The Barnabas Ministry

New Testament Survey
This was originally published as a companion note set to a class on New Testament Survey. Obviously, a document of this size can hardly be considered a complete survey of the New Testament, but the intent is to provide a resource for further Bible study.

The general format of this guide will be to consider the critical parameters of each book of the New Testament, namely:

It should be remembered that this data in some cases is very well known and in other cases we can make only guesses. Such uncertainties will be discussed when appropriate.

Gospels, Acts
Pauline Letters
General Letters
Misc
Matthew
Mark
Luke
John
Acts
Romans
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Galatians
Ephesians
Philippians
Colossians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Titus
Philemon
Hebrews
James
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John

Jude
Revelation


Matthew

Author
The text of the gospel does not explicitly state who the author was, but from the earliest times the authorship of this gospel was always attributed to Matthew (Mt 9:9-10), also known as Levi (Lk 5:27-29, Mk 2:14). He was one of the Twelve apostles (Mt 10:3, Acts 1:13) and a former tax collector.

Recipients
The text of the gospel does not explicitly tell us to whom this was written. Whatever determination we make about the original readers of this gospel must be based on internal considerations.

Place of Origin and Date
The place of origin and date of the gospel is not given by any internal details, but it was probably written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. After this date, Palestinian Judaism no longer existed and Matthew's substantial discussion of it would have been irrelevant.

Immediate Occasion
The text of the gospel does not state an immediate occasion for its writing, so whatever conclusion we reach about its occasion must be derived from internal considerations.

Main Theme and Focus
The gospel is concerned primarily with the kingdom of God. The term "kingdom" is used 53 times. The main thrust of Matthew's discussion is that Jesus came to bring the kingdom (Mt 4:17) and that the kingdom would be taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles (Mt 3:11-12, 8:12, 21:43). This theme is seen in the denunciation of the existing status quo in Palestinian Judaism (Mt 4:17, 6:1, 15:1-20, 23:1-36). It is culminated in the great commission to take the gospel-- and the kingdom-- to all nations and not the Jews (Mt 28:18-20).

Along the way, Matthew shows Jesus discussing the nature of the kingdom. Jesus is concerned about entering the kingdom (Mt 7:21), Peter's role in bringing the kingdom (Mt 16:18-19) and the ethics of the kingdom (Mt 5:3-12). He refers to secrets of the kingdom (Mt 13:11) and the place of importance of the word of God in the kingdom (Mt 13:18-23).

Seeing how Matthew discusses the kingdom helps us see who he was writing for. His denunciation of the religion of the Jews may have been a response to a mentality in the church that revered Judaism too much, failing to see how corrupt it had been. The discussion of the ethics of the kingdom may have been a response to a lax moral conviction of the church in Matthew's time. Finally, the continual emphasis on the kingdom going from the Jews to the Gentiles was probably his response to his readers' questions of why the Jews were no longer the people of God, but that the church had now taken up that role.


Mark

Author
The text of the gospel does not attribute this gospel to a specific author, but the earliest information about the gospel attributes it to John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10). His mother hosted a house church in Jerusalem (Ac 12:12). He accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Antioch (Ac 12:25) and on their first missionary journey (Ac 13:5). He returned to Jerusalem in the middle of this trip (Ac 13:13), which was a source of dispute later on (Ac 15:37). Mark accompanied Barnabas to Cyprus, Barnabas' home (Ac 4:36, 15:39). Mark later traveled with Peter (1 Pt 5:13) and also linked up with Paul (2 Ti 4:11, Plm 24).

Recipients
The gospel does not record a specific recipient but early tradition has this gospel being addressed to the church at Rome to encourage them in the faith. One distinctive feature of this gospel is Mark's translation of Aramaic expressions (Mk 3:17, 5:41, 7:34, 15:34), which would be necessary if his readers were unfamiliar with Aramaic. This fits well with the Roman hypothesis.

Place of Origin and Date
The gospel does not have any specific references that allow us to determine a place of origin or date when it was written. Early tradition tells us that Mark wrote the gospel as a result of his travels and association with Peter. This would probably date the book around 60 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
No immediate occasion for the writing of this gospel is indicated by the author. Any occasion that may have existed will have to be shown from the internal evidence of the gospel itself.

Main Theme and Focus
The main theme of the gospel is the crucifixion of Jesus. Mark devotes nearly one third of the entire volume of this gospel to the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus. This is by far the most outstanding feature of the gospel.

Additionally, the gospel is very fast- paced. It does not concern itself with what Jesus taught (like Matthew) but with what Jesus did. It begins with scarcely a mention of John the Baptist and jumps right into Jesus' ministry and conflict with the Jewish leaders (Mk 3:6), hurtling towards his meeting with the cross in Jerusalem.

This theme and style point to the gospel being used to perhaps encourage the saints in Rome during a time of persecution, showing the role of suffering in the kingdom.


