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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Catholic

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denotes what is general or universal. The rise of heresies induced the primitive Christian church to assume to itself the appellation of catholic, as being a characteristic to distinguish itself from them. The Romish church now proudly assumes the title catholic, in opposition to all who have separated from her communion, and whom she considers as heretics and schismatics, while she herself remains the only true and Christian church. The church of Christ is called catholic, because it extends throughout the world, and endures through all time.

2. CATHOLIC, general, Epistles. They are seven in number; namely, one of James, two of Peter, three of John, and one of Jude. They are called catholic, because directed to Christian converts generally, and not to any particular church. Hug, in his "Introduction to the New Testament," takes another view of the import of this term, which was certainly used at an early period, as by Origen and others:—"When the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles constituted one peculiar division, the works of Paul also another, there still remained writings of different authors, which might likewise form a collection of themselves, to which a name must be given. It might most aptly be called the common collection, καθολικον συνταγμα , of the Apostles, and the treatises contained in it, κοιναι and καθολικαι , which are commonly used by the Greeks as synonyms. For this we find a proof even in the most ancient ecclesiastical language. Clemens Alexandrinus calls the epistle which was despatched by the assembly of the Apostles, Acts 15:23 , the ‘catholic epistle,' as that in which all the Apostles had a share, την ε πιστολην καθολικην των ‘Αποστολων απαντων . Hence our seven epistles are catholic, or epistles of all the Apostles who are authors."

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Catholic'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/c/catholic.html. 1831-2.

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