New Testament Survey

An overview of the New Testament, tracing its teaching with respect to historical background and literary character

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  New Testament Survey 



New Testament Survey

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Historical Background

The Synoptic Gospels

The Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of John

The Acts of the Apostles

Pauline Letters

Pauline Letters 2


1&2 Peter-Jude

The Epistle of John

The Epistles of John 2&3

The Revelation of John

The Book of Revelation  and the Old Testament

The Book of Revelation  and World View

Read the New Testament in its entirety and online Material.

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A Historical Introduction to the New Testament

Introduction to the New Testament

Origin of the New Testament


Temple Warning Inscription

When were the Gospels written

This is only Reference Material not required reading

New Testament Maps and Artifacts

Online Images of New Testament Manuscripts

Encyclopedia Criticism of the New Testament

Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament

Formation the Canonical Scriptures

Virtual Museum Tour

Art  works of the New Testament

Christian Museum and Art Collection

Cities of the Seven Churches of Asia

Maps of the Seven Churches

Archaeological Exploration of Sardis

  St Augustine's Commentaries  

St Augustine-Homilies on the Gospel of John -homilies on the First Epistle of John.

St Chrysostom Commentaries

St Chrysostom-Homilies on the Gospel of St Matthew

St Chrysostom-Homilies on the Gospel of St John and the Epistle to the Hebrews

St Chrysostom-Homilies on The Book of  Acts and Romans

St Chrysostom-Homilies on 1 Corinthians

St Chrysostom-Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon


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New Testament Survey


New Testament Survey  is designed to introduce college students to the basic scholarship and interpretations of the Christian New Testament. Although one commentary will be used, supplemented with the outside readings, students are encouraged to consult other commentaries and sources that differ from the text. Theories about the inspiration and writing of the Bible, the original readers for various books and the context of Bible passages will be considered. 

  New Testament Survey 


There are, of course, a number of ways one may approach the study of the Bible: Synthetic—an overview of the Bible as a whole to provide a grasp of the overall message, Analytical—the process of viewing the Bible verse by verse to get an in depth understanding, Topical or Doctrinal—a study of the Bible according to its many topics and doctrines, and Typical—a study of the many pictures or types found in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, that portray the truth of the New Testament. The synthetic or overview approach is extremely helpful for the beginning student or for those who have never undertaken such a study. Through the synthetic approach, we are not only able to grasp the big picture or see the whole forest, but such an overview will help in understanding the details later on in one’s study of the Bible.

We are calling this a short survey because this study is more of a nutshell approach to the books of the  New Testaments. The goal is to give the reader key terms, verses, themes or purposes of each of the books along with a brief description of the content

Introduction to the New Testament

The New Testament is a record of historical events, the ‘good news’ events of the saving life of the Lord Jesus Christ—His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and the continuation of His work in the world—which is explained and applied by the apostles whom He chose and sent into the world. It is also the fulfillment of those events long anticipated by the Old Testament. Further, it is sacred history, which, unlike secular history, was written under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. This means it, like the Old Testament, is protected from human error and possesses divine authority for the church today and throughout human history until the Lord Himself returns.

Origin and Meaning of the Term “New Testament”

Our Bible is divided into two sections we call the Old Testament and the New Testament, but exactly what does that mean? The Greek word for “testament,” diaqhkh (Latin, testamentum), means “will, testament, or covenant.” But as used in connection with the New Testament “Covenant” is the best translation. As such, it refers to a new arrangement made by one party into which others could enter if they accepted the covenant. As used of God’s covenants, it designates a new relationship into which men may be received by God. The Old Testament or Covenant is primarily a record of God’s dealings with the Israelites on the basis of the Mosaic Covenant given at Mount Sinai. On the other hand, the New Testament or Covenant (anticipated in Jeremiah 31:31 and instituted by the Lord Jesus, 1 Cor. 11:25), describes the new arrangement of God with men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation who will accept salvation on the basis of faith in Christ.

The old covenant revealed the holiness of God in the righteous standard of the law and promised a coming Redeemer; the new covenant shows the holiness of God in His righteous Son. The New Testament, then, contains those writings that reveal the content of this new covenant.

The message of the New Testament centers on (1) the Person who gave Himself for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28) and (2) the people (the church) who have received His salvation. Thus the central theme of the New Testament is salvation.

The names Old and New Covenants were thus applied first to the two relationships into which God entered with men, and then, to the books that contained the record of these two relationships. “The New Testament is the divine treaty by the terms of which God has received us rebels and enemies into peace with himself.

Divine Preparation for the New Testament

In the time of the New Testament, Rome was the dominant world power and ruled over most of the ancient world. Yet in a small town in Palestine, Bethlehem of Judea, was born one who would change the world. Concerning this Person, the apostle Paul wrote, “But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law (i.e., the Old Covenant).” In several special and wonderful ways, God had prepared the world for the coming of Messiah. Several factors contributed to this preparation.

