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What Is the Difference Between the Old and New Testaments?

Though there are noticeable differences between the Old and New Testaments, it is indisputable that both books complement each other in providing believers with a true testimony of God’s love for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Mar 14, 2022
What Is the Difference Between the Old and New Testaments?

The Bible entails one God-breathed message of love, teaching, and correction for Christians, while simultaneously consisting of two books — the Old and New Testament.

Though different, they complement one another to provide us with a well-rounded edifying tool and source of encouragement.

The Bible is simultaneously a divine love letter to us from God, as well as a tool for teaching, correcting, and training to equip us to do His work on earth. The Bible offers us one message in two different books — the Old and New Testaments.

Though there are definite similarities between the two volumes, there are also differences, which signify the historical, cultural, and spiritual development of Christians, all of which look to the arrival of Jesus, His ministry, His ultimate return, and the creation of a new heaven on earth.

Let us look more closely at the ways in which the Old and New Testaments differ from one another.

1. The Old Testament

The Old Testament is the first volume of the Bible. Its function is to teach God’s precepts through the history and culture of His people.

The first book of the Old Testament is Genesis and establishes the Creation of the world and mankind with Adam and Eve through God our Creator.

Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:5-7).

Biblical characters that become pillars of faith in the Bible are introduced in the Old Testament. Judges such as Gideon and Samuel are called to guide God’s children.

Kings such as David and his son Solomon are raised to rule and protect the nation of Israel, and prophets such as Jeremiah become mouthpieces of God to urge the people to repent, whereas prophets such as Isaiah herald the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah.

Pivotal events such as the Flood, Abraham’s calling as the father of all nations, the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the establishment of the Mosaic Law, the building of the Temple, the captivity of the Israelites, and more also take place in the Old Testament and establish historical and cultural foundations in the Bible.

Additionally, the Fall of Man is documented, which results in a separation of mankind from God and a world that plummets into disrepair.

Consequently, the focus of the Old Testament becomes God’s plan to redeem His children and restore the state of brokenness between them, in spite of the Israelite’s continual apostasy and eventual capture by the Persians and consequent 70-year exile.

The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, sees the rebuilding of the Temple after its destruction by the Persians; however, a dejected and unrepentant revenant of the Israelites continues the cycle of rebellion and repentance, which is prevalent throughout the Old Testament.

2. The New Testament

There is a 400-year time breach before the New Testament is written. The function of the New Testament differs from that of the Old Testament in that it teaches people to live a faith-filled life that emulates Jesus and gives God glory.

It begins with the Book of Matthew and records the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy of the birth and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Whereas the Book of Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament give narratives of the history of the Israelites and the rise and fall of its rulers, the gospels give an account of the life and teachings of Jesus.

Certain traditions that have been established in the Old Testament are parted within the New Testament. The arrival of the Savior heralds the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law and the establishment of a new covenant with Him as the Head Priest.

Rather than atoning according to the law, believers can now find forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus’ gift of salvation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5).

Instead of the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple being a central place for worship and communication with God, in the New Testament, all believers receive the Spirit of God, and the Temple resides in them.

Whereas animal sacrifices were the only way to atone for sins in the Old Testament, Jesus becomes the sacrificial lamb in the New Testament, and His blood pays the bond price for our sins.

But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins (Hebrews 10:3-4).

Pivotal events that occurred in the New Testament are still relevant for us today. The establishment of the First Church is found in the Book of Acts and Christianity is made available to both Jews and Gentiles.

Whereas specific books in the Old Testament such as Leviticus and Proverbs were designated to teaching and rebuking, the New Testament provides ongoing lessons of Christian living through various authors such as Paul, who wrote 13 Books of the New Testament, the writers of the gospels, and Jesus Himself.

The New Testament ends with the Book of Revelation with Jesus returning as King to judge sinners, cleanse the world of evil, and establish God’s ultimate plan to establish a New Heaven and a New Earth.

What Are the Differences?

The following are further differences that exist between the Old and New Testaments:

1. Languages. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew with some books such as Daniel and Ezra being written in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek.

2. Time of publication. The books of the Bible are neither chronological nor are they in their original order. However, the Old Testament books were definitely written before the books of the New Testament.

3. Size and content. The Old Testament consists of 39 books, has a vocabulary of 5,800 words, and contributes to two-thirds of the entire Bible.

In comparison, the New Testament consists of 27 books, has a vocabulary of 4,800 words, and contributes to one-third of the Bible.

What Does This Mean?

Though there are noticeable differences between the Old and New Testaments, it is indisputable that both books complement each other in providing believers with a true testimony of God’s love for us and that together, they encourage and edify us to walk in truth, Spirit, and revelation of God’s glory.

For further reading:

Why Should We Study the Old Testament?

How Was the Old Testament God’s Love Letter to His People?

What Is the Gospel? The Good News of the New Testament

What Are the Synoptic Gospels?

Why Is Reading the Bible in Context Important?

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Priscilla-du-preez

Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband Solomon. Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

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