Beliefnet

When was the New Testament composed? When was its earliest publication? Were the Apostles Paul and Peter in Rome’s Maritime Prison?

Tradition says this cistern near Rome’s Colisseum was a holding cell for Peter and Paul

The Bible is filled with history that is crucial to the message of salvation. But however central the history of Jesus and the Apostles to the gospel, careful reading of the New Testament reveals that the chief message is Jesus himself, his teachings, and his Kingdom. The four gospels and the book of Acts include extensive narratives, but there are large gaps in the life of Jesus and the Apostolic Church that skeptics and revisionists have exploited, while believers are hungry to know what did transpire in those periods. The same is true of the writing of the New Testament. Aside from brief information in the epistles, the prologues of Luke’s gospel and book of Acts, and John’s description of his circumstance in the writing of Revelation, the New Testament has no narrative covering its writing. Skeptics and revisionists have likewise exploited that, but believers also want to know how we got our New Testament.

Jars at Cana which tradition says may have held the water Jesus turned into wine

For the Christian faith to have validity, we need not have the words of Jesus precisely as he spoke them so long as we have an accurate summary of his teaching and of the crucial things that he said and did. John declared that it would have been impossible to record everything that Jesus did. (John 21:25) The Holy Spirit would have brought such things to the Apostles’ memory as was needed for the gospel. But importantly, the New Testament must actually preserve the testimony and teachings of the Apostles, something that “believing” scholars may overlook. That is because Jesus declared that his message would be conveyed to the world through his Apostles whom he chose specifically to witness his days on earth.

It informs our understanding of Jesus to know how the Apostles understood him prior to his resurrection. They reckoned him as Israel’s Messiah, but how did anyone in Israel then understand the Messiah? The New Testament makes it plain that it was not until after the resurrection that the Apostles understood Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom of God. Their understanding may not be altogether from his post resurrection appearances. Jesus declared that the Holy Spirit would bring the needed understanding to the Apostles, a record of which their scribes or pens wrote down.

What this means is that any supposed development in understanding Jesus that scholars may see in the New Testament had to take place during the ministry of the Apostles as more was revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. Any new teaching of the Holy Spirit would have added more light to what had come before. Else we do not have the witness of Jesus and the incarnation was to that extent a waste! Who cares

what was written by those who were not inspired by Jesus, whether by Gnostic writers or orthodox church men!

At Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, tradition says is the spot where Jesus was born

Responding to ancient skeptics and revisionist teachings about Jesus and to the questions of believers, the Early Church fathers compiled a bit more information about Jesus and the Apostles than appears in the New Testament. Some of it concerned the writing of the gospels. That even the Early Church fathers had the same questions as we do today about what the New Testament did not say, add so little to what it did say, and used much the same extra-biblical sources (apostolic fathers, Josephus, pagan Roman writers) suggest that this history was lost from the earliest days of the church. That needs explaining, but all that was ever vital was the testimony of the Apostles.

This also indicates that the New Testament books had become established from a far earlier day than presently acknowledged. If prominent churchmen of the early centuries questioned certain books, as is still the case for those who do not like what those same books say, there could hardly have been a long process of canonization as current scholarship pretends.

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