The Idea of the New Covenant as presented in the Gospels and the Pauline letters may sound “new” to modern Christ-followers. But is it really?

Jeremiah declared that in the future the LORD would establish a New Covenant with both the house of Israel and the house of Judah. This covenant, unlike the previous one, would be characterized by God’s Torah being written on the very hearts of the Ancient People of God (Jer. 31:31-34).

But were there Jews in the first century who did not follow Jesus, but believed that they lived in the days of the New Covenant? The answer to this question is yes.

When several important archaeological discoveries were made, it became clear that first century Jesus-followers were not alone in laying claim to the idea of the New Covenant. For example, we read that some Jews called their faithful: “…to observe the Sabbath according to its true meaning and the feasts and the day of the Fast according to the utterances of them who entered into the New Covenant in the land of Damascus… To love everyone his brother as himself, and to strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy and the stranger…” (CD 8:15-17).

The Jewish followers of Christ Jesus differed with them in that they were persuaded that the New Covenant was inaugurated not near Damascus, but near Jerusalem (Matt. 26:26-30) and that through the blood of Jesus. So, was the New Covenant really “new”? No, not at all –  in fact, it was a very old Jewish idea.

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65 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, it is completely *new*. Those in the new Covenant, as stated in Jeremiah 31:31-34, are to be *recognised* as those whom God has written His Laws into their hearts, i.e., they will *only* be those who have the capacity to obey God’s Laws completely *naturally* out of *conviction* and not merely by faith or belief. The new covenant is to be instituted by the *Comforter* Who “would judge the World, because we *failed to believe* Jesus Christ”. *The Spirit of Truth* Jesus Christ promised us! John 16:13. But Who and where is He? And who is seeking Him?

    • Those so called “NEW” completely (as you call it), are very old Northern and Southern Kingdoms (Israel and Judah) 🙂 in Jer. 31:31-33.

      • I know you have a better understanding than that! Just read the “earlier than the Gospels” writings of Paul in both 1 Corinthians and Romans; “this cup is the new covenant in my blood”; Jesus was aware of Jeremiah, it most certainly can be assumed, and is talking about something very different from writing Torah on one’s heart — not that that is an undesirable thing

    • Is it really completely new? God said: Mic 2:7(JPS) Do I change, O house of Jacob? … Mal 3:6(KJV) For I the LORD change not; … Joh_10:35 … and the scripture cannot be broken;
      If we cannot trust completely in God’s Word as standing in truth, then how can we have any faith?
      The only change made from OLD to NEW was the TYPE of Blood for atonement. Nothing more.
      From temporary corruptible animal blood to ETERNAL SINLESS (Lamb of God) BLOOD which covers us all if we choose it.

  2. I think Yeshua taught Torah. He said that He said that none of the commands have changed and will not change until the end of time as we know it. So, what’s new? The new is the old rediscovered. Shalom

  3. Regarding the “old” Covenant(s) given through Moses:
    1. God rendered it “obsolete” when He made a “new” and “better” Covenant (HEBREWS 8:6,7,13)
    2. When God made the “new” Covenant He did not take the “old” one and cross out a few things and write in a few new things. He calls it the “NEW Covenant”, not the REVISED Covenant. His approach seems similar to that of building a new house instead of fixing up an old one.

    • Actually the Hebrew in Jeremiah for “new” (hadash) often means “renewed.” Now if you are saying that the covenant given through Moses is obsolete, what do you say are the terms of the “New Covenant”? According to Jeremiah, the New Covenant is the Torah (what Moses gave) written on hearts (instead of on stone).

    • Exactly. The writer of Hebrews used the idea of the last will and testament of a dying person. Any old will and testament was completely superceded and rendered null and void the minute a newer one was signed…no matter what was wiled in the previous versions they had no legal standing whatsoever. The new will and testament would only go into effect upon the death of the testator. Hence Jesus came to fulfill the old will and testament of God and peach the new one. It took effect at his death.

  4. So are you saying that the New Covenant is the same covenant as the ones with Abraham and Moses, just inaugurated in Jerusalem with the blood of Yeshua? Or is the New Covenant merely promised in the Tanakh and comes as an new/different covenant to us today?

  5. Since the scriptures were speaking to the Jewish people at that time, should one conclude that the laws that were to be written on the heart where the laws of Torah? There were no New Testament scriptures at the time of Jesus preaching, so should Gentile Believers in Jesus understand the scriptures best through a Jewish mindset, even though they do not have to become Jewish to express their faith.

