NOW IF HE WERE ON EARTH HE WOULD NOT BE A PRIEST AT ALL SINCE THERE ARE THOSE WHO OFFER THE GIFTS ACCORDING TO THE LAW: ei men oun en (3SIAI) epi ges oud an en (3SIAI) hiereus onton ton prospheronton (PAPMPG) kata nomon ta dora: (Hebrews 7:11, 12, 13, 14, 15; Numbers 16:40; 17:12,13; 18:5)
Recommended Resource: For an excellent review of Hebrews 8:1-13 read Dr S Lewis Johnson (former professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary) or listen (Right Click here - download and listen on your computer or Ipod - ~61 minutes but well worth the time.) (Hebrews 8:1-13 Hebrews and the New Covenant)
The "if" in this verse introduces a second class conditional statement which expresses a contrary to fact statement (He is not a priest on earth!)
Not be a priest at all - Not just not a high priest, but not even a lesser priest. Why? For one thing the office was already filled! The Old Covenant strictly regulated all of the concerns regarding the priesthood and by this very law Christ was excluded from the priestly office because of lineage. Christ was from the Tribe of Judah, not Levi, and was not eligible under the Old Covenant (according to the Law) to be an earthly priest. On earth Jesus functioned as a "layman" and strictly speaking He performed no priestly functions in the earthly Temple. Those functions were carried out by the Aaronic priests as ordered by God in the first covenant. As discussed, Christ's priestly functions are exercised in the true Tabernacle in heaven at the right hand of the Majesty.
The Law stated the following regarding the priesthood…
King Uzziah tried to bypass God's laws and paid a dear price…
In describing the the new order (the priesthood of Melchizedek) the writer dealt with Jesus' inability to be an earthly priest in Hebrews 7 - Heb 7:11-15 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest (JESUS) to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. 13 For the One (JESUS) concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar (JUDAH). 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. 15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek,
Spurgeon - In the tabernacle everything was done according to the pattern seen in the holy mount by Moses; in the temple no sacrifice was presented but according to divine command. The whole Aaronic ritual was very impressive. The priests in their holy robes, pure white linen garments, the golden altar, candlestick, and table, the fire, the smoke, the incense; the whole thing was calculated very much to impress the mind. The first covenant provided a very magnificent service, such as never will be excelled, but for all that, costly, divinely arranged, impressive, yet it could not put away sin; and the evidence of this is found in the fact that after one day of atonement they needed another atonement next year. God set aside that first covenant. He put it away as an outworn and useless thing; and He brought in a new covenant—the covenant of grace; and in our text we see what is the tenor of it: “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts” (Jer 31:33). This is one of the most glorious promises that ever fell from the lips of infinite love. God said not, “I will come again, as I came on Sinai, and thunder at them.” No, but, “I will come in gentleness and mercy, and find a way into their hearts.” He said not, “I will take two great tables of stone, and with my finger write out my law before their eyes.” No, but, “I will put my finger upon their hearts, and there will I write my law.” He said not, “I will give promises and threatenings that shall be the safeguard of this new covenant”; but, “I will with my Spirit graciously operate upon their minds and their hearts, and so I will sweetly influence them to serve me—not for reward, nor from any servile motive, but because they know me, and they love me, and they feel it to be their delight to walk in the way of my commandments.”
WHO SERVE A COPY AND SHADOW OF THE HEAVENLY THINGS: hoitine hupodeigmati kai kai skia latreuousin (3PPAI) ton epouranion: (Hebrews 9:9,23,24; 10:1; Colossians 2:17)
Who serve - Refers to the Levitical priests.
Serve (3000) (latreuo from latris = hired servant or latron = reward, wages) means to work for reward, for hire or for pay, to be in servitude, render cultic service. Latreuo was used literally for bodily service (e.g., workers on the land, or slaves), and in the NT speaks of rendering service to God, to worship, to perform sacred services or to minister to God in a spirit of worship. This verb is one of the key words in Hebrews with 6 uses of a total of 22 NT uses (All the uses = Hebrews 8:5, 9:9, 9:14, 10:2, 12:28, 13:10)
In secular Greek latreuo meant to work for wages, then to serve without wages. It originally referred predominantly to physical work then later was used more generally.
