Thursday, August 8, 2013

How We Got The New Testament

The New Testament is an ancient collection of letters by Christian authors, written in the first century. Writing these letters wasn't an easy task. Back then, durable parchments had to be made from papyrus, a reed that was harvested, cured, dried, and pressed before it could be written on. Vellum was also used because of its high quality and long lasting durability. It's the skin of a young calf that had to be carefully cleaned, cured, dried, and stretched before it was ready to be written upon with special ink. Whether parchment or vellum, the preparation process could take weeks. And then the meticulous task of writing would begin by a scribe, letter by letter, following strict guidelines. 

Some of the New Testament books are huge. For example, the book of Luke has nearly 26,000 words! Can you imagine how long it took to write it? Obviously, each one of these New Testament writers were compelled to record for posterity what they knew and what they witnessed. Most of the letters began to be written around 30 years after Jesus died. It's no doubt by this time, the writers began to realize they wouldn't be around forever. The truth needed to be spread and preserved. Writing was the only way to do it with any confidence at all. Certainly, word of mouth wouldn't do for long, before it was changed, corrupted, and lost. 

Now these guys were well equipped. First of all, Jesus promised to his disciples that when He left, the Holy Spirit (the Advocate) would be sent to them, and would remind them of everything Jesus said. They would be able to recall and quote His exact words with some miraculous, supernatural ability, regardless of how much time had lapsed.

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:25-26)

Secondly, they had the uncanny ability to sense exactly what God wanted them to write. In other words, the Holy Spirit was able to place in their minds what words to use. The writers were the vehicle that God used to communicate what He wanted us to know. This is true of all the Bible writers.

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

“If you claim to be a prophet or think you are spiritual, you should recognize that what I am saying is a command from the Lord himself.” (1 Corinthians 14:37)

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

With all that said, we can still get some additional insight as to why some of the New Testament Bible authors wrote what they did. For example, the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John so his readers would believe in Jesus, and by believing, have life in His name. Thank you, John. Thanks for writing your book. It's certainly helped me believe.
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are 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 20:30-31)

Luke wrote his Gospel as a careful, truthful account of the events surrounding Jesus. Thanks Luke for your attention to detail. “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)

Peter wrote his letters to get his readers thinking and remembering.  Thanks Peter for your great insight and understanding. “This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.”  (2 Peter 3:1-2)

   This is how we got the New Testament. When the authors that were recognized as inspired wrote letters, the writings were highly treasured, and began to be circulated among the Christian churches. Then they were meticulously and carefully copied and circulated more and more. After while, a specific group of letters were considered to be Canon, those recognized as official, inspired writings. By the time the writers had died, in the second century, this collection of books began to be solidified and confirmed by scholars of the day to be legitimate. This collection developed into what's now called the New Testament. 

“After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” (The Apostle Paul - Colossians 4:16)

  “I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.”  (The Apostle Paul - 1 Thessalonians 5:27)

All the ancient manuscripts confirm that the New Testament we have today is the correct collection of inspired writings. And because all the Epistles were actually written to Christians, it still applies. Thank you Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, Jude, and Paul for taking the time and effort to write for posterity - to write for us to read, learn, and believe, even in this day and age. It means all the difference in the world.

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