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Two Mountains - Two Covenants


Compare the Covenants

New Wine and old Wineskins...

by John J. Parsons

If you're a follower of the Messiah Yeshua struggling with the question of whether to become "Torah observant," it is essential for you to seriously consider some of the contrasts between the "old" and "new" covenants as described in the New Testament. This page lists over 50 over these contrasts.  Hopefully you will better appreciate the life-transforming differences between the Torah of the New Covenant (given at Zion) with the Torah of the older Covenant (given at Sinai).

The following list is not complete, nor do I have time to provide detailed explanations or exhaustive cross-references for each of the contrasts provided.  Regard it merely as a starting point for your own investigations.  As Yeshua told the parable, you can't put new wine into old wineskins, since the fermentation process might burst the hardened skins. Sadly, many who have tasted the "old wine" find it preferable to the new -- and that preference continues to this day (Luke 5:37-39).

One warning before going further:  When considering these contrasts, please remember that we are discussing something inherently Jewish. The ideas of grace, salvation, faith, and so on are all 100% Jewish concepts given throughout the Jewish Scriptures -- both in the Tanakh and in the New Testament writings. "Two mountains, two covenants," yes - but both are Jewish... There is a unity of revelation in Scripture, and the LORD God of Israel is the same today, yesterday, and forever. Keeping this in mind will guard you from the egregious errors of Replacement Theology.

It is also vital to remember there is a distinction between "Torah" (תּוֹרָה) and "Covenant" (בְּרִית). Torah is a general word that means "instruction" and is always a function of the underlying covenant of which it is part. Torah is therefore our response to the covenantal actions of the LORD God of Israel. Followers of Yeshua are therefore not "anti-Torah" even if they understand this word in relation to the new and better covenant of God (Heb. 8:6). There is indeed a Torah of the New Covenant, just as there is Torah of the older one. Understood in this way, Messianic believers are called to be "Torah Observant," since that simply means adhering to the instruction of King Yeshua who is the embodiment of all genuine truth from God (for more about this distinction, please see my article "Olam Ha-Torah"). 

Ultimately this matter resolves to the question of whom you regard as your spiritual authority, chaverim...

First Distinction: Old and New

הַבְּרִית הַיְשָׁנָה


הַבְּרִית הַחֲדָשָׁה

Old Covenant (2 Cor. 3:14)
הַבְּרִית הַיְשָׁנָה / τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης
ha-brit ha-yeshanah


New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6)
הַבְּרִית הַחֲדָשָׁה / διαθήκη καινή
ha-brit ha-chadashah


The Hebrew word for covenant is brit (בְּרִית), meaning covenant, pact, or treaty. It is one of the most frequently used words in Hebrew Scriptures (appearing some 270 times) and is one of the Scripture's most important concepts.

Ancient covenants were often made by animal sacrifice. To "cut a covenant" demonstrated the earnestness of the parties involved in the agreement. YHVH chose to cut covenant with Abram in this manner (Gen. 15:7-11, 17-18). Thus the word brit often implies the shedding of blood in the process of ratifying an agreement.

There are actually a number of distinct covenants given in the Jewish Scriptures. The following list is not exhaustive: The "Adamic" covenant (Gen. 1:26-30; 2:16-17); the Noahide covenant (Gen. 6:18; 9); the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:18-21, etc., also reestablished with Issac (Gen. 26:3-4) and Jacob (Gen. 28:14-15); the Mosaic covenant (Exod. 19-24; Deut. 11, repeated later before the conquest of Canaan: Lev. 26; Deut. 11:8-32; 27:1-30; 30); the covenant with Pinchas (Num. 25:10-13), the "salt" covenant (Lev. 2:13; Num. 18:19; 2 Chr. 13:5); the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:8-16), the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-36; Ezek. 16:59-63, Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 7-10), the Millennial Kingdom covenant (the eschatological aspect of the Davidic covenant), and the everlasting covenant of the world to come (Rev. 21-22). All the covenants of the LORD God of Israel center on the Mashiach Yeshua, of course. 

