© L.D. Underwood and R.C. Jones 2020
A General Introduction to the New Testament
D: With regard to the structure of Old and New Testaments, there are a few considerations. One should notice there is a deliberate design and development in the order in which the books of the Bible occur. These sixty-six books of the Bible show evidence of a pattern and a definite progress. That is not to say that the arrangement of the books is necessarily divinely inspired, but that order was put together by the church in the early centuries. So, we do not say that the order in which to books are found is a result of some of divine inspiration, but the order is significantly logical. There is a definite purpose and progression that can be seen. That can probably be best seen by looking at the Old Testament first.
In the Old Testament we have historical books—there are five books known as the Pentateuch; also called the law or the Torah which consist of Genesis through Deuteronomy. They are followed by twelve historical books consisting of Joshua through Ester. So, the first seventeen books of the Old Testament are historical in nature. The second section of the Old Testament can be considered didactical or teaching books; and these are the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. These are didactical books; or teaching books and are quite poetical in nature. And the last section of the Old Testament is the collection of prophetical books with five major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel. And twelve minor prophets, Hosea through Malachi. They are called ‘minor’ not because they are less important than the major prophets, but because they are shorter in size. Thus, we have seventeen books of history followed by five books emphasizing teaching, followed by seventeen books of prophecy.
The same pattern is found in the New Testament. We have the four gospels plus the book of Acts, and these five books are historical in nature consisting of either the history of Christ, or the history of the early church. These books are followed by twenty-one didactical books known as the Epistles: the letters of Paul and Peter and James and John and the other writers of the New Testament numbering twenty-one in all. They are followed by one book exclusively devoted to prophecy—the book of the Revelation.
Understanding this pattern is quite helpful to the student of the Bible. When reading in the book of Amos, or Hosea, or Micah, or one of the other prophets, we should understand that this reading fits back into the historical framework Israel during one of the kings that was reigning at the time of when the prophet of God was uttering his prophecy.
Additionally, looking at the Bible from another perspective, there appear to be six divisions of the Bible which correlate with the six days of creation as a kind of table of contents. The Gospels correlate to the fifth day of creation, and the letters to the sixth. Without getting too specific here, the basic outline for these divisions is:
Day 1: Light (a symbol of Holiness) correlates to the pericope beginning with Genesis 2 through Chapter 5.
Day 2: Waters correlates to the Story of Noah through Chapter 11.
Day 3: Dry ground correlates to Abram and his sons who were like the dust of the earth, through the story of Israel in the wilderness.
Day 4: Lights in the firmament correlates with Israel in the promised land which has a sensus plenior story (i.e. a deeper meaning) of how Christ makes his bride to be like him.
Day 5: Life from water/word correlates to the life of Christ.
Day 6: The man and his bride correlates to the man and his bride being fruitful and multiplying.
Days 5 and 6 are the subject of the New Testament. (Jones)
In summary, the arrangement of books of the Bible are not in chronological order (although Bibles with chronological arrangement do exist); but rather they are ordered by sections of emphasis. In order to deal with a particular time-frame, we need to bring all those books that cover that same time period into balance. There is a definite pattern--a definite structure to the books as we have in both the Old and New Testament. So when studying the Gospels, we are essentially looking at four of the historical books of the New Testament.
If the dominant idea of the New Testament could be put in to one word, it would be the word ‘fulfillment’. Each Gospel account illustrates this characteristic concept. For example, Matthew has the phrase, “That it might be fulfilled.” He repeats that word about twelve times in his gospel. Additionally, his first recorded public discourse of our Lord, Matthew reports, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" (Mt 5:17, KJV). Or in an earlier verse: “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness (Mt 3:15). Matthew uses that word ‘fulfillment’ quite frequently from the Greek πληρόω (plēroō) meaning “to fill; make full.” 
- B: I think I probably take a more extreme view of this, and would say that everything in the New Testament is there because it is in the Old. It's not just a cute story that Jesus was teaching in the temple as a boy, but a fulfillment of the sensus plenior pericope of Ge 14.
- When Mark wrote Mr 14:65, he had not yet remembered, or did not know, that those who tormented Jesus also mocked him because he was blindfolded and Jesus didn't know their identities. They knew he could perform miracles and were likely afraid that he may strike them with a curse. When Matthew wrote Mt 26:68 he had been reminded of the details by Isaiah. 
- Matthew need not have been there as a witness to the beating, not does he require omniscience to know of it. Ten or fifteen years had passed and it is likely that some who were there got saved and came forward to tell the story.
