What the “Old & New Testament” Is NOT.
Christianity has traditionally taught that our Bible is divided into two parts: “Old Testament” and “New Testament.” They say that the “Old Testament” is the first 39 books of our Bibles, and the “New Testament” is the last 27 books of our Bible. But did you know that the phrase “Old Testament” only appears ONCE in the whole Bible ? It is only used in 2 Corinthians 3:14. But there is not one place in the whole Bible where this phrase is used to define the first 39 books of the Bible, nor is the phrase “New Testament” ever used to define the last 27 books of the Bible. This division of the Scriptures into two parts is entirely man-made; it is not Scriptural at all. We would be better off, if we would take those two divider sheets – “Old Testament” usually comes before Genesis and “New Testament” comes before Matthew – and we just ripped them out of our Bibles, and treat the whole Bible as one continuous revelation from God.
Two Phrases – The Original Languages
So if we look at the phrase “Old Testament,” what does it define or refer to in the Bible? In the Greek, the phrase that is used is palaios diathēkē, and palaios simply means “something that has been around for a long time, or ancient,” and the term diathēkē can be translated into English as either “covenant” or “testament.” Therefore, it could be translated as the “ancient covenant,” or the “covenant that’s been around for a long time.” The phrase “New Testament” originally comes from the book of Jeremiah where the prophet prophecies that one day God will make a “new covenant” with the Northern kingdom of Israel (“the house of Israel”) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (“the house of Judah”), and this prophecy is then referenced and quoted in the “New Testament.” The Hebrew phrase b’rit chadashah comes into the Greek as the phrase, kainē diathēkē. The Greek word kainē, means “newly made” or “recent,” and speaks of a “quality change,” not a change in content. For example, if a have an “old car,” and I update some of the parts, like put in some new interior and even give it a paint job, and then drive around and say, “Hey, check out my new car!” Have I gone out and bought an entirely different car? No, I made some improvements to the car, but it is still the same car, and that is what God has done. He has made some quality changes and improved some things, but it is the same covenant – NOT an entirely different covenant as many Christians try to convince people.
A Comparison of the Two Covenants
But what “covenant” is God referring to? If it does not mean the 39 books of the Bible, what does He mean? Well, if we go and examine 2 Corinthians 3, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) gives us a description of both the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament” (as it is translated in many Bibles).
“Old Testament” / “Ancient Covenant”
“New Testament” or “Renewed Covenant”
“Tablets of Stone”
“Written on our hearts”
“Engraved in Stones”
“Tablets of human hearts”
“The Letter Kills” / “The ministry of death in letters”
|“The Spirit gives life” / “the ministry of the Spirit”|
“The ministry of condemnation”
“The ministry of righteousness”
There was only one thing in the whole Bible that was written or “engraved in tablets of stone,” and that was the 10 Commandments; whereas, the prophecy of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 is that this covenant would be written on our hearts, which is exactly what Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) describes here in 2 Corinthians 3. Thus, the change here is that God has written the same Ten Commandments on the hearts and insides of His people. And by doing this, the Ten Commandments went from being “an outer motivator” to being “an inner motivator;” it went from being a “have to” to a “want to.”
The Ten Commandments – Written by the Spirit of God?
Now we must keep in mind that in both cases, whether the Ten Commandments were “engraved in tablets of stone” or “written on tablets of the heart,” they were written by the Holy Spirit, or “the finger of God,” i.e., it was written by the same exact writer. For example, we read in Exodus 24,
Now the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law (Heb. Torah) and the commandment which I have written for their instruction. (Exodus 24:12)
And then in Exodus 31, we read,
And when He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony [the Ten Commandments], tablets of stone, written by the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18)
But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you, (Matthew 12:28)
But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20)
Here we can see by comparing these verses that “the Spirit of God” and “the finger of God” are used interchangeably. Therefore, when the Bible tells us that the Ten Commandments were written on “the tablets of stone” by “the finger of God,” that means the same thing as saying that they were written by the “Spirit of God” or the Holy Spirit. Therefore, both the original Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone and the same Ten Commandments written on the heart have the same exact writer and the same exact content, so what’s changed? What the Spirit of God is writing the commandments upon has changed. Originally, it was the two tablets of stone, and therefore, it was outside of people – an “outer motivator,” “a have-to” – which is why God is constantly reminding them of things that He has done for them. But when we receive the Spirit of God, He writes those same Ten Commandments on our inside and on our hearts, and thus, it becomes an “inner motivator,” or “a want-to.”
Why Did Paul Say?