Luke

Author
The gospel does not specifically state who the author was, but the earliest tradition tells us that the author of this gospel was Luke. He was apparently from Troas, an Asian coastal city about 150 miles north of Ephesus (Ac 16:9, notice the "we"), and apparently worked with the church in Philippi (Ac 16:16, 17:1, 20:6, notice "we" and "they" sections). He later traveled with Paul (Ac 20:6, Plm 24, Col 4:14, 2 Ti 4:11). He was a Gentile (Col 4:11,14) and thus the only Gentile author of a New Testament book.

Recipients
This gospel is addressed to a certain Theophilus (Lk 1:3). Theophilus means "loved of God" and Luke regards Theophilus as a believer (Lk 1:4). Theophilus may have been a man wealthy enough to publish his friend Luke's gospel.

Place of Origin and Date
Luke may have had ample time to "carefully investigate" (Lk 1:3) the events of Jesus' life during Paul's imprisonment for two years at Caesarea in Palestine (Ac 24:27). No information in the gospel gives us any specific guidelines on when this gospel should be dated, but it clearly predates Acts (Ac 1:1). If indeed it was written during Paul's Caesarean imprisonment, this would put the date around 58- 60 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
Luke's intent with the gospel is that his readers would know the certainty of the things they had been taught (Lk 1:4). He claims he has made a careful analysis and study, and presents a gospel with a lot of "loose ends" tied up. For instance, he is the one who gives great detail on exactly who was governing Palestine when Jesus was born (Lk 2:1-2).

Main Theme and Focus
Luke’s own analysis of this gospel was "all that Jesus began to do and teach" (Ac 1:1). His main thrust is to show the rationality of the teachings of Jesus to a world looking for wisdom. He paints a picture of Jesus as the ultimate human, i.e. the Son of Man (this term is used 25 times in the gospel). He shows Jesus' childhood (Lk 2:41-52) and his interaction with the downtrodden and rejected of society (Lk 4:40, 5:13, 5:31-32, 6:20-22, 7:13, 7:44, 14:7-14, 21:1-4, et al) like no other gospel writer. Overall, the message of Jesus' love for people comes through loud and clear.



John

Author
The internal evidence of the gospel is that it was written by the "disciple whom Jesus loved" (Jn 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20-25), and early tradition identifies this as the apostle John, the brother of James and the son of Zebedee (Jn 21:2, Lk 5:10).

Recipients
This gospel contains no explicit reference explaining exactly to whom it was written, but the author assumes his readers are familiar with Christianity by his cryptic beginning (Jn 1:1-18) and unexplained use of technical terms (Jn 6:70, 13:23).

Place of Origin and Date
No specific information regarding the place of origin or date of this gospel is contained in it. Early tradition tells us this gospel was written from Ephesus late in the first century.

Immediate Occasion
The only internal evidence that gives us a clue about the immediate occasion of the gospel is Jn 20:31, "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ." John's purpose is to give his Christian readers faith in Christ, as though their faith was being threatened by external forces. (We should not think that Jn 20:31 suggests that the gospel of John contains all that someone would need to know in order to become a Christian.)

A known threat in the late first century was gnosticism, which basically denied the Deity of Jesus. John clearly states that Jesus was God (Jn 1:1, 14). Perhaps John's readers were being threatened with gnosticism and John's gospel was designed to draw them back to a deep conviction that Jesus was really the Christ in the flesh.

Main Theme and Focus
John has several main themes in which he wishes to give faith to his readers. John wants his readers to have personal faith in Jesus on the basis of the testimony of the apostles, not necessarily the witnessing of miracles. Notice that the Jewish leaders saw miracles and yet did not believe (Jn 12:37, 15:24), while there is praise for those who do not see miracles and yet still believe (Jn 20:24-31).

Additionally, John goes into an extensive discussion of Jesus' relationship to the Father (Jn 1:1-2, 3:35-36, 4:34, 5:16-44, 6:43-51, 7:28-29, 8:54-55, 10:22-38, 12:44-50, 14:5-14, 17:1-5). John also highlights the conflict between the Jews and Jesus, especially Pilate's desire to release Jesus (Jn 19:6).

John's main style in writing is to discuss an event for the purpose of explaining a truth about Jesus. At the end of the book, he expresses a frustration about not being able to tell us everything he remembers, yet at the same time assuring his readers that he has told them enough for them to put their trust in Jesus as the Christ (Jn 20:30-31, 21:25).



Acts

Author
The author of this book was Luke, the author of the gospel bearing his name. Luke refers to his former book in the beginning of Acts (Ac 1:1). (See the section on the gospel of Luke for a further discussion of Luke.)

Recipients
The book was written to Theophilus (Ac 1:1), as was Luke. Yet, it is hard to imagine Luke writing such a book as Acts for just one man. It makes more sense to think that Luke made it available for Theophilus to distribute to certain readers who would be interested in the subject of the history of the early church.

