Why Was The New Testament Written? Part I
WHY WAS THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITTEN? Part I
Since I’ve already written about the four Gospels, this Hub Page will only be about the rest of the New Testament starting with the book of ACTS. Any dates given may not be accurate, but it’s really the message that counts, not the date. Because of the length of this article, it will in two parts.
Let me state at this point that what you read here is no way to be a detail of the various books, (or letters) you read in the New Testament, but just a synopsis.
All of the New Testament was written by the various writers to address a particular problem within the church or territory. What you may notice is that the problems the writers were concerned about at that time, are still the same ones many of the church have to deal with now, only some of the names of the problems have been changed. At the time of the writing of the New Testament, these new Christians had no real guidelines to direct them, except those converted Jews who had the Old Testament. There is one important Scripture you have to remember as you read this information on the New Testament: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim 3:16-17 (KJV) The Bible is just as valid now as it was at the time it was written. Even though the letters that make up the New Testament were written to encourage or correct a problem at that time, the message is still valid today, and that’s why the New Testament was written.
Some of the letters were addressed to a particular church, some to people within the church, still others were written to pastors of a church and some of the New Testament letters were written as circular letters – which means several churches in a given area. These various letters were put into one book or endorsed by various counsels, one of the first being the counsel of Nicaea in 325 followed by North Africa-at Hippo Regis in 393 and followed by the council that met in Carthage in 397. It was in 367 that 66 books were listed as, what we call today, The Bible.
Before going into the individual books of the New Testament, here is a very brief historical background at the time the letters that constitutes the New Testament was written. At the time of the writing of the New Testament, Rome controls almost the entire region. Augustus was the first ruler of Rome at the time of Christ, reigning from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14. As most rulers of Rome go, he was one of the most favored by many of the citizens of Rome. This was in, part, because of the many reforms brought because of his leadership. Under his rule, a professional army was established, he improved the morale of the people, he revived the state religion, (except Christianity,) rebuilt many of the temples and other things that caused him to be popular. Augustus’s adopted son Tiberius was the next leader of Rome. Tiberius reigned from A.D. 37-41. The next was successor after Tiberius was Caligula. He was very unpopular. Some think that the reference of the Gospel of Mark in Mark 13:14 concerning the “abomination of desolation” may be referring to a statue of Caligula that was to be erected in Jerusalem, quick action by the army prevented this.
Following him as emperor was Claudius who ruled from 41 to 54. Not much is written about him, in my limited research, but it doesn’t seem he did anything outstanding.
Nero followed Claudius as emperor and he ruled from 54 to 68 A. D. While a good leader in many ways, he was very self-centered and made a lot of mistakes because of it. He blamed the Christians for many of his mistakes, and as a result, many Christians were tortured and killed, according to tradition, Peter and Paul may have been killed under his time of rule.
Galba was the next emperor of Rome. One of his supporters had him killed by the praetorian guards in hope of being the next emperor.
It worked since Otho served as emperor until he was killed in battle by Vitellius, commander of a German legion who fount Rome in Rome.
Vitellius didn’t last long as emperor. Vespasian, who also sacked Rome, killed him.
Vespasian lasted a little longer as emperor, he ruled from 69-70 A.D. He is the emperor who built the famous structure, the Coliseum. When he died in A.D. 79, he left his son, Titus the office of emperor.
Titus became emperor, but didn’t rule long. Even though a short rule, he was very popular. He had no son so the Senate gave the position to Domitian, his younger brother.
Domitian became to next emperor and had this position from 81-96 A.D. Torture of Christians was one of the things he instigated. Besides his torturing and killing Christians, he also tried to make himself an object of worship. His own family, who feared him, had him assassinated.
The next two emperors who ruled, Nevra and Trajan accomplished very little, as far as their influence on Christianity.
This sums up the emperors who ruled during the time the letters of the New Testament were written. Even though most of the emperors had a negative attitude towards this new sect, the rule of Rome had many positive influences that were beneficial to Christianity. One of these is the road system. This allows the Apostle Paul great freedom in travel, and being a Roman Citizen, he had certain privileges that most new Christians didn’t have.
The first book of the New Testament, following the Four Gospels, is the book of Acts. Dr. Luke is given credit for this writing. The question has to be answered, “What is this former book”, that is referred to in the first verse? Answer: Luke wrote to Theophilus and the former letter was what we now refer to as The Gospel of Luke.
The book of Acts is a book of history of the early church and early Christians. It is also a book of, “Firsts”. For example: in Acts 11:25, the disciples were first called Christians in the town Antioch around the year AD 33-40. Than there is the introduction of Home Missions and there are recorded events that suggest the movement of Foreign Missions. Also recorded are the missionary journeys of Paul, his experience as a prisoner and his final journey to Rome where he was beheaded are recorded in the book of Acts. The entrance of the Holy Spirit on as a permanent home on earth is another first. You can read about the appearance of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-4, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
The book of Romans is the next book in the New Testament after Acts. The Apostle Paul who was writing to Christians in Rome and was probably written from the city of Corinth.
