Difference between revisions of "New Testament"

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Revision as of 12:26, 15 July 2019

The New Testament is a collection of ancient writings put together by Christians who believed them to accurately describe the foundation of their religion. Which specific writings should be viewed as canon was a matter of great debate in the early days of Christianity, and it took several centuries before most denominations agreed on a single set of 27 writings. However, as most New Testament scholars now point out, a large portion of these writings have been modified from their original form, or, with several books, are entirely fraudulent.

Canon

Standard List

In 382 CE, after a couple centuries of growth, the Christian church convened at the Council of Rome where officials, after much debate, agreed upon 27 writings to be considered their official list (known as the "canon"), however, Eastern Christians, who would later broke away to form the Eastern Orthodox, didn't agree on their own canon until 692. Catholics would later reaffirm their canon at the Council of Trent of 1545. The Church of England agreed on their canon in 1563, and Calvinists in 1647. While each of these groups has their own different old testament, they have each agreed on a single New Testament. Only some of the less-popular denominations disagree on the 27 books of the New Testament canon which are:

  1. Gospel of Matthew
  2. Gospel of Mark
  3. Gospel of Luke
  4. Gospel of John
  5. Acts of the Apostles
  6. Epistle to the Romans
  7. First Epistles to the Corinthians
  8. Second Epistles to the Corinthians
  9. Epistle to the Galatians
  10. Epistle to the Ephesians
  11. Epistle to the Philippians
  12. Epistle to the Colossians
  13. First Epistle to the Thessalonians
  14. Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
  15. First Epistle to Timothy
  16. Second Epistle to Timothy
  17. Epistle to Titus
  18. Epistle to Philemon
  19. Epistle to the Hebrews
  20. Epistle of James
  21. First Epistle of Peter
  22. Second Epistle of Peter
  23. First Epistle of John
  24. Second Epistle of John
  25. Third Epistle of John
  26. Epistle of Jude
  27. Book of Revelation

Additional Writings

The following writings considered apocryphal or pseudographical, although some minor denominations consider some of them canon:

Criticisms

Canon

Christians argued for a couple centuries over which writings should be considered their biblical canon. Each major branch of Christianity has independently decided upon a canon, and, while the majority of them eventually agreed upon the same list, there is still disagreement among the less-popular denominations to this day. If the Christian god wanted a specific canon, why didn't he reveal it to everyone everywhere? Why allow for ambiguity or debate to decide which writings are endorsed by Yahweh? What about the first several generations of Christians who did not have an agreed upon canon to read? Were those who had the wrong canon guilty of blasphemy? Did they fail as Christians because their bible contained books that taught them to behave differently than later Christians?

Also, at least one book which is considered canon cites books that have been excluded from most Christian canons. For example, the Epistle of Jude references two non-canonical books, the Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch.

Authorship

There is much conjecture and debate about the authors of the books in the New Testament canon. Excluding letters attributed to Paul, most of the authors don't identify themselves, but church tradition has assigned authors to each work regardless. Among the 27 books, there are only four distinct authors who explicitly identify themselves, however Christian tradition generally accepts nine distinct authors, though there is disagreement among the various denominations. Historians, however, have a very different approach to the New Testament, and believe that the majority of the books are not written by either the church-assigned authors or the the authors named in the books, and suggest around 15-20 different authors. The table below lists each book, if the author identifies himself and how they do, the traditionally attributed author according to most Christians, what historians generally say, and, assuming the historians are accurate, what it means for the authorship.

Book Author From Book Traditional Author Historian's Opinion Verdict
Gospel of Matthew None Matthew the Apostle Unknown, unlikely Matthew Tradition is probably wrong.
Gospel of Mark None Mark the Evangelist, Saint Peter Unknown, unlikely Mark Tradition is probably wrong.
Gospel of Luke None Luke the Evangelist Unknown, unlikely Luke, probably same author as Acts Tradition is probably wrong.
Gospel of John None John the Evangelist Unknown, unlikely John Tradition is probably wrong.
Acts of the Apostles None Luke the Evangelist Unknown, unlikely Luke, probably same author as Luke Tradition is probably wrong.
Epistle to the Romans Paul Paul the Apostle Paul the Apostle Probably accurate.
First Epistle to the Corinthians Paul Paul the Apostle Paul the Apostle Probably accurate.
Second Epistle to the Corinthians Paul Paul the Apostle Paul the Apostle Probably accurate.
Epistle to the Galatians Paul Paul the Apostle Paul the Apostle Probably accurate.
Epistle to the Ephesians Paul Paul the Apostle Maybe Paul Maybe a fraud.
Epistle to the Philippians Paul Paul the Apostle Paul the Apostle Probably accurate.
Epistle to the Colossians Paul Paul the Apostle Maybe Paul Maybe a fraud.
First Epistle to the Thessalonians Paul Paul the Apostle Paul the Apostle Probably accurate.
Second Epistle to the Thessalonians Paul Paul the Apostle Maybe Paul Maybe a fraud.
First Epistle to Timothy Paul Paul the Apostle Unknown, unlikely Paul Probably a fraud.
Second Epistle to Timothy Paul Paul the Apostle Unknown, unlikely Paul Probably a fraud.
Epistle to Titus Paul Paul the Apostle Unknown, unlikely Paul Probably a fraud.
Epistle to Philemon Paul Paul the Apostle Paul the Apostle Probably accurate.
Epistle to the Hebrews None Paul the Apostle Unknown, unlikely Paul Tradition is probably wrong.
Epistle of James James James the Just Several people named James, maybe one. Maybe accurate.
First Epistle of Peter Peter Saint Peter Unknown, unlikely Peter or author of II Peter Probably a fraud.
Second Epistle of Peter Simon Peter Saint Peter Unknown, unlikely Peter or author of I Peter Probably a fraud.
First Epistle of John None John the Evangelist Unknown, unlikely John Tradition is probably wrong.
Second Epistle of John None John the Evangelist Unknown, unlikely John Tradition is probably wrong.
Third Epistle of John None John the Evangelist Unknown, unlikely John Tradition is probably wrong.
Epistle of Jude Jude James the Apostle Maybe Jude Maybe accurate.
Book of Revelation Unclear John the Evangelist Unknown, unlikely John Tradition is probably wrong.

Content

We should expect a book inspired by a god to be rife with deep philosophical wisdom, full of inexplicable insight to the very foundations of the universe, and written in the most captivating way possible, but the actual content of the books of the New Testament is unimpressive. Rather than deep moral insight, authors endlessly repeat tautologies saying bad actions are bad and good actions are good. Instead of complex political science, the authors praise blind authoritarianism and fail to speak out against slavery, racism, or sexism. No secrets of the universe are revealed, instead the book is filled with the conventional wisdom of the time, much of which has since been discovered to be wrong. The book is far from gripping, most Christians haven't even read it because the books are poorly written.

Redaction

In addition to the Synoptic problem and its various possible solutions like the two-source hypothesis, the bulk of the books in the New Testament show signs of redaction, modification, editing, etc. Tampering for political benefit has also been suggested by a number of scholars regarding edits like the Comma Johanneum in the First Epistle of John. Early Christians felt compelled to set an permanent canon long before all potential manuscripts had been properly researched or even discovered.

Links

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