Detail from the Book of Kells ca 800 CE.

IDEAS THAT SHAPED OUR MODERN WORLD: Jesus and the Origins of Christianity

The 27 New Testament Books

What we know of Jesus the majority of us learned directly or indirectly from the New Testament, and from the rituals that celebrate or commemorate events described in it. In almost all Christian traditions today, the New Testament consists of 27 books forming an anthology written by a number of authors.

The Pauline Epistles

The Epistles were thought to have been the earliest writings in the 50s CE, some 25 years after the death of Jesus. They are mainly letters of instruction and advice from various authors to members of the early church.

•  Epistle to the Romans
•  First Epistle to the Corinthians
•  Second Epistle to the Corinthians
•  Epistle to the Galatians
•  Epistle to the Ephesians
•  Epistle to the Philippians
•  Epistle to the Colossians
•  First Epistle to the Thessalonians
•  Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
•  First Epistle to Timothy
•  Second Epistle to Timothy
•  Epistle to Titus
•  Epistle to Philemon

General (Catholic) Epistles

Called Catholic because these seven Epistles tend to address the whole of Christianity at the time rather than a specific community.

•  Epistle to the Hebrews
•  Epistle of James
•  First Epistle of Peter
•  Second Epistle of Peter
•  First Epistle of John
•  Second Epistle of John
•  Third Epistle of John

In addition the book includes:

•  Epistle of Jude
•  Revelation of John (also an Apocalypse)

The Gospels

The Gospel of Mark was thought to be written around 70 CE, with Matthew and Luke following some 10–20 years later. Most scholars think John was written last, in Alexandria in about 90–95 CE. Although there were many gospels written, only these four were authorized by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lugdunum (now Lyon) in Gaul, in the late-second century and included in The New Testament.


The Acts of the Apostles

Usually dated to 80–90 CE, the Acts of the Apostles tell of the ministries of the early church. Scholars believe they were written by the same author as the Gospel of Luke.