CATHOLIC EPISTLES: A name given to seven of the epistles of the New Testament; viz., James, I and II Peter, I, II, and III John, and Jude. Different explanations have been given of the significance of the name. (1) It has reference to the writers, who were the apostles in general, whereas the other New Testament epistles were believed to be written by Paul. (2) It refers to the contents, which do not treat of any particular topic, but are general. (3) It refers to the recipients, the letters not being addressed to a particular church, but to the Church universal. (4) It refers to opinion concerning these writings and indicates that they were generally accepted as authentic, in distinction from the many writings current and ascribed to apostolic authorship but not everywhere so received. The name was given to the First Epistle of John in the East about the second century, and by the fourth century it included the seven epistles named. In the West they were called "canonical" epistles. Certain non-canonical writings (as the Epistle of Barnabas and the letter from the apostles at Jerusalem in Acts xv. 23-29) are also called "catholic" by early writers. See CANON OF SCRIPTURE, II., 2, 5.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Catholic Epistles are of course dealt with in the principal works on the N. T. Canon, N. T. Introduction, and in the Commentaries. Consult: P. J. Gloag, Introduction to the Catholic Epistles, Edinburgh, 1887; W. Sanday, in Biblical Inspiration, London, 1896; W. H. Bennett, in the Century Bible, ib. 1901; and C. A. Bigg, Commentary on St. Peter and St. Jude, Edinburgh, 1902.


CATHOLICUS: In the time of Constantine, a civil officer established after the organization of dioceses, each diocese having its catholicus, or receiver-general. As an ecclesiastical officer occurring in several Eastern churches, the catholicus occupied a position between the metropolitan and the patriarch. The title is also applied to the head of an independent or schismatic communion, such as the Armenian Church.


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