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How the New Testament Came Together

How the New Testament Came TogetherHow the New Testament Came Together

Author: Peter Head
Paperback: 28 pages
Publisher: Grove Books
ISBN-13: 978-1-85174-714-6

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Thank you, Grove Books, for providing me with a copy of this booklet for review.  It is so very appreciated!

This booklet’s author, Peter Head is noted for his work in textual criticism and New Testament studies as you can see from any number of his posts at Evangelical Textual Criticism.  His aim in this booklet, How the New Testament Came Together, is to:

clarify the process by which the 27 books which make up the New Testament came to be regarded by Christians as an authoritative collection, alongside the Old Testament, of those writings regarded as Holy Scripture.  [3]

Dr. Head begins his booklet simply by explaining the discussions of the next few chapters.  He discusses how the teachings about Jesus began with oral tradition by those called by Him.  However, as the gospel message spread wider, it became necessary for this information to be written down.

Next, How the New Testament Came Together, deals with the “collection and preservation” of the Pauline epistles and how the four gospels were used from the second century on.  About the Pauline corpus, Dr. Head explains that Paul’s letters began to be collected together extremely early and that:

By the end of the second century the status of Paul’s letters as sources of gospel truth seems to have been acknowledged by virtually all Christians.  [11]

How the New Testament Came Together now deals with specifically that – the process by which it came to be what it is today.  The New Testament documents were put together into one volume.  However, which books were recognized as Scripture took time.

It is my view that the core of the New Testament had already taken shape by the end of the second century as the four gospels, Acts, the epistles of Paul, 1 Peter and 1 John.  [20]

It was not until the 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius in AD367 that the 27 books of the New Testament we have today was first recognized as canon.  Still more debate raged onward over these books and others.

Dr. Head ends his booklet with an admonition to his reader:

Indeed, until the invention of printing it was extremely unlikely that individual Christians would have their own copy of the sacred Scriptures.  That privilege which is now ours should make us profoundly grateful, and the collection, as authoritative, ancient, apostolic and authentic witness to our Lord Jesus Christ, should be diligently studied, carefully pondered and wholeheartedly lived out.  [23]

How the New Testament Came Together is a handy little booklet.  It gives just enough information to its reader to allow them to better understand where their Bible came from.  It also gives them an idea of what kinds of discussions took place over what should and should not be in the New Testament canon.

The only thing that I wish this primer included was a little more information on the early church councils and what they did to help or hurt the formation of the New Testament canon.  Other than this, I believe Peter Head accomplished his purpose wonderfully.

This booklet should be read by those with little knowledge or doubts of how their Bible came to be.  It is an extremely simple read, yet thorough enough to get its reader to think and to convince them to research the topic more for themselves.

Grade: A



6 Responses

  1. Ummm, well Matt. That’s all nice and everything, but you wrote way too fast. I’m from Kansas. A little slow here… you know.

    This is my promised drive by. You are not so pitiful up close!

    You’ll be fine. Have a piece of pie.

    • Welcome to Texas, sekanblogger! Enjoy your visit. I’ll try to write a little more slowly next time for my neighbors north of me.

      What kind of pie?

      • Texan, I am SO glad you have a sense of humor. HA!
        You just never know.
        I’ve been deleted, spammed and banned for less than that.
        Some folks just wake up waiting to be offended!

  2. See, I’m slow. Pie?
    Anything but pumpkin.

    BTW, I’ll be traveling to Dallas for a friday night performance from this guy.

    Next time I visit here I may even address the topic.

    • Cool. I look forward to it.

      Unless you threaten, curse, stalk, or anything else like that, there’s no need to fear being banned or deleted from my blog. I have fun with blogging (even if other bloggers don’t).

  3. Does Head refer to the Apostles’ oversight in collecting scripture in the 1st c.?

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