St. Jude the Apostle

John Kitto

St. Jude the Apostle

It is very observable of this apostle that the evangelists commonly call him, not Jude, but Thaddeus or Labbaeus; the reason of which, in all human probability, is from the particular dislike they had to the name, which was so nearly similar to that of the base and perfidious Judas Iscariot, who treacherously sold and betrayed his Master.

Jude was brother to James the Less, afterward bishop of Jerusalem. It is not known when or by what means he became a disciple of our blessed Saviour, there not being any thing said of him till we find him in the catalogue of the twelve apostles; nor afterward until Christ’s Last Supper, when discoursing with them about his departure, and comforting them with a promise that he would return to them again, meaning after his resurrection from the dead.

The sacred records are so very short in their accounts of this apostle, that we must be beholden to other ecclesiastical writers for information relative to his conduct after the ascension of our blessed Lord in heaven. Paulinus tells us that the part which fell to his share in the apostolic division of the provinces was Lybia; but it does not tell us whether it was Cyrenian Lybia which is thought to have received the gospel from St. Mark, or the more southern parts of Africa. But, however that be, in his first setting out to preach the gospel, he traveled up and down Judaea and Galilee; then through Samaria into Idumaea, and to the cities of Arabia and the neighboring countries, and afterward to Syria and Mesopotamia. Nicephorus adds, that he came at last to Edessa, where Agarbus governed, and where Thaddeus, one of the seventy, had already sown the seeds of the gospel. Here he perfected what the other had begun; and having by his sermons and miracles established the religion of Jesus, he died in peace: but others say that he was slain at Berites, and honorably buried there. The writers of the Latin church are unanimous in declaring that he traveled into Persia, where, after great success in his apostolic ministry for many years, he was at last, for his freely and openly reproving the superstitious rites and customs of the Magi, cruelly put to death.

St. Jude wrote only one epistle, which is placed the last of those seven styled catholic in the sacred canon. It has no particular inscription, as the other six have, but is thought to have been primarily intended for the Christian Jews in their several dispersions, as were the epistles of the apostle Peter. In it he informs them that he at first intended to write to them concerning the “common salvation” in order to confirm them in their belief; but, finding the doctrine of Christ attacked on all sides by heretics, he thought it more necessary to exhort them to stand up manfully in defence of the “faith once delivered to the saints,” and to oppose those false teachers who so earnestly labored to corrupt them; and that they might know these the better, he describes them in their proper colors, and foretells their future if not impending danger; but, at the same time, he endeavors to exhort them, by all gentle methods, to save them, and to take them “out of the fire” into which their own folly had cast them.

It was some time before this epistle was generally received in the church. The author indeed, like St. James, St. John, and sometimes St. Paul, does not call himself an apostle, but only the servant of Christ.” But he has added what is equivalent, Jude “the brother of James,” a character which can only belong to himself; and surely the humility of a follower of Christ should be no objection to his writings.

Resources: This story is adapted from John Kitto's 1870 History of the Bible and represents the commonly accepted views about this apostle among rank and file believers in the late 19th century.

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