Old Testament and the New Testament

The Christian Bible is one book that has two parts. These two parts are called the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word "testament" comes from the Latin word "testamentum,"  which means "covenant" or "agreement." In the Bible, it refers to the covenant between God and man. The Old Testament is the first part of the Bible and is made up of 39 books. The New Testament is the second part of the Bible and is made up of 27 books. Together, these two testaments contain 66 books and are a literary unity.


The unity of the Bible is that it has a single storyline and a unified and cohesive plot. The whole story is about the redemption of humankind, progressively revealed through three stages: the fall, redemption, and consummation.


Old Testament


The Old Testament, which is the sacred scriptures of the Jewish faith, is traditionally divided into three different sections: the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim. They are the law or pentateuch, prophets, and writings.

The Old Testament narrates the story of the creation and fall of human beings and a prediction of redemption and consummation. The first book, called Genesis, narrates the story of the fall of humans from their spiritual relationship with God.


Adam and Eve were the first humans God created. They received life from God. They lived in a perfect environment in the Garden of Eden. Eden was a separated area eastward on the earth. They had an intimate fellowship with God. But they were restricted from eating the fruit of a particular tree, which the Bible calls “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Unfortunately, they were deceived by Satan to eat the fruit of this tree, and thus they disobeyed God. Since disobedience was rebellion, God cursed the earth and cast out Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden to the cursed earth.


As a result of their sin, they immediately died spiritually and eventually died physically. This event is called the fall.


The Old Testament does not stop with the story of the fall. In the garden of Eden, before casting out Adam and Eve, God declared a plan of redemption and restoration into the divine fellowship. The rest of the story is the progressive revelation and execution of God’s plan.


In Genesis chapter 12, we read about the execution of God’s plan, or redemption. For this purpose, God elected and separated one old man named Abraham. His descendants were later called Israel. God established a unique relationship with them through a covenant. God promised a redeemer, an everlasting kingdom, and a king in whom “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18).


God, through the covenant, gave the Israelites laws to live a holy life according to His standards. They should live separated from other gentile nations around them. God prescribed a sacrificial system for their cleansing from sin. But it was a temporary arrangement because these sacrifices had to be repeated over and over. He ordained priests to represent the people before Him, as the people could not enter God’s presence themselves.


The law under the Old Covenant was never a means to salvation. The Israelites were not faithful to the covenant and so eventually fell under the judgment of God. The nation was divided into two: Israel, the north, and Judah, the south. Eventually, they were cast out of their promised land. They lived for many years in exile or under a foreign nation.


Prophet Jeremiah, who lived in Judah during the last days before the Babylonian exile, prophesied about the coming disaster that would happen because of their unrepentant sin. He also prophesied about the coming New Covenant.


Jeremiah 31:31–34

31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-

32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.

33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

34 "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."


Jeremiah prophesied that a new covenant will be established, Israel will be restored, sins will be finally forgiven, people will know God directly, and they will have His law written on their hearts so that they will obey Him.


New Testament


The New Testament unfolds the redemption and consummation of God’s redemptive plan. God himself comes to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world. God established a new covenant with His elect to redeem them by His grace and through their faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation through Christ is extended to the Jews as well as the gentiles. All who are redeemed are promised eternal life in the Kingdom of God. In His kingdom, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, sorrow, or crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4)


The New Testament testifies how all the promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ. The New Testament explains the person and work of Christ by showing how he fulfills the Old Testament.


The New Covenant is governed by a law that is internalized and energized by the Holy Spirit. The sins of those who believe in Christ are forgiven and removed once and for all by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The covenant does not demand a repeated sacrifice for the atonement of sins. Christ is the only priest and sacrificial lamb, and crucifixion is the only sacrifice. God’s people will have direct, intimate access to Him.


What are the differences?


The Bible is a unified book narrating the same story. But there are some differences between the two parts of the Bible. These differences are not contrary to each other but are complementary. Some glaring differences are listed below:


The Old Testament is the foundation of God’s redemptive plan, and the New Testament reveals its execution and consummation. Thus, the Old Testament principles stand as illustrations of the New Testament truth. All Old Testament prophecies concerning the redemptive plan are fulfilled in the new covenant.


The Old Testament shows the wrath of God against sin, with glimpses of grace; the New Testament shows the grace of God toward sinners, with glimpses of wrath.


The Old Testament narrates the history of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. The New Testament focuses on a single person, which is Jesus Christ. In the new covenant, His church is the chosen people.


The Old Testament narrates how humans lost paradise and how they were separated from God through sin. The New Testament tells how paradise is regained through Jesus Christ and how it can be restored to an intimate relationship with God.


The Old Testament predicts a Messiah and his life. The New Testament reveals the Messiah and narrates his life and sacrifice. The Epistles in the New Testament interpret the Messiah’s life and instruct us on how we must respond to Him.


The Old Testament records the God’s Law, and the New Testament shows how Jesus the Messiah fulfilled the Law. Physical blessings promised under the Old Covenant are replaced by the spiritual blessings under the New Covenant.


