Introductory lecture on the nt
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Introductory Lecture on the NT. Dr. Matthew R. Anderson. A definition.

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Introductory Lecture on the NT

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Introductory lecture on the nt

Introductory Lecture on the NT

Dr. Matthew R. Anderson


A definition

A definition

  • The New Testament (NT) is a collection of 27  documents, written in ancient Koine (common) Greek by believers in Messiah Jesus,  edited over the course of a century or so, and collected and canonized as a set of writings until finally being appended to a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures known as the Septuagint


What is the nt

What is the NT?

  • The NT developed in part because the early Christians (mostly Jews) already had a scripture, their Hb Bibles

  • Thus to add other scriptures to this canon was natural and perhaps inevitable

  • There were many, many early Christian writings – far more than in the NT. The NT represents a “paring down” of this collection in the process known as canonization


What is the nt1

What is the NT?

  • 27 documents written by about a dozen different authors, although almost half (13) are or supposedly were written by one person: Paul

  • written by Christians for Christians

  • written for theological rather than historical or biographical reasons (John: “these things are written that you might come to believe…”)


What is the nt2

What is the NT?

  • The thematic unity of the NT

  • almost all 27 documents concern themselves with some aspect of Jesus’ role in God’s actions to reconcile (or “save”) humanity. Jesus is always seen as the central figure, so much so that his title, “Christ” became virtually a last name.


The books that didn t make it the early church fathers

The books that didn’t make it: the early Church Fathers

  • 1 Clement

  • The Didache

  • The Shepherd of Hermas

  • Any of the seven letters of Ignatius

  • The Martyrdom of Polycarp

  • The Epistle of Barnabas


The books that didn t make it nag hammadi and the apocryphal or heretical works

The books that didn’t make it: Nag Hammadi and the apocryphal or heretical works

Some examples are:

  • The Gospel of Thomas

  • The Gospel of Judas

  • The Gospel of the Hebrews (fragments)

  • The Infancy Gospel of Thomas

  • The Acts of Paul and Thecla

  • The Christian Sybillines

  • The Book of Thomas the Contender

  • The Apocalypse of Peter


The diversity of early christian writing

The Diversity of Early Christian writing

  • surviving Gnostic works such as the Gospels of Thomas and Judas, together with the NT orthodox works, show that, for the first three centuries, the Christian movement was extremely heterogeneous and varied.

  • In an early church that didn’t yet have a unitary organization, some areas and churches thought of Jesus as entirely human, others as entirely divine, and there were wide variations in practice as well.


What is the nt3

What is the NT?

  • The NT (like the Hebrew Bible) contains mixed genres of writing.

  • There are: four Gospels very different from each other in form and content, an historical narrative, twenty-one letters or letter-like documents, and one apocalypse


What is the nt4

What is the NT?

  • many of the NT documents are anonymous.

  • The names were often added later, by tradition.

  • This is certainly true of all four Gospels. In other words, the Gospel of Mark never says in its actual original text: ‘the gospel of Mark’. What has happened is that fairly early on, it was believed that Mark, an associate of Peter, wrote it.

  • The exceptions are Paul’s letters, for which the now-missing originals were even “signed” in some cases, by the Apostle.

  • Some of the letters attributed to Paul in the NT may not have been written by him (pseudonymity)


How did the nt develop

How did the NT develop?

  • The NT grew organically from writings produced at different times in different areas.

  • Paul’s letters were the first part of the NT to be collected, probably toward end of first century

  • No one complete volume of the NT existed until the fourth century and the legalization and encouragement of Christianity by Rome.

  • Some of those oldest fourth century compilations (the first complete copies) are now our most famous early manuscripts (ie Sinaiticus, Vaticanus etc).


How did the nt develop1

How did the NT develop?

  • There are no complete NT manuscripts prior to the fourth century

  • One possible reason is that during the period of violent persecution that immediately preceded the legalization of Christianity, many Christian books were gathered and burned by the Roman authorities.

  • Also, before Christianity became a state religion of Rome, most mss were likely on paper/papyrus


What does the nt contain

What does the NT contain?

  • In general, the “Passion” or last weeks of Jesus’ life were clearly considered the most important by NT writers.

  • Most Gospel writers focus on the Passion rather than Jesus’ teachings, and miracles (e.g. most of the Gospel is about his last week of life)

  • Only Mt and Lk have any interest in Jesus’ birth or early years (this follows the usual Greco-Roman pattern for biography)

  • A few other Gospels, such as Thomas, omit his Passion and consider Jesus’ almost Zen-like teachings to be more important.


The cultural background of the nt

The cultural background of the NT

  • The NT is a “fusion” document

  • It is unique in that it combines aspects of two ancient and differing (although interpenetrating) cultures: the Jewish and the Greco-Roman.

  • The NT combines a Jewish view of scripture with the particular moral ethical or religious concerns of those living in the Gentile, Greco-Roman world, in the service of a “revelation” of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, who inaugurates God’s age for Jew and Gentile.


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