Multiple scholars have argued for a chiastic structure of Jude’s letter. I’m currently preaching through its 25 verses on Sunday evenings, so I’ve spent time thinking through its structure too, and I think a chiastic arrangement is right. Here’s my adaptation of what I think’s going on:
- 1-2 Opening Greeting
- 3 Contend for the Faith
- 4 Judgment for Apostates Has Been Written About
- 5-19 Here Are Some Examples of Such Judgment
- 20-23 Here’s How to Contend for the Faith
- 24-25 Closing Doxology
In the outermost frame (vv. 1-2, 24-25) Jude mentions both God and Jesus (v. 1, 25), and he also mentions being “kept” (vv. 1, 24). He opens by writing to “those who are called” (v. 1), and he closes by praising “him who is able” (vv. 24-25). Jude wants “mercy, peace, and love” for his readers (v. 2), and he wants “glory, majesty, dominion, and authority” for God (v. 25).
In the second section (vv. 3, 20-23) Jude speaks about “the faith.” In v. 3 he tells his readers to contend for it, and in vv. 20-23 he picks up the idea again and this time elaborates on what he means. They should contend for the faith (v. 3) by persevering in it and snatching others from the fire (vv. 20-23).
The center of the chiasm (vv. 4, 5-19) highlights God’s judgment on those who reject him and the way of righteousness. Jude says their judgment has been written about (v. 4), and then he lists examples to reinforce his claim (vv. 5-19). Jude appeals to both Old Testament and extra-canonical stories and images. His concern is to vehemently deter his readers from treading the way of the intruders, for it’s a path under wrath.
Another way to think about the body of the letter (vv. 3-23) is to emphasize its theme verses (vv. 3-4), which set the tone for everything that follows. Jude explains two things: his reason for writing the letter (v. 3) and his warning about the apostates’ inevitable judgment (v. 4). Then the rest of the body (vv. 5-23) elaborates on these theme verses, only in reverse: vv. 5-19 pick up on v. 4, and vv. 20-23 pick up on v. 3.
I find the preceding descriptions of Jude’s structure very helpful for interpreting it. Do you find a chiastic arrangement convincing? Is there anything you’d change about how I explained its parts in light of the whole?