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New Testament,the distinctively Christian portion of the BibleBible
[Gr.,=the books], term used since the 4th cent. to denote the Christian Scriptures and later, by extension, those of various religious traditions. This article discusses the nature of religious scripture generally and the Christian Scriptures specifically, as well as the
..... Click the link for more information. , consisting of 27 books of varying lengths dating from the earliest Christian period. The seven epistles whose authorship by St. Paul is undisputed were written c.A.D. 50–A.D. 60; most of the remaining books were written in the era A.D. 70–100, often incorporating earlier traditions. All were written in the koinē idiom of the Greek languageGreek language,
member of the Indo-European family of languages (see Indo-European). It is the language of one of the major civilizations of the world and of one of the greatest literatures of all time.
..... Click the link for more information. .
The works are, in the conventional order: the Gospels of MatthewMatthew, Gospel according to,
1st book of the New Testament. Scholars conjecture that it was written for the church at Antioch toward the end of the 1st cent. Traditonally regarded as the earliest Gospel, it is now generally accepted that it postdates the Gospel of St.
..... Click the link for more information. , MarkMark, Gospel according to,
2d book of the New Testament. The shortest of the four Gospels and probably the earliest, it is usually thought to have been composed shortly before the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Tradition claims St. Mark as the author and St.
..... Click the link for more information. , LukeLuke, Gospel according to Saint,
third book of the New Testament. It was composed in the second half of the 1st cent. Since the 2d cent. it and the Acts of the Apostles have been ascribed to St. Luke; Acts is sometimes considered a sequel to the Gospel.
..... Click the link for more information. , and JohnJohn, Gospel according to Saint,
fourth book of the New Testament. This account of Jesus' life is clearly set off from the other three Gospels (see Synoptic Gospels), although it is probable that John knew and used both Mark and Luke as sources.
..... Click the link for more information. ; the Acts of the ApostlesActs of the Apostles,
book of the New Testament. It is the only 1st-century account of the expansion of Christianity in its earliest period. It was written in Greek anonymously as early as c.A.D. 65, but more likely later in the century, as a sequel to the Gospel of St. Luke.
..... Click the link for more information. , a history of apostolic missionary activity; 21 letters written in apostolic times, called epistles, named for their addressee (or, in the case of the last seven, for their putative author)—RomansRomans,
letter of the New Testament, written by St. Paul, probably from Corinth before his last trip to Jerusalem, c.A.D. 58. It is a treatise addressed to the Christian church at Rome, apparently to introduce himself and his teaching before his expected visit.
..... Click the link for more information. , First and Second CorinthiansCorinthians
, two letters of the New Testament. They were written to the church at Corinth by Paul whose stay in Corinth is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. First Corinthians, written probably at Ephesus early in A.D. 55, is one of the longest and most important epistles.
..... Click the link for more information. , GalatiansGalatians
, letter of the New Testament. It is ascribed to St. Paul and addressed to ethnic Gauls living in central Asia Minor, or to inhabitants of the Roman province of Galatia in S Asia Minor. It may have been the earliest epistle (written c.A.D.
..... Click the link for more information. , PhilippiansPhilippians
, letter of the New Testament, written by St. Paul from captivity probably in Rome (c.A.D. 60) to the Christians of Philippi (in Macedonia), the first European city that he evangelized.
..... Click the link for more information. , PhilemonPhilemon
, letter of the New Testament, written to a Colossian named Philemon by Paul, probably when the latter was a prisoner in Rome (c.A.D. 60). Onesimus, Philemon's fugitive slave, had found Paul and become a Christian.
..... Click the link for more information. , First and Second ThessaloniansThessalonians
, two letters of the New Testament. First Thessalonians was written by St. Paul from Corinth, c.A.D. 51, and addressed to the newly founded church at Thessalonica (Thessaloníki). It opens with a reminiscence of the founding of the church there.
..... Click the link for more information. , EphesiansEphesians
, letter of the New Testament, written, according to tradition, by St. Paul to the Christians of Ephesus from his captivity at Rome (c.A.D. 60). There is ground for believing that the letter was intended as an encyclical.
..... Click the link for more information. , ColossiansColossians
, New Testament letter. It was written to the Christians of Colossae and Laodicea, ostensibly by Paul while he was in prison, presumably in Rome (c.A.D. 60). Its writing was provoked by the appearance of false teachers who taught some sort of gnostic doctrine
..... Click the link for more information. , First and Second TimothyTimothy,
two letters of the New Testament. With Titus they comprise the Pastoral Epistles, in which St. Paul addresses his coworkers as the guardians and transmitters of his teaching.
..... Click the link for more information. , TitusTitus,
letter of the New Testament. With First and Second Timothy, it comprises the Pastoral Epistles, purportedly written by St. Paul. Titus resembles First Timothy in detail; it consists of points regarding the regulation of church government, while stressing the need for the
..... Click the link for more information. (these 13 comprising the Pauline corpus, although Paul's authorship of the last six is disputed), HebrewsHebrews,
an anonymous New Testament homily with closing greetings normally associated with the letter genre, written before c.A.D. 96. It is addressed to Jewish Christians who were being pressured to renounce their confidence in Jesus.
