New Testament

New Testament

The New Testament (Koine Greek: Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Hē Kainḕ Diathḗkē) is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament.

Unlike the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, of which Christians hold different views, the contents of the New Testament deal explicitly with 1st century Christianity, although both the Old and New Testament are regarded, together, as Sacred Scripture. The New Testament has therefore (in whole or in part) frequently accompanied the spread of Christianity around the world, and both reflects and serves as a source for Christian theology. Phrases as well as extended readings directly from the New Testament are also incorporated (along with readings from the Old Testament) into the various Christian liturgies. The New Testament has influenced not only religious, philosophical, and political movements in Christendom, but also left an indelible mark on its literature, art, and music.

The New Testament is an anthology, a collection of works written at different times by various authors. In almost all Christian traditions today, the New Testament consists of 27 books. The original texts were written beginning around AD 50 in Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the eastern part of the Roman Empire where they were composed. All of the works which would eventually be incorporated into the New Testament would seem to have been written no later than around 150 AD.[1] Numerous scholars date all of them prior to AD 70, because there is no mention of the total destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, or the final years and deaths of Paul, Peter, and the other apostles.

Collections of related texts such as letters of the Apostle Paul (a major collection of which must have been made already by the early 2nd century)[2] and the Canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (asserted by Irenaeus of Lyon in the late-2nd century as the Four Gospels) gradually were joined to other collections and single works in different combinations to form various Christian canons of Scripture. Over time, some disputed books, such as the Book of Revelation and the Minor Catholic Epistles were introduced into canons in which they were originally absent, and other works earlier held to be Scripture such as 1 Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Diatessaron were excluded from the New Testament. Interestingly, although the Old Testament canon is not uniform within Christianity, with e.g. Roman Catholics, Protestants, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Slavic Orthodox Churches, and the Armenian Orthodox Church differing as to which books are included, the twenty-seven-book canon of the New Testament has, since at least Late Antiquity, been almost universally recognized within Christianity (see twenty-seven book canon; exceptions include the New Testament of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the canon of which—like that of their Old Testament—has not been unequivocally fixed and Martin Luther's attempt to exclude four books from the New Testament). The New Testament consists of four narratives of the life, teaching, and death of Jesus, called "gospels"; a narrative of the Apostles' ministries in the early church, called the "Acts of the Apostles" and probably by the same author as the Gospel of Luke, which it continues; twenty-one letters, often called "epistles" in the biblical context, written by various authors and consisting mostly of Christian counsel, instruction, and conflict resolution; and an Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation.



The Gospels

Each of the four gospels in the New Testament narrates the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Since the 2nd century, they have been referred to as "The Gospel of ..." or "The Gospel according to ..." followed by the name of the author. Whatever these admittedly early ascriptions may imply about the sources behind or the perception of these gospels, they appear to have been originally anonymous compositions.[3]

The first three gospels listed above are classified as the Synoptic Gospels. They contain similar accounts of the events in Jesus' life and his teaching, due to their literary interdependence (see below under Authorship). The Gospel of John is structured differently and includes stories of several miracles of Jesus and his sayings not found in the other three. These four gospels that were eventually included in the New Testament were only a few among many other early Christian gospels. The existence of such texts is even mentioned at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:1-4). Other early Christian gospels such as the so-called "Jewish-Christian Gospels" or the Gospel of Thomas, also offer both a window into the context of early Christianity and may provide some assistance in the reconstruction of the historical Jesus.

Acts of the Apostles

The Acts of the Apostles, also simply referred to as the "book of Acts" or "Acts", is a narrative of the apostles' ministry after Christ's death and resurrection, from which point it resumes and functions as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Examining style, phraseology, and other evidence, modern scholarship generally concludes that Acts and the Gospel of Luke share the same author, referred to as Luke-Acts. This is also suggested by the dedication to a certain "Theophilus" at the beginning of both works.[5]

Pauline epistles

The Pauline epistles (forming the Corpus Paulinum) constitute those epistles written in the name of the Apostle Paul. The authorship of a number of these is disputed (see below under Authorship). These letters were written to Christian communities in specific cities or geographical regions, often to address issues faced by that particular community. Prominent themes include the relationship both to broader "pagan" society, to Judaism, and to other Christians.[6]

Pastoral Epistles

The Pastoral Epistles are addressed to individuals with pastoral oversight of churches and discuss issues of Christian living, doctrine and leadership. They often address different concerns to those of the preceding epistles.


Though the Letter to the Hebrews does not internally claim to have been written by the Apostle Paul, in antiquity, certain circles began to ascribe it to Paul in an attempt to provide the anonymous work an explicit apostolic pedigree.[7] In the 3rd century, Origen wrote of the letter, "Men of old have handed it down as Paul's, but who wrote the Epistle God only knows."[8]

  • Letter to the Hebrews, anonymous

Catholic epistles

The Catholic Epistles consist of both letters and treatises in the form of letters written to the church at large. The term "catholic" (Greek: καθολική, katholikē), used to describe these letters already in the oldest manuscripts containing them, here simply means "universal". The letters are therefore also referred to as the "General Epistles". The authorship of a number of these is disputed (see below under Authorship).

Book of Revelation

The final book of the New Testament is the Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse of John. Its authorship has been attributed either to the Apostle John (in which case it is often thought that the Apostle John is John the Evangelist, i.e. author of the Gospel of John) or to another John designated "John of Patmos" after the island where the text says the revelation was received (1:9). For a discussion of authorship see Authorship of the Johannine works. The work opens with letters to seven churches and thereafter takes the form of an apocalypse, a literary genre popular in ancient Judaism and Christianity.[10]

Order of the books in the New Testament

The order in which the books of the New Testament appear differs between some collections and ecclesiastical traditions. In the Latin West, prior to the Vulgate (an early 5th-century Latin version of the Bible), the Four Gospels were arranged in the following order: Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark.[11] The Syriac Peshitta places the Major Catholic Epistles (James, 1 Peter, and 1 John) immediately after Acts and before the Pauline Epistles. The order of an early edition of the letters of Paul is based on the size of the letters: longest to shortest, though keeping 1 and 2 Corinthians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians together. The Pastoral Epistles were apparently not part of the Corpus Paulinum in which this order originated and were later inserted after 2 Thessalonians and before Philemon. Hebrews was variously incorporated into the Corpus Paulinum either after 2 Thessalonians, after Philemon (i.e. at the very end), or after Romans.

The New Testament of the 16th-century Luther Bible continues, to this day, to place Hebrews, James, Jude, and the Apocalypse last. This reflects the thoughts of the Reformer Martin Luther on the canonicity of these books.[12]


The books that eventually found a permanent place in the New Testament were not the only works of Christian literature produced in the earliest Christian centuries. The long process of canonization began early, sometimes with tacit reception of traditional texts, sometimes with explicit selection or rejection of particular texts as either acceptable or unacceptable for use in a given context (e.g., not all texts that were acceptable for private use were considered appropriate for use in the liturgy). These decisions were not necessarily based upon an assessment of the religious ideas or theology of the work in question (for other factors, see below under Canonization). Over the course of history, those works of early Christian literature that survived but that did not become part of the New Testament have been variously grouped by theologians and scholars. Drawing upon, though redefining, an older term used in early Christianity and among Protestants when referring to those books found in the Christian Old Testament though not in the Jewish Bible, modern scholars began to refer to these works of early Christian literature not included in the New Testament as "apocryphal", by which was meant "non-canonical". Collected editions of these works were then referred to as the "New Testament Apocrypha". Typically excluded from such published collections are the following groups of works: The Apostolic Fathers, the 2nd-century Christian apologists, the Alexandrians, Tertullian, Methodius of Olympus, Novatian, Cyprian, martyrdoms, and the Desert Fathers. Almost all other Christian literature from the period, and sometimes including works composed well into Late Antiquity, are relegated to the so-called "New Testament Apocrypha". These "apocryphal" works are nevertheless important for the study of the New Testament in that they were produced in the same ancient context and often using the same language as those books that would eventually form the New Testament. Some of these later works are dependent upon (either directly or indirectly) books that would later come to be in the New Testament or upon the ideas expressed in them. There is even an example of a pseudepigraphical letter composed under the guise of a presumably lost letter of the Apostle Paul, the Epistle to the Laodiceans.


