A Brief History Of The New Testament
In the two thousand years since the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the world of Christendom has seen incredible changes, including a split with the Eastern Orthodox Church and a Protestant Reformation, accompanied by a rejection of much core ideology. Yet throughout it all, the collection of scripture called the New Testament has remained largely unquestioned, even though it was assembled by the same church leaders whose beliefs many now refute. (3)
To challenge the veracity of the canonical New Testament is, at best, an uncomfortable position; such questions strike at the very heart of most Christians’ faith. Nevertheless, these sacred writings have come to us only after decades of oral traditions and centuries of scribal rewrites, much according to the beliefs of select groups in the early days of Christianity. It is only by attempting to study the origins and evolution of the New Testament scriptures that one can hope to discover the true historical Jesus, a worthy goal of any Christian believer. (3)
Most of us take it for granted to have a copy of a Bible and do not bother to know how we got it. The question why the New Testament has twenty-seven books, not more and not less, hardly comes to our mind.
While all of us are unlikely to think that they just simply dropped from the sky, we may not realize the long process (EXHIBIT A), which took place before those twenty-seven books were finally selected.
In the first place, Jesus wrote no book and did not give any commandment to write down his teaching as testified by the four Gospels. Neither He nor His apostles gave us the list and approved any of the twenty-seven New Testament books. They neither used nor introduced the terms Old and New Testaments (4). All of the books of the New Testament were written after the apostles.
The source texts:
Sifting through the scores of different English versions of the New Testament, one is poignantly reminded of how translation, particularly of archaic language, is subject to personal interpretation. It is therefore vitally important that we get as close to the original source as possible. The oldest surviving near-complete texts of the New Testament are the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus (EXHIBIT A), dating back to around 350 A.D.(3).
The Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus also contains books which are no longer part of the New Testament, such as The Shephard of the Hermes and the Epistle of Barnabas (EXHIBIT A). The oldest fragments: P32, P46, P52, P64, P66, P77, P90, P98, P103, P104 (EXHIBIT E), date back to the second century; all of these texts are Greek.
This presents a disturbing problem. First, Jesus’ native tongue was Aramaic, and even if he knew Greek, he certainly did not speak it to his apostles, many of whom were uneducated fishermen. Without any surviving Aramaic texts, the actual words of Christ are lost forever, mired in a sea of subjective translation by ancient scribes (3).
THE 27 BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
30 AD Jesus leaves earth
30-50 AD Period of oral tradition before first written documents by Paul of Tarsus.
(Tarsus is present day Eastern Turkey. Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)
|1) 51 AD||Galatians||Author Paul (Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)|
|2) 50 AD||1 Thessalonians||Author Paul (Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)|
|3) 50 AD||2 Thessalonians||Author Paul (Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)|
|4) 56 AD||Romans||Author Paul (Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)|
|5) 55 AD||1 Corinthians||Author Paul (Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)|
|6) 55 AD||2 Corinthians||Author Paul (Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)|
|7) 59-81 AD||Ephesians||Author Paul (Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)|
|8) 59-61 AD||Philippians||Author Paul (Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)|
|9) 59-61 AD||Colossians||Author Paul (Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)|
|10) 59-61 AD||Philemon||Author Paul (Paul never knew nor ever met Jesus)|
|11) 65-70 AD||Mark||Author Anonymous|
|12) 80-85 AD||Matthew||Author Anonymous|
|13) 75-90 AD||Luke||Author Anonymous|
|14) 90-100 AD||John||Author Anonymous|
|15) 75-95 AD||Acts||Author Anonymous|
|16) 95 AD||Hebrews||Author Anonymous|
|17) 95 AD||James||Author Anonymous|
|18) 95 AD||1 Peter||Author Anonymous|
|19) 95 AD||Jude||Author Anonymous|
|20) 81-96 AD||Revelation||Author Anonymous|
|21) 100 AD||1 Timothy||Author Anonymous|
|22) 100 AD||2 Timothy||Author Anonymous|
|23) 100 AD||Titus||Author Anonymous|
|24) 100-150 AD||2 Peter||Author Anonymous|
|25) 100-125 AD||1 John||Author Anonymous|
|26) 100-125 AD||2 John||Author Anonymous|
|27) 100-125 AD||3 John||Author Anonymous|
The majority of Christians believe that the Gospels were written by direct witnesses of the life of Jesus, and, therefore, constitute unquestionable evidence concerning the events detailing his life and preaching. On the contrary, the time that elapsed between the end of Jesus? ministry and the appearance of texts is great. Not a single written source has come down to us from the first two decades after Jesus left earth in the year 30 A.D.