  6. Thank you Dr Eli, it is fact that the New Covenant is actually older than the Old. Its design was planed in eternity before creation and proclaimed by God as Adam sinned Genesis 3v15. It runs throughout the Old Testament as Israelites of old saw in the sacrifices for example that Messiah would come and suffer to redeem His people Heb 1v1. When we grasp this truth how amazing is our God. Thank you so much brother Eli.

  7. Absolutely, Dr. Eli — I basically agree with Delores; however, I would refer to what Jesus said about the Tanakh, as clarified, or editorialized rather than “rediscovered”; and although the NT was codefided when He appeared — nothing could be more obvious than that Jesus accurately presented truths of the Tanakh (For example, Matthew 19:7…). Jesus did articulate Tanakh truths accurately where many writers tried to…which were shrouded by traditions — Maimonides’ expectations of the Messiah were, for example, far off exegesis.

  8. The New covenant was a continuation of the blessing portion of the Abrahamic covenant and was sealed by Jesus Christ on the cross.

  9. “new” can mean new in the sense that the audience did not hear of this message interpreted this way. Some see the atom as a physical entity but as a wave is newer information and furthermore, new in the sense that it is composed of more particles, not just of protons, neutrons and electrons but of particles described of in terms of colours.

    • Actually, let’s look at the Hebrew name of the “New Testament”. Brit Chadasha. Brit means “covenant” Chadasha means “renewed, rebuilt, repaired” and that fits precisely with what took place. The TYPE of Blood (Divine sinless eternal Blood of the Lamb of God). The Covenant is still in place, still legally binding at Mt. Sinai and still is today and all the descendants of Israel are still legally bound, so death would be the punishment. Enter Jesus Christ who gave us a RENEWED Covenant by virtue of the change of Blood.

  10. I believe it is a new covenant and the fulfillment of an old testament promise. if Jesus is the Messiah then it’s new in what the old could not do taking away of sin with the blood of animals, that couldn’t take away mans sin Christ did as the sacrificial lamb. Christ by his own blood brought an end to the old covenant also bringing in the new. the new covenant is of greater benefit for us. the old covenant was written on tablets of stone but the new covenant written in our hearts. Hebrew Ch. 9

    • No ,you have it all wrong ! The only thing that was abolished in the Torah was the animal sacrifice .The Torah and Tanakh has not been abolished .Y’Shua Himself is our mediator our Cohen Gadol ( High Priest ) .Read Hebrews chapters 7 and 8 .

      • Who knows, maybe you’re right, but what do you do with passages that talk about sacrifices during the Millennial Reign of Messiah? (Isa 56:6-8; Zech 14:16-21; Jer 33:15-18, Ezek 43:18-46:24)

  11. Again we have a distorted view and use of terms. Jesus was talking about what Moses prophesied in Leviticus and Deuteronomy about the future of the descendants of Jacob. Deuteronomy 32 is the Song of Moses concerning this end that Isaiah also spoke of in his prophesies. The book of Hebrews is a lawyers way of stating God’s case, the old was fading away to make room for the new when Christ would usher in the Kingdom of God spoken by John the baptizer. Jesus also prophesied about it’s coming and God the Father confirmed in Revelation 1:1-3.

  12. What makes this one new is the New High Priest, who isn’t Levitical; the blood of the “once-for-all” sacrifice of the Lamb, which the Father accepted, and which did away with all sin – past, present and future.

  13. Please can you revisit your reference of Matthew 28:26-30 on the origin of the new covenant? In twenty-one translations of Matthew that I have consulted chapter 28 ends at verse 20 and none of the chapter is about the new covenant.
    Thanks.

    • Thank you, David. My Bibles don’t have that many verses either. 🙂 I was referring to Matt. 26:26-30 where Yeshua was establishing the New Covenant in Jerusalem (cf. Mount of Olives).

  14. The new is sealed by the blood of Jesus, and Jesus say. “ a new commandment I give … “ it’s the love. The work of The Holy Spirit in the believer heart, it’s a New covenant because the Old one has not power to to fulfill God ‘will,the new one transform the man, the Old one was no completa, now in Jesus God reveals everything.

  15. Just a question I have discussed with several, and most do not agree.
    I have this idea, that:
    Matthew 5:18:
    //”For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.//

    The words: // until all is accomplished//:

    Is a message of when the Covenant of the Spirit will be a reality

    Because nothing will be changed, so before his death.

