The Full Wiki

Epistles: Wikis

Advertisements

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

(Redirected to Epistle article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne or Nicolas Tournier (c. 16th century, Blaffer Foundation Collection, Houston, TX).

An epistle (pronounced [ɪˈpɪsəl]) (Greek ἐπιστολή, epistolē, 'letter') is a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually a letter and a very formal, often didactic and elegant one. The epistle genre of letter-writing was common in ancient Egypt as part of the scribal-school writing curriculum. The letters in the New Testament from Apostles to Christians are usually referred to as epistles. Those traditionally attributed to Paul are known as Pauline epistles and the others as 'catholic' or general epistles.

Contents

Ancient Egyptian epistles

The ancient Egyptians wrote epistles, most often for pedagogical reasons. Egyptologist Edward Wente (1990) speculates that the Fifth-dynasty Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi—in his many letters sent to his viziers—was a pioneer in the epistolary genre.[1] It's existence is firmly attested during the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and is prominently featured in the educational guide The Book of Kemit written during the Eleventh Dynasty.[2] A standardized formulae for epistolary compositions existed by the time of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.[3] The epistolary formulae used in the Ramesside Period found its roots in the letters composed during the Amarna Period of the Eighteenth Dynasty.[4] Wente describes the "Satirical Letter" found on the Papyrus Anastasi I of the Nineteenth Dynasty as an epistle which was commonly copied as a writing exercise by Egyptian schoolchildren on ceramic ostraca (over eighty examples of which have been found so far by archaeologists).[5] Epistle letters were also written to the dead, and, by the Ramesside Period, to the gods; the latter became even more widespread during the eras of Persian and Greek domination.[6]

Form of Christian epistles

Epistles are written in strict accordance to formalized, Hellenistic tradition, especially the Pauline epistles. This reflects the amount of Hellenistic influence upon the epistle writers. Any deviancy is not the result of accident but indicates an unusual motive of the writer.

Advertisements

Opening

In contrast to modern letters, epistles usually named the author at the very beginning, followed by the recipient (for example, see Philippians 1:1). The scribe (or more correctly, the amanuensis) who wrote down the letter may be named at the end of the episte (e.g. Romans 16:22). In the absence of a postal system, the courier may also be named (e.g. Ephesians 6:21-22).

After the names of the author and recipient, Pauline epistles often open with the greeting, "Grace and peace to you." "Grace" was a common Hellenistic greeting, while "peace" (shalom) was the common Jewish greeting; this reflected Paul's dual identity in Jewish faith and Hellenistic culture. There may also be a word of thanks to the audience. In secular letters, a prayer or wish for health followed.

Body

The body begins with a brief statement introducing the main topic of the entire body.

Style

To English readers, the epistles may appear more formalized than originally read, due to the process of translation. The writer sought to establish 'philophronesis', an intimate extension of their relationship as similar as a face to face encounter as possible. The writer hoped to revive the friendship, making the epistle a substitute for the actual writer. Letters written to a group of people, which include most of the New Testament epistles, were not read individually but read aloud to the entire church congregation.

The content is concise compared to modern letters. Writing required a great financial expense of paper and ink and long process of time.

The letter often intends to establish theological points (as in many of Paul's epistles), to comfort in the face of persecution (for example, 1 Peter), or to exhort Christians to do good works (James).

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

General (or "catholic") epistles

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 academics, and only seven of the Pauline epistles are regarded as uncontested. The authorship of the Epistles of John is also questioned.

Non canonical epistles

Lost epistles

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.

Liturgical use

Opening of the Epistle to the Galatians, illuminated manuscript for reading during Christian liturgy.

In the context of a liturgy, epistle may refer more specifically to a particular passage from a New Testament epistle (the Pauline epistles and the Catholic epistles) — sometimes also from the Book of Acts or the Revelation of John, but not the Four Gospels — that is scheduled to be read on a certain day or at a certain occasion.

Western churches

In the Roman Catholic Mass and Anglican Communion, epistles are read between the Collect and the Gospel reading. The corresponding Gregorian chants have a special tone (tonus epistolae). When the epistle is sung or chanted at Solemn Mass it is done so by the subdeacon. Epistles are also read by an Elder or Bishop in the Lutheran Divine Service, between the gradual and the Gospel.

