Origin of New Testament
The New Testament derived from a review of Christian writings to determine what was “scripture”; that is valid, authoritative and holy. This ‘New Testament’ became called a ‘canon’. Canon comes from the Greek word ‘kanon’ meaning measuring rule. Only certain books passed the measuring rules required for ‘canonization’
The Christian writings, or ‘books’ of the New Testament were written in Greek and dated from 50-150 A.D. The process of canonization was complex and lengthy. It was around 200 A.D. when the Muratorian fragment was written, listing the accepted works. Some books of this canon were questioned in the 16th century by Protestants, which led to the Council of Trent reaffirming the traditional canon.
In its present form the New Testament comprises twenty-seven books, the main part of which is comprised by the four Gospels, telling of the life and teachings of Jesus. In addition, the NT includes a book called The Acts of the Apostles, which tells the story of the first Christians, and the The Revelation of John.
The criteria for determining what writings went in to the New Testament are Apostolic Origin, major Christian communities Acceptance, and consistent theology complementary to already accepted Christian writings. The basic factor for recognizing a book’s canonicity for the New Testament was divine inspiration, with the primary basis being apostolicity. Some of the books at the end of the New Testament survived substantial doubt after the middle of the second century. Origen (185-254) mentions the four Gospels, the Acts, the thirteen Paulines, I Peter, 1 John and Revelation as acknowledged by all; he says that Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, James and Jude, with the ‘Epistle of Barnabas’, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and the ‘Gospel according to the Hebrews’, were questioned by some. Eusebius (265-340) mentions as generally acknowledged all the books of our New Testament except James, Jude, Peter, 2 and 3 John, although questioned by some, recognized by the majority.’ Athanasius in 367 A.D. lays down the twenty seven books of our New Testament as canonical; shortly afterwards Jerome and Augustine followed his example in the West.
Notably, it is emphatically clear that The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list. Conversely, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and apostolic authority, direct or indirect.
The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa-at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397. These councils did not impose something new upon the Christian communities, but to arrange what was already the general practice of those communities.