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The Literature and History of New Testament Times

The Literature and History of New Testament Times
Title: The Literature and History of New Testament Times
Release Date: 2013-09-10
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 26 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Literature and History of New TestamentTimes, by J. Gresham (John Gresham) Machen

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

Title: The Literature and History of New Testament Times

Author: J. Gresham (John Gresham) Machen

Release Date: September 10, 2013 [eBook #43685]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



E-text prepared by Heather Clark, Julia Neufeld,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team







The Historical Background of

The Early History of

By John Gresham Machen



1.The New Testament5
2.The Roman Background of Christianity10
3.The Greek Background of Christianity15
4.The Jewish Background of Christianity: I. Palestinian Judaism21
5.The Jewish Background of Christianity: II. The Judaism of the Dispersion26
6.The Messiah31
7.The Book of The Acts36
8.The Cross and the Resurrection the Foundation of Apostolic Preaching41
9.The Beginnings of the Christian Church46
10.The First Persecution51
11.The First Gentile Converts56
12.The Conversion of Paul60
13.The Church at Antioch67
14.The Gospel to the Gentiles75
15.The Council at Jerusalem81
16.The Gospel Carried Into Europe86
17.Encouragement for Recent Converts92
18.The Conflict with the Judaizers97
19.Problems of a Gentile Church103
20.The Apostle and His Ministry109
21.The Gospel of Salvation115
22.Paul's Journey to Rome120
23.The Supremacy of Christ124
24.The Church of Christ129
25.Christ and His Followers133
26.Training New Leaders138
27.A Presentation of Jesus to Jewish Christians147
28.A Graphic Sketch of the Life of Jesus154
29.A Greek Historian's Account of Jesus158
30.The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple165
31.The Jesus of the Gospels174
32.A Document of the Jerusalem Church178
33.Jesus the Fulfillment of the Old Testament184
34.Christian Fortitude189
35.The Christian's Attitude Toward Error and Immorality194
36.The Life of the Children of God198
37.The Messages of the Living Christ203
38.A Vision of the Final Triumph209
40.The Church and the World219
41.The Christian Message225
42.The Word and the Sacraments231
44.The Congregation244
45.The Relief of the Needy249
46.Organizing for Service255
47.A Mission for the World261
48.The Christian Ideal of Personal Morality266
49.Christianity and Human Relationships271
50.The Christian Use of the Intellect277
51.The Christian Hope and the Present Possession282
52.Retrospect: the First Christian Century287

Copyright, 1915, by John Gresham Machen



The general purpose of this course of lessons has been set forthin the introduction to the Student's Text Book. There is a tendencyin the modern Church to neglect the study of Bible history. Suchneglect will inevitably result in a loss of power. The gospel is arecord of something that has happened, and uncertainty about thegospel is fatal weakness. Furthermore the historical study of theapostolic age—that age when divine revelation established thegreat principles of the Church's life—is the best corrective for athousand vagaries. Much can be learned from modern pedagogy;but after all what is absolutely fundamental, both for teacher andfor student, is an orderly acquaintance with the Bible facts.

The Teacher's Manual, therefore, is intended not merely tooffer suggestions as to methods of teaching, but primarily to supplementthe teacher's knowledge. A teacher who knows onlywhat he actually imparts to the class is inevitably dull. The trueteacher brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.

The sections in the Teacher's Manual, since they are intendedto be supplementary, should not be read until after careful attentionhas been paid to the corresponding sections in the Student's TextBook. Moreover, both sections together are of course in themselvesinsufficient. They should be supplemented by other reading.Suggestions about reading have been put at the end of everylesson. Here, however, a few general remarks may be made.

Davis' "Dictionary of the Bible" and Purves' "Christianity inthe Apostolic Age," which have been recommended even to thestudent, will be to the teacher almost invaluable. The earnestteacher will also desire to refer to good commentaries on The Acts.The commentaries which have been mentioned in connection withthe individual lessons are based upon the English Bible; but everyteacher who has any knowledge of Greek, however slight, shoulduse, instead, the commentary of Knowling, in "The Expositor'sGreek Testament." For the life of Paul, Lewin's "Life andEpistles of St. Paul" and the similar book of Conybeare andHowson are still very valuable for their vivid and extendeddescriptions of the scenes of the missionary journeys. A similar[4]service is rendered, in more up-to-date form, by the various worksof Ramsay. Stalker's "Life of St. Paul" is a good handbook.M'Clymont's "New Testament and Its Writers" contains instructive,though very brief, introductions to all of the New Testamentbooks. Hastings' "Dictionary of the Bible" and "Dictionaryof Christ and the Gospels" number among their contributorsmany writers of many opinions. They are rich in references tothe vast literature of modern Biblical discussion.