Place of Origin and Date
Due to the abrupt ending of the book with Paul in his Roman confinement, we can safely say that the book was finalized during the two years of this confinement. This would put Acts in the period between 59-61 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
While Luke apparently made this book available for distribution by Theophilus, the internal evidence points to a definite reason for his writing this book the way he did. Luke seeks not to record a homogeneous history of the early church, for his story only follows Peter and then Paul. As we shall see below, it is quite likely that Luke wrote Acts as a preparation for Paul's defense before Caesar.

Main Theme and Focus
While at first glance the book of Acts seems to simply chronicle the history of the early church, the way Luke covers this history shows us something different. Luke shows that as the early church grew and spread into the Roman Empire (in obedience to the command of Jesus, Acts 1:8), the church was generally accepted by the people (eg. Acts 2:47, 5:26, 8:8). Luke goes out of his way to highlight the intense opposition from the Jews (Ac 4:1, 4:21, 5:17-18, 6:8-12, 9:1-2, 9:23, 9:29, 12:1-3, 13:44-45, 13:50, 14:2, 14:19, 17:5, 17:13, 18:6, 18:12, 21:27, 23:12, 24:1-5, 24:27, 25:1-3, 25:9-12). In doing this, Luke clearly shows that Roman leaders and officials had always exonerated Paul and the church in general from any wrongdoing (Ac 13:6-12, 16:35-39, 17:8, 18:12-16, 19:35-41, 23:26-30, 26:30-32, 28:7-10, 28:17-19). Each of these points would be of great value in defending Paul in Rome, and it is probably for this reason that the bulk of Acts was written.



Romans

Author
Rom 1:1 states that the author was the apostle Paul.

Recipients
Rom 1:7 states that this letter is written to the saints in the city of Rome.

Place of Origin and Date
Paul probably wrote this letter from Corinth (Rom 16:23, ref 1 Cor 1:14), but not during his eighteen month ministry in that city (Ac 18:11), because Priscilla and Aquila were still in Corinth at that time (Ac 18:2) and Romans sends a greeting to them (Rom 16:3). This puts Romans being written by Paul during the period of time in Acts 20:3, around 57 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
Paul explains his plans to travel to Jerusalem with the offering for the poor (Rom 15:25) and then to go to Rome on his way to Spain after that (Rom 15:2427). The letter to the Romans is rather leisurely in its tone, as Paul isn't addressing a specific problem but is rather presenting a systematic look at the doctrine of salvation.

Main Theme and Focus
As seen above, Paul is mainly concerned with the gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16). He discusses the nature of lostness, the means of attaining favor before God, and what the cross means to the Christian. He discusses the role of the Holy Spirit and the plan of God for the Jews. He closes with an appeal to righteous living based upon the mercy of God (Rom 12:1).



1 Corinthians

Author
The author of 1 Corinthians was the apostle Paul (1 Co 1:1). Sosthenes, a former synagogue ruler in Corinth (Ac 18:17), is also mentioned as a co- author.

Recipients
The letter was written to the church in Corinth (1 Co 1:2).

Place of Origin and Date
The letter was written from Ephesus during Paul's extensive ministry there (1 Cor 16:8-9, 19, Acts 19:10, 18:26). This puts the date of the letter between 55-56 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
Ephesus was clearly a pillar church for Asia and Greece. Paul based his ministry for all of Asia there (Ac 19:10) and many leaders in the church came and went from Ephesus (Ac 19:22, 1 Cor 4:17, 16:10, 12). Because of Paul's influence in Corinth (Ac 18:1-18) and the work of the Ephesian church, the church in Corinth would naturally look to him for guidance even after he left.

When Paul left Corinth, he undoubtedly left someone in leadership in the church there. This was probably Stephanus, since Paul records that he was the first convert in Corinth and he urges that he be submitted to by the church (1 Cor 16:15-16). There were some problems in the church, so Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus traveled to Ephesus to see Paul and get some help (1 Cor 16:17-18) and perhaps carry a letter from the church (1 Cor 7:1).

Thus, Paul's letter to the Corinthians was his answer to the problems that had arisen in the Corinthian church. Along the way, he mentions the collection for the poor in Judea (1 Cor 16:1-4).

Main Theme and Focus
1 Corinthians is an important letter for us today because it discusses all kinds of specific issues that come up in a church. Paul's approach is to state a problem and explain how the work of Christ provides the answer to that problem. The main thing we learn from Paul is that any and all problems that we may face today should be solved by the same method.

