We can divide the New Testament into four groups: gospels, history, letters, and prophecy.
Roman Catholic Bibles include books not accepted by Protestants called the Apocrypha. An important document called the Muratorian Fragment (ca. 190 AD) helps us distinguish between apocryphal books and those which appear in the first complete Greek Bible, the fourth century Codex Sinaiticus.
The Muratorian Fragment lists all the New Testament books, except for James and Hebrews. Its author noted that The Shepherd of Hermas is useful for private reading. However, he claimed that it should not be publicly read in churches because it was written in his own era and not by one of the apostles or prophets from the days of Christ.
Between 367–397, theologians agreed upon the twenty-seven books which make up the NT for Protestants today.
According to John 20:30‒31, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.”
THE BOOK OF HISTORY: We have one history book in the New Testament, called Acts. It describes how Jesus commissioned his disciples and ascended into heaven. After the Holy Spirit descended upon the believers, the church grew rapidly and began to fulfill Christ’s command to spread the gospel throughout the world.
LETTERS: There are twenty-one letters in the New Testament, written by several different people who intended them to guide believers in life and to help them obey Jesus’s commands.
Paul wrote many of them, which appear in our Bibles in the order of their length on a scroll.
He wrote some of them to a church or groups of small churches in one city and some to individuals.
We call the other letters the General Letters because they were written to a wide audience of believers, not to a specific church of person.
The author of Hebrews remains unknown. That book encourages Christians from a Jewish background to stand firm during persecution.
PROPHECY: Revelation is the only book of prophecy in the New Testament. It announces the final victory of Jesus and his people, encouraging believers to live as Christians should until the end of time.
Revelation 2:10 says, “Don’t be afraid of what you are going to suffer. Look! The devil is going to throw some of you into prison in order to test you. You will suffer hardship for ten days. Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Image via Wikimedia Commons This painting is from the fourteenth century.