From Steve Singleton... What is the origin of the New Testament?

What is the origin of the New Testament?

paul in prison
What is the New Testament?

The New Testament is actually a library of 27 separate documents, all originally written in Greek during the second half of the first century of the Common Era. It consists of the founding documents of Christianity, telling the Good News of Jesus the Messiah and relating the events and teachings of the first two or three generations of His followers, who came to be called Christians.

When and where was the New Testament written?

The traditional authors of these documents include the apostles Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul, as well as apostolic companions Mark and Luke, and two early leaders, James and Jude, who happened to be half-brothers of Jesus himself. Paul wrote nine epistles to churches (two to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians, and one each to the Romans, the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, and the Colossians), as well as epistles to two of his associates (two to Timothy and one to Titus), and one to a friend, Philemon.

The others are all the authors of documents that bear their names, except that Luke also wrote Acts. In addition to these eight authors, the identity of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews remains uncertain, though many have tried to guess his identity.

For most of these documents, the location at the time of writing is unknown, though in a few cases we can deduce the location from the text itself. For example, Paul probably wrote First Corinthians from Ephesus (see 1 Corinthians 16:8) and Second Corinthians from Macedonia (2 Corinthians 7:5-7; 8:1; 9:2). If you look for such references as you read the New Testament, you can discern as much as any scholar on the points of origin, except that “Babylon” of 1 Peter 5:13 is probably code for the city of Rome (see also Revelation 17:5, 9, 15, and 18). Suggested locations include at least Jerusalem, Syrian Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome.

From the beginning, these writings, which at first circulated separately, were accepted as inspired by God because their authors were known to be prophets. Christians everywhere regarded their teachings and commands as having the authority of Christ Himself.

None of the writings of the next generation or the centuries that followed were accepted as inspired, though some of them were read and recommended. These include an epistle by Clement of Rome to the Corinthian church, the epistles of Ignatius, an epistle from Polycarp, an allegory called The Shepherd of Hermas, a document called The Teaching of the 12 Apostles (also called “The Didache”), among others.

Who gathered all of the documents?

Scholars believe that by the 90s, the epistles of Paul were already circulating as a collection, and by the end of the second century what we know as “The Four Gospels” were being copied together. The Muratonian Canon, a document written some time between 170 and 200 CE, lists the New Testament documents one by one. This document is also called “The Muratonian Fragment” because its beginning is broken off; the text starts with Luke as the third gospel, from which we reasonably infer that it originally mentioned Matthew and Mark in the lost portion. The “Canon” omits only the Epistle by James and one by John (probably Third John). It rejects two epistles as pseudo-Pauline and mentions the Apocalypse of Peter and The Shepherd of Hermas as accepted by some but not by others. It also commends The Wisdom of Solomon as written in Solomon’s honor by his friends, but we now know that it originated long after Solomon’s death.

By the third century, the various sections of the New Testament (the Four Gospels, Acts, the Pauline epistles, the General Epistles, and the Book of Revelation) are attested by manuscript evidence. In fact, nearly the entire New Testament is represented by p45, p46, p47, and p23, all dated from the third century. It is not until the fourth century, however, that we have manuscripts containing the entire New Testament in the original Greek (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus).

What is the earliest New Testament still in existence?

The earliest manuscript known to contain a New Testament text is p52, known as “The John Rylands Fragment,” which contains a few words from John 18, and is dated perhaps as early as 125 CE. One scholar claims that a fragment among the Dead Sea Scrolls, is actually a New Testament text datable to before the Jewish war with Rome (67-73 CE), but the fragment is now known to be from a non-biblical text. The codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are the earliest containing the New Testament in its entirety.

What difference does it all make?

Once you understand that the documents of the New Testament arose from different authors in different locales, you find yourself becoming impressed with the continuity and unity of thought and purpose that these writings demonstrate. The New Testament’s claim to be God message to humanity challenges you to make an important choice: do you accept this claim or reject it? If you reject it, then you must look for an alternate explanation that discounts the New Testament’s allegations and rejects its authority. If, however, you accept its claims as valid, then you must submit to the Lord Jesus Christ, the central focus of its pages. Your Christian “walk,” as it progresses, will deepen your appreciation of the New Testament.

Want to go deeper?