Outline
I.    Introduction (1:1-9)
II.    Reports (1:10-6:20)
    a.    Divisions over leaders (1:10-4:21)
    b.    The man with his stepmother (5:1-13)
    c.    Lawsuits (6:1-11)
    d.    Immorality (6:12-20)
III.    Questions Answered (7:1-16:9)
    a.    Marriage (7:1-40)
    b.    Idolatry (8:1-11:1)
        i.    Knowledge (8:1-13)
        ii.    Freedom (9:1-27)
        iii.    Lessons from Israel (10:1-22)
        iv.    Permissible vs. profitable (10:23-11:1)
    c.    The Assembly (11:2-11:34)
        i.    The covering (11:2-16)
        ii.    The communion (11:17-34)
    d.    Spiritual Gifts (12:1-14:40)
        i.    The church as a body (12:1-31)
        ii.    Love greater than gifts (13:1-13)
        iii.    Use of gifts in the assembly (14:1-40)
    e.    The Resurrection (15:1-58)
    f.    The Collection (16:1-9)
IV.    Concluding Remarks (16:10-24)



2 Corinthians

Author
The author of 2 Corinthians is the apostle Paul (2 Cor 1:1). Timothy is mentioned as a co- author. Timothy was present during Paul's initial ministry in Corinth (Ac 18:5) and later worked with the church there (1 Cor 4:17, 16:10-11).

Recipients
The letter is addressed to the church in Corinth as well as to the saints in all Achaia (2 Cor 1:1).

Place of Origin and Date
The letter closely follows the first Corinthian letter and reference is made to Paul boasting about the Corinthians to the Macedonians about their eagerness to give to the Judean contribution (2 Cor 9:2, see also 2 Cor 2:13, 7:7). This would place Paul in Philippi prior to his departure for Judea (Ac 20:3). This would then provide a date of about 56-57 A.D. for this letter.

Immediate Occasion
Paul's main reason for writing this letter is to explain what has been going on with him since their last communication. He explains his troubles in Asia (2 Cor 1:8) and his change of plans (2 Cor 1:15, 1:23). Titus has just completed an effective ministry in Corinth in which the Corinthians truly repented of some serious sin (2 Cor 7:6-16). Titus then returned and explained the results of his ministry in Corinth, which Paul was excited to hear (2 Cor 7:15-16). Paul was planning to make one more visit (2 Cor 13:1-10) in which he would finally set things in order in Corinth.

Main Theme and Focus
2 Corinthians is a unique letter in that Paul reveals a lot of his own heart. He shares his anguish (2 Cor 1:8) and his sufferings (2 Cor 11:16- 12:10) in defending his ministry to them. His desire is to see a total healing in his relationship with them and in their relationship to the Lord.



Galatians

Author
Galatians was written by the apostle Paul (Gal 1:1).

Recipients
The letter was written to the churches in Galatia (Gal 1:1). Galatia was not a city but a region encompassing the cities of Iconium, Lystra, Derbe and Pisidian Antioch in the southern region of central Asia Minor. Paul originally evangelized this area on his first missionary journey with Barnabas (Ac 14:1-24).
 
Place of Origin and Date
Paul gives us no clues as to exactly where he was when he wrote this letter, and for this reason it is hard to determine when he wrote it as well. The only hint we have is that Paul says the Galatians are "quickly" deserting the gospel they just heard (Gal 1:6) and are being persuaded by Judaizers (Gal 4:21, 6:12). Yet, Paul's ministry to them included a follow- up visit strengthening them in the faith (Ac 14:22). It is possible that this letter was written during Paul's extensive stay in Antioch following this missionary journey (Ac 14:28). If this is true, we can date this letter around 49 A.D., the first of Paul's epistles.

Immediate Occasion
The reason Paul is writing this letter is obviously the false gospel that is being bandied about to the Galatians (Gal 1:6-9). Paul is absolutely irate about this (Gal 4:20).

Main Theme and Focus
Paul's discussion of the Judaizing threat to the faith of the Galatians rests upon three things. First, his gospel-- the one he preached to them-- is valid. His apostleship is valid, and there is total agreement between him and the "Jewish" apostles Peter, James and John (Gal 2:1-10). Second, the law cannot bring salvation (Gal 2:16-21, 3:10-13). Third, the reason people preached circumcision was to avoid the persecution of the Jews (Gal 1:10, 5:11, 6:12-- notice the persecutions from the Jews in Acts 14:2, 19).

Along the way, this Judaizing issue had produced a division in the churches in Galatia. Paul warns that the people better start living like saints or that they would destroy one another (Gal 5:15, 5:24-26).



Ephesians

Author
The author of this letter is the apostle Paul (Eph 1:1).

Recipients
The letter was written to the Ephesian church (Eph 1:1), yet there is some thought that it was truly intended for all the churches of Asia, of which Ephesus was the pillar. This is because some early manuscripts of Eph 1:1 do not contain the words "In Ephesus" and that Paul is not addressing any specific congregational issues. Also notice 1:15, where Paul seems to not know all of his readers personally. Since he spent significant time in Ephesus (Acts 19, 20), this supports the thought that this letter was intended for a general audience.

