1:12 These men are 1 dangerous reefs 2 at your love feasts, 3 feasting without reverence, 4 feeding only themselves. 5 They are 6 waterless 7 clouds, carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit 8 – twice dead, 9 uprooted; 1:13 wild sea waves, 10 spewing out the foam of 11 their shame; 12 wayward stars 13 for whom the utter depths of eternal darkness 14 have been reserved.
1 tn Grk “these are the men who are.”
2 tn Though σπιλάδες (spilades) is frequently translated “blemishes” or “stains,” such is actually a translation of the Greek word σπίλοι (spiloi). The two words are quite similar, especially in their root or lexical forms (σπιλάς [spila"] and σπίλος [spilos] respectively). Some scholars have suggested that σπιλάδες in this context means the same thing as σπίλοι. But such could be the case only by a stretch of the imagination (see BDAG 938 s.v. σπιλάς for discussion). Others suggest that Jude’s spelling was in error (which also is doubtful). One reason for the tension is that in the parallel passage, 2 Pet 2:13, the term used is indeed σπίλος. And if either Jude used 2 Peter or 2 Peter used Jude, one would expect to see the same word. Jude, however, may have changed the wording for the sake of a subtle wordplay. The word σπιλάς was often used of a mere rock, though it normally was associated with a rock along the shore or one jutting out in the water. Thus, the false teachers would appear as “rocks” – as pillars in the community (cf. Matt 16:18; Gal 2:9), when in reality if a believer got too close to them his faith would get shipwrecked. Some suggest that σπιλάδες here means “hidden rocks.” Though this meaning is attested for the word, it is inappropriate in this context, since these false teachers are anything but hidden. They are dangerous because undiscerning folks get close to them, thinking they are rocks and pillars, when they are really dangerous reefs.
3 tc Several witnesses (A Cvid 1243 1846 al), influenced by the parallel in 2 Pet 2:13, read ἀπάταις (apatai", “deceptions”) for ἀγάπαις (agapai", “love-feasts”) in v. 12. However, ἀγάπαις has much stronger and earlier support and should therefore be considered original.
sn The danger of the false teachers at the love feasts would be especially pernicious, for the love feasts of the early church involved the Lord’s Supper, worship, and instruction.
4 tn Or “fearlessly.” The term in this context, however, is decidedly negative. The implication is that these false teachers ate the Lord’s Supper without regarding the sanctity of the meal. Cf. 1 Cor 11:17-22.
5 tn Grk “shepherding themselves.” The verb ποιμαίνω (poimainw) means “shepherd, nurture [the flock].” But these men, rather than tending to the flock of God, nurture only themselves. They thus fall under the condemnation Paul uttered when writing to the Corinthians: “For when it comes time to eat [the Lord’s Supper,] each one goes ahead with his own meal” (1 Cor 11:21). Above all, the love-feast was intended to be a shared meal in which all ate and all felt welcome.
8 sn The imagery portraying the false teachers as autumn trees without fruit has to do with their lack of productivity. Recall the statement to the same effect by Jesus in Matt 7:16-20, in which false prophets will be known by their fruits. Like waterless clouds full of false hope, these trees do not yield any harvest even though it is expected.
9 tn Grk “having died twice.”
sn Twice dead probably has no relevance to the tree metaphor, but has great applicability to these false teachers. As in Rev 20:6, those who die twice are those who die physically and spiritually. The aphorism is true: “born once, die twice; born twice, die once” (cf. Rev 20:5; John 3, 11).
10 tn Grk “wild waves of the sea.”
11 tn Grk “foaming, causing to foam.” The verb form is intensive and causative. BDAG 360 s.v. ἐπαφρίζω suggests the meaning “to cause to splash up like froth, cause to foam,” or, in this context, “waves casting up their own shameless deeds like (dirty) foam.”
12 tn Grk “shames, shameful things.” It is uncertain whether shameful deeds or shameful words are in view. Either way, the picture has taken a decided turn: Though waterless clouds and fruitless trees may promise good things, but deliver nothing, wild sea-waves are portents of filth spewed forth from the belly of the sea.
13 sn The imagery of a star seems to fit the nautical theme that Jude is developing. Stars were of course the guides to sailors at night, just as teachers are responsible to lead the flock through a benighted world. But false teachers, as wayward stars, are not fixed and hence offer unreliable, even disastrous guidance. They are thus both the dangerous reefs on which the ships could be destroyed and the false guides, leading them into these rocks. There is a special irony that these lights will be snuffed out, reserved for the darkest depths of eternal darkness.