A New Way to Think about the Old and New Testaments

I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but I’m becoming more and more uncomfortable with calling the first part of the Bible the “Old” Testament, and the second part of the Bible the “New” Testament.

Despite the fact that the Bible you hold in your hand probably has two testaments labelled as such, the Bible never actually says of itself that it’s composed of the Old and New Testaments. These are designations that we have put on them. Granted, these designations were put on them fairly early in Christian history, but we must still acknowledge that the text of Scripture itself never refers to itself in these ways.

The same is true of chapter and verse divisions. They were added later to make it easier to find and refer to a particular passage. The same is true for any notes in your Bible, whether in the margins or at the bottom, or as introductions to the books or letters. Even many of the titles of the books and letters did not originally appear in the original manuscripts.

What we have, in truth, is 66 books, written at various times in history, compiled together and recognized to be from God.

Now, to be fair, the Old Testament does primarily describe what life was like under the Old Covenant (which, by the way, is what the designation originally referred to). But it also does more than that. Are the Psalms purely Old Covenant songs? Is the story of creation only relevant to the Old Covenant? Isn’t the story of Hosea more of a New Covenant, rather than an Old Covenant, concept?

Perhaps we do the Bible a disservice when we think about it as being composed of the “Old” and “New” Testaments. We think of old things as worn, dated, and needing to be replaced. But the New Testament does not replace the Old; it fulfills it, deepens it, and impresses on us the need to heed it.

Why does all this matter? Because “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Perhaps a better way of understanding the testaments would be to simply appreciate the progressive revelation given to us in the Bible by God. From Genesis to Revelation, it’s all God’s Word, and tells us one story: we can be saved only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Amen!

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