What is the New Testament?

The New Testament is that part of the Bible that was written by the followers of Jesus Christ in the 1st century AD.

The New Testament, along with the Old, is one of the most influencial set of documents in history, and has affected western philosophy, art, literature and culture like no other writings.  It contains the only generally accepted record of the actual words of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as spoken while carrying out His role as Saviour of the human race, as well as some words spoken after His return to Heaven, including His encounter with the Apostle Paul and special revelation given to John the Apostle.

The New Testament records the important details of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in the four gospels and pastoral epistles of Paul and other apostles such as James, Peter, John and Jude. It concludes with the Revelation of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle John written on the island of Patmos in 96 AD.

Colin Peckham in his book "The Authority of the Bible" cites two passages of internal evidence in the New Testament to show support for the view that the apostles that Jesus chose to follow Him believed that God was using them as instruments through divine inspiration to add more books to the existing canon of scriptures  the Jewish community had at the time.

  • In 1 Timothy 5:18 the apostle Paul writes: “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’” The second quote comes from Luke 10:7 in the New Testament gospel of Luke.
  • The apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:16 said that false teachers twisted the words in Paul's epistles "as they do also the REST of the Scriptures." Peter here places Paul’s epistles on an equal level with rest of the existing scriptures.

 

ORDER OF THE BOOKS

Frederick Scrivener, after reviewing a great number of the early Greek New Testament manuscripts, wrote the following regarding the original order of the New Testament which differs from the order found in most Bibles today:

"Whether copies contain the whole or a part of the sacred volume, the general order of the books is the following: Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Epistles, Apocalypse [Revelation]" (Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Vol. 1, p.72).  

Note, when Scrivener refers to the 'Catholic Epistles' he is referring to the General Epistles written by James, Peter, John and Jude, as the word 'catholic' means universal, similar to the word 'general'.

The major difference in order between what is found in the Greek manuscripts and the common order in most New Testament versions today is that the epistles of Paul were later shifted to before the General Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude. This change occurred in the 5th century AD when Jerome translated the New Testament into Latin. His translation became known as the Latin Vulgate.

In relation to the rearrangement of the order of books in the New Testament, Dr E.W. Bullinger in Appendix 95 of his Companion Bible wrote the following:

"Our English Bibles follow the order as given in the Latin Vulgate. This order, therefore, depends on the arbitary judgment of one man, Jerome (AD 347-420). All theories based on this order rest on human authority and are thus without any true foundation."

M'Clintock and Strong in their 12 volume Cyclopedia give their comments as to the reasoning of Jerome for this rearrangement:

"The Western Church...as represented by Jerome and Augustine and their successors, gave priority of position to the Pauline epistles. The tendency of the Western Church to recognize Rome as the center of authority may perhaps, in part, account for this departure from the custom of the East" (Cyclopaedia Biblical Theological Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 1, p. 800).

In his book "Canon and Text of the New Testament", Caspar Gregory writes:

"The order in which we place the books of the New Testament is not a matter of indifference...Every New Testament should have the books in precisely the same order, the order of the Greek Church...First, the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Second, the Book of Acts. Third, the Catholic Epistles: James, First and Second Peter, First, Second and Third John and Jude. Fourth, the Epistles of Paul: Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians, Hebrews, First and Second Timothy, Titus and Philemon. And fifth, the Book of Revelation...The Latin order places Hebrews after Philemon" (p. 467-469).

"The Latin order" Gregory is referring to is the other change made by Jerome in his Latin Vulgate translation -  that of placing the Book of Hebrews written to the Jews in the land of Israel at the end of Paul's epistles rather than in between Paul's epistles to whole churches and pastoral epistles from Paul to individuals.

Westcott and Hort concur with the same original order of books noted by Gregory found in the early Greek New Testament manuscripts in their work, "Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek" (p.320-321).

 

Original order of the New Testament found in the early Greek New Testament manuscripts

THE GOSPELS
(Four different eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus Christ)

1) Matthew

2) Mark

3) Luke

4) John

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES

5) Acts

GENERAL EPISTLES

6)  James

7)  1 Peter

8)  2 Peter

9)  1 John

10) 2 John

11) 3 John

12) Jude

PAUL'S EPISTLES

13) Romans

14) 1 Corinthians

15) 2 Corinthians

16) Galatians

17) Ephesians

18) Philippians

19) Colossians

20) 1 Thessalonians

21) 2 Thessalonians

22) Hebrews

23) 1 Timothy

24) 2 Timothy

25) Titus

26) Philemon

REVELATION

27) Revelation

 

Commonly accepted order, as initially derived from Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation

THE GOSPELS
(Four different eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus Christ)

1) Matthew

2) Mark

3) Luke

4) John

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES

5) Acts

PAUL'S EPISTLES

6)  Romans

7)  1 Corinthians

8)  2 Corinthians

9)  Galatians

10) Ephesians

11) Philippians

12) Colossians

13) 1 Thessalonians

14) 2 Thessalonians

15) 1 Timothy

16) 2 Timothy

17) Titus

18) Philemon

19) Hebrews

GENERAL EPISTLES

20) James

21) 1 Peter

22) 2 Peter

23) 1 John

24) 2 John

25) 3 John

26) Jude

REVELATION

27) Revelation

 

As Judaism does not recognise Jesus Christ as the prophesied Messiah it only recognises the Old Testament, not the New Testament, as the Word of God.

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