top of page
  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Third (Covenant)

I hope your week went well! Remember, regardless of what you go through, to look forward to that blessed hope of the appearing of Jesus! (Titus 2:13) We're going to take a look at a covenant this week. We'll look at some New Testament references to it and also at the Old Testament verses some of them point to. So let's get to it!

First, I think it's good to start by figuring out what covenant means. Essentially, it's a contract, or pact, made between parties. The word itself is relatively modern in comparison to scripture, so there's not just one Greek and one Hebrew word that gets translated to it. The two main ones are berith, which is Hebrew for covenant, and diatheke, which is Greek for covenant.

Right off the bat, I'm going to steer you towards an interesting passage. If you read Hebrews 8:13 in pretty much every translation you can find, you'll see the word covenant used. If you're looking at some translations you'll see that it's actually italicized, meaning that word (or at least the Greek word that gets translated to it) doesn't actually appear in that verse. Now don't start getting upset at the translators just yet. When you look a bit earlier in that chapter, you find the writer is, in fact, talking about a covenant. In verses one through six, we see the covenant being referenced is the one in which priests mediated for the people by offering sacrifices according to the law.

In the following verses, the writer discusses the new covenant promised by Yehovah in Jeremiah (Hebrews 8:7-13). The point being made is why would God promise a new covenant if the original one was sufficient? The obvious answer is that it wasn't. The processes in place for that covenant were a copy of what was required by Jesus, being perfect, in the temple in heaven (Hebrews 9:23). It was a glimpse, provided to Israel to show them what was to come, and required due to failing to follow the commandments of Yehovah.

Here's where you may want to think about getting upset with the translators. If we look back to the promise of the new covenant being referenced by the Hebrews writer, Jeremiah is prophesying about a time in which the city (Jerusalem) will be built to Yehovah and the area will be holy (set apart) to Him, never to be "plucked up" or "thrown down" forever (Jeremiah 31:31-40). During that time also, Yehovah will write His law in their hearts and they will all know Him (Jeremiah 31:33). This is the new covenant being referenced in Hebrews. Clearly, this has not happened yet. Jerusalem has not yet been built for Him or set apart for Him. This also didn't happen at Jesus' crucifixion or thereafter. At that time, the majority of the Jews rejected Jesus and went on about their lives after His crucifixion, and Jerusalem ended up being attacked and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

But wait, you might say. It clearly says in Hebrews 9 Jesus is the mediator for the new covenant (Hebrews 9:15). Or does it? Verses 11 to 14 talk about Jesus becoming the high priest because of His spotless blood. Then verse 15 actually says because of this covenant, He is the new mediator, not that it is a new covenant (Hebrews 9:15 interlinear). This is confirmed in Matthew and Mark, when Jesus said His blood was of the covenant, not new covenant (again, the interlinear version, along with others, show there is no "new" regarding this instance of covenant, unlike versions like the KJV and NKJV which add "new" to their translation) (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24).

If you skip to chapter 12, you'll again see "new covenant" in the NKJV, but this is similar to 9:15 in that the original Greek states Jesus is the new mediator, not that it is a new covenant (Hebrews 12:24). In fact, you will only see "new covenant" or "new testament" in 10 verses of scripture (using KJV or NKJV). We looked at the majority of them already, and the last three are in Luke and the letters to the Corinthians.

Before we move on to those however, let's just summarize what we've seen so far and why it matters to us. We found that the actual new covenant in Jeremiah, referenced by Hebrews, is one that is yet to come. And if you reread those verses, you'll see that it's directed to Israel in particular. We also found that when it talks about a new covenant in the New Testament verses we've looked at, the word "new" is either not there or it's actually meant for the word "mediator," to indicate Jesus is our new mediator as a perfect, heavenly replacement for the earthly high priest. This means we can't just equate every instance of "new covenant" as referencing the same thing when we see it in scripture.

So what's the difference in Luke and the letters to the Corinth? Well, what you'll find is in those instances there is actually the Greek word for "new" in conjunction with the word for "covenant" (Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6). In these cases, that word for "new" (kainos) precedes the word for "covenant" (diatheke) whereas for the others kainos came after diatheke. Why is kainos here, then? I believe it has to do with who these books were written to.

Luke, the only Gentile writer of the New Testament, wrote his gospel to Theophilus. This was either a Roman, or just a general term for those who love God since the translation of Theophilus means "the one who loves God." Either way, Luke, being a Gentile, wrote this to Gentiles. Paul, the writer of the letters to the Corinthians, was the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7), and therefore his references to the new covenant are also intended for Gentiles like Luke's was.

Why is that significant? It's significant because our covenant, the covenant to the Gentiles, is new not because it's something completely different than that of the law. It's new because the Gentiles were not a part of the original covenant of the law. And we now understand that Jesus' crucifixion is not some brand new thing compared to the law. His sacrifice was the transition to perfection of the imperfection present in the sinful man conducting sacrifices for not following Yehovah's law. It's all one covenant, it's just new to us and not to Israel.

Just to come full circle on this (and hopefully I didn't lose you back there!), Jesus' sacrifice strengthened the covenant of the law. The word used for better, when it's called a "better covenant" with Jesus, is kreitton which is comparative to kratos and kratistos which both mean stronger. As a side note, "strengthened" is the same term used in Daniel 9:27 to prophesy about the week of the covenant (most translations say "confirm" however the Hebrew gabar is to be strong or mighty).

So you see, we are new to this covenant (as new as about 2000 years can be I guess!), but the covenant itself has been around as it was first given to Israel when being delivered from Egypt. All the processes for sacrifice were pointing to Jesus' perfect sacrifice with a promise of eternal life, but the whole point of those were because of not following Yehovah's commandments. They were not to absolve you of trying to follow His commandments just like Jesus' sacrifice does not absolve you of that either.

As always, I hope this message speaks to you or that you learned something or found something to go dig into. Let the Holy Spirit lead, Shabbat shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

1 view0 comments


bottom of page