The Gospel of Matthew
Purpose: To prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal King.
Author: Matthew (Levi)
To whom Written: Matthew wrote especially to the Jews.
Date Written: Probably between A.D. 60-65.
Setting: Matthew was a Jewish tax collector who became one of Jesus’ disciples. This Gospel forms the connecting link between the Old and New Testaments because of its emphasis on the fulfillment of prophecy.
Key Verse: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (5:17).
key People: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, the disciples, the religious leaders, Caiaphas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene.
Kay Places: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Capernaum, Galilee, Judea.
Special Features: Matthew is filled with Messianic language (“Son of David” is used throughout) and Old Testament references (53 quotes and 76 other references). This Gospel was not written as a chronological account; its purpose was to present the clear evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior.
The Gospel of Mark
Purpose: To present the person, work, and teachings of Jesus.
Author: John Mark. He was not one of the 12 disciples but he accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey (acts 13:13).
To Whom Written: The Christians in Rome, where he wrote the Gospel.
Date Written: Between A.D. 55 and 65.
Setting: The Roman empire under Tiberius Caesar. The empire with its common language and excellent transportation and communication systems, was ripe to hear Jesus’ message, which spread quickly from nation to nation.
Key Verse: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45).
Key People: Jesus, the 12 disciples, Pilate, the Jewish religious leaders,
Key Places: Capernaum, Nazareth, Caesarea, Philippi, Jericho, Bethany, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Golgotha.
Special Features: Mark was probably the first Gospel written. The other Gospels quote all but 31 verses of Mark. Mark records more miracles than does any other Gospel.
The Gospel of Luke
Purpose: To present an accurate account of the life of Christ and to present Christ as the perfect human and Savior.
Author: Luke – a doctor (Colossians 4:14), a Greek and Gentile Christian. He is the only known Gentile author in the New Testament. Luke was a close friend and companion of Paul. He also wrote Acts, and the two books go together.
To Whom Written: Theophilus (” one who loves God”), Gentiles, and people everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 60
Setting: Luke wrote from Rome or possibly from Caesarea.
Key Verses: “Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (19:9,10).
Key People: Jesus, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Mary, the disciples, Herod the Great, Pilate, Mary Magdalene.
Kay Places: Bethlehem, Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem.
Special Features: This is the most comprehensive Gospel. The general vocabulary and diction show that the author was educated. He makes frequent references to illnesses and diagnoses. Luke stresses Jesus’ relationships with people; emphasizes prayer, miracles, and angels; records inspired hymns of praise; and gives a prominent place to women. Most of 9:51-18:35 is not found in any other Gospel.
The Gospel of John
Purpose: To prove conclusively that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in him will have eternal life.
Author: John the apostle, son of Zebedee, brother of James, called a “Son of Thunder”.
To Whom Written: New Christians and searching non-Christians.
Date Written: Probably A.D. 85-90.
Setting: Written after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and before John’s exile to the island of Patmos.
Key Verses: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:30,31).
Key People: Jesus, John the Baptist, the disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus’ mother, Pilate, Mary Magdalene.
Key Places: Judean countryside, Samaria, Galilee, Bethany, Jerusalem.
Special Features: Of the eight miracles recorded, six are unique (among the Gospels) to John, as the “Upper Room Discourse” (chapters 14-17). Over 90 percent of John is unique to his Gospel – John does not contain a genealogy or any record of Jesus’ birth, childhood, temptation, transfiguration, appointment of the disciples, nor any account of Jesus’ parables, ascension, or great Commission.
Purpose: To give an accurate account of the birth and growth of the Christian church.
Author: Luke (a Gentile physician).
To Whom Written: Theophilus and all lovers of God.
Date Written: Between A.D. 63 and 70.
Setting: Acts is the connecting link between Christ’s life and the life of the church, between the Gospels and the Letters.
Key Verse: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8).
Key People: Peter, John, James, Stephen, Philip, Paul, Barnabas, Cornelius, James (Jesus’ brother), Timothy, Lydia, Silas, Titus, Apollos, Agabus, Ananias, Felix, Festus, Agrippa, Luke.
