People with general knowledge of the Bible will know that it is made up of both the Old and New Testament. If we get a little more involved in Bible studies, we become familiar with the terms Old and New Covenant. With the rise of more focus on the topic of Grace in scripture many have now learned to make a clearer distinction between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The division between Old and New Covenant needs to be clearly held in view and the Old cannot mix with the New. The Old Covenant is called “Old” because it is “Old” and so there we go and antagonize religious Christians or Messianic Jews who will argue that the New Covenant did not do away with the Old Covenant.
They will say that the New Covenant is only the Old Covenant renewed, and that Jesus only took the place of the Old Covenant animal sacrifices. They insist on our obligation to keep the Ten Commandments and some sparsely selected commandments from the rest of the 603 commandments. Some groups strongly suggest this includes the Sabbath to, and add the new commandment Jesus gave with every other directive given in the New Testament.
Yes, the Grace movement has done a great job in the past 20 odd years to raise the awareness to scriptures which show that the Old and New Covenant are two separate covenants, and neither can be mixed, but there is still a lot of ground to cover.
There are several Covenants, potentially six Covenants, identified in the Bible, one of which is the Sinai-tic Covenant. When the Bible refers to the “Old” Covenant it is a reference only to the Sinaitic Covenant. Only the Sinaitic Covenant is designated with the term “Old” Covenant in the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 8: 13 King James Version (KJV)
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Does that mean then that all the other Covenants identified in the Old Testament apart from the Sinaitic Covenant are not “Old”? The book of Hebrews designated only the Sinaitic Covenant with the word “Old” because the whole aim of the letter is to communicate comparisons between the Sinaitic Covenant and the New Covenant. It draws up a clear contrast to show how they are not compatible; therefore, the distinction is made between Old and New with the primary focus to proof that the New Covenant is superior to the Old.
When Christians speak of the Old Covenant it often seems all the Covenants of the Old Testament are lumped together as one. It is as though they believe there was only one Covenant recorded in the Old Testament. It is possible that people make the confusion with the term Old Testament and assume the Old Testament is only a reference to the Old Sinaitic Covenant. This not true.
There are at least five distinct Covenants in the Old Testament, or could I say the Tanakh. The Tanakh is the canon of Hebrew scriptures, with the books in a slightly different chronological order, but is in essence what makes up our Old Testament. The Tanakh consists of 24 books, while our Christian Protestant Bibles essentially divide the same material into 39 books. The Tanakh or the Old Testament are the canon of scriptures, which provide an account of these five Covenants. They are all distinct from each other. One is not the same as the other.
That is why I am always extremely specific when referring to the Covenant Yahweh set up with the people of Israel through Moses on mount Sinai as the Sinaitic Covenant. Some theologians call it the Mosaic Covenant, which I suppose could work as well, notwithstanding that it was not a Covenant between Yahweh and Moses, but between Yahweh and all the people of Israel. By the way, Isaiah designates our New Covenant in Christ with the term Covenant of Peace. In addition to that as Isaiah prophesied about 700 years before the actual inauguration of the New Covenant, he states that God will never remove the Covenant of Peace, which makes it perpetually everlasting and never ending. That is why I like to call it our Eternal New Covenant of Peace.
Isaiah 54: 10 King James Version (KJV)
10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
Many religious groups and Christians object to the Old Sinaitic Covenant being described as obsolete. This has been a heated contention since the days of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Modern day movement such as Reconstructionist Protestants, Jews, Messianic Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, and various others seem to argue tooth and toenail to keep elements of the Law of Moses integrated in their system of religious observation. They sometimes take offence with those who say that the Old Covenant was abolished. They fear and condemn the concept of the abolishing of the Old Sinaitic Covenant as heretical and call it “replacement theory”.
Let me ask you something. Have you ever had a car on payment? You signed a four-year contract with a loan company. Once you paid of your car and perhaps replaced it with a new car, you signed a completely new deal. Though similarities in the two contracts exist, they are two separate contracts. One was closed and replaced by another. I get that a covenant is not just a contract. It is much more than that, but for the sake of analogy the Sinaitic Covenant was replaced by the Eternal Covenant of Peace.