Vine adds that latreuo, and its corresponding noun latreia, originally signified the work of a hired servant, as distinguished from the compulsory service of the slave, but in the course of time it largely lost that significance, and in its usage in Scripture the thought of adoration was added to that of free obedience.
John MacArthur explains that latreuo "might best be translated “to render respectful spiritual service.” True worship goes beyond praising God, singing hymns, or participating in a worship service. The essence of worship is living a life of obedient service to God. “Do not neglect doing good and sharing,” exhorts the writer of Hebrews, “for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). True worship involves every aspect of life. (MacArthur, J. Philippians. Chicago: Moody Press)
Latreuo can therefore convey either the idea of worship or service and frequently appears to mean both which suggests that service cannot be separated from worship.
Who serve a copy and shadow - What he is referring to here is the fact that the ministry of the Levitical was a "typical" ministry or a type (Typology = the study of types) of that which was to come. The doctrine of typology seems to be largely neglected in the modern church either because of ignorance or because of exposure to some proponents who have grossly distorted this interpretative method. Some may have heard such fanciful typological interpretations, that they automatically tend to shy away at any mention of the word type or typology (I was once in this group, primarily because of ignorance).
Smith agrees lamenting that…
Dr S Lewis Johnson defines typology as
I like Bob Smith's definition of type…
The essential components of typology include…
And so here the writer of Hebrews is referring to the temporary tabernacle which prefigured an eternal, heavenly tabernacle. The tabernacle passed away, but the truth it was meant to teach endures and this subject will be explained in more detail in Hebrews 9.
These Old Testament pictures and types were like a child's picture book, but these pictures did serve a purpose for they pointed ultimately to the real, eternal heavenly things. In Colossians Paul gives us a good "application" in light of this truth concerning what is really "real"…
Copy (5262) (hupodeigma from hupo = under + deiknúo/deíknumi = to show, to point to something, to make known the character or significance of something) means literally that which is shown below. It means an example, pattern, illustration. It refers to a sign suggestive of anything, an outline, a delineation, a suggestion.
Here hupodeigma is used as a representative copy or likeness of the original and/or genuine. What Moses saw on the mountain was the original, and the constructed tabernacle [and the furnishings] the copy which reflected the original, as well as the model which pointed to the original.
Barclay writes that hupodeigma means…
Vine writes that hupodeigma signifies…
Richards notes that…
Here are the other NT uses of hupodeigma…
What did the patience or endurance of the prophets demonstrate? They serve as an example of the perseverance of the saints demonstrating that it is possible to endure to the end (in His power not our power).
Skia is used of a literal shadow (the shape cast by an object as it blocks rays of light) in Acts 5:15 and of literal shade in Mark 4:32 (Here skia refers to the shelter from light and any heat associated with it), but the other 5 NT uses are figurative. Two uses describe the "shadow" of death, that sphere of existence which of men in which they are alienated from God (Mt 4:16, Lk 1:79) and into which Messiah comes as the Light of the world. Poetically the OT Septuagint (see below) speaks of the sheltering shadow of God's wings. Other OT uses speak of human transitoriness (see examples below from Job and the Psalms). The Jewish historian Josephus uses skia to in his description of a besieged city in Jewish War 6.194 where only the shadow of food seemed to be available.
Wuest paraphrases Expositor's Greek Testament which explains that skia in this verse is ""an adumbration (imperfect portrayal or representation of a thing) of a reality which it does not embody." A shadow has no substance in itself. It has no independent existence. It merely is proof of the fact that there is a reality back of it. It is not itself solid or real. Just so, the earthly tabernacle gave proof of the fact that there was a real one, the heavenly one where God Himself dwelt, where Messiah officiates as High Priest. The Aaronic priests performed their priestly rites in the representation of the heavenly tabernacle. (Hebrews 8 Commentary)
The point is that the Mosaic covenant including the institutions of the priesthood and the tabernacle were pale shadows of the "light" and substance that Christ would bring.
