Welcome to the New Testament

New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students, 2015


What Is the New Testament?

The New Testament contains the writings of the first Apostles and early disciples of Jesus Christ who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. It contains the four Gospels, which are the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John of Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah—the Savior and Redeemer—and the risen Lord. The four Gospels recount parts of Jesus’s life and are a record of many of His teachings. The New Testament contains doctrines and principles taught by the Savior and His Apostles to help others learn how to return to live with God the Father and obtain eternal life. For Latter-day Saints, the Bible stands alongside the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as holy scripture (see Articles of Faith 1:8).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles summarized the significant contents of the New Testament: “The New Testament … recounts the fulfillment of the ancient promises; tells of the birth and ministry and atoning sacrifice of the Promised One; expounds the saving doctrines of his everlasting gospel; records the growth and expansion of the gospel cause in the meridian day; predicts the universal falling away from the faith once delivered to the saints; promises a glorious restoration of the gospel in the last days; and foretells, in graphic and dramatic imagery, the events preceding, attending, and succeeding the Second Coming of the Son of Man. Its chief purpose is to bear witness of Christ” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 392).

Why Is Studying the New Testament Important?

Like all scripture, the New Testament teaches and testifies of Jesus Christ and of His divinity. The Apostle John stated that his purpose for writing his Gospel was to persuade others to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). By studying the New Testament, you will learn of the Savior’s remarkable birth, witness His miracles and healings, hear the transcendent truths of His gospel, and relive the days of His atoning sacrifice, crucifixion, and glorious resurrection. As you study the life and teachings of the Savior, you will learn how to come unto Him to receive hope, forgiveness, peace, and eternal happiness. A sincere study of the New Testament can strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ and help you rely on His teachings and Atonement.

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that the New Testament “is the centerpiece of scriptural history, just as the Savior Himself should be the centerpiece of our lives. We must commit ourselves to study it and treasure it!

“There are priceless pearls of wisdom to be found in our study of the New Testament” (“The Sabbath and the Sacrament,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 6).

The following are some of the priceless pearls of truth and wisdom found in the New Testament:

  • Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and through Him you can come to know Heavenly Father (see John 14:6–7).

  • The Holy Ghost is “the Comforter, … [who] shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26).

  • Disciples of Jesus Christ have the responsibility to proclaim the gospel in all the world (see Matthew 28:19).

  • The Savior continues to direct His Church through revelation to His chosen servants (see Acts 1:2).

  • You are the offspring, or child, of God (see Acts 17:28–29).

  • Because of the Savior’s resurrection, all will triumph over death and live again (1 Corinthians 15:21–26).

  • If you lack wisdom you can ask God in prayer, and He will answer (see James 1:5–6).

  • The faithful Saints who overcome evil will receive eternal life (see Revelation 3).

An experience in the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith provides an example of how studying the New Testament can influence and affect your life. As a young man, Joseph struggled under the difficulty of finding out for himself which of the churches was right. He turned to the Bible, and one day he read the passage in James 1:5. He later wrote: “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again” (Joseph Smith—History 1:12).

After reading and reflecting on those words from the New Testament, Joseph decided to act on the truth he learned and asked of God, as James taught. His decision resulted in his remarkable First Vision. As you diligently study the New Testament, you too will feel the Holy Spirit touch your heart and help you identify ways to apply the doctrines and principles of the gospel in your life.

As you prayerfully study the New Testament, act upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost. By doing this you can become more fully converted to the Lord. True conversion occurs as you continue to act upon the doctrines you know are true and keep the commandments, day after day, month after month, for the rest of your life.

About the New Testament

The Bible is not one book. It is a collection of books. The Greek word from which the word bible is derived means “the books.” “The Christian Bible has two divisions, commonly known as the Old and New Testaments” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Bible,” scriptures.lds.org). The word that was translated as testament could also be translated as covenant. Thus the New Testament is the new covenant.

In a gospel context, a covenant is a special agreement between the Lord and a person or a group. The Old Testament, or old covenant, is the law the Lord gave to His people anciently. “When the Savior came in the meridian of time, He restored the gospel to the Jews in Palestine. Since they had strayed, even from the law of Moses, it was a new covenant to them” (Bible Dictionary, “Bible”).

The New Testament is commonly divided into the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s epistles, the general epistles, and the book of Revelation.

  1. 1.

    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.” Although the four Gospels vary in details and perspective, they all recount events of the Savior’s life and earthly ministry among the Jews. All four Gospels teach and testify that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. “The records of Matthew, Mark, and Luke present a somewhat similar collection of materials and have considerable phraseology in common, as well as similar main points, and thus are sometimes labeled as the ‘Synoptic Gospels’ (meaning ‘see-alike’). Even so, each is unique and has much detail that is not shared by the others. John’s record is quite different from the other three in vocabulary, phraseology, and presentation of events” (Bible Dictionary, “Gospels”).

  2. 2.

    The Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles was written by Luke, and it is an account of the growth of the Church under the direction of Peter and the other Apostles (see Bible Dictionary, “Acts of the Apostles”).

  3. 3.

    Paul’s epistles. The epistles, or letters, of Paul are named for the branch of the Church or the individual or group to whom the letter was written. Paul’s epistles are arranged “by length, in descending order from the longest (Romans) to the shortest (Philemon). This is the case except with the epistle to the Hebrews, which was placed last because some have questioned whether or not it was written by Paul” (Bible Dictionary, “Pauline Epistles”).

  4. 4.

    The general epistles. The books of James through Jude are often called the general epistles because, except for 2 and 3 John, they are not addressed to any specific person or branch of the Church. They are named for their authors. (See Bible Dictionary, “General Epistles.”)

  5. 5.

    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. It is John’s account of a revelation he received from the Lord. (See Bible Dictionary, “Revelation of John.”)

The Joseph Smith Translation and Joseph Smith–Matthew

The Lord commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith to make a translation, or revision, of the King James Version of the Bible. The Joseph Smith Translation (sometimes abbreviated as JST) is not a translation of the Bible from one language to another. Rather, it contains changes the Lord inspired the Prophet to make to the text of the Bible.

Joseph Smith began his translation in June 1830 and completed it in July 1833, although he continued to make modifications to the manuscript until shortly before his death in 1844 (see Bible Dictionary, “Joseph Smith Translation”). While parts of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation were published during his lifetime, his complete inspired translation of the Bible was first published in 1867 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now known as the Community of Christ). Since 1979 the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible in English has contained hundreds of doctrinally significant passages from the Joseph Smith Translation in the footnotes and appendix. (See Robert J. Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation,’” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 57–64; Bible Dictionary, “Joseph Smith Translation.”) Since 2009 the Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible in Spanish, the Reina-Valera version, has also contained passages in the footnotes and appendix. In 2015 the Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible was published in Portuguese.

Joseph Smith—Matthew, in the Pearl of Great Price, is an extract from the Joseph Smith Translation (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 23:39–24:56). It is the inspired translation of Matthew 23:39–24:55.

The Joseph Smith Translation contributes to our understanding of the New Testament by restoring some of the plain and precious truths that were lost from the Bible (see 1 Nephi 13:20–41) and adding the Lord’s commentary and clarification.