Hebrews 8:13 (ESV):
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
What is meant by obsolete?
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Hebrews 8:13 (ESV):
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
What is meant by obsolete?
The word, the word obsolete solely means; outdated, out of date. The word is referring to something that has grown old over time. It can mean that something better, newer or more perfected / modern is at hand.
Ἐν τῷ λέγειν Καινὴν πεπαλαίωκεν τὴν πρώτην τὸ δὲ παλαιούμενον καὶ γηράσκον ἐγγὺς ἀφανισμοῦ.
πεπαλαίωκεν - pepalaiōken [pe-palai-ōken], = He has made obsolete.
παλαιούμενον - palaioumenon [palai-oumenon],= growing old.
Strong's G3822, to make ancient or old, to become old.
The context, ESV, Heb 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
he makes the first one obsolete - Jesus has made the Mosaic covenant (agreement) obsolete. what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away - The book of Hebrews is written after Jesus death (31-36 AD) and before the destruction of the second temple 70 AD, the author of Hebrews state; and growing old is ready ἐγγὺς eggus (G1451) near, nigh, close, ready. to vanish away I hold the position that the New Covenant is at hand and it will literally be written on our hearts so we can't sin no more; ... I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jeremiah 31:33c).
I believe we are fully in the New Covenant when we have the resurrected bodies as Isaiah allude to; “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31).
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. (1 Cor. 15:44-47).
“Then said He, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9).
Therefore Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, now that He has died to redeem them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15).
This question is extremely contentious because various people want to support a pre-existing theological position. Let us observe the following facts:
1. The NT quotes the OT laws (from the Torah) frequently as authoritative
Eph 6:2, 3 quotes Deut 5:16, Ex 20:12; James 2:11 quotes Ex 20:13; Rom 13:9 quotes Ex 20:13-15, 17; Rom 7:7 quotes Ex 20:17; Acts 23:5 quotes Ex 22:28; Heb 9:20 quotes Ex 24:8; 1 Peter 1:16 quotes Lev 19:2; Matt 22:39, James 2:8, Gal 5:14 quotes Lev 19:18; 2 Tim 2:19 quotes Num 16:5; Matt 19:18, 19 quotes Deut 5:16-20; Mark 12:32 quotes Deut 6:4; 2 Cor 13:1 quotes Deut 19:15; Matt 5:31, 19:7 quotes Deut 24:1; 1 Cor 9:9 Deut 25:4; Rom 12:19 quotes Deut 32:35; Heb 10:30 quotes Deut 32:35, 36, etc, etc.
2. Heb 8:13 does NOT say that the Law was abolished but says the Covenant was abolished.
Heb 8:13 - By speaking of a new covenant He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
Now, notice why a new covenant was required:
Heb 8:8 - 12 - But God found fault with the people and said: " ... I will put My laws in their minds and inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will each one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their iniquities and will remember their sins no more." [Quoting Jer 31:31-34]
Note further that the covenant was cancelled because the people (the Jews) were not faithful. The NT's "new covenant" involves writing laws on the hearts of the people. This is consistent with Matt 5:17-19 -
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus then goes on the amplify the laws (mostly but not exclusively the 10 commandments and other moral requirements.)
3. The Law is praised in the NT frequently
“But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot of the Law to become void.” (Luke 16:17), the law is essential because “through the law we become conscious of sin” (Rom 3:21, 7:7, 13), “we uphold the law by faith” (Rom 3:31), “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom 7:12), “the law is spiritual” (Rom 7:14), “the law is good” (1 Tim 1:8), keeping the law is to do right (James 2:8). “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Certainly not! Instead, we uphold the law.” (Rom 3:31). “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not!” (Rom 6:15); “we are now slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:16), or, “slaves to God” (Rom 6:22).
4. The NT contains many more "laws"
The NT contains more than 1000 laws that the Christian is bound by - more than the Torah. Some wit has even enumerated them in places such as https://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201407/r1308729_17984331.pdf and https://www.cai.org/bible-studies/1050-new-testament-commands and https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-real-truth-movement/the-1050-new-testament-commandmentslaws/690826194404882/ and http://www.wholebible.com/NT_commandments.htm and http://www.biblicalresearchreports.com/gods-commands-in-the-new-testament/
A careful examination of the NT laws shows that they are all based on the moral laws of the Torah.
