In order to answer this question, I would like to clarify a definition, provide an analogy and then examine some biblical passages,
CLARIFYING A DEFINITION.
So is the “New Testament” (Heb. B’rit Chadasha) a replacement for the “Old Testament” (Heb. Tanakh)? No, it isn’t. Such a view indicates a clear misunderstanding of the Scriptural use of the words “old” and “new.”
For example, if I say I have an “old shirt” and a “new shirt,” then in English I have two different shirts. Or if I say, I have an “old car” and a “new car,” then I have two different cars, but the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated “old” and “new” do not mean that. The Hebrew word that’s translated “new” in the phrase “New Covenant” is the word chadasha, and it means “to renew” or it’s used for a “renewal.” For example, it I were to take my old car and repair some parts and update others, and then give it a new paint job, I could say that I have a “new” car; however, more accurately, I would have “renewed” the car or made it so my experience with the car was “renewed and refreshed.”
And it is in this sense that we should understand the meaning of the phrase “New
Testament” (B’rit Chadasha). For example, in the Scriptures, the prophet Isaiah writes that in the future millennial reign of Christ (Messiah), and it seems continuing into the time period of the “New heavens and the New Earth,” all of humanity (Jew and non-Jew alike) will come and worship God on the “Sabbaths and the New Moons” (Isaiah 66:22-23). The observance of the New Moon is mentioned multiple times throughout the Scriptures.
THE NEW MOON
The phrase that’s translated “new moon” is rosh chodesh. The “new moon” is an
observance celebrating the beginning of each new month. Obviously, the Lord doesn’t blow up the “old moon” each month to create a “new moon,” but rather, our experience with the moon is “renewed” each month. In the same way, the “Old Testament” wasn’t “done away with,” “annulled,” or “replaced” by the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha) in its content, but because of what Jesus (Yeshua) did for us on the cross, and Him writing His commandments on our hearts (as we shall see), there has been a qualitative change or improvement, so that our experience with the “Old Testament” has been “renewed and refreshed” as we continue to walk with Christ (Messiah) as His disciples.
Another way of understanding the relationship between the Old Testament (Tanakh) and the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha) is by using a computer analogy. For example, the “Old Testament” (Tanakh) is God’s original program, and the “New Testament” (B’rit Chadasha) is God’s “update” to His original program.
If you use the program by itself, you are losing out on all the new additives and improvements that the Creator has made to the original program; however, you also can’t use the “update” by itself. If you try, you still won’t get the full outcome desired by the Creator. Consequently, in order to get the full benefits and the most effective use of the program (i.e., God’s Word) as intended, you need to use both the original program (i.e., the Old Testament) and the update (i.e., the New Testament) integrated and running together as one new program.
EXAMINING SOME BIBLICAL PASSAGES.
As seen by clarifying the definition and through the analogy, the belief that the New
Testament (B’rit Chadasha) has replaced the Old Testament (Tanakh) is based on some erroneous views regarding the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha) and its relationship with the Old Testament (Tanakh). For example, if we look at Ephesians 2, Paul writes the following:
Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ [Heb. Yeshua HaMoshiakh]Himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy Temple in the Lord: in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit. (2:19-22)
Notice in this passage that believing gentiles, along with the Jewish believers in the Messiah (Christ), are built up together upon the exact same foundation, a foundation that’s comprised of two parts: the “apostles” (the New Testament/B’rit Chadasha) and the “prophets” (the Old Testament/Tanakh), with Jesus (Yeshua) being the “chief cornerstone,” that links and connects the two parts together.
Therefore, the Old Testament (Tanakh) and the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha) combined, according to the apostle Paul, equals “the foundation” that God is using to build our lives upon. Consequently, for believers in Christ (Messiah) to live their lives based on only the writings of the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha) is, in fact, to base their life on only half of the foundation.
