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New Testament

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Page from Codex Vaticanus written ca. 350 AD

The New Testament is a collection of twenty-seven books and letters, written by eyewitnesses and by people who attained testimony from eyewitnesses.[1] Being that the oldest extant manuscripts are in Greek and the context of hellenization that helped develop the culture of first century Palestine, scholars have determined that the New Testament was originally written in Greek. Completed before 100 AD the emphasis of the New Testament is the life, teachings, crucifixion, death, resurrection and gift of salvation of Jesus of Nazareth. There is also focus on the early history of the Christian church within specifically the book of Acts.

Contents

Reading and Interpretation

NT Wright, an influential New Testament scholar and theologian, paints the picture of the history of reading the New Testament in his book The New Testament and the People of God. Wright recommends reading the New Testament as not only historical but theological, contexts enabling Christianity to maintain a practice of historical theology. However throughout the history of reading the NT there have been;

... four ways (pre-critical, historical, theological and postmodern readings) correspond very broadly to three movements within the history of Western culture in the last few centuries. The first belongs to the period before the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century; the second, to the major emphasis of the Enlightenment, sometimes known as 'modernism' or 'modernity'; the third, to a corrective on the second, still from within the Enlightenment worldview has begun to break up under questioning from many sides, and which has become known as 'postmodern.'[2]

Apologetics

There are two accepted methods proposed by biblical and specifically New Testament biblical scholarship that when followed serve as a type of historical bedrock from which to defend the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and uniqueness of the New Testament among ancient literature. There is firstly the minimal facts method with its pioneer Gary Habermas, recognized as a world authority on the resurrection of Jesus. Secondly there is what is called the general reliability method which is utilized to articulate a case for textual stability of the New Testament rather than the historicity of particular events within the life of Jesus.[3]

Minimal facts method

Main Article: Minimal facts method

The minimal facts method is a historical apologetic that makes the case for the supernatural resurrection of Jesus Christ. The minimal facts method is also called the minimal facts approach and was pioneered in the 1970's by the philosopher, historian and prominent Christian apologist Gary R. Habermas. It is considered within specifically historical apologetics as a scholarly approach to establish specific reliability in the Bible showing the central doctrine of Christianity as historical fact.[4]

General reliability method

Main Article: General reliability method

The general reliability method is apologetics from textual criticism that focuses on the textual features of the New Testament. As ancient literature the NT is compared with other literature from which there are surviving manuscripts. Specific categories of chronological criteria relative to biblical and non-biblical manuscripts are compared. The method formulated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as archeological discoveries brought to light the manuscript and therefore textual data necessary to reason methodically. The general reliability method is underpinned by the whole range of practices within the field of textual criticism. So much so is the field of study so critical that the general reliability method can easily be referred to as textual criticism of the New Testament. The two terms are interchangeable. The general reliability method is used today by apologists, with sophisticated treatments connecting what was pioneered in the 1970's by Gary Habermas, called the minimal facts method.

Books of the New Testament

There are several divisions of the New Testament which are the Gospels, Pauline epistles or letters, the general epistles and the final book of the Bible called Revelation.

Gospels

Main Article: Gospels

The word gospel [ˈɡɒspəl] derives from the Old English word gōdspell from gōd, meaning "good" and spell, meaning "message" or "news" - compare the Old Norse guthspjall, the Old High German guotspell or the Germanic gutspeil. Therefore the word gospel is the English translation of the Koine Greek εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion, εὖ eu "good" + ἄγγελος angelos "messenger"), Latinized evangelium.[5][6] The Acts of the Apostles are a continuance of the gospel Luke, documenting the history of the early Christian church, beginning immediately following Jesus' death and resurrection. Of the authors, only Matthew and John had met Jesus; they were among His disciples during His earthly ministry. Mark was a companion of Peter, and scholarship generally sees his gospel as the first to be written down approximately 65 AD. Luke is considered the author of both his gospel and the book of Acts and is generally referred to as Luke-Acts.

The kinds of material covered within the gospels in regard to the life and death of Jesus Christ are basically five types. They are; parables, miracle stories, pronouncement stories which are anecdotes that preserve the memory of something Jesus said, and were also very popular within the greater Greco-Roman world as well. Individual sayings are also part of the gospels but do not have narrative context like pronouncement stories. And then there are passion and resurrection narratives, which are covered in far more detail than any other types of material found in the gospels.[7]

The gospels are;

There is also Acts of the Apostles which is usually taken in conjunction with Luke and referred to as Luke-Acts.

Pauline Epistles

Main Article: Pauline epistles

These are letters written to various early Christian communities by the Apostle Paul.

General Epistles

Main Article: General epistles

Revelation

Main Article: Revelation

The Book of Revelation, also called The Apocalypse, is the last work in the New Testament as well as the whole Bible, written close to AD 100 by the Apostle John during his exile on the Greek island of Patmos. Revelation is concerned with the condition of the Seven Churches of Asia before going deeply into a description of the last days prior to the beginning of the Millennial Age.

References

  1. Lecture with Dr. Peter Williams on the evidence that builds a case for eyewitness accounts in the New Testament By Lanier Theological Library. Mar 23, 2011
  2. NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Fortress Press 1992), pg. 7
  3. Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels by Gary R. Habermas. Originally published in the Christian Research Journal / vol. 28, no. 1, 2005.
  4. A historical fact is what historians consider knowable history; they do not necessarily mean it to be a logical proof.
  5. The word "gospel" on Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gospel
  6. Good News By Wikipedia
  7. Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey (Baker Academic 2009), pgg. 85-92

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