The New Testament consists of twenty seven short Greek writings, commonly called ‘books’, the first five of which are historical in character. Four of these are call the Gospels, because each of them narrates the gospel (the good news) that God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ for the redemption of mankind. All four relate sayings and doings of Christ. The first three Gospels (those according to Matthew, Mark and Luke), because of certain features which link them together, are commonly called the ‘Synoptic Gospels. The fifth historical writing, the Acts of the Apostles, is actually a continuation of the third Gospel, written by the same author, Luke the physician and companion of the apostle Paul. It gives us an account of the rise of Christianity after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and of its extension in a westerly direction from Palestine to Rome, within about thirty years of the crucifixion. Of the other writings twenty one are letters. Thirteen of these bear the name of Paul, nine of them being addressed to churches and four to individuals.
- The crucifixion of Christ took place, it is generally agreed, about AD 30.
- The New Testament was complete, or substantially complete, about AD 100. The majority of the writings being in existence twenty to forty years before this.A majority of modern scholars fix the dates of the four Gospels as follows:
- Matthew 85-90 AD
- Mark 65 AD
- Luke 80-85 AD
- John 90-100 AD
- The Acts of the Apostles 60 – 62 AD
- Ten of the letters which bear Paul’s name belong to the period before the end of his Roman imprisonment.
- Galatians 48 AD
- I and 2 Thessalonians 50 AD
- Philippians 54 AD
- I and 2 Corinthians 54-56 AD
- Romans 57 AD
- Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians 60 AD
- The Pastoral Epistles 63-64 AD
There are in existence about 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in whole or in part. The best and most important of these go back to somewhere about AD 350, the two most important being the Codex Vaticanus, the chief treasure of the Vatican Library in Rome, and the well known Codex Sinaiticus, which the British Government purchased from the Soviet Government for £100,000 on Christmas Day, 1933. Two other important early MSS in this country are the Codex Alexandrinus, also in the British Museum, written in the fifth century, and the Codex Bezae:, in Cambridge University Library, written in the fifth or sixth century, and containing the Gospels and Acts in both Greek and Latin.