It is apparent from the context that Paul was referring to the subsection of the Torah called the "Sefer HaBrit" (i.e., the Book of the Covenant (of Moses) given at Sinai that was sprinkled with blood and ratified by the elders of Israel) and was comparing it with the brit chadashah, or New Covenant of Yeshua.  In later Judaism, the "sefer ha-brit" at Sinai became so closely associated with the tablets of the Ten Commandments that they were used interchangeably. Hence we have the aron ha-brit (ark of the covenant) where the tablets were stored in the Tabernacle. Here Paul calls the Sinai covenant "the ministry of death (διακονία τοῦ θανάτου) carved in letters on stone" that came through the meditation of Moses (2 Cor. 3:7-8). Though this covenant was indeed glorious (as evidenced by the Shekhinah glow upon Moses' face), compared with the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, this glory was "being brought to an end" (καταργέω).

Paul further regards the Sinai Covenant as "the ministry of condemnation" (διακονίᾳ τῆς κατακρίσεως) and compares it with the greater glory of the "ministry of righteousness" (ἡ διακονία τῆς δικαιοσύνης). Note that the Sinai covenant is described as "holy, just and good" (Rom. 7:12), but its perfection was powerless to help the sinner and bring him or her to righteousness.

Other verses that explain the new covenant (or "testament") include Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; Heb. 9:15, and so on. Notice something important in this case: though the Sinai covenant required various rituals and sacrifices offered according to the laws of the Levitcal priesthood, the New Covenant (as stated by Jeremiah) was "not according to the covenant" made at Sinai, but promised inward transformation: "I will put my law (Torah) within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer. 31:33). This inward transformation comes through the Spirit of the LORD (רוּחַ הָאָדוֹן) who gives us true freedom (2 Cor. 3:17). Unlike the veiled face of Moses that hid the truth that the glory was fading, "we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).

Some Christians assume that the New Covenant is "really" intended for the Christian Church which has now replaced Israel in God's plan. This is not true. The New Covenant, or Brit Chadashah, is mentioned only one time in the Tanakh (Jer. 31:31-37) and is explicitly addressed to the Jewish people:

    Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant (brit chadashah) with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law (Torah) within them, and I will write it (the Torah) on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

    Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar-- the LORD of hosts is his name: "If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever." Thus says the LORD: "If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD." (Jer. 31:31-37)

Note the promise of the perpetuity of ethnic Israel connected with the New Covenant.... This is a covenant for and with the people of Israel, not instead of them. Christians are made partakers of the covenant promises given to Israel (Eph. 2:12) but they do not replace the Jewish people as the recipients of God's covenantal purposes and election (Romans 11:28). Remember, dear Christian: you are not the root, but the root (Israel) bears you (Romans 11:18).

As the Apostle Paul teaches, God introduced a "mystery" to the New Covenant (Rom. 11:25) that offered non-Jews special grace to enter into the gracious agreement. Why? In order to make Jewish people jealous and draw them back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Romans 11:11). Paul knew that God would again open the eyes of Israel and save them in the future (Romans 11:27-29) and that He would never cast them away.

Ultimately, then, the New Covenant is an "already/not yet" state of affairs. Already the Mashiach Yeshua has come and offered Himself up as kapparah (atonement) for our sins; already He has sent the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit) to write Torah upon our hearts; already He is our God and we are His people. However, the New Covenant is not yet ultimately fulfilled since national Israel has not yet been entirely restored to their ancient homeland and has yet to turn to Yeshua as their Savior and LORD. In the meantime, we are in a period of mysterious grace wherein we have opportunity to offer the terms of the New Covenant to people of every nation, tribe and tongue. When the "fullness of the Gentiles" is come in, God will turn His full attention to completing His covenant with Israel.

Finally, it bears repeating that when we talk of the "New Covenant" we are discussing something entirely Jewish. The idea of grace, salvation, faith, and so on are all 100% Jewish concepts given in the Jewish Scriptures... There is a unity of the revelation of Scripture, and the LORD God of Israel is the same today, yesterday, and forever. Keeping this in mind will guard you from the errors of Replacement Theology.