The preparation for the coming of Christ is the story of the Old Testament. The Jews were chosen of God from all the nations to be a treasured possession as a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (Ex. 1:5-6). In that regard, beginning with the promises of God given to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 12:1-3; Rom. 9:4), they were to be the custodians of God’s Word (the Old Testament [Rom. 3:2]), and the channel of the Redeemer (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8; Rom. 9:5). The Old Testament, therefore, was full of Christ and anticipated His coming as a suffering and glorified Savior. Furthermore, these prophesies were not only many, but very precise giving details of Messiah’s lineage, place of birth, conditions around the time of His birth, life, death, and even His resurrection.

Though Israel was disobedient and was taken into captivity as God’s judgment on her hardness of heart, God nevertheless brought a remnant back to their homeland after seventy years, as He had promised in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Though four hundred years had passed after the writing of the last Old Testament book, and though the religious climate was one of Pharisaic externalism and hypocrisy, there was a spirit of Messianic anticipation in the air and a remnant was looking for the Messiah.

New Testament Survey

It is highly significant that when Christ, the one who came to be the Savior of the world and the one who would send His disciples out to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20), there was what A. T. Robertson called, “a world speech. This was the result of the conquests and aspirations of Alexander the Great, the son of King Philip of Macedon, who more than 300 years before the birth of Christ, swept across the ancient world conquering one nation after another. His desire was one world and one language. In the aftermath of his victories, he established the Greek language as the lingua franca, the common tongue, and the Greek culture as the pattern of thought and life. Though his empire was short lived, the result of spreading the Greek language endured.

It is significant that the Greek speech becomes one instead of many dialects at the very time that the Roman rule sweeps over the world. The language spread by Alexander’s army over the Eastern world persisted after the division of the kingdom and penetrated all parts of the Roman world, even Rome itself. Paul wrote the church at Rome in Greek, and Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor, wrote his Meditations … in Greek. It was the language not only of letters, but of commerce and every-day life.

The point here is that God was at work preparing the world for a common language and one that was a matchless vehicle of communication for clarity and preciseness to proclaim the message of the Savior. As a result, the books of the New Testament were written in the common language of the day, Koine Greek. It was not written in Hebrew or Aramaic, even though all the writers of the New Testament were Jews except for Luke, who was a Gentile. Koine Greek had become the second language of nearly everyone.

New Testament Survey

But God was not finished preparing the world for the coming Savior of the world. When Christ was born in Palestine, Rome ruled the world. Palestine was under Roman rule. Above all else, Rome was noted for her insistence upon law and order. The longest, bloodiest civil war in Rome’s history had finally ended with the reign of Augustus Caesar. As a result, over 100 years of civil war had been brought to rest and Rome had vastly extended her boundaries. Further, the Romans built a system of roads, which, with the protection provided by her army that often patrolled the roads, contributed greatly to the measure of ease and safety by which travelers could make their way back and forth across the Roman empire. Augustus was the first Roman to wear the imperial purple and crown as the sole ruler of the empire. He was a moderate, wise and considerate of his people, and he brought in a great time of peace and prosperity, making Rome a safe place to live and travel. This introduced a period called “Pox Romana,” the peace of Rome (27 B.C.– A.D. 180). Now, because of all that Augustus accomplished, many said that when he was born, a god was born. It was into these conditions One was born who was and is truly the source of true personal peace and lasting world peace, versus the temporary and false peace which men can give—no matter how wise or good or outstanding. He also was truly God, the God-Man, instead of a man called God. The presence of Roman rule and law helped to prepare the world for his life and ministry so the gospel could be preached.

Mark 1:14-15. And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

New Testament Survey

The Religious World at the Time of the New Testament

Before surveying the New Testament, it would also be well to get a general picture of what the religious world was like when the Savior came on the scene and when the church was sent out into the world. As you read the quote by Merrill Tenney, note the great similarity to our world today. The message of the Savior as revealed in the New Testament is like a breath of fresh air after being in a smoke filled room.

The Christian church was born into a world filled with competing religions which may have differed widely among themselves but all of which possessed one common characteristic—the struggle to reach a god or gods who remained essentially inaccessible. Apart from Judaism, which taught that God had voluntarily disclosed Himself to the patriarchs, to Moses, and to the prophets, there was no faith that could speak with certainty of divine revelation nor of any true concept of sin and salvation. The current ethical standards were superficial, despite the ideal and insights possessed by some philosophers, and when they discoursed on evil and on virtue, they had neither the remedy for the one nor the dynamic to produce the other.

Even in Judaism revealed truth had been obscured either by the encrustation of traditions or by neglect …

Paganism and all religions apart from knowledge and faith in God’s Word always produces a parody and a perversion of God’s original revelation to man. It retains many basic elements of truth but twists them into practical falsehood. Divine sovereignty becomes fatalism; grace becomes indulgence; righteousness becomes conformity to arbitrary rules; worship becomes empty ritual; prayer becomes selfish begging; the supernatural degenerates into superstition. The light of God is clouded by fanciful legend and by downright falsehood. The consequent confusion of beliefs and of values left men wandering in a maze of uncertainties. To some, expediency became the dominating philosophy of life; for if there can be no ultimate certainty, there can be no permanent principles by which to guide conduct; and if there are no permanent principles, one must live as well as he can by the advantage of the moment. Skepticism prevailed, for the old gods had lost their power and no new gods had appeared. Numerous novel cults invaded the empire from every quarter and became the fads of the dilettante rich or the refuge of the desperate poor. Men had largely lost the sense of joy and of destiny that made human life worthwhile.

