Origin of the New Testament


The first writings of the New Testament were the authentic letters of St. Paul.  It is generally believed by modern scholars that he wrote seven of the letters, 1 Thessalonians 51 AD; Galatians 54-57 AD; Philippians 56-57 AD; 1 Corinthians 57 AD; 2 Corinthians 57 AD; Romans 58 AD; Philemon 56-57 AD.  The Deutero-Pauline letters, 2 Thessalonians; Colossians, and Ephesians were probably written by a disciple of Paul The pastoral letters 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy and Titus are pseudonymous writings and could date as late as the early second century.

The Church teaches that the Gospels developed in three distinct stages.  
    1) What Jesus of Nazareth did and said during his earthly ministry in Palestine, This would include his exact words during his preaching and teaching about the kingdom and himself.  
    2) What the apostles and disciples taught and preached about Jesus after experiencing the resurrection. This stage emerged as a result of the "Easter faith".  They had experienced Jesus as the risen and glorified Lord.  
    3) The evangelists finally wrote the gospels using material to develop their respective themes.  

In addition they reflect the teaching , preaching and most important, the practices of the late first century Church as it was emerging into the gentile world.


Stage one/two of the gospel's development clearly shows that the Jesus' story is based on the reliable testimony of the apostles who were eyewitness.  The gospels are the product of stage three.  In referring to the chart above, the four gospels had a traditional narrative for their source of Jesus' Passion and last days in Jerusalem.  Beyond that Mark (Mk), Matthew (Mt) and Luke (Lk), called the synoptic gospels because they "see through the same eyes", clearly have a literary relationship among them.  A clear majority of scholars agree that Mark's gospel was the first written which both Mt and Lk used and that Mt and Lk had certain material in common which Mk didn't have, which indicated another source called duelle "Q" (see:What are the Gospels?).  Mt edited Mk extensively.  Whereas, Lk at times used Mk almost word for word.   Both Mt and Lk had their own exclusive material as shown above.

John's gospel is different in its structure and content.  There are no parables, exorcisms, or pronouncement stories.  The prologue goes beyond the nativity narratives of Mt and Lk presenting a cosmic perspective of the Word set in the context of the creation.  The author then records seven miracles as signs, three of which appear in the synoptics.  Along with the three letters and Revelation it is part of the Johanine collection which it was once believed came from one author.  Today scholarship holds there were several authors.  It also can be seen that the gospels came out of some of the leading church communities of the first century reflecting their version of the Jesus' story.  The final authors did fashion the final structure and form.*

The balance of the New Testament writings can be dated sometime in the last half of the first century.  1 Peter, James, Jude, and Hebrews were written sometime in the eighties.  The Johanine letters and Revelation in the nineties.  Acts originally was a second part of Luke (SQ's).  The last writing was 2 Peter which was pseudonymously written sometime in the first half of the second century.  

*The Church takes no stand on who wrote or when the gospels were written.

"Origin of the New Testament" is one of the pamphlets on the biblical foundations of the Catholic Church written May 2008 to Nov 2010 by Deacon Paul Carlson of Minneapolis, Minnesota's St Lawrence Catholic Church / Newman Center, a Paulist Foundation. (St Lawrence is the Catholic Church of Southeast Minneapolis and is right in the heart of "Dinkytown USA".)

This blog post is a memorial serialization of those pamphlets written by Deacon Paul Carlson at the request of than Pastor/Director Fr John J. Behnke, who asked Deacon Paul to write brief answers to questions University students often encountered as Catholics.

At couple of weeks before Deacon Paul's death, he said: "If there are any financial gains made from the blog serialization of my pamphlets, please have the money given to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers, because what they do is so important." If you can, send memorials to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers at 1203 Fifth Street, S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55414. 

Remember Deacon Paul Carlson in your prayers, as well as all the other souls of the faithful departed, who have died in the grace of Jesus Christ.

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