Epistle

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

An epistle ( /ɪˈpɪsəl/ ; Greek : ἐπιστολή, epistolē, "letter") is a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually an elegant and formal didactic letter. 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 (i.e., "general") epistles.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Didacticism is a philosophy that emphasizes instructional and informative qualities in literature and other types of art.

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Contents

Ancient Argon 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] Its 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. [1] A standardized formulae for epistolary compositions existed by the time of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. The epistolary formulae used in the Ramesside Period found its roots in the letters composed during the Amarna Period of the Twentieth Dynasty. 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). 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. [1] >

Ancient Egyptian literature Literature of Egypt from pharaonic period to the end of Roman domination

Ancient Egyptian literature was written in the Egyptian language from ancient Egypt's pharaonic period until the end of Roman domination. It represents the oldest corpus of Egyptian literature. Along with Sumerian literature, it is considered the world's earliest literature.

Pedagogy Theory and practice of education

Pedagogy refers more broadly to the theory and practice of learning, and how this process influences, and is influenced by, the social, political and psychological development of learners. Pedagogy, taken as an academic discipline, is the study of how knowledge and skills are imparted in an educational context, and it considers the interactions that take place during learning. Both the theory and practise of pedagogy varies greatly, as they reflect different social, political, and cultural contexts.

Djedkare Isesi Ancient Egyptian pharaoh

Djedkare Isesi was a pharaoh, the eighth and penultimate ruler of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt in the late 25th century to mid-24th century BC, during the Old Kingdom. Djedkare succeeded Menkauhor Kaiu and was in turn succeeded by Unas. His relations to both of these pharaohs remain uncertain, although it is often conjectured that Unas was Djedkare's son, owing to the smooth transition between the two.

Ancient Greece and Rome

Epistles in prose and verse were a major genre of literature among the Greeks and particularly the Romans. The letters of Cicero are one of the most important sources on the history of the late Roman Republic and preserve features of colloquial Latin not always in evidence in his speeches and treatises. The letters of Pliny the Younger likewise are studied as both examples of Latin prose with self-conscious literary qualities and sources for historical information. Ovid produced three collections of verse epistles, composed in elegiac couplets: the Heroides , letters written in the person of legendary women to their absent lovers; and the Tristia and Ex Ponto , written in first person during the poet's exile. The epistles of Seneca, with their moral or philosophical ruminations, influenced later patristic writers.

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.

Ancient Rome History of Rome from the 8th-century BC to the 5th-century

In Historiography, ancient Rome is Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom, Roman Republic and Roman Empire until the fall of the western empire. The civilization began as an Italic settlement in the Italian Peninsula, conventionally founded in 753 BC, that grew into the city of Rome and which subsequently gave its name to the empire over which it ruled and to the widespread civilisation the empire developed. The Roman Empire expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world, though still ruled from the city, with an estimated 50 to 90 million inhabitants ) and covering 5.0 million square kilometres at its height in AD 117.

Cicero 1st-century BC Roman lawyer, orator, philosopher and statesman

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher, who served as consul in the year 63 BC. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and is considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.

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.

Pauline epistles New Testament books

The Pauline epistles, also called Epistles of Paul or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen books of the New Testament attributed to Paul the Apostle, although authorship of some is in dispute. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents. They provide an insight into the beliefs and controversies of early Christianity. As part of the canon of the New Testament, they are foundational texts for both Christian theology and ethics. The Epistle to the Hebrews, although it does not bear his name, was traditionally considered Pauline for a thousand years, but from the 16th century onwards opinion steadily moved against Pauline authorship and few scholars now ascribe it to Paul, mostly because it does not read like any of his other epistles in style and content. Most scholars agree that Paul really wrote seven of the Pauline epistles, but that four of the epistles in Paul's name are pseudepigraphic ; scholars are divided on the authenticity of two of the epistles.

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).

Amanuensis person employed to write or type what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another

An amanuensis is a person employed to write or type what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another, and also refers to a person who signs a document on behalf of another under the latter's authority.

Epistle to the Romans book of the Bible

The Epistle to the Romans or Letter to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the longest of the Pauline epistles.

A courier is a company, an employee of that company or a person who delivers a message, package or letter from one place or person to another place or person.

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.

Shalom word

Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye.