In the same way, Mark writes “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15, KJV). Also, Luke will record, with frequency “This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21). In the fourth gospel account, John uses the same phrase that Matthew did, “That it might be fulfilled” numerous times in his Gospel (see John 12:38; 13:18; 15:25; 17:12; 18:9; 18:32; 19:24; 19:28).
Each Gospel illustrates this one major theme, the dominant idea of fulfillment. And what we’re saying is that the Christ of the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. He is the subject of its pages in a unique way. Remember that Job in the Old Testament made a great discovery of God on one occasion and he wrote “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee” (Job 42:5, KJV). As one examines Jesus Christ in the Gospels one will be able to say, “We have heard about Jesus, a great deal by the hearing of the ears but now our eyes actually behold him in the pages of these Gospel accounts.” In fact, Jesus himself emphatically declares that all scripture speaks of him declaring, "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me" (Lk 24:44, KJV); and "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me" (Jn 5:39).
- B: When Pater declared Jesus to be the Messiah, Jesus said that the Father told Peter that; yet Peter had no recollection of a divine intervention. The Father works quietly behind the scenes; neither seen nor heard. With the help of God, Peter correlated what he knew of teh OT with what he saw Jesus doing.
This notion makes the New Testament the most vitally important book or series of books in the world—because they depict the most important person in the world, Jesus Christ. We could put it this way: taking the Old Testament all by itself, it would read very much like an unfinished symphony. Take for example the Pentateuch, the Torah, the Law as one reads through those first five books, studying that section for the very first time, one is struck with the prevalence of animal sacrifices. They appear on almost every page beginning back in the fourth chapter of Genesis and seen more clearly in Exodus, and Leviticus presents the organization of the offerings and rites and the ceremonies and the sacrifices and as one looks at all of these sacrifices of animals he might ask the question, “What are they for?” What is their purpose? Undoubtedly, they somehow point to realities outside of themselves. Yet nowhere in the Pentateuch are those animal sacrifices explained. Reading all the way through the rest of the Old Testament, the reader might become increasingly disappointed because in the Old Testament there are these unexplained ceremonies.
- B: The rabbis say that the scriptures are full of riddles. But they do not have the answers. Quite literally, Jesus is the answer to all the prophetic riddles.
- David: This is interesting. Which Rabbis in particular posit that scriptures are full of riddles and subsequently cannot provide answers to the riddles?
- B:The most well-known allusion to it is in Fidler on the Roof. Tevye wonders about the riddle of life an though he is a 'rev' finds no answers in his book. Here is an article which assumes the scripture is just teh question: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3225640/jewish/Why-Cant-the-Rabbis-Agree-on-Anything.htm
Examining the historical books Joshua through Ester, it is quite clear that God has prepared a chosen people. God is developing the Jewish people into a nation. Essentially a theocracy—meaning ruled by God. As this covenant people invades and occupies the land of Canaan one can picture the future of this fledgling nation as just full of possibilities. That is Joshua. By the time we read book of Judges, we find a sorry, sorted deterioration into servitude. We have seven cycles of apostasy, where the people begin to serve God, then they fall away from God and then God brings in some foreign power to oppress them and then they cry out for mercy from God, and God raises up a Judge and delivers them. They serve God for a while and then the whole cycle repeats itself seven times in the book of Judges. And upon closer examination of these cycles of apostasy, we find that each cycle is a picture of redemption through Christ. Each cycle is a pericope of the cross.
This theocracy, this beautiful experiment where God is the invisible ruler, deteriorates and later becomes a monarchy as described in the book of Samuel, where we have human kings introduced because the people wanted someone they could see. :B: Parallel to the triumphal entry of Jesus; the people wanted a king like them, not the Savior Then that kingdom is disrupted into two kingdoms. There is split, there is secession from the union described in the books of Kings. Each of those kingdoms Israel in the North, Judah in the South both are swept into exile. There is record of the Babylonian captivity, and record of the Assyrian captivity--as it seems God has abandoned Israel to her demise.
The book of Hosea, in fact, serves in part as extended metaphor—an allegory—illustrating Israel as a whoring wife. It is dinner theater—the “play within the play” in the biblical record. Succinctly, the story is that the Prophet Hosea is commanded to marry a prostitute name Gomer: “And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD” (Hosea 1:2, KJV). Gomer is subsequently, but not surprisingly, unfaithful: “For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink” (Hosea 1:2, KJV). We see the language of divorce used, metaphorically, when God commands one of Gomer's children to be called “Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God” (Hosea 1:9). In Hebrew, the verse registers more emphatically, as this child’s name, לֹא עַמִּי (Lo' `Ammiy), literally means “not my people" (see Davidson 400) .
