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In this Volume Two of a three-volume set, each of the 27 books included in the New Testament are reviewed in detail. Who wrote them and when, their theology, and other pertinent background information are discussed to explain why they were included in the New Testament. Arguments against the traditional viewpoints on these books are addressed.
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This version of this book published in 2023 is a corrected text, not a full new edition. Only minor corrections have been made, plus the cover and appendixes have been updated.
The Three Volumes
Why Are These Books in the Bible and Not Others?: Volume One - A Translator’s Perspective on the Canon of the Old Testament
Why Are These Books in the Bible and Not Others?: Volume Two - A Translator’s Perspective on the Canon of the New Testament
Why Are These Books in the Bible and Not Others?: Volume Three - The Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament Apocrypha
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Table of Contents
[Page numbers refer to the hardcopy versions]
Introductory Pages: …………………………………… 5
Preface ………...………………………………..………. 7
Analytical-Literal Translation …………………..……….... 8
New Testament Texts …………………………………… 9
Terminology Notes ……………………………………… 10
Chronology …………..………………………………….. 11
Church Fathers …………..………………………………. 12
Abbreviations and Other Notes …………………………... 13
Chapters: ……………………………………………… 19
1 – Overview of the New Testament Canon …………..... 21
2 – Overview of the Four Gospels and Acts …………...... 51
3 – The Synoptic Gospels and Acts …………………...... 79
4 – The Gospel According to John ……………………. 113
5 – The Epistles of John and The Revelation .………..... 145
6 – The Pauline Epistles – Part One ………………….... 179
7 – The Pauline Epistles – Part Two ………………….. 229
8 – The General Epistles – Part One ……………….... 273
9 – The General Epistles – Part Two ……………….... 313
10 – Conclusion on the New Testament …………….... 353
Appendixes ………………………………………… 355
1 – Bibliography ……………………………....……… 357
2 – Additional Books by the Author ………………….. 363
3 – Author’s Websites, Newsletters, and Social Sites/
Contacting the Author …………………………... 377
Christians claim the Bible is the Word of God, that it is the final authority in all matters relating to Christian faith and practice, and that it is absolutely reliable in all that it teaches. But to put such confidence in the Bible requires that we have the correct books in the Bible. But do we? Why are the 66 books in the Bible in the Bible, and why were other books that could have been included not included?
This subject is very important and complicated, so complicated it takes three volumes to fully cover it. Volume One studied the books included in the Old Testament (OT) and considered other books that could have been included but were not. This Volume Two will cover the books included in the New Testament (NT). Volume Three will then consider the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, some of which were considered for inclusion in the NT, along with other writings, orthodox and Gnostic, that many wonder why they are not included in the NT.
In this second volume, each of the 27 books included in the NT will be reviewed in detail. Who wrote them and when, their theology, and other pertinent background information will be discussed to explain why they were included in the NT. Arguments against the traditional viewpoints on these books will be addressed.
The author is the translator of the Analytical-Literal Translation of the Bible. The ALT consists of translations of the Old Testament Greek Septuagint, the OT Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books, the New Testament Greek Majority Text, and the Apostolic Fathers. He is thus very familiar with all of the books to be discussed in this three volume set, having translated most of them. He is also the author of many other books related to the Bible. Working on this distinct translation of the Scriptures and these other Bible-based books gives the author a unique perspective on these topics.
This chronology presents important dates to know for this study. Some dates are approximate.
63 – Romans under Pompey conquer Jerusalem/ occupy Judea
5 – Birth of Jesus
4 – Death of Herod the Great
26 – Start of the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus
30 – Death and resurrection of Jesus
33 – Conversion of Saul/ Paul
50 – Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15)
50-68 – Most New Testament books written
64-68 – Peter and Paul executed under Nero
70 – Destruction of the second temple and of Jerusalem
90s – John exiled to Patmos under Domitian/ John‘s writings
200 – Muratorian Fragment
313 – Conversion of Emperor Constantine
325 – Council of Nicaea (First Ecumenical Council)
350 – Codex Sinaiticus/ Codex Vaticanus
364 – Council of Laodicea
381 – Council of Constantinople (Second Ecumenical Council)
382 – Vulgate, Latin translation of the Bible
397 – Council of Carthage
400 – Peshitta, Syriac translation of the Bible
1945 – Discovery of Hag Hammadi documents in Egypt
Chapter One: Overview of the Books in the New Testament
Volume One of this three volume set studied the 39 books contained in the Old Testament (OT) of the Bible. It also studied other books that could have been included in the OT but were not. It explained why each book was or was not included in the canon (list of authoritative books) of the OT. This Volume Two will study the 27 books contained in the canon of the New Testament (NT). Below is a list of these books in their traditional order and groupings….
