The New Testament is the second and smaller part of the Bible. But the Bible gets its fame and popularity from the New Testament as it gives the life and message of Jesus Christ.
Like the Old Testament, the New Testament is also a collection of 27 different books. Christians consider the Old Testament as a preparation for the incarnation, that is the birth of Jesus, the Son of God.
In the New Testament the first 4 books known as the four Gospels are the most important books as they deal with the life, message, the final sacrifice on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.
Among the four Gospels the first three Gospels, namely, the Gospels according to Mathew, Mark and Luke are very similar and so they are called synoptic Gospels.
The fourth Gospel of St. John is quite different from the first three. It is meditative and prayerful. Much before the Bible was translated into Gujarati, a famous Gujarati poet, Kavi Kant had translated in September 1923 the fourth Gospel according to St. John and it was very popular much before the entire Bible in Gujarati became popular.
The very first book in the New Testament is the Gospel according to St. Mathew. Mathew was one of the twelve apostles who were specially chosen by Jesus as His disciples. Mathews name means gift of the Lord. He was a tax collector when he was called by Jesus to follow him. In the Gospels according to Mark and Luke, he is called by his other name Levi.
Mathews Gospel was written probably during the early part of A. D. 50 for Greek speaking Jews who were the first Christians. The content of Mathews Gospel written in Aramaic (the Hebrew tongue) shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament predictions of the Messiah, the Saviour.
The author of the second Gospel is John Mark. Mark was a close associate of Peter from whom he must have learnt about the life and teachings of Jesus. Bible scholars believe that John Mark accurately preserved the content of St. Peters teaching about Jesus in the early Church.
Mark is first mentioned in the Acts together with his mother who had a house in Jerusalem which was used as a meeting place of the first Christians. Then, Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Antioch from Jerusalem . Later we see him as a helper to Paul and Barnabas on their first Missionary journey. Later Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus . We get all this information about Mark from the Acts of the Apostles which is the fifth book in the New Testament.
As St. Paul mentions in his letter to the Colossians Our dear friend Luke, the author of the third Gospel was a Doctor, a physician. Luke was converted by Paul and he associated himself with the great Apostle of the Gentiles. Luke wrote his Gospel with utmost fidelity to the oral preaching and catechizing of St. Paul . So two great saints in the Catholic Church, St. Jerome and St. John Chrysostom have called the Gospel according to Luke as St. Paul s Gospel.
Lukes Gospel reveals that he was familiar with Mathews Aramaic account of the life and teachings of Jesus, which was widely circulated and that he had also Marks Gospel with him as he wrote. Luke may have also been close to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. He is the only evangelist who gives a graphic description of the Annunciation, the Visitation, the birth and the early life of Jesus.
As a physician Luke was a highly educated person and had a good knowledge of contemporary history. His writings show polished and elegant Greek. In his Gospel, written for the Greek Gentiles, he stresses the fact that Gods mercy and forgiveness extended to the whole wide world of Jews and Gentiles who put their faith in Jesus.
Both the author John and his Gospel are quite different from the first three Gospels and their authors. St. John makes it very clear that the purpose of his Gospel, as he says towards the end his Gospel, is These have been written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through your faith in Him you may have life.
St. John presents Jesus as the eternal Word of God, who become a human being and lived among us. The first part of the Gospel presents various miracles which go to prove that Jesus is the promised Saviour, the Son of God. The miracles are not merely help in time of dire need but signs that the Kingdom of God has already arrived in the midst of the people. Hence Jesus discourses after the miracles reveal the secret of the signs.
After showing the close relationship of Jesus with his disciples in chapters 13 to 17, the closing chapters of Johns Gospel tell of Jesus arrest and trial, his crucifixion and resurrection and his appearances to his disciples.
A striking feature of Johns Gospel is his attempt to reveal the spiritual truths through the use of common things from everyday life like water, bread, light, the shepherd and his sheep, and the grapevine and its fruits.
St. John , known as the disciple whom Jesus loved, is also the author of three letters and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament.
