Q.

Why did God wait approximately 20 years after the church was established to begin writing the New Testament? Why such a long span of time?

A.

Normally when we discuss the penning of the New Testament, we do so in view of the fact that God inspired men to write about Jesus and His will for the church within only about 20-65 years of the Savior’s death and resurrection. Perhaps even more impressive is the abundant amount of evidence for the New Testament’s first-century origin. Due to the volume of ancient manuscripts, versions, and citations of the New Testament documents, even many liberal scholars have conceded the fact that the New Testament must have been completed by the end of the first century. Whereas the extant copies of Plato, Thucydides, Herodotus, Tacitus, and many others are separated from the time these men wrote by 1,000 years, manuscript evidence for the New Testament reaches as far back as the early second century, which has lead most scholars to rightly conclude that the New Testament is, indeed, a first-century production (cf. Lyons, 2007; Bruce, 1953, p. 16; Geisler and Nix, 1986, pp. 408,475; Comfort and Barrett, 2001). As Irwin H. Linton concluded regarding the gospel accounts: “A fact known to all who have given any study at all to this subject is that these books were quoted, listed, catalogued, harmonized, cited as authority by different writers, Christian and Pagan, right back to the time of the apostles” (1943, p. 39).

Still, some wonder why God chose to wait approximately 20 years to begin writing the New Testament. Why didn’t the first-century apostles and prophets begin penning the New Testament as soon as the church was established?

The simple, straightforward answer is that we cannot say for sure why God waited two decades to begin penning the New Testament. [NOTE: Conservative scholars generally agree that the earliest written New Testament documents, including Galatians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, were likely written between A.D. 48-52.] We could ask any number of things regarding why God did or did not do something: Why did God wait some 2,500 years after Creation and some 1,000 years after the Flood to write a perfect, inspired account of these events? Why did God only spend 11 chapters in the Bible telling us about the first, approximately 2,000 years of human history, and 1,178 chapters telling us about the next 2,000? Why did God discontinue special, written revelation for over 400 years (between Malachi and the New Testament)? There are many questions, even specific ones about the makeup of God’s written revelation, that we would like to know about that He simply has not specifically revealed to us….

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