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Chapter 4: The New Testament. Christianity: An Introduction. The new testament. 27 books Gospels Letters History book Began being written around year 60 A.D. as letters to communities.

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Chapter 4 the new testament

Chapter 4: The New Testament

Christianity: An Introduction

The new testament
The new testament

  • 27 books

    • Gospels

    • Letters

    • History book

  • Began being written around year 60 A.D. as letters to communities.

  • “New” because it adds the words and deeds of Jesus to the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus used in his Judaism.

The gospels
The Gospels

  • The first four books of the New Testament

  • Four portraits of Jesus “from different angles and from various sources”

  • Greek Evangelion

    • Evangelize – to teach good news of Jesus

    • Evangelist – a Gospel writer

  • English “Gospel” rooted in Old English godspel, “good news”

The period of oral tradition
The period of oral tradition

  • Period of Oral Tradition: period between the death of Jesus and the writing of the first Gospel, as stories were passed down “with remarkable accuracy” from one generation to the next.

  • The Gospel writers were onto biographers or historians, and did not even need to give an account of everything Jesus ever did.

  • What mattered, was the point Jesus was making in a parable

  • The writers try to be faithful as possible to the accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus which had been given to them.

The period of oral tradition1
The period of oral tradition

  • The Gospels do contain a solid base of historical information

  • Biography and theology are “interwoven to the extent that they cannot be separated anymore”.

  • Christians were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and their Savior, and wished to pass these conclusions to their readers.

  • These Christians believed that their interpretation was correct, and fact and interpretation are “so thoroughly intermingled” in the gospels.

The period of oral tradition2
The period of oral tradition

  • McGrath: New Testament accounts are “strongly committed” to subject; clearly speak of Jesus as Lord and Savior.

  • Problem? “Is there not a danger that this commitment leads them to being prejudiced, and thus incapable of providing an objective picture of Jesus?”

    • McGrath: Cannot be ignored

  • However, they are written from the standpoint of faith, and intended to bring their readers to faith. This does not mean they should be dismissed due to “bias”.

The period of oral tradition3
The period of oral tradition

  • People made full use of the word, even though it was not written down.

    • Pre-cell phone era to today: memory of telephone numbers

  • Some dismiss that which was not written down; “if there is one ability which modern westerners have probably lost, it is the ability to remember a story or narrative as it is told, and then to pass it on to others afterwards”.

    • Tachygraphy: “Speed writing” used in first century; no evidence this was used for Jesus’ life

  • Compare 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 to Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22-17-19

The period of oral tradition4
The period of oral tradition

  • The period of oral tradition was one of “sifting”.

  • Early Christians passed down what they assessed to be necessary to those who followed him.

  • Some sayings did become detached from original context; occasionally given a new one.

  • They were put toward their intended use: proclaim the gospel to those outside the early community of faith and informing the faith of those inside it.

The gospel according to matthew
The gospel according to matthew

  • Traditionally attributed to the tax collector who left everything to follow Jesus in Matthew 9:9-13 (referred to Levi in Mark and Luke)

  • Matthew’s Gospel is the “most Jewish” of the four Gospels, appealing to a Jewish audience

  • Makes important that Jesus was a direct descendent of King David, and a point of Jesus’ ministry fulfilling Old Testament prophecy.

  • Jesus does not come to abolish the Old Testament, but to fulfill it.

The gospel according to matthew1
The gospel according to matthew

  • In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus as seen as the new Moses delivering the new law to the new Israel on a mountain.

  • 12 Tribes of Israel linked to 12 Apostles

  • Matthew was likely written second, despite being placed first. The date of writing may be around year 70.

  • Mark likely was written first.

The gospel according to mark
The gospel according to mark

  • Widely regarded as the first Gospel to be written down.

  • Generally accepted to be written by “John Mark” who accompanied Peter and Paul.

  • Some “vivid details” suggest that he had an inside source such as Peter.

  • Scholars believe that this was the first Gospel to enter circulation, with Matthew and Luke expanding the knowledge using additional sources.

The gospel according to mark1
The gospel according to mark

  • Peter was executed during Nero’s persecution of Christians 64-67, and Peter’s death could have been what prompted Mark to put into writing what he knew.