..... Click the link for more information. , JamesJames,
letter of the New Testament, traditionally classified among the Catholic, or General, Epistles. The James of its ascription is traditionally identified with St. James the Less. However, the name is more likely a pseudonym.
..... Click the link for more information. , First and Second PeterPeter,
two letters of the New Testament, classified among the Catholic (or General) Epistles. Each opens with a statement of authorship by the apostle St. Peter. First Peter, the longer book, is addressed from "Babylon" to the Christians of the churches of Asia Minor.
..... Click the link for more information. , First, Second, and Third JohnJohn,
three letters of the New Testament. Traditionally, they are ascribed to John son of Zebedee, the disciple of Jesus. All three letters probably date to the end of the 1st cent. A.D., and may have been written as a corpus. First John is a homily.
..... Click the link for more information. , and JudeJude,
epistle of the New Testament, the next to last book of the Bible. The Jude who wrote it has been identified since ancient times with St. Jude the apostle, but most modern scholars deny the identity and date the letter as late as A.D. 100.
..... Click the link for more information. ; and finally RevelationRevelation
, the last book of the New Testament. It was written c.A.D. 95 on Patmos Island off the coast of Asia Minor by an exile named John, in the wake of local persecution by the Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81–96).
..... Click the link for more information. , or the Apocalypse. Most present problems of date, composition, or authorship. All reflect the needs of the community addressed, as well as their religious convictions and cultural heritage. Consequently, they reflect a diversity of viewpoints while agreeing that Jesus' death and resurrection marks the decisive intervention of God in human affairs.
The 27 books of the New Testament represent only a portion of early Christian literature (see patristic literaturepatristic literature,
Christian writings of the first few centuries. They are chiefly in Greek and Latin; there is analogous writing in Syriac and in Armenian. The first period of patristic literature (1st–2d cent.) includes the works of St. Clement I, St.
..... Click the link for more information. ). There are other gospels, epistles, narratives, and apocalypses among the PseudepigraphaPseudepigrapha
[Gr.,=things falsely ascribed], a collection of early Jewish and some Jewish-Christian writings composed between c.200 B.C. and c.A.D. 200, not found in the Bible or rabbinic writings.
..... Click the link for more information. and in the Nag HammadiNag Hammadi
, a town in Egypt near the ancient town of Chenoboskion, where, in 1945, a large cache of gnostic texts in the Coptic language was discovered. The Nag Hammadi manuscripts, dating from the 4th cent. A.D.
..... Click the link for more information. corpus. The selection of books considered canonical, i.e., authoritative, evolved over the first four centuries of the Christian era. The first canon was compiled by the heretic MarcionMarcion
, c.85–c.160, early Christian bishop, founder of the Marcionites, one of the first great Christian heresies to rival Catholic Christianity. He was born in Sinope. He taught in Asia Minor, then went (c.135) to Rome, where he perfected his theory.
..... Click the link for more information. in the mid-2d cent. Marcion accepted only the letters of Paul (though not Titus or First and Second Timothy) and a truncated version of the Gospel of St. Luke. The earliest extant orthodox list is the Muratorian canon (c.190 or possibly later), which contains most of the books finally accepted as canonical. There was, however, dispute for some time over seven books (Hebrews, James, Second Peter, Second and Third John, Jude, and Revelation) eventually included in the canon, and over others (including the letters of Ignatius of AntiochIgnatius of Antioch, Saint
, d. c.107, bishop of Antioch and Christian martyr, called Theophorus [Gr.,= God-bearer]. He was probably a convert and a disciple of St. John the Evangelist.
..... Click the link for more information. , First ClementClement,
in Philippians, one of Paul's coworkers. He is traditionally identified with St. Clement of Rome, the likely author of a letter written from there to the Corinthian church in c.A.D. 96.
..... Click the link for more information. , the Shepherd of HermasHermas, Shepherd of
, Christian apocalyptic work, composed in Rome c.A.D. 139–A.D. 155. It is a collection of revelations given to Hermas, a devout Christian, by an angel (Shepherd) and is divided into three sections: Visions, Mandates, and Similitudes.
..... Click the link for more information. , the Epistle of Barnabas (see Barnabas, SaintBarnabas, Saint
, Christian apostle. He was a Cypriot and a relative of St. Mark; his forename was Joseph. Several passages in the New Testament relate that Barnabas was a teacher and prophet in the church at Antioch and the companion of St. Paul on his first missionary journey.
..... Click the link for more information. , and the DidacheDidache
[Gr.,=teaching], early Christian work written in Greek, called also The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Dates for its composition suggested by scholars have ranged from A.D. 50 to A.D. 150.
..... Click the link for more information. ). The present New Testament canon appears for the first time in the Festal Letter of St. Athanasius (367). The criterion was that works written by an apostle or by a colleague of one could be trusted to preserve the authentic apostolic witness to Jesus. The traditional view has been that a canonical work must also be divinely inspired. All major Christian traditions use the same New Testament.
See studies by H. Koester (1982); L. T. Johnston (1986); D. E. Aune (1987); E. J. Epp and G. W. MacRae (1989); R. A. Spivey and D. M. Smith (1989); J. D. G. Dunn (1990); R. Price (1996); R. E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).