New Testament

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New Testament
Acts of the Apostles
Paul's letters
Catholic letters

The New Testament , abbreviated NT , is a collection of 27 writings from early Christianity in Greek, which proclaim Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Son of God who came to the salvation of Israel and the cosmos . These New Testament writings often refer to the Old Testament , the holy writings of the Jews . The scriptures of the Old and New Testaments together make up the Bible ; this is regarded by all directions of Christianity as the word of God and the basis of faith.

The term testament is derived from the Latin testamentum ; this is a translation of Hebrew בְּרִית (berît) or ancient Greek διαθήκη diathēkē , German " Bund ". Instead of the “New Testament”, therefore, the “Scriptures of the New Covenant” are sometimes used.

The scriptures of the NT can be divided into four types of text: First, the four Gospels , which narrate Jesus' life, death and resurrection, second, the Acts of the Apostles , third, 21 letters to Christian congregations and co-workers, and fourth, an apocalypse , the Revelation of John . In total, the NT contains around 140,000 words.


The term developed from the Greek "καινὴ διαθήκη" (kainē diathēkē), which means "new covenant" and was translated into Latin as "Novum Testamentum". The covenant between God and his people Israel is a central theme of the Tanach ( Ex 19.5  EU ). According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus Christ used the expression at the Last Supper ( Lk 22.20  EU ). The term appears there probably based on the word of the prophet Jeremiah : "Look, days will come - says the Lord - in which I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah ." ( Jer 31:31  EU )

The New Testament writings were recorded in Greek (" Novum Testamentum Graece "). This is what is known as Koine Greek. The semitisms of the incorporated Greek language of the biblical Septuagint are called Biblical Greek . It is sometimes discussed whether parts of the New Testament were originally written in Aramaic , the language of Jesus and the first Christians. However, there are no ancient texts for such assumptions; all New Testament manuscripts, including the oldest, are written in Greek.

According to the Letter to the Hebrews , the new covenant between God and man begins with the death of Jesus of Nazareth :

“And therefore he [Jesus] is the mediator of a new covenant; his death brought about redemption from first covenant transgressions so that those who were called might receive the promised eternal inheritance. For where there is a will, the death of the testator must be proven; because a will only becomes final in the event of death and is not valid as long as the testator is still alive. "

- Heb 9.15-17  EU

In this translation, the Greek term διαθήκη is first rendered as “covenant”, then as “testament”. The translation thus reflects the two levels of meaning of the Christian term. Jesus is depicted in the New Testament scriptures as a practicing and circumcised Jew teaching the commandments and wisdom of the Tanakh . The new covenant thus begins after the narration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at the end of the Christian gospels .

The relationship between the “old” and the “new” covenant or testament is an important issue in the Christian-Jewish dialogue . From the Jewish side, the terms are sometimes perceived as judgmental. This is why the Old Testament is also referred to as the “First Testament” in order to counteract the understanding of the replacement of the Old Testament by the New. An analogous designation of the New Testament as "Second Testament" is rarely used.

Biblical overview of the NT

Scope of NT books
NT books Lines %
Matthew 2,354 13.10
Markus 1,487 8.30
Luke 2,550 14.20
Synoptic Σ = 6.391 35.50
John 1,868 10.40
4 gospels Σ = 8.259 45.90
Acts of the Apostles 2,443 13.60
Romans 917 5.10
1 Corinthians 851 4.70
2 Corinthians 577 3.20
Galatians 289 1.60
Ephesians 313 1.70
Philippians 217 1.20
Colossians 210 1.20
1Thessalonians 197 1.10
2Thessalonians 104 0.58
1 Timothy 240 1.30
2 Timothy 175 1.00
Titus 101 0.56
Philemon 44 0.24
Paul's letters Σ = 4.235 23.50
Hebrews 717 4.00
James 232 1.40
1Peter 250 1.40
2Peter 156 0.87
1John 256 1.40
2John 32 0.18
3John 31 0.17
Judas 68 0.38
catholic letters Σ = 1.025 5.70
epiphany 1,319 7.30
NT overall Σ = 17,998 100.00
According to Graf-Stuhlhofer : Use of the Bible .

The four gospels

The NT begins with the four canonical Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Although the Gospels are at the beginning of modern Bible editions, they did not emerge until after the letters of Paul. In terms of content, they want to express the good news (εὐαγγέλιον, Gospel ) of the reconciliation of people with God in Jesus Christ. To this end, they collect speeches and events mainly from the period from the first public appearance of Jesus to his death and resurrection . The depiction of the last days up to his crucifixion is particularly detailed. It contains many sayings and summarized speeches as well as miracle stories, theological interpretations, parables and dialogues between Jesus, his followers and his opponents and stories about his resurrection from the dead.