  • Mark’s Gospel likely was written in Rome. Other evidence includes the reference to the Praetorium, the testimony of a Roman centurion (important to readership in Rome), and reference to the “cock crowing”.

  • Mark tends to emphasize the acts of Jesus, rather than teachings of Jesus.

  • Some teachings that appear in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount are not included, either due to an additional source, or Mark not finding them relevant.

The gospel according to luke
The gospel according to Luke

  • Luke is the first part of a two-part work, the other being the Acts of the Apostles.

  • Luke and Acts combine for the largest piece of the New Testament

  • Both are credited to Theophilus “a lover of God” who may have been a wealthy and influential Christian in Rome.

  • Luke was a physician, had a command of the Greek language, and was a companion of Paul at various points of his career.

The gospel according to luke1
The gospel according to Luke

  • Luke had the interests of Jewish and non-Jewish believers in mind.

  • Luke had special concern to bring out the good news to the poor, oppressed, and needy (women included).

  • He uses the word “savior” familiar to Greek-speakers

  • Readers learn the identity and significance of Jesus, with less emphasis on messiahship than Matthew.

  • The Gospel includes the best-loved parables of Jesus: The Good Samaritan, and the Prodigal Son.

The gospel according to luke2
The gospel according to Luke

  • Luke also contains the Magnificat, Mary’s song when she finds out she is pregnant with Jesus.

  • This shows a clear emphasis on the important role of women in the history of Christianity.

  • Mark’s Gospel was written in the 70s, perhaps, and tends to draw upon Mark’s Gospel at times.

The gospel according to john
The Gospel according to john

  • “The Fourth Gospel”, John is very different in style from the rest of the gospels, very theological and philosophical in nature.

  • “I am” sayings are used to bring out the fullness of Jesus.

  • The text of the Gospel says the author is “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, or traditionally the Apostle John.

  • Written between 85 or as late as year 100

The gospel according to john1
The Gospel according to john

  • The special needs of the churches in the region of Ephesus seem to be in mind of the writer.

  • The text suggests that Peter and the “beloved disciple” are dead (so he probably was not the one to put the pen to the papyrus.

  • The prologue:

    • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

The synoptic problem
The Synoptic Problem

  • The first three gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) have a lot of material in common.

  • The overlap has caused the three to be given the name “synoptic” gospels (synopsis, or “summary”)

  • In doing source criticism, scholars have noted that the Gospels appear interdependent on one another, and the question becomes, how could this dependence be explained?

  • The general consensus is, four sources can be discerned for the synoptic gospels.

The synoptic problem1
The Synoptic Problem

  • 1. Mark’s gospel itself, exists as a source; 90% of Mark is found in Matthew; 53% of Mark in Luke

  • 2. “Q”. Material common to Matthew and Luke, about 200 verses total. This source is unknown; it may have been a collection of verses, or a Gospel in itself.

  • 3. Material unique to Matthew, or “M”

  • 4. Material unique to Luke, or “L”

  • The “synoptic problem” is intended to help readers understand the way oral tradition was passed down, not to call theological reliability into question.

Acts of the apostles
Acts of the apostles

  • Luke’s second installment is a historical account of the earliest Christian Church.

  • Luke sets out to document the rapid expansion of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.

  • The first twelve chapters focus on Peter, and much of the later chapters focuses on Paul, a law-abiding Jew named “Saul” who went from persecuting Christians, to being the person most responsible for spreading Christianity to other lands.

  • Dating the work is difficult; there is no mention of the burning of Rome, the persecution of Christians, or destruction of Jerusalem in year 70.

The letters
The letters

  • The New Testament includes a series of letters written to individuals or churches by leading figures within the early church.

  • These letters often clarify Christian doctrine and practice, and encourage Christians in the face of prosecution.

  • Christians in the first century were small in number and often met in secret, as Nero and Domitian attempted to eliminate the growing Christian Church

The letters of paul
The letters of Paul

  • The largest collection of letters within the New Testament is due to Paul.

  • Paul’s missionary efforts established Christian groups in Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece, and kept in touch with them via letter.

