The prophesied new covenant of Jeremiah 31 was enacted by Messiah Y’shua prior to his crucifixion.
Matthew 26:28 For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Mark 14:24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.
Luke 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup [is] the new
covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.
1 Corinthians 11:25 After the same manner also [he took] the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink [it], in remembrance of me.
You may have noticed I have altered each reference where in the KJV it is listed as a new testament and I have changed it to read new covenant instead. In Greek, the word diatheke is the equivalent of covenant and should be translated as such. The fact that the word is used interchangeably 33 times in the KJV as covenant and testament demonstrates it is the same word. While in our culture, there may be some legal differences between a covenant and a testament, this modern distinction should not be read back into these ancient texts.
In all of these passages above, Y’shua is clearly laying out a covenant that is somehow different than what has gone before. The word in Greek is kainos, which is typically translated as new. If this is a brand new covenant, as in one that has not existed before, then there is the possibility that Y’shua is instituting a covenant that supersedes a previous covenant.
However, there are some that maintain this covenant is not new, so much as renewed. In this sense, this renewed covenant would somehow be tied to a previous covenant that has become worn and old.
While kainos can have the flexibility to be used to describe a sense of renewal, I find that where it is used in a specific sense, it typically carries the meaning of new, as in contrast to old. Here are some examples:
Matthew 9:17 KJV – 17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new [kainos] bottles, and both are preserved.
Matthew 13:52 KJV – 52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe [which is] instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man [that is] an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure [things] new [kainos] and old.
Matthew 27:60 KJV – 60 And laid it in his own new [kainos] tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
Mark 2:21 KJV – 21 No man also seweth a piece of new [kainos] cloth on an old garment: else the new [kainos] piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.
In these few examples, the specific use of kainos is illustrating a new bottle vs. an old bottle, new treasures vs. old treasures, a new tomb (which is not something that can be renewed, as such), and a new piece of cloth vs. an old piece. These demonstrate the specific meaning of new, as in different than something that was already existing, not renewed. This is the same kainos that is used to describe the new covenant.
Additionally, there is another word for new that is also used in the Greek texts, and that would be the word neos. This word, although also translated as new, is typically used in places where the meaning younger is intended. Here are some examples of this usage:
Luke 15:13 KJV And not many days after the younger [neos] son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
John 21:18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young [neos], thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry [thee] whither thou wouldest not.
Here is an example where it is also translated as new but also conveys the idea of younger:
Luke 5:38 But new [neos] wine must be put into new [kainos] bottles; and both are preserved.
Here, Y’shua is illustrating that neos wine must be put into kainos bottles. With the idea of younger in mind for neos, this verse could read, “But younger wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.” This would more accurately convey the meaning of this text and helps to illustrate his analogy more deeply.
With these usages in mind, an interesting reference to the new covenant is conveyed in the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new [neos] covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than [that of] Abel.
Here, the covenant is not identified as kainos-new but neos-new. Based on what we have seen about he use of neos as younger, this meaning inserted into the text would cause it to read like this: “And to Jesus the mediator of the younger covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than [that of] Abel.”
If Y’shua’s covenant can be identified as younger than a previous covenant, this would strengthen the position of the meaning of kainos-new as also being new-in-time and not something that is simply renewed.
Now, having covered the concept of new, to what is Y’shua referencing when he says that he is establishing the kainos-new covenant in his blood? Either it references a new covenant that he is initiating on his own, or it could be a reference to a prophesied event that would take place at some point in history, and that time was now coming to pass. The most likely prophecy is mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah, at a time approximately six hundred years prior to Y’shua’s ministry:
Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 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 brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
This covenant that Jeremiah mentions is a new covenant, identified by the Hebrew word chadash for new. This word in Hebrew passages is typically also used for something that is new, not renewed. Could this be the new covenant that Y’shua claims to be instituting at his “last supper?”
Well, there are some parallels that would indicate this based on what the prophecy says would be taking place at that time. For example, the word chadash in Hebrew is the same as the Greek kainos, as we have seen.
Also, Jeremiah’s new covenant places the word of God, or the law, in the hearts of the people.
Romans 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, [even] in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
2 Corinthians 3:3 [Forasmuch as ye are] manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received [it] not [as] the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
1 John 2:14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
Jeremiah’s prophecy says in this new covenant, YHWH would forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more. The writer of Hebrews attributes Jeremiah’s prophetic covenant to Y’shua:
Hebrews 8:6, 12 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he [Y’shua] is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. … 12 For [in this covenant] I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Also, John writes of this forgiveness available to those who confess in faith:
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Another aspect of Jeremiah’s prophetic covenant is that they shall all know YHWH.
Mark 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all [these] things are done in parables:
John 14:7, 17 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. … 17 [Even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Hebrews 10:30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance [belongeth] unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
1 John 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, [even] in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
Finally, in Jeremiah’s prophesied new covenant, YHWH would be their God and they would be his people.
Acts 15:14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
2 Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
1 Peter 2:10 Which in time past [were] not a people, but [are] now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God.
With these and many other examples, I believe it is clear the early believers in Messiah recognized that Jeremiah’s prophesied covenant had indeed come to pass, and that Y’shua had instituted that transition to this new covenant prior to his crucifixion. This covenant was indeed new, not just renewed, and it was demonstrated to have been active and present in the lives of the early believers by the characteristics paralleling the reality that the believers lived out in that first century.
It remains to be seen that this new covenant was not made with the nations of the world, but with the houses of Israel and Judah. How this proprietary covenant comes to be effective with all nations is the topic of our next study.