The New Testament

Read our introduction to the New Testament for Catholics. The books of the New Testament spring from the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and the establishment of the new covenant. Download the Scripture Seekers’ series on the New Testament at the bottom of this page.

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What is the New Testament about?

The books of the Old Testament are about a people, the books of the New Testament are about a person. All of them spring from the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. The movement which Jesus inspired came to be known as Christianity and the writings which make up the New Testament were written by people committed to that movement.

The relationships between the New and Old Testaments

The relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament reflects both the continuity and discontinuity between the Christian and Israelite faiths. Christians believe God had one plan for salvation that was revealed first to the Israelites and then to all peoples through Jesus Christ. The New Testament and Old Testament, then, tell one ongoing story of salvation. At the same time, the authors of the New Testament were proposing something radically new: Jesus’ fulfilment of the Israelites’ hope in God’s promises.

The authors of the New Testament were inspired by the writers of the Old Testament

For the New Testament writers, the Old Testament was Holy Scripture. To tell the story of Jesus, those authors relied largely on the vocabulary and methods of reading scripture that already existed in the Jewish world. From the timeline below, you can see the time when they were described in writing over the first one hundred years of Christian faith.

When was the New Testament written?   

  • 50-52 CE      two Letters to the Thessalonians
  • 56 CE           (or possibly 63 CE): Philippians
  • 57 CE           1st Corinthians and Galatians
  • 61-63 CE      Colossians; Ephesians; Philemon; 1Timothy; Titus
  • 63 CE           Gospel of Mark; James; 1 Peter
  • 67 CE           2 Timothy; Hebrews
  • 70 CE           Matthew; Luke; Acts; Jude
  • 95 CE           Revelation; Gospel of John

Notice that the books of the New Testament are not in chronological order. The Gospels reached their final form between 30 and 60 years after the death of Christ – therefore, a long time after the letters of Paul. The stories that developed into the Gospels came from a stock of oral tradition and faith memory; they were stories that had been passed down through the generations.

The New Testament has the following four distinct parts (genres):

  • four Gospels: the Good News of Christ’s Life, Death and Resurrection; these Gospels are not meant as a biography or history, but a proclamation of faith
    • three so-called Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (the Synoptic Gospels present a similar telling of the life of Christ).
    • the Gospel of John, which is more theological and has a different focus to the other Gospels.
  • the Acts of the Apostles: about the early Church
  • the Letters of Paul and the so-called Catholic Epistles (letters)
  • the Book of Revelation

Would you like to learn more about the New Testament? As a Catholic understanding and being familiar with the writing of the New Testament can give us much inspiration for our everyday lives.

We’ve created five free downloadable guides to help you explore the New Testament.


Download the Scripture Seekers’ series on the New Testament.