Place of Origin and Date
The letter does not explicitly state when or from where it was written. The only clue we have is that Tychicus was the bearer of the letter (Eph 6:21). Tychicus was one of Paul's traveling companions and was from Asia (Ac 20:4). He served as a messenger for Paul not just to the Ephesians (see also 2 Timothy 4:12) but also to the Colossians (Col 4:7) and to Titus at Crete (Tit 3:12).

Paul also mentions that he is an "ambassador in chains" (Eph 6:20, see also 3:13, 4:1). This probably is referring to his first Roman imprisonment (Ac 28:30), though it could be referring to his imprisonment as Caesarea, during which his Asian companions were with him (Ac 20:4--5, 21:29). If Caesarea is in view, we can date this epistle 57-59 A.D., if Rome is in view, we can date it at 60-62 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
Paul does not seem to be addressing a specific problem in this letter but is rather writing a letter of encouragement to his former base church, Ephesus (Ac 19:10, 20:17, 31). He includes a remark that Tychicus would let the people know all about how he was doing (Eph 6:21-22). He urges that they not be discouraged because of his sufferings (Eph 3:13).

Main Theme and Focus
Paul seeks to remind his readers of their status before God and of the ethical and moral consequences that this should have in their lives.



Philippians

Author
The authors of this letter were Paul and Timothy (Phi 1:1).

Recipients
This letter was written to the church at the Macedonian city of Philippi (Phi 1:1), a Roman colony on the coast of the Aegean Sea in present day Greece. This church was begun by Paul, Silas and Timothy on Paul's second missionary journey (Ac 16:12ff). Luke apparently stayed behind to work with the church here (Ac 17:1, 20:6, notice the "we" and "they" sections). Philippi helped Paul in his continuing ministry even after he left Philippi (Phi 4:14-16).

Place of Origin and Date
Paul tells us he was a prisoner (Phi 1:7, 1:13-14, 4:22) and mentions that some brothers are with him (Phi 4:21) as well as sending greetings from those of Caesar's household (Phi 4:22). Paul also mentions some doubt about the outcome of his trial (Phi 1:20, 2:23). This best fits the Roman imprisonment of Acts 28:16, 30), which would date this letter around 60-62 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
The Philippians had sent Paul a gift via Epaphroditus (Phi 4:10-19) and Paul was sending him back to Philippi with this letter of thanks (Phi 2:25-30). Paul additionally has heard of some needs in the church at Philippi and intends to send Timothy there soon (Phi 2:19-24). Paul mentions that to some degree they are sharing his struggle (Phi 1:30), which is probably opposition from the Jews.

Main Theme and Focus
The general theme of the letter is one of friendship and warmth, as Paul shares his heart openly in the letter. His only immediate appeals are for the Philippians to be wise in handling the Judaizers (Phi 3:2) and those who had abandoned the cross in their lifestyle (Phi 3:17-18). He also admonishes two women-- apparent leaders in the church-- to quit fighting (Phi 4:2).


Colossians

Author
This letter was written by Paul and Timothy (Col 1:1).

Recipients
This letter was written to the church at Colosse, a city in central Asia Minor about 70 miles east of Ephesus. This church was begun through the work of Epaphras (Col 1:7), who was probably sent out from Ephesus (Ac 19:10). Paul mentions that he has not met many of them (Col 2:1).

Place of Origin and Date
Paul mentions that he is in chains (Col 4:3, 4:10, 4:18) with Aristarchus (Col 4:10), who was a native of Thessalonica and one of his traveling companions (Ac 20:4). Paul is also with a number of other men (Col 4:10-14). This letter belongs to the same period of time as Ephesians and Philemon, which puts it either during Paul's Roman confinement in Acts 28:30 in 60-62 A.D. or the Caesarean imprisonment in 57-59 A.D. Tychicus carried both Ephesians and Colossians to their destinations (Eph 6:21, Col 4:7).

Immediate Occasion
Epaphras seems to have visited Paul (Col 1:7) and communicated what was going on in Colosse. The Colossian church was threatened with a heresy that claimed a "wisdom" in addition to the gospel. Paul refuted this with an appeal to the sufficiency of the original gospel (Col 1:23, 1:25, 2:3-4, 2:6-7) and a restatement of the supremacy of Christ (Col 1:13-20).

Main Theme and Focus
Paul's main thrust is to refute the heresy that threatened the Colossians church, but along the way he gives admonitions about godly living (Col 3:14:6).



1 Thessalonians

Author
This letter was written by Paul, Silas and Timothy (1 Th 1:1).

Recipients
This letter was written to the church at Thessalonica (1 Th 1:1), which was begun during Paul's second missionary journey (Ac 17:1-9).

Place of Origin and Date
This letter was written from Athens after the return of Timothy from Thessalonica (1 Th 3:6). This phase of Paul's ministry is seen in Acts 17:16-18:1 but we don't know how long it lasted. This letter is a relatively early one, dating from 50 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
As mentioned above, Timothy was sent from Athens to Thessalonica to encourage the church and had just returned (1 Th 3:1-6). Paul mentions trials (1 Th 3:3), probably referring to persecution from the Jews (compare Ac 17:5-7 with 1 Th 3:4).