5. The Levitical Covenant cannot be kept even if we wanted to
The Levitical Covenant (Lev 1-9, 16, 21-27 , Num 3, 4, 8, 18, 25:10-13, Deut 33:8-11, Neh 13:29, Mal 2:4-8) with its sacrifices, formal priesthood, Temple services, rites and ceremonies cannot be kept even if we wanted to - there is no priesthood, no temple and no sacrifices to offer. However, that was never part of the covenant with Israel (Ex 19-24) and was never part of the new covenant with Christians (Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, 2 Cor 3:6, Heb 8:6-13, 9:15, 10:16, 29, 12:24, Jer 31:31, 33). Jesus came to fulfill the Levitical covenant as our high priest in the heavenly temple (Heb 4:14-16, 7:23-28, 8:1, 2, 9:1-28, 10:1-18).
6. New Covenant
One of the best summaries of the New Covenant is found in 1 Peter 1, 2. Notice how often it alludes to the Torah and its moral laws:
In view of all of the above, "obsolete" simply means summarizes all the above, namely, the old covenant of sacrifices and temple rites was made obsolete along with the covenant with literal Jews and replaced with the moral covenant of grace with spiritual Jews, "Christians".
Is Moses' Law obsolete?
The answer is "yes"
Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice and “abolished . . . the Law
The apostle Paul explained that Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice and “abolished . . . the Law of commandments consisting in decrees” and " and taken it out of the way and nailed it to the cross." (Eph 2:15; Col. 2:14)
Ephesians 2:15 NASB
15 by abolishing [b]in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances, so that in Himself He might [c]make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace;
Colossians 2:14 NASB (Emphasis (LAW) mine
14 having canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it (LAW) out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
What was canceled and nailed to the cross?:The Law , this included the literal observance of the 24-hour Sabbath rest, for Paul wrote: "Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath day." (Colossians 2:16 NASB)
Obsolete - from the Greek palaioō/palaios.
The first covenant, the covenant the Israelites were ‘under’ before Jesus died had problems. Therefore a new one was implemented (after the ‘old’ one had been fulfilled). This is quite clearly expressed here ...
HEBREWS 8:6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
So the first became ‘obsolete’ by being replaced - with a better one. The reasons the first ‘had fault’ is outside of the question being asked - obsolete via replacement by a better one. So ‘obsolete’ means replaced. The faulty covenant has been replaced with a faultless one. So the faulty one can now become obsolete.
This is intended to complement Dottard's answer, not to disagree with it.
As Jesus said, the Law will not change.
God made a covenent with Israel, a physical one based strictly on literal obedience to the Law:
Deuteronomy 28 is known as the blessings and curses chapter, linking behaviour to reward and punishment. This was the purpose of "the chosen people", to set an example to the world of what happens when a nation does or does not follow God's Law.
Even today, Jews believe in the very literal interpretation of that Law. Evil thoughts or intent do not matter, only physical deeds:
… But the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not link an evil thought to an action, as it is stated: “If I had regarded iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not hear” (Psalms 66:18). But how do I realize the meaning of the verse: “Behold I will bring upon these people evil, even the fruit of their thoughts” (Jeremiah 6:19)? In the case of an evil thought that produces fruit, i.e., that leads to an action, the Holy One, Blessed be He, links it to the action and one is punished for the thought as well. If it is a thought that does not produce fruit, the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not link it to the action. …
— Talmud — Kiddushin 40a:13
Hebrews 8:7–13 describes a new covenant, for Christians:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them [the Israelites], He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Under the old covenant, the physical Israelites had to obey the letter of the Law; it was what they did that counted, not their attitude. In Jesus's time, the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees made sure that everyone in society did obey the Law (and more).
Under the new covenant, the spiritual Israelites (Christians) must obey the spirit of the Law:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. — Matthew 5:27–28
People must be aware of the meaning and intent of the Law, and their minds must want to obey it. To help with this, God gives part of his spirit to converts when they are baptized, that holy spirit, combined with their own human spirit, providing guidance and help.
This is what James (and others) spoke of when they talked of "works":
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. — James 2:17
If God's spirit guides one's thoughts, it also guides one's behaviour. If a convert's behaviour does not change, it means that their attitude has not changed, and no matter how much faith a person might think they have or appear to have, that person is not truly committed.
This is only a foretaste of what is to come though, with God's Laws hardwired into people's minds, so eventually it will be impossible for them to ever want to sin.
But there is no suggestion that the Law itself ever changed or was done away with.
Rather, it is a new covenant (agreement) that has been set up between God and Christians; a new way of thinking of and obeying that very same Law.
This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. — 2John 1:6
Quite possibly the most important but most neglected aspect of the Mosaic Law is that the vast majority of the human race is not under the Mosaic law, and never was. The Mosaic Law was a covenant between God and the literal Israelite nation. As a body of teaching and commandment it applies only to those who are in the Israelite nation.
Becoming a Christian does not bring one under the old law. This is the whole point of the debate that is chronicled in Acts 15, and is the whole point of Paul's warnings in Galatians.