New Testament Survey

Composition and Arrangement of the New Testament

The New Testament is composed of twenty-seven books written by nine different authors. Based on their literary characteristics, they are often classified into three major groups—

The following two charts illustrate the division and focus of this threefold classification of the New Testament books.

New Testament Survey

The Order of the Books of the New Testament

As seen in the previous classification, the order of the New Testament books is logical rather than chronological. As Ryrie explains,

First come the Gospels, which record the life of Christ; then Acts, which gives the history of the spread of Christianity; then the letters, which show the development of the doctrines of the church along with its problems; and finally the vision of the second coming of Christ in Revelation.

Though Bible scholars differ on the exact date when the books of the New Testament were written, the order of the writing of the books was approximately as follows

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The Collection of the Books of the New Testament

Originally, the books of the New Testament were separately circulated and only gradually collected together to form what we now know as the New Testament part of the canon of Scripture. By preservation of God, our twenty-seven New Testament books were set apart from many other writings during the early church. They were preserved as a part of the New Testament canon because of their inspiration and apostolic authority. Ryrie has an excellent summary of this process:

After they were written, the individual books were not immediately gathered together into the canon, or collection of twenty-seven that comprise the New Testament. Groups of books like Paul’s letters and the Gospels were preserved at first by the churches or people to whom they were sent, and gradually all twenty-seven books were collected and formally acknowledged by the church as a whole.

This process took about 350 years. In the second century the circulation of books that promoted heresy accentuated the need for distinguishing valid Scripture from other Christian literature. Certain tests were developed to determine which books should be included. (1) Was the book written or approved by an apostle? (2) Were its contents of a spiritual nature? (3) Did it give evidence of being inspired by God? (4) Was it widely received by the churches?

Not all of the twenty-seven books that were eventually recognized as canonical were accepted by all the churches in the early centuries, but this does not mean that those that were not immediately or universally accepted were spurious. Letters addressed to individuals (Philemon, 2 and 3 John) would not have been circulated as widely as those sent to churches. The books most disputed were James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Philemon, but ultimately these were included, and the canon was certified at the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397.

Although no original copy of any of the writings that comprise the New Testament has survived, there exist more than 4,500 Greek manuscripts of all or part of the text, plus some 8,000 Latin manuscripts and at least 1,000 other versions into which the original books were translated. Careful study and comparison of these many copies has given us an accurate and trustworthy New Testament.

New Testament Survey

The Historical Books of the New Testament



As previously mentioned, the New Testament falls into three categories based on their literary makeup—the historical, the epistolary, and the prophetical. The four Gospels make up about 46 percent and the book of Acts raises this to 60 percent. This means 60 percent of the New Testament is directly historical tracing the roots and historical development of Christianity. Christianity is based on historical facts. This is inherent in the very nature of the gospel. Christianity is the message of the gospel and what is a gospel? It is good news, information derived from the witness of others. It is history, the testimony of historical facts. “The gospel is news that something has happened—something that puts a different face upon life. What that something is is told us in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Following this four-fold account, Acts gives the historical account of the extension of the gospel message from Jerusalem, into Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth, into the Gentile world. It begins:

1:1 I wrote the former account (the Gospel of Luke), Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 1:2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 1:3 After his suffering he had also presented himself alive to these apostles by many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God.

1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.

Luke is volume one and Acts is volume two of Dr. Luke’s treatise about the historical life and ministry of the Savior as begun by the Lord Jesus. This was continued by the Savior through the Holy Spirit working in the life of His apostles following Christ’s ascension into heaven. Acts thus provides the historical outline of the apostles’ ministry in the life of the early church. This becomes crucial to our understanding of much of what we have in the epistles, which were historical letters written to living people in historical places. The New Testament, then, is a historical book of the Good News of the living God at work in human history, not just in the past, but in the living present and the future in light of the promises of God.

New Testament Survey

The Synoptic Gospels

Before beginning a survey of each of the Gospels, it might be well to say a bit about the use of the term, The Synoptic Gospels. Though each Gospel has its distinct emphasis and purpose, the first three are sometimes referred to as the Synoptic Gospels because they “see together,” that is, they have the same point of view with regard to the life of Christ, agreeing in subject matter and order. Further, they also present the life of Christ in a way that complements the picture given in the Gospel of John. The following show a number of areas that are common to each of the first three Gospels:

New Testament Survey

The Purpose and Distinctive Focus of the Four Gospels

16:13 When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 16:14 They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 16:15 He said to them, “And who do you say that I am?” 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:14 gives the four stock answers or schools of thought for a large number of people in Jesus’ day. Only a few at first, a believing remnant, recognized Him for who He really was, the Son of God. Thus, under the inspiration of the Spirit, the Gospel writers set about to reveal just who Jesus really was as to His person and work. In a four-fold way, each with their own distinctive focus, but in accounts that are complementary, the four Gospels answer the questions posed by the Lord to the disciples. They declare just exactly who Jesus is. They show Him to be the Messiah of Old Testament expectation, the Servant of the Lord, the Son of Man, the Son of God, and the one who is the Savior of the World. The Gospels give us God’s portrait of the person and work of Christ with four distinct pictures.

