Has the New Testament Replaced the Old Testament?

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Last edited on 22/Jan/2021

The Bible’s Answer

No, the New Testament has not replaced the Old Testament. If it did, this would imply that we no longer need to read the Old Testament or include it in the canon of Scripture. However, since the Old Testament is still, and will always be, the Word of God (Isaiah 40:8), it is therefore a heresy to say that the New Testament has replaced it.

Distributing Only New Testaments: Acceptable, But Not Ideal

Some Bibles only contain the New Testament for financial or translation purposes. Because the New Testament is significantly shorter, it is cheaper to print and easier to translate into other languages than the Old Testament. To publish and provide people with just New Testaments can be acceptable, because the New Testament contains God’s fulfilled revelations accomplished in Jesus Christ that were originally foretold and prophesied in the Old Testament. Furthermore, it is possible to be saved by just reading the New Testament and believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, it must be stressed that this is not ideal. Because the Old Testament is also the Word of God, New Testaments alone only contain a third of God’s Word, and lack the context and history that the Old Testament provides. The Bible says:

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand for ever. (Isaiah 40:8)

This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. (Psalm 18:30)

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14–17)

God Commanded His People to Read the Old Testament

The reason why the Old Testament (and the entire Bible, for that matter) was written down is because it has timeless truths therein for all people of every generation. Otherwise, there would have been no point in the biblical authors writing down any of it. This is common sense, but we can also see this in particular Bible passages, such as when Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Genesis–Deuteronomy) and commanded the people of God to read and teach it to all future generations of believers:

Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 31:9–13)

This commandment was carried out throughout the Old Testament. God told Joshua to follow what is written in the Book of the Law, to not to let it depart from his mouth, and to meditate on it day and night:

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:6–8)

Furthermore, Joshua said something similar to the children of Israel, commanding them to abide by the Book of the Law:

Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, 7 that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, 8 but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day. (Joshua 23:6–8)

Approximately 1,000 years after the Book of Joshua was written, the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah were written, and in them God appointed Ezra to teach the Israelites about the Law of Moses (the Book of the Law) and the Lord blessed him for studying and teaching it:

this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. … 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (Ezra 7:6, 10)

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. … Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the meaning, so that the people understood the reading. (Nehemiah 8:1–3, 7–8)

Jesus Himself Read the Old Testament

About 400 years later, in Jesus’ day, every Sabbath portions of the Old Testament were read during synagogue worship:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. (Luke 4:16–17)

Jesus and all the early Christians partook in these readings. Clearly, then, according to the Bible, we are still obligated to read the Old Testament Scriptures and learn from them. God’s commandment, given through Moses, to have the Old Testament Scriptures read to all generations has not somehow ceased now that the New Testament has been written.

Jesus and the New Testament Christians Quoted the Old Testament

In addition, Jesus, the apostles, and all the authors of the New Testament recognised the Old Testament as sacred Scripture and thoroughly quoted it to prove and back up their teachings. In Matthew 19:4–6 Jesus quoted Genesis to prove that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that it is meant to last for a lifetime:

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:4–6)

In Acts 13:33–35 Paul quoted the Psalms to prove that Jesus’ resurrection was prophesied:

And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ 34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ (Acts 13:33–35)

In Hebrews 10:14–18 the author quoted Jeremiah to prove that Jesus died for the forgiveness of all our sins and for our sanctification:

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds”, 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:14–18)

In 1 Peter 2:4–8 Peter quoted Isaiah and the Psalms to prove that honour will be given to those who believe in Christ, but those who don’t believe will stumble:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honour is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”, 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (1 Peter 2:4–8)

There are many more examples. According to the people who wrote the New Testament, the Old Testament Scriptures are important enough to quote in order to support the teachings of the New Testament. After all, if the New Testament’s teachings weren’t based on the Old Testament’s, then how could any of it be justified? And God’s Word cannot be contradicted. Furthermore, how would any of these quotes make sense if one were to reject the Old Testament?

Messianic Prophecies in the Old Testament

The Old Testament also contains important prophecies concerning Jesus Christ coming as the Messiah to save those who believe in him, as Jesus himself made clear:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:44–47)

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39–40)

For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. (John 5:46)

It is necessary for Christians to know about these in order to be faithful proclaimers of the Word, and for non-Christians to see the evidence which supports the Bible’s reliability and divine inspiration.

The Old Testament Was Written for Our Instruction

Finally, the Old Testament is relevant to us all because it was also written for our instruction and encouragement, leading to hope in Jesus Christ:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

If the Old Testament was written for the instruction of Christians in the early church, according to Paul’s letters, which were passed around and read in all the Christian churches (1 Thessalonians 5:27; Colossians 4:16), then it was written for our instruction, too. Christians of today are no different from the Christians of the early church.

Problems of Rejecting the Old Testament

Finally, let us now look at the logical fallacies of rejecting the Old Testament because we now have the New Testament. Using this same logic, one could say that because the Holy Spirit has now come after the ministry of Jesus, and creates faith in our hearts, we no longer need the Gospel accounts, or any of the New Testament letters. Why have the Bible when we have the Holy Spirit, who creates faith in our hearts and guides us?

Of course, if this were to happen, it would be disastrous. We would rely on our feelings and emotions instead of God’s only standard of divine truth, the Bible. We would also gradually lose our knowledge of the Word and grow spiritually hungry for it. This is because the Holy Spirit operates through the Word of God, because the Word is the primary means by which he creates faith in our hearts, so by resisting the Word, we are resisting the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, just because God gives new revelation, it does not mean that we should discard the old revelations. In fact, doing so would be to commit heresy. Although the New Testament contains fulfilments of the Old Testament, it by no means replaces it. Christians should study and teach from the Old Testament just like the New Testament.