The major languages spoken by both Jews and Greeks in the Holy Land at the time of Jesus were Aramaic and Koine Greek, and to a limited extent a colloquial dialect of Mishnaic Hebrew. It is generally agreed that the historical Jesus primarily spoke Aramaic.[13] The majority view is that all of the books that would eventually form the New Testament were written in Koine Greek.[14][15] As Christianity spread, these books were later translated into other languages, most notably, Latin, Syriac, and Coptic. However, some of the Church Fathers[16] imply or claim that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic. Nevertheless, the Gospel of Matthew known today was composed in Greek and is neither directly dependent upon nor a translation of a text in a Semitic language, though the citation of texts from the Old Testament demonstrates that the author of the Gospel of Matthew did know Hebrew.[17]


Gospels and Acts

Most scholars hold to the two-source hypothesis which claims that the Gospel of Mark was written first. According to the hypothesis, the authors of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke then used the Gospel of Mark and the hypothetical Q document, in addition to some other sources, to write their individual gospels.[18][19][20][21][22] These three gospels are called the Synoptic gospels since they are all very similar. Scholars agree that the Gospel of John was written last, by using a different tradition and body of testimony. In addition, most scholars agree that the author of Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Scholars hold that these books constituted two halves of a single work, Luke-Acts.

Evangelist Mathäus und der Engel by Rembrandt

Strictly speaking, each gospel (and Acts) is anonymous.[23] The Gospel of John is somewhat of an exception, although the author simply refers to himself as "the disciple Jesus loved" and claims to be a member of Jesus' inner circle.[24] The identities of each author were agreed upon at an early date, certainly no later than the early 2nd century. It is likely that the issue of the authorship of each gospel had been settled at least somewhat earlier,[25] as the earliest sources are in complete agreement on the issue.[26] Indeed, no one questioned the early 2nd century consensus until the 18th century.[26]

Few scholars today question[27] the traditional claim that Luke the Evangelist, an associate of St. Paul who was probably not an eyewitness to Jesus' ministry, wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles.[26] Scholars are more divided though deferential to the traditional claim that Mark the Evangelist, an associate of St. Peter who might have been an eyewitness to Jesus' ministry, wrote the Gospel of Mark.[28] Scholars are more divided over the traditional claim that Matthew the Apostle wrote the Gospel of Matthew[29][30] and that John the Apostle wrote the Gospel of John.[31][32][33] Opinion, however, is widely divided on this issue and there is no widespread consensus.[34][35]

Lucan Texts

The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were both written by the same author, and are thus referred to as the Lucan Texts.[36] The most direct evidence comes from the prefaces of each book. Both prefaces were addressed to Theophilus, and the preface to the Acts of the Apostles references "my former book" about the ministry of Jesus. Furthermore, there are linguistic and theological similarities between the two works, suggesting that they have a common author.[37][38][39] The traditional view of Lukan authorship is “widely held as the view which most satisfactorily explains all the data.”[40] The list of scholars maintaining authorship of Luke-Acts by Luke is lengthy, and represents scholars from a wide range of theological opinion.[27] Luke is considered by many scholars to be the pinnacle of what are known as the Synoptic Gospels, or the pinnacle of Synoptic Theology.

Pauline epistles

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, 16th century painting. Most scholars think Paul actually dictated his letters to a secretary.

The Pauline epistles are the thirteen books in the New Testament traditionally attributed to Paul of Tarsus. Some consider the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews a fourteenth Pauline epistle.[41]

Seven letters are generally classified as “undisputed”, expressing contemporary scholarly near consensus that they are the work of Paul: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Six additional letters bearing Paul's name do not currently enjoy the same academic consensus: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus. The first three, called the "Deutero-Pauline Epistles," have no consensus on whether or not they are authentic letters of Paul. The latter three, the "Pastoral Epistles", are widely regarded as pseudepigrapha,[42] though certain scholars do consider St Paul to be the author.[43] There are two examples of pseudonymous letters written in Paul’s name apart from the alleged New Testament epistles: These are the Epistle to the Laodiceans and 3 Corinthians. Since the early centuries of the church, there has been debate concerning the authorship of the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews, and contemporary scholars reject Pauline authorship.[44] The epistles all share common themes, emphasis, vocabulary and style; they exhibit a uniformity of doctrine concerning the Mosaic Law, Jesus, faith, and various other issues. All of these letters easily fit into the chronology of Paul's journeys depicted in Acts of the Apostles.

Other epistles

The author of the Epistle of James identifies himself in the opening verse as "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ". From the middle of the 3rd century, patristic authors cited the Epistle as written by James the Just.[45] Ancient and modern scholars have always been divided on the issue of authorship. Many consider the epistle to be written in the late 1st or early 2nd centuries.[46]

The author of the First Epistle of Peter identifies himself in the opening verse as "Peter, an apostle of Jesus", and the view that the epistle was written by St. Peter is attested to by a number of Church Fathers: Irenaeus (140-203), Tertullian (150-222), Clement of Alexandria (155-215) and Origen of Alexandria (185-253). Unlike The Second Epistle of Peter, the authorship of which was debated in antiquity, there was little debate about Peter’s authorship of this first epistle until the 18th century. Although 2 Peter internally purports to be a work of the apostle, many biblical scholars have concluded that Peter is not the author.[47] For an early date and (usually) for a defense of the Apostle Peter's authorship see Kruger,[48] Zahn,[49] Spitta,[50] Bigg,[51] and Green.[52]

Johannine Literature

What is studied as Johannine Literature are five works in the New Testament Canon that are linked based on authorship. The Gospel of John, the three Epistles of John, and Revelation were largely agreed upon as being penned by the same hand according to the Patristic Literature. This up for debate in modern scholarly circles, but for the purposes of analyzation in academic and scholarly settings the Gospel and Epistles are combined under the construct "Johannine Literature" while the book of Revelation falls under "Apocryphal Literature." The Johannine corpus is also strongly associated with the Church at Ephesus, which John is purported to have pastored during the 1st century.

Johannine Epistles

The First Epistle of John is traditionally held to have been composed by John the Apostle (the author of the Gospel of John) when the writer was in advanced age. The epistle's content, language and conceptual style indicate that it may have had the same author as the Gospel of John, 2 John, and 3 John.[53] Eusebius claimed that the author of 2nd and 3rd John were not John the Apostle an "elder John" which refers either to the apostle at an advanced age or a hypothetical second individual ("John the Elder").[54] Scholars today are divided on the issue. The Epistle of Jude title is written as follows: "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James" (NRSV). The debate has continued over the author's identity as the apostle, the brother of Jesus, both, or neither.[55]

Revelation (The Apocalyptic Vision of John)

The author of the Book of Revelation identifies himself several times as "John".[56] The author also states that he was on Patmos when he received his first vision.[57] As a result, the author of Revelation is sometimes referred to as John of Patmos. The author, named John, has traditionally been identified with John the Apostle, to whom the Gospel of John is also attributed. The traditional view holds that John the Apostle—considered to have written the Gospel and the epistles of John—was exiled to the island of Patmos during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian, and there wrote Revelation. Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 AD) who was acquainted with Polycarp, who had been mentored by John, makes a possible allusion to this book, and credits John as the source.[58] Irenaeus (c. 115-202) assumes it as a conceded point. According to the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, modern scholars are divided between the apostolic view and several alternative hypotheses which have been put forth in the last hundred years or so.[59]

Dates of composition

The earliest works which came to be part of the New Testament are the letters of the Apostle Paul. The Gospel of Mark has been dated from as early as the 50s, although many scholars date between the range of 65 and 72.[60] Many scholars believe that Matthew and Luke were written after the composition of Mark as they make use of Mark's content. Therefore they are generally dated later than Mark, although the extent is debated. Matthew has been dated between 70 and 85. Luke has been placed within 80 to 95. However, a select few scholars date the Gospel of Luke much earlier, as Luke indicates in the book of Acts that he has already written the Gospel of Luke prior to writing the introduction to Acts.