Other Distinctions (work in progress):

הַבְּרִית הַיְשָׁנָה


הַבְּרִית הַחֲדָשָׁה

First Covenant (Heb. 8:7, 9:1)
הַבְּרִית הָרִאשׁנָה / ἡ πρώτη διαθήκη
ha-brit ha-rishonah


Second Covenant (Heb. 8:7, 10:1-9)
בְּרִית שֵׁנִי / διαθήκη δευτέρα
brit sheni

Law of Moses (Acts 13:38-39)
תּוֹרַת משֶׁה / νόμου Μωυσῆ
Torat Moshe


Law of Messiah (Gal. 6:2)
תּוֹרַת הַמָּשִׁיחַ / τὸν νόμον τοῦ Χριστοῦ
Torat Ha-Mashiach

Mediated by Moses (John 1:17)
בְּיַד־משֶׁה / διὰ Μωϋσέως
b'yad Moshe


Mediated by Yeshua (Heb. 8:6, 9:15)
בְּיַד־יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ / διὰ ᾽Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ
b'yad Yeshua ha-Mashiach

Law of sin (Rom. 7:5-6)
תּוֹרַת הַחֵטְא / νόμος τῆς ἁμαρτίας
Torat ha-chet


Law of righteousness (Rom. 9:30-31)
תוֹרַת הַצְדָקָה / νόμος δικαιοσύνης
Torat ha-tzedakah

Law of the flesh (Rom. 7:5-6)
תּוֹרַת הַבָּשָׂר / τὸν νόμον τῇ σαρκή
Torat ha-basar


Law of the Spirit (Rom. 8:2)
תּוֹרַת רוּחַ/ νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος
Torat Ruach

Law of works (Rom. 3:27; Gal. 3:2)
מַעֲשֵׂי הַתּוֹרָה / ἔργα νόμου
ma'asei ha-Torah


Law of faith (Rom. 3:27; John 1:17)
תּוֹרַת הָאֱמוּנָה / νόμος πίστεως
Torat ha-emunah

Yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1)
בְּעל הָעַבְדוּת / ζυγῷ δουλείας
b'ol ha'avdut


Law of liberty (James 1:25)
תּוֹרַת הַחֵרוּת / νόμος τῆς ἐλευθερίας
Torat ha-cherut

Ended by Messiah (Rom. 10:4)
הַמָּשִׁיחַ סוֹף הַתּוֹרָה / τέλος νόμου Χριστὸς
ha-Mashiach sof ha-Torah


Established by the Messiah
(Heb. 8:6, 10:9-10)
בְּפַעַם אֶחָת / ἐφάπαξ
b'pa'am echat

Law of Sin (Rom. 7:5, 8:2)
תּוֹרַת הַחֵטְא / νόμος τῆς ἁμαρτίας
Torat ha-chet


Law of Life (Rom. 8:2, Gal. 3:11, 6:8)
תּוֹרַת רוּחַ הַחַיִּים / νόμος τῆς ζωῆς
Torat ruach ha-chayim

A Shadow (Heb. 8:5; 10:1; Col. 2:17)
צֵל הַטּבוֹת / σκιά
tzel ha-tovot


The true form (Heb. 10:1-18; Col. 2:17)
עֶצֶם הַדְּבָרִים / εἰκών, σῶμα
etzem ha-devarim

Fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-18)
לְמַלְּאת / πληρῶσαι


In force (Heb. 8:6, 10:9; Matt 28:20)
בְּפַעַם אֶחָת / ἐφάπαξ
b'pa'am echat

Leaves unfinished (Heb. 7:19)
לא־הִשְׁלִימָה / ἐτελείωσεν


Better Hope (Heb. 7:19)
תִקְוָה טוֹבָה / κρείττονος ἐλπίδος
tikvah tovah

Glorious (2 Cor. 3:7)
כָּבוֹד / δόξα


More Glorious (2 Cor. 3:8-10)
יָסַף / περισσεύω

Remembers sins (Heb. 10:3)
יֶשׁ־זֵכֶר לַחֲטָאִים / ἀνάμνησις ἁμαρτιῶν
yesh-zacher la'chata'im


Forgets sins (Heb. 8:12, 10:17)
לא אֶזְכָּר־עוֹד / οὐ μὴ μνησθῶ
lo ezkar-od

Many sacrifices (Heb. 9:12-13)
זְבָחִים / θυσίας


One Sacrifice (Heb. 10:12)
זֶבַח אֶחָד / θυσίαν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς
zevach echad

Temporary priests (Heb. 7:23)
הַכּהֲנִים / οἱ ἱερεῖς


Eternal Priest (Heb. 7:17)
כּהֵן לְעוֹלָם / ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα
kohen l'olam