In Sidlow Baxter’s Explore the Book, he calls our attention to the interesting similarity between the vision in Ezekiel 1:10 and the Gospels, though he does not suggest the four living creatures were a type of the Gospels. He writes:

Most of us, perhaps, are familiar with the parallel which has often been noted between the four Gospels and the four “living creatures” in the opening vision of the prophet Ezekiel. The four “living creatures,” or cherubim, are thus described in Ezekiel 1:10: “As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.” The lion symbolizes supreme strength, kingship; the man, highest intelligence; the ox, lowly service; the eagle, heavenliness, mystery, Divinity.

In Matthew we see the Messiah-King (the lion).
In Mark we see Jehovah’s Servant (the ox).
In Luke we see the Son of Man (the man).
In John we see the Son of God (the eagle).

It needs all four aspects to give the full truth. As Sovereign He comes to reign and rule. As Servant He comes to serve and suffer. As Son of man He comes to share and sympathise. As Son of God He comes to reveal and redeem. Wonderful fourfold blending—sovereignty and humility; humanity and deity

Matthew addresses his Gospel primarily to the Jews to convince them that Jesus of Nazareth is their Messiah, the King of the Jews. With the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew also uses ten fulfillment quotations by which he seeks to show that this Jesus, though rejected and crucified, is the long-awaited Messiah of the Old Testament (Matt. 1:23; 2:15; 2:18; 2:23; 4:15; 8:15; 12:18-21; 13:35; 21:5; 27:9-10). But though rejected by the nation as a whole and crucified, the King left an empty tomb.

Mark seems to be addressed to the Romans, a people of action but of few words, and presents Jesus as the Servant of the Lord who came “to give His life a ransom for many.” In keeping with this, Mark, the shortest of the Gospels, is vivid, active or lively, and presents a very clear eyewitness account, especially of the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. “A full 37 percent of this Gospel is devoted to the events of His last and most important week.

Luke, the doctor historian, presents Jesus as the perfect Son of Man who came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Luke strongly stresses the true humanity of Christ while also declaring His deity. Some believe that Luke particularly had the Greeks in mind because of their keen interest in human philosophy.

John immediately (1:1-2) focuses the reader on the deity of Christ by presenting Jesus as the eternal Son of God who gives eternal and abundant life to all who would receive Him by believing in Him (John 1:12; 3:16-18, 36; 10:10). Though written to all mankind, John’s Gospel is especially written to the church. Five chapters record the farewell discourses of Jesus to His disciples to comfort them just a few hours before His death. In addition, seven miraculous signs of Jesus are set forth to demonstrate that Jesus is the Savior and to encourage people everywhere to believe in Him that they might have life (John 20:30-31).

New Testament Survey


Each of the Gospels receives its name from the human author who wrote it. Though this first Gospel, as with each of the Gospels, never names its author, the universal testimony of the early church is that the apostle Matthew wrote it, and our earliest textual witnesses attribute it to him by giving it the title, “According to Matthew” (Kata Matthaion). Matthew, who was one of the original disciples of Jesus, was a Jew writing to Jews about the One who was their own Messiah. His original name was Levi, the son of Alphaeus. Matthew worked as a publican collecting taxes in Palestine for the Romans until he was called by the Lord to follow Him (Matt. 9:9, 10; Mark 2:14-15). His quick response may suggest his heart had already been stirred by the ministry of Jesus.

At an early date this gospel was given the title Kata Matthaion, “According to Matthew.” As this title suggests, other gospel accounts were known at that time (the word gospel was added later) …

New Testament Survey

Suggestions for the dating of Matthew range from A.D. 40 to A.D. 140, but “the fact that the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is viewed as an event yet future (24:2) seems to require an earlier date. Some feel that this was the first of the Gospels to be written (about A.D. 50), while others think it was not the first and that it was written in the 60s.”

New Testament Survey

As evident in the questions Jesus asked His disciples in 16:14f., Matthew wrote to Jews to answer their questions about Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus had plainly declared that He was their Messiah. Was He really the Old Testament Messiah predicted by the prophets? If so, why did the religious leaders fail to receive Him and why didn’t He establish the promised kingdom? Will it ever be established, and if so, when? Thus, Matthew is addressed primarily to a Jewish audience to show them that this Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. This is seen in Jesus’ genealogy (1:1-17); the visit of the Magi (2:1-12); His entry into Jerusalem (21:5); the judgment of the nations (25:31-46); the often mentioning of the “kingdom of heaven” as is common with the other Gospels, and in the Old Testament fulfillment quotations mentioned previously.

New Testament Survey

Jesus, the Messiah, the King of the Jews.

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As previously stressed, Matthew’s goal is to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah of Old Testament expectation. He is the son of Abraham and David. Thus He is the King who comes offering the kingdom. The phrase “the king of heaven” occurs some thirty-two times in this Gospel. Further, to show that this Jesus fulfills expectations of the Old Testament, ten times he specifically stresses that what happened in the life of Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. Further, he uses more Old Testament quotations and allusions than any other book of the New Testament, some 130 times.

