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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, September 07 2023

Did Paul write most of the New Testament?

Many writers have contributed to the Bible. Yet the Bible has maintained a consistent, integrated message of God's plan and purpose for humanity. This is because each person who has contributed to the larger whole has been guided by the Spirit of God.

United Church of God

The Bible is a collection of books developed over the course of about 1,600 years. The great Creator God is the author of the Bible, working through individuals whom He chose for the task. The most recent portion of Scripture is generally referred to as the New Testament, written between 40 A.D. and 90 A.D.

It is common to hear people speak of the Apostle Paul as being the primary contributor of New Testament writings. However, when measured by the total number of words written this is not the case. Using a word count, the author who contributed most to the New Testament is Luke, the physician and historian, who contributed 37,932 words to the New Testament. Paul comes in second at 32,408. The chart below shows the breakdown by author. The author of the book of Hebrews is unknown, and all the word counts are derived from the original language: Greek.

 

Even though Paul is not the top contributor of New Testament writings, he is probably the most quoted. This may be because his writings stir up controversy. Paul addressed fundamental doctrines in a way that was profound, succinct and easily quotable, but his words are also easily distorted.

The Apostle Peter wrote the following about Paul:"Therefore, beloved…count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote…in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction…You therefore, beloved…take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability" (2 Peter 3:14-17, English Standard Version).

The most common way Paul’s writings are twisted and misused is to make the claim that the law and commandments of God have been done away, taking Paul’s writings in a direction never intended by the author. When Peter talks about how Paul’s words are misused he specifically warns about not being carried away with the error of lawless people. Through Peter, God’s own Word warns us that anyone who uses Paul’s writing to teach against God’s laws and commandments is committing a grave error. Peter characterizes them as ignorant and unstable.

In the King James version of the Bible the word “wicked” is used instead of lawless. However, most modern translations more accurately translate the Greek word athesmos as "lawless." A quick word study shows the Greek word athesmos means “against law and custom.” For the King James translators to use the word ‘wicked’ obscurs what Peter was warning against. The only other use of the word athesmos is found in 2 Peter 2:6-8, where it is used in verse 7 to describe the men of Sodom, who were lawless.

Finally, we need to remember that to get a complete picture of what God has to say, we need to read and understand the Bible as a whole rather than focusing primarily on Paul.