Another passage where we see the Old and New Testament combined is in the book of
And I [John] saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty: just and true are Your ways, You King of saints. Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You only are holy: for all nations shall come and worship before You; for Your judgments are made manifest. (Revelation 15:2-4)
Notice in verse 3, John writes that they sing “the song of Moses the servant of God.” This is a reference to the song of Moses in Exodus 15. It’s the song that Moses sung to God after God triumphed over the Egyptians by drowning them in the Red Sea. This song is sung in its entirety in the daily synagogue service and liberally quoted twice daily in the blessing that’s recited after the Sh’ma, the central doctrine of Judaism (what Jesus/Yeshua calls the “Greatest Commandment”).
Notice that they not only sing “the song of Moses,” but they also sing “the song of the
Lamb.” This is not a song sung to the Lamb, as I have heard erroneously taught by several
ministers, but it’s a song sung by the Lamb, Jesus (Yeshua), to His Father, just as the “song of Moses” is a song that Moses sang to God. And these two songs combined will be the song that the victorious believers in heaven will learn and sing. According to an ancient Rabbinic teaching, the “song of Moses” is the feminine aspect of the song, but they teach, when the Messiah comes, He will teach the masculine aspect of the song. Therefore, just as the masculine aspect of Adam (i.e., the man) and the feminine aspect of Adam (i.e., the woman) together comprise the original Adam, who was “created in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26-27), so the feminine aspect of the song (representative of the Old Testament) plus the masculine aspect of the song (representative of the New Testament) together comprise the full revelation of God, which John, here in Revelation 15, is privileged to hear and experience in his vision of heaven.
A third passage that I would like to look at is Acts 17:10-12,
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming there went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honorable women, which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
In this passage, Paul and Silas have been driven out of Thessalonica and have come here to
Berea, into the synagogue, to preach the gospel. Notice that the Bereans “searched the
Scriptures daily” to see “whether those things were so.” In other words, these men and women (both Jews and non-Jews) did not just accept Paul and Silas’ word for how the Bible should be interpreted and understood, but they “searched the Scriptures daily,” so that they could see the textual evidence for themselves.
But what “Scriptures” did they search? It wasn’t the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha) since it hadn’t been written yet; so consequently, the Scriptures they were searching was the Old Testament (Tanakh). And since “many of them believed” after hearing Paul and Silas preach and then them taking the time to “search the Scriptures daily,” we can logically infer then that Paul and Silas’ presentation of the gospel did not in any way conflict with the teachings of the Old Testament (Tanakh). In other words, there was a unity of thought in the teachings of Paul and Silas (i.e., the New Testament) with that of the Old Testament (Tanakh). They did not contradict one another, because if they had, these Jewish and Greek men and women would have rejected Paul and Silas’ teachings, but they didn’t reject
it because they didn’t contradict the Old Testament (Tanakh) Scriptures.
In the above passages we’ve learned that the full revelation of God is found in the
combination of the Old and New Testaments, but in the following passage, we learn that both revelations are really all about Jesus Christ (Heb. Yeshua HaMoshiakh). Jesus (Yeshua) here is speaking to the religious leaders when he says,
Search the Scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me. And you will not come to Me, that you might have life….Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses in whom you trust. For had you believed Moses, you would believe Me: for He wrote of Me. But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe My words. (John 5:45-47)
In this passage, Jesus (Yeshua) does not teach that the Old Testament (Tanakh), including the Law, the first five books of the Bible, which had been written by Moses, was no longer valid or relevant to His teachings or ministry, but quite the opposite; instead, Jesus (Yeshua) tells these Jewish religious leaders the following:
- The Scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament/Tanakh) are a written testimony and revelation of Jesus (Yeshua), but in spite of that, these religious leaders were refusing to come to Him that they might have life.
- Jesus (Yeshua) will not be the one accusing them before God the Father for their willful rejection of Him;instead, Moses will do that.
- The writings of Moses (the first five books) are, in actuality, a written description of Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMoshiakh): His life, His ministry (past, present, and future), as well as His death, burial, and resurrection.
