What is the New Testament?

Details of the life of Jesus of Nazareth are found in the books comprising The New Testament. These accounts form the basis of all Christian beliefs.

The New Testament is a collection (or library) of 27 books. These books fall into 4 categories:

1.   4 Gospels telling the 'Good News' about Jesus's life, death and resurrection from the dead.
2.   The 'Acts of the Apostles' recounting the deeds of Jesus's apostles (his close followers) immediately after Jesus's resurrection. This includes accounts of the journeys of Philip and Peter within Palestine, and three of Paul's extensive missionary journeys across the Eastern Mediterranean.
3.   21 Letters written by early disciples (followers) of Jesus, which often explain Jesus's teachings to new believers. 13 of these letters were written by the apostle Paul.
4.   The 'Revelation of John' about Jesus and the 'End Times'.

 

The Books of the New Testament

Fig 4(a)  The 27 Books of the New Testament

 

The overall order of the books in the New Testament is quite logical, as the 4 gospels tell the life story of Jesus from his birth in c.5 or 6BC until his death and resurrection in 30AD, while the 'Acts of the Apostles' (which follows on after the gospels) gives an account of the early Christian church from Jesus's resurrection in 30AD until Paul's trial before the Roman Emperor Nero in c.67AD.

The 21 Letters were written between c.35AD (about 5 years after Jesus's death and resurrection) and c.88AD. The 'Revelation of John' is the last book in the New Testament, and was written in c.90AD.

All the books of the New Testament were written within c. 60 years of Jesus's death, and many contain remarkable eye-witness accounts of the life of Jesus. These historical accounts are remarkably reliable compared with other historical documents often written many years after the events they describe.

An agreement about which books should form the New Testament was formally made at the Council of Carthage in 397AD, although similar compilations of Christian writings ('scriptures') had been in existence much earlier than this. 

Unfortunately, the gospels and the letters were not published in the order in which they were written.

The 4 gospels appear in the order Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (see Fig. 4(a) above); but it is now widely acknowledged that Mark was the first gospel to be written (in c.62AD), followed by Luke (in c.63AD), Matthew (in 70-80AD) and John (in c.85AD).

Paul's 13 letters (written between c.50-67AD) come after the 'Acts of the Apostles', but appear in order of length (the longest first, the shortest last) rather than in the order in which they were written. They are followed by the letter of James, although this letter was written much earlier than Paul's letters, in c.35AD.

The content and meaning of Paul' letters are much easier to understand if they are read in their true historical context, so in The Bible Journey, we have re-arranged Paul's letters into chronological order as shown in Fig 4(b):

 

The New Testament in The Bible Journey

Fig 4(b) The New Testament in The Bible Journey

 

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