CHRISTIAN GREEK SCRIPTURES
So designated to distinguish them from the pre-Christian Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is a common practice to call this latter portion of the Bible the New Testament.—See BIBLE.
There are 27 canonical books that make up the Christian Greek Scriptures. After the death of Jesus, these books were penned under inspiration by eight men: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude. Not all these men followed Jesus during his ministry; in fact, as far as is known for a certainty, only the three apostles Matthew, John, and Peter did. Mark may have been the “certain young man” who followed Jesus at a distance after he was arrested. (Mr 14:51, 52) At Pentecost, James, Jude, and perhaps Mark were present along with them. (Ac 1:13-15; 2:1) Later the apostle Paul was converted. All these writers became closely associated with the governing body of the first-century congregation in Jerusalem.
In what language were these books originally written? With the exception of the book of Matthew, which was written originally in Hebrew and later translated into Greek, all the other 26 books were written in the common Greek, Koine, the international language of the day.—See MATTHEW, GOOD NEWS ACCORDING TO.
Nor was it a mere coincidence that these inspired Christian men, all of them natural-born Jews (Ro 3:1, 2), had their writings sent out in Greek. These were not private communications but were intended for wide circulation, to be read and studied by all the congregations. (Col 4:16; 1Th 5:27; 2Pe 3:15, 16) The writers were under divine command to spread this good news and teaching to the most distant part of the earth, to places where Hebrew and Latin were not read. (Mt 28:19; Ac 1:8) Even in territories closer to Palestine, there was an increasingly large number of non-Jews coming into the local congregations. Also, when quoting the Hebrew Scriptures, these writers frequently used the Greek Septuagint.
The books of the Christian Greek Scriptures, listed according to the approximate year (C.E.) written, are as follows: Matthew, 41; 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 50 and 51; Galatians, 50-52; 1 and 2 Corinthians, 55; Romans, 56; Luke, 56-58; Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians, 60-61; Hebrews, Acts, 61; James, before 62; Mark, 60-65; 1 Timothy, Titus, 61-64; 1 Peter, 62-64; 2 Peter, 64; 2 Timothy, Jude, 65; Revelation, 96; John and 1, 2, 3 John, 98. This period of less than 60 years is quite a contrast with the nearly 11 centuries taken to complete the Hebrew Scriptures.
When it came time to combine these books of the Christian Greek Scriptures into a single volume, they were not assembled in the order in which they were written. Rather, they were put in a logical arrangement according to subject matter, which can be classified as (1) the five historical books of the Gospels and Acts, (2) the 21 letters, and (3) the Revelation.
The four Gospels (the word “Gospel” meaning “good news”), written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, give us a fourfold historical account of the life and activity of Jesus, each account being an independent report. The first three of these are sometimes called synoptic (meaning “like view”) because they have a relatively similar approach to Jesus’ ministry in comparison with John’s Gospel, yet each reflects individualism on the part of the writer. John’s Gospel fills in certain details omitted by the other three. The Acts of Apostles then follows in logical sequence, carrying the history of the Christian congregation as established at Pentecost on down nearly 30 years after the death of Jesus.
The congregation’s inner workings, its problems, its public preaching, its other privileges, and its hopes are dealt with in the 21 letters that follow the historical section. Paul is named as the writer of 13 letters. The letter to the Hebrews is also generally ascribed to Paul. Following these writings is a group of letters, most of which were written to all the congregations in general, by James, Peter, John, and Jude. Lastly, as a delightful climax to the whole Bible, is the Revelation with its preview of profound events of the future.
To what extent did writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures quote from the Hebrew Scriptures?
The writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures quoted the Hebrew Scriptures hundreds of times. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the New World Translation presents as direct quotations 320 passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. According to a listing published by Westcott and Hort, the combined total of quotations and references is some 890. (The New Testament in the Original Greek, Graz, 1974, Vol. I, pp. 581-595) Examples are drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures by all the inspired Christian writers. (1Co 10:11) These Christian writers undoubtedly employed the divine name Jehovah when they were quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures. These later writers acknowledge and include the Hebrew Scriptures as inspired of God and beneficial for completely equipping the man of God for every good work.—2Ti 3:16, 17; 2Pe 1:20, 21.
After the death of the apostles, uninspired writers quoted profusely from the Greek Scriptures, even as the inspired Christian Bible writers had quoted from what came before them.
There are available for comparative study more than 13,000 papyrus and vellum manuscripts containing the whole or a part of the Christian Greek Scriptures, dating from the 2nd to the 16th century. Of these, some 5,000 are in Greek, and the remainder in various other languages. More than 2,000 of the ancient copies contain the Gospels, and more than 700, the letters of Paul. While the original writings themselves are not currently extant, copies date back to the second century, which is very close to the time the originals were written. This vast number of manuscripts has enabled Greek scholars in the course of years to produce a highly refined Greek text of the Scriptures, confirming in many respects the dependability and integrity of our present-day translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures.—See MANUSCRIPTS OF THE BIBLE.
This vast mountain of manuscripts caused one scholar to remark: “The great bulk of the words of the New Testament stand out above all discriminative processes of criticism, because they are free from variation, and need only to be transcribed. . . . If comparative trivialities, such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like, are set aside, the words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament.” (The New Testament in the Original Greek, Vol. I, p. 561) To this may be added the observation of Jack Finegan: “The close relationship in time between the oldest New Testament manuscripts and the original texts is also nothing less than amazing. . . . For our knowledge of the writings of most of the classical authors we are dependent upon manuscripts the oldest of which belong to a time between the ninth and eleventh centuries A.D. . . . Thus it is that the certainty with which the text of the New Testament is established exceeds that of any other ancient book. The words which the New Testament writers addressed to their world and time have crossed the further miles and centuries to us substantially unchanged in form and certainly undiminished in power.”—Light From the Ancient Past, 1959, pp. 449, 450.
As an integral part of the written Word of God, the Christian Greek Scriptures are of inestimable value. They contain four accounts of the ministry of God’s only-begotten Son, including his origin, his teaching, his example, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection. The historical record of the formation of the Christian congregation and the outpouring of the holy spirit, which enabled it to grow so successfully, as well as details concerning its problems and how they were resolved—all of this is so essential for the operation of the true Christian congregation today. The separate books that were independently written for particular persons or situations, or with a special view and purpose in mind, all merge to form a great unified complete entity with no details lacking. They complement and complete the Bible canon and are presently of universal importance, interest, and concern primarily to spiritual Israel, which is the congregation of God, but, additionally, to all persons who seek the approval of God.
For information on the contents of the 27 books, their writers, the time written, and proof of authenticity, see the individual books by name.