The Back Page – The New Testament


The Back Page

The New Testament

Our New Testament consists of 27 books:
Gospels (4): Matthew–John
History (1): Acts
Letters (21): Romans–Jude
Prophecy (1): Revelation

These books were written during the second half of the first century CE by eight or nine authors (we don’t
know who wrote Hebrews). The New Testament was composed in Greek, though some people think that
Matthew had an Aramaic original. The ancient scripts look different from the modern, but here is what
modern Greek looks like:
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
This is John 1:1. Greek reads from left to right, the same as English, and unlike Hebrew.
Christians were composing literature other than our New Testament during those decades, and it
took the church a couple of centuries to settle on which writings were scripture and which were not. Some
of the non-scriptural writings can help us understand what the church was thinking at that time, as well as
details of the Greek language itself, even though they are not considered the word of God and therefore
authoritative.
The first four books, though relating historical facts, are not generally classified as “history” (as is
Acts) but as “gospels,” because their goal is not to simply dispassionately chronicle events but to
persuade readers of the truth and importance of those facts. Luke, for example, was written so that
Theophilus “may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (1:4). John was written “so
that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His
name” (20:31). Historical facts … but edited and arranged for clear evangelistic and confirmatory
purposes.

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