Judaism The ethnic religion of the Jewish people

Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, comprising the collective religious, cultural and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion in the world.

Body

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

New Testament epistles

The epistles of the New Testament canon are usually divided as follows:

Pauline Epistles

Catholic (i.e., "general") epistles

Non canonical epistles

Lost epistles

Epistles of Apostolic Fathers

These are letters written by some very early Christian leaders, in the 1st or 2nd 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. Epistle to Galatians Illuminatad.jpg
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 General 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 Eucharist, 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. Kniga Apostol 1632 Drukarnya S Sobal.jpg
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 and the Byzantine Rite Catholics 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). Unlike the Latin Rite there are never readings from the Old Testament. [5] 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 is read 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.

Medieval Epistles

During the Middle Ages, the art of letter writing was taught in numerous manuals, and the ars dictaminis became an important genre of instructional discourse. The necessity for letter writing was in large part due to the general deterioration of civil life and the decay of the Roman road system in the early Middle Ages, factors that obliged literate people with business to transact to send letters instead of travel themselves. [6] A vast number of letters and letter-writing manuals were written in the period's lingua franca, Latin. [7]

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 Edward F. Wente (1990). Letters from Ancient Egypt: Society of Biblical Literature Writing from the Ancient World Series Volume 1. Translated by Edmund S. Meltzer. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. ISBN   978-1555404734.
  2. Also called "A Prior Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians" "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-06-23. Retrieved 2006-06-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) or "Paul’s previous Corinthian letter"., possibly Third Epistle to the Corinthians
  3. Also called 2 Jude.
  4. Also called "The Epistle of John to the Church Ruled by Diotrephes" Archived 2006-06-23 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Apostle (in Liturgy)"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  6. Richardson, Malcolm (2007). "The Art dictaminis, the Formulary, and Medieval Epistolary Practice". In Poster, Carol; Mitchell, Linda C. (eds.). Letter-Writing Manuals and Instruction from Antiquity to the Present: Historical and Bibliographic Studies. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. pp. 52–66. ISBN   978-1570036514.
  7. Poster, Carol; Utz, Richard (2007). "Appendix B: A Bibliography of Medieval Latin Dictamen". In Poster, Carol; Mitchell, Linda C. (eds.). Letter-Writing Manuals and Instruction from Antiquity to the Present: Historical and Bibliographic Studies. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. pp. 285–300. ISBN   978-1570036514.

Related Research Articles

Epistle to the Ephesians book of the Bible

The Epistle to the Ephesians, also called the Letter to the Ephesians and often shortened to Ephesians, is the tenth book of the New Testament. Its authorship has traditionally been attributed to Paul the Apostle but starting in 1792, this has been challenged as Deutero-Pauline, that is, written in Paul's name by a later author strongly influenced by Paul's thought, probably "by a loyal disciple to sum up Paul’s teaching and to apply it to a new situation fifteen to twenty-five years after the Apostle’s death.

Epistle to the Philippians eleventh book in the New Testament

The Epistle to the Philippians, commonly referred to as Philippians, is a Pauline epistle of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle and a co-author named Timothy, and is addressed to the Christian church in Philippi. Paul and Silas first visited Philippi in Greece during Paul's second missionary journey, which occurred between approximately 49 and 51 AD. Philippi was the location of the first Christian community established in Greece.

Epistle to the Colossians book of the Bible

The Epistle of Paul to the Colossians, often referred to simply as Colossians, is the twelfth book of the New Testament. It was written, according to the text, by Paul the Apostle and Timothy to the Church in Colossae, a small Phrygian city near Laodicea and approximately 100 miles (160 km) from Ephesus in Asia Minor.

Epistle to the Laodiceans Purported lost letter of the apostle Paul, mentioned in Colossians 4:16

The Epistle to the Laodiceans is a lost letter of Paul the Apostle, the original existence of which is inferred from an instruction to the congregation in Colossae to send their letter to the believing community in Laodicea, and likewise obtain a copy of the letter "from Laodicea".

And when this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read before the church at Laodicea, and that you yourselves read the letter which will be forwarded from there.

New Testament Second division of the Christian biblical canon

The New Testament is the second part of the Christian biblical canon, the first being the Old Testament. The New Testament discusses the teachings and person of Jesus, as well as events in first-century Christianity. Christians regard both the Old and New Testaments together as sacred scripture.