The earliest of the books of the New Testament was First Thessalonians, an epistle of Paul, written probably in AD 51, or possibly Galatians in 49 according to one of two theories of its writing. Of the pseudepigraphical epistles, scholars tend to place them somewhere between 70 and 150, with Second Peter usually being the latest.[citation needed]

In the 1830s German scholars of the Tübingen school tried to date the books as late as the 3rd century, but the discovery of some New Testament manuscripts and fragments from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, one of which dates as early as AD 125 (Papyrus 52), disproves a 3rd century date of composition for any book now in the New Testament. Additionally, a letter to the church at Corinth in the name of Clement of Rome in AD. 95 quotes from 10 of the 27 books of the New Testament, and a letter to the church at Philippi in the name of Polycarp in 120 quotes from 16 books. Therefore, some of the books of the New Testament were at least in a first-draft stage, though there is negligible evidence in these quotes or among biblical manuscripts for the existence of different early drafts. Other books were probably not completed until later, assuming they must have been quoted by Clement or Polycarp. There are trivial discrepancies between manuscripts; the majority of the errors are clearly errors of transcription or very minor in scope.

However, John A. T. Robinson and other scholars argued for a much earlier dating, based on the fact that the New Testament writings make no mention of (1) the Great Fire of Rome (A.D. 64), one of the most destructive fires in Roman history, which Emperor Nero blamed on the Christians, and led to the first major persecution of believers; (2) the final years and deaths of Paul, who wrote most of the epistles, Peter, whom Catholics recognize as the first pope, and the other apostles; (3) Nero's suicide (A.D. 68); or (4) the total destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (A.D. 70), which Robinson thought should certainly have appeared, considering the importance of that event for Jews and Christians of that time. Jesus prophesies its total destruction in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but the fulfillment of that prophecy never appears anywhere in the New Testament. Therefore, Robinson claimed that every book which would come to form the New Testament was written before AD. 70.[61]

Etymology of the term "New Testament"

Use of the term New Testament to describe a collection of Christian scriptures can be traced back to the Latin Novum Testamentum first coined by Tertullian, who was probably referring to the Latin Vetus Latina. Some[who?] believe this in turn is a translation of the earlier Greek καινὴ διαθήκη. This Greek phrase is found in the text of the New Testament itself, but it carries the meaning "New Covenant" and is so translated (see Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthains 3:6, Hebrews 8:8, and Hebrews 9:15; cf. 2 Cor 3:14) in most English translations of the Bible. The phrase also appears earlier, in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). In Jeremiah 31:31, the Septuagint used this Greek phrase to translate the original Hebrew ברית חדשה (berit chadashah). The Hebrew term is also usually translated New Covenant. Nonetheless, "New Testament" and "New Covenant", though different terms, are commonly conflated.

As a result, some claim the term was first used by Early Christians to refer to the New Covenant that was the basis for their relationship with God. About two centuries later at the time of Tertullian and Lactantius, the phrase was being used to designate a particular collection of books that some believed embodied this new covenant.[citation needed]

Tertullian, writing in the early-3rd century, offers the first known use the terms novum testamentum/new testament and vetus testamentum/old testament. In Against Marcion book 3 (written in the early 3rd century, c. AD 208), chapter 14, he writes of

the Divine Word, who is doubly edged with the two testaments of the law and the gospel[62]

And in book 4, chapter 6, he writes that

it is certain that the whole aim at which he [Marcion] has strenuously laboured even in the drawing up of his Antitheses, centres in this, that he may establish a diversity between the Old and the New Testaments, so that his own Christ may be separate from the Creator, as belonging to this rival god, and as alien from the law and the prophets.[63]

By the 4th century, the existence—even if not the exact contents—of both an Old and New Testament had been established. Lactantius, a Christian author of the 3rd and 4th century who wrote in Latin, in his early-4th-century Divine Institutes, book 4, chapter 20, wrote:

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, even Christ, who, having suffered death for us, made us heirs of His everlasting kingdom, the people of the Jews being deprived and disinherited. As the prophet Jeremiah testifies when he speaks such things: [Jer 31:31–32] "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new testament to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not according to the testament which I made to their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; for they continued not in my testament, and I disregarded them, saith the Lord." ... For that which He said above, that He would make a new testament to the house of Judah, shows that the old testament which was given by Moses was not perfect; but that which was to be given by Christ would be complete.[64]


The process of the canonization of the New Testament was complex and lengthy. It was characterized by a compilation of books that the apostolic tradition considered authoritative in worship and teaching, relevant to the historical situations in which they lived, and consonant with the Old Testament.[65]

The New Testament canon developed over many centuries. The 3rd century Church Father Origen was largely responsible for the collection of usage information regarding the texts which became the New Testament. The information used to create the late-4th-century Easter Letter, which declared accepted Christian writings, was probably based on the Ecclesiastical History [HE] of Eusebius of Caesarea, wherein he uses the information passed on to him by Origen to create both his list at HE 3:25 and Origen’s list at HE 6:25. Eusebius got his information about what texts were then accepted and what were then disputed, by the third-century churches throughout the known world, a great deal of which Origen knew of firsthand from his extensive travels, from the library and writings of Origen.[66] In fact, Origen would have possibly included in his list of “inspired writings” other texts which were kept out by the likes of Eusebius, including the Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, and 1 Clement. Notwithstanding these facts, "Origen is not the originator of the idea of biblical canon, but he certainly gives the philosophical and literary-interpretative underpinnings for the whole notion."[67]

On the question of NT Canon formation generally, New Testament scholar Lee Martin McDonald has written that:[68]

Although a number of Christians have thought that church councils determined what books were to be included in the biblical canons, a more accurate reflection of the matter is that the councils recognized or acknowledged those books that had already obtained prominence from usage among the various early Christian communities.

Christian scholars assert that when these bishops and councils spoke on the matter, they were not defining something new, but instead "were ratifying what had already become the mind of the Church".[69][70]

Some synods of the 4th century published lists of canonical books (e.g. Hippo and Carthage). The existing 27-book canon of the New Testament was reconfirmed (for Roman Catholicism) in the 16th century with the Council of Trent (also called the Tridentine Council) of 1546,[71] the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563 for the Church of England, the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647 for Calvinism, and the Synod of Jerusalem of 1672 for Eastern Orthodoxy. Although these councils did include statements about the canon, when it came to the New Testament they were only reaffirming the existing canon, including the Antilegomena.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Canon of the New Testament: "The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council."

In the initial centuries of the Christian church, Early Christianity, there was no single New Testament canon that was universally recognized.[72]

One of the earliest attempts at solidifying a canon was made by Marcion, c. AD 140, who accepted only a modified version of Luke (Gospel of Marcion) and ten of Paul's letters, while rejecting the Old Testament entirely. His canon was increasingly rejected by other groups of Christians, notably the proto-orthodox Christians, as was his theology, Marcionism. Adolf Harnack in Origin of the New Testament (1914)[73] observed that the church at this time was largely an Old Testament Church (one that "follows the Testament of the Creator-God") without a New Testament canon and that it gradually formulated its New Testament canon in response to the challenge posed by Marcion.

The Muratorian fragment, dated at between 170 (based on an internal reference to Pope Pius I and arguments put forth by Bruce Metzger) and as late as the end of the 4th century (according to the Anchor Bible Dictionary), may be the earliest known New Testament canon attributed to mainstream (that is, not Marcionite) Christianity. It is similar, but not identical, to the modern New Testament canon.

The oldest clear endorsement of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John being the only legitimate gospels was written c. 180 AD. It was a claim made by Bishop Irenaeus in his polemic Against the Heresies, for example III.XI.8: "It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the church is the gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh."

At least, then, the books considered to be authoritative by Irenaeus included the four gospels and many of the letters of Paul, though, based on the arguments Irenaeus made in support of only four authentic gospels, some interpreters deduce that the fourfold Gospel must have still been a novelty in Irenaeus's time.[74] Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian (all 2nd century) held the letters of Paul to be on par with the Hebrew scriptures as being divinely inspired, yet others rejected him. Other books were held in high esteem but were gradually relegated to the status of New Testament Apocrypha.