The early Christian movement was composed solely of Jews. As such, they held to the tenets of the Jewish religion. Note that “tenet” means, “a principle or belief, especially one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy” (Oxford). Most important among these tenets was accepting the traditional Jewish beliefs about the conception of God and of nature as articulated in the OT and detailed in Volume One….
The early Christians also accepted the Jewish OT canon and all that those books teach. As such, any books to be included in the developing NT canon would have to uphold this conception of God and be in accordance with the other teachings of the OT….
But the early Christians would modify some of the other standards for books to be included in the OT canon for the books to be included in their canon. Rather than books being written by Hebrews in Hebrew as for the OT canon, books for the NT canon had to be written in Greek by an apostle or a direct associate of an apostle. Being written in Greek was important as Greek was the universal language of that time, and the Gospel was to be for all peoples everywhere….
Creeds and Hymns Imbedded in the NT
Many early Christian creeds or hymns are embedded within the pages of NT books. The creedal or poetic nature of these passages is determined by the structure of them. In the case of creeds, they are worded as creeds are usually worded, while the hymns have a poetic character to them, and both have clearly identifiable lines or stanzas. The style of the Greek is also different from the rest of the book they are contained within. As a translator, I will say that in most of these cases, that difference is very obvious.
These creeds and hymns show core Christian beliefs were already written down and being memorized prior to the actual writing of the NT books. Since these creeds and hymns predate the writing of the NT, they were probably written within just a couple to a few years after the resurrection of Christ.
The importance of this for our topic is that in addition to being in accordance with the doctrines about God from the OT, any books to be accepted into the canon of the NT would need to also be in accordance with the doctrines contained in these creeds and hymns….
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Between these two ceremonies, both of which were engaged in from the very start of the Christian movement and have continued throughout its history, the following tenets are affirmed …
The Essential Tenets
The tenets represented by the early Christian ceremonies parallel or elaborate on the tenets seen in the early creeds and hymns. Thus by two lines of evidence, there were a collection of essential tenets from the very start of the Christian movement. Below is a combined list of all these essential tenets….
These two dozen tenets defined what it meant to be a first century Christian. And these tenets would have to be represented in any books to be considered for inclusion in the NT. Again, this does not mean a book had to affirm every one of these tenets, but it does mean it could not contain anything contradictory to them.
Chapter Two: Overview of the Four Gospels and the Book of Acts
The first New Testament (NT) books to be studied are the first three books, The Gospel According to Matthew, The Gospel According to Mark, and The Gospel According to Luke. These are called the Synoptic Gospels as they, “tell the story of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry from a similar point of view and are similar in structure” (Encarta). The Book of Acts will also be included in this chapter, as it was written by the same author as The Gospel According to Luke….
Historicity of Jesus
The claim is sometimes made that Jesus never existed. This claim is generally made by laypeople, but almost never by qualified historians. Part of the reason for the latter is there is evidence for the existence and many aspects of the life of Jesus from eighteen non-Christian sources which date to within a century of the life of Jesus….
But here, these 18 non-Christian sources all verify that Jesus did in fact live, and they confirm many aspects of His life and that of the early Church. As such, the radical claim that Jesus never existed is simply absurd. This absurdity will become even more obvious as we study the early Christian sources. But first, a look at a common objection to these sources.
The Telephone Game
You have a classroom with about 20 students in it. The teacher makes up a story and whispers it to the first student. He then whispers it to the second student; she then whispers it to the third student, and so on until it reaches the final student. The final student then stands up and recounts the story to the class. Invariably, the story the final person tells bears little relation to the story initially made up by the teacher.
The point of this little exercise is to demonstrate how rumors change as they are told in secret by one person to the next. As such, rumors should not be believed, as they are totally unreliable.
