The Growth of the New Testament

John M. Court

in The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780199237777
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 The Growth of the New Testament

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  • Religion in the Ancient World


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This article surveys the growth of the New Testament. The story of the movement in the first centuries towards the canon of the New Testament has three particularly significant historical features, or catalysts, and three literary aspects. The historical catalysts are, first, the existence in the first centuries of groups with alternative Christian philosophies, often labelled ‘Gnostic’; if their rationale is too different, they need to be held at a distance. Second, there is the influence, in the mid-second century, of Marcion, whose programme was to exclude both the Old Testament texts and any elements that echoed the Old within the New Testament. And third, there was a second-century movement, known as Montanism, which emphasized the elements of prophecy, continuing charismatic inspiration, and a revolutionary view of the future. The three significant literary aspects concern the gospels, the epistles, and the other texts with apostolic associations. Revelation is the culmination of the church's self-understanding and the climax of the process of growth of the New Testament.

Keywords: New Testament; Christian philosophies; Gnostic; Marco; Montanism; gospels; epistles; Revelation

Article.  12170 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity ; Religious Studies ; Religion in the Ancient World

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