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New Testament

noo tes-tuh-muhnt
Bible, Epistle(s), Jesus, Old Testament, Quotations, The Gospels
LIST OF BOOKS: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John,
2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation
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Easton's Bible Dictionary

( Luke 22:20), rather "New Covenant," in contrast to the old covenant of works, which is superseded. "The covenant of grace is called new; it succeeds to the old broken covenant of works. It is ever fresh, flourishing, and excellent; and under the gospel it is dispensed in a more clear, spiritual, extensive, and powerful manner than of old" (Brown of Haddington). Hence is derived the name given to the latter portion of the Bible. (See TESTAMENT .)


Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names

(no entry)


Smith's Bible Dictionary

It is proposed in this article to consider the text of the New Testament. The subject naturally divides itself into-- I. The history of the written text; II. The history of the printed text.


The early history of the apostolic writings externally, as far as it can be traced, is the same as that of other contemporary books. St. Paul, like Cicero or Pliny often employed the services of an amanuensis, to whom he dictated his letters, affixing the salutation "with his own hand." ( 1 Corinthians 16:21 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:17 ; Colossians 4:18 ) The original copies seem to have soon perished.

In the time of the Diocletian persecution, A.D. 303, copies of the Christian Scriptures were sufficiently numerous to furnish a special object for persecutors. Partly, perhaps, owing to the destruction thus caused, but still more from the natural effects of time. no MS. of the New Testament of the first three centuries remains but though no fragment of the New Testament of the first century still remains, the Italian and Egyptian papyri, which are of that date give a clear notion of the caligraphy of the period. In these the text is written in columns, rudely divided, in somewhat awkward capital letters (uncials), without any punctuation or division of words; and there is no trace of accents or breathings.

In addition to the later MSS. the earliest versions and patristic quotations give very important testimony to the character and history of the ante-Nicene text; but till the last quarter of the second century this source of information fails us. Only are the remains of Christian literature up to that time extremely scanty, but the practice of verbal quotation from the New Testament was not yet prevalent. As soon as definite controversies arose among Christians, the text of the New Testament assumed its true importance.

Several very important conclusions follow from this earliest appearance of textual criticism. It is in the first place evident that various readings existed in the books of the New Testament at a time prior to all extant authorities. History affords a trace of the pure apostolic originals. Again, from the preservation of the first variations noticed, which are often extremely minute, in one or more of the primary documents still left, we may be certain that no important changes have been made in the sacred text which we cannot now detect.

Passing from these isolated quotations, we find the first great witnesses to the apostolic text in the early Syriac and Latin versions and in the rich quotations of Clement of Alexandria (cir. A.D. 220) and Origen (A.D. 1842~4). From the extant works of Origen alone no inconsiderable portion of the whole New Testament might be transcribed; and his writings are an almost inexhaustible store house for the history of the text. There can be no doubt that in Origens time the variations in the New Testament MSS. were beginning to lead to the formation of specific groups of copies. The most ancient MSS. and versions now extant exhibit the characteristic differences which have been found to exist in different parts of the works of Origen. These cannot have had their source later than the beginning of the third century, and probably were much earlier. Bengel was the first (1734) who pointed out the affinity of certain groups of MSS., which as he remarks, must have arisen before the first versions were made. The honor of carefully determining the relations of critical authorities for the New Testament text belongs to Griesbach. According to him two distinct recensions of the Gospels existed at the beginning of the third century-the Alexandrine and the Western .

From the consideration of the earliest history of the New Testament text we now pass to the era of MSS. The quotations of Dionsius Alex. (A.D. 264), Petrus Alex. (cir. A.D. 312), Methodius (A.D. 311) and Eusebius (A.D. 340) confirm the prevalence of the ancient type of tent; but the public establishment of Christianity in the Roman empire necessarily led to important changes. The nominal or real adherence of the higher ranks to the Christian faith must have largely increased the demand for costly MSS. As a natural consequence the rude Hellenistic forms gave way before the current Greek, and at the same time it is reasonable to believe that smoother and fuller constructions were substituted for the rougher turns of the apostolic language. In this way the foundation of the Byzantine text was laid. Meanwhile the multiplication of copies in Africa and Syria was checked by Mohammedan conquests.

