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Composing The New Testament

The New Testament of the Bible consists of twenty-seven “books” written by several authors including Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James and Jude. It isn’t clear who wrote the book of Hebrews, and some of Paul’s letters include Silas and/or Timothy as co-writers, but altogether we have about a dozen human authors who produced the gospels, epistles and other volumes in the New Testament. These were individuals recognized as apostles and prophets, or men closely associated with the apostles whose authority and inspiration were accepted by the churches during their lifetime, when they were writing.

For Paul’s part, thirteen of the New Testament letters have his name on them, 23.5% of the total text (words) of the collection. Timothy is not the primary author of any New Testament book, but he was the recipient of two written by Paul, was with Paul when he wrote Romans, and assisted in writing 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Luke was a close associate and coworker with Paul, and the two books attributed to him from the earliest days in the churches, Luke and Acts, happen to be the two longest (by word count) books in the New Testament. His contribution to the New Testament amounts to about 27.5% of the total.

The gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four gospels, and amounts to about 8.2% of the text in the New Testament. Mark’s involvement, though, included a close association with Peter, and he was very likely with Peter in his last days in Rome during the reign of Nero (1 Peter 5:13). Peter’s two letters comprise about 2% of the New Testament text. Together, Paul and Timothy, Luke, Mark, and Peter wrote about 61% of the New Testament, leaving John, James, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews as authors of the other 39%.

When Peter wrote 1 Peter he seems to have been in Rome (referred to as Babylon) along with John Mark, the author of the gospel which ancient testimony described as Mark’s account of what Peter preached about Jesus. Numerous references in 1 Peter indicate it was written during a time when the church was suffering, which was probably during the reign of Nero, who persecuted the church from 64-68 A.D. Then as Peter wrote his second letter he anticipated death being close at hand, and was purposefully working toward making sure the church would have an enduring account of the truth after his “departure” (2 Peter 1:12-15). Additionally, Peter mentioned his familiarity with “all” of Paul’s letters, referring to them as “Scriptures” like the writings of the prophets (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Paul was in Rome in the same time frame as Peter. Paul, expecting to be condemned and executed, wrote 2 Timothy while a prisoner of Nero in about 67 A.D. When Paul wrote 2 Timothy, he mentioned that Luke was with him, asked Timothy to come as quickly as possible, and requested that Timothy bring along Mark “because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:9-13). Whatever Paul’s ministry was at that time in Rome, it involved “my scrolls, especially the parchments,” and the help of Timothy, John Mark, and Luke.

According to the New Testament, Paul, Timothy, Luke, and John Mark were together in Rome, and Peter as well was in close proximity of time and place. Both Paul and Peter were much concerned about the continuity of the doctrine after their own imminent departure from this world. This handful of men who were together in Rome in those challenging days had written 61% of what the church knows as the New Testament, and it seems very likely the project of collecting and endorsing the Scriptures for the ages was much on the minds of Paul and Peter at that time. By the providence of God, they were in the right place at the right time with the right help to be able to set the churches and the next generation of leaders on the path toward knowing God’s will firmly, confidently following a collected body of writings known to have the inspired seal of approval of men known to be led by the Holy Spirit.

Little by Little

A Living Hope