Maybe it helps to see all the Covenants of the Old Testament, including the Sinaitic Covenant as fulfilled in the New Covenant rather than replaced. These Covenants of the Old Testament only find their true purpose in the New Covenant, but the New Covenant could equally not become what it is unless by the preceding Covenants. Again, Messianic Judaism and many Christians alike worry that by stating that the New Covenant cannot be mixed with the Sinaitic Covenant, a disregard and diminishing of significance is therefore committed to the Sinaitic Covenant. The Sinaitic Covenant with it is Law of Moses after all is the foundational fabric of Hebrew history and Christian Judaism fears this rich heritage would be lost by negating the Old Sinaitic Covenant for a complete replacement with the New Covenant. This could generate a sense of the loss of national and cultural identity and produce the need to assimilate Old Sinaitic Covenant concepts with the New Covenant.
On the contrary, I believe that by trying to integrate the Law of Moses, with it’s feasts, the Sabbath, circumcision and other selected elements into the New Covenant is actually a blatant disregard and diminishing of the significance and ultimate purpose of all the Old Testament Covenants. The Covenants of the Old Testament find their fulfilment in the New Covenant, but they are not compatible. Jesus made that noticeably clear. When the disciples of John the Baptist came to Him asking why they and the Pharisees would fast but His disciples didn’t Jesus said:
Matthew 9: 16-17 King James Version (KJV)
16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. 17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
The Pharisees motivation including that of the disciples of John the Baptist was subject to the Law of Moses. It was performance based and fasting was a practice of sanctification and repentance to earn God’s attention in prayer. The New Covenant reason for fasting has no such intention or motivation. You can practice fasting if you want but it will not make you more spiritual. Well, maybe if you fast long enough you might even become transparent. You don’t have to fast but if you do it should be because you are making clean ship and clearing yourself of sensual distractions so you can focus internally on your communion with the Lord. One is the motivation to get something you do not have, and the other is the motivation to develop awareness to what you already have in Christ. Those two different types of motivations are 180 degrees opposed to one another and therefore incompatible.
The Prophetic purpose of the Sinaitic Covenant
The Sinaitic Covenant with its Law of Moses had one prophetic point it was aiming at all along.
Once arrived at that prophetic point it had completely fulfilled its significance and purpose.
Romans 3: 21 King James Version (KJV)
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Romans 10: 4 King James Version (KJV)
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
The word “End” in Romans 10: 4 literally means; the point aimed at as the limit. You see, the Law of the Sinaitic Covenant was prophetically pointing at Christ as the limit and purpose. All the typology of the sacrificial system, every part of the Tabernacle and Temple, The Priesthood, every intricate element was fulfilled in Christ. When Christ came the Sinaitic Covenant had served its meaning and prophetic message. Those who believe that a third Temple would be build in Jerusalem in our future are ignoring these facts. We have received a better Covenant as is so clearly stated in the book of Hebrews.
It would be an offence to the sacrificed lamb of God if we would re-institute animal sacrifices as was conducted under the Old Sinaitic Covenant. Why would we go back to animal sacrifice? The argument that the animal sacrificial system of a third temple would then serve as a reminder to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God is farcical. This was exactly the point the Apostle Paul made in all his conflicts with those of the circumcision and the Judaizers. (Jewish Christians who also wanted to get the gentile Christians to keep the Law of Moses for salvation)
Galatians 3: 1 King James Version (KJV)
1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
It would be a complete act of ignorance trying to re-institute the Old Levitical Priesthood as some form of addition to the Great High Priest Christ our Lord of the New Covenant. It is not even possible since the Law of Moses states that only a true proven Levite could become a Priest. For that one would have to be able to produce the evidence by means of documentation that they are a true descendant of Levite. However, all scrolls containing the genealogy of the twelve tribes of Israel were stored inside the Temple of Jerusalem. All of Herod’s Temple with all of its content was burned to ashes in 70 A.D.
No documentation, no evidence of Levitical descendance, no Priesthood.
Now we really need to clear up what I believe to be a confusion. Our Bible is divided in the parts of Old and New Testament. The word testament has its roots in Latin, which was used by the Old Roman Catholic Church. It is not completely wrong to use the word Testament because it does carry the meaning of a “will” of a testator and no testament or will is of effect until after the death of the testator. In that sense we understand that a death must take place for a will to be acted upon.
Hebrews 9: 16-17 King James Version (KJV)
16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
However, each instance we see the word testament in the above verses it is the Greek word: diathḗkē. Some translations will use either the word “Testament” or “Will”. I stated that although applying the translations “Testament” or “Will” to the Greek word diathḗkē is not completely wrong, everywhere else in the New Testament it is translated as the word “Covenant”. Translators may have opted to use the word Testament to convey the meaning that the death of Christ had to take place to inaugurate the New Covenant. Nevertheless, I believe that is really trying to make up for people’s general lack of understanding of the meaning of the word Covenant, and what it is and how it works. If we would have a good grasp of the meaning of a Covenant, then we would not need to use the word Testament.