The appearance of the oldest MSS. have been already described. The MSS. of the fourth century, of which Codex Vaticanus may be taken as a type present a close resemblance to these. The writing is in elegant continuous uncials (capitals), in three columns, without initial letters or iota subscript or adscript . A small interval serves as a simple punctuation; and there are no accents or breathings by the hand of the first writer, though these have been added subsequently. Uncial writing continued in general use till the middle of the tenth century. From the eleventh century downward cursive writing prevailed. The earliest cursive biblical MS, is dated 964 A.D. The MSS. of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries abound in the contractions which afterward passed into the early printed books. The oldest MSS. are written on the thinnest and finest vellum; in later copies the parchment is thick and coarse. Papprus was very rarely used after the ninth century. In the tenth century cotton paper was generally employed in Europe; and one example at least occurs of its use in the ninth century. In the twelfth century the common linen or rag paper came into use. One other kind of material requires notice --re-dressed parchment, called palimpsests. Even at a very early period the original text of a parchment MS. was often erased, that the material might be used afresh. In lapse of time the original writing frequently reappeared in faint lines below the later text, and in this way many precious fragments of biblical MSS. which had been once obliterated for the transcription of other works, have been recovered.

The division of the Gospels into "chapters" must have come into general use some time before the fifth century. The division of the Acts and Epistles into chapters came into use at a later time. It is commonly referred to Euthalius, who, however, says that he borrowed the divisions of the Pauline Epistles from an earlier father and there is reason to believe that the division of the Acts and Catholic Epistles which he published was originally the work of Pamphilus the martyr. The Apocalypse was divided into sections by Andreas of Caesarea about A.D. 500. The titles of the sacred books are from their nature additions to the original text. The distinct names of the Gospels imply a collection, and the titles of the Epistles are notes by the possessors, and not addresses by the writers.

Very few MSS. certain the whole New Testament --twenty-seven in all out of the vast mass of extant documents. Besides the MSS. of the New Testament, or of parts of it, there are also lectionaries, which contain extracts arranged for the church services.

The number of uncial MSS. remaining. though great when compared with the ancient MSS. extent of other writings, is inconsiderable. Tischendorf reckons forty in the Gospels. In these must be added Cod. Sinait ., which is entire; a new MS. of Tischendorf, which is nearly entire; and Cod. Zacynth., Which contains considerable fragments of St. Luke. In the Acts there are nine: in the Catholic Epistles five; in the Pauline Epistles fourteen; in the Apocalypse three.

A complete description these MSS. is given In the great critical editions of the New Testament. Here those only can be briefly noticed which are of primary importance, the first place being given to the latest-discovered and most complete Codex Sinaiticus --the Cod. Frid. Aug. of LXX. at St. Petersburg, obtained by Tischendorf from the convent of St. Catherine, Mount Sinai, in 1859. The New Testament is entire, and the Epistle of Bamabas and parts of the Shepherd of Hermas are added. It is probably the oldest of the MSS. of the New Testament and of the fourth century. Codex Alexandrinus (Brit. Mus.), a MS. of the entire Greek Bible, with the Epistles of Clement added. It was given-by Cyril Lucar, patriarch of Constantinople, to Charles I. in 1628, and is now in the British Museum. It contains the whole of the New Testament, with some chasms. It was probably written in the first half of the fifth century. Codex Vaticanus (1209) a MS. of the entire Greek Bible which seems to have been in the Vatican Library almost from its commencement (cir. A.D. 1450). It contains the New Testament entire to ( Hebrews 9:14 ) katha : the rest of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Pastoral Epistles and the Apocalypse were added in the fifteenth century. The MS. is assigned to the fourth century. Codex Ephraemi rescriptus (Paris, Bibl, Imp. 9), a palimpsest MS. which contains fragments of the LXX. and of every part of the New Testament. In the twelfth century the original writing was effaced and some Greek writings of Ephraem Syrus were written over it. The MS was brought to Florence from the East at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and came thence to Paris with Catherine Deuteronomy Medici. The only entire books which have perished are 2 Thess. and 2 John.