Compliance with the Law of Moses affects our salvation only if the specific commandment in question is also present in the new law of Christ; but in that case it is not the existence of that commandment in the old law which makes it required, but its presence in the new.
Hebrews 8:13 is
"By speaking of a new covenant, He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." (Berean Study Bible)
As the lines make clear, the first covenant 'will soon disappear'. This means it still exists. So whatever 'obsolete' here means, it does not mean the Old Covenant does not exist at the time of the writing of Hebrews, but rather the opposite.
παλαιούμενον (palaioumenon) Strong's 3822: To make old, declare obsolete; pass: I grow old, become obsolete. From palaios; to make worn out, or declare obsolete.
The primary sense of 'obsolete' here is to make old or worn out, which is reinforced by γηράσκον (gēraskon) with which it is coupled, translated as 'aging' above.
γηράσκον (gēraskon) Strong's 1095: To become old, grow old. From geras; to be senescent.
Indeed, Hebrews 1:11 uses the same word as παλαιωθήσονται (palaiōthēsontai), typically translated there as 'grow old' or 'wear out'.
The same word is also used in the New Testament at Luke 12:33, typically translated as 'wear out'.
"Provide yourselves with purses that will not wear out"
So the question is at what point did the Mosaic Covenant become old or worn out (but still exist)? I don't think there's a specific moment, but there are various points that are important. Jesus' birth, his baptism with the Holy Spirit and the beginning of his ministry, his Transfiguration, the Last Supper, his crucifixion, his resurrection, Pentecost, and the Ascension are all key points where the New Covenant is coming into being or being moved forward and the old one 'becoming old' - the word is sufficiently vague to include all these points.
What we can say is that the Old Covenant, although it has become old or 'worn out' (i.e., obsolete), is still in effect (for some) at the point of the writing of Hebrews.
Answer: The Law of Moses is now obsolete, having been replaced by the Law of Liberty (Jas. 2:12).
Hebrews 8:13: "When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear."
God gave the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses, to Israel roughly 15 centuries before the birth of Christ (Deu. 5:1-5). However, this law was never intended to be permanent; it was formally ended upon Christ's death on the Cross. While this may be unpalatable for some, this is the biblical account of what took place. At the moment of Christ's death:
Matthew 27:50-51: "[Jesus] cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split" (cf. Mk. 15:38, Jn. 19:23, emphasis added).
This is an extraordinary scene. What is especially noteworthy about verse 51 is that the "veil of the Temple" was a barrier between God and Man. Without a Mediator, there could be no communication between the two. The veil excluded everyone (but the high priest, and he only once a year) from the Presence of God in the Holy of holies.
Christ's death changed that. He tore the veil from top to bottom, demonstrating that such a feat would be highly unlikely through mere human agency. As our High Priest, Christ is now our gateway, our path to God the Father, allowing us, "in Christ", to pray and have our prayers heard (and answered) by the Almighty. Christ abrogated the Old Covenant by fulfilling it (Matt. 5:17) with the New Covenant (and, indeed, a much more demanding one). Thus, He made the Old "obsolete".
Many passages affirm the end of the Levitical priesthood (as with the torn veil) and of the Mosaic regime in its entirety:
John 19:30: "Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!' And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."
The "it" was the Law of Moses. This was Christ's pronouncement that this Law had been completed, fulfilled, made obsolete, by His death:
Hebrews 9:16: "For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it."
This tells us (at least) two things:
In the apostle Paul's letter to the Romans, he wrote:
Romans 7:4, 6: "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead...
6But now we have been released from the Law [of Moses], having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit [of Christ] and not in oldness of the letter [of the Law]" (emphasis added).
We are discharged from the Old Law, its having been superseded by the new "Royal Law" in Christ (Jas. 2:8). That is, we have been set free from the entire O/T Law including the sacrificial system. Some may balk at this appraisal, instead insisting that the change was minor, where only the ceremonial or ministerial aspects were abolished. But this is a mistake:
Hebrews 7:11-12: "Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also" (emphasis added).
However we decide to translate these two passages, there can be little doubt that the Mosaic order — including the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), was reinstituted in a more perfect form upon the inauguration of the new priesthood, one in which all saints partake as priests and saints (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9, and temples: 1 Cor. 6:19).
This is what Hebrews 8:13 means. To paraphrase, the writer is echoing sentiments from the Book of Jeremiah (31:31): "When [God] said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first [the Law of Moses, the Levitical priesthood] obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear."
The last words, "growing old and ready to disappear" refer to that period during the composition of the N/T when the Law of Moses disappeared (became "obsolete") to make room for the New Covenant of Christ.