Several passages in the New Testament reveal for us its author’s sense of authority and inspiration. Here’s the short list:
  1. John 14:26“ Jesus promises inspiration to His apostles.
  2. John 15:26-27“ Jesus promises His apostles that the Spirit wouldtestify about Himself.
  3. John 16:12-15“ Jesus promised His apostles that the Spirit would “guide [them] into all truth” and reveal “the things of Jesus” to them.
  4. Acts 2:42“ From the very beginning people converted to Christ submitted to the teaching of the apostles.
  5. 1 Cor. 14:36-38“ prophets should acknowledge that Paul’s writing is the Lord’s command.
  6. 1 Tim. 5:18“ Paul apparently quotes the Gospel of Luke as Scripture.
  7. 2 Peter 3:16“ Peter calls Paul’s writings Scripture.
Find additional passages on your own in which the apostles recognized their writings as authoritative messages from God.
How we got the Bible 
Recommended for purchase:

Neil R. Lightfoot. How We Got the Bible 3rd ed., Baker, 2003.

Ralph Earle. How We Got Our Bible. Beacon Hill, 1997.

F. F. Bruce.The Canon of Scripture. Inter-varsity, 1988.

William C. Hatcher. Circles of Truth. Hatcher, 1978. “ Explains in simple terms the basis for tying New Testament authority to the authority of the apostles, and ultimately to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Recommended for online reading:

F. F. Bruce. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable (5th ed., 1959).

Emile Puech  “Seven Greek Fragments of the Epistle of Enoch (1 Enoch 100, 103, and 105) from Qumran Cave 7 (=7QEngr)” (Eng. summary, 1998) " Refutation that a certain Dead Sea Scroll fragment should be regarded as the earliest New Testament manuscript. See additional discussion.

More on New Testament canon (which books belong).

As always, I don’t necessarily agree with everything these books teach. Part of “going deeper” is developing your own spiritual discernment. It’s good to “taste-test” before swallowing.

From Gary.... Bible Reading February 23

Bible Reading  

February 23

The World English Bible

Feb. 23
Exodus 4

Exo 4:1 Moses answered, "But, behold, they will not believe me, nor listen to my voice; for they will say, 'Yahweh has not appeared to you.' "
Exo 4:2 Yahweh said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A rod."
Exo 4:3 He said, "Throw it on the ground." He threw it on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses ran away from it.
Exo 4:4 Yahweh said to Moses, "Put forth your hand, and take it by the tail." He put forth his hand, and laid hold of it, and it became a rod in his hand.
Exo 4:5 "That they may believe that Yahweh, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."
Exo 4:6 Yahweh said furthermore to him, "Now put your hand inside your cloak." He put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, as white as snow.
Exo 4:7 He said, "Put your hand inside your cloak again." He put his hand inside his cloak again, and when he took it out of his cloak, behold, it had turned again as his other flesh.
Exo 4:8 "It will happen, if they will neither believe you nor listen to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.
Exo 4:9 It will happen, if they will not believe even these two signs, neither listen to your voice, that you shall take of the water of the river, and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take out of the river will become blood on the dry land."
Exo 4:10 Moses said to Yahweh, "Oh, Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before now, nor since you have spoken to your servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."
Exo 4:11 Yahweh said to him, "Who made man's mouth? Or who makes one mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Isn't it I, Yahweh?
Exo 4:12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you shall speak."
Exo 4:13 He said, "Oh, Lord, please send someone else."
Exo 4:14 The anger of Yahweh was kindled against Moses, and he said, "What about Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Also, behold, he comes forth to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.
Exo 4:15 You shall speak to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with your mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do.
Exo 4:16 He will be your spokesman to the people; and it will happen, that he will be to you a mouth, and you will be to him as God.
Exo 4:17 You shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs."
Exo 4:18 Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, "Please let me go and return to my brothers who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive." Jethro said to Moses, "Go in peace."
Exo 4:19 Yahweh said to Moses in Midian, "Go, return into Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead."
Exo 4:20 Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. Moses took God's rod in his hand.
Exo 4:21 Yahweh said to Moses, "When you go back into Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your hand, but I will harden his heart and he will not let the people go.
Exo 4:22 You shall tell Pharaoh, 'Thus says Yahweh, Israel is my son, my firstborn,
Exo 4:23 and I have said to you, "Let my son go, that he may serve me;" and you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.' "
Exo 4:24 It happened on the way at a lodging place, that Yahweh met him and wanted to kill him.
Exo 4:25 Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said, "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me."
Exo 4:26 So he let him alone. Then she said, "You are a bridegroom of blood," because of the circumcision.
Exo 4:27 Yahweh said to Aaron, "Go into the wilderness to meet Moses." He went, and met him on God's mountain, and kissed him.
Exo 4:28 Moses told Aaron all the words of Yahweh with which he had sent him, and all the signs with which he had instructed him.
Exo 4:29 Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel.
Exo 4:30 Aaron spoke all the words which Yahweh had spoken to Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.
Exo 4:31 The people believed, and when they heard that Yahweh had visited the children of Israel, and that he had seen their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.

