What’s “old” about the Old Testament?

1st April, 2009 - Posted by Claire Larsen - 2 Comments

What is it that makes the Old Testament “old?”  Is it because the prophets who wrote the  books lived thousands of years ago during the time that historians call the Bronze Age and the Iron Age? Everything was old back then — the lifestyle they lived, the way they recorded history! No , although the Old Testament Scriptures were penned at a much earlier period of history on stone tablets or sheets of parchment,  that’s not what makes the Old Testament “old.”

Is it then because the principles and laws in the Old Testament are old and no longer apply to us in this modern age? No, Jesus said He came to fulfill, not abolish the law. The Decalogue written on two stone tablets is also etched on the consciences of mankind today. Even in our post-modern age where truth is relative, purgery is a punishable offense and murder brings heavy consequences.

What is it that makes the Old Testament “old?” It’s the same thing that makes the New Testament “new.” Another word for testament is “covenant.” The Hebrew word for covenant berit comes from the verb bara that means “to bind.” A covenant was a binding relationship between two parties that pledged themselves to each other to provide some service or protection. This pledge was not always a mutual contract; often one party was placing himself under the authority of the other.

In the Old Testament Yahweh made a covenant with His people to be their God and make them His people. He made the covenant, and He took the responsibility of keeping the terms of the covenant, knowing His people would not faithfully worship Him.  (It could not be a mutual covenant, because the LORD knew His people would not fullfill their part.) 

The covenant, though one covenant from  Genesis through Malachi, unfolded gradually and became more clear as God revealed the depths of His promise. The entire ceremonial system of sacrifices and feasts kept the people’s attention focused upon God, their sin, and the need for a blood sacrifice to bridge the alienation of man from God.

The New Testament is “new,” because Jesus came as the instituter of the “new covenant.”  This new covenant was not really completely different from the old covenant. It was actually the same covenant expanded to its fullest extent with all the promises fulfilled in Jesus. Hebrews 10:1-4 says that the Old Testament sacrifices were a “shadow of good things to come.”

The new covenant is better than the old, because the symbolic pictures of the Old Testament have become a reality in Jesus. The need for repeated animal sacrifices that didn’t really take away sin but only pointed to the coming Savior who would forgive sin is eliminated becuase Jesus the perfect Sacrifice has once for all paid for sin.  The scope of the new covenant now reaches out into the whole world, and God’s covenant people are found in every continent throughout the world.

The Old Testament covenant is good. Without it, we would not understand the greatness of what Jesus our Savior did for us. But, the Old Testement is “old” because Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, has completed the requirements of the law and now sits at God’s right hand as our Savior and Intercessor.

Let’s remember to thank the Lord for the Old Testament without which we would not understand or appreciate the New Testament.


Beverly Hergenreter

June 30th, 2009 at 7:53 pm    

Thank you so much for the study “God’s Great Covenant”. I purchased the study for my 10 year old daughter but as our family has moved towards a more “Torah Observant” lifestyle we have all had an opportunity to learn some of the basics through this study.

Claire Larsen

July 10th, 2009 at 2:27 am    


Thanks for your encouraging email. I’m glad you the “God’s Great Covenant” has been helpful to you and your family. I’d be glad to receive any thoughts or comments you have as you study the course.


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