Derived their name from Epicurus (342-271 B.C.), a philosopher of Attic descent, whose "Garden" at Athens rivalled in popularity the "Porch" and the "Academy." The doctrines of Epicurus found wide acceptance in Asia Minor and Alexandria. (95-50 B.C.) The object of Epicurus was to find in philosophy a practical guide to happiness. True pleasure and not absolute truth was the end at which he aimed; experience and not reason the test on which he relied. It is obvious that a system thus formed would degenerate by a natural descent into mere materialism; and in this form Epicurism was the popular philosophy at the beginning of the Christian era. When St. Paul addressed "Epicureans and Soics," (Acts 17:18) at Athens, the philosophy of life was practically reduced to the teaching of these two antagonistic schools, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. Epistles, letters; personal correspondence by writing. The twenty-one epistles of the New Testament took the place of tracts among us. In their outward form they are such as might be expected from men who were brought into contact with Greek and Roman customs, themselves belonging to a different race, and so reproducing the imported style with only partial accuracy. They begin (the Epistle to the Hebrews and 1John excepted) with the names of the writer and of those to whom the epistle is addressed. Then follows the formula of salutation. Then the letter itself commences in the first person, the singular and plural being used indiscriminately. When the substance of the letter has been completed, come the individual messages. The conclusion in this case was probably modified by the fact that the letters were dictated to an amanuensis. When he had done his work, the apostle took up the pen or reed, and added in his own large characters, (Galatians 6:11) the authenticating autograph. In one instance, (Romans 16:22) the amanuensis in his own name adds his salutation. An allusion in (2 Corinthians 3:1) brings before us another class of letters which must have been in frequent use in the early ages of the Christian Church, by which travellers or teachers were commended by one church to the good offices of others.
Main reference: Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860s)
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