Jewish Rabbis used skia literally but also compared human life to the shadow of a flying bird. The rabbis gave advice that it is better to eat simply and sit in the shade than to eat dainties and be exposed to creditors.
The figurative uses of skia in Colossians and Hebrews describe a mere representation of something that is real. In this figurative use Old Testament historical truths were like shadows cast by those objects (truths) and which represented the form or substance of that truth. Or stated another way, the OT truth was the type which foreshadowed the NT fulfillment, the antitype (see discussion of Typology - Study of Biblical types, rationale, cautions, guidelines, contrasts with allegory)
The Aaronic priesthood, and its associated ceremonies and rituals were only a pale shadow of the things Christ would bring. They were form without substance.
NIDNTT writes that in Classical Greek skia has…
There are 7 uses of skia in the NT…
There are 43 uses of skia in the Septuagint (LXX) (Judges 9:15, 36; 2 Ki. 20:9ff; 1Chr. 29:15; Job 3:5; 7:2; 8:9; 12:22; 14:2; 15:29; 16:16; 24:17; 28:3; Ps. 23:4; 44:19; 57:1; 80:10; 88:6; 102:11; 107:10, 14; 109:23; 144:4; Eccl. 6:12; 7:12; 8:13; Song 2:3, 17; 4:6; Is 4:6; 9:2; 38:8; 51:16; Jer. 6:4; 13:16; Lam. 4:20; Ezek. 17:23; 31:6; Amos 5:8; Jonah 4:5,6) Here are some representative uses of skia in the Septuagint. One of the more famous uses of "shadows" in history is recorded in 2 Kings…
To emphasize the more excellent ministry of Messiah, the concept of a copy and shadow is repeated throughout this section…
JUST AS MOSES WAS WARNED WHEN HE WAS ABOUT TO ERECT THE TABERNACLE SEE HE SAYS THAT YOU MAKE ALL THINGS ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN: kechrematistai (3SRPI) Mouses mellon (PAPMSN) epitelein (PAN) ten skenen hora (2SPAM) gar phesin (3SPAI) poieseis (2SFAI) panta kata ton tupon ton deichthenta (APPMSA) soi en to horei:
How important is this divine instruction in the Lord's mind? God devotes some 50 chapters to construction of the TABERNACLE and only 2 to the CREATION STORY (although of course there are mentions of creation elsewhere in individual verses).
Warned (5537) (chrematizo from chrema = an affair, business) originally meant to transact business, to advise or to give answer to those asking advice and so to give a response to those who consult an oracle. Then it meant to give a divine command or in the passive to be commanded. Stated another way, chrematizo means to impart a divine message or make known a divine warning by giving a message.
The writer quotes from the Old Testament…
In Exodus 25, the warning to follow the pattern was given in the midst of minute instructions about the ark, the table, the lampstand, and the size, shape and materials specified to build the Tabernacle.
According to the pattern - Specifically how this pattern was communicated or what exactly was shown to Moses is not stated in Scripture, so it is best not to speculate as did the Jewish rabbis who postulated ideas like the following…
Other Rabbis added the groundless speculation that Gabriel in a workman's apron showed Moses how to reproduce the articles he was shown!
Pattern (5179)(tupos from túpto = strike, smite with repeated strokes) literally refers to a visible mark or impression made by a stroke or blow from an instrument or object. What is left after the stroke or blow is called a print, a figure or an impression. For example, the most famous reference to a literal mark (tupos) is when Thomas doubted Jesus' resurrection from the dead declaring
Stated another way tupos properly means a model, pattern or mold into which clay or wax was pressed (or molds into which molten metal for castings was poured), that it might take the figure or exact shape of the mold. Our English word type is similar and originally referred to an impression made by a die as that which is struck.