So why does Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) say about the Ten Commandments, the words of God, “the letter kills,” “the ministry of death in letters,” and “the ministry of condemnation”? He says this because of what happened on the day when God spoke the Ten Commandments out to the people from Mount Sinai and when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from the mountain. According to Jewish teaching, both of these events happened on the biblical feast of Shavuot (Weeks) or Pentecost. According to the account, as God was speaking His commandments, we read,
And all the people saw the thunderings and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. (Exodus 20: 18)
The people backed away from God because of the fear of what they saw and heard. Also, have you ever wondered, “How do people see ‘thunderings’? Thunder is a sound, so how could this be something that they could see?” In the Hebrew text, the word translated as “thunderings” is qol [H6963]. which literally means “to call aloud,” “voices” “sounds,” or “sparks.” Therefore, the Rabbis teach that when God spoke, there were “tongues of fire” that came out of His mouth as He spoke, and it was these “tongues of fire” that the people saw. It is interesting that they also teach that there were seventy nations of people represented at the bottom of the mountain, so for them to hear the Creator’s word in their own native languages, He would have spoken to them “in tongues.” Then forty days later, when Moses brought the commandments down to the people, they were engaged in worshiping the golden calf, and what happened as a result? Moses destroyed the golden calf, and 3,000 people died. So if we compare this account to what happened when the Holy Spirit came down on the Jewish believers in the Upper Room in Acts 2, there were “tongues of fire” that lit upon each of the disciples’ heads, and then they all “spoke in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2: 2-3), and the masses outside heard it. Afterwards, Shi’mon Petros (Peter) came out and preached to the masses who were there, and 3,000 people were saved, or were spiritually made alive. This is why Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) describes the New Covenant by saying, “the Spirit gives life,” and “the ministry of the Spirit,” and “the ministry of righteousness.”
The Problem – The Hearts of People?
The problem was never the Covenant, but it was the hearts of people. According to Hebrews 8, we read,
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. (Hebrews 8:7)
This verse makes it sound like the problem is with the covenant, but then we read in the next verse,
For finding fault with THEM, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;... (Hebrews 8:8; emphasis added)
This verse indicates the problem was not with the covenant – but it was with the people themselves, and then the text begins quoting the prophecy of the new covenant from Jeremiah 31:31-34. Thus, Hebrews 8: 8-12, it is reciting the prophecy of the new covenant, but then after this passage, it adds the writer’s interpretation,
When He said, “a new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and [continuously] growing old is ready to disappear. (Hebrew 8:13)
So how is it that we are supposed to understand this verse? Is this person saying that God has made the Ten Commandments “obsolete”? That is actually NOT what the person is saying.
Who Wrote the Book of Hebrews?
There are many theories about who wrote this book since the author does not identify himself or herself. There are different opinions about who wrote Hebrews. According to the “Introduction” in the New American Standard Bible (NASB), it says,
We do not know exactly who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. Perhaps it was Apollos. According to Acts 18:24-28, he was a well-read Hellenistic Jew from Alexandria in Egypt. Martin Luther guessed that he wrote it. Tertullian (A.D. 150-230) said that Hebrews was a letter of Barnabas. Adolf Harnack and J. Rendel Harris speculated that it could have been written by Priscilla (Prisca). William Ramsey suggested it was done by Philip. However, the traditional position is that the Apostle Paul wrote Hebrews. (1618)
Is the “Old Testament” “Obsolete”?
Traditional Christian interpretation of this passage in Hebrews is that it is the Law (Heb. Torah) that is now “obsolete.” But is this interpretation correct? When the author of Hebrews – whoever the person was – says, “When He said a new covenant,” the writer then uses the Greek word pepalaioken, which is translated as “He has made obsolete.” This could also be translated as “He has declared obsolete,” so it is not “obsolete” yet, but it is in the process of becoming “obsolete.” The writer then says, “But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” Now what is becoming “obsolete” is not the covenant itself, but how it has been used. It was used as an “outer motivator,” and as an “outer motivator,” it is slowly growing old and “becoming obsolete.” Every time a person receives the Spirit and the Ten Commandments, they are then written on the inside and in their hearts, the usage goes from being an “outer motivator” to being an “inner motivator,” and that is what has been changing – not the covenant itself.
The Two Questions
Finally, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) ends 2 Corinthians 3 by saying,
For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not as Moses, who used to put a veil over his face that the sons of Israel might not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their mind were hardened; for until this very day of the reading of the old covenant [or Old Testament, KJV] the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ [Messiah], But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Now this provokes two questions;
- What is “fading away”?
- What is “the veil” that covers people’s minds when reading the “old covenant”?
In order to answer these two questions, we have to go back and look at the original account in Exodus 34. In this original account, it says,
And it came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him [God]. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin on his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. (Exodus 34:29-30)
What caused the people to be afraid? It was that Moses’ face shone with the glory or the presence of God. So what does Moses do? Let’s keep reading,
Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. And afterward all of the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the LORD had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. (Exodus 34: 31-33)
Here we can see that because of the people’s fear of the effect of God’s Presence on Moses, he covered his face with a veil. The veil, then, was not about them not understanding the Torah, the words of God, but it was about keeping them from being afraid of the evidence of God’s Presence, His glory, that was on Moses. The text then finishes by saying,
But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him. (Exodus 34: 34-35)
Here we can see that what “fades away” is not the Law (Heb. Torah) as most Christians teach, but it is the fear they had of God’s Presence, His glory, upon the face of Moses. The more exposure they had to the Presence or the glory of God, the less fear they had of it, but even though this was true for some, there were others who continued to be afraid, so Moses replaced the veil after he was finished speaking what God had commanded him. So are Christians right that it is the Law that “fades away”? No, they are not, but when we place the discussion back into its original context, we can see that what “fades away” is our fear of God and His Presence.
