Most Bible readers know that the New Testament is a collection of gospels, letters, and teachings that date from the time of the earliest Jewish Jesus-followers. The English term comes from the Latin, Novum Testamentum, which is usually attributed to the early Christian writer Tertullian (2nd century CE). Yet, modern readers may find it ironic to discover that when the Bible itself mentions “New Testament/Covenant” (καινὴ διαθήκη; kaine diatheke)  it does not mean this collection of apostolic writings. (read the previous article, “New Covenant or New Testament?”)

In the Gospels, Jesus used the term “New Covenant” when he spoke of his self-sacrifice (Lk 22:20). Shaul (Paul) repeated the Messiah’s words about a New Covenant to his own group of believers in Corinth (1 Cor 11:25). The writer of Hebrews used the term (in Heb 8:8; 9:11–15) with reference to the promise through Jeremiah of a “new covenant” for Israel and Judah (Jer 31:31-34). Hebrews’ goal was to show that Yeshua is the Messiah who has ushered in a new and better priesthood. Paul also used the term “new covenant” (2 Cor 3:6, 14) — referring to himself and his co-laborers as “ministers of the new covenant.” No doubt, Paul also leaned on Jeremiah’s new covenant promise for inspiration. God declares through Jeremiah,

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer 31:31-34 ESV) This New Covenant/Testament (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה; berit hadashah) is not a book, but rather a covenant — or theological contract — that speaks of walking with God in a newer, deeper relationship than ever before.

In fact, the “New Covenant/Testament” is not even an exclusively Christian theological paradigm. Jewish writings found at the Dead Sea and in the Cairo Geniza develop an identical theological idea based on Jeremiah’s words — long before Jesus and the apostles. The Qumran Jews called themselves “the community of the new covenant” and spoke of “entering into the new covenant” (Zadokite Fragments or CD vi 19; viii 21; xix 34; 1QpHab ii 3-4). Indeed the “New Testament” is a title. In later Christian tradition, the New Testament became a description of the collection of apostolic writings but, biblically-speaking, the New Covenant is not a book.

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54 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for that interesting piece. How might one re-name the two parts of our texts with regards to this to avoid this confusion?

    • I am not sure renaming will accomplish anything. Why even have two parts with names? Unless one wants to set one against another as it has been done for centuries… LOL

  2. Most informed people know that there is a difference between the new covenant and the writings that are called the New Testament. This is silly word games.

    • What about those who are not informed, Gerry? I realize this does not strike you personally as relevant, but you would be surprised how many people do not know the difference. 🙂

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Stories of Jewish Church I: Acts 1-5 or The Stories of Jewish Christ: Among the Rabbis. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

      • Eu confesso, Dr. Pinchas, que muitos anos de estudos, adquiri este conhecimento da “diferença”, aqui com vocês. Mesmo entendendo que a “Nova Aliança” a que Jesus se referiu, foi o Seu sacrifício vicário na cruz. Obrigado por tanta riqueza de detalhes do Hebraico Bíblico. Paz!

  3. ” that speaks of walking with God in a newer, deeper relationship than ever before.”

    And yet, the NT/Covenant requires one to do more (in terms of sacrificing oneself for the Besorah/Gospel; no mentioning of sacrificing oneself for the Torah in the OT) for yeshu’ah/salvation. Now, I am beginning to……

  4. Sir,
    PRAISE THE LORD
    How many people in Israel believe in Jesus Christ, and who will be the messiah, and his coming again.
    Thanks to hear from you.
    Nathan

  5. Thank you for clarifying this thought/correct, interpretation! It deepens thoughts I have had but with no proof or Hebrew clarification.
    I sincerely thank you and pray y’all are healthy…smile. Blessings!
    Alexia

  6. Hi Prof. Based on your outline the new covenant is “walking with God in a newer, deeper relationship than ever before”. Did the new covenant came into affect upon Jesus’s crucifixion / resurrection or am I missing something? Also, is seems offhand only applicable to the Jews? Thank you.

    • I think to answer your question with precision – go through verses in Jeremiah and tell me “Which parts (promises) are working exactly the way the prophet has foreseen?” And also “Are there parts (promises) that are not working?” or “not yet working?” Then you will be able to answer your own question based on the very features of Jeremiah’s New Covenant.