The number of the cursive MSS. (minuscules) in existence cannot be accurately calculated. Tischendorf catalogues about 500 of the Gospels, 200 of the Acts and Catholic Epistles, 250 of the Pauline Epistles, and a little less than 100 of the Apocalypse (exclusive of lectionaries); but this enumeration can only be accepted as a rough approximation. Having surveyed in outline the history of the transmission of the written text and the chief characteristics of the MSS. in which it is preserved, we are in a position to consider the extent and nature of the variations which exist in different copies. It is impossible to estimate the number of these exactly, but they cannot be less than 120,000 in all, though of these a very large proportion consists of differences of spelling and isolated aberrations of scribes and of the remainder comparatively few alterations are sufficiently well supported to create reasonable doubt as to the final judgment. Probably there are not more than 1600-2000 places in which the true reading is a matter of uncertainty.

Various causes: readings are due to some arose from accidental, others from intentional alterations of the original text. Other variations are due to errors of sight. Others may be described as errors of impression or memory . The copyist, after reading a sentence from the text before him, often failed to reproduce it exactly. Variations of order are the most frequent and very commonly the most puzzling questions of textual criticism. Examples occur in every page, almost in every verse, of the New Testament. Of intentional changes some affect the expression, others the substance of the passage. The number of readings which seem to have been altered for distinctly dogmatic reasons is extremely small. In spite of the great revolutions in thought, feeling and practice through which the Christian Church passed In fifteen centuries, the copyists of the New Testament faithfully preserved, according to their ability, the sacred trust committed to them. There is not any trace of intentional revision designed to give support to current opinions. ( Matthew 17:21 ; Mark 9:29 ; 1 Corinthians 7:5 ) need scarcely be noticed.

The great mass of various readings are simply variations in form. There are, however, one or two greater variations of a different character. The most important of these are ( Mark 16:9 ) and John 7:53 ... 8:12; Romans 16:25 - 27 The first stands quite by itself and there seems to be little doubt that it contains an authentic narrative but not by the hand of St. John. The two others taken in connection with the last chapter of St. Johns Gospel, suggest the possibility that the apostolic writings may have undergone in some cases authoritative revision. Manuscripts, it must be remembered, are but one of the three sources of textual criticism. The versions and patristic quotations are scarcely less important in doubtful cases.


The history of the printed text of the New Testament may be these divided into three periods. The extends from the labors of the Complutensian errors to those of Mill; the second from Mill to Scholz; the third from Lachmann to the present time. The criticism of the first period was necessarily tentative and partial: the materials available for the construction of the text were few and imperfectly known. The second period made a great progress: the evidence of MSS. of versions, of the fathers, was collected with the greatest diligence and success; authorities were compared and classified; principles of observation and judgment were laid down. But the influence of the former period still lingered. The third period was introduced by the declaration of a new and sounder law. It was laid down that no right of possession could be pleaded against evidence, The "received" text, as such, was allowed no weight whatever. Its authority, on this view, must depend solely on critical worth. From first to last, in minute details of order and orthography, as well as in graver questions of substantial alteration, the text must be formed by a free and unfettered judgment. The following are the earliest editions:

The Complutensian Polyglot .--

The glory of printing the first Greek Testament is due to the princely Cardinal Ximenes. This great prelate as early as 1502 engaged the services of a number of scholars to superintend an edition of the whole Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek, with the addition of the Chaldee Targum of Onkelos, the LXX. version and the Vulgate. The volume containing the New Testament was Printed first, and was completed on January 10, 1524. The whole work was not finished till July 10, 1517. (It was called Complutensian because it was printed at Complutum, in Spain. --ED.)

The edition of Erasmus . --

The edition of Erasmus was the first published edition of the New Testament. Erasmus had paid considerable attention to the study of the New Testament, when he received an application from Froben, a Printer of Basle with whom he was acquainted, to prepare a Greek text for the press. The request was made on April 17, 1515 and the whole work was finished in February, 1516.

The edition of Stephens . --

The scene of our history now changes from Basle to Paris. In 1543, Simon Deuteronomy Colines: (Colinaeus) published a Greek text of the New Testament, corrected in about 150 places on fresh MS. authority. Not long after it appeared, R. Estienne (Stephanus) published his first edition (1546), which was based on a collation of MSS, in the Royal Library with the Complutensian text.

