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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Testament (2)

TESTAMENT.1. The Gr. word διαθήκη, translation ‘covenant’ Luke 1:72 Authorized Version , ‘testament’ Matthew 26:28 || Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20 Authorized Version and (Revised Version margin) , is in Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 , ll. cc., uniformly ‘covenant.’ The last of these passages is bracketed by WH [Note: H Westcott and Hort’s text.] as a ‘very early interpolation.’ The word does not occur elsewhere in the Gospels. The rendering ‘covenant’ (wh. see) is unquestionably right: ‘testament’ has come from the Lat. Versions.

2. In classical literature διαθήκη denoted a will, and apparently nothing else (Ar. Av. 440, if an exception, is unique). A Greek will, however, was a settlement or trust-deed rather than a will in the Roman (i.e. the modern) sense. In it the conditions of inheritance were, indeed, in the first place at the sole discretion of the testator, but it was publicly and solemnly executed, and thereupon at once became absolute, irrevocable, and unalterable.

3. The LXX Septuagint translators adopted the word as the equivalent of the Heb. בְּרִית. The following considerations are supposed to have influenced their choice:—(a) διαθήκη represented essentially a ‘one-sided covenant,’ συνθήκη (the ordinary word) a mutual one; (b) διαθήκη was charged with religions ideas, inasmuch as the Greek will conveyed the religious institutions as well as the property of the family (cf. the similar case of the Hebrew ‘birthright’). It may possibly also have been used, in the popular spoken dialect, in a wider sense than that of a will (cf. διατίθεσθαι).

4. (a) The special reference in Luke 1:72 [= Psalms 105:8 f.?] is to the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15, 17). (b) The words of Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24 [Luke 22:20] are plainly drawn from Exodus 24:8. The addition of ‘new’ (Authorized Version , (Revised Version margin) ) in Mt. and Mk., ll.cc., has small MS authority, and is rejected in Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 text: it is due to 1 Corinthians 11:25. Yet the idea of a ‘new covenant’ had been the theme of OT prophets (cf. Jeremiah 31:31 ff. etc.), and its application to the Christian covenant was in current use among the Apostles: the ‘old’ covenant in the implied contrast was the Mosaic not the Abrahamic (2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 9:15 etc.), and the allusion to Exodus 24:8 seems tacitly to suggest the same contrast here.

Literature.—Ramsay, Hist. Com. on Galatians, p. 349 ff.; Westcott, Hebrews, p. 298 ff.; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , artt. ‘Covenant,’ ‘Testament.’

F. S. Ranken.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Testament (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/t/testament-2.html. 1906-1918.

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