General Epistles

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General Epistles

Grand Canyon University: BIB 502

General Epistles

The general epistles consist of the last eight epistles, or letters, within the New Testament. They have been named after their authors, James, Peter, John, and Jude, with the exception of Hebrews, which has an unknown author. As the Pauline epistles did, the general epistles had their own issues, concerns, and problems within their churches during the Roman Empire. A few of these issues were apostasy, superiority of Christ, and leading a godly life. Unlike the Paul epistles, most of these letters were written to a church within a large area or a large group of Christians. Within the book of Hebrews, one of the issues being addressed was the superiority of Jesus, Son of God. The author starts out clarifying that Jesus is the Son of God. He is not regarded the same as the angels, who are servants sent out to care for the people who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). Angels, in biblical tradition, were looked upon as intercessors (Isaacs, 1997). They were instructed to worship Christ, too (Hebrews 1:6). Because He was once human, and died for our sins, Jesus has blazed the trail for our salvation (Hebrews 2:10) for all who follow Him (Alexander & Alexander, 2009). The author continued with showing how Jesus was superior to not only Moses (Hebrews 3:1- 19), but also Joshua (Hebrews 4:1 – 13). As the author moves from Jesus, the Son of God, for superiority he uses the same concept, of Jesus is our great High Priest. The use of the term priest was not used based upon the Levitical priesthood model, which required the use of sacrifices (Isaacs, 1997). As He dwells in the presence of God in the holy of holies, He is able to save all who come to God through Him and intercede on their behalf (Hebrews 7:25, 9:24). Isaacs (1997) later points out that the people were a community on a pilgrimage towards God, which not only included men but also women, one of which was Rahab, a non-Israelite prostitute (Hebrews 11:1 – 40). The epistle of James maintains a focus on wanting believers to not only ensure they hear the truth, but also to apply it and put it into action. He wants to show that a commitment of loving and serving one another is evidence of one’s true faith. Put in other words, it sums up to deeds, not words (Alexander & Alexander, 2009). The author warns against prejudice as an example (James 2:1 – 13). Although a bit later in James 2:14 – 26, the author points out that you need faith when it comes to doing a good deed, but is “resonates discordantly” with Paul’s theme in Romans 3 – 4 (Painter, 2006). Painter (2006) continues with how Paul states that faith is justified apart from the law (Romans 3:28; 4:6). James states that a person is justified by their work, not by faith along (James 2:24). Paul understands the necessity of faith, but it is obtained by working through love, not by just any type of deed. Within the epistles of Peter, the theme consists of suffering for Christ along with apostasy. This letter was thought to have been written during the time of the great persecution under the Emperor Nero. There were festivals, which also embodied the Roman culture and to the Christians, worshiping them was considered idolatry. Since the Christians did not partake in these festivals, they were charged with treason along with “hatred of the human race” (Achtemeier, 2011). The first letter was scattered amongst the groups of Christians to offer hope, comfort, and encouragement to stand strong, as they would soon suffer the same wrath (Alexander & Alexander, 2009). Peter’s message was of deliverance and of salvation (1 Peter 1:3 – 7). Paul, who was a friend of Peter’s, also wrote of his persecution along with how the Lord rescued him from it (2 Timothy 3:11). The second letter Peter wrote, later in his ministry, spoke more about apostasy. He not only referenced the false prophets which had been spoke about in the Old Testament, but...
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