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Outline of the New Testament


    Christians use the Bible, which consists of the Old and New Testaments.  The New Testament is often thought of as a unit, a collection of writings which makes up the second part of the Christian Bible.  But it is a diverse unit, with a number of different authors contributing to it.  This summary will look at an outline and give some background information of the New Testament (NT).

    The NT consists of twenty-seven books which form four different types of literature.  But first a word about the word “books.”  The twenty-seven different writings are all referred to as books, even though some are many pages in length, and others are only a page in length.  But they are all called “books.”  All twenty-seven were written in Greek.

    The first four, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are Gospels (which means "Good News" in Greek) and tell the life of Jesus.  The next book is called Acts and is the only historical book in the New Testament.  The next twenty-one books are really letters, either letters to an individual or to a house church or to many churches or to all Christians.  They are also referred to as “epistles” which is Greek for “letter.”  The last book is Revelation and is known as an apocalypse because it looks ahead and foretells future events. 

    The twenty-one letters can be further divided.  The first thirteen are attributed to Paul (Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus, and Philemon), the next one is anonymous (Hebrews), then comes a letter attributed to James, two letters from Peter, three from John, and one from Jude.

    These twenty-seven letters were written over a fifty-year period.  The first book to be written was either Galatians or I Thessalonians in the early 50s and the last book to be written was either Jude, II John, or III John in the late 90s(in my opinion).

    The NT has nine different authors:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, anonymous, James, Peter, and Jude.  Other books (gospels, histories, epistles, and revelations) were written during this time period, but the early Christian leaders decided that only books which could be directly linked to an Apostle or Jesus would be accepted into the New Testament. 

    So, Matthew, John, and Peter were original Apostles, meaning that they were among the Twelve Apostles Jesus picked soon after he was baptized.  Paul became an Apostle about ten years after the crucifixion of Jesus.  Mark was linked with Peter and Luke was linked with Paul.  The anonymous author of Hebrews was linked with Paul.  And James and Jude were step- or half-brothers of Jesus (see Matthew 13:55).

    The Gospels are arranged the way they are because the early Christian leaders believed that they were written in that order.  Paul’s thirteen letters are arranged the way they are because of (1) the letters to cities come first (Romans – II Thessalonians) and the letters to individuals come second (I Timothy – Philemon) and (2) they are arranged from longest to shortest within each of the two categories.

    The people of Israel in Jesus’ day spoke Aramaic, but the language of the Roman Empire was Greek, therefore the NT was written in Greek so that as many people as possible could read it.  The longest book is Luke, and the shortest one is III John.  And when the authors wrote their Gospels and history and epistles and apocalypse, they wrote without chapters and verses.  The chapters were eventually added in the 1200s and the verses in the 1500s.  And the last word in the NT is “amen.”

©2010 Mark Nickens

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