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Question:

"Who wrote the books of the New Testament, and is the New Testament (as we know it) in chronological order?"

Answer:

To answer this question and to help stimulate your study of Scripture, here is a listing of the order in which the books of the New Testament are believed to have been written, as well as their approximate dates and their authors. The dates I am using come from The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary), but other sources usually have similar dates for the books of the New Testament.



Timeline

Around 4 B.C.:
Jesus is born. His birth was "in the days of Herod the king" (Matthew 2:1), and scholars tell us that Herod died in 4 B.C. (see for example Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Offsite Link, verse 1, and People's New Testament Offsite Link, verse 1). As these two commentaries point out, Jesus is believed to have been born in the last year of Herod's reign, which puts His birth at around 4 B.C.

Around 30 A.D.:
Jesus is crucified. In Luke 3:23 we are told that Jesus was about 30 years old when He began His ministry, and scholars tell us that His ministry probably lasted about three and a half years (see for example Wesley's Explanatory Notes Offsite Link, verse 23). So Jesus died somewhere around 30 A.D.

Around 30 A.D. (continued):
The Church is born. Jesus was in the tomb on the Passover Sabbath, and the day of Pentecost always fell on the fiftieth day counting from the day after the Passover Sabbath (see for example People's New Testament Offsite Link, verse 1, and Gill's Exposition of the Bible Offsite Link). Acts 2:1-4 tells us that on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit filled the original disciples, along with manifestations such as the sound as of a mighty wind, visible tongues of fire, speaking in tongues, and the first preaching of the Gospel (in which a harvest of souls began to be gathered in). This event is often regarded as signaling the birth of the Church.

45-48 A.D.:
The book of James is written. Most non-Catholic Bible scholars agree that James was one of the half-brothers of Jesus (Catholics disagree because they believe that Jesus' mother had no other children) and the one who presided over the "Jerusalem Conference" in Acts 15:1-30 (48-50 A.D.). There are several other men named James in the New Testament (including two apostles), but there are strong reasons for eliminating them as the author of the book of James (see for example People's New Testament Offsite Link).

48-50 A.D.:
The apostle Paul is in Antioch and he writes his first letter, which we call the book of Galatians. This is during the time period of Acts 15:25-35.

Around 50 A.D.:
The Gospel of Matthew is believed to have been written sometime around 50 A.D. by the apostle Matthew (although possibly it was written a few years earlier or later). The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary) describes a number of theories which scholars have proposed concerning the dates and sources for the "synoptic Gospels" (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and suggests that a date somewhere around 50 A.D. for Matthew's Gospel would satisfy all of the issues.

50-54 A.D.:
The apostle Paul writes 1 and 2 Thessalonians from Corinth (Silas and Timothy are listed as co-authors of these books. See 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1). This is during the time period of Acts 18:1-11.

54-55 A.D.:
The apostle Paul spends roughly 3 years in Ephesus (from 53 to 55 A.D.), where he writes his second letter to the church at Corinth (his first letter to them has been lost). We call this second letter the book of 1 Corinthians (Sosthenes is listed as a co-author of this book. See 1 Corinthians 1:1). This is during the time period of Acts 19:1-41.

56-57 A.D.:
The apostle Paul writes his fourth letter to the church at Corinth from Macedonia (his third letter to them has been lost). We call this fourth letter the book of 2 Corinthians (Timothy is listed as a co-author of this book. See 2 Corinthians 1:1). This is during the time period of Acts 20:1-2.

Late winter/early spring of 57-58 A.D.:
The apostle Paul writes his letter to the Romans (Tertius is listed as the one who actually wrote this letter, so he was probably taking dictation from Paul. See Romans 16:22. Other passages indicate that Paul may have frequently dictated his letters to someone else, and that he preferred to write the concluding remarks himself. See 1 Corinthians 16:21, Galatians 6:11, Colossians 4:18, 2 Thessalonians 3:17, and Philemon 1:19, for example). This is during the time period of Acts 20:2-6.

57-59 A.D.:
The Gospel of Mark is believed to have been written during this time period. The early church fathers believed that this Gospel was written by Mark, an associate of the apostle Peter and the one who is referred to as "John, also called Mark" in Acts 12:12.

58-60 A.D.:
The Gospel of Luke is believed to have been written during this time period. Luke was a physician who sometimes traveled with the apostle Paul, and he is also the author of the book of Acts.

60-63 A.D.:
The apostle Paul is under house arrest in Rome for four years. He writes the book of Ephesians around 60 A.D., Colossians around 60-61 A.D. (Timothy is listed as a co-author of this book. See Colossians 1:1), Philippians around 61-62 A.D. (Timothy is listed as a co-author of this book. See Philippians 1:1), and Philemon around the summer of 62 A.D. (Timothy is listed as a co-author of this book. See Philemon 1:1). This is during the time period of Acts 28:14-31.

