The New Testament – some controversial facts & figures

Tzion Gate – Jerusalem

The purpose of this article is not to be an extensive report on all the “in’s ‘n outs” of the New Testament. But instead present an overview of some interesting information that most people may not be aware of, including the order of the books/letters, dates, and the authors.

The New Testament consists of 27 books/letters written over about a 60 year period, from around 51 to about 111 ACE. These books/letters have been placed in an order that was decided by the Church Fathers, for a specific reason. They are not in a date order reflecting when written, but in a order of presentation. The life of Jesus is presented first, then the various teachings attributed to Paul, followed by a variety of letters by others. Most of us have just accepted this presentation of the life and teachings of Jesus without question.

Perhaps some background information that just isn’t typically considered may open some thought and or some discussion on what the Church Fathers presented. Lets look at some interesting information.

The New Testament could be divided into two major groups, group one are the letters written by Paul, and group two those written by others. The letters written by Paul are the oldest writings, thus making them the first written. It is commonly accepted that Paul wrote 13 letters, however if that were fact, several would have been written after his death. Keep in mind there are many schools of thought on what books were authored by whom, and we don’t know any of the exact dates, only estimations.

The letters written by Paul are:

  • His first letter was 1 Thessalonians written around 51 ACE from Corinth
  • Second letter was Philippines written around 54 from Caesarea or Ephesus while imprisoned
  • Third was Philemon written around 54 from Ephesus while in prison
  • Fourth was Galatians written around 55 from Macedonia
  • Fifth was 1 Corinthians written around 56 from Ephesus
  • Sixth was 2 Corinthians written around 56 from Philippi or Thessalonica in Macedonia
  • His seventh and last letter was Romans written around 57 or 58 from Corinth

Paul was born in Tarsus located in modern day Turkey around 5 ACE. It is debated as to whether Paul was Greek or Jewish. He admits in his writings that he was a Roman citizen, thus making him a Hellenist if he was Jewish. Hellenist were Sadducee and definitely not Pharisees. The Chief Priest who would be a Sadducee, would never commission a Pharisees to travel and bring correction to the diaspora (areas outside Israel). In fact the Chief Priest at the Jerusalem Temple would not be concerned with what Jews are doing in a city that’s in another country, namely Damascus in Assyria. The Ebionites (the followers of the Jesus Movement, now under the leadership of James, brother of Jesus), wrote the following:

“They declare that he [Paul] was a Greek . . . . He went up to Jerusalem, they say, and when he had spent some time there, he was seized with a passion to marry the daughter of the priest. For this reason he became a proselyte and was circumcised. Then, when he failed to get the girl, he flew into a rage an wrote against circumcision and against the Sabbath and the Law” (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30.16, 6-9).

Paul never met Jesus, or studied with those who new him. He chose to separate himself from those who lived with and studied under Jesus. He started what is referred to today as the “the Christ Movement”. This movement was totally separate from what today is referred today as the Jesus Movement”, they later become the “Ebionites” a sect of Judaism, believing that Jesus was the messiah, but not divine, and was not born of a virgin.

The seven letters listed above can be attributed to Paul because of the dates they may have been written. It is believed that Paul died around 62 ACE. A letter written after that date would have to be written by another author. It is understood that a common practice of that time was to write under another’s persons name that was respected.

The remaining 20 books of the New Testament are all written after Paul’s death. The following list places them in date order:

  • The 8th book is Colossians it was written around 62-70 ACE the author is unknown
  • 9th book is James, written around 65-85, author is unknown
  • 10th book is Mark, written around 68-70, author is unknown
  • 11th book is 1st Peter, written around 75-90, author is unknown
  • 12th book is 2nd Thessalonians, written around 80-115, author is unknown
  • 13th book is Matthew, written around 80-90, author is unknown
  • 14th book is Ephesians, written around 80-90, author is unknown
  • 15th book is Hebrews, written around 80-90, author is unknown
  • 16th book is Luke, written around 80-90, author is unknown
  • 17th book is Revelation, written around 81-96, author is John of Patmos
  • 18th book is Acts, written around 95-100, author is the same as Luke
  • 19th book is John, written around 90-110, author is John the evangelist
  • 20th book is 1st Timothy, written around 100, author is unknown
  • 21st book is 2nd Timothy, written around 100, author is unknown
  • 22nd book is Titus, written around 100, author is unknown
  • 23rd book is 1 John, written around 90-110, author is John the evangelist
  • 24th book is 2nd John, written around 90-110, author is John the evangelist
  • 25th book is 3rd John, written around 90-110, author is John the evangelist
  • 26th book is 2nd Peter, written around 110, author is unknown
  • 27th book is Jude, written in 110, after 2 Peter, author is unknown

After reviewing the above list it becomes evident that most of the authors are not known. The Church Fathers assigned names and authors to the different letters. An example is James, written around 65-85 ACE, while the estimated date of James’ death was around 67 ACE. It’s possible for him to write the letter between 65 and 67, but it can’t be said for certain, because there are 18 years of the 20 year spread that he couldn’t.

If we were to have a discussion, I think my question would be who wrote the New Testament? My answer would be, “much of it was written by a gentleman named Paul, from Tarsus, who actually may not have been Jewish. We don’t know for sure. We do know that he was not one of the 12 apostles, and did not submit himself to study under any of them. He never quotes any of what Jesus taught. He actually teaches contrary to Jesus’ teachings. His teachings oppose Torah in many instances. I can go on, but that isn’t the purpose of this article.”

The remaining letters that have authors assigned in the above chart, probably are not representent of those mentioned in the Gospels. For example, Jesus taught between 30 and 33 ACE. If we take the author of 1, 2, & 3rd John that was written between 90-110, using 100 ACE (the median) as a reference for calculating purposes. How old would the John who studied under Jesus have to be in order to write these three letters? Taking 100 minus 33 (the year Jesus died) is 77 years. What ever age this John was at that time; 77 years would have to be added on to that age. So if he was 20 then 77 years later or at the age of 97 would be the age of his writing. The typical life span during that time was much less (some say around 30 – 40 years of age). John of Patmos (the book of Revelation) would be similar results.

The Apostles that studied and followed Jesus all continued under the leadership of James, the brother of Jesus, as was the custom in Judaism. Like most understandings of history, we have many different versions. A version that makes total sense to me is as follows: They became known as the Ebionites, and moved out of Jerusalem close to 70 ACE, to Pella east of the Jordan River in Jordan. After the death of James, around 67 ACE a cousin by the name of Stephen took the leadership of the sect. It is understood that the Ebionites continued on in a very small number until around 400 ACE. It is believed that most of the Ebionites assimilated back into mainline Judaism. There teachings and writings were not accepted by the “Christ Movement”, or Pauline Christianity.

Those that Paul had brought into his movement had continued on developing what went from Pauline Christianity to Christianity as we know it today. The books/letters of the New Testament are placed in a particular order, so that the reader learns about the primary subject first, the life and times of Jesus, from the Gospels. Matthew is written from Mark, but placed in the New Testament first, then Mark, followed by Luke, that was also written from Mark. These were written much later than Paul’s writings. Were they written with a bias to Paul, and then placed in this order for a reason? These three are followed by John, who has a totally different writing style and purpose. We then move on to the book of Acts, understood to be authored by the writer of Luke, to be introduced to Paul, followed by Paul’s teachings, and the supporting letters that follow. This was the presentation carefully laid out and put into place by the Church Fathers, in 382 at the Counsel of Rome.

by Jim Behnke

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