White New Testament Book on Table

How did we get the New Testament of Today?

Dr. Jeffrey Seif TLV Scholars 2 Comments

Paul said “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). He wasn’t referring to the New Testament, of course; for, it hadn’t been written yet, never mind assembled. The “Scripture” noted above was the Old Testament–an “inspired” collection often ignored, despite Paul’s pressing that they are “inspired” and are “useful for teaching.” So where did the New Testament come from and why? How did it become “Scripture,” as classically understood?

The Real Questions

It has often been said” “necessity is the mother of invention.” Mindful of that, one might perhaps wonder:

What necessity stimulated the need to

  1. collect authoritative religious documents,
  2. develop a separate and additional set of Yeshua-related Scriptures,
  3. and attach the new documents to the older ones?

I’ll address these questions through a consideration of the New Testament’s principal author: Paul.

Paul

When Paul wrote his New Testament scripts he wasn’t even aware he was writing Scripture–never mind anticipating they’d be bound in a collection. For his part and in his mind, he was simply putting out fires by mail, dealing with various problems and possibilities in the congregations he’d established–and had since moved on from in his travels. Reports from and about the various faith communities he’d established prompted him to forever look back over his shoulder in order to: convince constituents of a point or two, exhort members every now and again, and sometimes rebuke folk outright for what they were doing or allowing in their faith and practice. The documents attest to an apostolic office at work, laying a religious foundation and giving voice to what it means to be an authentic believer in faith and practice.

Circulation

The receiving communities kept and circulated copies of his writings. The esteemed writings were eventually gathered up and forged into a collection. Paul’s “necessity” was the need to articulate, clarify and firmly establish what it means to walk as a believer. This same necessity prompted the gathering of an eventual New Testament collection–replete with his writings and others.

In Paul’s day too many creepy ideas were creeping into the movement, prompting him to sometimes tender a sharp rebuke. While he and other Emissaries (Apostles) were living and breathing, they could lend their voices and bend their constituents to make proper theological choices. After their passing, the next question was: Who would speak after they died? The answer was simple: they would, even from their graves.

“The Old Testament is an arm and the New Testament is a hand attached to it. Together, they tell the story of God’s reaching down to humankind to give us a hand.”

Dr. Jeffrey Seif

It has been said “the long arm of the pen reaches beyond the grave.” Though Paul–and the other Emissaries/Apostles–died years ago, they still maintain a voice in the land of the living, today. Their place in history was secured because their writings were collected in the second century AD/CE, thus insuring that the Apostolic office could continue to guide believers long past the passing of the official officers themselves. The collection was grafted into the Hebrew Scriptures, much like non-Jews were grafted into the olive tree. The Old Testament is an arm and the New Testament is a hand attached to it. Together, they tell the story of God’s reaching down to humankind to give us a hand.

About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Seif

Dr. Jeffrey Seif

Dr. Jeffrey Seif serves as the Project Manager and Chief Theologian of the Tree of Life Version Translation. A college teacher since 1989, he teaches adjunct at Christ for the Nations Institute and currently holds the title "University Distinguished Professor of Bible and Jewish Studies" at The King's University.​ Professor Seif has authored many books and has appeared on many television programs, teaching from and about the Middle East. Dr. Seif is a graduate of the North Texas Regional Police Academy (BCAPS), holds a Th.B. from Trinity and an M.T.S. and D.Min. from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX.

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Comments 2

  1. Avatar

    I have much interest to know the way the Jewish Christians take their services. Do they conduct their services on Saturday instead of Sunday. Do their beliefs differentl from gentile Christians? What do they do differently, or what do the gentile Christians do that Jewish Ch
    ristians don’t do. In which way are the two different from each other? Do Jewish Christians still do all their offerings like before apart from animal sacrifice I will like to know a lot about Jewish Christians. Do they still do those festivals in the Old testament ?

  2. Avatar

    I kept looking for the basis of this translation. Which Greek version was the translation made from? Or did they use the Aramaic version? Or worse, did the translators just rewrite a modern translation without looking at the the underlying original manuscripts. I stick to the KJV even with all it’s flaws because of the use of the majority text rather than the “newer and better” Greek manuscripts. I have a copy of George Lamsa’s English translation of the Peshita Aramaic along with quite a collection of various versions but use the KJV almost exclusively. How is the book of Galatians treated?

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