The first written sources appear around 50 AD, the letters of Paul contained in the New Testament (5). Unfortunately, we know very little about Paul. He was believed to be born in Tarsus, a Greek city in what today is eastern Turkey. He was Jewish and received a good education in Greek and Jewish traditions.
Moreover, Paul originally vehemently opposed the followers of Jesus who were proclaiming him to be a new way to God, However, in the process of his opposition Paul became transformed called, he believed to carry the news of Jesus to the Gentiles (Acts 9). He began to travel and proclaim Jesus.
(1) It must be remembered that Paul never knew Jesus nor ever met him since he came from a Greek city. These are the earliest written records we have concerning Christianity. Moreover, Paul originally hated Christians (Galatians 1:13, 1 Corinthians 15:9) and even had Stephen martyred in 36 A.D. (Acts 7:58).
The four anonymous gospels that we possess (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) all date from the last third of the first century. Like Paul, the authors of these documents also did not know Jesus and could have been foreigners like Paul. For example, The Gospel of Luke raises an interesting question:
Which route did Jesus follow to Jerusalem? The shorter route through Samaria 9:53 or another route through Jericho 18:35, both roads could not be traveled on the same trip. The author of the Gospel of Luke was criticized for not knowing the geography of Israel
(2) The author of the Gospel of Mark also seems to lack first-hand knowledge of the geography of Palestine. Randel Helms writes concerning Mark 11:1 (Who Wrote the Gospels?, p. 6): “Anyone approaching Jerusalem from Jericho would come first to Bethany and then Bethphage, not the reverse.
This is one of several passages showing that Mark knew little about Palestine; we must assume, Dennis Nineham argues, that ‘Mark did not know the relative positions of these two villages on the Jericho road’ (1963, 294-295). Indeed, Mark knew so little about the area that he described Jesus going from Tyrian territory ‘by way of Sidon to the
Sea of Galilee through the territory of the Ten Towns’ (Mark 7:31); this is similar to saying that one goes from London to Paris by way of Edinburgh and Rome. The simplist solution, says Nineham, is that ‘the evangelist was not directly acquainted with Palestine’ (40).” (see attached map)
Origins of the canon:
The four canonical gospels did not begin their lives as the gospels of “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke” and “John.” For example, most Christians believe that the names of the four gospels are taken from the original eyewitness disciples who followed Jesus. However, this is not true, the names Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” and “John” are simply titles that were given by the early church to these anonymous documents that were written at a much later date.
The original Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” and “John” that were present at Jesus’ time never wrote any of the gospels contained in today’s New Testament. Different groups of early Christians maintained their own oral traditions of Jesus’ wisdom, since writing was a specialized skill and not every fellowship enjoyed the services of a scribe.
When written accounts of Jesus’ teachings began to circulate, the independent groups would supplement them with their own traditions about the savior, each believing their own versions to be “the Gospel.” Eventually, as these expanded writings spread through other communities, some versions were viewed as having more authority than others.
It was not until the pronouncement of Bishop Irenaeus (185 C.E.) (EXHIBIT A) that Christians began to accept only the four familiar gospels as authoritative, and to refer to them by their modern titles (3). Consequently, there were earlier gospels, many being quite different from the four we know today.
The rest of the canon was much slower to develop. For the next two centuries, the four gospels would be coupled with a myriad of different letters, epistles, stories and apocalypses,according to what a particular congregation judged as relevant to their understanding of Jesus Christ and his message.
Catholicism was only one of the dozens of “denominations” within the early church, Gnosticism was prevalent throughout Egypt, Montanism in Asia Minor (Turkey), Marcionism in Syria (see glossary for explanations). Eventually, the Catholic church was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire thanks to Constantine, and all other systems of belief were branded as heresies (3).
Constantine had one last problem to solve. This was the ongoing debate concerning the divinity of Jesus. This debate reached its climax at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.; Athanasius argued that Jesus was God while Arius argued that he was not. Athanasius eventually won the argument.
As a result of Athanasius’ teachings (Athansian Creed) that became the law of the land after he defeated Arius at the first Ecumenical Council in 325 A.D.
(Nicene Creed), the Church finally took a step closer in forming what we know today as the New Testament Canon. For example, according to Athanasius’ Canon 367 A.D. (EXHIBIT A) we can see that The Shephard of The Hermas and Didache were present although they are not considered scripture today.
Although factions of the Church continued to debate the merits of various books for centuries, and many even used other writings in their liturgy, most uncanonical writings were ordered to be destroyed. In many cases, possession of heretical literature was punishable by death. Much of this literature can still be viewed in the glossary of early Christian literature (3).
