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EXEGESIS > New Testament      


Covering a period of less than one hundred years, the twenty-seven books of the New Testament deal with the person and work of Christ, and the theological and practical implications of Christ for man and all of creation, implications that reach from the time of Christ until the end of the age, and on into eternity.

In referring to both the Old and New Testaments, the word “testament” would be better and more appropriately rendered “covenant,” the most common translation of the Greek diatheke, a word that, according to Thayer, speaks of “a disposition,” “arrangement,” “compact” or “covenant.” The Hebrew berit, which is translated by diatheke in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament completed at Alexandria before Christ), conveys similar connotation. So, a covenant speaks of a relationship or an arrangement that involves obligations, and with the words "old" and "new" summarizes succinctly the essence of the Biblical Revelation. Paul spoke of “the reading of the Old Testament” (II Cor. 3:14 in the NKJV; it could also be “the reading of the Old Covenant” as in the NASB and ESV). And today in our Christian Bible we read from the New Testament, the New Covenant.

It is interesting to note that the word “testament” comes to us via Jerome’s use of the Latin testamentum in the Vulgate, and is brought into English by transliteration. However, Tertullian is believed to have first used testamentum in his writings. But the intent of the Biblical words (diatheke and berit) is best expressed by “covenant.”

Thus, the Old Testament and the New Testament can more suitably be spoken of as the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, with the New being viewed as the fulfillment of the Old, or the New as the accomplishment of what had been anticipated by the Old. These two divisions of the Canon are intricately related, being simply two phases of God’s great act of Redemption.

In A.D. 367 Athanasius listed in an Easter letter the twenty-seven books in our current Bible, writing that they were “handed down to us and believed to be divine.” At the Synod of Hippo in 393 and at Carthage in 397 the current books of the New Testament were formally adopted, though it was simply an official endorsement of the books that had had consensus approval and had been in use for over three-hundred years. They were also approved at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

The twenty-seven books, written mainly in Greek, have three major divisions: Gospels, Acts, and Epistles (some would create a fourth division separating the book of Revelation from the Epistles and call it Prophecy).




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