What's in the New Testament?
The New Testament contains 27 books and letters written by eight or nine writers in the second half of the first century. Each of the first four books, called “gospels,” tells of the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Each tells the same story from a different perspective and is written to a different audience.
The first gospel was written in AD 64 or 65 by John Mark when he was in Rome with Peter, who was undoubtedly a firsthand source. Because Mark wrote to Roman readers, he explained Jewish customs. His emphasis was on what Jesus did more than on what He said.
Luke (AD 80–85), and Matthew (AD 85–90) wrote their gospels while consulting Mark’s gospel as well as other sources. These three are called the Synoptic Gospels because they contain so much of the same information. Matthew, a tax collector, wrote to Jewish readers and showed that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Luke, a companion of Paul and a medical doctor, is the only Gentile author in the Bible. He presents Christ as the “Son of Man” and writes to Gentiles.
The fourth gospel, written by John between AD 90 and 100, emphasizes the deity of Christ, and was written “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John’s gospel does not contain as much narrative as the three Synoptic Gospels, but focuses on the teachings of Jesus and accounts of His miracles.
Acts, the final book of history in the New Testament, was written by Luke and contains the story of the early church as it was directed by the Holy Spirit. Acts tells of the ascension of Christ, the spread of the church, stories of new converts, disagreements among the leaders, the conversion of Paul, and his imprisonment and transportation to Rome.
The second half of the New Testament contains thirteen letters written by Paul—nine addressed to churches and four to individuals—and the letter to Hebrews, which has traditionally been ascribed to Paul. There is one letter by James, two letters written by Peter, and three short letters written by John. Little is known with certainty of Jude, who wrote the short letter warning Christians of the heresy of Gnosticism.
The last book, Revelation, is the only book in the New Testament that is completely apocalyptic, a kind of literature marked by visions, symbolic language, and prophecy. Written by the apostle John just before AD 100, Revelation encouraged the faith of Christians in seven cities in modern Turkey. In spite of persecution under the Roman Emperor Domitian, they should be assured of the ultimate, final victory of Jesus Christ, for “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”