The New Testament is a collection of twenty-seven books and letters of the Bible written by various authors after the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Many prominent scholars have argued that the New Testament was written in full before 100 AD. Written by eyewitnesses and by people who attained credible testimony from eyewitnesses. 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. 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 development and history of what is called early Christianity within the book of Acts.
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.'||”|
There are two accepted methods proposed by New Testament biblical scholarship that serve as a type of historical bedrock from which to defend the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the uniqueness of the New Testament among ancient literature. There is first, the minimal facts method, pioneered by 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 the textual stability of the New Testament rather than the historicity of particular events within the life of Jesus.
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.
General reliability method
- Main Article: General reliability method
The general reliability method is textual critical apologetics which view the New Testament as literature with very unique features. Seen as ancient literature the New Testament is compared and contrasted with other ancient literature of the classical period of history (roughly 800 BC to 500 AD). Classical antiquity created many great works of literature, including the New Testament. The general reliability method found formulation over a thousand years later during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The general reliability method finds itself fully immersed in the whole range of textual criticism. So much so that the general reliability method is sometimes interchangeably referred to as textual criticism of the New Testament. The general reliability method is employed by careful sophistication by apologists with the minimal facts method as well, which combines textual criticism with historical criticism.
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.
- 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. 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.
The gospels are;
- Main Article: Pauline epistles
These are letters written to various early Christian communities by the Apostle Paul.
- Epistle to the Romans
- First Epistle to the Corinthians
- Second Epistle to the Corinthians
- Epistle to the Galatians
- Epistle to the Philippians
- First Epistle to the Thessalonians
- Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
- Epistle to the Ephesians
- Epistle to the Colossians
- First Epistle to Timothy
- Second Epistle to Timothy
- Epistle to Titus
- Epistle to Philemon
- Epistle to the Hebrews
- Main Article: General epistles
- Epistle of James
- First Epistle of Peter
- Second Epistle of Peter
- First Epistle of John
- Second Epistle of John
- Third Epistle of John
- Epistle of Jude
- 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.
- 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
- NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Fortress Press 1992), pg. 7
- Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels by Gary R. Habermas. Originally published in the Christian Research Journal / vol. 28, no. 1, 2005.
- A historical fact is what historians consider knowable history; they do not necessarily mean it to be a logical proof.
- The word "gospel" on Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gospel
- Good News By Wikipedia
- Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey (Baker Academic 2009), pgg. 85-92
- Craig S. Keener, Acts An Exegetical Commentary: Introduction and 1:1-2:47 Volume I (Baker Academic, 2012), pg. 399. "The vast majority of scholars today view Luke-Acts as a unity and would view evidence for the Gospel's date as an indicator of a near date for its second volume (although Acts can be later)."
- Online Resources for Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey By Baker Academic
- New Testament professor Craig A. Evans discusses the Biblical manuscripts, textual criticism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls
- Richard Bauckham Lectures – What Sort of History are the Gospels? Richard Bauckham on the Gospels as (Reliable) Historical Biography