epistle

[ih-pis-uhl]
noun
1.
a letter, especially a formal or didactic one; written communication.
2.
(usually initial capital letter) one of the apostolic letters in the new testament.
3.
(often initial capital letter) an extract, usually from one of the Epistles of the New Testament, forming part of the Eucharistic service in certain churches.

Origin:
before 900; Middle English; Old English epistol < Latin epistula, epistola < Greek epistolḗ message, letter, equivalent to epi- epi- + stol- (variant stem of stéllein to send) + noun suffix

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Collins
World English Dictionary
epistle (ɪˈpɪsəl)
 
n
1.  a letter, esp one that is long, formal, or didactic
2.  a literary work in letter form, esp a dedicatory verse letter of a type originated by Horace
 
[Old English epistol, via Latin from Greek epistolē, from epistellein to send to, from stellein to prepare, send]

Epistle (ɪˈpɪsəl)
 
n
1.  New Testament any of the apostolic letters of Saints Paul, Peter, James, Jude, or John
2.  a reading from one of the Epistles, forming part of the Eucharistic service in many Christian Churches

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

epistle
O.E., from O.Fr. epistle, from L. epistola "letter," from Gk. epistole "message, letter," from epistellein "send to," from epi- "to" + stellein "send." Also acquired in O.E. directly from L. as pistol. Specific sense of "letter from an apostle forming part of canonical scripture" is c.1200.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Easton
Bible Dictionary

Epistles definition


the apostolic letters. The New Testament contains twenty-one in all. They are divided into two classes. (1.) Paul's Epistles, fourteen in number, including Hebrews. These are not arranged in the New Testament in the order of time as to their composition, but rather according to the rank of the cities or places to which they were sent. Who arranged them after this manner is unknown. Paul's letters were, as a rule, dictated to an amanuensis, a fact which accounts for some of their peculiarities. He authenticated them, however, by adding a few words in his own hand at the close. (See GALATIANS, EPISTLE TO.) The epistles to Timothy and Titus are styled the Pastoral Epistles. (2.) The Catholic or General Epistles, so called because they are not addressed to any particular church or city or individual, but to Christians in general, or to Christians in several countries. Of these, three are written by John, two by Peter, and one each by James and Jude. It is an interesting and instructive fact that a large portion of the New Testament is taken up with epistles. The doctrines of Christianity are thus not set forth in any formal treatise, but mainly in a collection of letters. "Christianity was the first great missionary religion. It was the first to break the bonds of race and aim at embracing all mankind. But this necessarily involved a change in the mode in which it was presented. The prophet of the Old Testament, if he had anything to communicate, either appeared in person or sent messengers to speak for him by word of mouth. The narrow limits of Palestine made direct personal communication easy. But the case was different when the Christian Church came to consist of a number of scattered parts, stretching from Mesopotamia in the east to Rome or even Spain in the far west. It was only natural that the apostle by whom the greater number of these communities had been founded should seek to communicate with them by letter."

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Example sentences
Some of the epistles, however, are unmistakably inventions.
From his epistles and other works, and from other fathers and ancient
  historians.
There only remain of his works the three epistles above quoted.
He also left us the lives of several saints, and a considerable number of
  epistles.
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