Key Places: Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Joppa, Antioch, Cyprus, Pisidian, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea, Malta, Rome.
Special Features: Acts is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Because Acts ends so abruptly, Luke may have planned to write a third book, continuing the story.
Purpose: To introduce Paul to the Romans and to give a sample of his message before he arrives in Rome.
To Whom Written: The Christians in Rome and believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 57, from Corinth, as Paul was preparing for his visit to Jerusalem.
Setting: Apparently Paul had finished his work in the east, and planned to visit Rome on his way to Spain after first bringing a collection to Jerusalem for the poor Christians there (15:23-28). The Roman church was mostly Jewish but also contained a great number of Gentiles.
Key Verse: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1).
Key People: Paul, Phoebe.
Key Place: Rome.
special Features: Paul wrote Roman as an organized and carefully presented statement of his faith-it does not have the form of a typical letter. He does however , spend considerable time greeting people in Rome at the end of the letter.
Purpose: To identify problems in the Corinthian church, to offer solutions, and to teach the believers how to live for Christ in a corrupt society.
To Whom Written: The church in Corinth, and Christians everywhere.
Date written: About A.D. 55, near the end of Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus, during his third missionary journey.
Setting: Corinth was a major cosmopolitan city, a seaport and major trade center-the most important city in Achaia. It was also filled with idolatry and immorality. The church was largely made up of Gentles. Paul had established this church on his second missionary journey.
Key Verse: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1:10).
Key People: Paul, Timothy, members of Chloe’s household.
Key Places: Worship meetings in Corinth.
Special Features: This is a strong, straightforward letter.
Purpose: To affirm Paul’s ministry, defend his authority as an apostle, and refute the false teachers in Corinth.
To Whom Written: The church in Corinth and Christians everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 55-57, from Macedonia.
Setting: Paul had already written three letters to the Corinthians (two are now lost). In 1 Corinthians (the second of these letters), he used strong words to correct and teach. Most of the church had responded in the right spirit; there were, however, those who were denying Paul’s authority and questioning his motives.
Key Verse: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (5:20).
Key People: Paul, Timothy, Titus, False teachers.
Key Places: Corinth, Jerusalem.
Special Features: This is an intensely personal and autobiographical letter.
Purpose: To refute the Judaizers (who taught that Gentile believers must obey the Jewish law in order to be saved), and to call Christians to faith and freedom in Christ.
To Whom Written: The churches in southern Galatia founded on Paul’s first missionary journey (including Iconium, Lystra, Derbe), and Christians everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 49, from Antioch, prior to the Jerusalem council (A.D. 50).
Setting: The most pressing controversy in the early church was the relationship of new believers, particularly Gentiles, to the Jewish laws. This was especially a problem for the converts and for the young churches that Paul had founded on his first missionary journey. Paul wrote to correct this problem. Later, at the council in Jerusalem, the conflict was officially resolved by the church leaders.
Key Verse: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (5:1).
Key People: Paul, Peter, Barnabas, Titus, Abraham, fake teachers.
Kay Places: Galatia, Jerusalem.
Special Features: This letter is not addressed to any specific body of believers and was probably circulated to several churches in Galatia.
Purpose: To strengthen the believers in Ephesus in their Christian faith by explaining the nature and purpose of the church, the body of Christ.
To Whom Written: The church at Ephesus, and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 60, from Rome, during Paul’s imprisonment there.
Setting: The letter was not written to confront any heresy or problem all the churches. It was sent with Tychicus to strengthen and encourage the churches in the area. Paul had spent over three years with the Ephesian church. As a result, he was very close to them. Paul met with the elders of the Ephesian church at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38)-a meeting that was filled with great sadness because he was leaving them for what he thought would be the last time. Because there are no specific references to people or problems in the Ephesian church and because the words “at Ephesus” (1:1) are not present in some early manuscripts. Paul may have intended this to be a circular letter to be read to all the churches in the area.
Key Verses: “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all the through all and in all” (4:4-6).
Key People: Paul, Tychicus.
Special Features: Several pictures of the church are presented: body, temple, mystery, new man, bride, and soldier. This letter was probably distributed to many of the early churches.