New Testament Survey

Matthew naturally falls into nine discernible sections:

New Testament Survey


Mark’s Gospel is actually anonymous since it does not name its author. The Greek title, Kata Markon, “According to Mark” was added later by a scribe sometime before A.D. 125, but there is strong and clear evidence (external and internal) that Mark was its author. “The unanimous testimony of the early church fathers is that Mark, an associate of the apostle Peter, was the author.”In A.D. 112, Papias cited Mark as “the interpreter of Peter.” Dunnett points out, “A comparison of Peter’s sermon in Acts 10:36-43 with Mark’s Gospel shows the former to be an outline of the life of Jesus which Mark has given in much greater detail.”

Though Mark was not one of the original disciples of Christ, he was the son of Mary, a woman of wealth and position in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), a companion of Peter (1 Pet. 5:13), and the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10). These associations, especially his association with Peter who was evidently Mark’s source of information, gave apostolic authority to Mark’s Gospel. Since Peter spoke of him as “Mark, my son,” (1 Pet. 5:13), Peter may have been the one who led Mark to Christ.

In addition, he was also a close associate of Paul. Ryrie writes:

He had the rare privilege of accompanying Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey but failed to stay with them through the entire trip. Because of this, Paul refused to take him on the second journey, so he went with Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 15:38-40). About a dozen years later he was again with Paul (Col. 4:10; Philem. 24), and just before Paul’s execution he was sent for by the apostle (2 Tim. 4:11). His biography proves that one failure in life does not mean the end of usefulness.

New Testament Survey

The dating of Mark is somewhat difficult, though many scholars believe this Gospel was the first of the four Gospels. Unless one rejects the element of predictive prophecy, 13:2 clearly shows that Mark was written before A.D. 70 and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Ryrie points out:

In fact, if Acts must be dated about A.D. 61, and if Luke, the companion volume, preceded it, then Mark must be even earlier, since Luke apparently used Mark in writing his gospel. This points to a date in the 50s for Mark. However, many scholars believe that Mark was not written until after Peter died; i.e., after 67 but before 70

New Testament Survey

The theme of Mark is ‘Christ the Servant.’ This thrust is brought in 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.” A careful reading of Mark shows how the two themes of this verse, service and sacrifice, are unfolded by Mark. Mark is addressed primarily to the Roman or Gentile reader. As a result, the genealogy of Jesus is omitted along with the Sermon on the Mount and the condemnations by the religious leaders receive less attention. Also, since Mark presents Jesus as the Worker, the Servant of the Lord, the book focuses on the activity of Christ as a faithful Servant effectively going about His work. This focus seems evident by Mark’s style as seen in his use of the Greek euqus, “immediately, at once,” or “then, so then,” which occurs some 42 times in this Gospel. Its meaning varies from the sense of immediacy as in 1:10, to that of logical order (“in due course, then”; cf. 1:21 [“when”]; 11:3 [“shortly”]).Another illustration of this active focus is Mark’s prominent use of the historic present to describe a past event, which was evidently done for vividness.

New Testament Survey

Servant, Servant of the Lord.

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That faith-inspired response triggers a new phase in both the content and the course of Jesus’ ministry. Until this point He has sought to validate His claims as Messiah. But now He begins to fortify His men for His forthcoming suffering and death at the hands of the religious leaders. Jesus’ steps begin to take Him daily closer to Jerusalem—the place where the Perfect Servant will demonstrate the full extent of His servanthood

New Testament Survey

Of course, Mark’s contribution especially centers on presenting the Savior as the Sacrificing Servant who gives His life obediently for the ransom of many. The focus is clearly on His ministry to the physical and spiritual needs of others always putting them before His own needs. This emphasis on the Savior’s servant activity is seen in the following:

Only eighteen out of Christ’s seventy parables are found in Mark—some of these are only one sentence in length—but he lists over half of Christ’s thirty-five miracles, the highest proportion in the Gospels.

With the theme of the book being that of Christ the Servant. The key verse, 10:45, provides the key for two natural divisions of the Gospel: the Servant’s service (1:1-10:52) and the Servant’s sacrifice (11:1-16:20). We can divide this into five simple sections:


New Testament Survey


Both Luke and Acts, which are addressed to Theophilus as a two-volume work, are attributed to Luke, and while Luke is nowhere named as the author of either, a great deal of evidence points to Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) as the author of both books. Significantly, these two books make up about 28 percent of the Greek New Testament. The only places where we find his name in the New Testament are Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; and Philemon 24. It is also believed that Luke referred to himself in the “we” sections of Acts (16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). These “we” sections of Acts show that the author was a close associate and traveling companion of Paul. Since all but two of Paul’s associates are named in the third person, the list can be narrowed to Titus and Luke.

By process of elimination, Paul’s “dear friend Luke, the doctor” (Col 4:14), and “fellow worker” (Phm 24) becomes the most likely candidate. His authorship is supported by the uniform testimony of early Christian writings (e.g., the Muratorian Canon, A.D. 170, and the works of Irenaeus, c. 180).

It seems evident from Colossians 4:10-14 that Luke was a Gentile for there Paul differentiates him from the Jews. Here the apostle states that, of his fellow-workers, Aristarchus, Mark, and John were the only ones who were Jews. This suggest that Epaphras, Luke, and Demas, also mentioned in these verses, were Gentiles, not Jews. “Luke’s obvious skill with the Greek language and his phrase “their own language” in Acts 1:19 also imply that he was not Jewish.”

