Exegesis of Hebrews and the General Epistles
The four gospel books aside, Hebrews and the general epistles form another significant part of the New Testament. These epistles form the backbone of what the present day Christians often use for sermons, devotions and encouragement. The tradition stems from the ancient practice of the church that involved the circulation of the letters in different churches for reading and admonition purposes.
The Book of Hebrews
The date of the authorship of this book falls around A.D 70. This is because the author referred to issues such as the imprisonment of Timothy and other Christians, which became common from A.D 64 during the reign of Emperor Nero. The authorship of this epistle falls among the most disputed in bible books history. Scholars have argued out possibilities of such authors as Peter, Barnabas and Luke with Paul cited as the most probable author. However, most scholars and Christian fathers such as Origen prefer to settle on finding out the truth in heaven.
The title and body of the epistle only reveals the recipients as Jewish Christians without indicating their exact location. This uncertainty further reflects on the exact location of the author at the time of the writing of the epistle. Nevertheless, most scholars believe that the author was somewhere outside of Italy. The epistle of Hebrews receives the wide view by both scholars and Christians as a written sermon insofar as genre is concerned. In fact, the author refers to the epistle as an exhortation therefore making it more of a speech like letter. However, the letter has other parts that come out as expositions instead of exhortations. Concerning style, this letter combines a wide range spanning from repetition of key terms to the linking of words.
The main purpose of Hebrews harbored on pleading with the Jews to embrace Christianity as the divine replacement for Judaism. The author in many occasions refers to the Old Testament moments and practices then contrasts them to Jesus. The themes occurring in this letter therefore include the greatness of Jesus Christ, faith and eternal reward of believers. The author constantly urged the believers to focus on Christ and avoid going back to the old ways of Judaism. This justifies the numerous illustrations the author used from the Old Testament to explain the fact that Jesus Christ was the greatest revelation that God made to humankind.
Epistle of James
Christian scholars and fathers, after much disputes, canonized the letter of James, the earliest of the general epistles. This is because all the events described in the letter end at Acts 9. Therefore, the most agreeable date for the epistle falls between 43 and 35 A.D. The letter begins with the self-identification of the author as James. Scholars have settled on his identity as the brother of Jesus. This stems from the similarities in authoritativeness of voice in this epistle and his speech at the Jerusalem council.
The intended recipients points towards the Christian Jews who had spread out due to persecution. Furthermore, it reveals that though they had scattered, they still had the custom of meeting in synagogues. The location of James during the writing of this epistle remains a speculation. However, Jerusalem remains the most probable location given the tonality and descriptions in the epistle. The genre of this epistle displays interplay between admonition and exposition. In addition, some scholars have categorized it as a commentary of the sermons on the mount.
Admonition remains the main purpose of this epistle. His admonition, full of rebuke and counsel, encourages the believers to live the Christian life practically. He points out the worldliness among the people and authoritatively tells them to return to the right Christian path. The main theme in this epistle concerns endurance of trials and temptations. This finds parallelism with the book of Job, which also tackles the issue of suffering especially for a believer. The book finds relevance with the questions of the modern day Christian who might want to know why God allows suffering and temptations to encroach believers.
The Epistle of Jude
This brief but powerful epistle has uncertainty in terms of its date of writing. This is because of little knowledge available on Jude. Therefore, scholars rely on the little information on contents of the epistle to date the work. However, the similarities found between the language use in this epistle and that of 2 Peter helps in dating the work. Despite the ambiguity involved, scholars have managed to date it between AD 64 and 70. Jude, the self-identified author of the epistle also undergoes speculation as to his exact identity. Nevertheless, following rigorous research the identity falls on the Jude the brother of Jesus.
Scholars only suggest that the most probable location of writing this last epistle of the general epistles would fall on Palestine. This is because the tone of the epistle has traces of the Jewish Christian traditions. This epistle has no specific audience or destination but rather goes out to all the people that responded to the love and call of God. Therefore, it equally circulated in synagogues and congregations of Jewish Christians. The epistle also assumes the tone of admonition with the occasional use of similes.
The epistle underscored its purpose to the recipients as a warning and wake up call for believers on the encroachment of godless men in the body of Christ. He confessed that he decided to change his intended topic of discussion just to alert them of the encroaching adversaries. He, in the same manner as Paul, goes to the extent of using apocryphal references with the intent of driving this point home. He ends his plea by calling on the believers to remain steadfast in the love of God. This epistle also has many relationships with the present day occurrences in the church. Christians therefore find a lot to relate with from this epistle including cult style of worship, idolatry in church and adultery among others.
The Letters of John
The letters run in a trilogy. Scholars and church fathers favor John the beloved for authoring the letters. This stems from the parallelism that exists between the letters and the book of John. In addition, the author refers to the things written in the gospel book with the assumption that the recipients had already read it. The date of this letter tends to fall around the close of the first century. This means that the epistles came after the romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem.
Scholars agree on the fact that John wrote all the three epistles while in Ephesus. The first epistle assumes the aura of a letter from a father to his loving children. He wrote it to disapprove the duality concept that philosophers used to deny Jesus as God incarnate. His second letter had the beloved lady as its recipient. The identity of the beloved lady also experiences ambiguity. Interpretations of this have ranged from a real person to possibilities of a church. He addressed the last epistle to Gaius whose personality also faces uncertainty.
John wrote the epistles for the purposes of admonition and encouragement. He emphasizes on subjects such as staying away from sin and avoiding deceivers. In addition, he talks about having confidence in Jesus in connection to a guarantee of eternal life. All the letters contrasts between good and faithful coworkers in the vineyard and those swayed by the deception of the world. This contrast helps him to drive home the theme of staying truthful and faithful to the course of salvation despite the prevailing circumstances. Finally, the epistles all have the tone of a deep and true love that John expresses towards the recipients. This is evident in his reference of them as friends instead of using the normal word brethren.
The Epistles of Peter
These two epistles commonly referred to as the Petrines; owe their authorship to Peter, the most vocal of the disciples of Jesus Christ. This is because of both internal and external evidences the epistles enjoy. Insofar as the dating of the epistles is concerned, the first one falls between A.D 62 and 69. Unfortunately, the dating of the second letter faces uncertainty.
The first epistle of Peter directly indicates that the recipients, though scattered, lived in the Asia Minor. The author evidently intended to reach out to the scattered population of believers through the circulation of the letters. Rome remains the most probable location of Peter when he wrote and sent the letter. The letter bears a lot of resemblance of thought with the epistle that Paul wrote to the Romans. The epistles are all presented in the form of a letter insofar as genre is concerned.
Addressing the Christians as Israelites, Peter makes it plain that the Gentiles who received Christ had joined the family of the chosen of God through the work of Christ on the cross. He wrote them as a way of preparing them for the persecution that they would undergo given his understanding of the times of persecution of the Jewish Christians. The second epistle, whose authenticity as an epistle of Peter faced disputes in both ancient and modern church, talks of the importance of remaining faithful in the face of falsehood. Both epistles relate to the present day Christian in such ways as remaining truthful despite the increase in secularism and godlessness.