Old Testament and New Testament
The Greek word for “Covenant” (diatheke) was translated by Jerome in the fifth century into the Latin Vulgate as testamentum.
A will or testament is a legal document that expresses a person’s wishes as to how their property is to be distributed after their death and as to which person is to manage the property until its final distribution. Yet, the phrase “Old Testament” is not necessarily referring to any particular one of the Covenants of the Tanakh, but rather all of them.
The word Testament also means: Testimony, or proof of something. Example: The detail of her wildlife paintings is (a) testament to (= proof of) her powers of observation.
If we apply this meaning to the designations of the terms Old and New Testament then we can conclude that they are testimonies and written proof of the events throughout Biblical history as they are recorded in scripture.
However, if we apply the meaning “Covenant” to the designated terms Old and New Testament, then they should really be designated as Old and New Covenant instead. In that case the Bible print you hold should show in the print Old and New Covenant. That is where the confusion begins because the Old Testament is not just referring to the Old Sinaitic Covenant but to all five of the Covenants in the Tanakh. If Old Testament is referring to the “Old Covenant” and the book of Hebrews only refers to the Sinaitic Covenant as Old then we must realise that the Old Sinaitic Covenant did not end after the Book of Maleachi (the last book of the Old Testament) and the New Covenant did not begin at the beginning of the book of Matthew (the first book of the New Testament).
The New Covenant began at the death of Christ so then the Bible should show the print of “New Covenant” at the end of the book of Matthew somewhere at the point where we read about Christ crucifixion instead of at the beginning where we read about His birth. The Old Covenant as in the Old Sinaitic Covenant did not fully end until 70 A.D. at the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. So, then the print “End of the Old (Sinaitic) Covenant” could be printed at the end of the book of Revelation.
Wow, what a mess
We have traditionally used “Old Testament” to distinguish the original Hebrew and part Aramaic scripture known as the Tanakh of the Jews, and then ascribed the “New Testament” to the scriptures written by the Apostles.
The first recorded time of the designation “Old Testament” was by Melito of Sardis in the late second century (recorded in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26.14). The Greek word for “Covenant” (diatheke) was translated by Jerome in the fifth century into the Latin Vulgate as testamentum. So just for the record, the terms Old Testament and New Testament in your printed Bible are not part of scripture. Just like the numbering of the chapters and verses are not part of scripture those terms were later added.
According to the ancient traditions of Near East Asia when a Covenant was made its treaty would be recorded. The oath and vows made by each Covenant participant was made up of promises, benefits, and potential threats of punishments if either party did not uphold their end of the bargain.
How people lived during the validity period under the power and authority of that covenant was also recorded. These written accounts in scripture makes up our Bible. The scriptures are writings relevant to each validity period or age of a particular Covenant in the Bible. The blessings and benefits of a covenant treaty were to be upheld until the expiry and end of the validity of that covenant. For example:
Leviticus 24: 8 King James Version (KJV)
8 Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant.
If taking the word “everlasting” as meaning forever and ever and ever perpetually into the future one could easily argue that we should still be bring pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps stands to burn continually before the Lord, within the Temple or Tabernacle and we should take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof, and set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. We should still put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord.
However, the word “everlasting” is the Hebrew word “Olam” and is the equivalent of the New Testament Greek word “Aion” (aeon). This is a huge subject on its own and worthy of a separate article. For the purpose of cutting through the topic on Covenants I will get to the point by stating that the words “Olam” and “Aion” do not necessarily mean – forever into the perpetual future. Aion is a period of longer or shorter duration, having a beginning and an end. It does not have a stationary or mechanical value. It does not mean a period of fixed length for all cases. There are many aeons each with their own respective duration. A closer to accurate translation for the word Aion should be the word Age. There is the aeon or age of a man’s life, and there is the aeon or age of God. The length of an aeon depends on the subject to which it is attached. The aeon or age endures until its validity expires. In the case of a man’s physical life we know it does not last perpetually into the future. Man’s aeon or age is only for a limited amount of time. Connect the word Olam or Aion to God it suddenly becomes a perpetual existence in the past and future and outside of chronological time in eternity.
Sadly, the words Olam or Aion have often been translated as “everlasting”, and “eternal”. This was an error the early church father Augustine also made to reinforce his doctrine on hell. He claimed that the word Gehenna referred to a place of punishment for the wicked in the underworld. Add the word eternal then you have 1 +1 = 2. Eternal hell. However, the word Gehenna, which Jesus often used was a reference to a place outside the walls of Jerusalem where the bodies would be thrown and piled up and burned during the holocaust of 67 – 70 A.D, and the desolation of the Temple. That period was an Aion or age of crisis (for as long as that period lasted [3 1/2 years]).