We know nothing about his early life or conversion except that he was not an eyewitness of the life of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:2). Though a physician by profession, he was primarily an evangelist, writing this gospel and the book of Acts and accompanying Paul in missionary work … He was with Paul at the time of the apostle’s martyrdom (2 Tim. 4:11), but of his later life we have no certain facts.

Two commonly suggested periods for dating the Gospel of Luke are: (1) A.D. 59-63, and (2) the 70s or the 80s, but the conclusion of Acts shows us that Paul was in Rome, and since Luke is the former treatise, written before Acts (Acts 1:1), the Gospel of Luke must have been written in the earlier period, around A.D. 60. However, suggesting that Luke’s Gospel received its final form in Greece and not in Rome, some have suggested A.D. 70.

New Testament Survey

The purpose of Luke is clearly stated in the prologue of his Gospel.

1:1-4 Now many have undertaken to compile an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 1:2 like the accounts passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning. 1:3 So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 1:4 so that you may have certainty regarding the things you were taught.

Several things need to be noticed regarding his approach to presenting the gospel:

Luke states that his own work was stimulated by the work of others (1:1), that he consulted eyewitnesses (1:2), and that he sifted and arranged the information (1:3) under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to instruct Theophilus in the historical reliability of the faith (1:4). This is a carefully researched and documented writing.

As a Gentile, Luke must have felt responsible to write his two-volume account of the life of Christ so it would be available to Gentile readers. This seems evident from the fact that Luke “translates Aramaic terms with Greek words and explains Jewish customs and geography to make his Gospel more intelligible to his original Greek readership.”

Luke, written by the “the beloved physician,” is the most comprehensive and longest of the Gospels. It presents the Savior as the Son of Man, the Perfect Man who came to seek and save the lost (19:10). In Matthew we see Jesus as Son of David, Israel’s King; in Mark we see Him as the Lord’s Servant, serving others; in Luke we see Him as the Son of Man, meeting man’s needs, a perfect man among men, chosen from men, tested among men, and supremely qualified to be the Savior and High Priest. In Matthew we see groupings of significant events, in Mark we see the snapshots of significant events, but in Luke we see more details of these events by the physician/historian.

His perfect human nature as the Son of Man, yet also Son of God, is brought out by the following:

So in Jesus we have One who is perfect manhood—physically, mentally, and spiritually.

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Jesus, the Son of Man.

New Testament Survey

Chapter 15. In view of the theme stressed in 19:10, the emphasis on ‘seeking’ in the three parables of chapter 15 (the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son) makes this a key chapter in Luke’s Gospel.

The humanity and compassion of Jesus are repeatedly stressed in Luke’s Gospel. Luke gives the most complete account of Christ’s ancestry, birth, and development. He is the ideal Son of Man who identified with the sorrow and plight of sinful man in order to carry our sorrows and offer us the priceless gift of salvation. Jesus alone fulfills the Greek ideal of human perfection


New Testament Survey


From early in the second century, church tradition has attributed the fourth Gospel to John the apostle, son of Zebedee and brother of James. Jesus named John and James, “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). Salome, his mother, served Jesus in Galilee and was present at His crucifixion (Mark 15:40-41). He was not only close to Jesus as one of the Twelve, but he is usually identified as “the beloved disciple” (13:23; 18:15, 16; 19:26-27), was one of the inner circle and one of three Christ took with Him to the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1). He was also closely associated with Peter. After the ascension of Christ, John became one whom Paul identified as the “pillars” of the church (Gal. 2:9).

In the strict sense of the term, the fourth Gospel is anonymous. No name of its author is given in the text. This is not surprising because a gospel differs in literary form from an epistle (letter). The letters of Paul each begin with his name, which was the normal custom of letter writers in the ancient world. None of the human authors of the four Gospels identified himself by name. But that does not mean one cannot know who the authors were. An author may indirectly reveal himself within the writing, or his work may be well known in tradition as coming from him.

Internal evidence supplies the following chain of connections regarding the author of the Fourth Gospel. (1) In John 21:24 the word “them” refers to the whole Gospel, not to just the last chapter. (2) “The disciple” in 21:24 was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (21:7). (3) From 21:7 it is certain that the disciple whom Jesus loved was one of seven persons mentioned in 21:2 (Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the two sons of Zebedee, and two unnamed disciples). (4) “The disciple whom Jesus loved” was seated next to the Lord at the Last Supper, and Peter motioned to him (13:23-24). (5) He must have been one of the Twelve since only they were with the Lord at the Last Supper (cf. Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14). (6) In the Gospel, John was closely related to Peter and thus appears to be one of the inner three (cf. John 20:2-10; Mark 5:37-38; 9:2-3; 14:33). Since James, John’s brother, died in the year A.D. 44, he was not the author (Acts 12:2). (7) “The other disciple” (John 18:15-16) seems to refer to the “disciple whom Jesus loved” since he is called this in 20:2. (8) The “disciple whom Jesus loved” was at the cross (19:26), and 19:35 seems to refer to him. (9) The author’s claim, “We have seen His glory” (1:14), was the claim of someone who was an eyewitness (cf. 1 John 1:1-4).

