What is in the New Testament?

If you've never read the New Testament, you might not understand what sort of material is in it. This is a very brief overview. There are 27 books in the New Testament. They can be divided into four categories.

Stories of Jesus' Life. Called "gospels," (which means, "good news") there are four accounts of Jesus' life (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John).

A history of the early church. The Book of Acts (also written by the person who wrote the gospel of Luke) records the ascension of Jesus, the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and how the message about Jesus first spread from Jerusalem into the larger world.

Letters and writings from Paul and other early leaders of the church. 21 books are included here, but because they are shorter than the gospels and Acts, this isn't the biggest section of the New Testament that you might suppose. Here is where Paul's writings are recorded in his letters to various early churches. Several of these books are by other early church leaders. The book of Hebrews isn't so directly a letter, it is more of an essay on how Jesus has changed our relationship to God.

The Book of Revelation. Always in a class by it self, Revelation is a puzzling, strange, visionary book that has always fascinated and confused readers of the New Testament. If you know of Revelation, you probably think of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, angels, destruction, the beast from the sea. But the book ends on a hopeful note with the story of God's new creative action.

All of these books were written within the first century after Jesus' death.

Last updated 11/10/06; first posted 2000; © 2006 John P. Nordin