The conversations we’ve been having about the Bible on #theologytuesday over the past few weeks have been awesome! I’ve appreciated the engagement and feedback from all of you on the topics we’ve been tackling each week. Honestly, there are so many things we could dive into when it comes to the Bible – people dedicated their whole lives to answering these questions well.
A question I hear in children’s ministry all the time – which may seem simple, but is a big deal for a lot of kids – is some phrasing of this:
What’s the difference between the Old and New Testament?
While it may not be worded exactly like that, kids know the Bible is a huge book – and as they start to read it, they notice distinctive differences between the first and second half. In fact, sometimes, it can feel like they’re reading two completely different books. What do they even have to do with each other?
Questions like these matter. It shows that our kids are thinking critically and really trying to understand the Bible. We can’t just shy away!
So, what is the difference between the Old & New Testament?
The first difference to point out to your kids about the Old and New Testaments is this – they were written at different times. This may seem obvious to some of us, but I talk to many kids who don’t know the Bible is written on a timeline! The Old Testament was written before Jesus came to earth, and spans a significant time period – at least 1,000 years from the time of Moses to its last words. The time during which these words were written is different – and kids need to know that.
The second key difference kids need to understand about the Old and New Testament is that the Old Testament is the story of the people of Israel. From the first words of Genesis to the final prophecies of Habbakuk, the Old Testament was originally written for and to the people of Israel. That doesn’t mean it has no applications for us today, and it certainly doesn’t mean we should avoid it! However, it is important to understand this book is telling the story of a particular group of people – God’s chosen people – and God’s beautiful, at times tumultuous, relationship with them.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, kids need to understand, that because of Jesus, we read the Old Testament differently than its original readers. Those who wrote – and read – the Old Testament at first were waiting for the day a Saviour would come. As we read the Old Testament, we know that Saviour has arrived, in the person of Jesus. Because we know this, in the words of Sally Lloyd-Jones, “every page whispers His name.” Through the stories of sin and redemption in the first five books of the Bible, the songs of David and the words of the prophets – we can see glimpses of the Messiah, and signposts that clearly point to Jesus. This is an important reminder for our kids.
Finally, make sure your kids understand that the Old Testament was written to the people of Israel, but the New Testament was written for early Christians. The New Testament records the story of Jesus, the history of the early church, and many of their teachings. They are both essential to the Bible and our faith, but they serve different purposes. This is why sometimes the New Testament can feel a bit easier to read – we are approaching it with the same view those early Christians did! We both know about Jesus, and we are both trying to serve Him better. The Old Testament may require a little bit more work to understand and apply, but it is still well worth it.
If you’re looking for some great resources to share with your kids on this topic, or to guide the conversation, check these out:
- This lesson from Ministry to Children is a helpful way to unpack the Old Testament!
- What is a Testament? from What’s in the Bible?
- Speaking of What’s in the Bible, the whole first DVD in the series is a helpful introduction to the idea of testaments and the Bible’s big story.
- The Gospel Project’s approach to seeing the Bible as one big story is super helpful for kids! I love this Big Picture Storybook.