Eusebius, c. 300, gave a detailed list of New Testament writings in his Ecclesiastical History Book 3, Chapter XXV:

"1... First then must be put the holy quaternion of the gospels; following them the Acts of the Apostles... the epistles of Paul... the epistle of John... the epistle of Peter... After them is to be placed, if it really seem proper, the Book of Revelation, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. These then belong among the accepted writings."
"3 Among the disputed writings [Antilegomena], which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the second and third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name. Among the rejected [Kirsopp Lake translation: "not genuine"] writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books. And among these some have placed also the Gospel according to the Hebrews... And all these may be reckoned among the disputed books."
"6... such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or of any others besides them, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles... they clearly show themselves to be the fictions of heretics. Wherefore they are not to be placed even among the rejected writings, but are all of them to be cast aside as absurd and impious."

Revelation is counted as both accepted (Kirsopp Lake translation: "Recognized") and disputed, which has caused some confusion over what exactly Eusebius meant by doing so. From other writings of the church fathers, it was disputed with several canon lists rejecting its canonicity. EH 3.3.5 adds further detail on Paul: "Paul's fourteen epistles are well known and undisputed. It is not indeed right to overlook the fact that some have rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews, saying that it is disputed by the church of Rome, on the ground that it was not written by Paul." EH 4.29.6 mentions the Diatessaron: "But their original founder, Tatian, formed a certain combination and collection of the gospels, I know not how, to which he gave the title Diatessaron, and which is still in the hands of some. But they say that he ventured to paraphrase certain words of the apostle [Paul], in order to improve their style."

In 331, Constantine I commissioned Eusebius to deliver fifty Bibles for the Church of Constantinople. Athanasius (Apol. Const. 4) recorded Alexandrian scribes around 340 preparing Bibles for Constans. Little else is known, though there is plenty of speculation. For example, it is speculated that this may have provided motivation for canon lists, and that Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus may be examples of these Bibles. Together with the Peshitta and Codex Alexandrinus, these are the earliest extant Christian Bibles.[75] There is no evidence among the canons of the First Council of Nicaea of any determination on the canon.

The New Testament canon as it is now was first listed by St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in 367, in a letter written to his churches in Egypt, Festal Letter 39. Also cited is the Council of Rome, but not without controversy. That canon gained wider and wider recognition until it was accepted at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 and 419.[76] Even this council did not settle the matter, however. Certain books, referred to as Antilegomena, continued to be questioned, especially James and Revelation. Even as late as the 16th century, the Reformer Martin Luther questioned (but in the end did not reject) the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Book of Revelation. To this day, German-language Luther Bibles are printed with these four books at the end of the canon, rather than in their traditional order as in other editions of the Bible. In light of this questioning of the canon of Scripture by Protestants in the 16th century, the (Roman Catholic) Council of Trent reaffirmed the traditional western canon (i.e., the canon accepted at the 4th-century Council of Rome and Council of Carthage), thus making the Canon of Trent and the Vulgate Bible dogma in the Catholic Church. Later, Pope Pius XI on June 2, 1927 decreed the Comma Johanneum was open to dispute and Pope Pius XII on 3 September 1943 decreed the Divino Afflante Spiritu which allowed translations based on other versions than just the Latin Vulgate, notably in English the New American Bible.

A letter entitled Epistle to the Laodiceans, consisting of 20 short lines, is found in some editions of the Vulgate, known only in Latin. The text was almost unanimously considered pseudepigraphal when Biblical canon was decided upon, and does not appear in any Greek copies of the Bible at all, nor is it known in Syriac or other versions. The epistle also appeared in John Wycliffe's Bible and in all the early German translations before Martin Luther's, and was thus evidently considered scriptural by much of the western church for quite some time.[77]

Early manuscripts

Papyrus Bodmer VIII, at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, showing 1 and 2 Peter
Codex Regius (L or 019), an 8th century Greek manuscript of the New Testament with strong affinities to Codex Vaticanus

Like other literature from antiquity, the text of the New Testament was (prior to the advent of the printing press) preserved and transmitted in manuscripts. Manuscripts containing at least a part of the New Testament number in the thousands. The earliest of these (like manuscripts containing other literature) are often very fragmentarily preserved. Some of these fragments have even been thought to date as early as the 2nd century (i.e., Papyrus 90, Papyrus 98, Papyrus 104, and famously Rylands Library Papyrus P52, though the early date of the latter has recently been called into question).[78] For each subsequent century, more and more manuscripts survive that contain a portion or all of the books that were held to be part of the New Testament at that time (for example, the New Testament of the 4th-century Codex Sinaiticus, once a complete Bible, contains the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas), though occasionally these manuscripts contain other works as well (e.g., Papyrus 72 and the Crosby-Schøyen Codex). The date at which a manuscript was written, however, does not necessarily reflect the date of the form of text it contains. That is, later manuscripts can, and occasionally do, contain older forms of text or older readings.

Some of the more important manuscripts containing an early text of books of the New Testament are:

Textual variation

Textual criticism deals with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts. Ancient scribes made errors or alterations (such as including non-authentic additions).[79] The New Testament has been preserved in more than 5,800 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Ethiopic and Armenian. Even if the original Greek versions were lost, the entire New Testament could still be assembled from the translations.[80] In addition, there are so many quotes from the New Testament in early church documents and commentaries that the entire New Testament could also be assembled from these alone.[80] Not all biblical manuscripts come from orthodox Christian writers. For example, the Gnostic writings of Valentinus come from the 2nd century AD, and these Christians were regarded as heretics by the mainstream church.[81] The sheer number of witnesses presents unique difficulties, but it also gives scholars a better idea of how close modern bibles are to the original versions.[81] On noting the large number of surviving ancient manuscripts, Bruce Metzger sums up the view on the issue by saying "The more often you have copies that agree with each other, especially if they emerge from different geographical areas, the more you can cross-check them to figure out what the original document was like. The only way they'd agree would be where they went back genealogically in a family tree that represents the descent of the manuscripts.[80]

A similar type of textual criticism is applied to other ancient texts.[82] There are far fewer witnesses to classical texts than to the Bible, and unlike the New Testament where the earliest witnesses are often within a couple decades of the original, the earliest existing manuscripts of most classical texts were written about a millennium after their composition. For example, the earliest surviving copies of parts of the Roman historian Tacitus' main work, the Annals of Imperial Rome (written in 116 AD), come from a single manuscript written in 850 AD, although for other parts of his work, the earliest copies come from the 11th century, while other parts of his work have been lost.[80] The earliest copies of The Jewish War by Josephus (originally composed in the 1st century AD), in contrast, come from nine manuscripts written in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries.[80] After the bible, the next best preserved ancient work is Homer's Iliad, with 650 copies originating about 1,000 years after the original copy.[80] Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War (written in the 50s BC) survives in nine copies written in the 8th century.[83] Thucydides' history of the Peloponesian War and Herodotus' history of the Persian War (both written in the 5th century BC) survives in about eight early copies, the oldest ones dating from the 10th century AD.[83] Biblical scholar F. F. Bruce has said "the evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning...It is a curious fact that historians have often been much readier to trust the New Testament records than have many theologians."[84]

In attempting to determine the original text of the New Testament books, some modern textual critics have identified sections as additions of material, centuries after the gospel was written. These are called interpolations. In modern translations of the Bible, the results of textual criticism have led to certain verses, words and phrases being left out or marked as not original. According to Bart D. Ehrman, "These scribal additions are often found in late medieval manuscripts of the New Testament, but not in the manuscripts of the earlier centuries."[85] Most modern Bibles have footnotes to indicate passages that have disputed source documents. Bible Commentaries also discuss these, sometimes in great detail. While many variations have been discovered between early copies of biblical texts, almost all have no importance, as they are variations in spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Also, many of these variants are so particular to the Greek language that they would not appear in translations into other languages. For example, order of words (i.e. "man bites dog" versus "dog bites man") often does not matter in Greek, so textual variants that flip the order of words often have no consequences.[80] Outside of these unimportant variants, there are a couple variants of some importance, although even these are minor and can be left out of modern bibles without affecting any matter of theology or interpretation. The two most commonly cited examples are the last verses of the Gospel of Mark[86][87][88] and the story of the adulterous woman in the Gospel of John.[89][90][91] Some critics also believe the explicit reference to the Trinity in 1 John to have been a later addition.[92][93] According to Normal Geisler and William Nix, "The New Testmaent, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book—a form that is 99.5% pure"[94]