The Acts of the Apostles

The Acts of the Apostles of Luke (also "Acta Apostolorum") is the continuation of the Gospel according to Luke by the same author. Central points are the Pentecost event and the sending out of the disciples . The "deeds of the apostles ", as the Greek title is translated, contain stories about the first martyrs Stephen and James the Righteous , a brother of Jesus. In addition, the text provides information about the early church in Jerusalem ( Jerusalem early church ) and about the life of the first Christians. The second half deals mainly with the apostle Paul . His early days as a persecutor of the Christian community, his conversion and his missionary work in Asia Minor and Europe are reported. The Acts of the Apostles ends with Paul's last station in Rome. The end of Paul is assumed, but not communicated. The handwritten tradition often combined the Acts of the Apostles with the Catholic letters to form a common text corpus.

The letters

Of the 27 writings of the NT, 21 are independent letters, which are usually classified according to actual or supposed authorship, function or addressee group.

The Pauline letters

In the New Testament there are a number of writings that name the Apostle Paul as the author , the Pauline letters ( Corpus Paulinum ). At least seven of these letters are considered to have been written by Paul with certainty; for the others, for different reasons, a later authorship of students of Paul is assumed.

The "real" letters of Paul include the letter to the Romans, both letters to the Corinthians, the letter to the Galatians, the letter to the Philippians, the first letter to the Thessalonians and the letter to Philemon. The second letter to the Thessalonians, the letter to the Ephesians, both letters to Timothy and the letter to Titus are considered "Deuteropaulines". The Pauline authorship of the letter to the Colossians is controversial. The Proto-Pauline Letters are the earliest writings of the New Testament.

The letters are often classified into categories. The “captivity letters” were written from prison according to the information in Paul's letters. The three so-called pastoral letters provide answers to leadership and community questions. In terms of content, the Pauline letters deal with theological questions, with the conditions in the congregations, with ethical questions, with substantive differences of the first Christian groups and with the defense against false teachings.

The letter to the Hebrews

The letter to the Hebrews plays a special role among the letters of the New Testament. He himself does not name an author. The ancient church assumed that Paul was the author. However, this notion has largely been abandoned in modern biblical scholarship. The author is anonymous, but this does not mean that the content of the letter is less significant. Since the letter to the Hebrews was regarded as a letter to Paul, it can be found integrated in older manuscripts in the Corpus Paulinum. From a text-critical perspective, the Epistle to the Hebrews still belongs to the Corpus Paulinum, while the theology represented in it differs significantly from Paul in its orientation.

The Catholic letters

The so-called “ Catholic letters ” are not addressed to a specific person or community, but to many Christians or to Christianity in general. The term " Catholic " does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church here , but the Greek word catholicos means "general, comprehensive". The Catholic letters name Peter or John (i.e. the most famous of the twelve apostles) as well as James or Judas (probably brothers / relatives of Jesus ) as authors. Most theologians, however, consider these author's statements to be inaccurate and regard these letters as pseudepigraphs .

The Revelation of John

The Revelation of John contains the visions of the author John in the form of a letter.

History and Canonization of the New Testament

At the beginning, the individual writings of the New Testament were in circulation independently of one another in Christian communities. The Corpus Paulinum is probably the first collection , as it is known that Pauline letters were put together towards the end of the 1st century in order to preserve them. These summaries circulated in some churches. Various compilations of canonical writings have survived from the second to fourth centuries, the Muratori canon and lists of canons of Irenaeus , Origen , Eusebius of Caesarea , Cyril of Jerusalem and Gregory of Nazianzen .

The formal canonization of the New Testament took place in the fourth century. The most important letter in the history of the New Testament canon is the 39th Easter Letter from Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria from the year 367, which lists the 27 New Testament writings recognized in all Christian churches and classifies them as binding for the church. This is confirmed by the Decretum Gelasianum , which also recognizes certain scriptures, but does not include them in the canon and definitely excludes others.

The four canonical Gospels , the Acts of the Apostles , the Epistles of Paul , the Pastoral Epistles and the 1st Epistle of John have always been undisputed . The Epistle to the Hebrews , the Epistle of James , the 1st and 2nd Epistles of Peter , the 2nd and 3rd Epistles of John , the Epistle of Judas and the Revelation of John were partly questioned, but finally recognized .

