Wow we are now 82% of the way through the entire Bible. Admirable of you to stick with it so faithfully. Good work.
If ‘promise’ is a key word for the entire Old Testament, ‘fulfillment’ is a key word for the New Testament. We read promise after promise by Father towards his people and the world. Promises to Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon, and others. Those promises are all fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the key figure in the New Testament.
In Luke 24 an incident is recounted where two of Jesus’ disciples are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. When Jesus approaches them, they are forlorn. Upon further investigation, Jesus hears about himself, all the events which lead to his death and his entombment. After a short rebuke, Jesus preaches the greatest sermon ever sermonated. The unfortunate thing for us is that only two men heard it. It wasn’t recorded and very little of it is recanted. Jesus goes from Genesis to Malachi instructing his two listeners on everything they could have ever known from all of the Scriptures about himself, Jesus the Messiah. In a seven mile walk, they were filled with all of the information needed to understand which scripture applied to him and how. What a sermon! What a summary of the Hebrew Scriptures.
John the Baptizer is a key transitional figure. He is found early in each of the four gospels. The last book of the Old Testament has a rather furtive reference to him in Malachi 3:1. And just two pages later, a period of 400 years, Malachi passes the prophetic baton to John the Essene, the cousin of Jesus.
The New Testament is a library of twenty-seven books. The first five are narrative, with the first four focusing on the life of Jesus Christ. The Four Gospels contain the raw message of salvation focusing on the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. They are called gospels from the word “Godspell” which means ‘good news.’ And what good news it is, probably the greatest news ever.
The fifth book is actually part two of Luke’s two volume set, Acts. Many call it “The Acts of the Apostles,” I prefer to call it “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” After all, it is the Holy Spirit who really does all of the work, the apostles just happen to be there when it takes place. The Greek title is ‘praxis,’ it is the practicing of the new faith Jesus inaugurated which they have the privilege of passing onto the nations. It is the establishing a new community of faith.
The next 21 books are letters or epistles written by five known writers and one unknown writer. Thirteen of them are written by Paul, sometimes called the Pauline Epistles. These letters are written to fledgling churches in the Greco-Roman world. The reason Paul wrote them is because he was generally clearing up an issue or two those area churches were experiencing. I always laugh inside when I hear someone say, “We just want to have a New Testament church.” Inside I say, “Oh yah, which one, cause they were all messed up in some way.” Just because a church is given much ink in the New Testament, doesn’t necessarily mean it was one to be emulated. The Bereans, who don’t get much airplay, maybe the best candidates for emulate in the New Testament.
The books by Paul, Peter, John, Jude, and James contain additional information on how to live out the Faith. Hebrews is the only book in the New Testament without solid internal or external evidence as to who the author is. It misses one of the fundamental points which qualified a book to be allowed in the New Testament Canon, its author. However, it is just way to good not to have been included. Outside of the four gospels, it just contains way too much Christology to have been discarded. What a shame that would have been.
Ever wonder why there are four gospels? Each one of them is written by a different person, with a different personality, different theological persuasion, different educational background, to a different audience, with a different agenda. Matthew is an apologetic to a Jewish audience; Mark, with Peters help, wrote to a Roman, mainly, pagan audience; Luke, the only Gentile author in the whole Bible, wrote to a moderate pagan hearer, Theophilus (Grk. For “Lover of God”- one person or anyone who loves God?) working through the issues of Jesus as the Messiah (incidentally- the Greek of Luke and Acts is the cleanest, purest, and most educated vocabulary of all the NT books); and John writes very late to Asian Minor to begin to combat a proto-gnostic crowd lowering the deity of Jesus.
There are several places in the Bible where a reference to ‘a living creature’ with four faces on it. Both Ezekiel and Revelation speaks of a creature with the face of a lion, ox, man, and eagle on it. The four gospels each reflect these characteristics within the person of Jesus. Matthew speaks of Jesus as the King of the Jews, the lion being the king of the animal kingdom. Mark portrays Jesus as the servant leader who worked really hard for us, thus reflecting the qualities of an ox who works tirelessly, silently, and humbly for his master. Luke provides the human side of Jesus. Jesus has more compassion, more ministry to the social outcast, and ministry to women than the other three gospels. Finally, John provides the divine side of Jesus, the most God-like side of Jesus. Just as the eagle is capable of flying higher than any other bird in the skies, closer to the heavens than the others, Jesus is the closest man to heavenly divine possible.
I read the gospels through these lenses. See if you can find the similarities as well.
Lastly, Revelation completes the New Testament. Interesting the Bible starts in a garden and finishes in one. There are lots of ideas about how to interpret John’s Apocalypse, I won’t even begin to give any of those right now. Just know, it is in the Bible for a reason and we might not understand all of those reasons. It specifically says, we are blessed if we read it and hear it. SO bring it on.