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Catholic Epistles


Seven short epistles in the NT (James; Jude; 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2 and 3 John) have traditionally been grouped under the heading "Catholic Epistles." In this context, "catholic" seems to have been used to reflect their supposed general or universal audience, and to distinguish them from the letters attributed to St. Paul which were addressed to individual churches or persons. But there is nothing about Jude and 2 Peter that precludes them from having been addressed to specific communities. Further, E. Kasemann had the notion that, when compared to Paul, they reflect traits of "early catholicism," that is to say, they manifest a heightened concern for Church order, domesticated ethics, and diminished eschatological expectation. The texts of these letters, taken in themselves, do not sustain Kasemann's position. Moreover, it is possible that not all seven letters are later than the Pauline epistles.

The grouping is still used as a matter of convenience and they continue to be studied together as, for example, in the edition of the papyrus texts of the NT (Grunewald) and the Syriac manuscripts (Aland and Juckel). Although they share some similarity because of common parenetic traditions, there is no demonstrable literary dependence among them with the exception of 2 Peter and Jude (Brox). In short, each deserves treatment on its own terms. In this volume, 1, 2 and 3 John are considered in connection with the johannine writings. The others are described in detail in earlier volumes; this article is a report on current thought regarding the authors, structures and some themes in James, 1 Peter, Jude and 2 Peter (in probable chronological sequence).

Bibliography: r. a. martin and j. h. elliott, James, I-II Peter, Jude (Minneapolis 1982). r. j. bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter (Waco, Tex. 1983). f. w. danker, Invitation to the New Testament Epistles, v. 4 A Commentary on Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John and Jude With Complete Text from the Jerusalem Bible (Garden City, N.Y. 1980). r. kugelman, James and Jude (Wilmington, Del. 1980). d. senior, 1 and 2 Peter (Wilmington, Del. 1980). j. neyrey, First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude (Collegeville 1983). w. g. hupper, "Additions to a 2 Peter Bibliography" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23 (1980) 6566. j. snyder, "A 2 Peter Bibliography," ibid. 22 (1979) 265267. g. wagner, ed., Bibliographical Aids: Exegetical Bibliographies of the Writings of the New Testament, First Series Nos. 1014: Gal., Phil., Eph., Col., Phlm., Thes., Pastorals, Catholic Epistles, Heb., Rev. (197779). d. sylva, "A 1 Peter Bibliography," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25 (1982) 7589. r. j. bauckham, "2 Peter: A Supplementary Bibliography," ibid. 25 (1982) 9193. w. grunewald with k. junack ed., Das Neue Testament auf Papyrus, v. 1 Die katholischen Briefe (Berlin 1986). b. aland with a. juckel, ed., Das Neue Testament in syrischer Überlieferung, v. 1 Die grossen katholischen Briefe (Berlin 1986).

[m. kiley]

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