Did Paul Write Most of the New Testament?

You are here

Did Paul Write Most of the New Testament?

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×

The Bible is a collection of books that was put to writing over the course of about 1,600 years. Many individual writers have contributed to the Bible. Yet the Bible has maintained a consistent, integrated message of God’s plan and purpose for humanity. This is because each person who has contributed to the larger whole has been guided by the Spirit of God.

To get a complete picture of what God has to say, you need to read and understand the Bible as a whole rather than focusing primarily on Paul.

The great Creator God is the author of the Bible, working through individuals whom He called and chose for the task. Many of these people we know by name. Each of them brought to the task their own sense of style, phrasing, choice of words and points of emphasis.

The most recent portion of Scripture is generally referred to as the New Testament, written between 40 A.D. and 90 A.D. It is common to hear people speak of the apostle Paul as being the primary contributor of New Testament writings. However, when measured by the total number of words written, rather than the number of books written, the results might surprise you.

Using a word count, the author who contributed most to the New Testament is… Luke!

Yes, Luke the physician and historian contributed 37,932 words to the New Testament. Paul comes in second at 32,408. Here is a chart showing the breakdown by author:

Author Words Percent
Luke 37,932 27.48%
Paul 32,408 23.48%
John 28,091 20.35%
Matthew 18,346 13.29%
Mark 11,304 8.19%
Unknown 4,953 3.59%
Peter 2,783 2.02%
James 1,742 1.26%
Jude 461 0.33%
NT Total 138,020  

 

The author of the book of Hebrews is unknown. All word counts are derived from the original language: Greek.

Why does Paul get most of our attention?

Even though Paul is not the top contributor of New Testament writings, he is probably the most quoted. Sometimes it seems like the majority of scripture quotations in the average Christian sermon come from Paul’s writings.

This may be because his writings stir up the most controversy. Paul addressed fundamental doctrines in a way that was profound, succinct and easily quotable. Sadly, his words are also easily distorted. Such confusion and controversy regarding Paul’s writings has been the case since the very beginning!

Consider what the apostle Peter said about his fellow apostle Paul:

“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability” (2 Peter 3:14-17 2 Peter 3:14-17 14 Why, beloved, seeing that you look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. 15 And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him has written to you; 16 As also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, seeing you know these things before, beware lest you also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version, emphasis added).

How are Paul’s words distorted?

The most common way Paul’s writing are twisted and misused is to make the claim that the law and commandments of God have been done away with. These claims take Paul’s writings in a direction never intended by the author. Notice that when Peter talks about how Paul’s words are misused he specifically warns about not being carried away with the error of lawless people .

If you are reading in a King James version you will see the word “wicked” used instead of lawless. However, most modern translations more accurately translate the Greek word athesmos as “lawless.” A quick word study shows that the Greek word athesmos means “against law and custom.” For the King James translators to use the word wicked is an unnecessary obscuring of what Peter was warning against.

The only other use of the word athesmos is found in 2 Peter 2:6-8 2 Peter 2:6-8 6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample to those that after should live ungodly; 7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
American King James Version×
. It is used in verse 7 to describe the men of Sodom… who were lawless.

Scripture itself warns against misusing Paul’s writings

Paul’s words have been misused to teach against the laws and commandments from the very beginning. This is why the apostle Peter had to come forward to say “don’t listen to people who teach like that and don’t be fooled by their lawless misinterpretations.” This warning about misusing Paul’s writings is written right into scripture itself.

Through Peter, God’s own Word warns us that anyone who uses Paul’s writing to teach against God’s laws and commandments is committing a grave error, which will result in their own undoing. Peter characterizes them as ignorant and unstable.

Paul’s writings form a significant portion of Scripture and contain many important explanations of doctrine and church life. However, to get a complete picture of what God has to say, you need to read and understand the Bible as a whole rather than focusing primarily on Paul.

If you are looking for more information about discovering the Bible as a unified whole, take a look at the free Bible study guide How to Understand the Bible .

Data Used For Summary

Here is a list of the book titles, word count per book, and the name of the author.  This is the data used for the summary provided above:

Book Name Words Percentage Author
Luke 19,482 14.12% Luke
Acts 18,450 13.37% Luke
Matthew 18,346 13.29% Matthew
John 15,635 11.33% John
Mark 11,304 8.19% Mark
Revelation 9,851 7.14% John
Romans 7,111 5.15% Paul
1 Corinthians 6,830 4.95% Paul
Hebrews 4,953 3.59% Unknown
2 Corinthians 4,477 3.24% Paul
Ephesians 2,422 1.75% Paul
Galatians 2,230 1.62% Paul
1 John 2,141 1.55% John
James 1,742 1.26% James
1 Peter 1,684 1.22% Peter
Philippians 1,629 1.18% Paul
1 Timothy 1,591 1.15% Paul
Colossians 1,582 1.15% Paul
1 Thessalonians 1,481 1.07% Paul
2 Timothy 1,238 0.90% Paul
2 Peter 1,099 0.80% Peter
2 Thessalonians 823 0.60% Paul
Titus 659 0.48% Paul
Jude 461 0.33% Jude
Philemon 335 0.24% Paul
2 John 245 0.18% John
3 John 219 0.16% John
Total  138,020 100.00%