How did NT writers develop their doctrine?

Is there a document somewhere which traces the sources of major Christian doctrine for example the doctrine on the Trinity, or of Justification? Or for example, we know that the Lord Jesus Himself said “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God…” but is this the place where Paul gets the idea when he said in Rom 8:34 that “Christ is seated at the right hand of God?” Or did he get that idea from the OT, or from Stephen? Or by direct revelation perhaps? I got curious about this when I read that passage again the other day. Thanks for your replies!


That’s a really good question. I am not sure if you will find a single thread to answer all the good questions that have ask but regarding NT theology I think that I am safe in saying that Paul’s writing are a good place to start. I might add that in order to understand Paul you have to understand the 2nd temple period because this is the culture and the political climate that he lived in.
Here is a link to a similar thread. I am posting not to make light of your request but because the thread does a good job of dealing with the Pauline questions and the Jesus question and the points that they agree on.

I am sure that many of the community will weigh in this great subject.


If I understand your question correctly, you’re asking where the apostles got all of the doctrines that they wrote about in the New Testament.

Well, they certainly knew the Old Testament, and nothing they ever wrote was inconsistent with that.

But the New Testament writers made no secret that they were also being given new revelations not found in the Old Testament - teachings that had previously been mysteries. He tells the Ephesians in 3:3-5 that the mysteries he wrote to them about had been unknown in other ages, but they were now being revealed to the apostles and prophets by the Spirit of God.

Paul tells the Galatians in 1:11-12 that the gospel which he preached was not taught to him by men, but it was given to him by a revelation from Jesus Christ. And in the verses that follow, he goes on to tell how that happened.

And in I Thessalonians 2:13, he thanks God that when the Thessalonians heard the word of God that he and his fellow missionaries were preaching, they received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.

And Peter confirms that Paul’s writings were scripture on the same level as the Old Testament writings. In II Peter 3:15-16, he says that Paul had been given wisdom from God to write some difficult things, but he includes them as being scriptures, meaning sacred writings inspired by God.

In fact, that definition of scripture can be found in II Timothy 3:16 - all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, among several other worthy things.

And that’s how Peter describes it too - in II Peter 1:20-21, writing about the prophecies of scripture, he says they came not in old time by the will of men, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

So ultimately, regardless of what Paul may have overheard from Stephen, or what John Mark might have learned from Peter, the Spirit of God is the One Who revealed to the authors of all 66 books of the Bible every “jot and tittle” that they were to pass down to the rest of us.

I hope I’ve correctly understood your question, and that this addresses what you were looking for.


Thanks for your reply @jlyons. Yes, you did get my question right. And to your answer I think we need to expound what we mean by revelation. Did the Apostles sort of enter some secret place in order to sort of download the material from God? To anchor everything on the authority of divine revelation sort of creates a firewall i think, especially to a skeptic mind. I will go explore more on that thread shared by Jimmy. :slight_smile:

Are you saying that we should not accept the claims of NT writers that they were inspired by God because skeptics would not believe that?

If so, I did not realize that skeptics were a part of the context of your question. I would agree that we would need to demonstrate to a skeptic the defensibility of the NT’s statements using rational persuasion - and even then, depending on the skeptic, he could remain in entrenched unbelief.

But if you are asking as a believer where the apostles and prophets got their doctine, then their claims of divine revelation should be no problem.

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I think my question really is, how does divine revelation in the NT work. In the OT, the Prophets would usually invoke, “Thus says the Lord.” But in the NT, we don’t read anything like that. I have no problem with divine revelation. I certainly can understand “inspiration” by the way I am ministered to by the Word of God every time i read it. But the development of a NT doctrine requires more than just the “inspiration” i know as I experience it. Personally, I think there must be a bridge between OT going to NT teachings and I can see that there is, especially to the more obvious topics as Atonement where we can clearly connect the NT teaching from the OT. But when I encountered that phrase in Romans where Paul says “Christ is seated at the right hand of God…” I had to pause for a moment and ask, where exactly does he get the idea that Christ is seated at the right hand of God? And what about all other NT teachings, can we trace them back directly to the OT? After all, OT was the shadow of the NT, right?

Ah - I see your point a little more clearly now - thank you - good question.

Paul is referring to Psalm 110:1 when he says Christ is seated at God’s right hand.

I believe it was St. Augustine who first coined the phrase about the relationship between the two testaments, the new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.

It is true that OT prophets were constantly invoking phrases like, Thus saith the Lord to assure their audience that the Spirit of the Lord was upon them, and they were acting as the true spokesmen of God.

Of course, counterfeits also picked up on the lingo, so the real test was whether the prophet’s words came to pass or not - this was the miraculous sign that confirmed their legitimacy to those who came after the fulfillment - which was, obviously, too late for those who lived before - especially regarding prophecies that took generations to be fulfilled.

But in the New Testament, God creates a body of spokesmen to whom He gives the authority to speak for Him - the apostles. And He miraculously confirms their legitimacy ahead of time by immediately confirming their word with signs - Hebrews 2:1-4.

So it wasn’t necessary for the apostles to constantly authenticate each statement with Thus saith the Lord - the Lord Himself authenticated them in ways that false apostles could not reproduce - Acts 19:12-17.

And there were non-apostolic writers of the NT. Two of them, James and Jude, were Christ’s half-brothers, children of Joseph and Mary - James was also the pastor of the apostles at the church in Jerusalem. Those things alone apparently settled their status as Christ’s spokesmen, since early believers overwhelmingly accepted their writings as authoritative.

And there was Mark and Luke whose relationships with Peter and Paul assured readers that their gospels were authentic.

I would say that this obviated the need to repetitiously state that they were God’s spokesmen each time they wrote something. Unlike the rebellious Israelites that the OT prophets were constantly trying to convince, the NT writers had a much more sympathetic audience in the church.

As for how the indwelling Spirit inspired them to write their scriptures, He certainly didn’t have to “come upon them” in the NT era. He could simply burden them concerning some issue they saw the Christians of their time facing, light a fire in their hearts to write or dictate to a secretary, and then guide their word choices to perfectly reflect every nuance and deeper meaning that He wanted them to include.

Not all of their writings were necessarily meant for all the generations of saints that followed. Paul wrote letters that may have been as inerrant as any other scripture, but were not intended for additional audiences - I Corinthians 5:9.

How do we know the 27 books we have today are the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Well, at the risk of sounding simplistic, I take the assurance of Psalm 12:6-7 with the faith of a little child. The Lord promised to preserve His word to all generations - so what the first century saints accepted as scripture, what has been preserved as scripture by the church for the past 2000 years - is enough of a “sign” to me.

I should add one more observation - some people question the canon of the NT because, they claim, it was established by the council of Laodicea some centuries after the fact.

But in reality, all that Laodicea did was officially agree to what the Christian churches had established in practice since John wrote his final Amen. That looks to me like the Spirit unifying the primitive church around what He had inspired and preserved long before men got around to making it “official”!

I hope this addresses your issue.

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Thanks for this. Yes, this actually settles it. That Christ is seated at the right hand of God is actually a constant theme in the Psalms. So this tells me that I just need to study the Bible more. Hehe…

And thank you also for this: “…the new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.” St. Augustine here actually provides a very good and very sound guideline for Biblical interpretation.