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The New Testament is the name given to that part of the Christian Bible that was written after the birth of Jesus Christ. It was traditionally believed that all the books in the New Testament were written before the death of the last apostle. However, modern biblical scholarship generally believes that most books of the New Testament were written later.

Books of the New Testament

The New Testament is divided into books, which were written by various authors at various times and places. The following is a list of the New Testament books, followed by the author traditionally associated with that book.

The Gospels

The Gospels focus on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


The history of the early Christian church after the death of Christ is related here.


The epistles contain various letters written either to individuals or early Christian congregations. many of these epistles expound on important theological points and give insight into the developing Christian church of the First Century AD.


Origin of the Gospels

Among the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke share in common certain passages and also express a similar approach to telling some of the incidents in the life of Jesus. John, on the other hand, expresses itself in a different style and often relates incidents in a different manner. Thus the first three books are collectively known as the synoptic Gospels (from the Greek, meaning "the same eye").

The similarities between the synoptic Gospels are so telling in some cases that many scholars have speculated on the relationship between them. Some theories have held that Matthew was the first Gospel to be written, with Mark and Luke borrowing passages from it. However, the prevailing view is that Mark is the first Gospel, with Matthew and Luke borrowing passages both from that Gospel and from another, lost source, known as Q. This is known as the "Two Source" theory.

Another theory which addresses the synoptic problem is the Farrer theory. This theory maintains Markan Priority (that Mark was written first) and dispenses with the need for a theoretical document Q. What Austin Farrer has argued is that Luke used Matthew as a source as well as Mark, explaining the similarities between them without having to refer to a hypothetical document.

Estimated dates of the writing of the Gospels

Origin of the Rest of the New Testament

Estimated dates, authors. First epistle of Paul (Thessalonians?) probably predates the Gospel of Mark.

The Canonization of the New Testatment


In the first three centuries of the Christian Church, there was no firmly established New Testament canon that was universally recognized. 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. That canon gained wider and wider recognition until it was accepted by all at the Third Council of Carthage in 397.

Views on New Testament Origins

Conservative Christian theology holds that the Bible is absolutely accurate and infallible. This doctrine is known as inerrancy?. A significant number of Christian clergy and theologians in some denominations now reject the doctrine of inerrancy, and accept at least some of the results of biblical scholarship, both with respect to the Tanakh [Hebrew Bible, Old Testament] as well as to the New Testament. Among the denominations which do not teach inerrancy are the Catholic and Episcopalians churches, as well as the so-called mainline Protestant denominations: Methodists, Presbyterians, American Lutherans, and others. However, the feelings of the laypeople may in some cases be more conservative than the theologians of their church, and many lay people in these denominations still affirm inerrancy. Many other Protestant sects still start with the assumption of inerrancy and thus reject the results of any scientific biblical analysis that calls into question that assumption.

Other Information

For more information, see the Inerrancy web page at:


For more information on the two-source theory, see:


A comprehensive discussion of the development and authorship of the New Testament can be found at these pages: http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_ntb1.htm http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Trowbridge/NT_Hist.htm http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/

For further reading: "Who Wrote the New Testament?" by Burton L. Mack, Harper, 1996, and "Who Wrote the Gospels?" by Randel McCraw? Helms

see: the Canon of Scripture, books of the Bible, Old Testament


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Last edited November 21, 2001 11:50 am by Egern (diff)