Putting all of these facts together makes a good case for the author of the Fourth Gospel having been John, one of the sons of a fisherman named Zebedee.

New Testament Survey

Some critics have sought to place the dating of John well into the second century (about A.D. 150), but a number of factors have proven this false.

Archeological finds supporting the authenticity of the text of John (e.g., John 4:11; 5:2-3), word studies (e.g., synchro?ntai, 4:9), manuscript discoveries (e.g., P52), and the Dead Sea Scrolls have given powerful support to an early dating for John. So it is common today to find nonconservative scholars arguing for a date as early as A.D. 45-66. An early date is possible. But this Gospel has been known in the church as the “Fourth” one, and the early church fathers believed that it was written when John was an old man. Therefore a date between 85 and 95 is best. John 21:18, 23 require the passing of some time, with Peter becoming old and John outliving him.

New Testament Survey

Probably more than any other book of the Bible, John clearly states the theme and purpose of his Gospel. Significantly, this statement of purpose follows Thomas’ encounter with the resurrected Savior. If you recall, Thomas had doubted the reality of the resurrection (John 20:24-25). Immediately after this the Lord appeared to the disciples and addressed Thomas with these words, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” Thomas then declared, “My Lord and my God!” The Lord then said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” It is following this exchange and the focus on the need of believing in Jesus that John gives us the theme and statement of purpose:

20:30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 20:31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In keeping with this statement of purpose, John selected seven sign-miracles to reveal the person and mission of Christ that it might bring people to believe in Jesus as Savior. The term used of these miracles is shmeion, “a sign, a distinguishing mark,” and then “a sign consisting of a miracle, a wonder, something contrary to nature.” John always refers to Jesus’ miracles by this term because shmeion emphasized the significance of the action rather than the miracle (see, e.g., 4:54; 6:14; 9:16; 11:47). These signs revealed Jesus’ glory (see 1:14; cf. Isa 35:1-2; Joel 3:18; Am 9:13). These seven signs consisted of the following: (1) the turning of water into wine (2:1-11); (2) the cure of the nobleman’s son (4:46-54); (3) the cure of the paralytic (5:1-18); (4) the feeding of the multitude (6:6-13); (5) the walking on the water (6:16-21); (6) the giving of sight to the blind (9:1-7); and (7) the raising of Lazarus (11:1-45).

John’s special theme and purpose is also easily discerned by the distinctive nature of his Gospel when compared to Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

When one compares the Gospel of John with the other three Gospels, he is struck by the distinctiveness of John’s presentation. John does not include Jesus’ genealogy, birth, baptism, temptation, casting out of demons, parables, transfiguration, instituting of the Lord’s Supper, His agony in Gethsemane, or His Ascension. John’s presentation of Jesus stresses His ministry in Jerusalem, the feasts of the Jewish nation, Jesus’ contacts with individuals in private conversations (e.g., chaps. 3-4; 18:28-19:16), and His ministry to His disciples (chaps. 13-17). The major body of the Gospel is contained in a “Book of Signs” (2:1-12:50) which embraces seven miracles or “signs” which proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. This “Book of Signs” also contains great discourses of Jesus which explain and proclaim the significance of the signs. For example, following the feeding of the 5,000 (6:1-15), Jesus revealed Himself as the Bread of Life which the heavenly Father gives for the life of the world (6:25-35). Another notable and exclusive feature of the Fourth Gospel is the series of “I am” statements that were made by Jesus (cf. 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5).

The distinctiveness of this Gospel must be kept in perspective. The Gospels were not intended as biographies. Each Gospel writer selected from a much larger pool of information the material which would serve his purpose. It has been estimated that if all the words from the lips of Jesus cited in Matthew, Mark, and Luke were read aloud, the amount of time taken would be only about three hours …

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The key concept in John is Jesus, the Son of God, the one who is the Logos, the very revelation of God (John 1:1, 14, 18). But there are a number of other key words in the presentation of Christ like truth, light, darkness, word, knowledge, believe, abide, love, world, witness, and judgment. The verb believe (Greek, pisteuw) occurs 98 times in this Gospel. The noun, “faith” (Greek, pistis) does not occur.

New Testament Survey

New Testament Survey

New Testament Survey

While the deity of Christ is a prominent theme in the Bible in many places, there is no book that presents a more powerful case for the deity of Jesus as the incarnate Son of God than does this Gospel. The fact is that one who is identified as “The man called Jesus” (9:11) is also called “God, the One and Only” (1:18 ), “Christ, the Son of the Living God” (6:69 KJV) or “the Holy One of God” (6:69 .

This declaration of the deity of Jesus Christ is further developed by seven “I AM” statements made by Jesus and recorded in John’s Gospel. These seven statements are: I am the bread of life (6:35), I am the light of the world (8:12), I am the gate (10:7, 9), I am the good shepherd (10:11, 14), I am the resurrection and the life (11:25), I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6), I am the true vine (15:1, 5).

