Let’s Look at the New Testament–How Was It Put Together?

We finished talking about the Old Testament. Now let’s take a look at the compilation of the New Testament. About the middle of the second century, a Christian writer, Justin Martyr, stated that on Sundays in the Christian worship assemblies the “memoirs of the apostles” were read together with the “writing of the prophets.” That meant that not long after the close of the apostolic age the New Testament writings, as well as the Old Testament, were being read generally among the churches. How did this happen so quickly?


During the life of Jesus, there was no thought of a New Testament. Early Christians used the Old Testament as their Bible. But within a few years after the death of Jesus, those who knew him or who were associated with those who knew him created letters and biographies that began to circulate in the churches. Paul’s letters were gathered into a single whole, the Gospels followed, and other writings came after. Almost all of these books were written within the first 30 years after the death and resurrection of Christ, although the Gospel of John in Revelation probably did not appear until somewhere around 90 A.D.


Writing methods changed slightly from the Old Testament period. For a while papyrus was used, but by the fourth century, parchment (stretched and dried animal skins) had displaced papyrus.  Because it is more durable, the vast majority of ancient New Testament manuscripts that survive today are written on parchment. Eventually the roll form of books on papyrus and parchment gave way to the codex, which was far more convenient to use. Sheets were placed together, folded in the middle and stitched, then opened in separate pages. The result was a book that could be easily read, easily referred to, and easily carried about. Christians, especially found this advantageous, because it allowed them to make one book for the four Gospels, another for Paul’s letters, and later one book for the entire Bible.