Eastern churches

The Kniga Apostol (1632), lectionary in Church Slavonic for use in the Divine Liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church the Epistle reading is called the Apostol (the same name is given to the lectionary from which it is read). The Apostol includes the Acts of the Apostles as well as the Epistles, but never the Apocalypse (Revelation of John). There are Epistle lessons for every day of the year, except for weekdays during Great Lent, when the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated. These daily Epistle readings are a part of the Paschal cycle, being ultimately dependent upon the date of Pascha (Easter). There are also lessons appointed for the feast days of numerous saints and commemorations. There may be one, two, or three readings from the Apostol during a single Liturgy. The Epistle reading is always chanted (never simply read in a spoken voice) between the Prokeimenon and the Alleluia. The Epistle reading is always linked to a reading from the Gospel, though some services, such as Matins, will have a Gospel lesson, but no Epistle. A number of services besides the Divine Liturgy will have an Epistle and Gospel reading. Such services often include a Prokeimenon and Alleluia as well. The Epistle is chanted by the reader, though at a Hierarchical Liturgy (a Divine Liturgy celebrated by a bishop), it is read by a deacon. The one who chants the Epistle also reads the verses of the Prokeimenon.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Wente, Edward F. (1990). Letters from Ancient Egypt. Edited by Edmund S. Meltzer. Translated by Edward F. Wente. Atlanta: Scholars Press, Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 1555404723. Page 6.
  2. ^ Wente, Edward F. (1990). Letters from Ancient Egypt. Edited by Edmund S. Meltzer. Translated by Edward F. Wente. Atlanta: Scholars Press, Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 1555404723. Page 15.
  3. ^ Wente, Edward F. (1990). Letters from Ancient Egypt. Edited by Edmund S. Meltzer. Translated by Edward F. Wente. Atlanta: Scholars Press, Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 1555404723. Page 68.
  4. ^ Wente, Edward F. (1990). Letters from Ancient Egypt. Edited by Edmund S. Meltzer. Translated by Edward F. Wente. Atlanta: Scholars Press, Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 1555404723. Page 89.
  5. ^ Wente, Edward F. (1990). Letters from Ancient Egypt. Edited by Edmund S. Meltzer. Translated by Edward F. Wente. Atlanta: Scholars Press, Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 1555404723. Page 98-99.
  6. ^ Wente, Edward F. (1990). Letters from Ancient Egypt. Edited by Edmund S. Meltzer. Translated by Edward F. Wente. Atlanta: Scholars Press, Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 1555404723. Page 210.
  7. ^ Also called A Prior Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians[1] or Paul’s previous Corinthian letter.[2], possibly Third Epistle to the Corinthians
  8. ^ Also called 2 Jude.
  9. ^ Also called The Epistle of John to the Church Ruled by Diotrephes[3]

External links


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

the apostolic letters. The New Testament contains twenty-one in all. They are divided into two classes.

  1. Paul's Epistles, fourteen in number, including Hebrews. These are not arranged in the New Testament in the order of time as to their composition, but rather according to the rank of the cities or places to which they were sent. Who arranged them after this manner is unknown. Paul's letters were, as a rule, dictated to an amanuensis, a fact which accounts for some of their peculiarities. He authenticated them, however, by adding a few words in his own hand at the close. (See GALATIANS, EPISTLE TO.) The epistles to Timothy and Titus are styled the Pastoral Epistles.
  2. The Catholic or General Epistles, so called because they are not addressed to any particular church or city or individual, but to Christians in general, or to Christians in several countries. Of these, three are written by John, two by Peter, and one each by James and Jude.

It is an interesting and instructive fact that a large portion of the New Testament is taken up with epistles. The doctrines of Christianity are thus not set forth in any formal treatise, but mainly in a collection of letters. "Christianity was the first great missionary religion. It was the first to break the bonds of race and aim at embracing all mankind. But this necessarily involved a change in the mode in which it was presented. The prophet of the Old Testament, if he had anything to communicate, either appeared in person or sent messengers to speak for him by word of mouth. The narrow limits of Palestine made direct personal communication easy. But the case was different when the Christian Church came to consist of a number of scattered parts, stretching from Mesopotamia in the east to Rome or even Spain in the far west. It was only natural that the apostle by whom the greater number of these communities had been founded should seek to communicate with them by letter."

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)

Facts about EpistlesRDF feed

Simple English

In antiquity, an epistle was a formal letter sent to one person, or to a group of people. These letters often had a didactic style, that is they wanted to teach something. In Ancient Egypt, writing epistles was part of the curriculum of a scribe. Today, different kinds of epistles are known:

  • The epistles of an apostle to a community of Christians, as they can be found in the New Testament are generally known as epistles. Amongst the best known of these are the Pauline epistles.
  • The epistles of Cicero, and of Piny the Younger tell a lot about life at the time of the Romans. Ovid produced a number of letters while he was in exile at coast of the Black Sea, Seneca's letters influenced many epistle-writers of later times.
  • Sometimes, the parts of the Bible that are read during litugry are referred to as epistles.
  • A novel that is manily written in the form of an exchange of letters is known as epistolary novel

Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message