6. The remaining letters and the Johannine writings
6.1 The Epistle to the Hebrews
We will now turn our attention to a New Testament text with a strong theological orientation: the Epistle to the Hebrews. The letter is significant because of its statements about the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ: it is a significant contributor to the Doctrine of the Dual Nature of Christ. Beyond that, the letter is important because of its singular understanding of the activity of Jesus Christ as a High Priesthood, from which the Doctrine of the Threefold Ministry of Christ is in large measure derived.
The Old Testament figure of Melchizedek, who is to be introduced here, is important in this context.
6.2 The Catholic (Universal) Epistles
From the Pauline epistles we now turn our attention to the so-called Catholic Epistles. These consist of seven very different letters, namely the
- First Epistle of Peter
- Second Epistle of Peter
- First Epistle of John
- Second Epistle of John
- Third Epistle of John
- The Epistle of James
- The Epistle of Jude
None of these are addressed to specific recipients, neither to churches nor individuals. Rather, all of them are addressed to the church as a whole (katholikos = universal). Important themes include the conduct of Christians in the Roman Empire, and love for one another as a consequence of the love of God.
The Catholic Epistles (that is, the Corpus Catholicum) comprise the second part of the New Testament letter corpus, the first part of which is called the Corpus Paulinum.
In old Bible manuscripts, the sequence was different, however: the book of Acts was followed by the Catholic Epistles. In them, the main characters of early Christianity who appear in Acts— namely Peter, John, and James—were represented. Only thereafter did the Corpus Paulinum follow.
6.3 Special features of the Gospel of John
With the Gospel according to John, the fourth Gospel, we enter a completely different world. Many things that occur in the Synoptic Gospels are missing here, and other things, in turn, are only mentioned here.
In terms of both language and theology, we find ourselves at a great distance from the Synoptic Gospels here in the Gospel of John: there are no argumentative discourses or parables, and there is no institution of Holy Communion. On the other hand, however, we find the “I am” statements of Jesus, the washing of the disciples’ feet, and a different portrayal of the crucifixion.
6.4 The Revelation of John
The Revelation of John is likely the most vivid and mysterious writing of the New Testament.
It took a long time for it to be adopted into the New Testament, and remains debated to this day. We now turn our attention to the content and the theological themes of Revelation, and begin by inquiring into John, after whom it is named.