Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka
The twenty-one epistles, or letters, are examples of communications between individuals and groups within the Christian communities of the first century. The last book, Revelation, is also an epistle, though it is distinctly symbolic and apocalyptic in content.
Each Gospel was written anonymously, but is traditionally attributed to an apostle or a follower. The Gospel According to Matthew, probably written during the last decades of the 1st century, is traditionally attributed to the apostle and eyewitness Matthew. It was written for a Church coping with persecution and internal dissent. Matthew stresses that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, the fulfillment of God's promise, and that his followers are the true Israel.
The Gospel According to Mark, written around 65-70, is alternately attributed to the Mark named in 1 Peter 5:13 or the John Mark mentioned in Acts 12:12. It was probably written for a community that was suffering persecution and seeking the immediate return of Jesus. Mark describes the people of Jesus' time, including his followers and the religious authorities, as unable to comprehend Jesus' true nature. The Gospel assures its audience that the revelation of Jesus' true nature was accomplished through his suffering, death, and resurrection.
The Gospel According to Luke, written around 80-85, is traditionally attributed to "the beloved physician" named in Colossians 4:14. It was written for a predominantly Gentile community in a Greek-speaking setting. Luke argues that the return of Jesus and the end of the world is not imminent, saying that the time cannot be known. Instead, Luke's Gospel emphasizes the nature of the Kingdom of God and the way it is made real in the lives of the communities of believers.