Christians read and study the Bible because whether it’s in the New or Old Testament, God does not change. The Bible is reliable and without error. When looking for a specific verse, most people would start by determining whether it’s in the Old or New Testament. The two parts make up one Bible but have distinct differences. So what are these differences?
The Old Testament focuses more on the history of the people of Israel and their relationship with God and lays the foundation for the coming of Messiah. The New Testament builds on what the Old Testament says but focuses more on the birth and life of the Messiah (son of God) that the prophets foretold in the Old Testament.
The main difference between the Old and New Testaments is the focus. The New Testament focuses more on the life and teachings of Jesus and the Christian church. On the other hand, the Old Testament mainly focuses on the creation and the people of ancient Israel. The Exodus, Ten Commandments, David’s genealogy, and the prophets are also covered.
Differences Between Old and New Testaments
There are many more differences between the New and Old Testament. Let’s look into that further.
The Old Testament points to the coming of the Messiah. God gives us a sneak preview of the Messiah through several scriptures like Numbers 24:17 and Jeremiah 23:5-6. Isaiah 7:10-16 talks of a virgin who will conceive and give birth to a son named Emmanuel.
The prophecies about the coming of Christ told in the Old Testament are revealed in the New Testament. The details about the birth, life, ministry, death, and ascension that are missing in the Old Testament are the main focus in the New Testament.
Practice of Worship
The Old Testament focused on the tabernacle or temple as the central place of worship (Exodus 25 -27). Jesus offered Himself in the New Testament as the focus of worship, the truth, and the life. And that no one could come to the Father except through Him (Hebrews 9:14, John 14:6). The Old Testament also gives an account of how the people of Israel were expected to worship. Additionally, God’s identity is portrayed only as one. The New Testament sheds more light on the trinity of God.
Atonement of Sin
Sin was first introduced in the Old Testament when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 2:16- 17). As a result of sin committed, Adam and Eve are thrown out of paradise, and the consequence of sin is death. To repent/ make atonement and draw closer to God, the people of Israel gave offerings (Leviticus 4:27-3, Exodus 29:36). The priests often offered a sacrifice for sin on behalf of the person according to the law.
The New Testament teaches Christians how their relationship with God can be restored after sinning. In fact, Christians today no longer need to offer animal sacrifices because we recognize Christ’s atoning death on the cross as the only needed sacrifice for sin (1 Corinthians 15:3, Hebrews 10: 1-10). The sacrifice was offered once and for all and Christ became our high priest (Hebrews 9:11-28). In the Old Testament, people sacrificed animals to atone for sin.
In the New Testament, we are atoned through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. In addition, the word atonement (a sacrifice for sin) is mentioned over 100 times in the Old Testament but rarely in the New Testament. Atonement appears only once in the entire King James Version of the New Testament (Romans 5:11).
The Old Testament contains thirty-nine books from Genesis and ends with Malachi. On the other hand, the New Testament has twenty-seven books that start with the four Gospels and end with Revelation.
Covenant and Laws
In the Old Testament, God gave the law to Moses on Mount Sinai as the Ten Commandments. Moses was also given other laws rooted in the Ten Commandments, such as moral, judicial, and ceremonial laws.
Mosaic Laws were mostly written for the people of Israel. Moses’ law was God’s law adapted to fit the ancient people of Israel. Isaiah 42:21 talks about how the LORD will magnify the law and make it honorable. In addition, there was the first Covenant in the Old Testament that God had established with His people. A biblical covenant is an agreement or promise between God and the people of ancient Israel.
The first covenant required strict obedience to the Mosaic Law and the consequences for disobedience were also given (Exodus 21:12-36, 24:1-8). For example, Moses disobeyed God and he wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 32: 51-52).
The Old Testament also mentions that there will come a time when the new covenant will be made (Jeremiah 31:31). The book of Exodus provides an extensive look at the covenant and the laws used in the Old Testament. The covenant and laws were often written in stones and placed in the ark or temple/tabernacle (Exodus 25:16).
In the New Testament, Jesus fulfilled the laws of Moses (Matthew 5:17). Christ also kept the law and often referred people to it (Matthew 5:27-28 andLuke10: 25-28). In addition, in the New Testament, God made a new covenant through Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:25).
This new covenant involves God putting His laws into the minds and hearts of Christians (Hebrews 8:10), unlike the covenant in the Old Testament that was written in stone. So, what was promised in the Old Testament was fulfilled in the New Testament through Jesus Christ. Once all the things written in the Law of Moses and the prophets were fulfilled, there was a need for a new covenant. Overall, God revealed the first covenant through His prophets, while the second covenant was revealed through His Son.
The Old and New Testaments were compiled to form one unified Bible. However, there are several differences between the two sections. The main difference is that in the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the main focus, while the Old Testament talks about creation and how the people of Israel came to be. Regardless of the differences, both testaments form one word of God and point to who He is.