  • Not all letters have been found; there were probably others that there are no record of.

  • Paul’s early letters are concerned with matters of doctrine, particularly concerning the second coming of Christ and the relation between Jews and gentiles.

  • Later letters reflect the growing importance of the Church structure.

The letters of paul1
The letters of Paul

  • The first is Paul’s letter to the Romans, and presents to Rome basic elements of Christian teaching.

  • Sets forth the justification of faith, rather than by works of law. the relationship between Israel and the early Church.

  • He says that it is not necessary that one be circumcised, be a Jew, or observe the Old Testament law; what matters is faith in God.

  • The letter helps document historically the growth of the Christian Church at Rome.

The letters of paul2
The letters of Paul

  • Paul’s next two letters are to the people in Corinth. The Corinthians made up one of the largest cities in Greece with more than 500,000 people. The Church is Corinth went through a phenomenon that grew quickly.

  • The first of the two letters is about how Christians should relate to their pagan environment, and also discusses the Resurrection.

  • The second letter is “dark” in tone. Paul canceled a visit, and was greatly resented for doing so. The letter sends out his credentials in response to those who criticize him.

  • Here he stresses the compassion and greatness of God.

The letters of paul3
The letters of Paul

  • The letter to the Galatians dates around 53, and is in response to “Judaizers”, or people who wished to see Christians remaining faithful to Old Testament law in Galatia.

  • The letter to the Ephesians is believed to be a letter that would circulate around the churches of Ephesus. The text does not deal with any false teaching, and is not specific to any one community.

  • The letter to the Phillipians is addressed to Phillippi, a Roman colony in Macedonia, where Paul proclaimed the Gospel first.

  • Phillippi is considered a “place of prayer” and thought to be written while he was imprisoned, thus why he took no controversy.

The letters of paul4
The letters of Paul

  • Paul’s letter to the Colossians is difficult to date. Paul never visited Colossus, though one of Paul’s converts had. The letter dealt with a form of Gnosticism, the belief in a strict set of dietary laws, and an emphasis on asceticism, and a tendency to worship angels while minimizing Jesus.

  • Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians are Paul’s earliest letters and respond to concern about those who die before Christ’s return.

  • Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are addressed to individuals, rather than a Church; his letter to Philemon is not Theological, but deals with his fate as a potential runaway slave.

The letters of peter
The Letters of Peter

  • There are two letters attributed to Peter, the preeminent disciple of Jesus.

  • The first is addressed to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor; persecution is an immanent threat.

    • The letter notes the assistance of Silas, and is in perfect Greek.

  • The second letter seems to envisage a situation which arose later in the church

    • No mention of Silas here, and the writing is poor.

The letters of john
The letters of john

  • The three letters of John are similar in style, and their common author is the apostle John, regarded as the author of the Fourth Gospel.

  • Written from Ephesus around 85-90.

  • These letters counter the threat of Gnostic ideas, including the relationship between the spiritual and material.

  • The first letter emphasizes Christ’s human nature, and affirms that Christians should not sin.

  • The third letter is addressed to “Gaius”, whoever that is.

Other letters
Other letters

  • The Letter of James was written by James, who played an important role in the Council of Jerusalem, which determined whether Christian believers would follow all laws of Moses

  • James appears to be trying to correct a misunderstanding in Paul’s doctrine of the justification of faith.

  • The letter of Jude is one of the shortest books in the New Testament, and the author is generally unknown.

  • The author seems to counter a false teaching tied to Gnosticsism and Jewish superstition.

  • The Letter to the Hebrews is “one of the most fascinating” letters that stresses how Jesus represents fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures.

  • Barnabbas and Apollos, are believed to have written the book, as both were appreciated in the Acts and had the command of the Greek language.

The book of revelation
The Book of Revelation

  • Apocalyptic book that closes the New Testament, written by the same John as the gospel.

  • Written later part of Roman emperor Domitian, when Roman authorities were suppressing Christianity.

  • The purpose of the book is to encourage Christians in their present suffering, in the knowledge that evil and oppression will finally be overcome, and suffering and pain will be no more.