The seven letters following Hebrews – James; 1,2 Peter; 1,2,3 John; Jude – have often been designated as the General Letters. This term goes back to the early church historian Eusebius (c. AD 265 – 340), who in his Ecclesiastical History (2:23 – 25) first referred to these seven ltters as the Catholic Letters, using the word “catholic” in the sense of “universal.”
The letters so designated may be said to be, for the most part, addressed to general audiences rather than to specific persons or localized groups. The only exceptions are 2 and 3 John, which are written to individuals or a specific church. In contrast to these general letters, Paul addresses his letters to individual churches (such as Phillippians), small groups of churches (such as Galatians) or individuals (such as Timothy or Titus).
As Eusebius noted long ago, one interesting fact connected with the General Letters is that most of them were at one time among the disputed books of the NT. James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John and Jude were all questioned extensively before being admitted to the canon of Scripture.
© Zondervan. From the Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Used with Permission.