Rossano Gospels, 6th century, a representative of Byzantine text

The often referred to Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, a book written to prove the validity of the New Testament, says: ” A study of 150 Greek [manuscripts] of the Gospel of Luke has revealed more than 30,000 different readings... It is safe to say that there is not one sentence in the New Testament in which the [manuscript] is wholly uniform.”[95] Most of the variation took place within the first three Christian centuries. By the 4th century, textual "families" or types of text become discernable among New Testament manuscripts. A "text-type" is the name given to a family of texts with similar readings due to common ancestors and mutual correction. Many early manuscripts, however, contain individual readings from several different earlier forms of text. Modern texual critics have identified the following text-types among textual witnesses to the New Testament: The Alexandrian text-type is usually considered to generally preserve many early readings. It is represented, e.g., by Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus and the Bodmer Papyri. The Western text-type is generally longer and can be paraphrastic, but can also preserve early readings. The Western version of the Acts of the Apostles is, notably, 8.5% longer than the Alexandrian form of the text. Examples of the Western text are found in Codex Bezae, Codex Claromontanus, Codex Washingtonianus, the Old Latin (i.e., Latin translations made prior to the Vulgate), as well as in quotations by Marcion, Tatian, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Cyprian. A text-type referred to as the "Caesarean text-type" and thought to have included witnesses such as Codex Koridethi and minuscule 565, can today be described neither as "Caesarean" nor as a text-type as was previously thought. However, the Gospel of Mark in Papyrus 45, Codex Washingtonianus and in Family 13 does indeed reflect a distinct type of text. Increasing standardization of distinct (and once local) text-types eventually gave rise to the Byzantine text-type. Since most manuscripts of the New Testament do not derive from the first several centuries, that is, they were copied after the rise of the Byzantine text-type, this form of text is found the majority of extant manuscripts and is therefore often called the "Majority Text." As with all of the other (earlier) text-types, the Byzantine can also occasionally preserve early readings.

Establishing a critical text

The textual variation among manuscript copies of books in the New Testament prompted attempts to discern the earliest form of text already in antiquity (e.g., by the 3rd century Christian author Origen). The efforts began in earnest again during the Renaissance, which saw a revival of the study of ancient Greek texts. During this period, modern textual criticism was born. In this context, Christian humanists such as Lorenzo Valla and Erasmus promoted a return to the original Greek of the New Testament. This was the beginning of modern New Testament textual criticism, which over subsequent centuries would increasingly incorporate more and more manuscripts, in more languages (i.e., versions of the New Testament), as well as citations of the New Testament by ancient authors and the New Testament text in lectionaries in order to reconstruct the earliest recoverable form of the New Testament text and the history of changes to it.[96]

Relationship to earlier and contemporaneous literature

The books which later came to form the New Testament, like other Christian literature of the period, originated in a literary context that reveals relationships not only to other Christian writings, but also to Graeco-Roman and Jewish works. Of singular importance is the extensive use of and interaction with the Jewish Bible and what would become the Christian Old Testament. Both implicit and explicit citations, as well as countless allusions, appear throughout the books of the New Testament, from the Gospels and Acts, to the Epistles, to the Apocalypse.[97] Other early Jewish and Graeco-Roman literature, though far less utilized, is also cited in books that would come to form the New Testament.

Early versions

The first translations (usually called "versions") of the New Testament were made beginning already at the end of 2nd century. The earliest versions of the New Testament are the translations into the Syriac, Latin, and Coptic languages.[98] These three versions were made directly from the Greek, and are frequently cited in the apparatuses of modern critical editions.


Syriac was spoken in Syria, and Mesopotamia, and with dialect in Palestine, where it was known as Aramaic. Several Syriac translations were made and have come to us. Most of the Old Syriac, however, as well as the Philoxonian version have been lost.

Tatian, the Syrian, created the Diatessaron, a gospel harmony written in Syriac around AD 170 and the earliest form of the gospel not only in Syriac but probably also in Armenian.

In the 19th century, manuscript evidence was discovered for an "Old Syriac" version of the four distinct (i.e., not harmonized) gospels. These "separated" (Syriac: da-Mepharreshe) gospels, though old, have been shown to be later than the Diatessaron. The Old Syriac gospels are fragmentarily preserved in two manuscripts: the 5th-century Curetonian Syriac and the Sinaitic Syriac from the 4th or 5th century. No Old Syriac manuscripts of other portions of the New Testament survive, though Old Syriac readings, e.g. from the Pauline Epistles, can be discerned in citations made by Eastern fathers and in later Syriac versions. The Old Syriac version is a representative of the Western text-type. The Peshitta version was prepared in the beginning of the 5th century. It contains only 22 books (neither the Minor Catholic Epistles of 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, nor the Book of Revelation were part of this translation).

The Philoxenian probably was produced in 508 for Philoxenus, Bishop of Mabung.[99]


The Gospels were likely translated into Latin as early as the last quarter of the 2nd century in North Africa (Afra). Not much later, there were also European Latin translations (Itala). There are about 80 Old Latin mansucripts. The Old Latin versions often contain readings with a Western type of text.

The bewildering diversity of the Old Latin versions prompted Jerome to prepare another translation into Latin - the Vulgate. In many respects it was merely a revision of the Old Latin. There are currently around 8,000 manuscripts of the Vulgate.


There are several dialects of the Coptic language: Bohairic (northern dialect), Fayyumic, Sahidic (southern dialect), Akhmimic, and others. The first translation was made by at least the 3rd century into the Sahidic dialect (copsa). This translation represents a mixed text, mostly Alexandrian, though also with Western readings.[100]

A Bohairic translation was made later, but existed already in the 4th century. Though the translation makes less use of Greek words than the Sahidic, it does employ some Greek grammar (e.g., in word-order and the use of particles such as the syntactic construction μεν — δε). For this reason, the Bohairic translation can be helpful in the reconstruction of the early Greek text of the New Testament.[69]

Other ancient translations

BL Add. MS 59874 with Ethiopic Gospel of Matthew

The continued spread of Christianity, and the foundation of national churches, led to the translation of the Bible—often beginning with books from the New Testament—into a variety of other languages at a relatively early date: Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Persian, Soghdian, and eventually Gothic, Old Church Slavonic, Arabic, and Nubian.[101]

Modern translations

Historically, throughout the Christian world and in the context of Christian missionary activity, the New Testament (or portions thereof) has been that part of the Christian Bible first translated into the vernacular. The production of such translations grew out of the insertion of vernacular glosses in biblical texts, as well as out of the production of biblical paraphrases and poetic renditions of stories from the life of Christ (e.g., the Heliand).

The 16th century saw the rise of Protestantism and an explosion of translations of the New (and Old) Testament into the vernacular. Notable are those of Martin Luther (1522), Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples (1523), the Froschau Bible (1525–1529, revised in 1574), William Tyndale (1526, revised in 1534, 1535 and 1536), the Brest Bible (1563), and the Authorized Version (also called the "King James Version") (1611). Most of these translations relied (though not always exclusively) upon one of the printed editions of the Greek New Testament edited by Erasmus, a form of this Greek text emerged as the standard and is known as the Textus Receptus. This text, based on a handful of manuscripts of the Byzantine text-type, was the basis for other translations from the Greek until the latter part of the 19th century.

