The Old and New Testaments

St. Onuphrius of the St. David Gareji Monastery, Georgia

St. Onuphrius of the St. David Gareji Monastery, Georgia

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

[Source: Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church by Father John S. Romanides, Vol. I]

Holy Scripture is divided into two main parts: the books of the Old Testament, before the Incarnation of the Son and Logos/Word of God, and the books of the New Testament, after the Incarnation of the Logos/Word. Both the Old and the New Testaments were given by revelation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, to the Prophets of the Old Testament by the unincarnate Logos/Word, as the Angel of the Great Counsel, and to the Apostles of the New Testament by the Incarnate Logos/Word--Christ.

In the worship and calendar of feasts, the Church uses passages from the Old and New Testaments as readings. The readings for Vespers (Esperinos), which interpret the feasts of the Lord and the saints, come from the Old Testament, and the readings for the Divine Liturgy come from the New Testament.

The word testament denotes someone's will, which is recorded and confirmed by his signature. In both Testaments the Second Person of the Holy Trinity appeared to the Prophets and Apostles. The revelation was granted to them. An agreement was made and it was sealed with the blood of sacrifice in the Old Testament, and the blood of Christ in the New Testament. We therefore study the Old and New Testaments using the interpretative keys given by the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, as preserved within the Church.

The Value of the Old Testament

In the West, the Old Testament has been noticeably underrated and disregarded in comparison with the New Testament. This is explained by the fact that Christ, and everything He said, is held in greater honor than the words of the Prophets of the Old Testaments.

"The Westerners' preconception is that we also have the Old Testament, which they rate a very low level. The Old Testament is almost nothing for many of the Protestants and the Latins (Roman Catholic). Afterwards Christ comes and then the true faith begins. Then we have the era of the Apostles, from the public teaching of Christ until the Crucifixion, Burial, Resurrection, Ascension and so on. After that we have the Church."

"Western theologians read the Old Testament and do not find much in the Old Testament that relates to the New Testament. Thus, from the point of view of Protestant and Papal research, one part of Scripture has been cut off from the other. This separation is almost complete in the view of non-Orthodox, whereas for the Orthodox there is no difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Whatever is in the New Testament is also in the Old Testament. The only difference is the Incarnation and the work of redemption: "By death He trampled down death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life." The redeeming acts and the Incarnation are the new elements, as is the verification, through the experience of Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit is a distinct and particular hypostasis, Who is neither a hypostasis of the Logos/Word nor of the Father, nor is He an energy, but a particular hypostasis."

The Holy Fathers of the Church did not see the Old and New Testaments divided into Law and Grace, but from the perspective of the stages of perfection. Another serious issue is that Western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) theologians supported the view, as we see in Barlaam, that Divine manifestations in the Old Testament are transitory. They are different from the theophanies of the New Testament. The Holy Fathers of the Church did not hold such views. It is characteristic that Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, whose teaching is the same as the Eastern (Orthodox) Fathers', guided blessed Augustine to prepare himself prior to Baptism by reading the Old Testament...

"...Links Between the Old and New Testaments"

From the Orthodox Christian viewpoint there is a close relationship between the Old and New Testaments. The difference that will be identified below is that "the God" revealed in the Old Testament is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity unincarnate, the Angel of Great Counsel, whereas the God revealed in the New Testament is the Incarnate Logos/Word. It follows that the difference is the Incarnation and the existence of the Church as the Body of Christ. Everything else is common to both…

Differences Between the Old and New Testaments

"...As has been pointed out already, the experiences of the Prophets, Apostles and Holy Fathers, of the Old and New Testaments, are identical. The spiritual life is common to both, the stages of perfection are the same, glorification is lived by the glorified saints. There are, however, differences as well.

The first difference is that the unincarnate Logos/Word appears in the Old Testament, whereas in the New the Incarnate Logos/Word appears. This has been emphasized in detail elsewhere.

The second difference is that the glorification of the Prophets in the Old Testament had a temporary character, as death had not been abolished. The glorification of the Apostles in the New Testament, by contrast, is stable because of the existence of Christ's glorified human nature and the victory over death..."


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George