Matthew 26:28, New testament.
Did you ever wonder where the terms New Testament or New Covenant came from? Yes, you will find these phrases used in the Testimony of Yeshua portion of your English Bible in exactly nine places (Matt 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:8, 13; 9:15; 12:24), but does the English translation do justice to the Hebrew and Greek words behind them and to the biblical concept of the “New Covenant” as it is commonly called?
Let’s begin to answer this question by first asking a question. When you think of the word new, what comes to your mind? A brand new car? A new house? A new pair of shoes?
You see, in English there is one common word for new, while Greek and Hebrew have more than one word for new. While English speakers are limited to one word, they nuance the meaning of new by adding qualifiers to the word new (e.g. brand new as opposed to used but it’s new to me) to differentiate between brand new versus new to me, or refurbished or repaired new.
In the Testimony of Yeshua, there are two Greek words for new: neos and kainos, and each one has a different connotation. Neos more often means “brand new or numerically new,” while kainos means “renewed, refreshed or repaired or qualitatively new.” When you see the term New Covenant or New Testament used, in eight of nine time the authors use kainos. Only in Hebrews 12:24 is neos used in reference to the new covenant.
The Testimony of Yeshua’s preference over using the Greek word for renewed over the word (brand) new is exactly consistent with the author of the Epistle to the Hebrew’s usage of the word in Hebrews 8:8,
For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the YHVH, when I will make a new [or renewed, kainos] covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… [emphasis added]
The author is here quoting directly from Jeremiah 31:31,
“Behold, the days come, saith YHVH, that I will make a new [Heb. chadash] covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah… [emphasis added]
According to The TWOT, the Hebrew word chadash means “to repair, rebuild or renew.” Interestingly, the Jewish translators of the Septuagint (LXX) when translating Jeremiah 31:31 into Greek found the word kainos to be equivalent to the Hebrew chadash.
Based on this linguistic evidence it seems that the terms new testament or new covenant should be more accurately translated as renewed covenant instead of new (as in brand new) covenant. This was the preference of the apostolic writers, although, it can be clearly demonstrated from Hebrews 12:24 that the term new covenants is acceptable as well.
Although Greek scholar David Stern in his Complete Jewish Bible still uses the term new testament and new covenant instead of renewed covenant, he does discuss the word kainos in his Jewish New Testament Commentary in his comments on Hebrews 8:8 (p. 690). There he gives the reasons why he translates kainos as new, but also explains why it can also mean “renewed” in that “the New Covenant renews the Old Covenant” (his exact words). He then goes on to prove his point how the New Covenant is a renewed version of the Old Covenant (ibid.).
Stern isn’t the only New Testament scholar to affirm the validity of “renewed” as an acceptable translation of the Greek word kainos. Craig Keener in his The IVP Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament (p. 665) states in his comments on Hebrews 8:8 regarding Jeremiah 31:31 and Hebrews 8:8 (that quotes the former), “The phrase generally rendered ‘new’ covenant in Jeremiah 31:31 could also be translated ‘renewed’ covenant.” This likely explains why the LXX translators chose to use kainos in Jeremiah 31:31 instead of neos, and why the apostolic writers use kainos in all but one reference to the “new” covenant. Interestingly, the writer of Hebrews uses neos once (in Heb 12:24) in reference to the new covenant, which would seem to suggest that both terms “Renewed (Refreshed)” and “New” Covenant were acceptable to the apostolic writers. After all, the New Covenant is a separate and New Covenant. At the same time, it is a reworking or refreshing of the Old Covenant, but with two major additions: the blood of Yeshua to wash away the sins of his people once and for all, and the Set-Apart Spirit of Elohim who will write his laws on their hearts, so that they will not only want to obey them, but will have the internal spiritual power to do so.
So what is the bottom line here? In reality, Yeshua the Messiah is not really going to make a brand new covenant with his people when he returns to marry his spiritual wife, which is the spiritual body of believers of whom he is the head. Instead, he will repair or renew the former covenants (plural, see Eph 2:12) that ancient Israel broke and that many people are still breaking today by not keeping Yeshua’s Torah-commandments as they should (remember John 14:15?). After all, there was nothing wrong with the covenants themselves. The problem was with the people—they failed to be faithful to the terms of that covenant to which they agreed as Heb 8:8 states. Under the Renewed Covenant, the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants will be combined to make this new covenant or what the Bible also refers to as the Everlasting Covenant (Jer 32:40; Ezek 37:26) as well as the Covenant of Peace (Ezek 37:26).
