Verses of Jude 1


Jude 1:7 Commentary - The Apologists Bible Commentary

The Apologists Bible Commentary

Jude 7

7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

C O M M E N T A R Y This verse has been used by some to deny the doctrine of eternal punishment. They reason that since Sodom and Gomorrah were utterly destroyed by God's wrath, and Jude tells us that these two cities are an "example" of those undergoing punishment, the "eternal fire" must be one that utterly destroys. Further, they argue that since the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction are no longer burning, the fire of hell cannot be "eternal" in a literal sense. This argument at first seems convincing. It is clear that Jude regards Sodom and Gomorrah as representative of a past punishment of wickedness that is "exhibited" as a warning of future punishment. If Sodom and Gomorrah are no more, and if the fires of their destruction are no longer burning, how can they be examples of a literal Hell of eternal torment? One of the essentials in Bible interpretation is to avoid projecting what is common knowledge in our culture into the world of the Biblical authors. It is vital that we take the historical context into consideration when attempting to discern the meaning of a given passage. The assumption underlying the arguments of those who use this verse as described above is that the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah are no longer burning, and therefore the destruction of these cities was a finite event in history. But is this the case? The Location of Sodom and Gomorrah The precise location of Sodom and Gomorrah is uncertain. We can deduce that it was somewhere east or southeast of Jerusalem, in the area of the Dead Sea. Abraham was able to see it from the great trees of Mamre, near Hebron (Genesis 18:1, 19:27). Hebron is located 18 miles west of the Dead Sea, about half-way between its north and south ends. Sodom and Gomorrah Still Burning? The question arises: If Jude knew that the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah were extinguished, why did he describe them as "eternal" (Greek: aiônios)? It would seem unlikely that his is speaking hyperbolically, as Jude's point would have been the same had he simply said "fire." Some have said that "eternal fire" is that which cannot be extinguished by outside intervention, but which may die naturally when its fuel is exhausted. But this interpretation relies on special pleading; aiônios never exhibits such a meaning elsewhere in Scripture. But what if Jude believed the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah had not been extinguished? What if he believed that the fires still burned in his day? Indeed, what if it were common knowledge that the fires of destruction still burned, and were conceived as being literally "eternal?" An examination of the historical record would seem to indicate that this is precisely the case: "And in one day these populous cities became the tomb of their inhabitants, and the vast edifices of stone and timber became thin dust and ashes. And when the flames had consumed everything that was visible and that existed on the face of the earth, they proceeded to burn even the earth itself, penetrating into its lowest recesses, and destroying all the vivifying powers which existed within it so as to produce a complete and everlasting barrenness, so that it should never again be able to bear fruit, or to put forth any verdure; and to this very day it is scorched up. For the fire of the lightning is what is most difficult to extinguish, and creeps on pervading everything, and smouldering. And a most evident proof of this is to be found in what is seen to this day: for the smoke which is still emitted, and the sulphur which men dig up there, are a proof of the calamity which befell that country" (Philo, On Abraham 27). "The length of this lake is five hundred and eighty furlongs, where it is extended as far as Zoar in Arabia; and its breadth is a hundred and fifty. The country of Sodom borders upon it. It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related how, for the impiety of its inhabitants, it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that Divine fire, and the traces [or shadows] of the five cities are still to be seen, as well as the ashes growing in their fruits; which fruits have a color as if they were fit to be eaten, but if you pluck them with your hands, they dissolve into smoke and ashes. And thus what is related of this land of Sodom hath these marks of credibility which our very sight affords us." (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, IV.8.4). "The fire which burns beneath the ground and the stench render the inhabitants of the neighboring country sickly and very short lived" (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, II.48). "Lake Sirbonis [most historians agree that Strabo has confused Lake Sirbonis with the Dead Sea] is large; in fact some state that it is one thousand stadia in circuit; however, it extends parallel to the coast to a length of slightly more than two hundred stadia, is deep to the very shore, and has water so very heavy that there is no use for divers, and any person who walks into it and proceeds no farther than up to his navel is immediately raised afloat. It is full of asphalt. The asphalt is blown to the surface at irregular intervals from the midst of the deep, and with it rise bubbles, as though the water were boiling; and the surface of the lake, being convex, presents the appearance of a hill. With the asphalt there arises also much soot, which, though smoky, is imperceptible to the eye; and it tarnishes copper and silver and anything that glistens, even gold" (Strabo, Geography, XVI.42). There are historical reports as late as the 17th, 18th and even 19th Centuries that suggest that the region around the Dead Sea continued to reek of sulfur and contain pockets of "subterranean fire," from which clouds of smoke would occasionally rise. Conclusion When Jude was writing his Epistle, he and his readers believed the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah were still burning. They believed that while the cities had been reduced to "thin ash," and the inhabitants long dead, the 'eternal fire' of the Lord had penetrated the earth and still burned deep underground. Smoke and sulfur ("brimstone") was common in the area. This was the image Jude had in his mind - the eternal Lake of Fire, a place of unending flame where the wicked shall be confined, the "smoke of their torment rising forever" (Rev 14:11). When understood in its historical context, Jude's "eternal fire" is eternal, indeed: An image wholly consistent with the orthodox doctrine of eternal punishment (see also Matthew 25:46 ).

Verses of Jude 1


Consult other comments:

Jude 1:7 - The Greek Testament

Jude 1:7 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Jude 1:7 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Jude 1:7 - Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Jude 1:7 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

Jude 1:7 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Jude 1:7 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Jude 1:7 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Jude 1:7 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Jude 1:7 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

Jude 1:7 - Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Jude 1:7 - The Expositor’s Greek Testament by Robertson

Jude 1:7 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Jude 1:7 - Geneva Bible Notes

Jude 1:7 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Jude 1:7 - Gnomon of the New Testament

Jude 1:7 - William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

Jude 1:7 - The Great Texts of the Bible

Jude 1:7 - Henry Alford's Greek Testament

Jude 1:7 - The Apologists Bible Commentary

Jude 1:7 - Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Jude 1:7 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Jude 1:7 - Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer's New Testament Commentary

Jude 1:7 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Jude 1:7 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Jude 1:7 - The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Jude 1:7 - Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Jude 1:7 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Jude 1:7 - Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament

Jude 1:7 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Jude 1:7 - Combined Bible Commentary

The Apologists Bible Commentary