Collage is an artistic technique that combines a variety of images, colors, and shapes in order to create a larger composite picture. Many collage artists will also mix textures, such as paper, fabric, and metal, as part of a single work. Our reading from Jude presents a kind of ancient literary collage, drawing on a mixture of word pictures, biblical texts, and other written sources.
The purpose of this literary collage was to highlight the seriousness of the ungodly infiltrators in the Christian community. Echoing the twin dangers from the previous verses, Jude now describes these ungodly individuals as polluting their bodies, rejecting authority, and slandering heaven. They were immoral rebels who tainted the very body of Christ with their wickedness and indifference toward sin.
Jude uses a cascade of figures, events, and images to paint the picture in full. These individuals were bolder than the angels themselves, murderers like Cain, false teachers like Balaam, and rebels like Korah. They were clouds without rain, trees without fruit, waves without calm, and stars without light. Although their message of cheap grace and flouting of authority promised much, the result was empty and debased.
Indeed, their end was prophesied earlier: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts . . . [and] defiant words” (vv. 14–15). One would think that these numerous biblical examples, the variety of word pictures, and the warning of judgment would arrest their attention and transform their behavior. But these ungodly individuals only carried on their selfserving ways. The stark warnings of Jude are necessary for any community faced with false teaching.