Tupos also came to be used figuratively of a pattern, mold, model, or copy of the original of something, whether a physical object, such as a statute, or a principle or virtue. Thus in a technical sense tupos is the pattern in conformity to which a thing must be made. In an ethical sense, tupos is a dissuasive (tending to dissuade) example, a pattern of warning or an example to be imitated, this last meaning being seen in Paul's charge to Timothy to…
Type is used to denote a resemblance between something present and something future. For example, in Romans 5:14 (see note), tupos prefigures a future person in this case Adam being called a type of Jesus Christ, each of the two having exercised a preeminent influence upon the human race (the former destructive, the latter, saving) Adam’s act had universal impact and was a type of Christ’s act, which also has universal impact. The point of similarity between Adam and Christ is that what each did affected many others. Each communicated what belonged to him to those he represented.
BUT NOW HE HAS OBTAINED A MORE EXCELLENT MINISTRY: nuni de diaphoroteras tetuchen (3SRAI) leitourgias: (Hebrews 8:7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13; 2Cor 3:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)
But now - Introduces a contrast - whenever you encounter a contrast in your reading, pause to ponder what the author is contrasting. In so doing you are in effect practicing the blessed discipline of meditation on the Scripture (cp Josh 1:8-note, Ps 1:2-note, Ps 1:3-note). Most observers favor this contrast as a reference to the quality of priestly ministry -- the ministry of Jesus is "differing" or "more excellent" than the Levitical priestly ministry.
Vincent for example writes that the particle now (nun) in this context "is logical: as the case now stands. The statement of Hebrew 8:4 is taken up. “If he were on earth he could not be a priest,” etc., but now, since Christ is a priest, and must have a sanctuary and an offering, He has a more excellent ministry.
Spurgeon - The old covenant, the old ceremonial law, the old spirit of bondage, and the whole of the old leaven Jesus has purged out of the house, and He has admitted to a new dispensation wherein grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life.
Wuest (Hebrews 8 Commentary) observes that Hebrews 8:6 "is a pivotal verse in the epistle. It closes the first major argument. The book was written to prove the following proposition: The New Testament in Jesus’ blood is superior to and takes the place of the First Testament in animal blood. The writer has proved this to be true on the basis of pure logic and the Old Testament Scriptures. Using the logical argument that a superior workman turns out a superior product, he has shown that Messiah, the Founder of the New Testament is better than the founders of the First Testament, who were the prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua, and Aaron. Therefore, the testament He brought in is superior to and takes the place of theirs. In the light of this, we can better understand the words "but now he has obtained a more excellent ministry..."
Expositor's Greek Testament agrees noting that "the ministry being a part of the work of mediating the better covenant, it must participate in the superior excellence of that covenant. And the superiority of the covenant consists in this that it has been legally based on better promises… what these better promises are he shows us in Hebrews 8:8-12.
Has obtained (5177) (tugchano probably from tucho = the idea of effecting) properly "hit" as of hitting a mark and comes to be used in the sense hit upon, light upon, and thence obtain, as in this use. It also conveys the sense of to experience something.
Note that the perfect tense of has obtained speaks of a past completed action with present ongoing effect/benefit, emphasizing Jesus' continual/permanent possession of this ministry. He will forever be our great High Priest! This is indeed good news for sinners.
More excellent ministry - Referring to the ministry of the heavenly sanctuary. And what do priest do? They offer sacrifices, even as do believers as "believer priests" do today, the writer of Hebrews explaining that…
Our sacrifices of course have no atoning value, for Christ's sacrifice of Himself was sufficient for all time.
More excellent (1313) (diaphoros from diaphéro = be different, superior from dia = through + phero = bear/carry) is from the idea of carrying different ways and then means that which is different or unlike and as in the present context means more excellent (the comparative of diaphoros), distinguished or remarkable.
In Hebrews 1 diaphoros was used to compare Jesus to the angels, the writer explaining that Jesus has…
Ministry (3009) (leitourgia from leitourgos = public servant) was a public service or office, such as in Athens and elsewhere, administered by the citizens at their own expense as a part of the system of finance. In the NT, leitourgia referred to service or ministry as of the public ministrations of the Jewish priesthood.