The editions of Beta and Elzevir . --

The Greek text of Beta (dedicated to Queen Elizabeth) was printed by H. Stephens in 1565 and a second edition in 1576; but the chief edition was the third, printed in 1582, which contained readings from Codez Bezae and Codex Clarontontanus . The literal sense of the apostolic, writings must be gained in the same way as the literal sense of any other writings-by the fullest use of every appliance of scholarship, and the most complete confidence in the necessary and absolute connection of words and thoughts. No variation of phrase, no peculiarity of idiom, no change of tense, no change of order, can be neglected. The truth lies in the whole expression, and no one can presume to set aside any part as trivial or indifferent. The importance of investigating most patiently and most faithfully the literal meaning of the sacred text must be felt with tenfold force when it is remembered that the literal sense is the outward embodiment of a spiritual sense, which lies beneath and quickens every part of Holy Scripture, BIBLE]


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


2. The New Testament

Critical controversy, long occupied with the Old Testament, has again keenly attached itself to the New Testament, with similar disturbing results (see CRITICISM). Extremer opinions may be here neglected, and account be taken only of those that can claim reasonable support. The New Testament writings are conveniently grouped into the historical books (Gospels and Acts); Epistles (Pauline and other); and a Prophetic book (Revelation). In order of writing, the Epistles, generally, are earlier than the Gospels, but in order of subject, the Gospels naturally claim attention first.

(1) Historical Books

The main facts about the origin of the Gospels can perhaps be distinguished from the complicated literary theories which scholars are still discussing (see GOSPELS). The first three Gospels, known as the Synoptics, evidently embody a common tradition, and draw from common sources. The Fourth Gospel--that of John--presents problems by itself.

(a) The Synoptics
The former--the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke)--fall in date well within the apostolic age, and are, in the 2nd century, uniformly connected with the authors whose names they bear, Mark is spoken of as "the interpreter of Peter" (Papias, in HE iii.39); Luke is the well-known companion of Paul. A difficulty arises about Matthew, whose Gospel is stated to have been written in Aramaic (Papias, ut supra, etc.), while the gospel bearing his name is in Greek. The Greek gospel seems at least to have been sufficiently identified with the apostle to admit of the early church always treating it as his. The older theory of origin assumed an oral basis for all 3 Gospels. The tendency in recent criticism is to distinguish two main sources: (1) Mark, the earliest gospel, a record of the preaching of Peter; (2) a collection of the sayings and discourses of Jesus, attributed to Matthew (the Eusebian Logia, now called Q); with (3) a source used by Luke in the sections peculiar to himself--the result of his own investigations (Luke 1:1-4). Matthew and Luke are supposed to be based on Mark and the Logia (Q); in Luke's case with the addition of his special material. Oral tradition furnished what remains. A simpler theory may be to substitute for (1) a Petrine tradition already firmly fixed while yet the apostles were working together in Jerusalem. Peter, as foremost spokesman, would naturally stamp his own type upon the oral narratives of Christ's sayings and doings (the Mark type), while Matthew's stories, in part written, would be the chief source for the longer discourses. The instruction imparted by the apostles and those taught by them would everywhere be made the basis of careful catechetical teaching, and records of all this, more or less fragmentary, would be early in circulation (Luke 1:1-4). This would explain the Petrine type of narrative, and the seeming dependence of Matthew and Luke, without the necessity of supposing a direct use of Mark. So important a gospel could hardly be included in the "attempts" of Luke 1:1.

(b) Fourth Gospel
The Fourth Gospel (John), the genuineness of which is assumed (see JOHN, GOSPEL OF), differs entirely in character and style. It is less a narrative than a didactic work, written to convince its readers that Jesus is "the Son of God" (John 20:31). The gospel may be presumed to have been composed at Ephesus, in the last years of the apostle's residence there. With this its character corresponds. The other gospels had long been known; John does not therefore traverse the ground already covered by them. He confines himself chiefly to matters drawn from his personal recollections: the Judean ministry, the visits of Christ to Jerusalem, His last private discourses to His disciples. John had so often retold, and so long brooded over, the thoughts and words of Jesus, that they had become, in a manner, part of his own thought, and, in reproducing them, he necessarily did so with a subjective tinge, and in a partially paraphrastic and interpretative manner. Yet it is truly the words, thoughts and deeds of his beloved Lord that he narrates. His gospel is the needful complement to the others--the "spiritual" gospel.

