Who is my brother? Who am I?

Jude - First in a series

There is only one instance in the New Testament of the word Jude, the first word in the Book of Jude— or, counting the name of the book, two.

We understand why the author differentiates himself by his nickname and as the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James (Jude 1:1). Who would want to bring to mind the prophecy, Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; [and] let another take his office. (Ps 109:6-8) Those words were for Judas Iscariot.

Yet, Judas means "He shall be praised." The Old Testament catalogs:

  1. Judah, the fourth son of Jacob
  2. Judah, the tribe that brought forth the Christ; the territory of this tribe; the Southern Kingdom of Israel
  3. Various men who helped Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh 11:9; Ezr 3:9; Neh 12:8, 34)

In the New Testament, the spelling changes to Judas or Juda and we find, in order:

  1. Mention of the territory; Bethlehem was in Juda (KJV) (Mat 2:6)
  2. Judas, also called Lebbaeus whose surname was Thaddaeus (Mat 10:3), one of the 12 disciples, the brother (KJV) (or son? ESV) of James (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13)
  3. Judas Iscariot (Mat 10:4)
  4. A brother (half-brother: same mother, different father) of the Lord, along with James, Joses, and Simon (Mat 13:55). Was this the same as the disciple?
  5. Various men, one a provocateur (Acts 5:37), two who served the Lord (Acts 9:11, Acts 15:22, 27, 32)

This is man: One can uphold a name and another defame it, or one can do both. Adam gave us birth— and death.

I recall a Scripture written by my grandmother's hand on the fly page of the Bible she gave me as a Christmas gift when I was about seven: A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. (Prov 22:1) Whatever ones name, it is up to the individual to make it a good name, and it makes a difference, especially to those of his or her immediate family.

In reference to Jude 1:1, who was James? In the New Testament we meet:

  1. James, brother of John. These were called by the Lord, "Sons of Thunder"; this James was martyred early in the narrative of Acts (Acts 12:2).
  2. James, son of Alphaeus, a disciple, probably the brother or half-brother of Matthew who was also a son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14).
  3. James, the half-brother of Jesus, (Mat 13:55; Mark 6:3). Many Bible scholars state that this James was the leader of the early church. He was also called an apostle by Paul: "But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." (Gal 1:19) (Other references: Acts 12:17, 15:13, 21:18; 1 Cor 15:7; Gal 2:9, 12)
  4. James, the brother of Juda(s) (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), or his father (?), probably the same James as the previous one. In the Greek, the phraseology, "Jude of James," is the same as "James of Alphaeus." It is clear from other passages that Alphaeus was the father of James. If the phrase suggests hierarchy, then James was Jude's older brother.

Bible scholars differ over whether Jude the disciple could also have been a half-brother of Jesus. Some commentators believe the brothers mentioned in Matthew 13 were actually cousins, not brothers. Catholics do not believe Jesus had siblings.

However, it is likely that Jude "of James" and James, head of the early church, were Jesus' half-brothers, and that Jude was also one of the 12 disciples. By identifying himself as Jude "of James" and since we know he did not mean James "of Alphaeus" who had a different father, nor James who had died a martyr, we can deduce that he meant James whom Paul met with and called the brother of Jesus and an apostle. (Gal 1:19)

BUT since Scripture states that Jesus' brothers did not at first believe in him (John 7:3), we may question if Judas (Lebbaeus), the disciple, was also Jesus' half-brother. However, there are many examples in Scripture of words that are not inclusive or definitive in all instances, so perhaps Jude was not among his brothers in the John 7:3 passage.

The main argument against Jude being one of the twelve, is his reference to "the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" in verse 17 of his epistle, rather than including himself in that group. But then, this could show he looked up to many of them and did not think of himself as their equal; or that he thought of himself more as a family member than as one of Christ's disciples.

Since the authors of Scripture were moved by the Holy Spirit as they wrote the Bible, it seems logical that they would carefully describe Jude as "Jude of James" to make clear that this disciple was also Jesus' half-brother. Nevertheless, there is not agreement among Bible scholars on this point.

If we should take the view that Jude was Jesus' half-brother, we would see him as one who was a hearer of the Word from his birth, taught by Christ's words and example from his infancy. That would be different and better than the other disciples.

The main differentiation to uphold as we look at the book of Jude is that he considered himself a servant of Jesus Christ, not an equal. He looked to Christ as his master.

So, too, in our fellowship with Christ, as his mother, brothers and sisters (Mat 12:48-50), we, the royal priesthood, chosen generation and holy nation (1 Pet 2;9); we who cannot be separated from the Lord by death nor angels nor anything at all (Rom 8:38); who have been enlightened of mysteries that angels long to penetrate (1 Pet 1:12); his friends (John 15:13-15) — we are above all, his servants, even unworthy servants (Luke 17:10). He is Lord.

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