There is much in common between the Old and New Testaments, but there are also many differences. Therefore, having a good understanding of the two main divisions of the Holy Bible is essential for us to have a good understanding of what God wants to tell us through His Word.
So, next, I’m going to talk about 10 fundamental differences between the two divisions of the Bible.
But, before talking about these differences, we need to make some initial considerations:
The Bible has two main divisions.
- The Old Testament is the first major division of the Christian Bible.
- The New Testament is the second largest division;
- God suffered not a shadow of variation between the Old Testament and the New Testament. He remains the same;
- The Bible has a single message, even though there are two testaments;
- The Old Testament does not contradict the New Testament;
- The Old Testament anticipates and announces the events of the New Testament;
- The Old Testament is a complement to the New Testament (the continuation of the history of salvation);
- The Old Testament is reinterpreted by the New Testament;
- The New Testament has its sense, lucidity, clearness, and meaning found in the Old Testament;
- The Old Testament is the hidden New Testament and the New Testament is the revealed Old Testament;
- The Bible is seen as a progressive text that has evolved over time, therefore the New Testament is considered to be based on the events, systems, covenants, and promises of the Old Testament (the New Testament is an evolution of the Old Testament).
- Humanity was not mature enough to understand all of God’s revelation at once, which is the reason for progressive revelation.
10 Fundamental Differences Between the Old and New Testament
Given the initial considerations, we can already highlight the significant differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The difference in Narrative (story)
The Old Testament has its narrative around a people (Jews). The New Testament has its narrative centered around one man (Jesus).
The difference in the Period in which They Were Written
The Old Testament books were written by Moses until approximately 400 BC. There are 1000 years of written history about the actions of God in the lives of the Jewish people, descendants of Abraham. The New Testament was written between AD 50 and AD 100, depicting the earthly life of Jesus and the growth of the early church.
Difference in Focus
The Old Testament highlights the mighty acts of God, pointing to the coming Messiah. The New Testament reveals the promised Messiah of the Old Testament and his teachings as the basis for all Christian doctrine.
Most Old Testament prophecies have their fulfillment in the distant future. The New Testament emphasizes the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, especially in the life of Jesus, the promised Messiah.
The difference in Performing Worship
The Tabernacle or Temple was the central place of worship in the Old Testament. The New Testament presents a new perspective of worship whose focus and the central place of worship is Christ. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that true worshipers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
Difference in the Covenant
The Old Testament emphasizes the covenant of the Law given to Moses. The New Testament is the establishment of a new law in which Jesus is the fulfillment of the same. Salvation is no longer conditioned to ritualistic fulfillment of the Law, but salvation through faith in Christ. No longer a chosen people (Jews), but all who believe in his name and in the saving sacrifice.
Difference in Size
The Old Testament contains thirty-nine books representing three-quarters of the entire Bible. The New Testament comprises twenty-seven books, containing four gospels, a book of history (Acts), and twenty-one letters and prophecy (Revelation).
The Old Testament describes the sacrificial system that the Israelites received to cover their sins for a temporary period, while the New Testament clarifies that the Old Testament system really refers to the sacrifice of Christ, through whom alone salvation is possible.
The Old Testament gives the commandments and lists blessings and curses, while the New Testament makes it clear that God gave the precious commandments as referring to a need for salvation and never to means of salvation alone.
The Old Testament was preparatory, temporary, and limited. The New is complete, eternal, and universal.
32 Differences Between the Old and New Covenants
- The old covenant came through Moses, while the new covenant came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17);
- The old covenant leads to death (kills), while the new covenant gives life (2 Cor 3:6);
- The old covenant was concluded by Jesus Christ (Romans 10:4), while the new covenant was established by Jesus Christ (Heb 8:6);
- The old covenant enslaves (Galatians 5:1), while the new covenant makes man free (gives freedom) (John 8:32, 36);
- The old covenant leaves man imperfect, while the new covenant leaves man perfect (Heb 7:19);
- The old covenant exposes sin (Gal 3:19), while the new covenant covers sin (Romans 4:1-8);
- The old covenant cannot give life ( 2 cor 3.7 ) while the new covenant gives life ( Gal 3.11, 6: 8 );
- The old covenant has been done away with, while the new covenant is in effect (Eph 2:15).
- The old covenant brings a curse (Gal 3:10), while the new covenant redeems from the curse (Gal 3:13);
- In the old covenant, life is by works, while in the new covenant, life is by faith ( Gal 3: 10-11 );
- The old covenant is a shadow (Col 2:14-17) while the new covenant is the reality (Heb 10:1-18);
- The old covenant is a covered glory, while the new covenant is an uncovered glory (2Co 3:13);
- The old covenant had many high priests (Hebrews 7:23), while the new covenant had only one high priest (Jesus Christ) (Heb 7:24-28);
- The old covenant had an earthly priest (Heb 5:1-4), while the new covenant had a heavenly priest (Heb 9:24, 10:12);
- The old covenant makes priests by law, while the new covenant makes priests by oath (Heb 7: 12,28);
- The old covenant had an earthly tabernacle (Heb 9:2), while the new covenant had a heavenly tabernacle (Heb 8:2).
- In the old covenant priesthood was in the lineage of Aaron, while the priesthood of the new covenant is in the lineage of Melchizedek (Heb 7:11,21);
- In the old covenant priests (high priests) were sinners (Heb 5: 1-4 ), while in the new covenant, the priest is without sin (Jesus Christ) ( Heb 7:26 );
- The old covenant had its end (Matthew 5:17-18), while the new covenant is now in effect (Heb 8:6, 10:9);
- In the old covenant, the law was written on tablets of stone, while in the new covenant, the law is written in the heart (Jeremiah 31:33);
- In the old covenant, the Ark of the Covenant was present as a sign of salvation while in the new covenant, salvation is by grace through faith ;
- The old covenant required work, while the new covenant only requires obedience;
- In the past, Moses and prophets were mediators, while in the new covenant, Jesus Christ is the mediator;
- The old covenant is a letter covenant, while the new covenant is a spiritual covenant.
- In the old covenant an offering needed to be offered for sin, whereas in the new covenant, Jesus is the perfect sin offering;
- The old covenant needed sacrifices and ordinances, while the new covenant needs a broken heart;
- In the old covenant, the tabernacle was made by man, while in the new covenant, the tabernacle is man himself;
- In the old covenant, the remembrance of sin was done annually, while in the new covenant, the forgiveness and washing away of sin was done once and for all;
- The old covenant remembers sin (Heb 10:3), while the new covenant remembers sin no more (Heb 8:12, 10:17);
- The old covenant is a ministry of death, while the new covenant is a ministry of life (2 Cor 3:6-7);
- The old covenant was written with ink, while the new covenant is written by the Spirit of God (2 Cor 3:3);
- The old covenant is only for the Israelites ( Deuteronomy 4:7-8 ), while the new covenant is for all men ( Luke 22:20 ).