The word “Olam” and “Aion” mean: An Age for as long as it endures. Apply the words “Age enduring” and it will bring enormous clarity to understanding scripture. The words “Everlasting Covenant” in Leviticus 24:8 should be understood as “Age-enduring Covenant”. That covenant would endure throughout the length of that age.
The written accounts relevant to each Covenant had their validity for as long as that age endured.
The scriptures relevant to the Sinaitic Covenant were valid during that age of that covenant. So, we see how the canon of scripture developed around each specific covenant age in the Bible. Though all Old Testament scriptures relevant to their own particular Covenant age have found their fulfillment in the New Covenant, this New Covenant Age will never end.
I do not think applying the meaning “Covenant” to the phrases “Old and New Testament” is helpful.
If we do then, as explained “New Testament” should be placed somewhere else at the end of the book of Matthew.
When we apply the meaning of the phrases “Old” and “New” Testament as meaning: Testimony, or proof, or written account or the collective canon of an Age or Covenant Ages, I believe confusion disappears and light begins to shine in our hearts and understanding. (The Canon law [from Ancient Greek: κανών, kanon, a ‘straight measuring rod, ruler’] is a set of ordinances and regulations made by ecclesiastical authority)
We can learn tremendous amounts from all scripture in the Old Testament and all the more if we see their connection to their respective Covenant age.
The Old and New Testament therefore are the collective canon each testifying to their respective Covenant Age.
What it is a Covenant?
We do not need to use the Latin word Testament to point out that a death had to take place to inaugurate a covenant.
A Covenant always required the death of participating parties. Metaphorically, this would entail the death to self, and a commitment to live up to the promise made to the other covenant party.
Of course, a dead person cannot keep any promises, unless they rise form the dead again. Therefore, all the Covenants of the Old Testament (the written canon of scriptures around each respective covenant age) had animal sacrifices. Those sacrifices symbolized each participant of the covenant.
By the animal sacrifice they were showing their commitment to the covenant oath unto the death and if breaking the covenant, they should become like the dead animal. Those Old Testament Covenants were a shadow and not complete in and by themselves. Only in the New Covenant (written within the New Testament) do we see the real death of the Covenant parties. Humanity is represented in Christ on the cross. Christ as the second person of the Godhead, and express image of Yahweh, dies on the cross. Thus, the New Covenant is cut by the death of the God-Man Christ Jesus, the mediator between God and man.
A Covenant was a treaty or an agreement between two parties and their god’s. Those who have insight into what a Covenant is will often object to describing a covenant as a mere contract or treaty. I understand that. What makes a covenant so much more powerful is that a deity is involved in the treaty. The treaty is sworn by an oath invoking the god of the one making the treaty. The oath itself is made up of a set of promises agreed upon. These promises can be anything from promising wealth, protection, services with the binding oath that if they do not keep their promises their god will punish them according to the set of agreements.
Let us present a similar scenario in the case of the Sinaitic Covenant. Yahweh used Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses was a typology of Christ as a deliverer of the people of God.
The first Passover became the set up of the Sinaitic Covenant. The blood of the lamb on the doorpost is a typology of Christ. The people inside their houses waiting for the death angel to pass by them is a typology of being in Christ. The death angel, although an angel of God, is a typology of how the prince of this world i.e. the devil was cast out and having no access to the New Covenant.
By the time the Israelites reach mount Horeb also known as mount Sinai they ultimately confirm the Covenant with the Ten Commandments that were written with the finger of God on the front and back of two stone tablets.
Exodus 34: 28 King James Version (KJV)
28 And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
In the ancient tradition of Covenant making the two stone tablets would be a copy of each other.
Each of the participants would receive one of the tablets so each party would have their own copy. The animal sacrifices were made to metaphorically represent the entrants of the covenant. Each participant vows that if they break the covenant their own god would punish them in accordance with the oath sworn for the covenant. They would suffer the death as the animals in the sacrifice did. The ritual of the animal sacrifice and the flowing of blood was called the cutting of the covenant. After the cutting of the covenant and the swearing of the oath, the participants of the covenant would take their stone tablet back to their home and place the tablet in the temple of their god.