The author of the third Gospel, St. Luke is also the author of The ACTS of the Apostles. So The Acts could be considered as a continuation of St. Lukes Gospel.
Jesus had given the directive to his disciples as noted in The Acts itself, you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem , in all Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth. The purpose of The Acts seems to fulfill this command of Jesus at His ascension.
Though the name of the book is The Acts of the Apostles, the book covers mainly the ministry of two Apostles: St. Peter and St. Paul . The Acts reveals how Christianity, which began in Jerusalem among the Jews spread to the Greek and Roman world through the missionary journeys and preaching of the two disciples of Jesus. The persecution of the Christians also helped Christianity to grow as Christians got scattered.
The 21 letters written by different disciples constitute the third part of the New Testament. They treat different aspects of Jesus teaching and their implication for daily living. Some times a certain letter is written in response to a particular situation in one or more local Christian communities.
St. Paul has written the most number of letters. His 13 letters are addressed either to the Christians of a local community or to individuals. St. Paul is the greatest exponent of Christianity in the first century. He had developed different Christian themes in different letters.
All his letters reveal St. Paul s deep love and commitment to Jesus Christ and to the Christians as well as the Christian communities which he has founded. St. Paul is a great theologian interpreting and communicating the Word of God to the people in their every day life situations.
The Letter to the Hebrews is different and unique from all the other letters. Traditionally the Letter was attributed to St. Paul as its author. But Bible scholars have conclusively proved that the author is someone other than St. Paul .
The content of the Letter reveals that it is addressed to Christians of Jewish background. The Letter is not exactly a letter but a message of encouragement as the author puts it at the end of his writing. The work is, as C.H. Giblin puts it in New Catholic Encyclopedia, a polished dogmatic sermon designed to strengthen Judeo-Christians in time of temptations against their faith.
The remaining 7 letters are written by the Apostles: James (1), Simon Peter (2), John (3), and Jude (1).
The author of the Letter identifies himself as James in the opening sentence. As there are 4 James mentioned in the New Testament, Bible scholars are not sure which James is the author of the letter. But traditionally the Apostle James who was the leader of the Jerusalem Church is held as the author.
The letter is addressed to Jewish Christians scattered all over the Greco-Roman empire. The letter written in excellent Greek is meant to instruct and encourage his dispersed people in the face of their difficulties. James puts emphasis on works inspired by faith. Faith alone is barren.
St. Peter, the Apostle has written two letters. Though short, the first letter speaks of different doctrines as well as Christian life and duties. In the second letter St. Peter teaches the early Jewish Christians how to deal with false teachers and evildoers in the Church.
The style and content of the 3 letters of St. John , the Apostle resembles the Gospel of St. John. So there is no doubt about the authorship of the letters even though the author does not give his name in the text of the letters. St Johns enduring message is God is love. God has loved us first. So every man and woman must love God and one another.
In the introduction of the Letter the author introduces himself as Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. The target audience of Judes letter seems to be both the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. As Jude indicates in verse 4, the purpose of the letter is to warn certain people among the Christians against immorality and false teachers.
The Book of Revelation is, perhaps, the most difficult book in the New Testament to understand. The author has identified himself in the book as John the apostle. The book is written when the Christians were undergoing terrible persecution during the latter part of Neros reign (AD 54-68) and the latter part of Domitian reign (81-96) The Roman authorities were beginning then to impose the cult of Emperor worship on the Christians. Those who worshiped Christ as their Lord and not Caesar, faced hostility and persecution.
So the Book of Revelation is written to encourage the Christians in their faith and help them to resist the worship of Caesar or emperor as their lord. The author tells the persecuted Christians that a showdown between God and the Devil is coming. Those who resist the Devil and preserve to the end, even facing death, will enter into eternal life and happiness with the Lord.
A distinctive feature of the Revelation to John is the use of number seven (52 times)! In the Bible the number seven stands for completeness. The final message in the book is that Gods people are sealed against any spiritual harm and the final victory is theirs. For, the Grace of the Lord Jesus is with Gods people.