The Blueprint and the Building

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Any persistent student of Scripture soon stumbles on the problem of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. The confusion springs from several key differences between them.

First, the scope of the testaments differs considerably. The former covers roughly a millennium and half of redemptive history (not counting the hazy period before Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and involves a multitude of characters living in different periods and locations around the ancient Near East. The latter covers a time period spanning less than a century and involving a relatively limited cast of characters.

Second, the form of the two testaments differs greatly. The Old exhibits texts comprising diverse genres ranging from poetry to legal code, from historical narrative to apocalyptic vision, while the New is comprised primarily of a historically unique genre called “Gospel” and a list of letters, at least one of which includes an extensive apocalyptic section.

Third, the message of the two testaments seems divergent. The Old encodes the prehistory and history of an ethnic—not to mention geopolitical—entity called Israel, including its constitutional documents and great orators, while the New describes the life and times of a singular individual and the followers he commissioned to proclaim his message of salvation.

Helpful Paradigm

As an Old Testament professor I often get asked, “How does the Old Testament relate to the New?” Here’s an analogy I like to give in response: The Old Testament is the blueprint; the New Testament is the building.

Before you build, you need a blueprint. The blueprint explains exactly how the building will be built. It shows you the wiring, the framing, the joists, the rooms, the floorplans. But once the building is built you don’t throw out the blueprint; you keep it around since it shows you the inner-workings. Anyone who’s renovated a home knows the value of the blueprint. You need to know where the wiring is laid, where the load-bearing walls are located, where the stairways and exits can be found in case of emergency. It’s hard to locate these things when you’re looking at the building. The blueprint is of utmost importance, but no one would say the blueprint is the building.

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