The New Testament

The books of the New Testament spring from the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and the establishment of the new covenant. Download the Scripture Seekers’ series on the New Testament here.

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The books of the Old Testament are about a people, the books of the New Testament are about a person. All of them spring from the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. The movement which Jesus inspired came to be known as Christianity and the writings which make up the New Testament were written by people committed to that movement.

The relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament reflects both the continuity and discontinuity between the Christian and Israelite faiths. Christians believe God had one plan for salvation that was revealed first to the Israelites and then to all peoples through Jesus Christ. The New Testament and Old Testament, then, tell one ongoing story of salvation. At the same time, the authors of the New Testament were proposing something radically new: Jesus’ fulfilment of the Israelites’ hope in God’s promises.

For the New Testament writers, the Old Testament was Holy Scripture. To tell the story of Jesus, those authors relied largely on the vocabulary and methods of reading scripture that already existed in the Jewish world. From the timeline below, you can see the time when they were described in writing over the first one hundred years of Christian faith.

New Testament timeline    

  • 50-52 CE      two Letters to the Thessalonians
  • 56 CE           (or possibly 63 CE): Philippians
  • 57 CE           1st Corinthians and Galatians
  • 61-63 CE      Colossians; Ephesians; Philemon; 1Timothy; Titus
  • 63 CE           Gospel of Mark; James; 1 Peter
  • 67 CE           2 Timothy; Hebrews
  • 70 CE           Matthew; Luke; Acts; Jude
  • 95 CE           Revelation; Gospel of John

Notice that the books of the New Testament are not in chronological order. The Gospels reached their final form between 30 and 60 years after the death of Christ – therefore, a long time after the letters of Paul. The stories that developed into the Gospels came from a stock of oral tradition and faith memory; they were stories that had been passed down through the generations.

The New Testament has the following four distinct parts (genres):

  • four Gospels: the Good News of Christ’s Life, Death and Resurrection; these Gospels are not meant as a biography or history, but a proclamation of faith
    • three so-called Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke
    • the Gospel of John, which is more theological
  • the Acts of the Apostles: about the early Church
  • the Letters of Paul and the so-called Catholic Epistles
  • the Book of Revelation

Download

Download the Scripture Seekers’ series on the New Testament.