The strange thing is that Israel’s God was Yahweh Himself. They swore an oath that their God Yahweh should punish them according to the agreed Covenant oath. To make this more mind boggling, not only was Yahweh their God, but He was also their covenant partner, who Himself also swore His part to the same Covenant.
What? How could Yahweh go back and place a stone tablet of the covenant in the temple of His god? Yahweh does not have a god, He is God and there is no other.
Well, that is why the people of Israel took both stone tablets back and eventually placed them both inside the Ark of the Covenant within the tabernacle. What if Yahweh would break this covenant, He would have to punish Himself. God did not break the Sinaitic Covenant. Christ completely fulfilled the Sinaitic Covenant. Yet, by His death on the cross God takes liability.
The age old question of the philosophic mind that says: “If God is love then why did He create Adam and Eve with the ability to make the wrong choice knowing what kind of suffering it would bring to humanity?” Christ death on the cross in someway is God saying: “I take liability, It’s my responsibility!”
Isaiah 53: 4 King James Version (KJV)
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
For all the haters of God who esteem Him guilty of judgment, Christ took it. No matter how much blame and anger is cast on Him. He took it.
Christ was not punished by God the Father but He takes man’s judgment of Him and bears it. Yet, in His death He cuts the New Covenant where forgiveness not punishment is the new basis of this Covenant.
The people of Israel repeatedly broke the Sinaitic Covenant and constantly ended up in cycles of judgment according to that Covenant. They would repent and renew the Covenant and then break it again. The exile into Babylon was one of the major judgments that befell them almost 600 B.C. for breaking the Covenant. That judgment served as a type and example of what would eventually happen at the end of the Sinaitic Covenant Age (67-70 A.D.).
The Last Days
When we read about the last days in the Bible it has nothing to do with our time. Shock?
Are Coronavirus, economic breakdown, an attempt to “reset” the world into a “New Order” not a sign of the end times? Are they not signs that prophecy is being fulfilled before our very eyes? No!
That is what the devil would like you to believe. Trust me, he has been a loyal church member for the last 2000 years. He has had time to come up with a doctrine that could assist him to have influence in our material world if we let him. His goals have never changed. He’s tried it since the garden of Eden. He’s tried with the tower of Babel in ancient Babylonia, he has tried to take control of the world through the Roman Empire and many other wars up to our recent history. He has always failed, and he will always continue to fail.
The Bible does not refer to “End Times”. It does refer to a time of the End. That time of the end was the end of the Old Sinaitic Covenant Age. When Christ began His ministry and since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts the countdown of the last days of that Sinaitic Covenant Age began, leading right up to the Parousia, the return of Christ in judgment upon apostate Israel. All the prophecies of Daniel, Isaiah, Mathew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 and the book of Revelation were fulfilled at destruction of the Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and when no Temple building was left standing it marked the end of that Age.
Matthew 5 King James Version (KJV)
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Scripture in the Old Testament reveals that each covenant is a new creation. Isaiah says:
Isaiah 65 King James Version (KJV)
17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
The Apostle Paul referring to that verse in Isaiah said:
2 Corinthians 5 King James Version (KJV)
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Here Paul reveals that we being in Christ is part of the creation of a New Heaven and New Earth.
Just like the Old Creation of the Sinaitic Covenant was centered around the Jerusalem Temple, which was considered by the Jews as the navel of the Earth and the meeting point between heaven and earth. The most holy place where the presence of God dwelled represented heaven. The rest of the Temple represented the land and the seas of Earth. Christ came and fulfilled the Law of Moses. Almost 35 years after His ascension Christ returned in judgment according to the broken Sinaitic Covenant and at the destruction of the Temple, the Old Heaven and Earth passed away.
The designation Old and New Testament are not part of Scripture and was added somewhere between the late second and fifth century. The word Testament has its roots in the Latin usage of the Roman Catholic Church.
The English word Bible is from the Latin biblia, from the same word in Medieval Latin and Late Latin and ultimately from Koinē Greek: τὰ βιβλία, romanized: ta biblia, meaning “the books”, and singular βιβλίον, biblion.
The ancient Hebrew Tanakh is the canon around the five Old Testament Covenants, which are all fulfilled in the New Covenant.
The New Testament is the canon around the fulfillment of the five Old Testament Covenant, leading to the switch into the Age enduring New Covenant of Peace.
We could therefore safely conclude that our Bible is really a compilation of Canon of the Covenants. To understand scripture in context we must understand which Covenant it is relating to and what kind of Covenant during which age.
I believe it would help people understand the scriptures better if we called our Bible,
The Book of the Covenants
In the coming article on this topic I will discuss the different types of covenants.