Translations of the New Testament made since the appearance of better critical editions of the Greek text (notably those of Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, and von Soden) have largely used them as their base text. Unlike the Textus Receptus, these have a pronounced Alexandrian character. Standard critical editions are those of Souter, Vogels, Bover, Merk, and Nestle-Aland (the text, though not the full critical apparatus of which is reproduced in the United Bible Societies' "Greek New Testament"). Notable translations of the New Testament based on these most recent critical editions include the Revised Standard Version (1946, revised in 1971), La Bible de Jérusalem (1961, revised in 1973 and 2000), the Einheitsübersetzung (1970, final edition 1979), the New American Bible (1970, revised in 1986), the Traduction Oecuménique de la Bible (1988, revised in 2004), and the New Revised Standard Version (1989).


Though all Christian churches accept the New Testament as Scripture, they differ in their understanding of the nature, extent, and relevance of its authority. Views of the authoritativeness of the New Testament often depend on the concept of inspiration, which relates to the role of God in the formation of the New Testament. Generally, the greater the role of God in one's doctrine of inspiration, the more one accepts the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and/or authoritativeness of the Bible. One possible source of confusion is that these terms are difficult to define, because many people use them interchangeably or with very different meanings. This article will use the terms in the following manner:

  • Infallibility relates to the absolute correctness of the Bible in matters of doctrine.
  • Inerrancy relates to the absolute correctness of the Bible in factual assertions (including historical and scientific assertions).
  • Authoritativeness relates to the correctness of the Bible in questions of practice in morality.

All of these concepts depend for their meaning on the supposition that the text of Bible has been properly interpreted, with consideration for the intention of the text, whether literal history, allegory or poetry, etc. Especially the doctrine of inerrancy is variously understood according to the weight given by the interpreter to scientific investigations of the world.

Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and classical Anglicanism

For the Roman Catholic Church, there are two sources of revelation: Scripture and Tradition. Both of them are interpreted by the teachings of the church. The Roman Catholic view is expressed clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):

§ 83: As a result the church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both scripture and tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.
§ 107: The inspired books teach the truth. Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.

In Catholic terminology the teaching office is called the Magisterium.

The Eastern Orthodox churches do not accept this two-source theory; rather, they hold that there is a single source of revelation, Holy Tradition, of which Scripture is the most important part.[102]

Traditional Anglicans believe that "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation," (Article VI), but also that the Catholic Creeds "ought thoroughly to be received and believed" (Article VIII), and that the Church "hath authority in Controversies of Faith" and is "a witness and keeper of Holy Writ" (Article XX).[103] Classical Anglicanism, therefore, like Orthodoxy, holds that Holy Tradition is the only safe guardian against perversion and innovation in the interpretation of Scripture; in the famous words of Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells: "As for my religion, I dye in the holy catholic and apostolic faith professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West, more particularly in the communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross."


Following the doctrine of sola scriptura, Protestants believe that their traditions of faith, practice and interpretations carry forward what the scriptures teach, and so tradition is not a source of authority in itself. Their traditions derive authority from the Bible, and are therefore always open to reëvaluation. This openness to doctrinal revision has extended in Liberal Protestant traditions even to the reevaluation of the doctrine of Scripture upon which the Reformation was founded, and members of these traditions may even question whether the Bible is infallible in doctrine, inerrant in historical and other factual statements, and whether it has uniquely divine authority. However, the adjustments made by modern Protestants to their doctrine of scripture vary widely.

American evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism

Certain American conservatives, fundamentalists and evangelicals believe that the scriptures are both human and divine in origin: human in their manner of composition, but divine in that their source is God, the Holy Spirit, who governed the writers of scripture in such a way that they recorded nothing at all contrary to the truth.[citation needed] Fundamentalists accept the enduring authority and impugnity of a prescientific interpretation of the Bible.[citation needed] In the United States this particularly applies to issues such as the ordination of women, abortion, evolution, and homosexuality. However, although American evangelicals are overwhelmingly opposed to such things, other evangelicals are increasingly willing to consider that the views of the biblical authors may have been culturally conditioned, and they may even argue that there is room for change along with cultural norms and scientific advancements.[citation needed] Both fundamentalists and evangelicals profess belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.

Evangelicals, on the other hand, tend to avoid interpretations of the Bible that would directly contradict generally accepted scientific assertions of fact. They do not impute error to biblical authors, but rather entertain various theories of literary intent which might give credibility to human progress in knowledge of the world, while still accepting the divine inspiration of the scriptures.[citation needed]

Within the US, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) is a statement, articulating evangelical views on this issue. Paragraph four of its summary states: "Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives."[104]

American mainline and liberal Protestantism

Mainline American Protestant denominations, including the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church USA, The Episcopal Church, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, do not teach the doctrine of inerrancy as set forth in the Chicago Statement. All of these churches have more ancient doctrinal statements asserting the authority of scripture, but may interpret these statements in such a way as to allow for a very broad range of teaching—from evangelicalism to skepticism. It is not an impediment to ordination in these denominations to teach that the scriptures contain errors, or that the authors follow a more or less unenlightened ethics that, however appropriate it may have seemed in the authors' time, moderns would be very wrong to follow blindly. For example, ordination of women is universally accepted in the mainline churches, abortion is condemned as a grievous social tragedy but not always a personal sin or a crime against an unborn person, and homosexuality is recognized as a genetic propensity or morally neutral preference that should be neither encouraged nor condemned. In North America, the most contentious of these issues among these churches at the present time is how far the ordination of gay men and lesbians should be accepted.

Officials of the Presbyterian Church USA report: "We acknowledge the role of scriptural authority in the Presbyterian Church, but Presbyterians generally do not believe in biblical inerrancy. Presbyterians do not insist that every detail of chronology or sequence or prescientific description in scripture be true in literal form. Our confessions do teach biblical infallibility. Infallibility affirms the entire truthfulness of scripture without depending on every exact detail."[105]

Those who hold a more liberal view of the Bible as a human witness to the glory of God, the work of fallible humans who wrote from a limited experience unusual only for the insight they have gained through their inspired struggle to know God in the midst of a troubled world. Therefore, they tend not to accept such doctrines as inerrancy. These churches also tend to retain the social activism of their evangelical forebears of the 19th century, placing particular emphasis on those teachings of scripture that teach compassion for the poor and concern for social justice. The message of personal salvation is, generally speaking, of the good that comes to oneself and the world through following the New Testament's Golden Rule admonition to love others without hypocrisy or prejudice. Toward these ends, the "spirit" of the New Testament, more than the letter, is infallible and authoritative.

There are some movements that believe the Bible contains the teachings of Jesus but who reject the churches that were formed following its publication. These people believe all individuals can communicate directly with God and therefore do not need guidance or doctrines from a church. These people are known as Christian anarchists.

Latter-day Saints

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormons) "revere the Bible [i.e. both Old and New Testaments] as the word of God." Latter-day Saints also believe the "Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ [to be] a companion volume of scripture to the Bible,...[confirming] and [testifying] of the truthfulness of the messages in the Bible." To Latter-day Saints, "the Bible and the Book of Mormon complement each other, both providing a witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world."[106]

Messianic Judaism

Messianic Judaism generally holds the same view of New Testament authority as evangelical Protestants.[citation needed]

In the liturgy

A Byzantine lectionary, Codex Harleianus (l150), AD 995, text of John 1:18.

Despite the wide variety among Christian liturgies, texts from the New Testament play a role in almost all forms of Christian worship. In addition to some language derived from the New Testament in the liturgy itself (e.g., the Trisagion may be based on Apocalypse 4:8, and the beginning of the "Hymn of Praise" draws upon Luke 2:14), the reading of extended passages from the New Testament is a practice common to almost all Christian worship, liturgical or not. These readings are most often part of an established lectionary (i.e., selected texts to be read at church services on specific days), and (together with an Old Testament reading and a Psalm) include a non-gospel reading from the New Testament and culminate with a Gospel reading. No readings from the Book of Revelation, however, are included in the standard lectionary of the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Central to the Christian liturgy is the celebration of the Eucharist or "Holy Communion". The Words of Institution that begin this rite are drawn directly from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. In addition, the communal recitation of the Lord's Prayer (in the form found in the Gospel of Matthew 6:9-13) is also a standard feature of Christian worship.

