Epistles: 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
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