Old Testament

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From Middle English [Term?], calqued from Latin Vetus Testāmentum. Old refers to ancientness, not to obsolescence. Equivalent to a retronym, by comparison with the New Testament.


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Proper noun[edit]

the Old Testament

  1. (religion, chiefly Christianity) The first major part of the Christian Bible, covering events before the coming of Christ, corresponding roughly to the Jewish Tanakh. Usually subdivided into the categories of law, history, poetry (or wisdom books), and prophecy.
    Coordinate term: New Testament
    The Old Testament says that eating shellfish is a sin.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Old Testament is the most common English term used by Christians to refer to the first major part of the Christian Bible. Old means “ancient”, “having great(er) age” here, not “superseded” or “obsolete”.
  • In Biblical scholarship the term Hebrew Bible is preferred nowadays.
  • The use of this term is considered offensive by some Jews, based on the misconception that Old suggests that the Tanach has been superseded by Christian scriptures.
  • The corresponding adjective is vetero-testamentary.

Derived terms[edit]


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