Finally, the story is reviewed in the book of Chronicles and in the last few historical books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther there is just a handful, a little remnant that returns back to Judea. The walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt; but the Davidic throne, no longer exists. All we have in Judea by the end of that historical section are a few Jews who are merely a minor dependency; they don’t even have their own form of government. Outside Judea, they are just scattered to the four winds. One might ask, “What’s happened. Why this change? Here this beautiful beginning and now this sorry declension and decline into other failures. Why?” If we read through the rest of the Old Testament, it ends on a note of sadness because there are unachieved purposes.
- B: 'Jerusalem' means 'teaching of peace'. Hidden in the history is the prophetic riddle concerning the 'New Jerusalem' or the 'New teaching of peace'.
Examine the poetical books of Job through Song of Solomon—philosophical books that deal with the aching problems of the human heart surely we will find some solution to those problems. But is a solution found? Clearly, there are all kinds of illuminations and penetrating practical reassuring councils and lessons and promises but there are no clear final solutions to the problem of sin or pain or death or the life beyond death. We are left groaning with Job, “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!” (Job 23:3, KJV). This leaves the reader without answers in his spiritual quest, for there are these unappeased longings.
- B: Job as a shadow of the suffering servant, is the mirror image conversation of Peter declaring that Christ need not die if he is God, where God declares to the Christ-type that all flesh must die. Ecclesiastes speaks of the wisdom of the world as the first book of the son of David, while Matthew speaks of the wisdom of the Kingdom of Heaven, as the second book of the son of David.
Then if we read the prophetical books of Isaiah through Malachi, we read about these future predictions that guarantee an ultimate consummation and restitution. All focusing upon the idea that someone is coming, someone who will be God’s answer to the cry of the ages and this whole stream of Messianic prophecy which begins back in Genesis reaches flood-tide proportions as we read through the prophets. When reading through the book of Malachi, we notice the Promised One still has not come. Malachi closes with the words, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1, KJV). Thus, the curtain closes on the Old Testament with unfulfilled prophecies.
- B: "the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple" declares his incarnational birth (his body being the temple of God), his teaching in the temple when he was 12; taking them all by surprise, and his appearing in the temple with fury in his eyes, taking possession of his house.
This is why the Old Testament is like an unfinished symphony—with all of these aspects of unexplained ceremonies, unachieved purposes unappeased longings and unfulfilled prophecies. That is why the New Testament completes the sacred masterpiece. That is why the historical books of the New Testament give us an explanation of those unexplained ceremonies and unachieved purposes. They find their fulfillment in Jesus. All of those offerings all those tabernacle ordinances all those unfulfilled histories of the Old Testament are taken up again and they all point to Him where they are recorded historically in the Gospels.
- B: Using the metaphor of the symphony; one can certainly hear the themes and motifs, but the melody is hidden. In each recapitulation of it as it passes from instrumental section (prophets. priests, kings, judges), there are missing notes. It is not until they all play together at the time of the cross with Christ being THE PROPET, THE PRIEST, THE KING, THE JUDGE, that the melody can be heard in it's fullness for the first time. It is a symphony where the Son declares the invisible Father, whom no man has seen nor heard, where that elusive melody represents the ubiquitously intimate workings of God through the history of man from the beginning.
The same thing with the epistles—the didactical books of the New Testament. All those unappeased longings, all those unanswered questions in the Old covenant books of poetry, now find their completion in Christ who is pictured for us in the Epistles. And the same thing with all the prophecies in the Old Testament that were unfulfilled they find their consummation and their completion and their fulfillment in the book of the Revelation. So, Job’s cry, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him” (Job 23:3) is answered. The apostle, John through the lips of Andrew cries out, “We have found the Messiah,” which is being interpreted “the Christ”. Both testaments are vitally important to each other. We cannot have one without the other.
- B: "find... their fulfillment in the book of the Revelation" We'll have to have a closer look at this. It would appear that Revelation is like the Rosetta stone to the hidden riddles of the OT, speaking of the cross in the same tropes used before, but now in a way to make them known. Jesus said "It is finished" on the cross, which is our guiding principle when reading Revelation. The cross is the key to the kingdom (teaching).
