The New Year rings in resolutions, fresh starts, and new horizons. Notes of newness resound throughout Israel’s Scriptures, including “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa 65:17), “new wine” (Zech 9:17), and a “new covenant” (Jer 31:31). Jesus echoes such language, declaring, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5). Yet, in the midst of all this newness, one can lose sight of what’s gone before. At a time when some Christians want to “unhitch” from the Old Testament in favor of the New, the Bible emphasizes an ongoing interdependence between things old and new, which should remind followers of Jesus that all the gifts of God, both old and new, are treasures of enduring value.
The Song of Songs provides a poetic template for understanding the importance of treasuring both the old and the new: “The mandrakes give forth fragrance, and beside our doors are all choice fruits, new as well as old (חדשים גם-ישנים; hadashim gam-yeshanim), which I have laid up (צפן; tsaphan) for you, my beloved” (7:13). Elsewhere in Israel’s Wisdom Literature, the term for “laid up” (צפן; tsaphan) denotes the preservation of God-given treasures, including divine commandments and knowledge (e.g., Prov 2:1; 7:1; 10:14; cf. Job 20:26; 23:12). According to the Song of Songs, the new fruit comes alongside the old, but the old is not superseded by the new; instead, both old and new remain treasures of equal worth.
Jesus also understood the sentiment in Song of Songs and echoed it with reference to God’s ongoing teachings, saying to his disciples, “Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of one’s treasure (θησαυρός; thusaurós) that which is new and old (καινὰ καὶ παλαιά; kainà kaì palaià)” (Matt 13:52). Yeshua refers to the use of “new and old treasure” to explain the proper approach of one who is learned in Scripture and divine teaching; rather than casting aside the old in favor of the new, Jesus-followers should continue to draw on both old and new teaching. As the New Year approaches, let us welcome the gift of newness without forgetting the continuing value of the old.