And what was wrong with the former covenants (the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants) you may ask? Was it the terms of the covenant, YHVH’s Torah-commandments, which were evil and had to pass away or was it something else? Let’s let Scripture answer this question:
Jeremiah 31:31–33, Behold, the days come, saith YHVH, that I will make a renewed covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband unto them, says YHVH: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says YHVH, I will put my Torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their Elohim, and they shall be my people. (emphasis added)
Hebrews 8:7–11, For if that first [covenant] had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, [YHVH found fault with the people, not with the Torah-law] he says, Behold, the days come, saith YHVH, when I will make a [renewed] covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says YHVH. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says YHVH; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them an Elohim, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know YHVH: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (emphasis added)
The fault was with Israel (it wasn’t with YHVH or his Torah-laws—the terms of the covenant), since they failed to keep the terms of the covenant to which they agreed at Mount Sinai. What did Elohim require of them? Simply this: faith in him and obedience to his laws. YHVH Elohim married Israel the first time at Mount Sinai, when they said, “I do” to Elohim three times (Exod 19:8; 24:3, 7). However, they quickly broke their vows when they failed to remain faithful to Elohim and instead worshiped the golden calf (Exod 32 cp. Ezek 16:1–31).The renewed covenant that Jeremiah prophesied that Elohim would make with his people (Jer 31:31, 33) will still have the Torah-law as the terms of the agreement, but this time, YHVH will pour out his Set-Apart Spirit onto his people to soften their hard hearts and write his laws on their hearts. This time, they will want to obey his laws. With Yeshua, the Messiah, the Living Torah-word of Elohim, living in their hearts through the power of Elohim’s Spirit, this time they will be an obedient wife to YHVH instead of a rebellious one. This bride will be made up of both Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Yeshua the Messiah, which Scriptures refers to as “the one new man” (Eph 2:15) or as “the Israel of Elohim” (Gal 6:16).
In Ephesians 2:11–19, Paul talks about the Gentiles coming into a spiritual and covenantal relationship with the Elohim of Israel, becoming part of the nation of Israel, and being brought into a relationship with Elohim through the covenants (plural) of Israel. What were these covenants (plural)? This is the Torah Covenant, which can be subdivided into the Abrahamic and Mosaic (Sinaitic) Covenants, along with the New or Renewed Covenant, which the Tanakh refers to as the Everlasting Covenant (Jer 32:40; Ezek 37:26). The latter was prophesied about by Jeremiah, and came into reality during the time of Yeshua and the apostles. It is the New Covenant that is the spiritually renewed or refreshed Torah Covenant of old that becomes a reality in the lives of born-again, spiritually regenerated believers through a spiritual relationship with Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel. Paul makes this abundantly clear as he relates the Abrahamic Covenant subsection of the Torah Covenant to the salvation of the believer in his epistle to the Romans chapter four. Paul then references the Mosaic Covenant aspect of the Torah Covenant to the life of the believer when he clearly indicates that YHVH’s Torah-law is to be the standard of righteousness for the saints (see Rom 3:31; 7:12, 14, 22; 13:8–10; Act 24:14; 25:8 compare with John 14:15 and Matt 5:19).
So the New, Renewed Covenant is a both a new and separate covenant, yet at the same time, it is a renewed or refreshed form of the Torah Covenant made up of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants. This time the covenant is sealed not with the blood of a sacrificed animal as was the case with the Mosaic Covenant (Exod 24:5–6), but with the blood of Yeshua who once and for all paid for man’s sins (Matt 26:27–28; Heb 9:26, 28; 10:10, 12). Moreover, those who come to faith in Yeshua are promised the gift of the Set-Apart Spirit to live inside of them, to write YHVH’s laws on their hearts, and to empower them to be a faithful bride and eventual wife of Yeshua as they remain faithful and obedient to him and love him by keeping his Torah-commandments (John 14:12).