Leitourgia is regularly used in Septuagint (LXX) of the service of priests, particularly their service at the altar (Nu 16:9; 18:4, 6; 1Chr 9:13, 19, 28; 2Chr 31:4; 35:16) Thus writer's use of this word in a sense shows how Jesus' Priesthood was the reality the shadow had been pointing to for centuries.
Messiah has a more excellent ministry than that of the Aaronic priests.
BY AS MUCH AS HE IS ALSO THE MEDIATOR OF A BETTER COVENANT WHICH HAS BEEN ENACTED ON BETTER PROMISES: kai kreittonos estin (3SPAI) diathekes mesites etis epi kreittosin epaggeliais nenomothethtai (3SRPI): (Hebrews 7:22; 12:24; Galatians 3:19,20) (Hebrews 7:22; 9:15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20) (Hebrews 8:10, 11, 12; Romans 9:4; Galatians 3:16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21; Titus 1:2; 2Peter 1:4)
More excellent… better - Observe that there are three contrasts between the old and new orders, the new order possessing…
Mediator (3316) (mesites from mésos = middle, in midst) is one who stands in the middle between two people and brings them together. It is basically a neutral and trusted person in middle (mesos), a so called "middle Man" (arbitrator). It is one who works to remove disagreement and thus serves as a mediator, go-between or reconciler.
Three of the five NT uses of mesites are in Hebrews…
Notice that these passages substitute new covenant for better covenant as in the present passage.
In short, Jesus is the Mediator, the One Who stands between men and God to bring them together on the basis of the New Covenant. He will quote from Jeremiah 31 which describes the New Covenant, which is God's new arrangement for those who enter that covenant to live and which our better high priest mediates and guarantees (see note Hebrews 7:22).
Paul uses mesites in the three other NT occurrences (total of 6)…
There is one use of mesites in the Septuagint…
Wuest explains that a mediator "refers to one who intervenes between two, either to make or restore peace and friendship, to form a compact, or to ratify a covenant. Here the Messiah acts as a go-between or Mediator between a holy God and sinful man. By His death on the Cross, He removes the obstacle, sin, which caused an estrangement between man and God. When the sinner accepts the merits of Messiah’s sacrifice, the guilt and penalty of his sin is his no more, the power of sin in his life is broken, he becomes the recipient of the divine nature, and the estrangement between himself and God, both legal and personal, disappears. Messiah became the Mediator not only in order that He might pay the penalty of sinners who live since the Cross, but also that He might do so for those who lived before the Cross (Ed note: As indicated by the phrase "the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant" in Hebrews 9:15 [see note]; Thus Job's cry for an "umpire" was answered!). Sinners who were saved under the First Testament were actually saved, not by it or by any sacrifice offered under its jurisdiction, but through the atoning work of Messiah under the New Testament. (Ed note: They were saved by faith in the gospel just as Abraham was - cf Gal 3:8, Genesis 12:3, 15:6). (Hebrews 8 Commentary)
Has been enacted (3549) (nomotheteo from nomos = a law + títhemi = to put, set; cp nomothetes = "lawgiver" referring to God) is literally to put a law and means to enact laws, make laws, give laws or establish as law (legislate).
In the passive voice it means -- laws are enacted or prescribed for one, to be legislated for, furnished with laws.
TDNT writes that…
The only other NT use of nomotheteo is in Hebrews…
There are 9 uses of nomotheteo in the Lxx (Ex 24:12; Deut 17:10; Ps. 25:8, 12; 27:11; 84:6; 119:33, 102, 104) and in most of these uses this word carries the sense of to instruct or to teach
Better covenant… better promises - Clearly the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant, because the New Covenant has better promises than the Old Covenant.
What are those better promises? Jeremiah summarizes them as (1) An inner understanding of God's laws which are God will put in their minds and write on their hearts; (2) An intimate relationship with God for they shall be His people and all shall know Him form the least to the greatest; (3) Mercy for their iniquities so that their sins will absolutely not be remembered by Him (which equates with forgiveness of all sins).