In the arts

Gaudenzio Ferrari's Stories of the Life and Passion of Christ, fresco, 1513, Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Varallo Sesia, Italy. Depicting the life of Jesus

Most of the influence of the New Testament upon the arts has come from the Gospels and the Book of Revelation.[citation needed] Literary expansion of the narratives of Jesus' birth found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke began already in the 2nd century and the portrayal of the Nativity has continued in various art forms to this day. The earliest Christian art would often depict scenes from the New Testament such as the raising of Lazarus, the baptism of Jesus or the motif of the "Good Shepherd". Biblical paraphrases and poetic renditions of stories from the life of Christ (e.g., the Heliand) became popular in the middle ages, as did the portrayal of the arrest, trial and execution of Jesus in Passion plays. Indeed, the Passion became a central theme in Christian art and music. The ministry and Passion of Jesus, as portrayed in one or more of the New Testament Gospels, has also been a theme in film, almost since the inception of the medium (e.g., "La Passion", France, 1903).

See also


  1. ^ See the standard New Testament introductions listed below under "Further reading": Goodspeed, Kümmel, Duling and Perrin, Koester, Conzelmann and Lindemann, Brown, and Ehrman.
  2. ^ See, e.g., Clabeaux, J. J.: A Lost Edition of the Letters of Paul: A Reassessment of the Text of the Pauline Corpus Attested by Marcion. Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 21; Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association, 1989
  3. ^ On the traditional ascriptions and anonymous authorship, see the standard New Testament introductions listed below under "Further reading": Goodspeed, Kümmel, Duling and Perrin, Koester, Conzelmann and Lindemann, Brown, and Ehrman.
  4. ^ See Fitzmyer, Joseph A.: The Gospel according to Luke, 2 volumes. Anchor Bible Commentary; New York: Doubleday, 1981 and 1985, vol. 1, pp. 35-53.
  5. ^ Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1
  6. ^ See especially Roetzel, Calvin J.: The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context, fifth edition. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2009.
  7. ^ Attridge, Harold W.: Hebrews. Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989, pp. 1-6.
  8. ^ "Eusebius Church History Book VI Ch 25 v14". Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  9. ^ Fornberg, Tord: An Early Church in a Pluralistic Society: A Study of 2 Peter. Coniectanea biblica, New Testament Series 9; Lund: Gleerup, 1977.
  10. ^ For a detailed study of the Apocalypse of John, see Aune, David E.: Revelation, 3 volumes. Word Biblical Commentary; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997-1998.
  11. ^ The Gospels are in this order in many Old Latin manuscripts, as well as in the Greek manuscripts Codex Bezae and Codex Washingtonianus.
  12. ^ [1]; see also [2]; see also Antilegomena
  13. ^ Allen C. Myers, ed (1987). "Aramaic". The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans. p. 72. ISBN 0-8028-2402-1. "It is generally agreed that Aramaic was the common language of Israel in the 1st century AD. Jesus and his disciples spoke the Galilean dialect, which was distinguished from that of Jerusalem (Matt. 26:73)." 
  14. ^ Metzger B. The Text of the New Testament. Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. Fourth Edition. Bruce M. Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman
  15. ^ Aland, K. and Aland, B. The text of the New Testament (9780802840981)
  16. ^ Koester, Helmut: Introduction to the New Testament. Philadelphia, 1982, volume 2, p. 172.
  17. ^ Davies, W. D. and Allison, Dale C.: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Gospel according to Saint Matthew, 3 volumes. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988-1997, see volume 1, pp. 33-58.
  18. ^ Peter, Kirby (2001-2007). "Early Christian Writings: Gospel of Mark". Retrieved 15 January 2008. 
  19. ^ Achtemeier, Paul J. (1991–). "The Gospel of Mark". The Anchor Bible Dictonary. 4. New York, New York: Doubleday. p. 545. ISBN 0385193629. 
  20. ^ M.G. Easton, Easton's Bible Dictionary (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996, c1897), "Luke, Gospel According To"
  21. ^ Meier, John P. (1991). A Marginal Jew. 2. New York, New York: Doubleday. pp. 955–6. ISBN 0385469934. 
  22. ^ Helms, Randel (1997). Who Wrote the Gospels?. Altadena, California: Millennium Press. p. 8. ISBN 0965504727. 
  23. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
  24. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "John" p. 302-310
  25. ^ Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Leicester, England: Apollos, 1990), p. 114.
  26. ^ a b c Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Leicester, England: Apollos, 1990), pp. 37-40.
  27. ^ a b To list just some: I. H. Marshall, Acts (1980), pp. 44-45; F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles (1952), pp. 1-6; C. S. C. Williams, The Acts of the Apostles, in Black’s New Testament Commentary (1957); W. Michaelis, Einleitung, pp. 61-64; Bo Reicke, Glaube und Leben Der Urgenmeinde (1957), pp. 6-7; F. V. Filson, Three Crucial Decades (1963), p. 10; M. Dibelius, Studies in the Acts of the Apostles (1956); R. M. Grant, A Historical Introduction to the New Testament (1963), pp. 134-135; B. Gärtner, The Aeropagus Speech and Natural Revelation (1955), W. L. Knox, Sources of the Synoptic Gospels; R. R. Williams, The Acts of the Apostles; E. M. Blaiklock, The Acts of the Apostles, in Tyndale New Testament Commentary (1959), W. Grundmann, Das Evangelium nach Lukas, p. 39.
  28. ^ Bernd Kollmann, Joseph Barnabas (Liturgical Press, 2004), page 30.
  29. ^ D. R. W. Wood, New Bible Dictionary (InterVarsity Press, 1996), 739.
  30. ^ Schaff "On the tradition that Matthew wrote a Hebrew gospel, see above, chap. 24, note 5. Our Greek Gospel of Matthew was certainly in existence at the time Papias wrote, for it is quoted in the epistle of Barnabas"
  31. ^ "Fonck, Leopold. "Gospel of St. John." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 9 June 2009". Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  32. ^ "John, Gospel of." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  33. ^ "''Gospel According to John'', Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  34. ^ Brown, Raymond E. (1997). Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Anchor Bible. p. 164. ISBN 0-385-24767-2. 
  35. ^ Kirby, Peter. "Gospel of Mark"'.' Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  36. ^ Horrell, DG, An Introduction to the study of Paul, T&T Clark, 2006, 2nd Ed.,p.7; cf. W. L. Knox, The Acts of the Apostles (1948), p. 2-15 for detailed arguments that still stand.
  37. ^ on linguistics, see A. Kenny, A stylometric Study of the New Testament (1986).
  38. ^ Udo Schnelle. The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings, p. 259.
  39. ^ F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles (1952), p2.
  40. ^ Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Leicester, England: Apollos, 1990), says the traditional view is “widely held as the view which most satisfactorily explains all the data.” p. 119, whereas R. E. Brown says opinion on the issue is "evenly divided" Brown, Raymond E. (1997). Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Anchor Bible. pp. 267–8. ISBN 0-385-24767-2. 
  41. ^ Though Hebrews was almost certainly not written by Paul, it has been a part of the Pauline corpus "from the beginning of extant MS production" (Wallace, Daniel B. "Hebrews: Introduction, Argument, and Outline.")
  42. ^ Ehrman 2004:385
  43. ^ Guthrie lists: ohlenberg, Lock, Meinertz, Thornell, Schlatter, Spicq, Jeremias, Simpson, Kelly, and Fee", p. 622
  44. ^ Ehrman 2004:411
  45. ^ Epistle of St. James, 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia Online
  46. ^ "Epistle of James". 2 February 2006. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  47. ^ What are they saying about the Catholic Epistles?, Philip B. Harner, p. 49 [3]
  48. ^ Kruger, MJ, (1999) "The Authenticity of 2 Peter,"[dead link] Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42.4, p.645-671
  49. ^ e.g. S. T. Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament II p. 250
  50. ^ F. Spitta, Der Zweite Brief des Petrus und der Brief des Judas (1885)
  51. ^ C. Bigg, ‘The Epistles of St Peter and St Jude’, in International Critical Commentary
  52. ^ E. M. B. Green, 2 Peter Reconsidered (1961) and other works.
  53. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985) "1 John," p. 355-356
  54. ^ Eusebius: The Church History
  55. ^ Bauckham,RJ (1986), Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.50, Word (UK) Ltd. p.14f
  56. ^ Rev. 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8
  57. ^ Rev 1:9; 4:1-2
  58. ^ St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho Chapter lxxxi.
  59. ^ Merrill C. Tenney, gen. ed. "Revelation, Book of the." Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Vol. 5 (Q-Z). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.
  60. ^ Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. 260.
  61. ^ Robinson, John A. T.: Redating the New Testament. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976.
  62. ^ "Tertullian (Robert-Donaldson)". 2 February 2006. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  63. ^ [4] See too book 4, chapters 1, 2, and 14. However, his meaning in chapter 22 is less clear, and in chapters 9 and 40 he uses the term to mean "new covenant".
  64. ^ "ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily | Christian Classics Ethereal Library". Retrieved 29 December 2008. 
  65. ^ See Gamble, Harry Y.: The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning. Guides to Biblical Scholarship; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985.
  66. ^ C.G. Bateman, Origen’s Role in the Formation of the New Testament Canon, 2010.
  67. ^ McGuckin, John A. "Origen as Literary Critic in the Alexandrian Tradition.” 121-37 in vol. 1 of 'Origeniana octava: Origen and the Alexandrian Tradition.' Papers of the 8th International Origen Congress (Pisa, 27–31 August 2001). Edited by L. Perrone. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum theologicarum Lovaniensium 164. 2 vols. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2003.
  68. ^ McDonald, Lee M.: The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1995, p. 116
  69. ^ a b Vööbus, Arthur: Early Versions of the New Testament. Stockholm, 1954, pp. 229-237, and Metzger, Bruce M.: The Early Versions of the New Testament. Oxford, 1977, pp. 99-152.
  70. ^ Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Canon of Scripture. Intervarsity Press. p. 97. 
  71. ^ Metzger, Bruce M.: The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 246. ISBN 0-19-826954-4, writes, "Finally on 8 April 1546, by a vote of 24 to 15, with 16 abstensions, the Council issued a decree (De Canonicis Scripturis) in which, for the first time in the history of the church, the question of the contents of the Bible was made an absolute article of faith and confirmed by an anathema."
  72. ^ Eusebius,Church History, (III xxv 5)
  73. ^ "Origin of the New Testament | Christian Classics Ethereal Library". 22 July 2005. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  74. ^ McDonald & Sanders, page 277
  75. ^ The Canon Debate, pages 414-415, for the entire paragraph
  76. ^ The Book of Revelation wasn't added till the 419 Synod of Carthage according to McDonald and Sanders: The Canon Debate, Appendix D-2, page 595, note 19.
  77. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 
  78. ^ For the initial dating of P52, see Roberts, C. H. (Ed.): An Unpublished Fragment of the Fourth Gospel in the John Rylands Library. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1935, and Bell, H. Idris and Skeat, T. C.: Fragments of an Unknown Gospel and Other Early Christian Papyri. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1935. Though see now Nongbri, Brent: "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98 (2005) 23-52 and Martinez, David G.: "The Papyri and Early Christianity," in Bagnall, Roger S. (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 590-623.
  79. ^ Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus (2005), p. 46
  80. ^ a b c d e f g Strobel, Lee. ”The Case for Christ”. 1998. Chapter three, when quoting biblical scholar Bruce Metzger
  81. ^ a b Bruce, F.F. (1981). P 14. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?. InterVarsity Press
  82. ^ Habib 2005, p. 239
  83. ^ a b Bruce, F.F. (1981). P 11. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?. InterVarsity Press
  84. ^ Bruce, F.F. (1981). P 9-10. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?. InterVarsity Press
  85. ^ Ehrman, Bart D.. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. HarperCollins, 2005, p. 265. ISBN 978-0-06-073817-4
  86. ^ Guy D. Nave, The role and function of repentance in Luke-Acts,p. 194
  87. ^ John Shelby Spong, "The Continuing Christian Need for Judaism", Christian Century September 26, 1979, p. 918. see
  88. ^ Feminist companion to the New Testament and early Christian writings, Volume 5, by Amy-Jill Levine, Marianne Blickenstaff, pg. 175
  89. ^ "NETBible: John 7". Retrieved 17 October 2009.  See note 139 on that page.
  90. ^ Keith, Chris (2008). "Recent and Previous Research on the Pericope Adulterae (John 7.53—8.11)". Currents in Biblical Research 6 (3): 377–404. doi:10.1177/1476993X07084793. 
  91. ^ 'Pericope adulterae', in FL Cross (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  92. ^ Ehrman 2006, p. 166
  93. ^ Bruce Metzger "A Textual Commentary on the New Testament", Second Edition, 1994, German Bible Society
  94. ^ Ibid., 367
  95. ^ M. M. Parvis, vol. 4, pp. 594-595
  96. ^ See Metzger, Bruce M. and Ehrman, Bart D.: The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, fourth edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  97. ^ See, e.g., Stendahl, Krister: The School of St. Matthew and Its Use of the Old Testament. Uppsala and Lund, 1954; Marcus, Joel: The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark. Edinburgh, 1993; Smith, D. Moody: "The Use of the Old Testament in the New," in The Use of the Old Testament in the New and Other Essays: Studies in Honor of William Franklin Stinespring. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1972, pp. 3-65; Juel, Donald: Messianic Exegesis: Christological Interpretation of the Old Testament in Early Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988; and Barr, James: Old and New in Interpretation: A Study of the Two Testaments. London: SCM, 1966.
  98. ^ Vööbus, Arthur: Early Versions of the New Testament. Stockholm, 1954, pp. 1-128, 211-240.
  99. ^ Metzger, Bruce M.: The Early Versions of the New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977, pp. 3-98.
  100. ^ Vööbus, Arthur: Early Versions of the New Testament. Stockholm, 1954, pp. 216-229.
  101. ^ On the Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Gothic, see Arthur Vööbus, Early Versions of the New Testament (Stockholm, 1954), pp. 133-210, 243-309.
  102. ^ Ware, Kallistos (Timothy). "Holy Tradition: The Source of the Orthodox Faith", from The Orthodox Church
  103. ^ "The Thirty-Nine Articles". Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  104. ^ "The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy". Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  105. ^ "Homosexual ordination vote widens gap between Presbyterian factions,"ReligionToday, 2001-JUN-20
  106. ^ ""The Holy Bible", ''The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints''". Retrieved 19 November 2010. 

