude, proper understanding of their identity is impossible merely as contemporary flesh-and-blood persons, without the lens of scriptural typology which enables identity and action to be viewed in a completely different light. One consequence of this is that the contextual person of Jude's day is given a character that transcends his or her particular situation, now indeed lost in the mists of history, by being reread in the light of more familiar scriptural stories and characters.

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