Ineffective to save (Heb. 9:9, 10:4)
לא יוּכַל / μὴ δυνάμεναι
lo yuchal


Eternal Redemption (Heb. 7:25)
גְּאוּלַּת עוֹלָם / αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν
geulat olam

Yearly Atonement (Heb. 10:3)
יוֹם כִּפֻּרִים / ἡμέρα ἐξιλασμοῦ
yom kippurim


Eternal Atonement (Heb. 10:12-14)
זֶבַח אֶחָד / θυσίαν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς
zevach echad

Priests have sin (Heb. 5:1-4)
הַחֲטָאִים / ἁμαρτία


Sinless Priest (Heb. 7:26)
נִבְדָּל מִן־הַחַטָּאִים / κεχωρισμένος ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν

Aaronic priesthood (Heb. 7:11)
כְּהוּנַּת בְּנֵי לֵוִי / Λευιτικῆς ἱερωσύνης
kehunat b'nei Levi


Malki-Tzedek priesthood (Heb. 5:5-10, 7:21);
מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק / Μελχισέδεκ (note that the Malki-Tzedek is the first priest in Torah).

Out of Levi (Heb. 7:11)
בְּנֵי לֵוִי / Λευιτικῆς ἱερωσύνης
b'nei Levi


Out of Judah (Heb. 7:14)
מִיהוּדָה צָמַח / ἐξ ᾽Ιούδα
mi-Yehudah tzamach

Blood of goats and calves (Heb. 9:12)
בְדַם שְׂעִירִים וַעֲגָלִים / δι᾽ αἵματος τράγων καὶ μόσχων
b'dam she'irim v'agalim


Blood of Messiah (Heb. 9:14-28)
דַם הַמָּשִׁיחַ / τὸ αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ
dam ha-Mashiach

Earthly Tabernacle (Heb. 9:2)
הַמִּשְׁכָּן / σκηνὴ


Heavenly Tabernacle (Heb. 8:2)
הַמִּשְׁכָּן הָאֲמִתִּי / τῆς σκηνῆς τῆς ἀληθινῆς
ha-Mishkan ha'amiti

Imperfect mediator (Gal. 3:19)
אִישׁ הַבֵּנָיִם / μεσίτης
ish ha-banim


Sinless Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5)
מֵלִיץ אֶחָד / εἷς μεσίτης
melitz echad

No inheritance (Rom. 4:13)
כִּי לא עַל־יְדֵי תוֹרָה / Ο διὰ νόμου ἡ ἐπαγγελία
ki lo al-yad Torah...


Eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15)
נַחֲלַת עוֹלָם / αἰώνια κληρονομίας
nachalat olam

Animal blood (Heb. 9:16-22)
בְדַם שְׂעִירִים וַעֲגָלִים / δι᾽ αἵματος τράγων καὶ μόσχων
b'dam she'irim v'agalim


Blood of Messiah (Eph. 2:13; Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7, etc.)
דַם הַמָּשִׁיחַ / τὸ αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ
dam ha-Mashiach

Produces wrath (Rom. 4:15)
"the Torah brings wrath"
מִפְּאַת הַתּוֹרָה יֵצֵא הַקָּצֶף
ὁ νόμος ὀργὴν κατεργάζεται


Saves from wrath (Rom. 5:9)
שֶׁנִּוָּשַׁע בּוֹ מִן־הַקָּצֶף
σωθησόμεθα δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῆς ὀργῆς

Incapable of Redemption (Heb. 10:4)
לא יוּכַל לְהָסִיר חֲטָאִים / ἀδύνατος
lo yuchal l'chasir chataim


Redeems (Gal. 3:13, Heb. 9:12-15)
גְּאוּלַּת עוֹלָם / αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν
geulat olam

Non-pleasing (Psalm 40:6)


Pleasing to God (Heb. 10:5-18)
טוֹב אֶל־יְהוָה / εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ
tov el-Adonai

Abolishment predicted (Jer. 31:33)
הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים ... בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה
hinei yamim ba'im... brit chadasha


Establishment predicted (Heb. 8:13)
יִשֵּׁן אֶת־הָרִאשׁוֹנָה
yishen et-ha-rishonah

Circumcision in flesh (Gen. 17:11)
נְמַלְתֶּם אֵת בְּשַׂר עָרְלַתְכֶם
nemaltem et basar arlatkhem