  16. Interesting! The misinterpretations contributed to my acceptance of replacement theology. I wasn’t a “Christ follower”, so it was assumed that I was in the wrong covenant (old). I notice that writing the law in their hearts is associated with becoming children of God? What baffles me is the next sentence “they shall teach no more every man his neighbor”. This seems to contradict “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This vs implies we have to go to church to be saved.

  17. As Torah-keeping believers are so desirous to keep us all reminded, Messiah “did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” UNTIL it was fulfilled, however, we could not enter into the obviously NEW (as in “subsequent “) dispensation of grace in which our sin is now covered by the ultimate Sacrifice, and not by the blood of bulls and goats. Some terms have a perfectly good reason for existing; they are not all mere happenstance or useless tradition.

  18. The New Covenant came into existence, only after the death, and resurrection, of The sinless, sacrificial Lamb of God.
    Jesus Christ, The Messiah.
    The book of Hebrews explains it.
    HE Became The High Priest.
    HE offered Himself, as The Spotless Lamb of God.
    Hebrews 8, 9 and 10 explains it.
    UNLESS WE COME TO HIM BY AND THROUGH FAITH, AND BELIEVE WHO HE SAYS HE IS.
    WE CAN NOT ENTER INTO HIS NEW KINGDOM.

  19. Dr. Eli, I think that your piece minimises the importance of the Lamb of the New Covenant. My question is, if it had been in the old times of the physical Tabernacle, and those Jews you’re talking about didn’t have the sign of the Covenant, ie, if they weren’t circumcised, they wouldn’t have been allowed into the Gate. In fact, they would’ve been stoned. This New Covenant is ratified by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, and it was not operative until the Old Covenant became obsolete. What you’re doing, Dr. Eli, is new wine and old wineskins.

  20. The new covenant was prophesied by Jeremiah and other Old Covenant sages BUT it was inaugurated by Yeshua in His blood. An idea and a reality are not in any way synonymous. They are completely different. The new covenant is not a Jewish idea but a fulfillment of God’s word and proof of the Messiah IP of Jesus. My prayer for Israel is that they come to personal relationship with G_D through faith in Jesus Christ.

  21. The New Covenant is the same in essence with Sinai covenant. Jesus does not announce a new requirements or commandments for the new covenant.
    In the Bible there is no old covenant to the church to be a new one.
    The old Covenant with people of Israel, and the New with Judea and Israel.

  22. I often have to explain being reached with the OT and saved. So why is “took them by the hand” different than “write it on their hearts”? (Jer 31:32-33). I think the word hand is associated with both the power of God and the mark of the beast. Why were they disagreeing on where the Covenant was inaugurated? Perhaps I am missing the point because (like many), I learned to disassociate laws from God. Did the 1st century disagreement have to do with laws therefore location mattered?

    • I think both the community in Damascus as well as the believing community in Jerusalem understood that the commandments of God would be written on the heart, meaning that our reluctance to obey God because of our sinfulness and selfishness would be transformed into an inner heart desire to obey God out of love. Just, the Damascus community did not know about Yeshua.

  23. “Sacrifices to remember Yeshua” Maybe after the Church is taken away for God cannot dwell in two temples and right now He dwells in us. After the taken away happen, then yes, sacrifices will be established once again but I don’t know if it will be to remember Yeshua since many do not believe in Him.

  24. The “New Covenant” is the fulfilment of the Abrahamic Covenant, the promise to Abraham, that through his “Seed”(Christ), the nations would be blessed. The “Old Covenant” is a shadow of the Redemptive work of the Seed of Abraham(Christ), the sacrificial Lamb of God. Paul says the Sinaitic Covenant which came 430 years after the Abrahamic covenant did not disannul the promises(by faith) made to Abe. “The law (OT/OC) was a tutor leading(pointing) to Christ”

  25. Dr Eli. Hope you are well. I follow your line of thought and I agree with you on this matter. Key to the new covenant I are the terms of the covenant – the Torah written on our hearts. It was established through the blood of Yeshua at the Passover Seder service. Confusion, I admit, is the lack of understanding the old covenant. Others believe it is the old sacrifices, others the 10 comm. What exactly is the old covenant?

    • By “old covenant,” Jeremiah (31:32) means in the day that God brought Israel out of Egypt. From Exo.24:7 it is a book, from Exo.34:28 it is the Ten Commandments, and Exo.19:5 is a good summary. Basically the Old Covenant is the whole Torah: “‘you shall be My people, and I will be your God,’ and these are the terms.”

  26. Jeremiah talked about what constitutes the New Covenant, Isaiah spoke about who will institute the New Covenant and Ezekiel about How it will be achieved.

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