How We Got Our New Testament -- By: Homer A. Kent, Jr.
GJ 8:2 (Spr 67) p. 22
How We Got Our New Testament
Dean, Grace Theological Seminary
[The above article appeared first in Moody Monthly, February, 1966, and is used here by permission.]
Thousands of new books flood the current market each year. Behind each one is an author or publisher with an idea, a story, a message, a motive. After hours of writing, rewriting and editing, the book goes onto the market—perhaps to flourish for a time and then fade, or to hide in the ranks of obscurity, or, in a few cases, to become a best seller.
But behind the New Testament, which completes the world’s best seller of all time, lies a unique story of a Book written not only by the hand of men, but by the hand of God—a Book which speaks with an authority unknown to other books and which is as up-to-date today as when it was written two thousand years ago.
How was the New Testament written? Why was it written? When? And how can we be sure it is authoritative from beginning to end? These are questions every Christian ought to be able to answer.
The first of the New Testament documents did not appear until about fifteen years after the death of our Lord. As long as Jesus lived on earth His followers felt no need for any new written documents. The Old Testament was their Scripture. It had been fully accepted by Jesus. Its teachings were amplified by His ministry and, in many instances, its prophecies were dramatically fulfilled by incidents in His life.
Even in the opening years of the apostolic era after Christ’s ascension there was no immediate need for new sacred literature. Those who first proclaimed the good news of salvation by the death and resurrection of Christ had known Jesus personally. They had seen His miracles, had heard His teachings and were announcing this message in a land where Jesus Himself had been widely known. There was no call for a verification of these facts by appealing to documents. But as the first century moved toward its midpoint and beyond, death claimed more and more of the eyewitnesses. Now the demand for written records of the life of Christ began to grow, and this demand was being supplied from many sources (cf. Luke 1:1). Confusion was certain to result unless some authoritative documents could be secured.
In the light of this situation the twenty-seven books that now make up our New Testament began to appear. James and Galatians seem to have been among the earliest—perhaps around
GJ 8:2 (Spr 67) p. 23
A.D. 45–50. Almost all were written within the first thirty years after the death and resurrection of Christ, although the Gospel of...
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