Athanasius (297-373 A.D.)
Athanasius (Exhibit A) was the bishop of Alexandria and the champion of orthodoxy at the Nicene Council. Athanasius was ordained deacon in 319 by the Bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius was the rival of Arius at the Nicene Council in 325. He asserts that the Members of the Trinity are three and yet at the same time one.
Father, Son and Holy Ghost are co-equals in eternity, neither one preceded the other; One God, Christ sharing in the being of God. St. Athanasius summed up the purpose of the incarnation by saying “God became man that we might be made God” i.e. (Athansian Creed.)
The idea of the Trinity was current at the time among many of the bishops, and Athanasius had much support, more support in fact than Arius did, though Arius did have substantial support among the orthodox bishops of that time. Arius, had been writing songs to spread his point of view that Jesus was just the Christ, the promised prophet of God, but not God. Arius?
point of view was current among many of the bishops while other bishops held to the Trinitarian view. That some would not be trinitarian is understandable – the Jewish religion holds strongly to the One God idea and does not see the Messiah as a part of the Godhead.
The Council of Nicea found in favor of the Trinitarians. The council voted by a large majority against Arius and for Athanasius but did not put an end to Arianism. From 325 to 381, many church councils debated the rejected doctrine. (EXHIBIT D).
After the council (328) Alexander died and Athanasius succeeded him as Bishop, although not yet thirty. After becoming Bishop he became the great leader of the orthodox cause, the most formidable adversary of the enemies of the Nicaen decision. In 337 Constantine died, and his empire was divided by his three sons, Constantine II, Constantius and Constans.
Eusebius, an enemy of Athanasius, had won over the new emperor of the eastern part of the empire, Constantius. This led to Athanasius’ exile and a reversion to Arianism in the eastern part of the empire.
With the death of Constans in 350, his anti-Nicaea brother Constantius became sole ruler of the Empire and Arianism dominated again (Exhibit D). Athanasius suffered exile 5 times but held to his conviction that communion was not given to any heretic who did not hold the divinity of Christ.
Athansian Creed (320 A.D.?)
1 Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
8. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Spirit uncreate.
9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
12. As also there are not three untreated nor three incomprehensible, but one untreated and one incomprehensible.
13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.
14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
15.So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.
19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.
26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.
27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. 28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.
32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.
36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;
40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
42. and shall give account of their own works.
43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.
The Nicene Creed (or Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed)
The Nicene Creed was written by the early Church and adopted (in a slightly different version) by the Church Council at Nicea in AD 325 and appears in its present form by the Council at Chalcedon in AD 451. It has remained in use since that time. The Nicene Creed appears to be a smaller version of Athanasius’s Creed. After Athanasius won the Council at Nicae in 325 A.D. he was apparently able to promote his doctrine.
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
THE BIG PROBLEM
The Old Testament never mentions the Trinity. God all through the Old Testament is one. How did he suddenly become three in one? The Trinity, in fact, was established by councils which convened in the fourth century more than three hundred years after Jesus.
Emperor Constantine wanted a religion that appealed to him personally, in 312 AD Constantine defeated his rival Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian bridge outside Rome. The legend is, on the way to this battle, he saw a cross in the sky one afternoon with the words Hoc vince (by this conquer), and he adopted the cross as his standard. A year later in 313 AD Constantine issued the Edict of Milan:
Christianity was given a legal status equal to paganism. Later, Christianity became the state religion. In 325 AD at the council of Nicea, Constantine the Great helped promote Jesus from the rank of a prophet to the rank of a god; the Son is of the “same substance,” homo-ousion, as the Father.
Constantine’s council engineered the Trinity by promoting the Holy Spirit from an angel’s rank to a god’s rank. Thus Jesus became God by a decree and the Holy Spirit became God by another decree.
The Trinity was a negotiated settlement. It was the outcome of the dictated voting of councils under dictatorial threats of rulers (EXHIBIT D). They made a compromise: God is one to please monotheists and God is three to please polytheists (EXHIBIT D).
The final output was three in one to please no one and displease no one. A religion by voting, A vague god: ONE if you want him one, and Three if you want him three, and ONE IN THREE if you wish or THREE IN ONE if you prefer it this way. The trinity is a later innovation of church councils and it has nothing to do with the actual teachings of Jesus (8)
FOR MORE THAN THREE CENTURIES THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH HAD NO NEW TESTATMENT. Not until the Muratoriun Canon (350 A.D.) did the Christian church begin to compile a New Testament that resembles the one we have today. This canon did not include the letter to the Hebrews or those we know as James, 3 John, and 1 and 2 Peter (EXHIBIT A). It did include the Wisdom of Solomon (now part of the Catholic Old Testament) and the Apocalypse of Peter (no longer used).
