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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?


Related questions:

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The word, the word obsolete solely means; outdated, out of date.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.

The Greek;

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).

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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.

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  • Speaking like a computer scientist :) +1
    – Tony Chan
    Jun 12 at 13:53
  • @Tony Chan Much of my working life was spent buried ‘in’ computer code! :-)
    – Dave
    Jun 12 at 20:17
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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.

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What is meant by “obsolete” in Hebrews 8:13?

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:

  1. Christ was God, the One Who made the Covenant with Moses;
  2. The Law of Moses was nailed to the Cross with Him at death (Col. 2:14).

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.

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    The last words, "growing old and ready to disappear" refer to that transitional phase when the Law of Moses disappeared (became "obsolete") to make room for the New Covenant of Christ. - What is this "transitional phase"? When did it begin and when did it end? Jun 12 at 3:17
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator That is a good question. I suspect that since the N/T had not yet been delivered, there was a certain period of readjustment that had to take place. Part of this may have taken place between Christ's Resurrection and Pentecost: the inauguration of Christ's Kingdom. At least, that is one view.
    – Xeno
    Jun 12 at 3:19
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    Not one of the text you quoted talks about the law being abolished. In fact Jesus said that He had not come to abolish the law (Matt 5:17-19). So what do you mean by the "law of liberty"? The only place this phrase occurs are in Jame 1:25, 2:12 which is discussing keeping the law not abolishing it.
    – Dottard
    Jun 12 at 3:54
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    My intent is never to injure; yet you didn't bother to respond the last I asked. This post wasn't focusing on the Law of Moses being "abolished"; thanks for bringing that to my attention. I'll correct if you wish. Naturally, the Law of Liberty is the Gospel. Perhaps you'll want to read Matt. 5? Are Christ's words merely suggestions? There, we learn, "You have heard it said" followed by "But I [now] tell you..." Is that inconsequential or do you have something else in mind? I'm genuinely perplexed both by the down-vote and your position on this subject. What is the Law of Christ to you?
    – Xeno
    Jun 12 at 6:04
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    @Xeno excellent answer. It should have never been down voted. I have found not too many people have the enlightened view of the grace of God, well done. I like to use 2 Corinthians 3 when talking about the OT being obsoleted by the NT. Paul uses the word "abolished" when talking the about the glory of the OT. Blows people's minds when that actually see the proper context.
    – alb
    Jun 17 at 16:26

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