Where Does the New Testament Start?

by | Dec 28, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

The New Testament, a collection of 27 books from several authors, gives firsthand accounts of the life of Christ. It also contains information about the church as the body of Christ and the deeds of the apostles (the men Jesus chose and sent out into the world to proclaim the Gospel of salvation). But where does the New Testament start?

The New Testament starts with the Gospels from Matthew through John. The Gospel means “good news” and refers to the life, ministry, and divine role of Jesus Christ that led to salvation. Good news is mentioned more than ten times in the gospels showing its importance in the New Testament.

What Is the New Testament?

The word New Testament was first mentioned when Jesus was having the last supper with His disciples (Matthew 26:28). The Greek word New Testament means a covenant. The New Testament is about the covenant the Son of God made with believers. However, the new covenant started after Jesus’ ascension (Hebrews 9:15).

The New Testament is divided into five sections:

  • The Gospels (Matthew through John)
  • The Acts of the Apostles
  • Paul’s Epistles/ The Letters of Paul
  • The General Epistles
  • Prophecy/Revelation

The New Testament starts with the Gospels which give us four accounts: Birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospels teach how Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.

What Does The Gospel According to Matthew Discuss?

The first book of the New Testament is the Gospel according to Matthew which opens with a genealogy of Jesus. The Gospel of  Matthew is built around five major speeches of Jesus, each of which concerns the Kingdom of Heaven:

  • Sermon on the Mount (The Ethics of the Kingdom)
  • Commissioning the Twelve (The Mission of the Kingdom)
  • Parables (The Nature of the Kingdom)
  • Community Instructions (The Governance of the Kingdom)
  • The Olivet Discourse (The Future of the Kingdom)

Matthew (Levi) was a former tax collector and one of Jesus’ twelve disciples (Mark 3:18; Matt 9:9; 10:3). His purpose in writing the Gospel was to show (from Jesus’ genealogy and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies) that He was the expected Messiah. 

The prophets in Israel looked forward to the day when the promise of a Messiah who would rule over the nation would be fulfilled through a descendant of David (Isaiah 9:6-7). Jeremiah 23:5–6 also talks about Jesus as the descendant of David when he says through David will come a King who will reign wisely and do what is just. The same prophecy also appears in Jeremiah 33:15 and Psalm 132:17. Similarly, Isaiah spoke of the Messiah as a branch from the root of Jesse who is David’s father (Isaiah 11:1)

The New Testament goes to great lengths to show how  Jesus was the fulfillment of this requirement ( that He descended from King David). Matthew did that by emphasizing that the Messiah was from David’s lineage (Matthew 9:27; 21:9). In fact, he begins by providing genealogies tracing Jesus back to David and Abraham (Matthew 1:1).

Matthew also frequently referred to the Old Testament to show that believing in Christ did not require us to abandon the Mosaic Law. Mathew provides a genealogy of Jesus and traces His family line back to Abraham (father of the Jews) which shows Jesus is connected to the history of the people of Israel (Jewish people).

Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ fulfillment of the Scripture in his birth narrative and throughout the book. There are several instances in the Gospel of Matthew where he uses phrases that indicate certain events happened to fulfill what the prophets spoke about. One notable example is in Matthew 1:22-23

“This occurred in order to fulfill what was spoken of by the prophet.” Matthew 2:14, 4:14, and 8:17 also use similar phrases to emphasize the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. These fulfillment citations are not drawn from Mark and among all four New Testament Gospels. They occur only in Matthew.

Why Is It Believed That The New Testament Doesn’t Begin With Matthew?

Some scholars believe that the twenty-seven books in the New Testament are not placed in the order in which they were written. This is because the order of the books of the New Testament is more logical than chronological. From a historical perspective, it is more likely that the gospel of Mark was written before the gospel of Mathew was written. 

The gospel of Mark is considered the first canonical Gospel because it was written around AD 75. Matthew and Luke were likely composed approximately in 80AD using Mark as a source. This contradicts publications that say Mathew and Mark were written between 50AD and 60AD.

Another argument that supports Mark as the first Gospel written is because he mentions eyewitnesses like Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46) and Salome (Mark 15:40). These names are found in Mark but not in Matthew or Luke. These eyewitnesses may have died when Matthew and Luke were written, suggesting that Mark came first.

Unlike the other gospel accounts, Apostle Mathew frequently referred back to Jewish Scripture, which helped make Matthew a natural bridge between the Old and New Testaments. This may have led to Matthew’s Gospel being placed first in the canon. Besides, Matthew and John were the only two original apostles among the four gospel writers. This could be one of the reasons Matthew is placed before the other gospels.

The Bible doesn’t give the order of Scripture. Prophets wrote about past and future events without a specific order for arranging the Scriptures. Besides, there’s no evidence that the people writing at the time knew their work would be compiled into a single library of books, which is now referred to as the Bible.

Conclusion

The New Testament talks about how Jesus died on the cross on our behalf and teaches what our response should be to His death. It also gives Christian teaching along with its practical outcome. When it comes to the question, where does the New Testament start? Some scholars believe the New Testament starts with Mark because Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. However, based on how the New Testament has been compiled, The Gospel According to Matthew is first in the biblical canon. 

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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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