All earlier canons such as that of Irenaeus (180 AD) and Marcion (140 AD) at best only have the four gospels (EXHIBIT A), many of the other 23 books are missing. In fact some of the earliest canons (Tatian 165 AD) (EXHIBIT A) reject the 10 Pauline letters; I guess his logic was how could a man from East Turkey who never knew or met Jesus be qualified to write about him?
Moreover, the Canon of Papias (130 AD) (EXHIBIT A) only has the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of the Hebrews. The Gospel of the Hebrews is no longer part of the New Testament. In fact, the very earliest canons such as the Nazarenes and Ebionites only have the Gospel of the Hebrews; moreover, the Nazarenes and Ebionites flat-out reject Paul (EXHIBIT A).
What was or could have been the beliefs of those early Christians who were in possession of Canons that predated 350 AD regarding the dogmas of the Eucharist, Baptism, and the Trinity remains a mystery. The resurrection story accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke & John are completely different! (EXHIBIT C) In fact, the last twelve verses of the sixteenth chapter of the gospel of Mark (EXHIBIT A) are not found in older manuscripts (the so-called Lord’s Prayer); hence, in one translation of the Bible we read a footnote which states:
The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20,NIV) (Exhibit A footnote 1). The so-called Essential or Institutional words now in Luke 22:17-20 (Exhibit A footnote 2) are another example of an addition that simply never existed. Moreover, Matthew 6:9 and Luke 11:2 is unkown to the authors of the second and fourth gospel; these verses appear to be insertions based on the Nicene Creed. The ultimate of all insertions based on the Nicene Creed and its trinity is witnessed in 1 John CH5:7-8 (EXHIBIT A footnote**). Furthermore, only Mark 16:19 and Luke 24:51 speak of Jesus’ ascension.
In fact, many important teachings contained in one gospel were unkown to the churches that did not possess it. Consequently, there could not possibly be uniformity of worship, disciples, authority, belief, commandments and law in the Early Church, just as there is none today!
The fact to the matter is that the New Testament is an evolutionary text that evolved over hundreds of years as a result of numerous canons (EXHIBIT A). Moreover, the bible, as it appears today in English, has been, since 1600 AD changed and re-examined repeatedly.
The King James version of the Bible, published in 1611 (EXHIBIT A), was eventually corrected again in 1952 (EXHIBIT A), and a new bible was prepared. The RSV means: Corrected and Re-examined version. Still, after all corrections made up to 1952 (EXHIBIT A), this version of the bible was not altogether accepted.
Thus, in 1971, an even newer, double-corrected Bible was introduced (EXHIBIT A). It appears from (EXHIBIT A footnote *) that there was a problem with an addition to ACTS in the original King James Bible of 1611; whatever the problem was, it was apparently removed in the subsequent versions. Since I do not have a copy of the King James Bible from 1611, I cannot see what the original problem was; it must have been pretty bad I guess.
It is obvious that both sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac were both part of the Abrahamic covenant. The word of God cannot have errors. The word of God would not have unknown authors. The word of God could not be established throughout history by what members of certain councils decreed.
Finally, the Quran has no errors, miraculously agrees with science, and was recorded by one man during his lifetime. The Quran is the only holy book that remained fully intact from the time of its revelation until today. No additions deletions or subtractions found its way into the book; the Quran is the only authentic revelation still around.
The Quran is the direct words of God. God should speak directly to his creatures rather than have hundreds of unknown authors and hundreds of councils to decide what his word should be. Moreover, God would protect his final revelation to mankind from the butchering that we have seen the Bible undergo (Exhibit A).
GOD HAD TO SEND ANOTHER PROPHET FROM ABRAHAM’S OTHER SON TO CLEAR UP THE HUGE MESS WE HAVE JUST WITNESSED (main article). Therefore, Islam superseded Christianity.
(1) Page 21 New Testament Story by David L. Barr Wadsworth Publishing Company 1987
(2) Page 212 New Testament Story by David L. Barr Wadsworth Publishing Company 1987
(3) Geoff Trowbridge
(4) W. Hartono
(5) Page 20 What Can We Know About Jesus? by Howard Clark Kee Cambridge University Press 1990
(6) The Gospels their origin and growth-by Frederick C. Grant -Harper & Brothers 1957
(7) The Formation Of The New Testament-by Robert M. Grant Harper & Row 1965
(8) The Truth About Jesus Christ-by Dr. Muhammad Ali Alkhuli Swaileh, Jordan