The same holy, merciful, and righteous God who condemns sin but desires to save sinners through an atoning sacrifice is revealed in both testaments. Everywhere, God reveals Himself to us and shows us how we must come to Him through faith.


The coherence


The coherence between the Old Testament and New Testament is explained mainly by three methods: promise - fulfilment, Biblical covenants, and typology.


Promise and Fulfilment


The promise and fulfilment method ascertains that all that God promised in the Old Testament has been, is being, and will be fulfilled in Christ and his Church.


The Gospel of Matthew stands on the promise-fulfilment structure. Matthew reveals how Jesus “fulfils” the promises of the Old Testament.


In Acts 13, Luke records the first sermon of Paul, where he says,


Acts 13:32–33 "And we declare to you glad tidings-that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'  


Apostle Paul says that the “glad tidings,” which are the gospel, are fulfilled for us in Jesus. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “all promises of God” are “yes” in Christ.


2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.  


Paul wrote to the Galatians that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not something new because God “preached the gospel to Abraham.”


Galatians 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."


Biblical Covenants


Covenants are the “backbone” and the “architectural structure” of the Bible. Covenants provide unity among the variety. There are mainly five covenants in the Bible. All the covenants lead us to the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ.


The hope of a new covenant was spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy.


Deuteronomy 18:15 "The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear,  


Deuteronomy 30:6 "And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.  


The new covenant was introduced in the Old Testament by the prophet Jeremiah 31:31–34. Other prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, and Zechariah also spoke about it.


Jesus came to declare the new covenant, all its terms and conditions, its purpose, and how it would be consummated. The old covenant was in force when Jesus came. But Jesus preached, ministered, and worked according to the new covenant that he declared.




Typology is “the study of patterned correspondences in Scripture." Biblical types are the historical persons, events, and institutions that rise in covenantal history and are fulfilled in Christ and his church. An antitype is a person, event, or institution that fulfils the earlier types in the Old Testament. God often reveals himself and his progressive redemptive plan through types and antitypes.


Typology is a biblical concept that is applied to both the Old and New Testaments. The Greek word typos is used to speak of a pattern, type, or example from the Old Testament. At a later time, a greater antitype will correspond to and supersede the type. For example, Adam is considered a type of Christ, the tabernacle as a type of heaven, and Noah’s passage through the flood as a type of Christian baptism.


All Old Testament types point forward to Christ and his church. Christ is the substance; the types are the shadows.


Colossians 2:16, 17 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.  


Hebrews 10:1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.


Reading the Old Testament


How Jesus and the Apostles read the Old Testament is a guideline for us to understand it. The Apostles considered the Old Testament to be holy scripture, which contains warnings for the new covenant church:


1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.  


Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.   


2 Timothy 3:15-17  

15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.


This means the Old Testament is important for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. It leads to the revelation of Christ and his finished work.


On the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, two disciples left Jerusalem to go to another village called Emmaus. On their way, the resurrected Jesus joined them. The disciples were confused and frustrated by the crucifixion and the tale of the resurrection. Jesus rebuked their unbelief and taught them how to read the Old Testament.


Luke 24:26, 27 "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.  


Here, the writer tells us how Jesus interpreted the Old Testament. He did not read it as a book for Israel alone; he read it as a unified testimony pointing to himself.


On the same day, Jesus appeared to his disciples in Jerusalem. And he said to them:


Luke 24:44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."  


Here Jesus declares that each section of the Hebrew Bible, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, spoke about him.


Jesus did not see the Old Testament as something that was cancelled, but he saw it as something that was fulfilled in Him.


Apostle Paul frequently asked the question, “what does the Scripture say?” whenever he tried to explain the relationship between the Old and the New covenants. Our motive also must be what the New Testament says about the Old.


Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."  


Galatians 4:30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman."


In John 1:45, Philip says to Nathanael that Moses and the prophets wrote about Jesus of Nazareth.


John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."  


In Luke 24:26, 27, 44, and John 5:39, Jesus declared that the law, the prophets, and the Old Testament scriptures find their terminus in Him.


John 5:39 "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.  


John 5:46 "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.  


John wrote that the prophet Isaiah saw his glory and spoke of him.


John 12:41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.  


In Acts 2, Peter relates the prophecy of King David to the resurrection of Christ.


Psalm 16:10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.  


Acts 2:31 "he (King David), foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.  


The writer of Hebrews also testifies that the Old Testament prophets spoke to the Israelite fathers about Jesus Christ.


Hebrews 1:1, 2 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;  


All these passages prove that Israel’s prophets looked to a day when Christ would come and bring salvation to his people. Peter testifies to this truth in his first epistle, chapter 1, verses 10 to 12.


1 Peter 1:10-12 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things which angels desire to look into. (NKJV)


Jesus Christ is the goal of the Old Testament, and without him, the Old Testament stands incomplete.


Coram Deo


Let us conclude that the Old Testament is not an old book that narrates some old tales; it is new, like the New Testament. The Old Testament is fundamental, without which the New cannot exist. Both testaments are complimentary to each other. We need the old to explain the new, and we need the new to understand the spiritual mysteries of the old.


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