Lest anyone think this is a "stump the chumps" question, I am specifically interested in support for a particular reading of this text. It is disputed which manuscript should be followed in Jude 5. The NASB translates this passage as follows:

Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.

The new NA28 text prints Ἰησοῦς (Jesus) as the one who "delivered his people out of Egypt" in place of [ὁ] κύριος ([the] Lord) in the NA27 or ὁ θεός (the God) in other witnesses. The ESV and NET both departed from the standard text (NA27) and translated "Jesus" in this passage prior to the release of the NA28. Daniel Wallace has stated in the NET notes that

The reading ᾿Ιησοῦς (Ihsous, “Jesus”) is deemed too hard by several scholars, since it involves the notion of Jesus acting in the early history of the nation Israel. However, not only does this reading enjoy the strongest support from a variety of early witnesses (e.g., A B 33 81 1241 1739 1881 2344 pc vg co Or1739mg), but the plethora of variants demonstrate that scribes were uncomfortable with it, for they seemed to exchange κύριος (kurios, “Lord”) or θεός (qeos, “God”) for ᾿Ιησοῦς (though Ì72 has the intriguing reading θεὸς Χριστός [qeos Cristos, “God Christ”] for ᾿Ιησοῦς). In addition to the evidence supplied in NA27 for this reading, note also {88 322 323 424c 665 915 2298 eth Cyr Hier Bede}. As difficult as the reading ᾿Ιησοῦς is, in light of v. 4 and in light of the progress of revelation (Jude being one of the last books in the NT to be composed), it is wholly appropriate.

I am curious if any scholars have argued that either [ὁ] κύριος ([the] Lord) or ὁ θεός (the God) are the preferred reading of this passage, and on what basis. I am specifically interested in any support for following the Byzantine manuscript tradition ([ὁ] κύριος) for this passage (as the NA27 did).

  • 1
    I added source-criticism to this because I have a feeling that this is one of those contested readings. When I have a chance I'll look at the UBS 4 apparatus and look at the support for each and then try to formulate a rationale for each reading.
    – swasheck
    Jan 4, 2013 at 20:55
  • This is actually one of the changes from applying CBGM to Jude. There is another post on this site on it.
    – user1985
    Jan 18, 2013 at 2:08
  • 1
    Yes, @theosis is referring to Coherence-Based Genealogical Method vs. Local Text-Types Theory
    – Dan
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:52

4 Answers 4


user959 has a good answer which tells me that I should probably spend more time reading the translation committee's commentary. Having said that, textual criticism is quite interesting.

While using text criticism, we look at two primary areas of evidence to support a reading: external evidence and internal evidence. With external evidence we evaluate the sources based on things like date (with older generally being preferred), distribution (with widely-distributed being preferred), and agreement across these dimensions.

Internal evidence focuses on why the variation may have occurred in the first place. This focuses on things such as transcriptional evidence ("scribal tendency"), intrinsic evidence (which reading fits the context of the passage the best), as well as the difficulty (preferred) and length (shorter is preferred) of the reading.

So, let's check out Jude 5 beginning with the "accepted" passage (note: I'm using UBS 4):

Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας [ὑμᾶς] πάντα ὅτι [ὁ] κύριος ἅπαξ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,


Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας [ὑμᾶς] πάντα ὅτι [ὁ] κύριος ἅπαξ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,


Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,

That's quite the change, so let's look at the variants.

First, the UBS 4 has chosen the reading above and marked it as "D" (which is something like a confidence interval) which means "... occurs only rarely, indicates that the Committee had great difficulty arriving at a decision." (USB4 p. 3).


  1. πάντα ὅτι [ὁ] κύριος ἅπαξ This reading is attested to by א (Cx. Sinaiticus), Ψ (Cx. Athos), C* (Ephraemi Rescriptus - a rewrite [note that the article is omitted in these major uncials]), mss 1505, 1611, 2138, and a Syriac text.

  2. πάντα ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἅπαξ This reading is attested to by mss. 1243, 1846, lectionary 596, the Syriac Philoxeniana, and a few other texts.

  3. ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι ὁ Ἰησοῦς Attested by A, B (Cxs. Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus), mss. 33, 81, 2344, the Vulgate, and Jerome.

  4. ἅπαξ τοῦτο ὅτι ὁ κύριος Attested by the Byzantine and based on Cxs. K, L (Cxs. Moscow and Paris ... with a slightly different word order), mss. 436, 945, 1067, 1175, 1292, 1844, and a few lectionaries.

(note that between 2 and 3 and 3 and 4 I skipped a few variants. Overall, there are 7 major variants in the UBS).

External evidence:

  1. Cx. Sinaiticus dates at 4th C., Rescriptus to early 5th, and Athos to 9-10th. The remaining manuscripts date to at least 7th C. The distribution of these texts is localized to Egypt, with Athos originating from Caesarea.

  2. No major uncial support. Again, the manuscript evidence is late, (at least 6th C.), but the Philoxeniana dates to early 5th C.

