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Second of the two major divisions of the Christian Bible. Christians see the New Testament as the fulfillment of the promise of the Old Testament. It recounts the life and ministry of Jesus and interprets their meaning for the early church, focusing especially on the new covenant created between God and the followers of Jesus. There are 27 books in the New Testament: four Gospels, or stories of the life and teachings of Christ; the Acts of the Apostles, a historical narrative of the first years of the Christian church; 21 epistles, or letters of advice and instruction to early Christians; and the Book of Revelation, a description of the coming apocalypse. Most were written in the later 1st century AD, though none can be dated precisely. Only two authors are known for certain: St. Paul, credited with 13 epistles; and St. Luke, writer of the third gospel and the Book of Acts. Attributions of other authors range from highly likely (for the other three gospels) to completely unknown (for the Epistle to the Hebrews). These documents circulated among the early churches and were used as preaching and teaching sources. The earliest known list of the current New Testament canon dates from AD 367 in a work by St. Athanasius. A church council of 382 gave final approval to the list.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on New Testament, visit Britannica.com.