What is the New Testament
The New Testament is a collection of 27 books of the Bible written in the seventy years following the resurrection of Jesus. The Church of the apostles saw in them an authentic expression of their faith. The Church has officially recognized these books as inspired by God, as the Word of God. Just as in the Old Testament these books did not simply fall from heaven, rather we owe them to the apostles and the evangelists of the early Church. They make no pretense to answer all our questions concerning the faith, but are a collection of testimonies where we discover the person of Jesus, the way in which the early Church saw itself animated and impelled by the power of his resurrection. It was God’s will that Christians of every age would know Jesus and his work of redemption through these powerful testimonies.
But, why a New Testament after the Old?
Simply because each forms a part of salvation history and the revelation of God within history. The cross of Jesus separates these two phases.
In the Old Testament a people is being formed. They grow through their experience, and after having hoped for the thousand and one things that all people look for, they understand that what really matters is to hope for and to seek a Kingdom of Justice where people will be made new. When we read Sacred History, we see the direction it takes and discern different stages and key people. Israel discovers the great value of existence and of social life. We understand why it took them many centuries to discover something of the beyond. We grasp why the prosperity of the ancient kingdom of Israel could not last and why it was necessary for the people of God to gain insight and interiority into what they were losing in earthly power and glory. We see why, after many saviors, the unique Savior came for them while experiencing the final crisis under Roman oppression and the radicalization of political forces.
Thus, the message of Jesus was a call to overcome the narrow-mindedness of their nationalism and fanaticism in order to find here and now the kingdom and the justice of God. The history of Israel had to flow into a new era with a universal people of God, who would be rich in the knowledge of the Father and the Son. Such a people would practice non-violence that can overcome divisions and oppression. We know that the Jewish nation collapsed after a few years: it was the end of one world and the rupture of destiny.
The New Testament does not replace the Old. Jesus’ preaching does not make the warnings of the prophets irrelevant. Love does not replace justice. The salvation promised to the Jewish people is not replaced by a “salvation of souls,” but rather the Gospel is presented as the liberating truth which redirects history and moves all civilizations toward the goal of reunion and reconciliation in Christ of all human powers and creative energy in the universe.
When attempts to evangelize the Jews in Palestine failed, the first Jewish Christians turned with added incentive to other peoples and announced the Gospel to them. Within a few years, the Church began to spread throughout the known world then, that is to say, the nations of the Greco-Roman empire. At first, it was a common belief among Christians that the message would shortly reach the ends of the world, and Jesus would return in glory for judgment. In the seventies this illusion disappeared: history would last longer than they had expected.
The Christian communities began to gather what had been written down to preserve the preaching of the apostles. They also spent time recalling significant experiences of the first Christians. Of the books thus produced, the Church approved those which expressed the faith as it was received from the apostles and rejected others which, although very commendable, did not seem to transmit the most fundamental and universal message of the faith.