The Record of the Savior’s Mortal Ministry
The New Testament is a record of the life and teachings of the Savior during His mortal ministry. It also records the travels and teachings of His Apostles after He ascended into heaven. It is called the New Testament because the word testament means “covenant.” Covenants are sacred promises that God makes with His children. They allow His children, through their obedience to these covenants, to obtain great blessings in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained: “As used in the gospel sense, a testament is a covenant which Deity makes with his people. Thus the fulness of the gospel is the new and everlasting testament or covenant [see D&C 22:1], and the preparatory gospel or Mosaic law is the Mosaic or lesser testament or covenant. When the gospel was restored in the meridian of time by Jesus and his apostles, it was a new testament (covenant) as compared with the old testament (covenant) that had been in force since the days of Moses” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:63).
The House of Israel When Jesus Was Born
From the days of the ancient prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel), the Lord chose their descendants, the house of Israel, to be His covenant people. By the time Jesus Christ was born, most of the house of Israel had been scattered throughout the world and lost to history because of their wickedness. The only Israelites who were left were mainly Jews, and they had drifted away from the truth into spiritual darkness. The last prophet of the Old Testament period, Malachi, died about four hundred years before Jesus was born.
By the time of Jesus’ birth, the Jews were also in darkness politically. They were not an independent nation but a part of the territories conquered and controlled by the Roman Empire (see Bible map 8, which is in the appendix of your Bible).
Previewing the New Testament—The Table of Contents
Look at “The Names and Order of All the Books of the Old and New Testament” in the front of your Bible. The books of the New Testament are arranged by the type of book rather than in chronological order. Mark your table of contents so you can remember the different kinds of books in the New Testament (see Bible Dictionary, “Bible,” pp. 622–24).
The Gospels. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called the Gospels, and each one is named after its author. The word gospel means “good news.” The Gospels are the testimonies of these writers about the life and mission of Jesus Christ (see Bible Dictionary, “Gospels,” pp. 682–83).
The Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles was written by Luke and is his account of the growth of the Church under the direction of the Apostles (see Bible Dictionary, “Acts of the Apostles,” pp. 603–4).
The Pauline Epistles. The books of Romans through Hebrews are epistles (letters) written by the Apostle Paul. They are named for the branch of the Church or the individual or group to whom the letter was written (see Bible Dictionary, “Pauline Epistles,” pp. 743–48).
The General Epistles. The books of James through Jude are also epistles. They are often called the general epistles and are named for the Church leaders who wrote the letters.
The book of Revelation. The book of Revelation (sometimes referred to as the Apocalypse) was written by the Apostle John, who also wrote the Gospel and epistles that bear his name. Revelation is John’s account of a revelation he received from the Lord (see Bible Dictionary, “Revelation of John,” pp. 762–63).
What Can a Study of the New Testament Mean to Me?
The Savior testified: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Is there any better place to learn about the Savior than in the record of His mortal ministry in the New Testament?
President James E. Faust said: “The New Testament is a better testament because so much is left to the intent of the heart and of the mind. This refinement of the soul is part of the reinforcing steel of a personal testimony. If there is no witness in the heart and in the mind, there can be no testimony. Let us study, learn, and live the hard doctrines the Savior taught, that our Christlike behavior may move us up to a much higher spiritual attainment” (Finding Light in a Dark World , 16).
In speaking to the young women of the Church about reading the scriptures, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “I hope that for you this will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God. I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted. At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine” (“The Light within You,” Ensign, May 1995, 99).
As you study the New Testament, look for truths that can teach you more about Jesus Christ and how to apply His gospel in your life. As part of your study, you will keep a notebook of insights and assignments. Be sure to write down what you learn about the Savior that particularly impresses you. This will help you learn to hear the whisperings of the Spirit and will fill your heart with a testimony of Jesus Christ.