60-62 A.D.:
The book of Acts is written by Dr. Luke (see Colossians 4:14), Paul's part-time traveling companion and the author of the Gospel of Luke.

60-65 A.D.:
The apostle John writes the books of 1, 2, and 3 John.

63-66 A.D.:
The apostle Paul writes 1 Timothy and Titus from Macedonia.

64 A.D.:
The apostle Peter writes the book of 1 Peter.

64-68 A.D.:
The apostle Peter writes the book of 2 Peter. This is the last New Testament book that Peter will write. He is believed to have been martyred in late 67 or early 68 A.D.

67 A.D.:
The apostle Paul writes 2 Timothy while imprisoned in Rome. This is the last New Testament book that Paul will write. He is believed to have been martyred in 68 A.D.

68-69 A.D.:
An unknown person writes the book of Hebrews. Some scholars believe that the apostle Paul wrote Hebrews, but the evidence that he did not write this book is very strong (for example, notice that all of the books written by Paul say that they were written by Paul, yet Hebrews is anonymous). Many other scholars believe that there is strong evidence that Barnabas wrote Hebrews. Barnabas (who is mentioned a number of times in Acts chapter 11 through chapter 15) was the apostle Paul's traveling companion, so he would have picked up many of Paul's phrases and expressions from hearing Paul preach so much. This may be why Hebrews sounds similar to Paul's writings, even though it does not say that it was written by Paul (Paul's letters all say that they were written by him) and it does not have Paul's usual greeting.

It is interesting to note that the human authors of other books and portions of Scripture are unknown as well, such as the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings, Job, Esther, and 1 and 2 Chronicles.

67-80 A.D.:
Jude writes his letter. He calls himself a brother of James. There are several men named Jude in the New Testament, but for a number of reasons many scholars believe that Jude was one of the half-brothers of Jesus.

85-95 A.D.:
The Gospel of John is believed to have been written during this time period by the apostle John.

95-96 A.D.:
The apostle John writes the book of Revelation while in exile on the island of Patmos. This is the last New Testament book that John will write. At this point he is the last surviving member of the twelve apostles and perhaps the only apostle to have died a natural death. The other ten of the original twelve apostles were martyred (not counting Judas Iscariot, who hung himself):
  • Andrew: Crucified.
  • Bartholomew: Crucified.
  • James, son of Alphaeus: Crucified.
  • James, son of Zebedee: Death by the sword.
  • Matthew: Death by the sword.
  • Peter: Crucified upside-down at his own request (he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as the Lord).
  • Philip: Crucified.
  • Simon the Zealot: Crucified.
  • Thaddaeus: Death by arrows.
  • Thomas: Death by a spear thrust.
140 A.D.:
The first formal list of the books of the New Testament is generally believed to have been published in 140 A.D. by Marcion (The History of Christianity, Dr. Tim Dowley, p.106).

397 A.D.:
The complete New Testament canon (as we know it) is approved at the Council of Carthage (The History of Christianity, Dr. Tim Dowley, p.109). The books of Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, and Jude are included in the canon for the first time, and other disputed books are officially excluded from the New Testament canon, such as "The Shepherd of Hermas," "Letter of Barnabas," "Gospel of the Hebrews," "Revelation of Peter," "Acts of Peter," "Didache," "Teaching of Twelve," and "Apostles" (The History of Christianity, Dr. Tim Dowley, p.134-135). To learn more about the canon of Scripture and how it was created, and to learn more about many of the "disputed" books, try The Canon and Ancient Versions of Scripture Offsite Link.

Sometime between the 13th and 16th centuries, A.D.:
Chapter numbers and verse numbers were added to the Bible (see Chapter and Verse Divisions Offsite Link).


I hope this has been helpful, and may the Lord abundantly bless you as you study His Word!
 
 
 
  Modification History  
 
 

  • 04/02/2006 - Modified the description of the date for Matthew's Gospel.
  • 07/23/2004 - Added a link to a website which explains that the chapter numbers and verse numbers were added to the Bible sometime between the 13th and 16th centuries.
  • 07/18/2003 - Added a link to a website which contains information about how the canon of Scripture was created as well as information about many of the "disputed" books.
  • 02/23/2003 - Added the approximate dates for Jesus' birth, His death, and the birth of the Church.
  • 10/05/2001 - Some of the apostle Paul's letters were "co-authored" by other people. Added the "co-authors'" names.