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  • The New Testament

  • If you open up a Bible to its table of contents, you will see it is made up of two large collections:

  • the Old and New Testaments.

  • The word "testament" refers to a covenant partnership, which is what both of these collections are all about.

  • They tell one epic and complicated story of God's covenant partnership with Israel and all humanity.

  • The Old Testament is called "TaNaK" in Jewish tradition.

  • It is a unified scroll collection of 39 Israelite texts that were over a thousand years in the making.

  • In contrast, the 27 books of the New Testament all came into existence within 30 to 40 years of each other.

  • They were all written by first-generation followers of Jesus.

  • From an early period Christian communities began collecting these texts

  • and reading them alongside the Old Testament as one unified story that leads to Jesus.

  • The New Testament begins with four narrative books that together are called "the Gospel".

  • They tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth's life, death and resurrection as an announcement of good news.

  • They are followed by a fifth narrative work called "Acts of the Apostles".

  • Here, the risen Jesus commissions the apostles, a word that means "the sent ones".

  • They are appointed as Jesus' representatives to spread the good news about him throughout the ancient world.

  • After Acts comes a collection of letters from the apostles.

  • These were written to provide teaching and guidance for local communities of Jesus' followers called "churches".

  • There are 13 letters connected to the Apostle Paul.

  • They are not arranged in the order of when they were written.

  • But, rather, from the longest to the shortest.

  • Then there is a letter to the Hebrews written by a close but unnamed associate of the apostles.

  • After this are the letters of James, Jude, Peter and John.

  • Two were brothers of Jesus and two were among his first followers.

  • The last New Testament book is the Revelation,

  • a letter to seven churches that reveals a prophetic word of challenging comfort to all of Jesus' followers.

  • So those are the books of the New Testament, but what are they about?

  • And, how do they connect with the Old Testament to make up one unified story?

  • Think of it this way:

  • The Bible is one long epic narrative with multiple movements or acts.

  • The Old Testament recounts the first series of acts that give you everything you need to make sense of the story to follow.

  • The core themes and the plot conflict are arranged in design patterns.

  • Then, in the New Testament, these are all picked up and carried forward to the story's culmination in Jesus.

  • Let me show you what I mean.

  • The first act is about God and all of humanity.

  • God provides a sweet garden temple for humans who are made to be God's partners in ruling the world.

  • But the humans are foolish.

  • They give in to a dark temptation and rebel against God's wisdom.

  • So they are exiled into a wilderness where they start killing each other.

  • They build cities that spread their selfishness and oppression, leading up to the big, bad city of Babylon.

  • But, God loves the world and its foolish humans.

  • So, he sets in motion a rescue plan by promising the arrival of a new human

  • who will destroy the evil that has lured us into self-destruction.

  • The next act of the biblical story is about God and Israel.

  • It develops the themes and patterns of the first act.

  • God calls a new humanity out of Babylon into a sweet garden land:

  • Abraham, Sarah and his descendants, the Israelites.

  • God promises that through them divine blessing will be restored to all of the nations.

  • Surely, these are the new humans that we are waiting for.

  • But the Israelites repeat humanity's rebellion against God,

  • building their own violent cities that lead to self-destruction and another exile in Babylon.

  • But God sustains his promise that the new human will come from Abraham's lineage.

  • It will be a priest king who will now have to rescue both Israel and humanity from Babylon

  • to restore God's blessing to the world.

  • Now, notice how these two acts are designed according to the same pattern.

  • The second act is a longer and more violent version of the first.

  • Together, they explore the tragic human condition.

  • But they also highlight God's promise which is developed more in the next act: the Old Testament prophets and poets.

  • The prophets accused Israel and all nations of their evil.

  • They announce that one day God himself would arrive to bring the day of the Lord and deliver his world from Babylon.

  • He would do it through a promised royal priest who is going to suffer like a slave and die for the sins of Israel and all humanity.

  • But, then he will be exalted as king over the nations.

  • He will call others to leave Babylon and join the new covenant people who will partner with God to rule over a New Jerusalem.

  • That is, over a new creation.

  • So, the Old Testament concludes by anticipating a new act in the story.

  • When you turn to the New Testament, it is the same story now being carried forward in Jesus.

  • Let's see how.

  • The four Gospel accounts introduce Jesus of Nazareth

  • both as the promised son of Abraham who will restore God's blessing to the nations

  • and also as that new human who will defeat evil and restore humanity to partnership with God.

  • So, Jesus is portrayed as a human, and more!

  • He went about announcing the arrival of God's promised kingdom.

  • He spoke and acted as if he was Israel's divine king.

  • But instead of calling himself "King", Jesus referred to himself as the "Son of Man".

  • That is, the human one who would act like a servant.

  • The Gospels are making the claim that in Jesus,

  • Israel's God has become the faithful Israelite and the true human that we are all made to be, but have failed to be.

  • Jesus' mission was to confront that dark evil that lurks underneath humanity's evil,

  • luring us into selfishness, violence and death.

  • But, how do you defeat that kind of evil?

  • The surprising answer in the Gospels is that Jesus overcame our evil by allowing it to kill him,

  • on his paradoxical throne, the cross, where Jesus died for humanity's evil and sin.

  • And, it is where he lived out what he taught:

  • that non-violence, forgiveness and self-giving love are the most powerful things in the universe.

  • Because God's love for his world is stronger than evil or death,

  • Jesus was raised to new life as the prototype of a new humanity.

  • This brings us to the story of Acts

  • Through the Spirit, God empowers Jesus' followers to spread the life and love of Jesus out into the world

  • as they invite people to leave their old humanity and join Jesus' multi-ethnic family: the new humanity.

  • This is where the letters from the apostles fit into the story.

  • Here, the apostles address early Christian communities.

  • They show how the good news about the risen King Jesus change history and should reshape every part of our lives.

  • They also explained the good news by constantly appealing to stories from the Old Testament and the stories of Jesus,

  • showing us how to see our own life stories as part of the epic biblical story.

  • So all humanity is trapped in a Babylonian exile, but Jesus came to create a new home.

  • We are all living in different kinds of Egyptian slavery to selfishness and sin.

  • But Jesus died as the Passover lamb to liberate us into the promised land.

  • Our old humanity is bound for the dust of death, but Jesus' resurrection opened up a new future for a new humanity.

  • We live here in the current evil age

  • but through Jesus and the Spirit a new creation has burst open here and now.

  • This leads us to the book of Revelation where the whole biblical story comes together in powerful symbolism and imagery.

  • Jesus is portrayed as a slaughtered bloody lamb who is exalted as the divine king of the world.

  • He is leading his people out of slavery and exile in Babylon.

  • As they resist Babylon's influence, they may have to suffer alongside their slain leader.

  • But when you follow the Risen King, not even death can prevent the dawn of the New Creation

  • which is here depicted as a New Jerusalem garden temple, the true home of humanity after its long exile.

  • So, on the Bible's last page, heaven and earth are reunited.

  • The new humans take up their appointed tasks from the Bible's first page: to rule the world together in the love and power of God.

  • The New Testament is a remarkable collection of documents.

  • They represent the testimony of the apostles that points us to the Risen Jesus himself.

  • Through God's Spirit, these human words have been speaking a divine word of hope from the first century to the 21st.

  • Each book shows how God, through Jesus and the Spirit, is leading our world to its ultimate goal in a renewed creation

  • So, the story's end is really the beginning of a new story that is yet to be told.

  • That is what the New Testament is all about.

The New Testament

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新約聖書の概要 (New Testament Overview)

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    James-KG に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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