Epistles

The word "epistle" is from the Greek word "epistolos" which means a written "letter" addressed to a recipient or recipients, perhaps part of exchanged correspondence. Nowadays this term is usually used in connection with a specific group of books in the New Testament that either were letters or were written in that literary form. "Epistle" is also used to refer to other letters, such as a bishop's open letter to the congregants of his see. Referring to more commonplace letters as epistles is a rather pretentious use of language, but not incorrect. In particular an "epistolary novel" or story is told in the form of a series of letters.

New Testament epistles

There are epistles that are written to particular areas, and general epistles that are written to groups or communities. Taking at face value the traditional ascription of epistles to their superscribed authors, Paul wrote more epistles to particular churches, as well as personal letters to Timothy, Philemon, and Titus. Peter was the author of his own, John was the author of his own, James was the author of his own, Jude was the author of his own. Sometimes Paul's epistles are divided into subgroups. For instance, the "prison epistles" are the ones written by Paul while he was in prison, while the "pastoral epistles" are the letters to Timothy and Titus, since they contain advice about providing pastoral care to their churches.

Questions of historical authorship or of date and authenticity are addressed in the entries to individual Epistles. Usually the Epistles of the New Testament Canon are divided as follows:

Pauline Epistles as written by Paul:

* Epistle to the Romans
* First Epistle to the Corinthians
* Second Epistle to the Corinthians
* Epistle to the Galatians
* Epistle to the Ephesians
* Epistle to the Philippians
* Epistle to the Colossians
* First Epistle to the Thessalonians
* Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
* First Epistle to Timothy
* Second Epistle to Timothy
* Epistle to Titus
* Epistle to Philemon

General (or "catholic") epistles

* Epistle to the Hebrews
* Epistle of James
* First Epistle of Peter
* Second Epistle of Peter
* First Epistle of John
* Second Epistle of John
* Third Epistle of John
* Epistle of Jude
* Revelation of John (also an Apocalypse)

The authorship of many of these epistles is contested by the majority of modern scholars and historians. In particular, with respect to the authorship of the Pauline epistles, the pastoral epistles are rejected by two thirds of modern academicsFact|date=February 2007, and only seven of the Pauline epistles are regarded as uncontested. The epistles of John are also questioned.

Non canonical epistles

*Epistle to Seneca the Younger
*Third Epistle to the Corinthians (canonical for a time in the Armenian Orthodox)
*Epistle to the Laodiceans (found in Codex Fuldensis)
*Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul (addressed to Paul, not written by him)
*Letter of Peter to Philip

Lost epistles

* The first Epistle to Corinth [Also called "A Prior Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians" [http://www.icwseminary.org/lostbooks.htm] or "Paul’s previous Corinthian letter". [http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/42] , possibly Third Epistle to the Corinthians] "referenced at bibleverse|1|Corinthians|5:9
*The third Epistle to Corinth called Severe Letter "referenced at bibleverse|2|Corinthians|2:4 and bibleverse|2|Corinthians|7:8-9
* The Corinthian letter to Paul "referenced at bibleverse|1|Corinthians|7:1"
*The Earlier Epistle to the Ephesians "referenced at bibleref|Ephesians|3:3-4"
* The Epistle to the Laodiceans "referenced at bibleref|Colossians|4:16"
* The Earlier Epistle of Jude [Also called "2 Jude".] "referenced atbibleref|Jude|1:3"
* The Earlier Epistle of John [Also called "The Epistle of John to the Church Ruled by Diotrephes" [http://www.icwseminary.org/lostbooks.htm] ] "referenced atbibleref|3John|1:9"

Epistles of Apostolic Fathers

These are letters written by some very early Christian leaders, in the first or second century, which are not part of the New Testament. They are generally considered to form part of the basis of Christian tradition. The ennobling word "epistle" is used partly because these were all written in Greek, in a time period close to when the epistles of the New Testament were written, and thus "epistle" lends additional weight of authority.

* Epistle of the Romans to the Corinthians (1 Clement) [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1010.htm]
* Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0104.htm]
* Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0105.htm]
* Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0106.htm]
* Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0107.htm]
* Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0108.htm]
* Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0109.htm]
* Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0110.htm]
* Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0136.htm]
* Epistle of Barnabas [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0124.htm]
* Epistle to Diognetus

See also

* Acts of the Apostles (genre)
* Agrapha
* Apocalyptic literature
* List of Gospels
* List of New Testament papyri
* New Testament apocrypha
* Pseudepigraphy
* Textual criticism

Notes

External links

* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05509a.htm "Catholic Encyclopedia"] : Epistles
* [http://www.bts.edu/faculty/Publications/AncientLetterCollections.htm David Trobisch, "How to read an ancient letter collection", 1999] : the possibility of a narrative critical study of the Letters of Paul


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