Vincent observes that "Both here and in the following chapter, the ideas of the sanctuary and the covenant are closely united. God’s covenant was embodied in the sanctuary. The ark was “the ark of the covenant”; the tables of the law were “the tables of the covenant.” The essence of a covenant is the establishment of a relationship. The sanctuary was the meeting-place of God and man. The ritual of sacrifice adjusted the sinner’s relation to a holy God. All the furniture and all the ordinances of the tabernacle assumed the covenant between God and His people. Thus the two ideas belong together. The minister of the Levitical sanctuary was the mediator of the old covenant. A new covenant implies a new ministry, a better covenant implies a better ministry. Christ’s priesthood implies a sanctuary. The new sanctuary implies a new covenant. This covenant is a better covenant because it was established upon better promises (Hebrews 8: Word Studies)
Note that covenant is such a vitally important word in the Old and New Testaments that the following word study will attempt to only mention the highlights. For a more thorough discussion of covenant, including rituals associated with covenant, practical implications of covenant (including the marriage covenant), etc see…
Covenant (1242) (diatheke from diatithemi = set out in order, dispose in a certain order <> from dia = two + tithemi = to place pictures that which is placed between two Thus, a covenant is something placed between two = thus an arrangement between two parties) literally conveys the idea of a testament, as in one's last will and testament.
Remember that there were 3 unconditional covenants in the Old Testament, the Abrahamic (which is the basis on which we are saved today), the Palestinian and the Davidic covenants. The question might arise as to how or on what grounds will God fulfill the Abrahamic and Davidic covenant?
Dr Johnson explains that these questions…
A covenant is an agreement between two parties that binds them together and conveys the associated ideas of very close fellowship (even oneness and identity as for example in the marriage covenant where two mystically become one flesh).
Cleon Rogers describes covenant in the ancient world as…
The 3 major meanings of diatheke in the NT can be summarized as…
Diatheke was commonly used in the Greco-Roman world to define a legal transaction in settling an inheritance (used in this sense in Hebrews 9:16; 9:17) which we often refer to as one's last will and testament. In this sense it referred to the disposition which a person made of his property in prospect of death.
Vine - Etymologically considered the (English) word covenant is formed from two others meaning “coming together,” and thus describes a mutual undertaking between two or more parties who severally make themselves responsible for the discharge of certain obligations. But the Greek word diatheke, from which it is translated, does not in itself contain the idea of joint obligation, it means rather an obligation undertaken by one alone. (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
NIDNTT adds that in classical Greek usage diatheke…
Covenant has profound implications and is the most solemn, binding, intimate contract known in the Bible. Covenant was considered a binding agreement among the ancients, and so was not entered into lightly. After pieces of the sacrificial animal were laid opposite one another, the individuals who were cutting covenant would walk between the flesh. This walk represented the so-called walk into death indicating their commitment to die to independent living and to ever after live for their covenant partner and to fulfill the stipulations of their covenant (See this practice in Jer 34:8ff, esp Jer 34:18-19). Furthermore, this walk into death was a testimony by each covenant partner that if either broke the covenant God would take their life, even as had been done to the sacrificial animal. In short, we see the gravity of entering into and then breaking covenant. Covenant was a pledge to death. A pledge cut in blood. In covenant the shedding of blood demonstrated as nothing else could the intensity of the commitment. By cutting covenant the two parties were bound for life. Thus the shedding of blood in the cutting of covenant established the gravity and binding nature of this transaction. Both the Old and the New Covenants were inaugurated with blood. The practice of cutting covenant is found throughout history with traces or remnants of covenant truth in every quarter of the globe. (See Introduction to Covenant and Summary of Major Biblical Covenants)
As noted, most of the NT uses of diatheke refer to God's declaration of His will concerning His self-commitment, promises, and conditions by which he entered into relationship with man.