Main Theme and Focus
Paul is genuinely excited about the faithfulness of the Thessalonian church and gives them some general admonitions (1 Th 4:1-12), teaching about the second coming of Christ (1 Th 4:13- 5:11) and church order (1 Th 5:12-13). It is a very positive, upbeat type of letter.



2 Thessalonians

Author
This letter, like 1 Thessalonians, was written by Paul, Silas and Timothy (2 Th 1:1).

Recipients
This letter was written to the church at Thessalonica (2 Th 1:1).

Place of Origin and Date
The place of origin of this letter is not explicitly stated in this letter, but because Silas and Timothy are still with Paul and the sufferings present in the first Thessalonians letter are apparently still continuing (2 Th 1:4), it seems to closely follow that first letter and was probably written from Athens or Corinth before Paul's return to Antioch (Ac 18:22). Paul refers to being rescued from the wicked (2 Th 3:2), which seems to fit Corinth better than Athens (Ac 18:6-, 9-10). This would make the date of the letter 50-51 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
The immediate problem is a fraudulent communication purporting to be from Paul regarding some teachings about the second coming of Jesus (2 Th 2:1-2). Paul pointedly reminds the Thessalonians what he had already taught them about this (2 Th 2:5). He concludes with an authenticating signature in the letter (2 Th 3:17).

Main Theme and Focus
Paul's basic message is to remind the Thessalonians about what he taught regarding the second coming of Jesus (2 Th 2:1-5). Along the way he encourages them to be true to the Lord in their present sufferings (2 Th 1:3-12) and deal with the idleness of some of the Christians (2 Th 3:6-15).



1 Timothy

Author
This letter was written by the apostle Paul (1 Tim 1:1).

Recipients
This letter was a personal communication to Timothy (1 Tim 1:2).

Place of Origin and Date
Paul tells us that he has left Timothy in Ephesus when he went into Macedonia (1 Tim 1:3). It is generally thought that this occurs after Paul's imprisonment in Acts 28:30, since we cannot easily  place this historical event into Acts. Paul is apparently still in Macedonia when he writes, and we must date this letter between 62-64 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
The main reason for writing is to instruct Timothy in leading the church and in dealing with false teachers.

Main Theme and Focus
Paul urges Timothy to deal with false teachers (1 Tim 1:3-5, 4:1-5) and he gives Timothy some specific instructions in leading the church (1 Tim 2:1-15, 5:1-22, 6:3-10, 6:17-19). He is instructed on the appointment of elders (1 Tim 3:1-13) and generally encouraged to be a great evangelist (1 Tim 4:11-16, 6:11-16).



2 Timothy

Author
This letter was written by the apostle Paul (2 Tim 1:1).

Recipients
This letter was written to Timothy (2 Tim 1:2). Timothy is not still in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3, 2 Tim 4:12), but he is probably in Asia Minor somewhere. Priscilla and Aquila are with Paul, as is Onesiphorus (2 Tim 4:19, 2 Tim 1:1516). The city where Timothy is at is apparently plagued with some quarreling (2 Tim 2:14).

Place of Origin and Date
Paul is again in prison in this letter (2 Tim 1:12, 17, 2:9). He expects that he will soon be executed (2 Tim 4:6-8). We therefore place this letter during Paul's second and final Roman imprisonment in 63- 64 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
Paul wants to see Timothy again before he is executed (2 Ti 4:9). Paul instructs Timothy to bring Mark (2 Ti 4:11) and some personal belongings from Carpus, a brother at Troas (2 Ti 4:13).

Main Theme and Focus
Paul's theme here is not the addressing of a specific church problem but really encouraging Timothy to be an awesome disciple.



Titus

Author
This letter was written by the apostle Paul (Tit 1:1).

Recipients
This was a personal letter written to Titus (Tit 1:4).

Place of Origin and Date
There is no mention of Titus in Acts (though he is mentioned in 2 Cor 7:6, 13). Further, Paul did not go to Crete as a free man in Acts. Therefore, we cannot place this book in Acts, and it must have been written after his release from the Roman confinement of Acts 28:30. We don't know where Paul is at, except that he is somewhere between Crete and his winter stop at Nicoplis near the gulf of Actium (Tit 3:12). We thus date this letter between his release from the first Roman confinement and his second Roman confinement, around 62-64 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
Titus is left on Crete (Tit 1:5) with a dangerous threat from false teachers and Judaizers (Tit 1:10-16). Titus must appoint elders to confront this threat (Tit 1:5, 9). We should remember that Crete was an island and not a city. Therefore, Titus needed to appoint elders in every individual town (Tit 1:5) who could refute the threats if Titus wasn't there.

