Author: Paul Hata
The New Testament is the name given to the second half of the Christian Bible, the first half known to Christians as the Old Testament.
Being the Hebrew Bible, is called by the Jews as Tanakh. It is sometimes called the Greek Testament or Greek Scriptures or the New Covenant.
The New Testament records the life of Jesus Christ. It also deals with the early church and the meaning of faith in Jesus. The New Testament was written in Greek, which was widely spoken during the time of Jesus. However, Jesus and His disciples spoke Aramaic.
The authors of the New Testament did not deliberately try to create a Christian Bible. The early church already had a Bible, the Old Testament of Judaism. However, differing views of Christian faith during the A.D. 100's led the church to form the New Testament canon. It needed the canon as authority against unacceptable religious views.The church also wanted to preserve the authentic story of Jesus' life and death.
Books of the New Testament: The New Testament consists of 27 books organized into four sections--the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters, and Revelation. The number of books and their order are the same in the Roman Catholic and Protestant versions.
The Gospels consist of four books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They appear as the first books in the New Testament, though they are not the earliest works in the canon. The word gospel comes from the Old English word god spell, which means good news.
The early church probably accepted the four Gospels as authentic, even though the authors were unknown. Gradually, the church associated the Gospels with two of Christ's apostles, Matthew and John, and two companions of apostles, Mark and Luke. Traditionally, they are considered to be the authors of the Gospels.
The Gospels describe the life of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, and Luke have similarities of detail and arrangement. They are called the Synoptic Gospels. The word synoptic comes from a Greek word that means see together.
The Synoptic Gospels differ from the Gospel of John in several ways. In the Synoptic Gospels, for example, Jesus expresses His teachings chiefly in short sayings and in brief stories called parables. In John, He teaches through long statements.
Although the Synoptic Gospels generally deal with the same events, each of the four Gospels regards Jesus differently. Matthew describes Him as the lawgiver who tells how Christians and their church should act. Mark shows Him as the Saviour who triumphs through suffering. Luke presents Jesus as the Saviour of all people. John concentrates on Jesus' divine nature.
Many scholars believe that Mark was the earliest Gospel, written just before or after the Romans captured Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Matthew and Luke were written a little later. The contents of these two Gospels indicate that both authors knew Mark's Gospel but not each other's. John was written last, perhaps in the A.D. 90's.
The Acts of the Apostles is one book. It continues the story told in Luke and was written by the same author. Acts tells about the expansion of the early church. The story opens in Jerusalem, where the apostles gather after Jesus is raised from the dead. The book ends in Rome, where Saint Paul, the church's first great missionary, preaches to the Jews while a Roman prisoner.
The Letters make up 21 books: These books contain some of the earliest writings in the New Testament, though they appear in the canon after the Gospels and the Acts. The Letters are also known as the Epistles, from a Greek word meaning to send.
The first 13 letters are called the Pauline Letters because most of them were written by Saint Paul. The last 8 are called the General Letters. Early church leaders wrote them, but scholars do not know who the authors were or disagree on who they might have been.
The Pauline Letters preserve Paul's preaching. He wrote the letters to Christian congregations he had founded. Most of the letters were probably written in the A.D. 50's and early 60's. Paul's letters discuss problems of faith and conduct.
The General Letters were written over a number of years until about A.D. 125. They deal with problems faced by second- and third-generation Christians.
Revelation is one book: It is also called the Apocalypse, from a Greek word meaning to reveal. A man named John wrote the book, but he is probably not the same person who wrote the Gospel of John.
Revelation begins as letters "to the seven churches that are in Asia." It then gives a symbolic description of God's final triumph, through Christ, over evil and death. This description comes from a series of visions of the future sent by God to the author through an angel.
Development of the New Testament: The first generation of Christians preserved memories of Jesus' teachings, deeds, and Crucifixion largely by word of mouth. The story of Jesus was not written down in the Gospels until the second generation of the church.
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