Bible Society of South Africa

Christian Faith

“Chosen” in the New Testament

The concept of being “chosen” occurs in two different ways in the New Testament:


Abba is an Aramaic word which means “father”. It is a form of address for the father in a family. For Christians, Abba is also a form of address for God.

Angels in the New Testament

Just like in the Old Testament, there are angels in the New Testament. However, a shift has taken place in the role that angels fulfil.

Anointing of the Sick

In James 5:14-15 it is recommended that the sick be anointed. Here anointing is a ritual in which God’s vitalising power is conveyed.
In the Gospels, the disciples of Jesus also healed sick people by anointing them with oil (Mark 6:13).

Anointing: Consecration

In the Bible, people and objects are anointed with a special anointing oil. This makes it clear that people or objects are especially dedicated to God’s service. The words “Messiah” and “Christ” are derived from this ritual of anointing.


The word “antichrist” (in Greek antichristos) occurs in 1 John and 2 John. It refers to Jesus’ main opponent in the end times. The mention of the coming of the antichrist is intended to help the readers of John’s epistles to make the right choice. Other books in the New Testament speak of similar characters that will appear at the end of time.

Apocalyptic Literature: Daniel

Part of the book of Daniel (Daniel 7–12) consists of visions and their explanations. In the first vision in Daniel 7, one of Daniel’s dreams is described.

Apocalyptic Literature: Dreams and Visions

In the apocalyptic writings, the knowledge that is revealed comes from dreams or visions. It is a special knowledge, a secret knowledge about the future and the end times. This revealed knowledge can give meaning to contemporary events. Apocalyptic literature can, for example, give an insight into what is truly happening in history, in short, a battle between good and evil which is nearing its climax.

Apocalyptic Literature: Mythology

The battle between good and evil is described in images that seem rather mythological. It is a battle between angels and devils, strange beasts and monsters. Even so, the battle is partly fought on earth, and humanity is involved in it. The closer the end comes — the overthrow of the evil world order by the good — the more terrible the situation becomes. All manner of cosmic powers are released: the sea, the earth, and the heavens. Everything plays a part in the dramatic end game of history.

Apocalyptic Literature: Two World Orders

In the apocalyptic literature, two world orders are pitted against each other — the present world order against the future world order:


In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus appoints 12 disciples as apostles. They are a distinct group of disciples and representatives of Jesus.


In the Bible, the archangels are a special and important group of angels. After the Babylonian exile, the idea arose in Judaism that there was a hierarchy among the angels. At the top of this hierarchy were the archangels. They are not named in the Old Testament, but do occur in the Deuterocanonical books, and are mentioned twice in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 1:9).

Ascension of Jesus

The story of Jesus’ ascension to heaven makes it clear that after his resurrection, Jesus is exalted by God as Lord and Judge. This story thus underlines the believer’s understanding that the risen Lord has been glorified by God.

Attitude of Prayer

In the Old Testament we do not find a fixed attitude of prayer, nor in the New Testament. People pray, for instance:


Baptism is a full immersion in water. In the Bible it is a sign of a new beginning and of an initiation. Jesus asks to be baptised by John the Baptist. Later, baptism becomes an important rite of passage in Christian communities.


The nine blessings with which the Sermon on the Mount begins are often called “beatitudes”. Beatitudes are not only to be found in the Sermon on the Mount. They are present in the Old Testament as well.


Beelzebul is another name for Satan, the leader of the evil spirits.

Biblical Values

By “values” we mean ideals or motives that have to be pursued on the basis of the idea that good must be done, with the goal that people will live (together) as well as possible.
In the Bible values are not only concerned with relations between people, but also with the relation of man to God, and of God to man. Important biblical values are:

Blessing in the New Testament

In the Old Testament, blessing means pronouncing something good over someone. In the New Testament the meaning shifts. Here, a blessing is an expression of thanksgiving or sanctification.

Blessings and Curses

In the Bible, blessing is pronouncing something good over someone, which — if done in the correct way — ensures that this good thing genuinely happens to that person. The word “blessing” describes the words that are spoken in the act of blessing someone. However, it can also be used to indicate the result of the act of blessing, in the sense of “happiness”. Cursing is the opposite of blessing, that is, to speak doom over someone, causing that doom to actually occur.


