The second part of the Bible, recognized by the Christian church from the 4th century as sacred doctrine. Biblical scholars have credited the individual sections to various authors, whose main aim was to proclaim the message of Christian salvation. The New Testament consists of 27 books, containing Christian history, letters, and prophecies. It includes the Gospels, which tell of the life and teachings of Jesus, the Acts of the Apostles, and the book of Revelation.
Gospels The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John describe the life and teaching of Jesus, although not much is known before he was baptized by John the Baptist and became a preacher. The word gospel means ‘good news’, as the writers of the Gospels wanted to spread the good news of the coming of Jesus and of his resurrection and its significance in saving people from sin.
Many of the accounts about the life of Jesus are repeated in two or more of the Gospels. For example, the stories about Jesus' birth (the nativity) can be found in Matthew and in Luke, but the accounts concentrate on different aspects of the story. The events of his last week play a very important part in the Gospels. His crucifixion and resurrection are in all four Gospels. When a Gospel is being read during a church service, everyone in the church turns towards the Bible as a mark of respect.
The Gospels were not written until at least 20 years after the death of Jesus. Until then, the early Christians had been teaching and preaching to spread the ‘good news’. The need to write down accounts of the life and work of Jesus came when original eyewitnesses were growing old and dying. The first three Gospels are similar and are known as the Synoptic Gospels. It is generally accepted that St Mark's Gospel was the first to be written, around AD 60. St Luke's Gospel is usually dated at around AD 80–85, and St Matthew's Gospel around AD85–90.
Acts of the Apostles The Acts of the Apostles was written to describe the birth of the Christian church, and concentrates upon the work and lives of St Peter and St Paul.
Epistles (letters) The New Testament also contains 21 Epistles, or letters written by St Paul and the leaders of the early Christian church (see Christianity, early history. In his letters St Paul wanted to spread the Gospel and interpret the teachings of Jesus for the first Christians. They give advice, guidance, and encouragement to members of the church. Today, they help Christians to understand the beliefs and concerns of the first Christians. The letters also help Christians in the practice of their faith in the modern world.
Book of Revelation The book of Revelation is the last book of the New Testament and contains prophecies stressing the belief that good will eventually defeat evil and bring God's kingdom on earth.
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