- The writings of Moses (the first five books) are foundational to understanding Jesus, (Yeshua) His teachings, and His ministry. Consequently, without the writings of Moses, as well as the rest of the Old Testament (Tanakh), what you end up with is a distorted view of Jesus (Yeshua) and the Gospel. So therefore, we need both testaments if we are going to have a correct view of Jesus (Yeshua), His life and ministry, and the gospel.
Consequently, those who teach Christians that they do not need the Old Testament (Tanakh) and that they should only study the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha) is denying Christians insights and revelations of Christ (Messiah) that are there in the Old Testament (Tanakh), as well as personal insights and revelations that would help them in their spiritual growth. Therefore, their teaching that the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha) has
replaced the Old Testament (Tanakh) is, in effect, not only erroneous, but it is harmful to the spiritual life and growth for the believers who are following their teachings.
The final passage that I would like to examine is the original prophecy for the New Covenant that’s in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My Law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
If we look at the prophecy of the New Covenant, we discover five important points:
- The word “covenant” in this passage is the English translation of the Hebrew word b’rit, which goes into the Greek New Testament as diatheke (Eng. “covenant” or “testament”), and then in the Latin as Testamentum, from which we get the English word “Testament.” Therefore, the words “covenant” and “Testament” are two English words that are used to translate the same Hebrew or Greek term.
- The New Covenant/Testament is made with the House of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and the House of Judah (the Southern Kingdom). It is not made with the world in general. Paul uses different expressions to describe how we become a part of this covenant through Christ (Messiah). For example, in Ephesians 2:11-18, we are “brought nigh through the blood of Christ (Messiah)” and become a part of “the commonwealth of [redeemed] Israel,” which is the “One New Man;” or in Romans 11:13-24, we are “engrafted” into “the olive tree” (another picture of redeemed Israel), and, thereby, become part of this “New Covenant/Testament.”
- In the New Covenant/Testament, God will write His Laws within us and on our hearts; whereas, before He wrote His Laws on tablets of stone. In other words, in the New Covenant, the location of the Law changes (from tablets to the heart), but there’s no indication that the content changes. By God changing the location of His Laws, the Law of God becomes an inner motivator for us as God’s people, instead of an outer motivator, as it was in the Old Testament (Tanakh), or in other words, the Law becomes “a want to,” instead of “a have to.” Therefore, the New Covenant/ Testament does not “annul,” “do away with,” or “replace” the Law, but the teachings and experience of the Law of God is “renewed” in our hearts and minds because of what Jesus did and when the Spirit “writes it on our hearts and minds” or,
in other words, when it is “internalized” within us.
(Question: So how can we say that we’re “New Testament believers” and then say the
“Law” is not part of our lives when supposed to be “written on our hearts and minds”?)
- During the time period when the New Covenant/Testament is arrived in its fullness, then we will no longer need to evangelize or share the gospel with anyone, for the prophecy says, “they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.” Obviously, then, the New Covenant/Testament has not fully arrived since evangelism and witnessing are still very much needed since everyone in the world does not “know” (or has an intimate relationship with”) the LORD. This same prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34 is repeated in its entirety in Hebrews 8:8-11, but then in verse 12, the writer of the epistles to the Hebrews makes the following statement:
In that He says, A new covenant, He has made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away.
The traditional church had interpreted this verse to mean that the Old Testament (Tanakh) has vanished away; and therefore, it is no longer valid for the believer in Christ (Messiah). However, this is a superficial view of what this verse is saying. When we examine the verb tenses in the original Greek, we find the same meaning as is implied in Jeremiah’s prophecy.
In that He says, A new (Gk. kainos) covenant, he hath made (and is continuing to make) the first old. Now that which (is continuing to) decay and wax old (Gk. gerasko) is ready to vanish (or disappear) away.
