Book of Jude: Quelling A Slave Rebellion?

By reconstructing the situation that Jude was responding to, we can see the conflict that was happening between slaves and their masters in the Church.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading The Book of Jude Can Give Us A Better Understanding.

False teachers had infiltrated the Church and they taught that Jesus had set the slaves free - literally.  The slaves began rejecting the authority of their masters because Jesus had leveled the playing field and they didn't have to be slaves anymore.  The masters were none too happy about this and began passing judgment on the slaves.  Jude steps in to settle the conflict.

How Jude Responded To The Master/Slave Conflict

Jude 1
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

"Servant" also translated "slave" is common in New Testament writings as Jude, Paul and others put themselves on par with the slaves.  This would have gotten the attention of the slaves and their masters.

The masters were upset that the slaves were denying them but Jude takes the phrase and uses it of the false teachers and their relationship with Jesus:

Jude 4
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The 2nd chapter of 2 Peter has several parallels to Jude and Peter seems to be addressing a similar situation in his letter:

2 Peter 2:1
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Peter points out that they offer the slaves freedom but they are spiritually slaves themselves:

2 Peter 2:19
They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

The false teachers despised authority because they saw Jesus as the great equalizer of the "holy ones".  Many New Testament writers worked hard to teach that Gentiles could be "holy ones" just like the Jews, but the false teachers took that to mean that contracts of servant-hood could be broken. They applied this principles, not just to slaves/masters but also angels/humans:

Jude 8
Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.
2 Peter 2:10
and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,

@@Korah's rebellion is a great example of this equalizing of the holy ones.@@  A similar situation had happened in the Book of Numbers:

Numbers 16:3
They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”

Technically they were right in that God said he would make them a holy nation.  So they were all holy.  However, that did not mean Moses didn't have a position of authority.  That's why Jude mentions it:

Jude 11
Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion.

Jude and Peter speak of angels who did not behave properly.  The principles that they teach could also be applied to the slave masters and how they should respond to the slave rebellion.  The slave masters were pronouncing judgements against the slaves.

Jude 6
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
Jude 9
But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”
2 Peter 2:11
whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.

It's interesting that Peter uses the word translated "escape" 3 times in 2 Peter. Could he have runaway slaves in mind here and is importing a term for a word play?

2 Peter 2:20 (see also 1:4 and 2:18)
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Jude?  @@Was Jude trying to resolve a conflict between slaves and their masters?@@  What other situations do you think Jude was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Dennis Jarvis cropped from original