(c) Acts
The Acts narrates the origin and early fortunes of the church, with, as its special motive (compare Acts 1:8), the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles through the labors of Paul. Its author is Luke, Paul's companion, whose gospel it continues (Luke 1:1). Certain sections--the so-called "we-sections" (Acts 16:10 - 17 ; 20:5 - 15 ; 21:1 - 18 ; 27:1 through 28:16)--are transcribed directly from Luke's journal of Paul's travels. The book closes abruptly with Paul's 2 years' imprisonment at Rome (Acts 28:30 , 31 ; 60-61 AD), and not a hint is given of the issue of the imprisonment--trial, liberation or death. Does this mean that a 3rd "treatise" was contemplated? Or that the book was written while the imprisonment still continued? (thus now Harnack). If the latter, the Third Gospel must be very early.

(2) The Epistles

(a) Pauline
Doubt never rested in the early church on the 13 epistles of Paul. Following upon the rejection by the "Tubingen" school of all the epistles but 4 (Romans, 1 , 2 Corinthians, Galatians), the tide of opinion has again turned strongly in favor of their genuineness. An exception is the Pastoral epistles (1, 2 Timothy , Titus), still questioned by some on insufficient grounds (see PASTORAL EPISTLES). The epistles, called forth by actual needs of the churches, are a living outpouring of the thoughts and feelings of the mind and heart of the apostle in relation to his converts. Most are letters to churches he himself had founded (1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians(?), Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonains): two are to churches he had not himself visited, but with which he stood in affectionate relations (Romans, Colossians); one is purely personal (Philemon); three are addressed to individuals, but with official responsibilities (1 Timonty, 2 Timothy, Titus). The larger number were written during his missionary labors, and reflect his personal situation, anxieties and companionships at the places of their composition; four are epistles of the 1st Roman imprisonment (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon): 2 Timothy is a voice from the dungeon, in his 2nd imprisonment, shortly before his martyrdom. Doctrine, counsel, rebuke, admonition, tender solicitude, ethical instruction, prayer, thanksgiving, blend in living fusion in their contents. So marvelous a collection of letters, on such magnificent themes, was never before given to the world.

The earliest epistles, in point of date, are generally held to be those to the Thessalonians, written from Corinth (52, 53 AD). The church, newly-founded, had passed through much affliction (1 Thessalonians 1:6 ; 2:14 ; 3:3 , 4 , etc.), and Paul writes to comfort and exhort it. His words about the Second Coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff) led to mistaken expectations and some disorders. His second epistle was written to correct these problems (2 Thessalonians 2:1 - 3 ; 3:6, etc.). Corinth itself received the next epistles--the 1st called forth by reports received at Ephesus of grave divisions and irregularities 1 Corinthians (1:11 ; 3:3 ; 11:18 ff, etc.), joined with pride of knowledge, doctrinal heresy (15:12 ff), and at least one case of gross immorality (chapter 5) in the church; the 2nd, written at Philippi, expressing joy at the repentance of the offender, and removing the severe sentence that had been passed upon him (2 Corinthians 2:1 - 10 ; compare 1 Corinthians 5:3 , 4), likewise vindicating Paul's own apostleship 2 Corinthians (chapters 10 through 13). The date of both is 57 AD. 1 Cor contains the beautiful hymn on love (chapter 13), and the noble chapter on resurrection (chapter 15).

In the following year (58 BC) Paul penned from Corinth the Epistle to the Romans--the greatest of his doctrinal epistles. In it he develops his great theme of the impossibility of justification before God through works of law (Romans 1 through 3), and of the Divine provision for human salvation in a "righteousness of God" in Christ Jesus, received through faith. He exhibits first the objective side of this redemption in the deliverance from condemnation effected through Christ's reconciling death (Romans 3 through 5); then the subjective side, in the new life imparted by the spirit, giving deliverance from the power of sin (Romans 6 through 8). A discussion follows of the Divine sovereignty in God's dealings with Israel, and of the end of these dealings (Romans 9 through 11), and the epistle concludes with practical exhortations, counsels to forbearance and greetings (Romans 12 through 16).