Another distinctive of John’s Gospel, again focusing on the person of Christ, are the five witnesses that witness to Jesus as the Son of God. In John 5:31f., Jesus is responding to the arguments of His opponents. They were claiming that His witness was without other witnesses to corroborate His testimony, but Jesus shows that is not true and proceeds to remind them that there are other witnesses to the validity of His claims: there is His Father (vv. 32, 37), there is John the Baptist (v. 33), His miracles (v. 36), the Scriptures (v. 39), and Moses (v. 46). Later, in 8:14 He declares that His witness is indeed true.

… On certain occasions, Jesus equates Himself with the Old Testament “I AM,” or Yahweh (see 4:25-26; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5-6, 8). Some of the most crucial affirmations of His deity are found here (1:1; 8:58; 10:30; 14:9; 20:28)


Although the author is unnamed in Acts, the evidence leads to the conclusion that the author was Luke. As previously mentioned, Acts is the second volume of a two-part treatise written by Luke, the physician, to Theophilus about “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” In support of Luke as the author, Ryrie writes:

That the author of Acts was a companion of Paul is clear from the passages in the book in which “we” and “us” are used (16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). These sections themselves eliminate known companions of Paul other than Luke, and Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24 point affirmatively to Luke, who was a physician. The frequent use of medical terms also substantiates this conclusion (1:3; 3:7ff.; 9:18, 33; 13:11; 28:1-10). Luke answered the Macedonian call with Paul, was in charge of the work at Philippi for about six years, and later was with Paul in Rome during the time of Paul’s house arrest. It was probably during this last period that the book was written. If it were written later it would be very difficult to explain the absence of mentioning such momentous events as the burning of Rome, the martyrdom of Paul, or the destruction of Jerusalem.

Regarding the title, all available Greek manuscripts designate it by the title Praxeis, “Acts,” or by the title, “The Acts of the Apostles.” Just how or why it received this title is uncertain. Actually, “The Acts of the Apostles” is perhaps not the most accurate title since it does not contain the acts of all the apostles. Only Peter and Paul are really emphasized, though the promise of the coming of the Spirit was made to all the apostles in Acts 1:2-8 who were then to go into all the world preaching the gospel in the power of the Spirit (however, see 4:32). Many have felt that the book would be more accurately titled, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” since it describes the spread of Christianity from the time of the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2 as promised in Acts 1:8.

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The issues regarding the dating of the book are summarized by Stanley Toussaint as follows:

The writing of Acts must have taken place before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Certainly an event of such magnitude would not have been ignored. This is especially true in light of one of the basic themes of the book: God’s turning to the Gentiles from the Jews because of the Jews’ rejection of Jesus Christ.

Luke scarcely would have omitted an account of Paul’s death, traditionally dated from A.D. 66-68, if it had occurred before he wrote Acts.

Nor did Luke mention the Neronian persecutions which began after the great fire of Rome in A.D. 64.

Furthermore, a defense of Christianity before Nero by using the Book of Acts to appeal to what lower officials had ruled regarding Paul would have had little point at the time of the Neronian antagonism. At that time Nero was so intent on destroying the church, the defense set forth in Acts would have had little effect in dissuading him.

The date usually accepted by conservative scholars for the writing of Acts is around A.D. 60-62. Accordingly the place of writing would be Rome or possibly both Caesarea and Rome. At the time of writing, Paul’s release was either imminent or had just taken place.

New Testament Survey

The book of Acts stands out as unique among the New Testament books for it alone provides a bridge for the other books of the New Testament. As Luke’s second treatise, Acts continues what Jesus “began to do and to teach” (1:1) as recorded in the Gospels. It begins with Christ’s Ascension and continues to the period of the New Testament Epistles. In it we have the continuation of the ministry of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit at work in the apostles who went forth preaching and establishing the church, the body of Christ. Acts is the historical link between the Gospels and the Epistles.

Not only does it make this bridge for us, but it provides an account of the life of Paul and gives us the historical occasion for his letters. In the process, Acts recounts the first 30 years of the life of the church.

After summarizing various views on the purpose of Acts, Toussaint writes:

The purpose of the Book of Acts may be stated as follows: To explain with the Gospel of Luke the orderly and sovereignty directed progress of the kingdom message from Jews to Gentiles, and from Jerusalem to Rome. In Luke’s Gospel the question is answered, “If Christianity has its roots in the Old Testament and in Judaism, how did it become a worldwide religion?” The Book of Acts continues in the vein of the Gospel of Luke to answer the same problem.

Acts 1:8 expresses the theme of Acts—the indwelling Holy Spirit empowering God’s people to be the Savior’s witnesses both in Jerusalem (home base), and in all Judea and Samaria (the immediate and surrounding areas), and even to the remotest part of the earth (the world).

New Testament Survey

New Testament Survey

Key people include: Peter, Stephen, Philip, James, Barnabas and Paul.

The resurrected Savior is the central theme of the sermons and defenses in Acts. The Old Testament Scriptures, the historical resurrection, the apostolic testimony, and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit all bear witness that Jesus is both Lord and Christ (see Peter’s sermons in 2:22-36; 20:34-43). “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (10:43). “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).

Acts can be naturally outlined around Acts 1:8, the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.

Trinity College of Biblical Studies

Copyright 2006

New Testament Survey


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