In this article, we will explore the difference between the Old and New Testaments in the Bible and what we can learn from each one as a believer! So, grab your Bible, and let’s explore…
I love digging through the Bible and finding differences between certain things. I’ve done it with apostles and disciples, praise and worship, Pharisees and Saduccess, and more. But this time, I wanted to look at the Bible as a whole and find out what are the differences between both covenants.
As you are probably familiar, our modern Bible is broadly divided into the Old and New Testaments, providing a distinction between God’s relationship before and after Jesus came to the earth as our Savior.
But what are the major differences between the Old and New Testaments, and are they both relevant to Christians today?
Many people find it difficult to read the Old Testament of the Bible, but understanding the differences between the two and what links the Old and the New Testaments can enhance your understanding of God and the plan He had for you from the beginning of time!
Table of Contents
The Main Difference Between The Old and New Testament
The Old and New Testaments comprise the entire Bible and are included in God’s Word for a reason. While there are differences between the two testaments, they should be read together to fully understand the plan of God for humankind, His love for us, and our need for a Savior.
There are two ways you can approach the differences between the testaments; you can take a purely physical look at the differences and/or look at the different messages the two parts of the Bible are intended to impart to us.
Many modern Christians neglect the Old Testament and consider it irrelevant in modern times. Still, the two testaments together give us a greater understanding of the impact of the New Testament! I think we do a GREAT disservice to ourselves and our faith by neglecting the Old Testament.
The Old Testament
In broad terms, the main difference between the testaments is that the Old Testament is God’s Law and the standard that we would need to live up to and experience God’s presence and fellowship with Him.
The Old Testament is a collection of religious texts that provide an account of the history, beliefs, and practices of the Jewish people. It is considered a sacred scripture by Jews and Christians alike, and it is often studied by both faiths.
The Old Testament is comprised of 39 books, written in Hebrew from the 1200 to the 165 BCE. These books cover a wide range of topics, from the creation of the world to the struggles and triumphs of the Israelite people. By reading the Old Testament, one can gain a deeper understanding of the Jewish faith and insight into the history and culture of the ancient Near East.
Plus, if you really start digging into the Old Testament, you will see countless connections that point to Christ! It’s beautiful and fascinating! Two that come to mind are the similarities between Joseph and Jesus and Boaz and Jesus, both being Kinsman-Redeemers.
The New Testament
The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. The Old Testament points to Jesus, and the New Testament reveals Jesus!
It shows God’s Grace to give us a way to have a relationship with Him without being condemned by our inability to live up to God’s standards.
The New Testament is a collection of religious texts that chronicles the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the establishment and growth of the early Christian church.
It is comprised of 27 books; the New Testament offers insight into the beliefs and practices of early Christianity and serves as a foundation for the religion as a whole. Through its passages, we learn about the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the spread of His message throughout the world.
The Big Picture Of The Old And New Testaments
Humans decided in the Garden of Eden that we could do things our own way without God. Talk about a bad idea…
The Law or the Old Testament shows us the standards or laws we would need to live up to if we want to approach God in our own strength and ability. 613 laws to be exact!
It is very clear in the Old Testament that we can’t live up to God’s standards in our own strength, despite our best efforts.
Even God’s chosen people, the Israelites, who had God’s favor and blessing, could not attain the perfection required by God’s Law to have a relationship with Him. They tried and failed time and again to live according to the Law.
This is when we get into animal sacrifices in an attempt to cleanse ourselves of our sins. This can be seen from the very beginning of Genesis when an animal was killed to provide coverings for Adam and Eve.
The New Testament is a message of God’s Grace, which takes care of our inadequacies to live according to God’s standards through the precious sacrifice of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from the punishment due to us according to the Law.
We are all guilty of contravening the laws laid out in the Old Testament to meet God’s standard, we could not do it in our own strength, so we needed someone to do it for us and pay the price of our guilt!
This is why the Gospel of Jesus is good news for all mankind! Jesus was the final and ultimate sacrifice because He was pure, spotless, and God.
And through the shedding of His blood, His death, and resurrection, we are now made righteous through Him! Having to restore the relationship that was lost in the Garden.