From Mark Copeland... Introduction To Hebrews


                      Introduction To The Epistle


1. The Epistle to the Hebrews is a unique book in the New Testament...
   a. It begins as an "essay" - He 1:1-2
   b. It progresses as a "sermon" - He 2:1-4
   c. It ends as a "letter" - He 13:23-25

2. Its contents are deep and challenging...
   a. Many Christians find it difficult
   b. Some equate its difficulty with the book of Revelation

3. But for Christians who are willing to take the time to read and 
   reflect upon it...
   a. They are REMINDED of how blessed they are to have trusted in 
   b. They are IMPRESSED with the superiority of Christ and His New 
      Covenant over Moses and the Old Covenant
   c. They are WARNED of the danger of apostasy and the need for 
      steadfastness in their faith

4. With this lesson, I wish to begin a series of expository sermons 
   based upon this epistle...
   a. Yet just as one should not begin a journey without some idea of
      where they are going
   b. So it is beneficial to begin with a preview of this epistle, that
      we might have an idea...
      1) Of where we are headed
      2) And what we can expect to find

[Such a "preview" or introduction would naturally include some 
information on...]


      1. The author does not identify himself
      2. Many believe it to be the apostle Paul (e.g., Clement of
         a. This seems unlikely in view of the author's statement:  
            "...was confirmed to us by those who heard Him," - He 2:3
         b. For Paul declared that he had not received the gospel from
            or through men - Ga 1:11-12
         c. Yet there are many arguments which favor Paul as the author
            (cf. New Testament Commentary on Hebrews, Robert Milligan,
            pp. 5-19)
      3. Other names have been proposed over the years:
         a. Barnabas (suggested by Tertullian)
         b. Apollos (suggested by Luther)
         c. Priscilla (suggested by Harnack)
      -- In the end, we can only say with Origen, "But who wrote the 
         epistle, to be sure, only God knows."

      1. The general consensus is that this letter was written to 
         Jewish Christians
      2. But there is uncertainty as to where they and the author were
         at the time of composition
         a. Most believe the recipients were in Palestine, and the 
            author in Rome
         b. Others suggest the readers were in Rome and the author 
            elsewhere, based upon a possible implication in He 13:24
      -- In any case, they were Jewish Christians whom the author knew
         personally - cf. He 10:34; 13:19

      1. We know it was prior to 96 A.D., for Clement of Rome quotes 
         from Hebrews in his letter written at that time
      2. There are certainly strong implications that it was written 
         prior to 70 A.D.
         a. There is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem and the
         b. The author writes as though priests were still offering 
            sacrifices - He 8:4; 10:11
      3. If the Jewish Christians were in Palestine, it was likely 
         before or at the beginning of the Jewish Wars (ca.66-70 A.D.),
         in light of He 12:4
      -- The time frame of 63-65 A.D. is often suggested

      1. To prevent his readers from abandoning their faith in Christ 
         - cf. He 2:1-4
      2. To encourage his Jewish brethren not to go back to the Old Law
         a. By showing the superiority of Christ and His Covenant
            - cf. He 8:1-2,6
         b. A key word found throughout the epistle is "better"
            1) Christ is "better than the angels" - He 1:4
            2) We enjoy "the bringing in of a better hope" - He 7:19
            3) Jesus has become "the surety of a better covenant"
               - He 7:22
            4) He is also "the Mediator of a better covenant, which was
               established on better promises" - He 8:6
            5) The heavenly things benefit from "better sacrifices"
               - He 9:23
      -- Indeed, the purpose of this epistle was to exhort his readers
         - He 13:22

[With this background to the epistle, let's continue our brief survey
of the book by noticing...]