  3. Cx. Alexandrinus and Vaticanus date to 5th C. and 4th C., respectively. Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are the two premiere codices, and the addition of a second of the "great uncials" (Alex.) lends some weight to this reading. Additionally, ms. 33 is a complete manuscript, but dates to 9th C. Other manuscripts date from between 9th C. through 11th C.

  4. No major uncial support. Moscow and Paris date to 9th and 8th C., respectively.

Internal Evidence

Internally, there are no minor scribal tendencies (transposing letters, etc) surrounding the difference between lord, God, and Jesus. About the closest we could come to an error would be if Ἰησοῦς was omitted due to homoeoteleuton. However, Ἰησοῦς in any line before, is in the accusative case and not the nominative.

The readings are all around the same length which would eliminate any later scribal elaboration within the text. The most difficult reading is πάντα ὅτι [ὁ] κύριος ([ὁ] being a likely scribal addition to the originally anarthrous κύριος) with later clarification by scribes who read in Ἰησοῦς or θεὸς for κύριος.

It looks like the NA28 group weighed the external evidence as superior to the other arguments in their decision. The external evidence is pretty convincing, but the internal evidence is also pretty damaging. I appreciate that the group appears to have attempted to leave theology out of the textual criticism process, but I also recognize that this would have been a tremendous form break for Jude. As such, I agree with the UBS4 {D} reading, but find the third option (which NA28 took) to be almost convincing.

The Byzantine tradition is in line with the UBS4's preferred reading, though it includes what appears to be a clarifying object τοῦτο to the text (a minor scribal addition).


Check Tommy Wasserman's new(ish) critical edition of the text with commentary, it is more recent than NA28 and is certainly more complete with regard to manuscript evidence. His comments will be more detailed than those in UBS, though the comments there are often quite good. It should address the issue quite nicely. I don't have it on hand right now or I would check it out for you.

Here are Metzger's comments:

Despite the weighty attestation supporting Ἰησοῦς (A B 33 81 322 323 424c 665 1241 1739 1881 2298 2344 vg cop, bo eth Origen Cyril Jerome Bede; ὁ Ἰησοῦς 88 915), a majority of the Committee was of the opinion that the reading was difficult to the point of impossibility, and explained its origin in terms of transcriptional oversight (ΚΧ being taken for ΙΧ). It was also observed that nowhere else does the author employ Ἰησοῦς alone, but always Ἰησοῦς Χριστός. The unique collocation θεὸς Χριστός read by P72 (did the scribe intend to write θεοῦ χριστός, “God’s anointed one”?) is probably a scribal blunder; otherwise one would expect that Χριστός would be represented also in other witnesses. The great majority of witnesses read ὁ before κύριος, but on the strength of its absence from א Ψ and the tendency of scribes to add the article, it was thought best to enclose ὁ within square brackets. [Critical principles seem to require the adoption of Ἰησοῦς, which admittedly is the best attested reading among Greek and versional witnesses (see above). Struck by the strange and unparalleled mention of Jesus in a statement about the redemption out of Egypt (yet compare Paul’s reference to Χριστός in 1 Cor 10:4), copyists would have substituted (ὁ) κύριος or ὁ θεός. It is possible, however, that (as Hort conjectured) “the original text had only ὁ, and that οτιο was read as οτιΙΧ and perhaps as οτιΚΧ” (“Notes on Select Readings,” ad loc.).

Metzger, B. M., & United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (657). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

  • What an interesting intersection of hermeneutics and doctrine, as evident by the apparent ambiguity of the text at hand.
    – Joseph
    Jan 7, 2013 at 6:20

In response to your question:

I am curious if any scholars have argued that either [ὁ] κύριος ([the] Lord) or ὁ θεός (the God) are the preferred reading of this passage, [...]


I have treated Jude 5 (and the whole book) extensively in my monograph on Jude. The book is available here.

You might find this blogpost is a helpful summary of my argument.

[...] in quoting 1 Enoch 1:9 in Jude 14-15, the author of Jude adds the subject κυριος to the quotation. This is significant because no other witness to 1 Enoch 1:9 has κυριος as the subject, which gives a strong precedent for Jude having used the anarthrous κυριος again in the similar judgment context of verse 5.

The same blog (diglotting) also posted another long discussion about Jude 5 on 23 February.

