The catholic epistles (also called the universal epistles or general epistles) are epistles of the New Testament. They are termed "catholic" because, for the most part, their intended audience seems to be universal Church in general, rather than individual persons or congregations, as with the Pauline epistles. However, 2 John and 3 John are included in this group despite their addresses respectively to the "elect lady", speculated by many to be the church itself, and to "Gaius", about whom there has been much speculation but little in the way of conclusive proof as to his identity.
Beginning with Martin Luther, Protestants have sought to remove some of these epistles from the canon of the Bible or assign a lower status than the Pauline epistles. Some Protestants have termed these lesser epistles.
Traditionally, the Petrine epistles are attributed to Peter the Apostle and the Johannine epistles are attributed to John the Apostle. The epistles of James and Jude are traditionally attributed to James and Jude, the brethren of Jesus. These epistles are characterized by these being written by the apostles of Jesus Christ. There has been some speculation as to the authorship of these works. Many scholars[who?] believe the Second Epistle of Peter to be a pseudepigraphal work.
Listed in order of their appearance in the New Testament, the catholic epistles are the:
- Epistle of James,
- First Epistle of Peter,
- Second Epistle of Peter,
- First Epistle of John,
- Second Epistle of John,
- Third Epistle of John, and
- Epistle of Jude.
- Bonar, Horatius (1883). Light and truth: or, Bible thoughts and themes. The Lesser epistles (4 ed.). London: J. Nisbet & co. Retrieved 14 March 2017.