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General epistles are books in the New Testament in the form of letters. They are termed "general" because for the most part their intended audience seems to be Christians in general rather than individual persons or congregations as is the case 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.
There has been considerable speculation as to the authorship of these works. All but the most conservative scholars tend to believe 2 Peter to be a pseudonymous forgery, but these scholars are adamant in their defense of its authenticity and place in the Biblical canon. Protestant Conservatives tend to attribute the books of James and Jude to Jesus' younger half-brothers, while Roman Catholics and others who hold to the doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary see this, obviously, as heretical.
Listed in order of their appearance in the New Testament, the General Epistles are:
Additionally, some scholars include the anonymous Book of Hebrews as falling within this group; its traditional title is derived from its contents, not a specific address within the letter. Old tradition ascribed it to Paul, but its writing style makes this extremely unlikely, and almost no modern scholar accepts this idea currently.
See also: Epistle
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