Main Theme and Focus
While addressing the issue of dealing with false teachers and appointing elders, Paul gives Titus some practical instruction on how to run the ministry on Crete.


Philemon

Author
Paul is the author of this letter (Plm 1:1)

Recipients
This letter is written to Philemon (Plm 1:1), whom Paul may have converted (Plm 1:19). Philemon lived in Colosse (compare Plm 1:2, Col 4:17 with the mention of Archippus; Plm 1:10, Col 4:9 with Onesimus).

Place of Origin and Date
Based on the similarities of Paul's company in the letter to the Colossians and to Philemon (notice Epaphras Mark, Demas and Luke in Plm 1:23-24, Col 4:10-14), we can date this letter at the same basic time as Colossians and Ephesians. See the discussion in Ephesians and Colossians for more detail on this point.

Immediate Occasion
Paul is writing a personal letter to Philemon, who by coincidence is the owner of a runaway slave whom Paul has converted in Rome (Plm 1:10-11). This letter is a personal appeal to Philemon to forgive Onesimus (Plm 1:17-19). Additionally, Paul anticipates that he will be released soon and that he intends to visit Philemon (Plm 1:22).

Main Theme and Focus
Paul says very little in this letter that is not directly related to his immediate purpose. He does mention that Philemon is doing a great job encouraging the saints (Plm 1:4-7).



Hebrews

Author
The authorship of this book is unknown. The author was a second- generation Christian (Heb 2:3) and not an apostle, but that is all that can safely be said.

Recipients
The recipients of this letter are also unknown, though we may safely assume that they were Jewish Christians. At one time they suffered greatly for their faith (Heb 10:32-34).

Place of Origin and Date
The place of origin of this letter is also unknown, though the date may be said to be before 70 A.D. This is because the author refers to temple sacrifice in the present tense and the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. The remark of Heb 13:24 could either mean that the writer is in Italy or that the readers were in Italy.

Immediate Occasion
The readers were in danger of "drifting away" (Heb 2:1) and losing their focus on Jesus (Heb 3:1, 12:1-2). They were "slow to learn" (Heb 5:11-12) and were generally lukewarm (Heb 10:19-31).

Main Theme and Focus
Because of the serious danger the readers were in, the writer appeals to the readers to again be devoted to Jesus (Heb 10:19-21). He uses the motif of the law to explain to his readers why they should not abandon Jesus.



James

Author
The author of this book is James, the brother of Jesus (Jas 1:1, Acts 1:14, 15:13, Gal 1:19, 2:9).

Recipients
This letter was written to the church at large (Jas 1:1).

Place of Origin and Date
This letter was probably written from Jerusalem, where James was based, but the letter doesn't tell us this specifically. James was martyred in 62 A.D., so this is the latest that it could have been written.

Immediate Occasion
There is no immediate occasion for this letter. It is a general letter with general instructions towards morality. This general nature of the letter makes it especially useful to all people in any circumstance.

Main Theme and Focus
This letter focuses on inner spirituality and righteousness in the life of the believer.



1 Peter

Author
This letter was written by the apostle Peter (1 Pt 1:1).
 
Recipients
This letter was written to the church in Asia Minor (1 Pt 1:1).

Place of Origin and Date
Peter was probably in Rome when he wrote this letter, as Babylon would be a cryptic name for Rome (1 Pt 5:13). Peter is with Mark and Silas (1 Pt 5:1213). This letter is dated close to Peter's martyrdom in Rome in 63- 64 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
Peter is writing to stimulate the readers to wholesome thinking (2 Pt 3:1). There is no immediate crisis involved, except that the church of the region is subject to all kinds of slander (1 Pt 1:6, 2:12, 3:9, 3:16, 4:4, 4:1216).

Main Theme and Focus
Peter encourages the church to be faithful to God in their trials by imitating Christ's example of non- retaliation (1 Pt 2:23, 4:1).



2 Peter

Author
This letter was written by the apostle Peter (2 Pt 1:1).

Recipients
The letter does not specifically state whom it was written to, but 2 Pt 3:1 indicates that it is the same group of people to whom the first letter was written, namely the Christians of Asia Minor (1 Pt 1:1).

Place of Origin and Date
Peter has an awareness of his own death in the near future (2 Pt 1:14-15), so we would date this letter the year of his martyrdom, 64 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
Peter's intent is to stimulate the readers to wholesome thinking (2 Pt 3:1), yet he has a very pointed and direct statement to make about false teachers who would rise up from among them (2 Pt 2:1-3, see Ac 20:30).

Main Theme and Focus
Peter encourages his readers to hold to the early teachings they had received (2 Pt 1:3-8, 1:12, 1:16, 3:2, 3:17-18).



1 John

Author
The text of this letter does not explicitly claim an author, though the author does claim some first- hand knowledge of Jesus (1 Jn 1:1-4). Earliest tradition attributes this letter to the apostle John.