Further reading

  • Brown, Raymond E. (1997). An Introduction to the New Testament. Anchor Bible Reference Library; New York: Doubleday.
  • Bultmann, Rudolf (1951–1955). Theology of the New Testament, English translation, 2 volumes. New York: Scribner.
  • von Campenhausen, Hans (1972). The Formation of the Christian Bible, English translation. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
  • Conzelmann, Hans and Lindemann, Andreas (1999). Interpreting the New Testament: An Introduction to the Principles and Methods of New Testament Exegesis, English translation. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson.
  • Dormeyer, Detlev (1998). The New Testament among the Writings of Antiquity, English translation. Sheffield.
  • Duling, Dennis C. and Perrin, Norman (1993). The New Testament: Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History, 3d edition. New York: Harcourt Brace.
  • Ehrman, Bart D. (2007). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 4th edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Goodspeed, Edgar J. (1937). An Introduction to the New Testament. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Koester, Helmut (1995 and 2000). Introduction to the New Testament, 2d edition, 2 volumes. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
  • Kümmel, Werner Georg (1996). Introduction to the New Testament, revised and enlarged English translation. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
  • Mack, Burton L. (1995). Who Wrote the New Testament?. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
  • Neill, Stephen and Wright, Tom (1988). The Interpretation of the New Testametnt, 1861-1986, new edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Schnelle, Udo (1998). The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings, English translation. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
  • Zahn, Theodor (1910). Introduction to the New Testament, English translation, 3 volumes. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

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