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Covenant and Testament

The Greek word (pronounced) dee-ath-ay-kay means a disposition, the act or means of disposing of something, as in a will. It is variously translated as either "covenant" or "testament," which is interesting because they differ in meaning in English usage i.e. covenant means "a written agreement between two or more parties to perform some action" while testament means "a legal document declaring a person's wishes regarding the disposal of their property when they die." While the Greek word is closer in meaning to the English word "testament," the Biblical usage of it blends "covenant" and "testament" in a way that the full Scriptural meaning is only made clear by the use of both.

Covenant and Testament

Holy Bible The original Greek word is variously rendered according to a translator's preference, whether within a single version of the Bible, or in comparing versions such as the example below where the original Greek word in Mark 14:24 is translated as "covenant" in the Revised Standard Version (which was based upon the American Standard Version, which was based upon the King James Version) and "new testament" in the King James:

"And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (RSV)

"And He said unto them, This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many." (KJV)

Examples of the original Greek word dee-ath-ay-kay translated as "covenant" in the King James Version:

"But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new 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, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people" (Hebrews 8:6-10 KJV)

Examples of the same original Greek word dee-ath-ay-kay translated as "testament" or "new testament" in the King James Version:

"And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:27-28 KJV)

"Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." (2 Corinthians 3:6 KJV)

While the New Testament is about a New Covenant, the word testament is appropriate because, according to the literal meaning of testament, a death, not of calves and goats, but of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a key event of the new covenant. Again, the very same original Greek word variously translated as either covenant or testament, is here very appropriately translated as testament:

"And for this cause He is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you." (Hebrews 9:15-20 KJV)

Fact Finder: Why did there have to be a "Lamb of God"?
See Why Blood?


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