That is a good lesson, but the reason for mentioning it here is that many people try to apply this little game to the transmission of the life and teachings of Jesus. The claim is that just like the telephone game, what Jesus did and said was retold over and over again, from person to person over a period of decades, so that by the time somebody wrote it all down, it had been so distorted that nothing that was finally written down bore any resemblance to what Jesus actually said and did. As such the Gospels cannot be trusted. They are no more reliable than rumors.
This writer has heard this claim made many times, to me personally, on the internet, and even in TV shows and movies. The person who brings this up thinks they have made an unassailable point; but in fact all they have done is demonstrated they do not know what they are talking about, as the transmission of the life and teachings of Christ bears no resemblance whatsoever to this little game….
Only Four Gospels
It is logical for the four Gospels to be first in the canon of the NT. The Christian faith is about Jesus, and these four Gospels tell us about the life and teachings of Jesus. Moreover, it was believed very early in Church history that there were four and only four genuine Gospels…
Thus on many lines of evidence, it can be seen that very early in Church history it was believed by both those faithful to the Christian faith and those who were arguing against it that there were four and only four authentic and reliable Gospels, those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Supposed Interdependence and Order…
In this case, the Synoptics are not interdependent upon each other, but all three are dependent upon this common oral and fragmentary written tradition. This theory better explains why there are so many similarities between the three Synoptic Gospels. All three were based on the same oral and written traditions that was handed down by the apostles and other eyewitnesses of the life of Christ. There was a consistency to this tradition as it was a faithful reporting of what Jesus actually said and did. The minor differences are due to each person retelling the events in a slightly different manner….However, these minor differences demonstrate there was not interdependency between the Synoptics. They also demonstrate the reliability of the Gospels as they are not just copies of each other but independent witnesses. Moreover, these minor differences make the existence of these three Gospels helpful in giving us a fuller picture of the life and teachings of Christ….
Chapter Five: The Epistles of John and The Revelation
Excerpts from: “Chapter Five: “The Epistles of John and The Revelation” of “Why Are These Books in the Bible and Not Others? – Volume Two: A Translator’s Perspective on the Canon of the New Testament.”
Having studied the Gospel According to John, it is now time to consider other books traditionally ascribed to the apostle John.
First Epistle of John
The next Johannine book to be discussed is the First Epistle of John.
It was stated in the previous chapter that the Gospel of John and 1John contain the easiest Greek in the NT. In fact, after translating portions of the Gospel of John throughout their first year, a standard assignment for Greek students at the end of their first year of study is to translate all of 1John. And having translated both books, there is little doubt in this writer’s mind that the same person wrote both books, as the style of the Greek is very similar….
Second and Third Epistles of John
The next books to be discussed are the second and third epistles of John. These books will be discussed together as they are very similar. One thing they have in common is they are the first books among the “antilegomena” to be discussed.
[Note: Previously in this book, I had defined “antilegomena” as meaning “spoken against” indicating some in the Church spoke against a book’s authenticity and inclusion in the canon. This is contrasted with “homologoumena,” which means “spoken the same” indicating the Church as a whole “spoke” the same positive opinion of a book as being authentic and being included in the canon.]
Notice how similar these superscriptions and subscriptions are. This is evidence these two letters were written by the same person. …
But who is this person? The writer does not give his name, but only identifies himself as “The Elder” (or “Presbyter,” from the Greek word presbuteros). If this were John the apostle writing, it seemed strange to some in the early Church that he would identify himself as an elder….
These considerations led to the theory that there were two people named John living at Ephesus during the time period in which the Johannine letters were written….
If there were two men, John the apostle, and his disciple, John the elder, this then could cause some such confusion in their graves. It could also cause confusion as to who wrote which books associated with the name John. It is this situation that gave rise to earlier mentioned notion of a “Johannine school,” although that is to go far beyond the actual evidence. But what is rather sure is if there were two men named John, then the elder would have been a disciple of the apostle, thus any books written by the elder could still warrant canonical status. Thus if any of the five books traditionally ascribed to the apostle John were in fact written by the elder John, that would not negate their canonical status. It would just make those books similar to the Gospels of Mark and Luke in being written by a direct associate of an apostle….
The Revelation of Jesus Christ
… this book was also among the “antilegomena.” It was in fact one of the last books of the NT to be fully accepted as canonical. One of the reasons for it being “spoken against” was uncertainty about its author.
The traditional view is that John the apostle wrote this book while exiled to Patmos for preaching the Gospel during a time of Roman persecution of Christians. This is based on Revelation 1:9 ….
