As part of the upcoming New Testament sermon series for church, I have written these posts to help you delve deeper in understanding and appreciation of the greatest book ever written. This is what you must first know about the New Testament.
The Set Up
The Old Testament is written in the time BEFORE Jesus was born. The last book of the Old Testament is Malachi. There are 400 years of silence where no Holy Spirit-inspired books are written in the Bible.
Today we jump into the books of the New Testament. The New Testament begins with the genealogy and birth of Jesus in Matthew; it ends with Revelation, an explanation of End Times and the second coming of Christ.
There are five divisions of the New Testament.
1. Biography (four books):
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. These are called the Gospels (meaning “Good News”). The first three are from a similar viewpoint, so we call them the synoptic gospels. (In Greek, syn means same, optic means view.)
2. History (one book):
3. Special Letters (fourteen books):
Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 &2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews. (Note, many are addressed to a particular church from different places or to a specific person like Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.)
4. General Letters (seven books):
James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, Jude. (James and Jude were Jesus’ half-brothers, Peter and John were apostles.) Though 2 & 3 John are written to specific people, they are still classified as a general letter.
5. Prophecy (one book):
More About The Books of Biography
The books of Biography are written by the names of the people whose titles they bear. The first three–Matthew, Mark and Luke–are called the synoptic gospels for their similarity in perspective. The final gospel, John, is the non-synoptic outlier because he writes from the divine lens of Jesus as the Son of God.
The apostle Matthew, former Jewish tax collector working for Rome, wrote the Book of Matthew for a Jewish audience. It begins the New Testament and concentrates on codes, conventions and context of Jewish culture and Jesus as King.
The Book of Mark, considered the very first biography, was written by John Mark, an early disciple who travelled with Paul on some of his missionary journeys. It is believed to be based on the preaching and memoirs of Peter and it concentrates on Jesus as The Servant of All.
Luke is the only Gentile (non Jewish) Gospel writer. He was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry, but was the doctor and travel partner to the apostle Paul. He writes “since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account” for the purpose of showing Jesus as Savior of the world.(Luke 1:3)
John, the youngest of the apostles and the “disciple that Jesus loved”, lived the longest of any of the New Testament writers. His gospel account is considered the non-synoptic gospel because it is written so much later than the others accounts, around 90 A. D.
History, Special Letters, General Letters, and Prophecy
History/Acts (also known as “Acts of the Apostles”) was written by Luke.
The Special Letters are all written by Paul except Hebrews. Though the authorship of Hebrews is uncertain, it’s placed with the Pauline letters because it has similar style, statements, and ideas.
The General Letters are written by those whose names they bear.
Prophecy/Revelation was written by John.
The Head Count
All in all, in the books of the New Testament, Luke wrote two, John (5), and Paul (13). If Paul did write Hebrews, he wrote fourteen books.
Note that in both the Old Testament and New Testament, there are five divisions each, making ten divisions throughout the Bible with the 400-year silence between Malachi and Matthew.
- Name the divisions of the New Testament.
- What are the books of Biography?
- What is the book of History?
- What are the books of General Letters?
- What are the books of Specific Letters?
- What is the book of Prophecy?
- Name the “synoptic” gospels.
- What books of the Bible did the following men write? Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, James, Jude.
- Which two books of the gospels were written by apostles?
To read more posts about the Bible like this post, check out The CGW’s Guide To Studying The Bible (Part One): The Bible and Its Divisions, The CGW’s Guide to Studying The Bible (Part Two): Foundations and The Basic Methodology of Exposition, Who is Melchizedek?, Interview Questions With A Dead Author: James, Colossians 3: The Five Virtues, Colossians: The Five Vices x2, and The Stone Pavement.