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Monday, November 16, 2020
Letters of Light 
Introduction, "Catholic" Letters


The 7 remaining letters in the New Testament (1,2,3 John; 1,2 Peter, James, Jude) are called “catholic,” meaning universal, not meant for a specific person but for everyone. The adjective comes from Eusebius (the Father of Church History) who used it in a 4th century work. It’s misleading, though. 3 John is to a specific person; 2 John is to a specific community and 1 Peter to several specific communities. Perhaps a better adjective would be “General” Letters (The Greek word “katholikos” can be translated as “universal” or “general.” Then again, like Hebrews, some don’t seem to be letters in our sense of the word but admonitions using a letter framework. We’ll continue to call them letters for the sake of convenience.

Recall how Paul’s letters contain a lot of theology followed by the moral/ethical implications of that theology. The 7 letters do the same, but in a more condensed form (you’ll notice their relative brevity).

1 John and 1 Peter were accepted by ancient Christians (that means early Christians, not old Christians like me) as written by Apostles and part of Sacred Scripture. Doubt about the authorship of the other 5 led to a reluctance to consider them to be Sacred Scripture. By the 5th Christians realized that the important point of the letters is not the “who wrote them” but the “what was written in them.” Believers recognized that all 7 of these letters contain the “apostolic” witness. That means that they proclaim the faith preached and lived by the apostles (Remember the Creed: I believe in one, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic {founded on the witness of the Apostles} Church).  It is faith in Jesus Christ, Crucified and Risen, which is reflected in the way Christians live. It is the apostolic faith which has been handed down through the centuries, the faith in which we live today.

Something to Consider:
Sacred texts, documents of faith, Scripture inspired by God still speak to us after two millennia. That’s remarkable. That’s God.

Homework:
Nothing yet. We’ll look at an introduction to the Letter of James next time.

 

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