Sunday, 4 May 2008

This weeks Bible reading - letter of St John and St Jude

This week’s Matins readings take us through the remainder of the Catholic letters (those without an attribution as being directed a particular community), 1 John, 2, John, 3 John and by Saturday, Jude.

John 2&3 have the distinction of being the two shortest books in the Bible.Written by the Apostle St John, probably around 90AD, the first three letters use similar imagery, and develop similar themes to the Gospel.

In fact 1 John can be regarded as something of a summary of it, focusing on issues such as Jesus as both human and divine, living with a view to eternal life, and living out the love of God. One of its very important passages is the test for whether or not spirits and prophets to see whether they come from God or not (Chapter 4).

It is worth noting that St Augustine's commentary on 1 John can be read at the excellent (Vatican sponsored) bibliaclerus site:

2 John focuses on the problem of heresy and false teachers (antichrists), while 3 John deals with a problematic local church leader who refused to extend hospitality to missionaries sent by St John.

The last of the Catholic letters, Jude, is also very short. While several modern scholars suggest that the author of Jude is not the apostle but the other Jude mentioned in the gospels, the Pope in his Wednesday audience of 11 October 2006 gives the traditional attribution of this letter to Jude Thaddeus the Apostle.

More like a homily than a letter, the theme is once again fidelity to the apostolic faith in the face of a threat from false teachers who taught lax ethics.

In fact, the Pope in his audience noted the very strength of the language against heretics in the context of the modern Churches attempt at dialogue with such groups.

The Pope noted that:“A major concern of this writing is to put Christians on guard against those who make a pretext of God's grace to excuse their own licentiousness and corrupt their brethren with unacceptable teachings, introducing division within the Church "in their dreamings" (v. 8).

This is how Jude defines their doctrine and particular ideas. He even compares them to fallen angels and, mincing no words, says that "they walk in the way of Cain" (v. 11).

Furthermore, he brands them mercilessly as "waterless clouds, carried along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever" (vv. 12-13).

Today, perhaps, we are no longer accustomed to using language that is so polemic, yet that tells us something important. In the midst of all the temptations that exist, with all the currents of modern life, we must preserve our faith's identity...”

St Jude’s letter is, however, most famous for its closing doxology:“…to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.

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