Between these two covers you will find 27 little books with a single message: the good news
of mankind's redemption through the Son of Man, our Lord Jesus Christ. The First Christians
called the message euangelion, and we keep alive that tradition in our word Gospel, from
the Anglo-Saxon god (good) spell (tidings).
These 27 books make up the New Testament. Testament meaning
covenant or alliance signifies the New Order between God and men established by Jesus Christ.
The Lord spoke of this New Order at the Last Supper at the consecration of the cup (Luke 22, 20).
The books of the New Testament
were not written all at once nor by the same man. They were written by eight men of the first Christian generation,
roughly between 50 A.D. and 100 A.D. But they all have the same divine Author. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and
Peter, Paul, James and Jude were enlightened by the Holy Spirit. This enlightenment was a unique divine gift which the
Christians called Inspiration. Eight finite minds were illumined by the one infinite God, and eight wills were moved
to write a book for Him. The New Testament therefore is a book from God in which to seek God.
The first little book was written
by Matthew, an Apostle of Jesus. He wrote what he saw. The fourth book was written by John, the "disciple whom
Jesus loved." He wrote what he saw. Mark was a companion of Peter, and Luke a co-worker of Paul. They described
the Christ preached by the two great Apostles.
Since the first three Gospels tell practically the same story, the reader may find it advantageous
to pass over to the fourth Gospel when he has read Matthew, and to return to Mark and Luke after reading the other books.
Luke also wrote the first history
of the Church, called the Acts of the Apostles. This is the fifth book of the New Testament.
In 14 letters written between
the years 50 and 67, Paul pours out his apostolic heart. This is the Apostle who said of himself, "For me to live is
Christ" (Philippians 1, 21), and of whom it is said, "The heart of Paul is the heart of Jesus Christ." You
will find Christ in the deep mind and the great heart of Paul.
In addition to the 14 letters of Paul there are seven others: two by Peter, three by John,
and one each by James and Jude. They are exhortations to faith and love and Christian living.
The last book of the New Testament
is prophetic in character. It is marked by a very different style, called apocalyptic, a style very much in vogue in
the centuries just before and after Christ. History and prophecy are veiled in vivid oriental imagery and symbol quite
alien to the Western mind. The meaning will often elude the reader. For this reason the Apocalypse can scarcely
be understood without a commentary, but the book's sublime descriptions of the all-conquering Christ will inspire everyone
who loves Him. The New Testament is a book in which to find Christ.
This is a 20th-century translation of what was written in the 1st century. Although
Rome conquered Greece in 146 B.C., Greek remained the common language of the civilized world and this accounts for the fact
that practically all of the New Testament was written in Greek. Matthew wrote in Aramaic, but only the Greek translation
has come down to us.
The first manuscripts of these writings no longer exist, but we possess Greek copies made soon after the originals.
Perhaps the most interesting is a papyrus fragment of John's Gospel that was written about 125 A.D. It is in the John
Rylands Library in Manchester, England. The earliest copies of the New Testament were written on papyrus, a writing
material made from a plant of that name. A copy of most of the New Testament is preserved on papyrus manuscripts
written about 225 A.D. known as the Chester Beatty Papyri. Since papyrus is very fragile it is only by the rarest good
fortune that these and some 50 other papyrus manuscripts have survived. From the 4th century on, copies of the New Testament
were made on vellum, an elegant and durable material. In all, there are more than 4,000 manuscripts of the New Testament,
each copy made by hand over the centuries until the invention of printing, about 1450.
The Latin language plays an important role
in the story of the New Testament. As the Roman Empire continued its domination, Latin replaced Greek in the West, and
the need arose for a Latin Bible. Pope Damasus urged the great classical scholar of the 4th century, St. Jerome, to
make a Latin translation. This became the common text (called Vulgata in Latin), and is still used in the Liturgy
of the Latin rite.
The translation you are reading now is based on a critical edition of the Latin Bible which has been diligently compared
with the Greek manuscripts. It retains as far as possible the style and diction of the Challoner-Rheims translation,
and for that reason is called a revision. It is the work of American Catholic scholars, and was first published in 1941.
It is popularly called the Confraternity version, since it was done under the patronage of the Bishops' Committee of the Confraternity
of Christian Doctrine.
In these pages you will look upon the authentic portrait of Jesus. In these pages may He come to
life, in Whom every man must find life! This is the book that makes saints. This is
the word of life. Christianity is Christ living and Christ lived: living in the souls of the
believers by grace and the Holy Spirit; lived by Christian behavior in the cathedral and in the
in this book the Christ of the night in Gethsemani, the Christ of the light beside the empty tomb!
Behold the Christ of Cana and the Christ of Calvary; the wedding Guest and the bleeding Victim!
Behold in this book Blessed Mary's Son and the Son of the Eternal God!
When you have read these printed pages and closed the
book, may a copy of it be burnt upon your heart, and may that book never be closed!
J. Dougherty, S.S.D
Immaculate Conception Seminary,