“Chosen” is a complex theological concept that plays an important part in both the Old Testament and New Testament:

Chosen in the Old Testament

The Hebrew word for “choose” or “chosen” (bahar) sometimes relates to the choices people make, but usually it is used to talk about God’s choices.


Christ (christos in Greek) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word mashiah, which means anointed and is transliterated as “messiah” in English. More information about Christ and messiah can be found under messiah.

Christianity and Judaism

Jesus and his first disciples were Jews who adhered to the Jewish faith, and continued to do so. This fact is very important for the Christian faith, as the apostle Paul says. But Paul did emphasise that non-Jews could also be entirely equal followers of Jesus.


“Christians” (christianoi in Greek) is the name given to the followers of Jesus Christ. The word is used only three times in the New Testament. It is possible that it started off as a derogatory term used by non-Christians, which was later adopted as a positive name by the Christian community.

Communion (Lord’s Supper): Institution

The “institution” of communion takes place when, just before his death, Jesus is with his disciples in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. During the meal, he breaks bread and shares the wine.

Community: Gospels

In the four Gospels we can find traces of the individual identity of the various communities.


The words “confident” and “confidence” occur frequently in the New Testament. These terms point to an attitude of openness that comes from a feeling of freedom and a lack of fear. This free way of facing the world is, in general, based on a strong trust in God.

Conversion of Paul

The author of the book of Acts gives a detailed account of the conversion of Paul to the Christian faith. He tells us of this event in Paul’s life as many as three times. A number of biblical scholars doubt the historical reliability of these stories. Paul himself tells us little about his conversion in his letters.


A covenant is an agreement between two parties who promise each other under oath to keep to certain agreements. Sometimes the promises are mutual, but often the promise is made by just one party to the other.

In the Bible, the covenant is the most important metaphor that is used to characterise the relationship between God and his people. This is also clear from the names of the two parts of the Christian Bible: “Old Testament” and “New Testament”, in which “testament” is another word for “covenant”.

Day of the Lord

In the Bible, the “day of the Lord” refers to the end times, when God will judge all people. Other expressions that refer to the same thing include “the day of the Lord’s wrath”, “that day” and — in the New Testament — “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Demons in the New Testament

In the New Testament, demons are seen as the helpers of Satan, who cause sickness and disaster.

Dietary Laws in the New Testament

It is clear from the New Testament that there was some discussion in the early Church about the Jewish dietary laws. Should (Gentile) Christians adhere to these as well?


In the Jewish tradition, disciples (in Greek: mathetes) are necessary for passing on and explaining the Torah. Jewish scholars had schools of disciples, as did John the Baptist (see for example Luke 5:33). It is no wonder, then, that in the Gospels, Jesus begins his public appearances by gathering disciples (Mark 1:16-20 and parallel passages). These disciples play a different role in each of the four Gospels.

Disciple in John

In John, Jesus’ disciples are, above all, his friends, who are granted a share in Jesus’ connection with God (John 13–17). Women also share this friendship, as Mary Magdalene shows in John 20:1-18. In the tradition she is therefore also called apostola apostolorum (apostle of the apostles).

Disciple in Luke

Like Matthew, Luke makes a clear distinction between the larger group of disciples and the twelve apostles. But in Luke, at an early stage the twelve are given authority to proclaim the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-6). This commission is not only meant for the twelve: Jesus sends out as many as 72 disciples (Luke 10:1-20).

Disciples in Mark

Mark mainly describes the disciples as full of wonder and slow to understand. He takes the readers of his Gospel on the journey that the disciples are going on with Jesus, in which they wonder:
“Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41)


In New Testament times, house churches (congregations which meet at people’s houses) were the foundation of the Christian movement.

Ecclesia: Discord

The members of the congregation of the early Church felt closely connected to each other. They saw each other as members of one family and addressed each other as “brother” and “sister”. At the same time, there were also disputes, for instance about:


The word “eschatology” is derived from the Greek word eschatos which means “last” or “end”. It is used for descriptions of the end times. Eschatology is important in the New Testament, but also plays a part in the Old Testament.

Eschatology: Jewish Roots

The eschatology of the New Testament fits well with the end-time expectations in first-century Judaism.

Eschatology: Later Development

With the death of Jesus it seemed that the new world had not yet arrived in the way people had been expecting. Expectations about the end times were therefore given new content.

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