The school of historical criticism has exposed various apparent contradictions within the texts, as well as questions of authorship and dating. Some Christians, believing that the Holy Spirit 's revelation to the church is progressive, have questioned some of the New Testament's moral teachings—for example on homosexuality , church hierarchy, slavery , and the role of women—as outdated.
Biblical Literature: Hebrew Scriptures
Today, the New Testament remains a central pillar of the Christian faith, and has played a major role in shaping modern Western culture. The term New Testament is a translation from the Latin Novum Testamentum first coined by the second century Christian writer Tertullian. It is related to the concept expressed by the prophet Jeremiah , that translates into English as new covenant :.
This concept of the new covenant is also discussed in the eighth chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews , in which the "old covenant" is portrayed as inferior and even defective Hebrews Indeed, many Christians considered the "old" covenant with the Jews to be obsolete. Use of the term New Testament to describe a collection of first and second-century Christian Greek Scriptures can be traced back to Tertullian in Against Praxeas Tertullian took the orthodox position, that the God of the Jews and the God of the Christians are one and the same.
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By the fourth century, the existence—even if not the exact contents—of both an Old and New Testament had been established. Lactantius, a third—fourth century Christian author wrote in his early-fourth-century Latin Institutiones Divinae Divine Institutes :. But all scripture is divided into two Testaments. That which preceded the advent and passion of Christ—that is, the law and the prophets —is called the Old; but those things which were written after His resurrection are named the New Testament.
The Jews make use of the Old, we of the New: but yet they are not discordant, for the New is the fulfilling of the Old, and in both there is the same testator The majority of Christian denominations have settled on the same book canon. It consists of the four narratives of Jesus Christ's ministry, called " Gospels "; a narrative of the apostles ' ministries in the early church called the Book of Acts ; 21 early letters, commonly called "epistles," written by various authors and consisting mostly of Christian counsel and instruction; and a book of apocalyptic prophecy known as the Book of Revelation.
Each of the Gospels narrates the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. None of the Gospels originally had an author's name associated with it, but each has been an assigned an author according to tradition. Modern scholarship differs on precisely by whom, when, or in what original form the various gospels were written. The first three are commonly classified as the synoptic Gospels.
They contain very similar accounts of events in Jesus' life, although differing in some respects. The Gospel of John stands apart for its unique records of several miracles and sayings of Jesus not found elsewhere. Its timeline of Jesus' ministry also differs significantly from the other Gospels, and its theological outlook is also unique.
The Book of Acts , also occasionally termed Acts of the Apostles or Acts of the Holy Spirit , is a narrative of the apostles' ministry after Christ's death. It is also a sequel to the third Gospel of Luke , written by the same author. The book traces the events of the early Christian church—with the apostles Peter and Paul as the main characters—from shortly after Jesus' resurrection, through the church's spread from Jerusalem into the Gentile world, until shortly before the trial and execution of Saint Paul in Rome.
The Pauline epistles constitute those letters traditionally attributed to Paul , though his authorship of some of them is disputed. One such letter, Hebrews, is nearly universally agreed to be by someone other than Paul. The so-called Pastoral Epistles—1 and 2 Timothy and Titus—are thought by many modern scholars to have been written by a later author in Paul's name. The General or "Catholic" Epistles are those written to the church at large by various writers.
What is the Gospel?
Catholic in this sense simply means universal. The book is also called the Apocalypse of John. It consists primarily of a channeled message from Jesus to seven Christian churches, together with John's dramatic vision of the Last Days, the Second Coming of Christ, and the Final Judgment. In ancient times there were dozens or even hundreds of Christian writings which were considered authoritative by some, but not all, ancient churches. These were not ultimately included in the book New Testament canon.
These works are considered "apocryphal," and are therefore referred to as the New Testament Apocrypha. Some were deemed by the orthodox churches to be heretical, while others were considered spiritually edifying but not early enough to be included, of dubious authorship, or controversial theologically even if not heretical. The New Testament is a collection of works, and as such was written by multiple authors.
The traditional view is that all the books were written by apostles e. These traditional ascriptions have been rejected by some church authorities as early as the second century, however. In modern times, with the rise of rigorous historical inquiry and textual criticism , the apostolic origin of many of the New Testament books has been called into serious question. Seven of the epistles of Paul are now generally accepted by most modern scholars as authentic. Opinion about the Epistle to the Colossians and Second Thessalonians is divided. Most critical scholars doubt that Paul wrote the other letters attributed to him.
Modern conservative Christian scholars tend to be more willing to accept the traditional ascriptions. However, few serious scholars, Christian or otherwise, still hold that Paul wrote the Letter to the Hebrews. The authorship of all non-Pauline New Testament books has been disputed in recent times.
Ascriptions are largely polarized between conservative Christian and liberal Christian as well as non-Christian experts, making any sort of scholarly consensus all but impossible. The traditional view—also supported by a minority of critical scholars—supposes that Matthew was written first, and Mark and Luke drew from it. A smaller group of scholars espouse Lukan priority. The dominant view among critical scholars—the Two-Source Hypothesis—is that the Gospel of Mark was written first, and both Matthew and Luke drew significantly upon Mark and another common source, known as the "Q Source" , from Quelle, the German word for "source.
The Gospel of John is thought by traditional Christians to have been written by John, the son of Zebedee. He is also referred to as "the Beloved Disciple," and is particularly important in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Critical scholarship often takes the view that John's Gospel is the product of a community including formerly Jewish Christians in the late first or early second century, who had been expelled from the Jewish community because of their insistence on the divinity of Jesus and other theological views, which caused them to take an adversarial attitude toward "the Jews.
Views about the authors of the other New Testament works—such as the letters purportedly from such figures such as Peter, James, John, and Jude—fall along similar lines. Traditionalists tend to accept the designations as they have been received, while critical scholars often challenge these notions, seeing the works as mistakenly attributed to apostles, or in some case as being "pious forgeries," written in an apostle's name but not actually authored by him.
According to tradition, the earliest of the books were the letters of Paul, and the last books to be written are those attributed to John, who is traditionally said to have been the youngest of the apostles and to have lived to a very old age. Irenaeus of Lyons , c. Evangelical and traditionalist scholars generally support this dating.
Most critical scholars agree that Paul's letters were the earliest to be written, while doubting that some of the "late" Pauline letters such as Ephesians and Timothy were actually written by Paul. Select an option and chat directly with a member of our support team. Features: Leader helps to guide questions and discussions within small groups Personal study segments to complete between 7 weeks of group sessions Enriching interactive teaching videos, approximately 30 minutes per session, available for purchase or rent Benefits: Experience the unconditional love and call of Jesus.
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