Side-By-Side Comparison Between Old And New Testament (Chart)
Even though it is important to look at the corresponding messages between the Old and New Testaments, it is still interesting to look at their side-by-side differences.
Every aspect of God’s word is interesting, and I find it fulfilling to look at all aspects of His Word, including differences that may seem insignificant. A side-by-side comparison is a good way to zoom out and get an overview.
|The Old Testament||The New Testament|
|Focuses primarily on the history of Israel and the Jewish people.||Focuses on the life, teachings, and ministry of Jesus Christ.|
|Written primarily in Hebrew with some Aramaic.||Written primarily in Greek with some Aramaic|
|Contains 39 books, including the Pentateuch (Torah), historical books, wisdom literature, and prophetic books.||Contains 27 books, including the four Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, letters (epistles), and the book of Revelation.|
|Emphasizes God’s Law and the covenant with Israel.||Emphasizes God’s grace and the new covenant through Jesus Christ.|
|Portrays God as a righteous judge and a powerful warrior.||Portrays God as a loving and merciful Father.|
|Focuses on the sacrificial system and the importance of the temple.||Emphasizes the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the spiritual temple of believers.|
|Prophecies about the coming of a Messiah (Christ)(anointed one) who would save Israel.||Describes the fulfillment of these prophecies through Jesus as the Messiah (Christ).|
|It centers on the worship of God through the tabernacle and later the temple.||Centers on worship through the Spirit and in truth.|
|Reflects a predominantly Jewish cultural and religious context.||Reflects a diverse cultural and religious context, including Jewish and Gentile believers.|
|Ends with the book of Malachi, written around 400 BC.||Begins with the Gospel of Matthew, written around AD 70-80, ending a 400-year silence from God.|
The Relationship Between Old And New Testament
The Bible is a complete book and should be read in its entirety to fully understand its message. The first time I read the Bible, I started from Genesis all the way to New Testament. And thankfully, I had a study Bible because it made it so much easier to understand what I was reading as a new Christian.
The Old Testament gives context to the New Testament by showing us why Jesus had to come as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for all people. It details the initial sin of mankind, which was disobedience and believing that we did not need God to live according to His standards and enter the presence of a Holy God.
We were given God’s Law as the standard by which we need to live, and it acts as a mirror through which we can look and examine how we measure up to God’s perfect Law of Life.
We have all broken God’s Law, and if we have broken one, we have broken them all, which means we “all fall short of the glory of God,” according to Paul in Romans 3:23.
The Law shows us our guilt and the need for a sacrifice to make atonement for our sins and restore us back to right standing with a Holy God.
The Law was never meant to be a solution for us and a way back to God, but rather a signpost to show us how much we need God to intervene and save us because we cannot live up to His standards in our own strength!
The Old Testament is not only a book of the Law, but it also points us to the plan God had to give us a way to escape the judgment of the Law. The Old Testament gives us a glimmer of hope with the promise of a messiah who is not only for the Jews but who will “take away the sins of the world,” according to John the Baptist in John 1:29.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:29
The Old and New Testaments are intertwined in that the Old Testament shows us our hopeless state, but the New Testament gives us our blessed Hope, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice and resurrection make all believers righteous in God’s sight! Hallelujah!!
This is why the Old and New Testaments are equally important and should be read as a complete book. To understand our condition without God, we need the mirror of the Old Testament, but then we can celebrate the Grace of the New Testament with greater joy!
How do we appreciate the grace and hope illustrated in the New Testament without seeing the depraved state of people illustrated in the Old Testament? We only understand the value of the light once we have seen the deepness of the darkness of sin!
The differences between the Old Testament (old covenant) and New Testament (new covenant) show us God’s cosmic plan for all people because of His great love for us! These two parts of the Bible must be read together because both messages are singular and give us an overall appreciation for God and His character.
We get to know God through his creativity and His holiness in the early part of the scriptures, but by His love and grace in the second part. Don’t skip to the last half of the story and miss out on your journey of discovery to know your God!
I hope you have enjoyed this article and have learned something. If you would like to leave a comment, I would love to hear from readers. Please let me know what God is teaching you in your life.
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…