Closely connected with the Epistle to the Romans is that to the Galatians, in which the same truths are handled, but now with a polemical intent in expostulation and reproach. The Galatian churches had apostatized from the gospel of faith to Jewish legalism, and the apostle, sorely grieved, writes this powerful letter to rebuke their faithlessness, and recall them to their allegiance to the truth. It is reasonable to suppose that the two epistles are nearly related in place and time. The question is complicated, however, by the dispute which has arisen as to whether the churches intended are those of Northern Galatia (the older view; compare Conybeare and Howson, Lightfoot) or those of Southern Galatia (Sir Wm. Ramsay), i.e. the churches of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, in Paul's time embraced in the Roman province of Galatia (see GALATIA; GALATIANS). If the latter view is adopted, date and place are uncertain; if the former, the epistle may have been written from Ephesus (circa 57 AD).

The 4 epistles of the imprisonment all fall within the years 60, 61 AD. That to the Philipplans, warmly praising the church, and exhorting to unity, possibly the latest of the group, was sent by the hand of Epaphroditus, who had come to Rome with a present from the Philippian church, and had there been overtaken by a serious illness (Philippians 2:25 - 30 ; 4:15 - 18). The remaining 3 epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon) were written at one time, and were carried to their destinations by Epaphras. Ephesians and Colossians are twin epistles, similar in thought and style, extolling the preeminence of Christ, but it is doubtful whether the former was not really a "circular" epistle, or even, perhaps, the lost Epistle to the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16 ; see LAODICEANS, EPISTLE TO THE). The Colossian epistle has in view an early form of Gnostic heresy (compare Lightfoot, Gal). Philemon is a personal letter to a friend of the apostle's at Colosse, whose runaway slave, Onesimus, now a Christian, is being sent back to him with warm commendations.


Latest from Paul's pen are the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy , 2 Timothy, Titus), implying his liberation from his first imprisonment, and a new period of missionary labor in Ephesus, Macedonia and Crete (see PASTORAL EPISTLES). Timothy was left at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), Titus at Crete (Titus 1:5), for the regulation and superintendence of the churches. The epistles, the altered style of which shows the deep impress of advancing years and changed conditions, contain admonitions to pastoral duty, with warnings as to perils that had arisen or would arise. 1 Timothy and Titus were written while the apostle was still at liberty (63 AD); 2 Timothy is from his Roman prison, when his case had been partly heard, and the end was impending (2 Timothy 4:6 , 26 , 27).

(b) Epistle to Hebrews
These are the Pauline Epistles proper. The Epistle to the Hebrews, though ascribed to Paul in the title of the King James Version, is not really his. It is an early writing (probably before the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 AD) of some friend of the apostle's (in Italy, Hebrews 13:23,24), designed, by a reasoned exhibition of the superiority of Jesus to Moses and the Levitical priesthood, and of the fulfillment of Old Testament types and institutions in His person and sacrifice, to remove the difficulties of Jewish Christians, who clung with natural affection to their temple and divinely appointed ritual. It was included by Eusebius, with others in the East (not, however, by Origen), among the epistles of Paul: in the West the Pauline authorship was not admitted. Many, nevertheless, with Origen, upheld a connection with Paul ("the thoughts are Paul's"). Ideas and style suggest an Alexandrian training: hence Luther's conjecture of Apollos as the writer. There can be no certainty on the subject. The value of the Epistle is unimpaired, whoever was the author.