      1. Better than the prophets, as a much better Spokesman - He 1:
      2. Better than the angels, by virtue of His Deity and humanity 
         - He 1:4-2:18
      3. Better than Moses, for He is the Son who provides a heavenly
         rest - He 3:1-4:13
      4. Better than Aaron, as His priesthood is a superior one - He 4:16-8:6

      1. For it is based upon better promises - He 8:7-13
      2. For it is based upon a better sanctuary - He 9:1-28
      3. For it is based upon a better sacrifice - He 10:1-18

      1. To draw near to God and hold fast - He 10:19-39
      2. To run the race of faith with endurance - He 11:1-12:29
      3. Miscellaneous exhortations - He 13:1-25

[A unique feature of "The Epistle To The Hebrews" are the warnings
throughout the book.  As we conclude this introduction, perhaps it may
be profitable to summarize...]


      1. Through neglect we can easily drift away
      2. The solution is to give the more earnest heed to the things we
         have heard

      1. Through sin's deceitfulness we can become hardened and develop
         a lack of faith by which we can depart from the living God
      2. The solution is exhort one another daily and remain steadfast

      1. Like Israel in the wilderness, we can fail to enter our rest
         through disobedience
      2. The solution is diligence and heeding the Word of God

      1. Dullness of hearing can make it difficult for us to appreciate
         the extent of our blessings in Christ, and even falling away 
         to the point of crucifying the Son of God afresh!
      2. The solution is grasping the first principles of the oracles 
         of God, and then pressing on to spiritual maturity and 

      1. It is possible to so despise God's grace as to no longer have
         a sacrifice for sins, but only a certain fearful expectation
         of judgment
      2. The solution is to hold unto our confidence in Christ, and 
         believe with endurance

      1. It is possible to refuse to listen to the One who now speaks
         from heaven!
      2. The solution is to look diligently to the grace of God, 
         receiving it in such a way so we may serve Him acceptably with
         reverence and godly fear


1. With such warnings, this book is indeed a "word of exhortation"! 
   - He 13:22

2. As we proceed through the book in the coming lessons, it will be my
   a. To REMIND you of how blessed we are to have trusted in Christ
   b. To IMPRESS you with the superiority of Christ and His New 
      Covenant over Moses and the Old Covenant
   c. To WARN you of the real danger of apostasy and the need for 
      steadfastness in our faith

My task will be easy if I am faithful in letting the book speak for 
itself.  That is my hope and prayer...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Jim McGuiggan... WHAT SHOULD I TELL HIM? (3)


Susie M. Best put it like this in her lovely, truth-drenched poem, The Miracles Dreams.

That night when in the Judean skies
The mystic star dispensed its light,
A blind man moved in his sleep—
And dreamed that he had sight!
That night when shepherds heard the song
Of hosts angelic choiring near,
A deaf man stirred in slumber’s spell—
And dreamed that he could hear!
.   .   .   .   .
That night when o’er the new born babe
The tender Mary rose to lean,
A loathsome leper smiled in sleep—
And dreamed that he was clean!
That night when to the mother’s breast
The tender little king was held secure,
A harlot slept a happy sleep—
And dreamed that she was pure!
That night when in the manger lay
The sanctified who came to save,
A man moved in the sleep of death—
And dreamed there was no grave!

That’s what I told this profoundly hurting sinner who was so close to despair. It’s what Susie Best says to me when I’m burdened with a heavy sense of my own sinfulness; not burdened so much with a sense of outrageous sins (though I’m very capable of those) as with my truly pathetic response to a gospel that drives angels to speechless wonder and reflection.

These dreams are the work of God! The agony that strong, persistent, unconquerable sins and sinfulness generates in the hearts of sensitive believers is the work of God. The certainty that we can’t overcome the evil that pillages and ravishes the lives of so many of us is one of God’s strange gifts. The dreams are his work! He will not generate in us dreams of selflessness, dreams of purity and of gallantry, dreams of health and wholeness, dreams of unbroken peace and joy—he will not generate such dreams in us and not fulfil them.

My guess is that it isn’t God we great sinners worry about—it’s the people around us. We fear their scorn, their coldness, their demand that we quickly and definitively stop! No, not just “quickly”—immediately! We fear the shame we’d be subjected to by the self-righteous, the shame our loved ones would feel should it all “come out”. So many of us are afraid for you to know us and so we hide. “But he/she should have told us; could have told us and we would have helped!”

