New Testament – Overview
Important Historical dates or Major events that impacted the Bible
It was during the reign of Herod the Great that JESUS CHRIST was born. Some Biblical scholars believe the year of birth to be BC 6, but church documents state the year of birth to be BC 4.
Jesus Christ began his public ministry in the year 27 AD upon the arrest of John the Baptist. He was arrested and crucified in the year 30 AD, at a young age of 33.
The apostles of Jesus, under the leadership of St Peter continued His mission and spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth
The man responsible to reach the Gospel to the Gentiles was a young man named Saul Paul, who experienced Jesus on his way to Damascus (somewhere around 34 – 36 AD)
Paul embarked on missionary journeys to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
- Paul’s first missionary journey (45 – 49 AD)
- Paul’s second missionary journey (49 – 52 AD)
- Paul’s third missionary journey (53 – 58 AD)
Paul was arrested and brought to Rome, where he was executed, as he possessed Roman citizenship (67 – 68 AD)
Peter was crucified upside down (somewhere around 65 – 68 AD)
The gospel was initially proclaimed orally and traditions were handed down by the apostles to their communities.
The first written Gospel was the Gospel according to Mark (somewhere around 65 – 70 AD) during the persecution by Emperor Nero.
Jerusalem was besieged and captured in the year 70 AD by General Titus, whole city burned, not a wall upon a wall, Second Jerusalem temple destroyed.
The leading Rabbis or Jews at the Council of Jamnia in 85 AD expel Christian Jews from the temple and synagogues.
The New Testament epistles or gospels or letters were composed between 47 AD – 125 AD
What is the Gospel?
Gospel or Gospels is the English translation of the Greek word, “euangelion”, which means Good News
In the New Testament, Gospel refers to the Good News preached by Jesus Christ that the Kingdom of God is at Hand (Mark 1:15) and the Good News of what God has done on behalf of humanity in Jesus (Romans 1:3-5)
Jesus reaffirms his Messiah-ship by announcing his glad tidings in Luke 4:18-19 and proclaiming that the Good News will be preached to the poor (Mt 11:5, Lk 7:22)
The word “Gospel” is commonly associated with the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, however it is Paul, who uses this word more often than any other writer of the New Testament.
Paul describes the Gospel as
- The Gospel of God – Rom 1:1, 15:16, 2 Corr 11:7
- The Gospel of Christ – Rom 15:19, 1 Corr 9:12, 2 Corr 2:12, 9:13, 10:14, Phil 1:27, 1 Thess 3:2
- The Gospel of his Son – Rom 1:9
The Gospel of God usually refers to the origin of the Gospel, which is in God and the second and third phrase points to the content of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ. Hence, the Good News or the Gospel comes from God, which was promised by the prophets but the content of the Good News or the Gospel is Jesus Christ, a descendant of David.
The formation of the Gospels encompasses 3 stages
- The first was the life and the teachings of Jesus, the lifetime of Jesus on earth
- The second was the period of oral traditions, when Jesus’ teachings were handed down by the apostles to their respective communities. This was the time between the resurrection of Jesus and written accounts, i.e. AD 33 – 70. During this period, the church assembled the collections of Jesus’ words and deeds, viz, parables, healings, passion narratives and employed these collections for liturgical and missionary purposes.
- In the third stage, the evangelists gathered these diverse teachings to form the Gospel or the Good News
A cursory glance of the first 3 Gospel accounts according to Matthew, Mark and Luke will indicate that :
- Mark is the earliest of all Gospels as Matthew and Luke seem to have borrowed major of their written source from Mark. i.e. major content of Mark’s Gospel can be found in Matthew & Luke’s Gospel
- Further, a significant amount of important content seems to be common in Matthew & Luke’s Gospel, which cannot be found in Mark, eg. Beatitudes and the Lord’s prayer. The same confirms that Matthew and Luke have referred to another common source, mainly the collection of Jesus’ teachings / sayings. This common source is unknown and is generally referred to as the “Q” or “Quelle” source
- Moreover, Matthew and Luke have independent contents in their Gospels, which are unique and not found in the other Gospels, eg, the story of Epiphany, which is unique in Matthew’s Gospel and the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which is unique in Luke’s Gospel
Hence the first 3 Gospels are called as the Synoptic Gospels (Syn meaning together and optic meaning to see or view, hence Synoptic meaning to be seen together) as the aforesaid study indicates striking similarities between the first 3 Gospels on account of
- Mark’s Gospel being distilled in Matthew & Luke’s Gospel and
- Content from Q source commonly running in Matthew & Luke’s Gospel
Each and every Gospel portrays Jesus in a different light, the common thread running in all the Gospels being the Paschal Mystery of Christ Jesus
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