Encountering the New Testament, 4th Edition

A Historical and Theological Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


1. Why Study the New Testament?

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Explain how the New Testament differs from the Old Testament
  • Justify study of the New Testament
  • List and classify the books of the New Testament
  • Explain why the New Testament canon is regarded as reliable
  • Give reasons for upholding the integrity of the New Testament text
  • Discuss reasons for studying the New Testament

Chapter Summary

  1. The Bible has shaped the world in which we live, and no one is free from its influence.

  2. The Old Testament tells of God’s creation of the world, humankind’s fall into sin, and God’s saving work to undo sin’s consequences. It is divided into three parts: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.

  3. The New Testament is the testament of God’s saving work in more recent times and announces the Savior (Messiah) whom the Old Testament awaits.

  4. Study of the New Testament is important because it mediates God’s presence, is of ultimate personal significance, and is foundational to cultural literacy.

  5. The twenty-seven books of the New Testament include four books called Gospels, one book that traces the rise of the early church (Acts), twenty-one epistles or letters, and one book of prophecy.

  6. The New Testament writings are inspired by God. The Holy Spirit worked together with the hearts and minds of the followers of Jesus to produce these trustworthy writings.

  7. The New Testament canon is a collection of writings that came together in the opening generations of the church’s existence. Like all Scripture, it was given to the church for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

  8. New Testament manuscripts were first written on papyrus and later on leather. The manuscripts are of several types: papyri, uncials, minuscules, and lectionaries.

  9. The New Testament text we have is secure because extensive evidence supports it, the authors of the books wrote them within living memory of Jesus’s life, and ancient versions of the text were widely distributed.

  10. Christians should study the New Testament so that they will avoid misinterpretation based on preconceived ideas and misplaced reliance on the Holy Spirit, and so that they will have the appropriate historical foundation for understanding and applying its teachings.

Study Questions

  1. What does “testament” mean in the titles “Old Testament” and “New Testament”?

  2. What is the relationship of the Old Testament to the New?

  3. What is cultural literacy? What part does the New Testament play in acquiring it?

  4. What is a canon? What are the ancient divisions of the Old Testament canon?

  5. Give three reasons for special study of the New Testament canon.

  6. What are some reasons for our high level of certainty regarding the text of the New Testament?

  7. What other subjects have you found it necessary to study in order to master? What differences are there, if any, between study of those subjects and study of the New Testament?