But is this the apostle John, the elder John, or some other person named John? Or is this an attempt to forge this book under the name of an apostle? These and even more complex theories have been proposed…
Thus a possible conservative theory is that the Gospel of John and 1John were written by the apostle John, while 2 and 3John and The Revelation were written by the elder John, but some conservatives hold to all five books being written by the apostle John….
Conclusion on the Revelation:
The Revelation most certainly was written in the first century by either an apostle or a direct associate of an apostle. It presents an orthodox viewpoint of God and of many early essential tenets of the Church. It has widespread appeal for those suffering persecution and for all people looking for relief from suffering.
The fact that there were some disputes initially about this book shows the early Christians did not accept books into the canon without first critically analyzing them. The Revelation was the least disputed of the “antilegomena,” and these minor disputes were eventually resolved, and thus The Revelation was rightly included in the canon of the NT….
Chapter Six: The Pauline Epistles: Part One
We now come to the thirteen epistles traditionally ascribed to the apostle Paul. The traditional order of these epistles is by their perceived importance. But we will study them in four groups in the order in which they were most likely written….
Did Paul the Apostle Really Exist?
Out of curiosity, I Googled the above question and found many webpages that denied Paul the apostle ever even existed. But none of these pages were found on reputable websites. Instead, even liberal reputable websites acknowledge Paul’s existence, even if they do not fully accept the NT assertions about him and what he wrote.
For instance, the website for Encyclopedia Britannica has a lengthy, eleven-page article on “Saint Paul, the Apostle.” Not once in the article does it ever question Paul’s existence, even though it does deny that Paul wrote six of the 13 letters ascribed to him….
However, the webpages that make the radical claim that Paul never existed and even deny the existence of the twelve original apostles and of Jesus Himself are all personal websites or forums, where many other ludicrous claims are made as well, and/ or, they are filled with hate and vitriolic bashing of Christians….
The Early Epistles
The two epistles to the Thessalonians are thought to be the earliest books of the NT to be written. The initial preaching of the Gospel to the Thessalonians by Paul is recorded in Acts 17:1-15…
Paul identifies himself as the author in the salutations of both of these epistles…
Notice that in the first epistle Paul prays that Thessalonians’ love would increase, and in the second epistles he thanks God that it has. Additional parallels between these two epistles will be seen when we present doctrines and essential tenets from these epistles.
The similarity of writing style also confirms that the same person is the author of both of these epistles….
The Pauline authorship of both epistles is strongly confirmed by the Church Fathers…
But despite this strong internal and external evidence, there are some liberal scholars today who doubt the Pauline authorship of at least the second epistle….
Thus once again some scholars today think they are smarter than the early Church. “The Church Fathers fell for a forgery, but we know better.” But the liberals do not give any proof for this claim, except to say the two books are “too similar.” As we will see, liberal will use both the idea of two books being “too similar” and being “too dissimilar” to deny they were written by the same person. Thus liberals will find “proof” of their ideas no matter what the relationship is. But in regards to 2Thessalonians, there is also the issue of the Parousia that will be addressed later. But here, it will be said the internal and external evidence argues strongly for the Pauline authorship of both of these letters….
The Major Epistles
“If a man known as Paul the Apostle ever lived and wrote anything, he wrote Romans, 1, 2Corinthians, Galatians.”
The above words were spoken by my New Testament professor at Denver Seminary. He was responding to claims like we have already seen by liberals that Paul did not author some of the letters traditionally ascribed to him. But in the case of these four epistles, there is little doubt even among liberals that Paul is the author of these letters. In fact, it is the writing style and theology of these books that are used to compare other Pauline letters to in order to determine if Paul actually authored them….
A liberal would have to be so radical as to deny that Paul ever existed to deny the Pauline authorship of the four major epistles. But as we already saw, no reputable historian does so….
That said; these four epistles are the longest and most doctrinally filled epistles in the Pauline corpus. They were thus deemed to be the most important of his epistles and placed first among his epistles in the canonical order, with Romans being the most important of all and thus placed first, but we will deal with them in chronological order….
Chapter Eight: The General Epistles: Part One
The eight general epistles are all of the letters in the NT not written by Paul. They are also not addressed to a specific church or person (except for 2,3John) as Paul’s letters are. They are instead intended for a general audience, hence the moniker of “general” or “catholic” (with a small “c” meaning “universal”).