(c) Catholic Epistles
Of the seven so-called "Catholic" Epistles, James and Jude are by "brethren" of the Lord (James, "the Lord's brother," was head of the church at Jerusalem, Acts 15:13 ; 21:18; Galatians 1:19, etc.); Peter and John, to whom the others were ascribed, were apostles. James and 1 Peter are addressed to the Jews of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1; James 1:1). The doubts respecting certain of these writings have already been mentioned. The early date and acceptance of Jas is attested by numerous allusions (Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Hermas, Didache). Many regard it as the earliest of the epistles--before Paul's. Its tone is throughout practical. The seeming conflict with Paul on faith and works, which led Luther to speak slightingly of it, is only verbal. Paul, too, held that a dead faith avails nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2 ; Galatians 5:6). 1 John, like 1 Peter, was undisputed (if the Fourth Gospel is genuine, 1 John is), and, on internal grounds, the shorter epistles (2 John, 3 John) need not be doubted (see JOHN, THE EPISTLES OF). Jude, rugged in style, with allusions to Jewish Apocalypses (Jude 1:9 , 24), is well attested, and 2 Peter seems to found on it. The last-named epistle must rely for acceptance on its own claim (2 Peter 1:1 , 28), and on internal evidence of sincerity. It is to be observed that, though late in being noticed, it never appears to have been treated as spurious. The style certainly differs from 1 Peter; this may be due to the use of an amanuensis. If accepted, it must be placed late in Peter's life (before 65 AD). 1 Peter and Jude, in that case, must be earlier (see CATHOLIC EPISTLES).

(3) Prophecy. Book of Revelation

The one prophetic book of the New Testament--the apocalyptic counterpart of Daniel in the Old Testament--is the Book of Revelation. The external evidence for the Johannine authorship is strong (see APOCALYPSE). Tradition and internal evidence ascribe it to the reign of Domitian (circa 95 AD). Its contents were given in vision in the isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). The theory which connects it with the reign of Nero through the supposed fitness of this name to express the mystic number 666 is entirely precarious (compare Salmon, Introduction to New Testament, 245-54). The main intent is to exhibit in symbolic form the approaching conflicts of Christ and His church with anti-Christian powers--with secular world-power (Beast), with intellectual anti-Christianism (False Prophet), with ecclesiastical anti-Christianism (Woman)--these conflicts issuing in victory and a period of triumph, preluding, after a sharp, final struggle, the last scenes (resurrection, judgment), and the eternal state. When the visions are taken, not as poetic imaginings, but as true apocalyptic unveilings, the change in style from the gospel, which may be regarded as already written, can readily be understood. These mighty revelations in Patmos brought about, as by volcanic force, a tremendous upheaval in the seer's soul, breaking through all previous strata of thought and feeling, and throwing everything into a new perspective. On the resultant high keynote: "Amen: Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20), the New Testament closes.

(4) New Testament Canon

The principal steps by which the books now enumerated were gradually formed into a New Testament "Canon," have been indicated in previous sections. The test of canonicity here, as in the Old Testament, is the presence of inspiration. Some would prefer the word "apostolic," which comes to the same thing. All the writings above reckoned were held to be the works of apostles or of apostolic men, and on this ground were admitted into the list of books having authority in the church. Barnabas (circa 100-120 AD) already quotes Matthew 20:16 with the formula "it is written." Paul quotes as "scripture" (1 Timothy 5:18) a passage found only in Luke (Luke 10:7). Paul's Epistles are classed with "other scriptures" in 2 Peter 3:16. Post-apostolic Fathers draw a clear distinction between their own writings and those of apostles like Paul and Peter (Polycarp, Ignatius, Barnabas). The Fathers of the close of the 2nd century treat the New Testament writings as in the fullest degree inspired (compare Westcott, Introduction to Study of Gospels, Appendix B). An important impulse to the formation of a definite canon came from the Gnostic Marcion (circa 140 AD), who made a canon for himself in 2 parts, "Gospel" and "Apostolicon," consisting of one gospel (a mutilated Luke) and 10 epistles of Paul (excluding Pastorals). A challenge of this kind had to be taken up, and lists of New Testament writings began to be made (Melito, Muratorian Fragment, etc.), with the results previously described. By the commencement of the 4th century unanimity had practically been attained as regards even the Antilegomena. At the Council of Nicea (325 AD), Westcott says, "the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were silently admitted on all sides to have a final authority" (Bible in Church, 155).




bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, define, epistles, gospels, new covenant, new testament, prophecy (book of revelation)



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