Diatheke denotes an irrevocable decision, which cannot be cancelled by anyone. A prerequisite of its effectiveness before the law is the death of the disposer and thus diatheke was like a "final will and testament".
In reference to the divine covenants, such as the Abrahamic covenant, diatheke is not a covenant in the sense that God came to agreement or compromise with fallen man as if signing a contract. Rather, it involves declaration of God’s unconditional promise to make Abraham and his seed the recipients of certain blessings.
All covenants are based on promises. Sometimes the promises are by only one party, sometimes by both. Sometimes the promises are conditional, sometimes they are not. But promises are always involved. As far as God’s covenants are concerned, it is always His promises that are significant. Men break their promises, God does not. The benefits and the power are always from God’s side, and therefore the significant promises are always from His side. Consequently, it is God’s promises in the New Covenant that here are called “better.”
Here are some general aspects of covenant as recorded in Scripture
In our modern society and even in the evangelical church, we have for the most part forgotten the profound significance of covenant in Scripture. Yes, we can recite the covenants but few understand the symbolism and seriousness of Biblical covenants which were the closest, most indissoluble union two parties could make. Today we make "covenants" with fine print that allows one to "get out" of the agreement with relative ease. Take for example the sacred marriage covenant, which has all but lost its holy character in society in general (some are even talking of doing away with this covenant, and many are living together without marrying which in effect is an abolition of this covenant. See Covenant: As It Relates to Marriage) and tragically even in the evangelical church where surveys show divorce rates as high as among non-believers!
Andrew Murray, the gifted nineteen century writer emphasizes the importance of more than a superficial understanding of covenant writing… :
The covenant between Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 18 highlights the seriousness of covenant as it was understood by the ancients (see discussion of Covenant - Solemn and Binding and A Walk Into Death). When covenant was cut, there was a surrender of rights and a merger of individual natures, so that the two became one, signifying a oneness and identity with the other party. As a result of this oneness and identity each party became the other party's covenant defender. For more background on these profound concepts see Covenant -The Exchange of Robes and Exchange of Armor and Belts. The idea of two becoming one (cp the mystical union of marriage in Genesis 2:24) has several aspects including the co-mingling of blood, the sharing of a common life, the exchange of names, the sharing of a meal, the idea of friendship and the establishment of a memorial (eg, wedding rings, Lord's Supper "Do this in remembrance of Me"!). For a more thorough discussion the reader is encouraged to study the topics The Oneness of Covenant and Covenant: Oneness Notes. Finally, we would be remiss if we did not emphasize that covenant conveyed responsibilities (see Covenant: Withholding Nothing from God). Finally, Scripture says "let the redeemed of the Lord say so" and my personal testimony is that as I began to study covenant, God used these profound truths to literally (and supernaturally) save my marriage covenant of 25 years (and 15 years as a believer). I firmly believe that if the truths of covenant were understood in churches across America, divorce rates would be drastically, supernaturally reduced as these truths transformed husbands and wives. (see Covenant: As It Relates to Marriage).
Without question the best way to truly understand covenant in the way I have attempted to summarize it, is to study these Biblical truths for one's self. And the best course available is the 11 week course of Covenant (click to download 20 page Pdf of Lesson 1 - the overview) produced by Precept Ministries International. This study will transform your life, your marriage, and your ministry. As one of my old medical school professors used to say "you can't not know" these truth about covenant. They are too important. Consider the fact for example that the Greek titles of the Scriptures are the “Old Covenant” and the “New Covenant” and our English word “Testament” is taken from the titles prefixed to the Latin versions. Covenant is what the entire Bible is about beloved. You can't not know!
Diatheke is used over 330 times in Septuagint (LXX) most often (some 270 times) to translate the Hebrew word Beriyth (01285). See the excellent ISBE article Covenant In The Old Testament. As discussed elsewhere, the ordinary Greek word for a compact was syntheke but this term was avoided by the Septuagint translators because it suggested the equal rank of the two parties, whereas the OT Beriyth is used for "a relationship between God and man graciously created by God, and only accepted by man".
