History & Literary - New Testament

The second and lesser division of the Bible relates entirely to the Christian religion, or the fulfillment of that which was predicted in the preceding and more ancient department of the work. This division of the sacred Scriptures is generally styled the New Testament; and that portion of it which relates to the history of the life of Christ is called the Gospel, and by some the Evangel, both these words having the same meaning, and implying good news, or glad tidings, from the circumstances that the narratives contain an account of things which are to benefit mankind.

The New Testament, like the Old, is a compilation of books written by different inspired individuals, and all put together in a manner so as to exhibit a regular account of the birth, actions, and death of Christ--the doctrines he promulgated--and the prophecies regarding the future state of the church which he founded. The historical books are the four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, all these being of the character of narratives of events; the doctrinal are the Epistles of St. Paul, and some others; the prophetic book is the last, and this is called the Revelation or Apocalypse of St. John, having been written by that apostle while he was in the island of Patmos.

The writers of the books of the New Testament are generally well known, each having the name of the author affixed to it, with the exception of the Acts of the Apostles, which, it is presumed, was compiled by St. Luke. It was long disputed whether St. Paul was the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews; Tertullian, an ancient Christian writer, and some others, attribute it to St. Barnabas; others to St. Luke; and others to St. Clement; while some think, with greater probability, that St. Paul dictated it, and St. Luke acted as the writer; and that the reason why the name of the true author was not affixed to it, was because he was disliked by the Jews. The four evangelists, or writers of the leading narratives, are St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John; these having been companions to Christ during his ministrations, and, therefore, personally acquainted with his life and character. Each of the four books is principally a repetition of the history of Christ, yet they all possess a difference of style, and each mentions some circumstances omitted by the others, so that the whole is essential in making up a complete life of the Messiah. These distinctions in the tone of the narratives and other peculiarities, are always considered as strong circumstantial evidence in proof of their authenticity, and of there having been no collusion on the part of the writers. But, indeed, the events they record are detailed in so exceedingly simple and unaffected a manner, that it is impossible to suppose that they were written with a view to impose on the credulity of mankind. The veracity and actual belief of the evangelists themselves are placed beyond a doubt.