New Testament Overview

The Non-Pauline Epistles: Introduction

The Non-Pauline Epistles
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    @ by J. Hampton Keathley, III {original source}  

We now come to the final eight epistles of the New Testament canon, seven of which have often been called the General or Catholic Epistles, though Hebrews has been excluded from this description. The term Catholic was used in the sense of general or universal to distinguish them from the Pauline Epistles which were addressed to churches or persons.fn73 In their addresses (with the exception of 2 and 3 John) they were not limited to a single locality. As an illustration, James is addressed “to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad(1:1), which is a designation for believers everywhere (likely all Jewish Christians at that early date).

Then 1 Peter is addressed “to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” a designation to believers in these various areas. The epistles of 2 and 3 John have also been included in this group even though they were addressed to specific individuals. Because of these differences, in this study these eight books are simply being called “the Non-Pauline Epistles.” It should be noted that the Pauline Epistles are titled according to their addressees, but, with the exception of Hebrews, all these epistles are titled according to the names of their authors.

In general, we may say that:

(a) James and 1 Peter are ethical, calling believers to a holy walk with the Savior.

(b) Second Peter and Jude are eschatological, warning believers against the presence of false teachers and calling them to contend for the faith.

(c) Hebrews and the Epistles of John are primarily Christological and ethical, calling Christians to abide in Christ as God’s final revelation and fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant, to experience His life, and not go beyond the truth of the gospel.

These eight epistles exert an influence out of proportion to their length (less than 10 percent of the New Testament). They supplement the thirteen Pauline Epistles by offering different perspectives on the richness of Christian truth.

Each of the five authors

  1. James
  2. Peter
  3. John
  4. Jude
  5. and the author of Hebrews *db01a,b,c

... has a distinctive contribution to make from his own point of view. Like the four complementary approaches to the life of Christ in the Gospels, these writers provide a sweeping portrait of the Christian life in which the total is greater than the sum of the parts. Great as Paul’s epistles are, the New Testament revelation after Acts would be severely limited by one apostolic perspective if the writings of these five men were not included.fn74

fn73 Thiessen, p. 271.
fn74 Wilkinson/Boa, p. 450.
db* = Content added by to assist the reader
db01a *Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews Wikipedia
  db01b *Who wrote the Book of Hebrews? Who was the author of Hebrews? by
  db01c *Hebrews Author External evidence by
* = Content added by to assist the reader concerning authorship of Hebrews
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