The Old Testament is a book of Jewish scripture that covers the time period from creation to about 400 years before Jesus’ birth. It contains the history of God’s relationship with his chosen people, the Jews.
The New Testament is a book of Christian scripture that covers the time period from Jesus’ birth until his resurrection and ascension. It tells the story of Jesus Christ and his teachings, as well as stories about his apostles and their lives after his death.
What are the differences between the Old and New Testaments?
While the Bible is one collection of books with one unique message, there are numerous differences between the Old Testament and New Testament.
There is a difference in time period. The Old Testament books were written from the time of Moses until about 400 BC. This approximately 1,000-year period covers a wide range of events from the creation of the universe to the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah. The New Testament was written between approximately AD 50 and AD 150.
There is difference in focus. The Old Testament chronicles God’s power and works, looking toward the coming Messiah. The New Testament reveals Jesus as the Messiah, looking back at His life and teachings as the basis for the church and the spread of the gospel.
There is a difference in prophecy. Most Old Testament prophecies look forward to the future and were unfulfilled at the time of the Old Testament’s completion. The New Testament highlights the fulfillment of many of the Old Testament’s prophecies, including more than 300 in the life of Jesus Christ.
There is a difference in the practice of worship. Much of the Old Testament focused on the tabernacle or temple as the central place of worship. Many details were included in the development of offerings, festivals, and related practices. In the New Testament, Jesus offered Himself as the focus of worship, claiming to be the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one could come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).
There is a difference in the covenant. The Old Testament emphasized the Mosaic covenant with its focus on the Law of the Lord. The New Testament began a new covenant in which Jesus came as a fulfillment of the Law. No longer would the Jewish people (or Gentiles) need to fulfill the Law to find atonement; Jesus offered forgiveness and eternal life to all who believed in Him.
There is also a difference in size. The Old Testament includes thirty-nine of the Bible’s sixty-six books and makes up about three-fourths of the entire Bible. The New Testament includes twenty-seven books, including four Gospels, one book of history (Acts), twenty-one letters, and one book of prophecy (Revelation).
In many ways the Old Testament serves as the foundation for the New Testament. While the Old Testament comprises approximately three-fourths of the Bible, its contents point toward the Messiah who is revealed in the New Testament. Rather than an entirely new message, the New Testament reveals how Jesus fulfilled the predictions regarding the Messiah and provides many of His teachings and miracles, along with the writings of His earliest followers.