Some scriptures were partially recognized, but ultimately not included in the New Testament: the 1st and 2nd letters to Clement , the Didache , the Letter to Barnabas , the Shepherd of Hermas , the Gospel of Hebrews , the Revelation of Peter . The other New Testament apocrypha are not listed in any canon list.


The New Testament is one of the most influential works in world literature ; it shaped European and American cultures in particular. It is the basis for the spread of Christianity , first after Jesus' death in Europe and with the colonization also in the whole world. Numerous works of art and music use motifs and texts from the New Testament.

As part of the Bible, the New Testament is the basis for the Christian faith in its various forms. Texts from the New Testament are read regularly in Christian worship and are an integral part of the liturgy . It also plays an important role in the personal faith of Christians.

New Testament Science

New Testament science is part of biblical science and has a few sub-areas:

New Testament scholars ( New Testament scholars ) mostly work in Protestant and Catholic theological faculties in the German-speaking area . Usually every theological faculty has at least one New Testament chair. Scholars who were ordained priests taught at Catholic faculties. Anyone who converted to Catholicism as a Protestant theologian suffered a "career kink" (such as Heinrich Schlier, who converted in 1953 ) because he was not ordained a priest . It was not until 1973 that Norbert Brox became a "layman" professor in Regensburg . In the Catholic area, some priests of poor origin became New Testament researchers; in the Protestant sphere, New Testament scholars were often the sons of pastors or teachers. Only in exceptional cases did New Testament students become university professors without habilitation. Thus Werner Georg Kümmel in 1932 with nearly 27 years of extraordinary professor at the University of Zurich appointed.

The connection with their church meant for the New Testament scholars a certain restriction in the freedom of expression. In 1952 the Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church denied Rudolf Bultmann the right to be a Lutheran theologian; that was withdrawn in 1973. The constriction by ecclesiastical guidelines was even greater in the Catholic area, especially up to the Second Vatican Council . The originally rather conservative NT introduction by Alfred Wikenhauser was brought closer to the historical-critical trend in the 6th edition, revised by Josef Schmid in 1973 .

Special translations from Greek

  • Ernst Voß : Dat Ni Testament för plattdütsch Lüd in Ehr Muddersprak oewerdragen , Lutherische Verlags – Gesellschaft, Kiel 2014, ISBN 978-3-87503-174-4 .
  • Peter Knauer SJ : New Testament, translation from the Greek, available as PDF document [1]

See also


Introductory specialist literature
New Testament literary history
  • Detlev Dormeyer : The New Testament in the context of literary history . Darmstadt 1993, ISBN 3-534-06830-0 .
  • Marius Reiser : Language and literary forms of the New Testament. An introduction . UTB 2197. Schöningh, Paderborn u. a. 2001, ISBN 3-8252-2197-0 .
  • Thomas Schmeller (ed.): Historiography and biography in the New Testament and its environment , Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus: Studies on the environment of the New Testament; 69. Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-525-53968-2 .
  • Georg Strecker : literary history of the New Testament. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1992.
Further specialist literature
  • Cilliers Breytenbach, Rudolf Hoppe (Ed.): New Testament Science after 1945. Main representative of German-language exegesis in the presentation of its students . Neukirchener, undated, undated (Neukirchen-Vluyn 2008).
Popular science and other literature

Web links

Wiktionary: New Testament  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Editions and translations
see also Bible editions

Edition by Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, 1881.

Biblical studies

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert Morgenthaler: Statistics of the New Testament Vocabulary , Gotthelf: Zurich 3rd edition 1982, p. 8.
  2. Thomas Söding : “Do you know Greek?” (Acts 21:37). The language of the New Testament in its time , lecture on November 9, 2009, p. 1.
  3. Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer: The use of the Bible from Jesus to Euseb. A statistical study of the canon history . Wuppertal 1988, p. 38. Line count based on Nestle-Aland , 26th edition.
  4. See Hanna Roose:  Brief / Brief form (NT). In: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen, Stefan Alkier (Eds.): The Scientific Biblical Lexicon on the Internet (WiBiLex), Stuttgart 2006 ff.
  5. 39th Easter letter of Athanasius
  6. Breytenbach, Hoppe: New Testament Science , 2008, p. 402.
  7. ^ So Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer in his review of the book by Breytenbach, Hoppe: Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft , 2008; in Yearbook for Evangelical Theology 23, 2009, pp. 298–301. That book is about a total of 28 New Testament scholars who were active in the middle and second half of the 20th century.
  8. Breytenbach, Hoppe: New Testament Science , 2008, p. 7 ff.