Document Type

Book Chapter


Religion (CGU)

Publication Date



Arts and Humanities | Biblical Studies | Christianity | Religion


The "New Testament" is the late ancient and modern religious and cultural designation given to the second part of the Christian Bible (in distinction from the "Old Testament," which constitutes the Hebrew Bible). The designation itself (he kaine daitheke, "new covenant," or "new testament") is a religious/theological one, not an historical or literary one descriptive of the character of historical events or literary documents. It is found in a number of passages from the twenty-seven book collection, and in subsequent customary usage first among Christians. The initial reference was not the collection of documents, but to the "new" relationship Jesus was understood to have established with followers. Later, certainly by the second and third centuries, the reference was to the collection itself. Thus, the collection of twenty-seven documents that we know today, codified by the fourth century, came to be understood as a manifesto of the Christian movement, notwithstanding the facts that Jesus, the founder of the movement, was not the author of any of the documents, and that the different authors (some authors wrote more than one document) present different, even conflicting, worldviews of the movement. So the designation "New Testament" was intended to reflect neither the comprehensive historical "facts" about the teachings and doings of the historical Jesus, nor the full complexity of the worldviews and orientations of the movement inspired by him.

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© 1992 Easton Press