Really? Do you think we’ve made that clear? Bless me, many of us are afraid even to seek help from the assembly regarding the sad waywardness of our children, or the scary turn our marriages have taken. [I don’t believe in blabbing but somewhere in all our Congregational life and relationships we must attempt to develop a culture where we can freely speak our pain with a view to being helped over it. A culture where we acknowledge that we are all—no exceptions—fellow-sinners and see one another as under threat from an alien power and band together for one another. How long would it take to develop such a culture? Who can say, but what has that got to do with it? If it’s ever to be developed in some righteous and loving assembly it will have to make a beginning at some point! If our brother or sister has “cancer” we’ll adopt the best treatment and they will know it. If the “sickness” is not as marked as some others we’ll adopt the right approach to that. But we will work for each other!]

It’s a mistake to think that we dream wondrous dreams of holy freedom which would come true if only God would help us to make them become reality. The dreams are reality! The longing to be free is as real as the spikes they drove into his hands and feet! [There are those insolent and tragic souls who have no such dreams and they're happy that they have none.] The lovely dreams aren’t our dreams alone—they’re the dreams God fills us with and will he who enables us—despite our awful losses—to continue to dream dreams of triumph not give us the victory? Paul prays for a little church, assuring them that God will “make you holy through and through” and then he says, “faithful is he who called you and he will do it!” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

And he will do it!

So, agony, weariness, fear, tears, shame, sleeplessness—but no despair!

He will do it!

And you, praise God, who know no such agony because your life is blameless (not sinless!)—don’t make it harder for the rest of us. Click here.

[To be continued, God enabling.]

From Gary... Displeasure

Working with computers can be frustrating at times.  Several days ago, I was trying and trying and trying to do a specific task and every single time I tried; I FAILED!!!  After several HOURS of attempting to do the same task in every conceivable way, I stood up and looked down at that thing and said something in frustration to it.  Don't get me wrong - I didn't curse; it was something like "you stupid machine"!  However, I said it at the very top of my voice and with such great force that my dog Pal (who was laying in his bed underneath that stupid machine) ran for his life.  After awhile I calmed him down, but for the rest of the day, he was just not himself. All because he knew I was displeased about something!!!  I wonder, what do we think about when we knowingly displease God.  Here is the example of David...

1 Chronicles, Chapter 21
  1 Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.  2 David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, “Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring me word, that I may know the sum of them.” 

  3  Joab said, “May Yahweh make his people a hundred times as many as they are. But, my lord the king, aren’t they all my lord’s servants? Why does my lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause of guilt to Israel?” 

  4  Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.  5 Joab gave up the sum of the numbering of the people to David. All those of Israel were one million one hundred thousand men who drew sword: and in Judah were four hundred seventy thousand men who drew sword.  6
 But he didn’t count Levi and Benjamin among them; for the king’s word was abominable to Joab.  7 God was displeased with this thing; therefore he struck Israel.  8 David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing. But now, put away, I beg you, the iniquity of your servant; for I have done very foolishly.” 

  9  Yahweh spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying,  10 “Go and speak to David, saying, ‘Thus says Yahweh, “I offer you three things. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.”’” 

  11  So Gad came to David, and said to him, “Thus says Yahweh, ‘Take your choice: 12 either three years of famine; or three months to be consumed before your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtakes you; or else three days the sword of Yahweh, even pestilence in the land, and Yahweh’s angel destroying throughout all the borders of Israel. Now therefore consider what answer I shall return to him who sent me.’” 

  13  David said to Gad, “I am in distress. Let me fall, I pray, into the hand of Yahweh; for his mercies are very great. Let me not fall into the hand of man.” 

  14  So Yahweh sent a pestilence on Israel; and seventy thousand men of Israel fell. 

15 God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was about to destroy, Yahweh saw, and he relented of the disaster, and said to the destroying angel, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” Yahweh’s angel was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 David lifted up his eyes, and saw Yahweh’s angel standing between earth and the sky, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. 
Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces.  17 David said to God, “Isn’t it I who commanded the people to be numbered? It is even I who have sinned and done very wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Yahweh my God, be against me, and against my father’s house; but not against your people, that they should be plagued.”

In this story, David made mistakes: He listened to Satan, He didn't listened to Joab and he put his own well-being over that of the country. But verse 8 and verse 17 show David's repentant heart.  David could have avoided the death of seventy thousand people if he had only trusted God.  Today, think about YOUR LIFE.  If it is not right, then make it right!!!  Think: If God's word tells you to do something or NOT to do something- obey!!!  Whatever you do, DO NOT DISPLEASE HIM!!!