Here are the NT uses of diatheke, all translated as covenant… (See the ISBE article Covenant, The New)
The choice of diatheke, rather than suntheke, which is the common word for covenant, is no doubt deliberate. Suntheke was the common word in the OT for agreements and for covenants and usually implied that the parties to the covenant contracted on equal terms. Suntheke referred to covenants in which the two parties had obligations. Diatheke in ancient times generally referred to a man's will (or so-called last "will and testament"). A man's will is not something that depends on the obligations on the part of two people. In other words we don't think of the one who receives the benefits as an obligation. It is a benefit and something you receive by the will of the person who had died and convey something to the recipient. As already alluded to the more common word suntheke is passed over when we come to the New Covenant, which stresses that the New Covenant is one in which only one person has obligation and that is the Lord God. It is an unconditional covenant, a one way disposition of the benefits which the Lord Jesus Christ has won for us. When God enters into this covenant He disposes everything, as a man disposes of his property by making a will. Clearly, this points to the truth that it is a covenant of grace!
Barclay adds that…
Enacted (3549) (nomotheteo from nómos = law + títhemi = to put, set) means to legislate, to make or give laws, establish as law. The perfect tense indicates these better promises were enacted at point in time and remain in effect.
Upon (epi) - Upon the basis of better promises. At every point Christianity is seen to be better than Judaism.
Better promises - The chief of the better promises is forgiveness of sins.
Promises (1860) (epaggelia from epí = intensifies verbal meaning + aggéllo = to tell, declare) originally referred to an announcement or declaration (especially of a favorable message) but in later Greek came to mean a declaration to do something with the implication of obligation to carry out what is stated (thus a promise or pledge). Epaggelia was primarily a legal term denoting summons, a promise to do or give something, but in the NT speaks primarily of the promises of God.
Epaggelia is used in Hebrews 14 times in 13 verses (27.4% of all 51 NT uses) (See notes Hebrews 4:1, Hebrews 6:12, 6:15, 6:17, Hebrews 7:6, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 10:36, Hebrews 11:9, 11:13, 11:17, 11:33, 11:39)
TDNT summarizes this word group writing that it has the following nuances - a. The first sense is “to indicate,” “declare,” “declaration,” “report.” b. When the state declares something, it becomes an “order.” c. In law we find the senses “accusation” and “delivery of a judgment.” d. We then find the senses “to declare an achievement,” “to show one's mastery,” “to profess a subject.” e. Another sense is “to offer,” “to promise,” “to vow.” As regards promises, tension between word and deed is felt, so that promises are often seen as worthless. f. A special type of promise is the “promise of money,” and in this sense the idea of a “subscription” or “donation” arises (state liturgies, gifts to rulers at their accession, priests promising gifts in support of their candidature). g. In the Hellenistic period we also find a sacral use for the “proclamation” of a festival. Among all the instances, only one example has been found for the promise of a deity. (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)
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A Better Way - We are always looking for better ways to do things. We have faster computers, more efficient cars, and better-sounding compact disc players--vast improvements over the abacus, the Model-T, and the Victrola. God is the originator of the better way. The author of Hebrews said that animal sacrifices were only a "shadow of the heavenly things" of which Christ and His death on the cross are the reality (Heb 8:5; 9:11-15).
Before Jesus came, people waited for the annual Day of Atonement, when the high priest entered the Most Holy Place. The Jews call this special day Yom Kippur. In that awe-inspiring place where the ark of the covenant was located, the High Priest offered the blood of animals on behalf of himself and the Israelites. When Jesus Christ came to earth, something better was revealed. He Himself became our High Priest by sacrificing His life and shedding His blood to atone for our sins. Now, when we accept His gift of forgiveness, we can rejoice that the penalty of our sins has been paid and our guilt removed. Salvation through Messiah Jesus is the only way we can be forgiven and have fellowship with God. Have you found this better way? --J D Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus. --Lowry
Christ's sacrifice is exactly
what God desired and our sin required