Second Epistle to the Corinthians Book of the New Testament

The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, commonly referred to as Second Corinthians or in writing 2 Corinthians, is a Pauline epistle of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle and a co-author named Timothy, and is addressed to the church in Corinth and Christians in the surrounding province of Achaea, in modern-day Greece.

Pastoral epistles Three books of the canonical New Testament

The term Pastoral Epistles refers to a group of three books of the canonical New Testament: the First Epistle to Timothy the Second Epistle to Timothy, and the Epistle to Titus. They are presented as letters from Paul the Apostle to Timothy and to Titus. They are generally discussed as a group and are given the title pastoral because they are addressed to individuals with pastoral oversight of churches and discuss issues of Christian living, doctrine and leadership. The term "pastorals" was popularized in 1703 by D. N. Berdot and in 1726 by Paul Anton. Alternate nomenclature for the cluster of three letters has been proposed: "Corpus Pastorale," meant to highlight the intentional forgery of the letters as a three-part corpus, and "Letters to Timothy and Titus," meant to emphasize the individuality of the letters.

Authorship of the Pauline epistles Books of the Bible written by Paul the Apostle

The Pauline epistles are the fourteen books in the New Testament traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle, although many dispute the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews as being a Pauline epistle.

First Epistle to Timothy book of the Bible

The First Epistle of Paul to Timothy, usually referred to simply as First Timothy and often written 1 Timothy, is one of three letters in the New Testament of the Bible often grouped together as the Pastoral Epistles, along with Second Timothy and Titus. The letter, traditionally attributed to the Apostle Paul, consists mainly of counsels to his younger colleague and delegate Timothy regarding his ministry in Ephesus (1:3). These counsels include instructions on the organization of the Church and the responsibilities resting on certain groups of leaders therein as well as exhortations to faithfulness in maintaining the truth amid surrounding errors.

The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden (1926) is a collection of 17th-century and 18th-century English translations of some Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and New Testament Apocrypha, some of which were assembled in the 1820s, and then republished with the current title in 1926.

First Epistle of Clement

The First Epistle of Clement is a letter addressed to the Christians in the city of Corinth. The letter was composed at some time between AD 70 and AD 140, most likely around 96. It ranks with Didache as one of the earliest—if not the earliest—of extant Christian documents outside the canonical New Testament. As the name suggests, a Second Epistle of Clement is known, but this is a later work by a different author. Neither 1 nor 2 Clement are part of the canonical New Testament, but they are part of the Apostolic Fathers collection.

Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., was Professor of New Testament and Chair of the Biblical Studies Department at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

Codex Vaticanus Graecus 2061, usually known as Uncial 048, α1 (Soden), is a Greek uncial manuscript on parchment. It contains some parts of the New Testament, homilies of several authors, and Strabo's Geographica. Formerly it was known also as the Codex Basilianus 100, earlier as Codex Patriniensis 27. It was designated by ב a, p.

The New International Commentary on the New Testament is a series of commentaries in English on the text of the New Testament in Greek. It is published by the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Development of the New Testament canon Development of the New Testament canon

The canon of the New Testament is the set of books Christians regard as divinely inspired and constituting the New Testament of the Christian Bible. For most, it is an agreed-upon list of twenty-seven books that includes the Canonical Gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation. The books of the canon of the New Testament were written before 120 AD.

1 Timothy 6

1 Timothy 6 is the sixth chapter of the First Epistle to Timothy in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The author has been traditionally identified as Paul the Apostle since as early as AD 180, although most modern scholars consider the letter pseudepigraphical, perhaps written as late as the first half of the second century AD.

Philippians 1 Epistle to the Philippians, chapter 1

Philippians 1 is the first chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is authored by Paul the Apostle about mid-50s to early 60s CE and addressed to the Christians in Philippi, written either in Rome or Ephesus. This chapter contains the greeting, thanksgiving, prayer and exhortation as an introduction (overture) to the major narratives in the next chapters.

2 Timothy 1

2 Timothy 1 is the first chapter of the Second Epistle to Timothy in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The letter is traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle, the last one written in Rome before his death, addressed to Timothy. There are charges that it is the work of an anonymous follower, after Paul's death in the first century AD. This chapter contains an opening greeting, a personal story of Paul and Timothy, a description of the opponents they are facing.