...of the heart (Rom. 4:9-12; Col. 2:11)
מִילַת הַמָּשִׁיחַ / περιτομή τοῦ Χριστοῦ
milat ha-mashiach

Made to change (Heb. 7:12, Gal. 3:25)
תִּשְׁתַּנֶּה הַתּוֹרָה / νόμου μετάθεσις γίνεται
tishtaneh ha-Torah


Made eternal (Heb. 13:20)
בּדַם בְּרִית עוֹלָם / ἐν αἵματι διαθήκης αἰωνίου
b'dam brit olam

Faulty (Heb. 8:7)
לא גְּמוּרָה / οὐκ ἄμεμπτος
lo gemurah


Perfect (James 1:25)
הַתּוֹרָה הַשְּׁלֵמָה / νόμος τέλειος
ha-Torah hashelmah

Weak (Heb. 7:18)
חֻלְשָׁה / ἀσθενής
chalushah / chalash


Strong (Heb. 7:25)
חָזָק / ἐνεργής

Needs Reform (Heb. 9:10-14)
עַד־עֵת הַתִּקּוּן / διόρθωσις
ad-et ha-tikkun


Spiritual program (2 Cor. 3:6, 18)
הָרוּחַ מְחַיֶּה / τὸ πνεῦμα ζῳοποιει
ha-ruach yechayeh

Ministry of death (2 Cor. 3:7)
הַכְּהֻנָּה אֲשֶׁר מָוֶת בָּהּ / ἡ διακονία τοῦ θανάτου
ha-kehunah asher mavet bah


Ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18)
עֲבדַת הַסְּלִיחָה / ἡ διακονία τῆς καταλλαγῆς
avodat ha-selichah

Daily program (Heb. 7:27)


Finished program (Heb. 10:10-18)

Frail high priests (Heb. 5:2, 7:28)


Perfect High Priest (Heb. 7:26)

Made priests by law (Heb. 7:12, 28)


Made Priest by an oath (Heb. 7:21, 28)

No salvation (Heb. 10:2-4)


Eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9, 10:10)

Perfected nothing (Heb. 7:19)


Perfects believers (Heb. 7:19, 10:14)

Earthly priests (Heb. 5:1-4)


Heavenly Priest (Heb. 9:24, 10:12)

Repeated inability (Heb. 10:11)


Glorious success (Heb. 10:10-18)

Many offerings (Heb. 9:7)


One Offering (Heb. 10:10-14)

Good promises (Deut. 28:1-14)


Better promises (Heb. 8:6)

A good covenant (Rom. 7:12)


A better covenant (Heb. 7:22, 8:6)

Many high priests (Heb. 7:23)


One High Priest (Heb. 7:24-28)

Symbolic Tabernacle (Heb. 9)


True Tabernacle (Heb. 8:2, 9:11)

No mercy (Heb. 10:28)


Complete mercy (Heb. 8:12)

Handmade things (Heb. 9:1-5, 24)


Heavenly things (Heb. 9:23-24)

An old way (Heb. 8:13)


New and living way (Heb. 10:19-20)

Unavailing ministers (Heb. 7:18)


Able ministers (2 Cor. 3:6)

Carnal ministry (Heb. 9:9-10)


Spiritual ministry (2 Cor. 3:6)

Ministry of condemnation (2 Cor. 3:9)


Ministry of righteousness (2 Cor. 3:9)

Glory covered (2 Cor. 3:13)


Glory revealed (2 Cor. 3:18)

Brings bondage (Gal. 4:24-25)


Brings liberty (2 Cor. 3:17)

Cannot justify (Gal. 2:16)


Does justify (Acts 13:38-39)

Brings a curse (Gal. 3:10)


Redeems from the curse (Gal. 3:13)

Life by works (Gal. 3:10)


Life by trust (Gal. 3:11)

Cannot give life (Gal. 3:21)


Life-giving (John 6:63-68)

Exposes sin (Gal. 3:19)


Covers sin (Rom. 4:1-8)

Under law (Rom. 6:14-15)


Under grace (Gal. 3:22-25)

Done away (2 Cor. 3:7-14)


Not done away (2 Cor. 3:11)

Abolished (2 Cor. 3:13)


Continues glorious (2 Cor. 3:11)

[ Work in Progress ]

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