Bible Anatomy—Old and New: the Testaments

The Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament are both essential parts of the Bible; neither makes good sense without the other. Although some Christians have been tempted to ignore the Old Testament as, well, old, this is a big mistake. Not only does the Old Testament set the stage for the New by introducing many vital concepts, it also poses the questions to which the New Testament provides the answer. An answer is much more helpful when you know what the question was in the first place!

The Bible is divided into two parts – the Old Testament and the New. The Old Testament also goes by the name ‘Hebrew Bible’, and is the Bible of Judaism (since Judaism does not recognise Jesus as the promised Messiah, it has no use for the New Testament which tells his story). The term ‘Hebrew Bible’ is thus more politically correct, since it is the Bible for Judaism and there is nothing ‘old’ about it, as far as Judaism is concerned. This website is written from the perspective that both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament together constitute the ‘complete’ Bible, and are necessary parts of the Word of God.

The Old Testament Does Matter

In contrast to the position of Judaism which just looks at the Old Testament, many Christians content themselves with just the New Testament – but they are making a big mistake! You can’t truly appreciate who Jesus is and why he matters unless you have read the preceding history in the Old. A mere glance at the first verse of the New Testament will confirm this point. Jesus is introduced as the son of David and the son of Abraham. They only way you can know who those figures are (and why it matters that Jesus is related to them) is if you read what has gone before.

What is surprising is that the Old Testament is so big when compared to the New (about four times the size). If the New Testament is all about Jesus (which it is), and the Old deals with what happened before Jesus (world origins, Jewish history, laws and other literature about God and man), you might have expected the New Testament would be bigger – especially given that the Bible is very clear that God’s whole purpose centres around His son the Lord Jesus.

Yet that’s not the way it is. The Old Testament lays the foundation for God’s dealings with man and for the appearance of Jesus. It explains why it was so necessary that Jesus should come. You can think of the Old Testament as being the question to which the New Testament is the answer. The world’s mess is a big question. But you can only truly appreciate the answer (in Jesus) if you’ve first thought properly about the question, as defined in the Old Testament. God is working out a purpose through history which culminates and centres in His son Jesus. The Old Testament is a crucial part of that history.

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