Recipients
The text of this letter does not state to whom it was written, but they were Christians (1 Jn 2:12, 5:13).

Place of Origin and Date
It is impossible to determine from this text either when or where John was when he wrote this letter, though early tradition places John in Ephesus writing this around 85 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
John's main thrust is an encouragement to the saints (1 Jn 5:13). He is addressing not a specific church issue but general issues in the church at his time such as false teachers and gnosticism (1 Jn 2:18-25, 3:7, 4:1-3) and idolatry (1 Jn 5:21).

Main Theme and Focus
Besides addressing false teachers and idolatry, John is concerned with emphasizing that Christians should love one another (1 Jn 3:11-24, 4:7-21).


2 John

Author
The author of this letter is not mentioned specifically in this letter, but early tradition attributes it to John the apostle.

Recipients
The text is quite cryptic in telling us anything about whom it was written to. Early tradition assigns it to the same community which received the first letter from John.

Place of Origin and Date
Again, the place of origin is unknown, though early tradition again places John in Ephesus and suggests that this letter was written somewhere around 90 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
The elder writes to warn his reader about false teachers (2 Jn 1:7-11).

Main Theme and Focus
Since this letter is so short, the author mentions little besides his main point.


3 John

Author
The author of this letter is the same as the author of 2 John ("the elder," see 3 Jn 1:1), traditionally known as the apostle John.

Recipients
This letter was written to a certain Gaius, who was probably a leader of the community that received 2 John and 1 John.

Place of Origin and Date
The place of origin of this letter is generally regarded as the same as that of 2 John, namely Ephesus. The date is also believed to be around 90 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
The elder writes to Gaius about a man names Diotrophes who was causing problems in the church by refusing to welcome itinerant preachers (3 Jn 1:9-10). The author encourages Gaius to welcome the brothers as he has been doing (3 Jn 1:5-8).

Main Theme and Focus
Since this letter is so short, the author covers virtually nothing else outside of his immediate purpose.



Jude

Author
The author of this book was Jude, the brother of James and the half- brother of Jesus (Ju 1:1, Mk 6:3). His Jewish name was Judah and would more likely be translated into English as "Judas," except for the evil connotation of that name as a result of the betrayal of Judas Iscariot.

Recipients
The text does not identify whom this letter was written to, though a group of churches could be suggested by Ju 1:1.

Place of Origin and Date
The place and date of origin of this letter are not known, though tradition has assigned it to a period just before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. We may date it around 65 A.D.

Immediate Occasion
Jude writes to encourage the saints to contend for the faith (Ju 1:3), which was in danger of being corrupted by false teachers who had slipped in among them (Ju 1:4, 1:8, 1:10, 1:16, 1:19).

Main Theme and Focus
The main theme here is the infiltration of the false teachers into the church, as the letter is too short to discuss much else. Jude's flavor is one of urgency and conviction.



Revelation

Author
The author of this book is the apostle John (Rev 1:4).

Recipients
This letter was written to the seven churches of Asia Minor that were started during Paul's Ephesian ministry (Ac 19:10).

Place of Origin and Date
John is on the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia, having been banished for his work in spreading the gospel (Rev 1:9). It is dated to the end of the Emperor Domitian's reign around 96 A.D, or possibly in the mid-60's A.D. If the later date is true, it is thus the last letter of the New Testament.

Immediate Occasion
John writes to encourage the saints of his time to remain true to the Lord. They are being subjected to hardship and martyrdom (Rev 1:9, 6:10-11, 7:14, 13:7-10, 14:12-13, 16:15, 17:6, 18:24, 21:4). He writes them regarding what he says will happen "soon" (Rev 1:1, 1:3, 1:19, 22:6-12).

Main Theme and Focus
Having seen above the situation that John addresses, we can see that Revelation paints a picture of God judging the world for its sins against his people (Rev 16:5-7, 18:19-20, 19:1-2, 20:9-10). This judgment is thus not the second coming of Christ at the end of the world but rather the curses that he sends upon them as revealed in this letter.

In the face of these trials, John commands his readers to repent of sin (Rev 2:5, 2:16, 3:3, 3:19). He urges their bravery and perseverance (Rev 2:10, 13:10, 14:12) towards overcoming (Rev 2:26, 3:5, 3:12, 3:21, 12:11, 21:7). He tells them to have "washed robes" (Rev 7:14, 19:8, 22:14) and to be holy (Rev 18:4, 20:4). Basically, he is calling for a response (Rev 22:7) to fear God (Rev 14:6-7). This is seen in contrast to those who would see God's plagues upon the earth and yet not repent (Rev 9:20-21, 16:9-11)!

The overall thrust of Revelation is one of encouragement and victory, though God's people may suffer at the hands of the unbelievers of the world. John assures them that God is in control and will vindicate their faithfulness to him.

Copyright © 1996 John Engler. All rights reserved.

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