The New Testament: The World's Only Unedited, Frameless, Correlative Anthology
The New Testament (NT) is the foundational religious text for over 2.2 billion people and is completely unique in one sense: It is the world's only unedited, frameless, correlative anthology.
Over a period of 50 years, at least nine authors wrote 27 books containing no less than 55 major doctrines and 180 doctrinal concepts centered on one figure – Jesus Christ. Somehow, when these doctrines are grouped, whether they refer to the Pre-Mortal Jesus, Human Jesus, Resurrected Jesus, and Glorified Jesus, a single, coherent cosmology appears:
The nine NT authors created 180 “jigsaw” puzzle pieces that just so happened to create a single picture—without having a common editor modify the pieces to fit together, and without having each author create their pieces following a common set of instructions, guidelines, or work beneath the instructions of a shared project manager.
Experienced editors of correlative anthologies like textbooks, manuals, and business plans, proposals, and project execution plans for major ventures know it is impossible for a group of authors to produce deliverables without operating within a common frame or having a common editor harmonize or edit the deliverables to fit together to create a single voice and message.
And yet, the New Testament authors didn’t have a project manager overseeing their work. They didn’t have a set of instructions that they had to follow when they were writing their books. There was no shared source of information that they used to align their deliverables. The contents of each book show the later books didn’t use the earlier ones for guides. And, the books weren’t edited after they were written to harmonize them with one another.
How then could the NT authors have produced a correlative anthology with a single, coherent cosmology?
As one who specializes in creating correlative anthologies for multi-million and multi-billion dollar projects, I can confirm that this cannot be done. It is impossible. It is like saying you can write a book by simply putting a pen and some paper in a box and shaking it vigorously.
Humans do not have perfectly harmonious perspectives with each other – there will always be misunderstandings and disagreements. No two people will believe the same thing unless influenced by something or someone to believe in a specific way. Every manager knows his or her team will always need correction, clarification, and guidance from time to time.
Because of this fact of human nature, all correlative anthologies follow the same process:
Determining correlative anthologies is easily testable – just have multiple sources produce deliverables and join them together to see if the final product is coherent. But since the NT didn’t use the two external constraints for correlative anthologies, neither should the test:
Ask nine people to draw parts of a picture on some paper of random sizes. Do not tell them what they are supposed to draw and do not provide guidance or feedback (no frame). After they submit their drawings, do not modify them in any way (no editor).
Put the drawings together like jigsaw puzzle pieces to see what the picture looks like. Move them around. Flip some upside down. Overlap others. Move them around until a single, coherent image appears.
It is a guarantee they will not make a coherent image.
And yet, when the jigsaw puzzle pieces of the doctrines within the NT books are grouped together according to whether they refer to the Pre-Mortal Jesus, Human Jesus, Resurrected Jesus, or Glorified Jesus – a single picture emerges:
What this means is that the New Testament is an unedited, frameless, correlative anthology. It should not exist—but there it is.
The more one knows about the difficulty of achieving unanimity among a group of authors, and the more one knows about the reality of the first-century Christian world, the more blatant the supremacy of the NT accomplishment. The unique doctrinal concepts each writer possessed show they weren’t copying from one another (excepting the unique interrelation of the Synoptic Gospels) but shared a common vision that didn’t change over half a century.
It is an outstanding challenge to non-believers and it demands an explanation: If it wasn’t inspired by God, how was it done?
Could They Have Copied From One Another?
There is no evidence the NT authors were taught a specific set of doctrines that they then incorporated into their writings. Paul, the most prolific writer of the New Testament, wasn’t part of the Twelve. He clearly stated he ministered for three years before he even visited with the other apostles in Jerusalem, and only spent 15 days with Peter and James (Gal 1:18-20). Who then taught Paul his doctrines and how was the knowledge transfer done?
It’s easy to claim the NT writers had a common source of information (beyond the Synoptics), but how was the knowledge transfer done and who provided it? It couldn’t have been in written form, or else there should’ve been a common pattern in their writings when they discussed the same doctrines. For example:
John, Paul, and the Hebraist all wrote that God created the universe through Jesus. When one breaks down the passages, one sees no discernable pattern to support the assumption that the concepts derived from a common written source:
The same process can be done for each of the 180 doctrinal concepts relating to Jesus Christ. There is no obvious effort by the later NT writers to copy the teachings and ideas of Paul.
Perhaps the source of information was verbal? How then was doctrinal integrity maintained over a period of 50 years? Who gave “refresher” courses to the NT authors, how frequent did they occur, and by whose authority? Also, it is extremely difficult to maintain doctrinal fidelity by verbal instruction (which is why meeting minutes are so important).
Could There Have Been an Editor Who Harmonized the NT Books Before They Were Circulated?
This sounds simple, but runs into logistical and practical problems stemming from the fact that the NT writers were separated by months of travel time and up to fifty years apart during a time when Christianity was just an insignificant minority of tens of thousands within the culturally vibrant Roman Empire of over sixty million people.
Somehow, this editor would’ve needed perfect timing to edit the NT books before they were copied and circulated among the churches, and would’ve needed the wisdom to know which books to edit among the hundreds in circulation that were viewed as authoritative by various Christian groups—and edit them in a way that preserved the writing styles of the authors.
The likelihood that this occurred is, for all intents and purposes, zero.
The New Testament’s single cosmology is unparalleled evidence that something supernatural was involved in its creation. This should give comfort to anyone who believes in the Bible.
Unless critics can provide a plausible explanation of how the New Testament can have a single coherent cosmology given the lack of precedent anywhere else, that incredible accomplishment is its strongest evidence of being divinely inspired.
It certainly has had an enormous effect on me—when I saw the NT’s single cosmology, I instantly lost my atheism and regained my faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God because I know, from a nearly 20-year professional career, that multiple authors cannot create a correlative anthology without operating within external constraints.
Note: This article is derived from this author’s upcoming book, "Is Jesus “God”?’