Skip to content

timeline for new testament books

The New Testament books are arranged in a timeline, with the first coming before the second, and so on. The order of these books is as follows:

· Matthew – 1st book

· Mark – 2nd book

· Luke – 3rd book

· John – 4th book

· Acts of the Apostles – 5th book

· Romans – 6th book

· 1 Corinthians – 7th book

· 2 Corinthians – 8th book

· Galatians – 9th book

· Ephesians – 10th book

· Philippians – 11th book

· Colossians – 12th book

· 1 Thessalonians – 13th book

timeline for new testament books

What Is the New Testament?
Lesson Additional Info
Author
Tommi Waters
View bio
Instructor
David White
What are the 27 books of the New Testament? See a timeline of the New Testament books. Learn the history of the New Testament. Read about its creation. Updated: 07/23/2021
Table of Contents
New Testament: Overview
History of the New Testament
Sections of the New Testament
Timeline of the New Testament
The Old Testament and the New Testament
Lesson Summary
New Testament: Overview
Since it was written beginning in the 1st century CE, the New Testament has been one of the most influential pieces of literature in the world. The New Testament refers to a collection of 27 books in the Bible about the life and teachings of Jesus and his followers, which form the foundation of Christian scripture. The New Testament played an important role in the early church, and how the texts were interpreted led to many of the conflicts that occurred within Christianity. Today, interpretation of the New Testament is one of the primary reasons for different denominations within Christianity since the texts are the basis for prayers, rituals, and beliefs within each congregation and denomination.

Etymology and Origins
The phrase “New Testament” was not added to the collection of texts until around the 3rd century CE. The phrase has two parts. “Testament” comes from the Latin “testamentum,” which was used to refer to a statement of beliefs (like a testimony). The Greek word “diatheke,” which means “covenant,” was also translated to “testament” as well. The “new” implies that there is an “old” testament. For the Christian tradition, this is the case as most Christians see the New Testament as a continuation and fulfillment of the Old Testament, which is the Jewish Hebrew Bible. The meaning of “New Testament” for Christianity is that it is a new covenant, which is a contract or promise, based on an older covenant.

Lesson Quiz Course
6.1K views
History of the New Testament
The New Testament is a collection or anthology much more than it is a single book. It has a long composition history since it was the product of multiple authors over approximately 200 years. The first book possibly written was 1 Thessalonians, which dates to as early as 49 CE—approximately 15–20 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. The latest possible date of any book written is early to mid-2nd century CE. Because these texts were written by different authors from different areas with different backgrounds and intentions, each text has a different tone and purpose.

Origins and Influences
One of the things the New Testament authors had in common was a Jewish background, meaning they were part of the ancient Israelite people and religion. Most, if not all, of the New Testament authors were religiously and culturally Jewish before they converted to Christianity, which began as a branch of Judaism. Because of this, Judaism had a tremendous influence on the themes and ideas in the New Testament, which included:

monotheistic belief in God,
emphasis on spiritual purity,
being God’s “chosen people,”
and prayer.
In addition to Jewish influence, Greek and Roman religion and culture also impacted some of the ideas in the New Testament since many of the authors lived in Roman provinces. Some of the ways Greco-Roman society influenced the New Testament writers were:

the inclusion of Gentiles (non-Jews) in Christianity,
how Christians should live in “pagan” culture,
and the concept of heaven and hell.
Creation of the New Testament
As a religious tradition, Christianity did not really begin until the Jerusalem Council around 50 CE, when Jewish Christians met to discuss the inclusion of Gentile Christians into the tradition, determining that they did not have to follow Jewish law to join. Before this, Christianity was just a branch of Judaism. Around the time of this meeting is when New Testament texts began to be written. The texts were written for a variety of reasons, including:

recording the history of Jesus,
recording the history of Jesus’ first disciples and followers,
writing letters to churches to teach common doctrines and address concerns,
and recording messages the followers believed they received from God.
Compilation and Editing
There is nothing to suggest that any of the New Testament authors thought their work would be included in a larger collection of texts. Rather, there are many Gospels, letters, and other texts that exist outside the New Testament but were written around the same time called the apocrypha, meaning “hidden books.” In the 2nd through 4th centuries CE, early church thinkers began discussing which texts written by early Christian writers were scripture for the tradition. Although there were differences in opinion, the New Testament as it exists today became canon, the “rule” or “standard” collection of texts, around the 4th century CE. All of the texts in the New Testament canon met three criteria:

they were written texts, not oral traditions;
they were considered authoritative for the tradition;
and they were focused on the sacred, which was God and his teachings.
Versions and Languages
The New Testament was written primarily in Koine Greek (κοινἢ), the common Greek language, though some phrases were written in Aramaic, a language similar to Hebrew that Jesus probably spoke. After the New Testament was canonized, it was first published in Greek by Erasmus in 1516 CE. Before this, in 382 CE, the Latin Vulgate, a Latin translation of the Greek New Testament, was produced by Saint Jerome. In 1382 CE, John Wycliffe began the first translation of the Greek New Testament into English.

Greek papyrus fragments of New Testament texts from around 200 CE

Greek papyrus fragments of New Testament texts from around 200 CE
Sections of the New Testament
What are the 27 books of the New Testament? Although it took centuries to finalize the contents and order of the New Testament, the collections that exist today divide the books into four sections to combine similar texts. These sections are:

the Gospels,
the Apostles,
the Epistles,
and the Apocalypse.
Gospels
The Gospels, which literally means the “good news,” tell the stories of Jesus’ birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection. Some of the Gospels (like the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John) do not contain the birth narrative while others do not have the story of Jesus’ resurrection in the original text (Gospel of Mark). However, all of the Gospels focus on Jesus’ life and teachings. It is not clear who wrote the Gospels, as the names of the apostles were added to the texts far after their composition, but the texts form the foundation for the tradition. These texts include:

The Gospel of Matthew,
The Gospel of Mark,
The Gospel of Luke,
and the Gospel of John.
Apostles
The Apostles, which literally means “messengers,” consists of only one book in the New Testament:

the Acts of the Apostles.
This text is the second volume to the Gospel of Luke and continues the story of early Christianity with a focus on the lives and activities of Jesus’ followers after his death. While the Gospels focus on the origins of the tradition, the Apostles focus on how the tradition became a separate religion (rather than a branch of Judaism) and spread throughout the region.

Mosaic of Jesus with his apostles washing their feet

Mosaic of Jesus with his apostles washing their feet
Epistles
The Epistles, which literally means “letters,” contains the most books in the New Testament. These 21 texts are a mix of letters to churches, letters to individuals, and circular letters meant to be distributed to multiple churches rather than just for one specific congregation. Within the Epistles, there are letters from a variety of authors. Most of the letters are attributed to Paul, a Jewish scholar who originally persecuted Christians before converting to Christianity and becoming one of the main apostles of the tradition. Of the 21 letters, 13 are attributed to Paul (from Romans through Philemon), though most scholars believe only seven of these were actually written by Paul.

The fourteenth “epistle” is actually a misnomer since Hebrews is set up as a sermon rather than a letter. The rest of the Epistles were attributed to, though not necessarily written by, other important apostles like James, Peter, John, and Jude. The complete list of the Epistles in the New Testament is:

Romans,
1 Corinthians,
2 Corinthians,
Galatians,
Ephesians,
Philippians,
Colossians,
1 Thessalonians,
2 Thessalonians,
1 Timothy,
2 Timothy,
Titus,
Philemon,
Hebrews,
James,
1 Peter,
2 Peter,
1 John,
2 John,
3 John,
and Jude.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *