Where Does the New Testament Begin?
The apostle Paul admonishes us to "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (II Timothy 2:15). We all realize the importance of rightly dividing the word of truth. Our understanding and application of the scriptures will depend largely on how well we are able to do this. There is no question but what the Bible is divided into two major divisions. Namely, the Old and New testaments. However, there is some serious dispute as to where the New Testament begins. I affirm that it begins with the book of Matthew, and my reasons are stated below:
(I ) One reason Jesus came into the world was to make the Father's will known. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." (John 1 :18). Paul informs us that God now speaks to us in his Son. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers bv the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." (Hebrews 1:1-2). On the mount of transfiguration when Peter had witnessed this great scene, he proposed to build three tabernacles, one for Jesus, one for -TVIoses, and one for Elijah. Then a cloud overshadowed them and a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ve him." (Matthew 17:5) No longer were they to hear Moses, the giver of the law, or Elijah, representative of the prophets, but now they were to hear the Son. The personal teachings of Jesus are recorded in the first four books of the New Testament. Thus, through these recorded teachings Jesus more fully declares the Father (or makes His will known) to the world; God speaks to us in His Son; and through them we may hear the Son.
(2) a. "For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will" (Hebrews 2:2-4). By this we see that the law was given by angels on Mount Sinai; but the great salvation was spoken bv the Lord. It was confirmed to us (Hebrew Christians), Paul says, by them (the apostles) who heard the Lord . b. Near the close of his ministry on earth, Jesus gave this assurance to his apostles: "But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you" (John 14:26). c. Matthew's account of the great commission reads: "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you alwavs, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:19-20). To sum up: a. The great salvation was spoken by the Lord while he was on earth. b. The things that Jesus had taught his apostles while he was with them were to be brought to their remembrance by the Holy Spiri~ c. Jesus commissioned the apostles to teach the newly-made disciples all things that he had commanded them. This great salvation that Jesus spoke, and all the things that he taught his apostles While on earth are recorded for us in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
(3) Another point that bears out our proposition is seen when we look at the works of Moses and Christ. "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17). The law was given through Moses, but we are not saved by the law. "Because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight." (Ronians 3:20). Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ, and the truth makes us free. "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32). Truth came through Jesus Christ. Jesus taught truth while on earth, and this truth is recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
(4) We believe that the Sermon on the Mount is the most convincing proof of our affirmation. The Sermon on the Mount is the greatest of all moral teachings without any exception. Someone has referred to the New Testament as the Christians' constitution and the Sermon on the Mount as its preamble. With great force Jesus contrasts his law and the law of Moses. Under the law of Moses an overt act was sin, but Jesus goes to the source of the trouble and shows, that, as a man thinks in his heart, so will he act, and he may sin by his evil thoughts. Some of the contrasts are, concerning, "murder" (Matthew 5:21-22), "committing adultery" (Matthew 5:27-32), "retaliation" (Matthew 5:38-42), "loving thy neighbor" (Matthew 5:43-48).
The law of Christ is clearly shown to be greater, different, and more exacting from Moses'. The beginning of Jesus' teaching is recorded in Matthew 5. Thus, we conclude that Matthew is the beginning of the New Testament.
Truth Magazine II:3, pp. 11, 19