Purpose: To thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent Paul and to strengthen these believers by showing them that true joy comes from Jesus Christ alone.
To Whom Written: All the Christians at Philippi and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 61, from Rome during Paul’s imprisonment there.
Setting: Paul and his companions began the church at Philippi on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:11-40). This was the first church established on the European continent. The Philippian church had sent a gift with Epaphroditus (one of their members) to be delivered to Paul (4:18). Paul was in a Roman prison at the time. He wrote this letter to thank them for their gift and to encourage them in their faith.
Key Verse: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4).
Key People: Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Euodia, and Syntyche.
Key Place: Philippi.
Purpose: To combat errors in the church and to show that believers have everything they need in Christ.
To Whom Written: The church at Colosse, a city in Asia Minor, and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 60, during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome.
Setting: Paul had never visited Colosse – evidently the church had been founded by Epaphras and other converts from Paul’s missionary travels. The church, however, had been infiltrated by religious relativism, with some believers attempting to combine elements of paganism and secular philosophy with Christian doctrine. Paul confronts these false teachings and affirms the sufficiency of Christ.
Key Verses: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (2:9,10).
Key People: Paul, Timothy, Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Epaphras.
Key Places: Colosse, Laodicea (4: 15,16).
Special Features: Christ is presented as having absolute supremacy and sole sufficiency. Colossians has similarities to Ephesians, probably because it was written at about the same time, but it has a different emphasis.
Purpose: To strengthen the Thessalonian Christians i their faith and give them the assurance of Christ’s return.
To Whom written: The church at Thessalonica, and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 51 from Corinth; one of Paul’s earliest letters.
Setting: The church at Thessalonica was very young, having been established only two or three years before this letter was written. The Thessalonian Christians needed to mature in their faith. In addition, there was a misunderstanding concerning Christ’s second coming – some thought Christ would return immediately, and thus they were confused when their loved ones died because they expected Christ to return beforehand. Also believers were being persecuted.
Key Verse: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (4:14).
Key People: Paul, Timothy, Silas.
Kay Place: Thessalonica.
Special Features: Paul received from Timothy a favourable report about the Thessalonians. However, Paul wrote this letter to correct their misconceptions about the resurrection and the second coming of Christ.
Purpose: To clear up the confusion about the second coming of Christ.
To Whom Written: The church at Thessalonica, and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 51 or 52, a few months after 1 Thessalonians, from Corinth.
Setting: Many in the church were confused about the timing of Christ’s return. Because of mounting persecution, they thought the day of the Lord must be imminent, and they interpreted Paul’s first letter to say that the second coming would be at any moment. In light of this misunderstanding, many persisted in being idle and disorderly, with the excuse of waiting for Christ’s return.
Key Verse: “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (3:5).
Key People: Paul, Silas, Timothy.
Key Place: Thessalonica.
Special Features: This is a follow-up letter to 1 Thessalonians. In this letter, Paul indicates various events that most precede the second coming of Christ.
Purpose: To give encouragement and instruction to Timothy, a young leader.
To Whom Written: Timothy, young church leader, and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 64, from Rome or Macedonia (possibly Philippi), Probably just prior to Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome.
Setting: Timothy was one of Paul’s closest companions. Paul and sent Timothy to thee church at Ephesus to counter the false teaching that had arisen there (1 Timothy 1:3,4). Timothy probably served for a time as a leader in the church at Ephesus. Paul hoped to visit Timothy (3:14,15; 4:13), but in the Meantime, he wrote this letter to give Timothy practical advice about the ministry.
Key Verse: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for t5he believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (4:12).
Key People: Paul, Timothy.
Key Place: Ephesus.
Special Features: First Timothy is a personal letter and a handbook of church administration and discipline.
Purpose: To give final instructions and encouragement to Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus.
To whom Written: Timothy, and all Christians everywhere.
Date written: About A.D. 66 or 67, from prison in Rome. After a year or two of freedom, Paul was arrested again and executed under Emperor Nero.