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    Hello sir! I intend to purchase your monograph soon (is there a Logos electronic edition available)? I am confident your book will fully answer my question. The blog post you linked to is a GREAT response for this site, but it would be really great if you would be willing to add a summary of it in your own words into your answer: would you be willing to take the time to do that?
    – Dan
    Jan 10, 2013 at 15:39
  • Thanks for taking the time to post and we hope you'll become involved in the community - we could greatly benefit from your knowledge and research!
    – Dan
    Jan 10, 2013 at 15:40
  • 1
    no there is no Logos edition available. I do think you will benefit from my monograph on Jude, and it is now on a supersale for a limited time (link above). Unfortunately I have to many committments to become involved in this community. Best wishes.
    – user971
    Jan 11, 2013 at 11:53
  • That's alright. We appreciate you stopping by.
    – Dan
    Jan 11, 2013 at 15:18
  • P.S. I just got your monograph in the mail. Impressive. I'm looking forward to reading it!
    – Dan
    Jan 11, 2013 at 16:48

Personally, I think there is good reason to accept “Jesus” in Jude 5 as the intended and original word. Although, I’m not against the others, I do think they miss the greater context of the letter’s overall communication

First, in Jude 3, he speaks of our common salvation, the shared deliverance, which is not a commodity, but Jesus Himself. For instance in 1Co 1:30, Paul says Jesus is unto us Salvation. We are in Him and He has become Salvation. It is not a thing, but a living union with a Living God. Thus, Jesus saved them out of Egypt.

Second, in Jude 5, Jude then expresses this idea of exodus in Jesus. For instance in 1Co 5:17, Paul says Jesus is our Passover Lamb. And in John 14:20-like fashion, the people indeed entered into the dead lamb and they put the dead lamb into them. So when death passed over, it saw them as already dead in the lamb. Thus, Jesus saved them out of Egypt.

This is of course, Jesus, as we enter into His death and fully partake of His death into us. We are crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20). We are raised together (Col 3:1, Eph 2:6). We no longer know Jesus according to the flesh (2Co 5:16). Nor did they know each other that way, because of this union.

Third, Jesus associated himself with the Passover-exodus concept in John 6 by asking people to eat His flesh and drink His blood. And at the Last Supper, Jesus gave the disciple the same – His flesh, His blood. Jesus had queued up the Passover reality, where He saves them out of spiritual Egypt. Thus, Jesus saved them out of Egypt.

Fourth, Exodus 4:22 also points to Jesus as Israel, My Son, My Firstborn. When God said this to Moses, He spoke of a multitude of people, yet He sees them as one Son. We all know how Paul speaks of believers as the members of Christ’s body. His Act 9 realization that attacking a Christians was attacking Jesus never left his communication. Thus, when Israel exited Egypt, God saw them as one corporate Son. Out of Egypt I called My Son (Mat 2:15 and Hosea 11:1). Thus, Jesus saved them out of Egypt.

Therefore, I think it is quite clear that Jude is speaking this way of Jesus as their common salvation, in Whom they are. And that the people sneaking in are trying to break that union where Jesus is Personally our salvation and righteousness. Jude 4 literally says the are “changing the fundamental location / thesis”. How are they breaking that union< They are doing it by taking the reality out of the realm of spirit and life and placing into this sense-based system or religious rules, ritual, sacrifices, Sabbaths, and so on. By the time Jude was written, I don’t think the church leadership was thinking of Temple Judaism as a Christless religion different from them; rather I think they saw them as rogue, very much lost in sense-based realm, even an abomination in the Isa 66:3-sense:

Isa 66:3 ESV "He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog's neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig's blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations;

Note that all the sacrifices are allowed in the Mosaic Law. So in my opinion, whatever it is worth, I think there is a case to be made for “Jesus” as the correct variant. Fifth, I think this understanding of Jesus as Salvation, in Whom we exist, explains why Jude 6 follows. If Jesus is our Source of Salvation, Himself in Whom we abide – Christ as our life in Col 3:4, then those who do not guard and maintain Him as Source end up facing a great judgment. Thus, the “messengers” of Jude 6, could easily be interpreted to mean people such as “Adam and Eve, who were kicked out of the garden followed by that sad refrain in Gen 5 of “and he died…” until that entire race of Adam was judged by the Flood, which I understand “ζόφον zophon” to be referring to the Flood. Thus, this of Source = Jesus Salvation unto us as opposed to working for it, is the transition from Jude 5-6. Sixth, if the Flood is intended in Jude 6, then it dovetails perfectly with Jesus having saved a people out from the midst of the land of Egypt. The two stories are very similar in that they share imagery remixed. For instance, both the houses in Egypt and Noah’s wooden boat have a covering that is specifically applied. Both also have distinct openings that had to be entered and exited from. Both enter into the opening towards a death to something they were leaving behind. Both exited into something new. In both stories, the old was plundered: the Egyptians gave Israel treasures, Noah had the animals. They both went from a place below to a place above. Egypt is low and Mt Sinai is high It is the same with Noah’s boat which came to rest on mountains. (I know some of these sound simplistic, but I think they are intended pictures that almost go without saying). And of course, who could miss the parallel between Noah and Jesus as “one man saves the world.” One man’s name means Rest, and Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath gives our souls rest when we are in union with Him like an oxen team with a crossbeam sized yoke. Thus, Jesus saved them out of Egypt.

And lastly, I will finish with the most obvious point as to why I think it is Jesus, specifically the name: Yah-saves. Inherent in the name of Jesus is the Father saving us (John 14:6, Heb 1:3). I could go about Moses and others, but I think Jude’s audience knew all this by just skimming the great pond with this letter.

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