Augustine said that there are fewer sacraments in the New Covenant than there were in the Old:

Thus the sacraments of the Old Testament, which were celebrated in obedience to the law, were types of Christ who was to come; and when Christ fulfilled them by His advent they were done away, and were done away because they were fulfilled. For Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfill. And now that the righteousness of faith is revealed, and the children of God are called into liberty, and the yoke of bondage which was required for a carnal and stiffnecked people is taken away, other sacraments are instituted, greater in efficacy, more beneficial in their use, easier in performance, and fewer in number.

My denomination, Presbyterianism, teaches that there are two (not seven, as Catholics would have it) New Testament sacraments, each derived from a particular one of the two Old Testament sacraments. A good explanation can be found in Fisher's Catechism (Q93), particularly sub-questions 1, 17, and 18.

Do any Catholic sources have a list of Old Testament sacraments, and how they each reached their fulfillment in the seven New Testament sacraments?

  • It may be useful in researching this to instead ask about the sacramental practices of Orthodox Judaism at Mi Yodeya, and then ask about the Christian transformation of those practices from a Catholic perspective. You appear to have two questions as-is 1) what are the Jewish sacraments and 2) how does the Catholic church say these each of these Sacraments are fulfilled in the Catholic Faith. Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 21:55
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    @thedarkwanderer As far as I know, Judaism has no concept of "sacraments." So..... Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 21:10
  • Nice question, if you work it the other way - matching Catholic sacraments to Judaisms blessings. The only one I can't find is 'anointing of the sick'. To list all the blessings and then try to match them through grouping is an immense task. If at all possible. Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 8:32

1 Answer 1


The short answer is that the Jewish religion didn't have sacraments, it had sacrifices and laws and blessings and festivals.

The longer answer is specific to Augustine, who was considering each OT law as a type of Christ, and in that way a sacrament. The Jews counted 613 laws, and of course sacrifices and blessings and festivals count on top of that, so there were literally hundreds.

The Catholic Church instituted its seven sacraments independently of the Jewish religion. There is no theology of one-for-one replacement. That said, we can take each of the seven and find some antecedent in Judaism:

Baptism: Jews did practice baptism as a rite of repentance in NT times, but their chief rite of passage into the community of faith was circumcision.

Confirmation: Jews now have Bar Mitzvah, but we have no evidence for this in NT times. Judaism always had many laws that applied only to adults, not children, though. By necessity there would have always been some way of recognizing when a child became subject to the law (and therefore a fully functioning member of the community), such as a 13th birthday.

Penance: Jews had sacrifices for sin, and a day of atonement. They also had elaborate rituals for restoring "cleanness" to themselves on various occasions and to various articles which may incur uncleanness.

Eucharist: Jews had communion sacrifices. An animal was sacrificed in the temple, certain fatty parts were burned on the altar and the rest was eaten by the family.

Marriage: Jewish marriages were (most likely) conducted and blessed by the rabbis (synagogue leaders) in NT times, but it was based upon a covenant or contract between the husband and wife, with the father of the bride negotiating the best interests of the bride.

Holy Orders: Jews had various processes for the ordination and induction of their priests and other leaders. You can read about these rites in Leviticus.

Sacrament of the Sick: The Jewish religion did not have prayers for the sick and dying (so far as I know) but they did have a procedure for returning lepers to the community after they were healed. The former leper would be inspected by the temple priests and be pronounced clean.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

(c) Sacraments of the Mosaic Law. As the time for Christ's coming drew nearer, in order that the Israelites might be better instructed God spoke to Moses, revealing to him in detail the sacred signs and ceremonies by which they were to manifest more explicitly their faith in the future Redeemer. Those signs and ceremonies were the sacraments of the Mosaic Law, "which are compared to the sacraments which were before the law as something determined to something undetermined, because before the law it had not been determined what signs men should use" (Summa Theologiæ III:61:3, ad 2). With the Angelic Doctor (I-II:102:5) theologians usually divide the sacraments of this period into three classes:

The ceremonies by which men were made and signed as worshippers or ministers of God. Thus we have (a) circumcision, instituted in the time of Abraham (Genesis 17), renewed in the time of Moses (Leviticus 12:3) for all people; and (b) the sacred rites by which the Levitical priests were consecrated.

The ceremonies which consisted in the use of things pertaining to the service of God, i.e. (a) the paschal lamb for all the people, and (b) the loaves of proposition for the ministers.

The ceremonies of purification from legal contamination, i.e. (a) for the people, various expiations, (b) for the priests, the washing of hands and feet, the shaving of the head, etc. St. Augustine says the sacraments of the Old Law were abolished because they had been fulfilled (cf. Matthew 5:17), and others have been instituted which are more efficacious, more useful, easier to administer and to receive, fewer in number ("virtute majora, utilitate meliora, actu faciliora, numero pauciora", Reply to Faustus XIX.13). The Council of Trent condemns those who say that there is no difference except in the outward rite between the sacraments of the Old Law and those of the New Law (Sess. VII, can. ii). The Decree for the Armenians, published by order of the Council of Florence, says that the sacraments of the Old Law did not confer grace, but only prefigured the grace which was to be given by the Passion of Christ. This means that they did not give grace themselves (i.e. ex opere operato) but only by reason of the faith in Christ which they represented — "ex fide significata, non ex circumcisione significante" (Summa Theologiæ I-II:102:5)


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