    • As far as it being applicable to Israel only… I think I understand your sentiment. All covenants God made with Israel overflow to the nations and have implications to the greater humanity. Maybe not directly… but they do. Israel was called to be a light to the nations. People can flee from those implications, but only for a time until it all catches up with them.

      • Good evening sir. Thank you for the considerate reply. I appreciate the fine balance between religious foundation and academic dynamics you often portray. It is a blessing!

        • Glad to hear that you understand the balance we seek to provide here at IBC. Happy to see you visit here with us!

  7. Shalom Prof. Pinchas Shir.thanks. i concur with you on this that the new covenant is not a book but agreement between GOD and man that speaks of man walking with God in a newer, deeper relationship than ever before. ChristianBible is the written work of the convenants titledold& new testaments.

  8. Israel is meant to be the spiritual leaders of the world. This so includes teaching. Thank you for all your articles. I shall read Jeremiah with new vision.

  9. Exactly! Name is just a name, label is just a label. It’s the Spirit (essence) of the Law that is IMPORTANT! God gave ‘something’ deeper into our hearts, and that ‘something’ is really a ‘Someone’. It’s not just some kind of downloading a “‘dos and don’ts” into our hearts. He did SOMETHING GREATER – He puts The Author (!) of the Law into our hearts.

    • talk about an “essential worker”! Sorry… just saw the word essence and it just clicked.

      For LIVING and is the Word of Elohim and is WORKING everything…
      …כי חי הוא דבר האלהים ופועל הכל
      Pretty sure the ruach Elohim is an essential worker regarding the engraving His Word on our hearts and minds. 24/7/365/1000/7000. INTERACTIVE access on top of it all!

      Love His Word in His Lashon qadosh! WOO-HOO! Exciting!!!

  10. So, the Old Testament is a record of God’s Covenant. The New Testament is a record of God’s Covenant as well. Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever. Old – God’s covenant with Israel. New – God’s covenant with everyone by faith. Old or New – Word of GOD!

  11. Thanks Prof,for clearing up the meaning of the saying, Salvation is to come from the Jews, from a Jewish perspective. Only people steeped in the Torah tradition can adequately interpret these difficult sayings.

  12. This is a helpful clarification Prof.Pinchas of new testament/covenant after rereading your previous article Covenant or Testament. As a child you are taught to learn the names of ” the books” in the Bible. There’s even a Children’s song for the new testament books. But trying to read the Bible, to me ,did not have a good flow like a book. You were taught to memorize ” chosen verses”, which can be good, but not if it is taken out of context for an agenda. Down the road I discovered that the writings are not in “Chronological order.”. I may be getting off topic but, do you have any thoughts or articles on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “all scripture is inspired by God…” that you could share? I appreciate your insights very much!

    • Dear Judy, I am not sure what to say about 2 Tim 3:16, besides the fact that many theological books cite this verse to prove that the “New Testament” is inspired but that is the problem with prooftexting. It often does not work once you consider the context. When Paul wrote to Timothy the gospels, Acts and his letters were not yet assembled into the “New Testament”, so how could he refer to “scripture” that did not yet exist as inspired. Anachronistic thinking… The canonical order you mentioned is another matter.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including Biblical Hebrew I: First Steps and The Stories of Jewish Christ: Among the Rabbis. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  13. It is refreshing to see someone mention that the New Covenant was made with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. (Hebrews 8:8-9). But that is not exclusive – Isaiah 49 gives the complete role of the Messiah which also includes the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6, Ephesians 2:4-22,Romans 11:25-32).

    • I believe the prophets always had a vision of the nations joining alongside of Israel in the worship of one true God. The covenant can be extended beyond the actual parties.

      • Some Jewish people think the Gentiles should serve the Holy One of Israel (The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) by becoming Jews, and some Gentiles think the Jews should serve Him through becoming Gentiles. God gives only one way – through the Messiah in Spirit and truth (John4:19-26).

        • We here at IBC feel that everyone can serve the one true God just the way they are, without changing their identity or culture. Let Jews be Jews and nations be nations and let them serve Hashem together each in their own way.

        • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Stories of Jewish Church I: Acts 1-5 and The First Commandment: Deuteronomy in the Gospels. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

          • I agree God made the nations – and He will save the nations. But there is only one way to the Father and that is through the Son. And that is for all nations and peoples. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

  14. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is not too difficult when you understand that God speaks through mankind to mankind. eg Isaiah and the prophets, King David etc when written down the word of God becomes Scripture. God spoke through Paul, the Apostles and the Gospel writers. Paul made this distinction(1 Corinthians 7:10-12).

  15. Re: Luke 22:20 – Jesus is referring to the New Covenant sealed by His blood, because He is the sin Lamb of God” sacrificed for the sins of the world – the Messiah – of Isaiah 53. God wasn’t punishing Jesus – He was punishing us on Jesus (v4-5).

  16. Re:Luke 22:20 – CORRECTION. It should read “He is the sinless Lamb of God” – without blemish, without sin, perfect.

  17. Shalom Prof. Pinchas:

    I enjoyed the article and find it refreshing to have an opportunity to study the “whole” Word of The Most High. It is very challenging to learn a new perspective to what we thought was a solid doctrine. I now understand that the whole volume is our life and life more abundant when we have it in our heart! What I started to do a few years ago was to include the scripture references in the margins of my “Refreshed Covenant” so that I can see that it is nothing “New”….

    • LOL, I understand. “New” is one of those funny words, even in English. I say I bought a new car. Well, it is new to me but is actually 3 years old with some mileage. But it is new to me 🙂 So is it really new? And what is exactly new in it comparing with all the other cars that came off the assembly last week? Not much. Language can be flexible and ambiguous. Many people do not like that, but it’s an inescapable truth.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Stories of Jewish Church I: Acts 1-5 or Biblical Hebrew I: First Steps. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  18. Although the New Covenant was prophesied by the Prophets, it wasn’t in force until Jesus “cut” the Covenant and sealed it with His Blood. Until then it was a Covenant of Promise with Abraham and the Jewish people. Now Jesus is the way to the Father for both peoples. (Romans11:30-32).

  19. I am sorry I am writing it so briefly but there aren’t enough words in the comment box to do it more justice!

    • Israel Bible Center is an independent Israeli academic institution, not affiliated with any one religious entity or a group. As such the perspectives expressed here are intentionally diverse: traditional Jewish views, Christian views and naturally Messianic Jewish views as well.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The First Commandment: Deuteronomy in the Gospels and . Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  20. The Qmran jews were not in the New Covenant because the New Covenant was not open before God was manifest in the flesh (Jesus- John 8:56-59). Jesus died and He rose again opening the way into the Kingdom of Heaven through faith in Him. (Romans 4,Romans 4:22-25, John 3:16,).

  21. Professor Pinchas,
    I just read these last few comments w/you & Ms. Jane Wareing. You said above on May 11, that IBC represents “intentionally” diverse views…traditional Jewish, Christian, & Messianic Jewish…” Can you give me a @least 2 differences between Christian & Messianic Jewish views? There may be many more, but that would help me to understand those differences. Seriously, I have often wondered. Thank you, blessings, & Shalom, Jane Mazzola

    • I am not sure I do this adequately in the comments section 🙂 Traditional Christian and Traditional Jewish views would sometimes differ sharply, where the Messianic Jewish view would often fall somewhere in between or offer a third option. Take the Sabbath for example. Jews are pretty serious about the Sabbath commandments but do not feel the nations are obligated to honor it. An overwhelming number of Christians do not honor the seventh day, transferring only some ideas to Sunday worship. Many Messianic Jews would encourage everyone, Jew and non-Jew to embrace it because of the coming age.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Stories of Jewish Church I: Acts 1-5 or Biblical Hebrew I: First Steps. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

      • Thank you. That is one difference, & does give me some insight. I’ll watch & listen for other examples also. Thank U again.

  22. Did the early Christian church believe tht the didache had the equivalent authority to the Christian life as the scriptures?

    • I am not sure what you are trying to understand. The Didache was written as a simple instruction manual (not Bible or Scripture) for non-Jews who come into something obviously culturally-different and Jewish.

    • The same… modern use is synonymous. The clans which came from Jacob have thoroughly mixed among themselves since the days of the two kingdoms. There are no tribal distinctions for the most part today. All Jews are Israel, all Israel are Jews. Only God can sort that out these days if it really needs to be sorted out.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with Biblical Hebrew I: First Steps or The First Commandment: Deuteronomy in the Gospels. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

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