We already covered the three epistles by John in Chapter Five, so in this and the next chapter we will study the remaining five general epistles….
The primary reason Hebrews was disputed was questions as to its author. Unlike most other NT epistles, there is no salutation indicating the author’s name. It jumps right into its presentation of theology…
There are some references in the last chapter of this letter as to the situation of the author that support the view that Paul wrote it…
Another claim to support Pauline authorship is that there are many affinities between this letter and Paul’s letters. Below are some possible parallels….
However, these affinities are not strong enough to prove Pauline authorship. They could indicate the author was a companion of Paul and thus picked up his ideas and terminology. This would be similar to the possible relationship between John the elder and John the apostle discussed previously. Also, the mention of Timothy would be due to him being a mutual friend of both Paul and the author.
Moreover, there are many arguments against Pauline authorship….
Seventh and finally, there were debates very early as to the author of this book. Some said it was written by Paul, but many other suggestions were also made…
However, all of these quotes together show Hebrews was known and considered authoritative by the end of the first century. But given that the author was unknown, why was Hebrews eventually included in the canon of Scripture?...
The point of these quotes is; Hebrews is so filled with sound theology it just had to be included. Since Paul’s name was associated with it in some traditions, it was ultimately accepted on that basis. But even if that is not the case, as most likely is the case, Hebrews was written in the first century. And with the affinities to Paul’s epistles, it most likely was written by an associate of Paul. And since it does not contain any theology counter to previously accepted books, there was ultimately no reason to exclude it….
Like Hebrews, James was among the antilegomena, but the reason for there being disputes about it was far different than for Hebrews….
The point of all of this is this James, the brother of Jesus, was well-known in the early Church and was one of its early leaders. As such, he could identify himself as simply “James,” and his widely scattered readers would know who he is and accept his authority. This fits with the tone of the Epistle of James…
However, today there are many who doubt that James the brother of Jesus wrote this letter. There are several reasons for this doubt….
We now come to another reason some doubts were raised about this epistle in the early Church. There is very little of a specific Christian nature to it. It is mostly a Jewish document, with Jesus being mentioned in just two verses…
Conclusion on James…
However, there is nothing doctrinal or ethically that conflicts with Biblical teaching elsewhere either.
In addition, it was certainly written in the first century, most likely in the first half thereof. There is good evidence that it was written by James the brother of Jesus, a pillar of the early Church, and it contains much practical advice that is in line with Christian ethics. For these reasons, it was appropriate for the early Church to have ultimately accepted its canonical status.
Chapter Ten: Conclusion on the New Testament
We started this study on the books contained in the New Testament (NT) by noting that 20 of the 27 books were uncontested in the early Church, and it has been shown that universal acceptance was for good reasons. Those 20 books were undoubtedly authored by the names traditionally attached to them, which is to say apostles or direct apostolic associates. They were all written in the first century; they all contain correct and substantial theology in regards to the nature of God and early essential Christian tenets, and they all have wide appeal and bear the marks of inspiration.
Of the seven disputed books, two, James and the Revelation, have strong support for them also being authored by the traditional authors, were written in the first century, have wide appeal, and bear the marks of inspiration. The latter also contains much sound theology, while the former contains sound practical advice. Hebrews is anonymous, but it was shown it most certainly was written by a direct apostolic associate, was unquestionably written in the first century, contains a wealth of important and sound doctrine, and bears the marks of inspiration. Thus after the disputes were settled, these three books were rightly included in the canon of the NT.
The remaining four disputed books (2John, 3John, 2Peter, and Jude) have less support for their genuineness than for the other 23 books, but there still is a respectable basis to accept their traditional authors and dating. Being very short books, there is not much in them in the way of doctrine, but what they do contain is sound theology. And there is some appeal to them, so there is good reason they were included, but if they had not been, it would not have changed the Christian faith in any way.
Bottom line, the 27 books in the NT all belong in the NT. All 27 books meet all of the standards laid down by the early Church for a book to be accepted into the NT. There is a consistency of thought in regards to all essential doctrinal tenants running through all 27 books, and all of these books bear the marks of inspiration. These 27 books were thus rightly included in the NT and can be read for spiritual enrichment….
The above Book Preview was posted on this site November 7, 2016.
It was last updated September 12, 2023.
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