There are four things that I would like to point out here:
- The Greek word kainos, translated “new” literally means “renew.” It speaks of something being “quaitatively new,” as opposed to the Greek word, neos, which refers to something being “quantitatively new, or something which has never existed before.” The Greek word kainos carries overtones of freshness and renewal of something which has already existed. Consequently, what we see here is God indicating a process of Him renewing and refreshing the original covenant — not a different covenant — and as He’s involved in this process of renewing and refreshing it, then the form of the covenant that existed before the renewing and refreshing is disappearing, while the renewed and refreshed version of the same covenant is being manifested.
- The verb phrase translated as “hath made” is written in the perfect indicative, which means that “(1) it represents an action that was completed in the past but has continuing results; and (2) it is used to make an assertion, or argument, of fact.” Therefore, the writer here is arguing that it is a fact that God has made the first form of the covenant “old,” since with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Messiah), He has begun the process of “renewing” and “refreshing” the original covenant within those who embrace Christ (Messiah) as Lord.
- The verb phrase translated as “which decays” is in the Greek a present participle, which indicates again a process that is currently continuing to occur. This means that when Jesus (Messiah) instituted the New Covenant (B’rit Chadasha) at His final Passover meal (see Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; I Corinthians 11:23-25), He began the process of the original covenant being “renewed” and “refreshed” that is currently still continuing to occur.
- The verb phrase translated as “waxes old” is in the Greek a present participle, which again indicates a process that’s currently continuing to occur It is in the process of “aging,” but it has not come to the point of being fully aged and died.
Consequently, when we move beyond the surface level of the English translation and examine the text in the original Greek, what we discover is that this text does not say that the first covenant “has been done away with,” “annulled,” or “replaced”; rather, it teaches us that God is still in the process of “renewing and refreshing” the original covenant in the hearts and minds of His own people, Jew and non-Jew alike. Therefore, a “new covenant/testament believer” is not one who lives his or her life based on only the writings of the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha), as has been erroneously taught, but we are a new testament (B’rit Chadasha) believer if we have made the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, an intricate part of every aspect of our life, thoughts, and behavior. As a result of what Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMoshiakh) accomplished for us through His death, burial, and resurrection, the original covenant has been “renewed and refreshed,” and through His Spirit, it is this “renewed and refreshed” form of the original covenant that Jeremiah prophesied that God would write upon our hearts and upon our minds.
- And finally, in the prophecy of the New Covenant/Testament, God says He will forgive our iniquity and remember our sins no more.
Through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMoshiakh) on the cross, our sins have been wiped away because Jesus (Yeshua) paid the price for us, He took our place and received the punishment that we should have received. Although there are many TV personalities, as well as people in our overall culture, who may see sin as “a matter of personal opinion,” the Scriptures are clear that it was because of your sins and my sins that Jesus (Yeshua) died a very physically, painful death. And as a result of Him paying that ultimate price, He becomes our sacrifice that God has provided for the propitiation (or total cleansing) of our sins. All that we must do is accept the sacrifice that God has provided, and ask God, based on that sacrifice, to forgive us of our sins and to become the
Lord of our lives.
Has the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha) replaced the Old Testament (Tanakh)? No, what God has done and is involved in doing is ultimately greater! God didn’t get rid of the Law or the Old Testament (Tanakh); instead, He sent His Son so that the covenant could be “renewed and refreshed,” and so He, through the Spirit, could come and live in us, His people, and write His Laws on our heart and on our mind; and in so doing, His commandments would no longer be a “have-to,” but that they would become a “want-to.” This, in fact, fulfills the prophecy that God gave through the prophet Ezekiel:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep my judgements, and do them. And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:26-28)
God wants to give each of us a needed “heart transplant” and to put His Spirit within us, and as He comes and lives within us through the Spirit, He writes His Laws upon our hearts and upon our minds, and “causes [us] to walk in [His] statutes.” And then, as a result, we will experience the blessings of God, as we follow Christ (Messiah), seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), and walking in obedience to His full revelation that He has revealed to us in both the Old and the New Testaments combined. How Great and Awesome is our God! And indeed, “His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways and not our ways” (Isaiah 55:8).