The writer of this course has derived information from manyquarters. Definite acknowledgment of indebtedness, since nooriginality is claimed, may be regarded as unnecessary. It is apleasure, however, to render special thanks to Rev. Professor WilliamPark Armstrong, D. D., of Princeton Theological Seminary, whosewise counsel has been of incalculable assistance at many points.

The actual presentation of the lessons will, of course, varyaccording to the needs of the classes and the preferences of theteachers. The Student's Text Book may often provide a convenientorder of presentation. That book is intended not merelyto be read, but also to be studied. It is to be regarded as a sortof outline of the course.

The "topics for study" are intended to serve a double purpose.In the first place, they will test the student's knowledge of thelesson material; in the second place, they will afford encouragementto special investigation. Individual topics may often be assignedfor thorough treatment to individual students, while the class as awhole may use all the topics as guides to a general knowledge.

Personal interest in the individual students is of the utmost importance.Instruction has a tenfold value when it is backed byfriendship. The relation of the students to the Church shouldbe a matter of especial concern. If any member of the class hasnot confessed his faith in Christ, the study of this year offersabundant opportunity for a word in season. Our study reveals theChurch as a divine institution. Shall we then stand aloof?

In this course the teacher has the opportunity of introducingyoung people of maturing minds to the historical study of the NewTestament. There could be no more inspiring task. Carriedabout with every wind of doctrine, the Church is sadly in need ofan assured anchorage. That anchorage should be sought inhistory. Ignorance is weak; sound knowledge, sought with prayer,and blessed by the Spirit of God, will lead to a more stalwart andmore intelligent faith.




This is an introductory lesson. It should be used, first of all,to answer intelligent general questions about the New Testament.Some of these questions will be discussed briefly under Sections1 to 3, below.

The historical study of the New Testament, based upon a studyof the circumstances under which the individual books were written,will probably be new to many of the students. The new point ofview should be used to awaken interest. The climax of the lessonshould, however, be a presentation of the unity of the New Testamentas the very Word of God to us. Historical study should bemade—and can be made—subservient to reverent and thankfulobedience.


The English word "testament" comes from a Latin word. Theequivalent Greek word is hard to translate. As used in the GreekBible it may mean either "covenant" or "testament." Usually itshould probably be translated "covenant."

The phrase "new covenant" occurs about five times in the NewTestament. In none of these passages does the phrase refer tothe "New Testament" in our sense. It designates a new relationshipinto which men have been received with God. The oldcovenant was made, through the mediatorship of Moses, with theHebrew nation; the new covenant, hinted at in prophecy, Jer.31:31, and instituted by the Lord Jesus, I Cor. 11:25, was madewith all those, of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,who should through faith accept the salvation offered by Christ.Those who believe become, like Israel of old, God's chosen people,and enter into the warmth and joy of the divine communion. Thenames "old and new covenants," then, were applied first to thesetwo special relationships into which God entered with men. Afterwardsthe names were applied to the books in which the conditionsof those relationships were set forth. Perhaps it would have been[6]better if we had started to say "New Covenant" where we now say"New Testament." At any rate the idea alluded to in thename is the inspiring idea, realized in Christ, of an alliancewith God. The New Testament is the divine treaty by theterms of which God has received us rebels and enemies into peacewith himself.


In the first place, the New Testament may be treated in everyrespect as a single book. That course is adopted by many of themost devoted lovers of the Bible. By them the Bible is treatedsimply as a textbook of religion. Passages are quoted indiscriminatelyfrom all parts of it, without much regard to the context.The wide differences of form and of spirit among the various booksare ignored. The historical implications of the books are of courseaccepted as true, but practically they are left quite unassimilated.

Now let us be quite plain about one thing. The men who usethe Bible in this way are right in the main point. They treat theBible as the guide of life for time and for eternity. And if by theuse of the Bible we can come into communion with God, we canafford to miss a good many other things. Nevertheless, the Bibleis as a matter of fact not a mere textbook of religion, and if wetreat it as such we miss much of its richness. If the Bible weremerely a systematic treatise, it would be far easier to interpret. Theinterpreter would be spared a great deal of trouble, but the burdenwould be heaped upon the preacher. As it is, the Bible is itself apreacher, because it is in such close contact with the actual experienceof men of flesh and blood. Its general teachings are given usin large measure only through the medium of history, through themedium of example. In order to arrive at the general truths, therefore,intellectual labor is often necessary. God has made thingsharder for the intellect that he may strike home the more surely tothe heart. If Paul had written a systematic theology, the NewTestament way of salvation might in some ways have been plainerthan it is. It would have been plain to the intellect, but it wouldhave needed interpretation to the heart. Conviction can bewrought only by the immediate impact of personal life. Thetheology of Paul, of itself, might be a dead thing; the religiousexperience of Paul, interwoven with his theology, and bared beforeus in the

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