What was the problem with the church at Rome?
Most of the Christians at the church located in Rome had mostly Gentile Christians in attendance. These Gentile Christians had strong differences of opinion concerning the Jewish Christians that came to this church because the Jewish Christians wanted to observe dietary laws and sacred days. Paul was explaining why the Jews felt this way and to present a very basic system of salvation regardless of rather they were Gentile or Jew.
The main theme is in Chapter 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” The second main theme is in chapter 5:1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: ….” From the evidence of these two verses, it can be noted that the Apostle Paul was setting up some bases doctrine of salvation and justification. Quite a bit of our present day theology is based on the book of Romans. No one knows for certain who founded the church at Rome. According to the book of Acts 2:10, there were some people from Rome present at the Day of Pentecost. “… Strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,” 11 It seems that while some of these visitors at Pentecost were Jew, most were Gentiles.
A note of interest is that if the Apostle Paul had not been led of God to do missionary work, and if it hadn’t been recorded in the book of Romans, we may not have the mission influence that we have today.
Next in the New Testament after the book of Romans is the book of 1 Corinthians, followed by 2 Corinthians.
Before investigating the reason why the Apostle Paul wrote these books, a little background into the culture of the city of Corinth is needed. At the time of Paul’s stay in Corinth, the city was about 100 years old. This was really a new raise of an old city since it was in much older than that, but it was destroyed and had lain dormant for some time. This city of Corinth was part of the Roman Empire when Paul visited. Corinth was a very prosperous city, mostly because of the seaports in Corinth and it also had many gods and temples. It was around 49-52 B.C. when Paul visited Corinth on his second missionary journey. Corinth, at the time of Paul’s visit, was a city of cultural, social, and religious diversity. Corinth had a bad reputation of being licentious, especially in the area of sexual behavior.
Why were both of the books of Corinthians written?
The primary reason for Paul’s writing of 1 Corinthians was to combat various forms of bad behavior and incorrect thoughts. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:32, Paul deals with the error of Epicureanism, which allows self-indulgence. Paul also deals with the matter of incest. He also dealt with other errors in Theology that some of the Christians had and he also defended his position as an Apostle. The purpose of 2 Corinthians was written for a number of reasons. He explained to them why he hadn’t visited them, Paul also defended his apostleship because there where those who were trying to discredit him, he praised those Christians in Corinth for obeying the guideline given in his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, he urged them to give contributions to those Christians in Jerusalem and to pardon transgressors.
Paul probably wrote this letter from Macedonia or it may have been Philippi since the cities were not far apart. It may have been in the autumn of 57 when this letter to the Corinthians was written.
Some writers allude to even a “lost letter” to the Christians at Corinthians, but this is just speculation and no proof of that exist.
Galatians is the next book listed in the New Testament.
This was probably a circular letter read by the churches in the north-central area of Galatia, which is part of Asia Minor. Like most letters of the New Testament, the date is uncertain, but this letter was probably written between 55-60 a.d.
What was the purpose of the letter to the churches located in Galatia?
It was a defense of justification by faith and not of works, and to address other serious problems in the new churches located in Galatia. Paul was warning the Christians there against falling back into the Jewish custom of trying to work for there salvation. The more formal name is Paul was arguing against those known as “Judizers”. The apostle Paul was angry with the Christians of Galatia that they would abandon what he had taught them for this false Gospel presented by those of Jewish beliefs. He uses the word, “anathema” in Galatians 1:8, which means, “total destruction” or to be “separated”, in this passage of Scripture.
Ephesians is he next book listed in the New Testament.
Problem: No particular problem is noticed except the idea that Gentile Christian and Jewish Christian were separating themselves from each other. To try and correct this situation, he points out that maintaining a proper relationship both with God and people requires proper armor to resist the attacks of Satan.
The Apostle Paul is the author of this book and it was written while Paul was in Rome about 60-67 A.D. He spent two years in the city of Ephesus teaching in the synagogue and at the lecture hall of Tyrannous. (I could not find any information concerning this lecture hall. It was apparently was a place where anyone could speak and teach.)
The Apostle’s first visit to Ephesus can be read in the Book of Acts, 18: 18-21. Ephesus was major port city at the mouth of the river Cayster.
Although many of the Apostle Paul’s letters had a personal touch, his letter to the Ephesians has none of this attribute although he had many friends there. Ephesians is one of the prison letters that the Apostle Paul wrote and was written from a prison in Rome.
Philippians follows the book of Ephesians in the Bible.
The apostle Paul wrote this letter in A.D. 60-64, but this is not certain. Ephesians is more like a love letter, and there is no specific problem noted. He was appreciative of the church at Philippi for their benevolence.
This ends part I of II parts. Below you will find a list of books I used to research the information you have read.
Documentation: The King James Bible, Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Naves Complete Word Study Topical Bible, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, New Testament Survey by Merrill Tenney, Zondervan’s Handbook to the Bible, Josephus the Complete works.