The Second Coming – During the High Holy Days?
The last point I want to discuss in relation to this scene that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) references here in 2 Corinthians 3 is that the first time that Moses comes down from Mount Sinai (a picture of heaven), he looks like everyone else, just as the first time that Yeshua (Jesus) came down from heaven into this world, he looked like everyone else. However, as we can see the second time that Moses came down from Mount Sinai (a picture of heaven), he was glowing with the glory and Presence of God, just as Yeshua (Jesus) will do when God returns Him to the earth. And when did Moses come down the second time from Mount Sinai?
According to Judaism, Moses came down on Yom Kippur, “the Day of Atonement.” Is it possible that Yeshua (Jesus) will return on some Yom Kippur in the future? According to the prophet Zachariah, we read,
And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first born. In that day, there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itsef and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; all of the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves. (Zachariah 12: 10-14)
Now there is only ONE DAY a year when God will pour out His grace and forgive the whole nation of Israel all at the same time. It is on the biblical feast of Yom Kippur, “the Day of Atonement.” Therefore, these are two prophetic moments which possibly could indicate on what day that Yeshua (Jesus) will return. And I can imagine that someone will quote the verse,
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Matthew 24:36)
Now the “day that no man knows” is Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), aka, “the feast of trumpets” which occurs whenever the first sliver of the moon appears in the month of September, and it is two days long, so literally, you do not know “the day nor the hour.” But Rosh Hashanah is also during the time period called “the High Holy Days,” which is usually sometime in September, or at the latest, the beginning of October. So we know that His return will be sometime during the High Holy Days in the Fall of some year. Now what year we do not know.
What does “the Veil” Represent?
As we saw from 2 Corinthians 3, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) said,
But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the [LORD], the veil is taken away. Now the [LORD] is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the [LORD] is, there is liberty. But we all, with UNVEILED FACE beholding as in a mirror THE GLORY OF THE [LORD], are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the [LORD], the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3; 15-18)
The Veil – Religion?
What is “the veil” that “lies over their heart”? Since Moses put on “the veil” because the people were afraid of “the Presence” or “glory of God” that was shining from his face, I believe “the veil” is RELIGION, because our RELIGIONS prevent us from seeing God and His Word, the Bible, clearly. It demands that we see God and His Scriptures through our particular RELIGIONS, instead of looking at God and the Bible directly and clearly. Now the “New Covenant/Testament” was written BEFORE there was a distinct RELIGION, called “Christianity,” but it was written when God’s Kingdom was still seen as a literal Kingdom that was ruled and reigned over by a literal King, who was God, the Holy One of Israel. Here the word “Lord” should be written in all capitals. It does not refer to the Rebbe Yeshua (Jesus) – but to the Father since the very next thing it says is, “Now the [Lord] is the Spirit,” and the Rebbe Yeshua (Jesus) told the Samaritan woman in John 4, that “God is Spirit, and those that [continue to] worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth” (John 4: 24). The word “worship” is a Greek verb written in Present Participle Tense, which indicates “continuous” or “repeated action.” So when we turn to God, who is “Spirit,” the “veil is taken away.”
We turn to RELIGION, because we are afraid – like the ancient Israelites – of the Presence or “Glory of God,” and because of that innate fear, we turn to RELIGION, and we then view God through that RELIGION just as the people had to view God’s Presence or Glory through the veil of Moses. However, when we turn to God and we receive the Spirit, the veil – our fear of God’s Presence, His glory – “is taken away.” He goes on to say, “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty [freedom].”
He ends the chapter by writing that when we all look with “UNVEILED FACE” “beholding as in a mirror,” but what is “the mirror”? In the epistle (letter) of James (Heb. Ya’acov/Jacob), he writes,
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who LOOKS AT HIS NATURAL FACE IN A MIRROR; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at THE PERFECT LAW [Heb. Torah], the law of liberty [Psalm 119: 44-45], and abides by it, not having become an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does [Joshua 1:7; Psalm 1:2-3]. (James 1:23-25)
Thus, when we look into the Torah with “Unveiled faces” as if “in a mirror,” exposing ourselves to “the Presence” and “Glory of God,” we are “transformed into [His] image from glory to glory, just as from the [LORD] as from the [LORD], the Spirit.” According to the Scriptures, God created us in His image, and so we are being “transformed” into what we were originally created to be, but that original “image” that we had was distorted and lost when we sinned. Now through the process of walking with the LORD in and through the Anointed-Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), we are being molded and shaped into that image. So we can see what Dr. Myles Munroe frequently taught, all of the Bible from Genesis 3 to the end of the book of Revelation (Revelation 22:21) is to get us back to where we were in Genesis 1-2.