November 16, 2020
By Editorial Team
Gutenberg Bible at New York Public Library (Pix courtesy: wikimedia commons)
“You search the Scriptures….and these are they which testify of me” John 5:39
“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. Grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever” 1 Pet 1: 24,25
New Testament is a compilation of 27 books – Gospels, Acts, Letters, Revelation. The Four Gospels are the Biographies of Jesus. After Jesus ascended (30 AD), the Holy Spirit impressed upon the disciples to write down the Sermons of Christ and his life for all generations to come. If Jesus himself wrote a book, the Gospels would be it.
Mark’s Gospel was the first (~50 AD), he was the translator to Peter. Early tradition says it was Peter who wrote it. Then Mathew added more material and wrote from a Jewish perspective. Luke did further research, added more details and wrote (~60 AD). Finally, John wrote his treatise (~70-75AD) capturing larger sermons of Jesus and other healings in detail. So, the One Gospel in 4 books is a complete account of the life of Jesus, the Messiah.
NT writers but for Paul, were disciples who knew Jesus first hand. They were ordained by him as Apostles, and were trained by him for 3 ½ years. They hung out with him, went for crusades, helped him in Worship, ministry, healings, saw the miracles etc. They basically lived with Jesus and knew him very well. They all saw his Crucifixion first hand and also met the Risen Jesus. Having seen Jesus their behavior changed to be Christ-like, though at times they made mistakes too, which are also written for us. So, what they wrote was fully God-breathed, and hence the Word of God.
Acts is early Church History. Holy Spirit impressed upon Luke to write this book. Acts is priceless and gives us Peters and Paul’s sermons, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit as Lord Jesus promised. Acts also solidly secures for us how the Gospel reached the Gentile nations guided by the Holy Spirit, surmounting obstacles and traditions from the Jews. You and I should be encouraged that God chose Luke, a Gentile to write Acts. Luke was part of Paul’s ministry team and accompanied him in Missionary travels.
Letters. Most letters are from Paul who was converted by the early Christians. He also met a number of people who met Jesus. But primarily his understanding of Christ was from reading the BIBLE (OT). Hence, we too can know Jesus well, if we read our Bibles. Paul built the early gentile Church at Antioch (Syria) & then took the Gospel to Turkey, Greece, Italy, Rome. Paul was finally beheaded in Rome, Peter and the rest of the disciples were martyred for Jesus. Thomas was killed in Chennai. Only John died a normal death. A life of true faith is not easy.
Letters were written to congregations, explaining Jesus, the way of salvation through the Cross. They helped gentiles to understand that God wanted all nations to be saved through Jesus. For the Gentile Christians, the Epistle writers simplified the law, taking out Jewish rituals. As access to the OT books was very limited for the gentiles, the Letters played an important role in building their faith and encouraging them in the midst of persecution. Epistle writers -James, Jude were half-brothers of Jesus, and were leaders in Church at Jerusalem.
Revelation is a Book by Jesus himself (~95 AD). John saw it like a movie (vision) and wrote down whatever the Holy Spirit told him to. It speaks of the Corrections for the Church, then the Judgements of God upon human race and finally the Return of Jesus back to the earth and his 1000 year rule on earth and the end of the age. We are all living in that book right now.
Canon (measuring stick) for a NT book was –Author should be an immediate disciple of Jesus, and this book should be 100% inspired by the Holy spirit, and without mixture. God’s guidance, healing and spirit were very evident when one read the book. Hence God’s Word.
Athanasius, was a Coptic Christian and was the Bishop of Alexandria (Egypt) for 48 years, of which he was exiled 5 times (17 years in exile) by various Roman emperors. Each Easter it was the custom of the Bishop to send out a Circular Letter to the Churches, to fix the dates of Easter, other feasts and discuss doctrine. In his 39th Easter Letter written in 367 A.D, Athanasius listed these 27 books as authentic Scripture and Books of the NT.
The believers followed these books from then on, and excluded other spurious books in circulation by false teachers. After few years, when the Church council met at Carthage (397 AD), they confirmed these 27 books as the New Testament. That’s how the NT canon was closed.
People tested these books in real life, debated these books and finally concluded that this is the New Testament. Blind faith is good, but it pays to know that even the New Testament is a solidly debated and concluded compendium of 27 books. Even the Word of God is not above reason or debate. What a solid Word we have; Attested by both God and man. It is the Word of God. Amen.
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