Setting: Paul was virtually alone in prison; only Luke was with him. Paul wrote this letter to pass the torch to the new generation of church leaders. He also asked for visits from his friends and for his scrolls, especially the parchments – possibly parts of the Old Testament, the Gospels, and other Biblical manuscripts.
Key Verse: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2:15).
Key People: Paul, Timothy, Luke, Mark, and others.
Key Places: Rome, Ephesus.
Special Features: Because this is Paul’s last letter, it reveals his heart and his priorities – sound doctrine, steadfast faith, confident endurance, and enduring love.
Purpose: To Advise Titus in his responsibility of supervising the churches on the island of Crete.
To Whom Written: Titus, a Greek, probably converted to Christ through Paul’s ministry (he had become Paul’s special representative to the island of Crete), and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 64, around the same time 1 Timothy was written; probably from Macedonia when Paul travelled between his Roman imprisonments.
Setting: Paul sent Titus to organize and oversee the churches on Crete. This letter tells Titus how to do this job.
Key Verse: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you” (1:5).
Key People: Paul, Titus.
Key Places: Crete, Nicopolis.
Special Features: Titus is very similar to 1 Timothy with its instructions to church leaders.
Purpose: To convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave. Onesimus, and to accept him as a brother in the faith.
To whom Written: Philemon, who was probably a wealthy member of the Colossian church, and all believers.
Date Written: About A.D. 60, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, at about the same time Ephesians and Colossians were written.
Setting: Slavery was very common in the Roman empire, and evidently some Christians had slaves. Paul does not condemn the institution of slavery in his writings, but he makes a radical statement by calling this slave Philemon’s brother in Christ.
Key Verse: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good – no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord” (verses 15,16).
Key People: Paul, Philemon, Onesimus.
Key Places: Colosse, Rome.
Special Features: This is a private, personal letter to a friend.
Purpose: To Present the sufficiency and superiority of Christ.
Author: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Priscilla, and others have been suggested because the name of the author is not given in the Biblical text itself. whoever it was speaks of Timothy as “brother” (13:23).
To Whom Written: Hebrew Christians (perhaps second-generation Christians, see 2:3) who may have been considering a return to Judaism, perhaps because of immaturity stemming from a lack of understanding of Biblical truths; and all believers in Christ.
Date Written: Probably before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, because the religious sacrifices and ceremonies are referred to in the book, but no mention is made of the temple’s destruction.
Setting: These Jewish Christians were probably undergoing fierce persecution, socially and physically, both from Jews and from Romans. Christ had not returned to establish his kingdom, and the people needed to be reassured that Christianity was true and that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
Key Verse: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, Sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (1:3).
Key People: Old Testament men and women of faith (chapter 11).
Special Features: Although Hebrews is called a “letter” (13:22), it has the form and the content of a sermon.
Purpose: To expose hypocritical practices and to teach right Christian behavior.
Author: James. Jesus’ brother, a leader in the Jerusalem church.
To Whom Written: First-century Jewish Christians residing in Gentile communities outside Palestine, and all Christians everywhere.
Date Written: Probably A.D. 49, prior to the Jerusalem council held in A.D. 50.
Setting: This letter expresses James’s concern for persecuted Christians who were once part of the Jerusalem church.
Key Verse: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (2:18).
Purpose: To offer encouragement to suffering Christians.
To Whom Written: Jewish Christians out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia Minor, and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 62-64, possibly from Rome.
Setting: Peter was probably in Rome when the great persecution under Emperor Nero began. (Eventually Peter was executed during this persecution.) Throughout the Roman empire, Christians were being tortured and killed for their faith, and the church in Jerusalem was being scattered throughout the Mediterranean world.
Key Verse: “These have come so that your faith…may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1:7).
Key People: Peter, Silas, Mark.
Key Places: Jerusalem, Rome, and the regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia.
Special Features: Peter and several images that were very special to him because Jesus had used them when he revealed certain truths to Peter. Peter’s name (which means “rock”) had been given to him by Jesus. Peter’s conception of the church – a spiritual house composed of living stones built upon Christ as the foundation – came from Christ. Jesus encouraged Peter to care for the church as a shepherd tending the flock. Thus, it is not surprising to see Peter using living stones (2:5-9) and shepherds and sheep (2:25; 5:2,4) to describTo Whom Written: e the church.
