ABOUT THE NEW TESTAMENT
Before you begin your journey through the books of the New Testament take a moment and learn about the New Testament as a whole!
THE LENGTH OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
If you compare the number of pages in the New Testament with the pages of the Old Testament, you will see that the New Testament is much shorter. In fact, the New Testament is only about one-third as long as the Old Testament. This should not surprise us. In the Old Testament we hear about things that took place over a period of thousands of years – from Creation to about 400 B.C. But in the New Testament, we cover a period of about fifty years. The fact that the Old Testament is longer does not mean that it is more important than the New Testament. It does not mean that we should spend more time with it than the New Testament. If we want to speak of comparing the importance of the two testaments, we will definitely say that the New Testament is of greater importance. The Old Testament only prophesied of Christ; the New Testament clearly reveals Christ to us. The Old Testament told of God’s plan for man’s salvation; but the New Testament tells about how God actually accomplished salvation for us through Christ. The Old Testament commanded laws, ceremonies, and animal sacrifices; in the New Testament we see Christ fulfilling all of God’s Law and offering himself as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sins. In the Old Testament we hear the inspired words of the prophets; in the New Testament we hear God’s own Son speak.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TO THE OLD
The fact that the Old Testament is longer does not mean that it is more important than the New Testament. It does not mean that we should spend more time with it than the New Testament. If we want to speak of comparing the importance of the two testaments,(we will definitely say that) the New Testament is (definitely) of greater importance. The Old Testament (only) merely prophesied of (the) Christ who was to come; the New Testament clearly reveals(the) Christ who has come to us. The Old Testament told of God’s plan for man’s salvation; but the New Testament tells about how God actually accomplished salvation for us through Christ. The Old Testament commanded laws, ceremonies, and animal sacrifices; in the New Testament we see Christ fulfilling all of God’s Law and offering himself as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sins. In the Old Testament we hear the inspired words of the prophets; in the New Testament we hear God’s own Son speak.
THE NAME “NEW TESTAMENT”
The word “testament” carries the idea of someone’s “last will and testament” which goes into effect when the person dies. By “New Testament” we mean God’s gracious agreement to freely forgive sins for the sake of Christ’s death on the cross. The 27 inspired books that announce this “testament” of God we commonly call the “New Testament.” The words “testament” and “covenant” mean basically the same thing. God’s “covenant” is God’s “agreement” to do something. God’s Old Covenant or Old Testament was his agreement with his people at Mt. Sinai; that was a law covenant, a covenant of works. God’s New covenant is his agreement with all people at the cross of Christ; it is a gospel covenant, a covenant promising free forgiveness for Christ’s sake. The words “covenant” and “testament” may be substituted for each other. The name “New Testament” is therefore a beautiful Gospel-centered name for the 27 inspired books written after the time of Christ’s completed work. (See the following passages for the Bible’s use of the word “covenant” or “testament:” Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6-12; Hebrews 9:15-17.)
THE LANGUAGE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
The people living in Israel at Jesus’ time probably understood three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Some probably also knew Latin, although Latin was used mostly in the western part of the Roman Empire. The common language throughout the Empire was Greek. In our last lesson we heard how the Greek language was spread around the world through the conquests of Alexander the Great. We can see God’s hand working in history to provide a common language so that people far and wide would be able to hear the Good News of salvation in Christ. God had the New Testament written originally in Greek. People in Rome, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt would all be able to understand its message. Certainly some needed the Gospel Message translated into other languages, like on Pentecost Day . But with Greek serving as the common world language, the message of the New Testament could spread quickly. To be more specific, the particular Greek dialect in which the New Testament written is called “koine” Greek. “Koine” means “common.” Koine Greek was the Greek of the common people. God wanted his message to be understood not only by those highly educated, but by the common man.
THE MEN WHO WROTE THE NEW TESTAMENT
God used eight human authors to write the 27 books of the New Testament. Four of the writers were apostles: Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul. The other four New Testament authors were Mark, Luke, James, and Jude. Only two of these writers appear to be highly educated men: Paul and Luke. Even these educated men did not write to show off their educations. They were led by the Holy Spirit to show forth Christ crucified and risen for the sins of all. One of the New Testament writers, Luke, was a Gentile. The rest were Jews. These men did their writing from about 45-95 A.D. They did not write their books in the order in which we find them in our New Testaments today. The four Gospel writers did not write their books first. The Four Gospels come first in our Bibles because they tell of the life of Christ and give the foundation for everything that is written in the New Testament. Some of the Epistles were probably written before the Gospels.
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