A story is told of a Hindu convert who was studying the New Testament and one day he came to his missionary and said, “I’ve come to ask you for the other part of the Bible.” The book I am reading seems to be so incomplete. Almost every page is telling me, 'It was done in order that it might be fulfilled.' And now I want to know just what it is that has been fulfilled." Everything in the New Testament is there because it is in the OT. One does not truly understand the New until the OT source is known.
If we were to omit any chapter in the New Testament, that had a reference to the Old Testament or an allusion back to the Old Testament, we would have to eliminate 240 of the 250 chapters. There are only twenty chapters that do not have some kind of mention of the Old Testament either by direct quotation or by indirect allusion.
- B:Sounds like a challenge. Which are they?
In the New Testament is a revelation of divine supply. In the Old Testament we have the unveilings of the human heart. In the New Testament we have the unveiling of the heart of God—and the way in which he has answered humanities need in Jesus Christ. To put it succinctly, in the Old Testament we have a record of God dealing with his people AND hidden within, the story of Christ and the cross recapitulated in mystery to be revealed through the cross.
The Old Testament and the New Testament both begin with a different representative man, Adam in the Old Testament Jesus Christ in the New Testament. They are heads of new humanity. Both testaments record temptations by Satan. There are temptations amid the lovely beauty and bounty in the Garden of Eden, in the book of Genesis, and the temptations amid the aridity and dryness of a lonely desert of Jesus Christ in the wilderness in the New Testament. Both testaments address a called-out people. We have an elected nation that is chosen in Abraham in the Old Testament, whereas we have an elect church chosen in Jesus Christ in the New Testament. They both set forth God’s standard. God’s standard is set forth in terms of Law in the Old Testament, and the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament.
- B: Neither the law nor the sermon set a standard. Both are designed to reveal Christ and his works. Jesus fulfills the law of murder, not by not killing anyone, but by killing someone but not becoming culpable for sin; he laid down his own life. He fulfills the law of adultery, not by not committing adultery, but by committing adultery without becoming culpable for sin; he had divorced Israel as his bride, but took her back and re-married her. His fulfillment of the law was not just not breaking the law, but breaking it is such a way that he was not guilty except by the letter of the law, 'which killeth'. There is a deep drama as through Job he declares "I am not guilty!" yet the law declares him guilty by the letter. It is the nature of the law that it can be read to justify oneself though you are guilty. Jesus reversed it, reading it to be guilty when he was not. This is the mechanism by which he bore our sin. We declare ourselves to be gods, though we are not. He refused to lay hold of his divinity, though he was divine.
They both predict an inheritance. The inheritance of Canaan the, the land of Canaan in the Old Testament. Whereas we have spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus in heavenly places in the New Testament. Both of these testaments tell of human failure. We know that with regard to Israel and how it became apostate and how she was rejected in and ejected from the land. Just as that tragedy is given so in the New Testament we have a prospect of an organized church that is forewarned of apostasy at the end of the age also. Both end with predictions of hope. Whereas Malachi said, “Behold he shall come” (Malachi 3:1) We have the same statement in the Book of Revelation, “Behold he cometh with clouds” (Revelation 1:7), speaking of his second coming.
- B: According to the parable; he came to Adam in the garden by the path, to Israel in the desert among the stones and heat, to his people where his care for them (love) caused him to die, and then came again in resurrection to be fruitful. I think we may be overlooking something when we speak of his second coming. What 'age' was he speaking of?
Old and New together
Both testaments are vitally important to each other. Some might suggest the Old Testament is not for today, it is the New Testament that is all important. (Of course, we won’t hear that from Old Testament scholars.) The Old Testament is vitally important for understanding the New Testament just as the New Testament is vitally important in understanding the Old Testament. Understanding the basic structure allows us grasp the keys to the kingdom (that is to say teaching) and is key to understanding the symbols of the cross throughout the OT. These are made known in the NT. They define the hidden pericopes, which, like transparencies, are laid upon one another in the final movement of the symphony where all the voices play together revealing the hidden melody.
Clearly, there is definite structure and organization to the books of the Bible. Looking at the historical books of the New Testament, the key note of the whole is wrapped up in that word ‘fulfillment’.
- Wesley J. Perschbacher, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), 332.
- Isa 53:3 He is despised and left alone of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and like one from whom [men] hide their faces; — despised, and we esteemed him not.
- Benjamin Davidson, The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon. (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), 400.