Purpose: To warn Christians about false teachers and to exhort them to grow in their faith in and knowledge of Christ.
To Whom Written: The church at large, and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 67, three years after 1 Peter was written, possibly from Rome.
Setting: Peter know that his time on earth was limited (1: 13,14), so he wrote about what was on his heart, warning believers of what would happen when he was gone – especially about the presence of false teachers. He reminded his readers of the unchanging truth of the gospel.
Key Verse: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (1:3).
Key People: Peter, Paul.
Special Features: The date and destination are uncertain, and the authorship has been disputed. Because of this, 2 Peter was the last book admitted to the canon of the New Testament Scripture. Also, these are similarities between 2 Peter and Jude.
Purpose: To reassure Christians in their faith and to counter false teachings.
Author: The apostle John.
To Whom Written: The letter is untitled and was written to no particular church. It was sent as a pastoral letter to several Gentile congregation. It was also written to all believers everywhere.
Date Written: Probably between A.D. 85 and 90, from Ephesus.
Setting: John was an older man and perhaps the only surviving apostle at this time. He had not yet been banished to the island of Patmos, where he would live in exile. As an eyewitness of Christ, he wrote authoritatively to give this new generation of believers assurance and confidence in God and in their faith.
Key Verse: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13).
Key People: John, Jesus.
Special Features: John is the apostle of love, and love is mentioned throughout this letter. There are a number of similarities between this letter and John’s Gospel – in vocabulary, style, and main ideas. John uses brief statements and simple words, and he features sharp contrasts – light and darkness, truth and error, God and Satan, Life and death, love and hate.
Purpose: To emphasize the basics of following Christ – truth and love – and to warn against false teachers.
Author: The apostle John.
To Whom Written: To “the chosen lady” and her children – or possibly to a local church and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About the same time as 1 John, around A.D. 90, from Ephesus.
Setting: evidently this woman and her family were involved in one of the churches that John was overseeing – they had developed a strong friendship with John. John was warning her of the false teachers who were becoming prevalent in some of the churches.
Key Verse: “And this is love; that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (verse 6).
Key People: John, the chosen lady, and her children.
Purpose: To command Gaius for his hospitality and to encourage him in his Christian life.
Author: The apostle John.
To Whom Written: Gaius, a prominent Christian in one of the churches known to John; and all Christians.
Date Written: About A.D. 90, Ephesus.
Setting: Church leaders travelled from town to town helping to establish new congregations. They depended on the hospitality of follow believers. Gaius was one who welcomed these leaders into his home.
Key Verse: “Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you” (verse 5).
Key People: John, Gaius, Diotrephes, Demetrius.
Purpose: To remind the church of the need for constant vigilance – to keep strong in the faith and to oppose heresy.
Author: Jude, brother of Jesus and James.
To Whom Written: Jewish Christians, and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 65.
Setting: From the first century on, the church has been threatened by heresy and false teaching – we must always be on our guard.
Key Verse: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share. I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (verse 3).
Key People: Jude, James, Jesus.
Purpose: To reveal the full identity of Christ and to give warning and hope to believers.
Author: The apostle John.
To Whom Written: The seven churches in Asia, and all believers everywhere.
Date Written: About A.D. 95, from Patmos.
Setting: Most scholars believe that the seven churches of Asia to whom John writes were experiencing the persecution that took place under Emperor Domitian (A.D. 90-95). It seems that the Roman authorities had exiled John to the island of Patmos (off the coast of Asia) John, who had been an eyewitness of the glorified Christ. God also revealed to him what would take place in the future – Judgment and the ultimate triumph of God over evil.
Key Verse: “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (1:3).
Key People: John, Jesus.
Key Places: Patmos, the seven churchs, the new Jerusalem.
Special Features: Revelation is written in “apocalyptic” form – a type of Jewish literature that uses symbols imagery to communicate hope (in the ultimate triumph of God) to those in the midst of persecution. The events are ordered according to literary, rather than strictly chronological, patterns.