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Christians believe that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, for example Hebrews 8:6. Depicted is his famous Sermon on the Mount in which he commented on the Law. Some scholars (see Antithesis of the Law) consider this to be an antitype of the proclamation of the Ten Commandments or Mosaic Covenant by Moses from the Biblical Mount Sinai.[1]

The term New Covenant (Hebrew: About this sound ברית חדשה, berit ḥadasha  ; Greek: διαθήκη καινή, diathēkē kainē) is used in the Bible (both in the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament) to refer to an epochal relationship of restoration and peace following a period of trial and judgment. As are all covenants between God and man described in the Bible, it is "a bond in blood sovereignly administered by God." [2]

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The only reference in the Hebrew Bible that uses the wording "new covenant" is Jeremiah 31:31-34,[3] but there are many other passages that speak about the same epochal relationship without using this exact wording. Some passages speak of a "covenant of peace," others use other constructions; some simply say "covenant," but in context it is clearly the New Covenant at issue; and some use metaphorical descriptions, like "Mount Zion," referring to the New Covenant. The key text at issue here is quoted in full in Hebrews 8:8-12[4] in the New Testament, with an interpretation in the surrounding text. That full quotation, with partial quotations of the same text in other New Testament passages, reflects that the authors of the New Testament and Christian leaders generally, consider Jeremiah 31:31-34 to be a central Old Testament prophecy of the New Covenant. Here is the key text:

"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: 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: 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. 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."Jeremiah 31:31-34

The 1988 New JPS version of Jeremiah 31:34 is:

No longer will they need to teach one another and say to one another, "Heed the LORD;" for all of them, from the least of them to the greatest, shall heed Me—declares the LORD. ...


Based on a general, non-denominational, non-interpretive, reading of the text of Jeremiah 31:31-34, the following points are discernible:

  • The New Covenant is established by God himself.[5]
  • The New Covenant is made with the "house of Israel" and the "house of Judah".[6]
  • The New Covenant is not like the broken covenant made with Moses at Mount Sinai.
    • Unlike the broken covenant (Jer 11), the New Covenant is kept by its members.[7]
  • Characteristics of the members of the New Covenant:[8]
    • The law of God is written in their thinking and their affections.
    • The LORD, i.e. YHVH, will be their God, and they will be his people.[9]
    • Every single member of the New Covenant "knows the LORD" in an intimate way.[10]
    • The sins of the members of the New Covenant are forgiven by God, and will never be recalled.

New Testament texts

In English translations of the Greek New Testament, the use of the phrase "New Covenant" varies, however, for example, it occurs in the NIV translation at Luke 22:20,[11] 1 Corinthians 11:25,[12] 2 Corinthians 3:6,[13] Hebrews 8:8,[14] Hebrews 9:15,[15] and Hebrews 12:24[16] as a translation of some form of διαθήκη[17] and καινός [18] or νέας.[19] Luke 22:17-20 is disputed, six forms of the text have been identified, for example the Western text-type such as Codex Bezae omit verses 19b-20, see Bruce M. Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament for details.



The Jewish view of the New Covenant is no more than a renewed national commitment to abide by God's laws. In this view, the word new does not refer to commitment that replaces a previous one, but rather to an additional and greater level of commitment.[20] Because Jews view the Sinaitic covenant as applying only to Jews and any New Covenant merely a strengthening of the already existing one, Jews do not see this phrase as relevant in any way to non-Jews. For non-Jews, Judaism advocates the Seven Laws of Noah. See also Jewish eschatology.


The Christian view of the New Covenant is a new relationship between God and humans mediated by Jesus which necessarily includes all people, both Jews (See the Gospel according to the Hebrews) and Gentiles, in order to bring about the type of global peace and obedience to God expected in the era of the Jewish Messiah.[21] The New Covenant also breaks the generational curse of physical death on all children of Adam who accept it as offered by Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles, causing death to be swallowed up forever (Isaiah 25:8) after people are judged for their own sins, which is also expected to happen with the arrival of the Jewish Messiah (see also Eternal life).[22]

"In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. 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:"Jeremiah 31:29-31 KJV [23]

Thus as the Apostle Paul states that the Old Covenant of Sinai does not in itself prevent Jews from sinning and dying,[24] and is not given to Gentiles at all, Christians believe the New Covenant ends sin and death for everyone who accepts it and cannot simply be a renewal of the Mosaic Covenant since it accomplishes much more. See also Types of Supersessionism.

Also based much on what Paul wrote, a dispensationalist Christian view of the nature of Israel is that it is primarily a spiritual nation composed of Jews who claim Jesus as their Messiah, as well as Gentile believers who through the New Covenant have been grafted into the promises made to Israelites. This spiritual Israel is based on the faith of the patriarch Abraham (before he was circumcised[25]) who was ministered by the Melchizedek priesthood, which is understood to be a type for the Christian faith of believing Jesus to be Christ and Lord in the order of Melchizedek. The Apostle Paul says that "it is not the children of the flesh (i.e. the natural descendants of Abraham), who are the Children of God, but the children of the promise (i.e. the spiritual descendants of Abraham)."

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they [are] not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, [are they] all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these [are] not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.Romans 9:6-8 KJV [26]


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Among Christians, there are significant differences on the question of membership in the New Covenant. These differences can be so serious that they form a principal reason for division i.e., denominationalism. Christian denominations exist because of their answer to this question. The first major split is between those that believe that only believers are members of the New Covenant, the credobaptist view, and those that believe that believers and their children[27] are members of the New Covenant, the paedobaptist view. Secondarily, there are differences among paedobaptists as to the nature of the membership of children in the covenant.

Knowledge of God

Another difference is between those who believe the New Covenant has already substantially arrived, see also Preterism, and that this knowledge of God that the member of the New Covenant has is primarily salvific knowledge; and those that believe that the New Covenant has not yet substantially arrived, but will in the Second Coming, and that this knowledge is more complete knowledge, meaning a member of the New Covenant no longer has to be taught anything. This division does not just break down along Jewish v. Christian lines (as the previous difference did). In general, those that are more likely to lean toward the "already view", or salvific knowledge view, are those Christians that do not believe in the indivisible Church (e.g. Roman Catholics), and Christians that practice believer's baptism, because both believe the New Covenant is more present reality than future reality. Also in general, those that lean toward the "not yet view", or complete knowledge view, are Jews, and Christians that practice infant baptism for covenantal reasons, and Dispensationalistic Christians (even though they tend to practice believer's baptism), because they believe the New Covenant is more future reality than present reality.

Gift of the Spirit

When the Lord had established the Covenant, He sealed the benefits to His followers by baptism. The New Covenant is accomplished by the pouring of the Spirit in man (Isaiah 59:21).[28] This is called the gift of the spirit (Acts 2:38) . John the Baptist said Jesus would baptize with holy spirit. (Matthew 3:11) .[29] To be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ is a spiritual baptism where the person is immersed with holy spirit from God (John 14:17).[30]

There are nine manifestations of the gift of holy spirit: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healings, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues. Nine are listed, no more, no less.[31]

Metaphorically, fruit of the spirit is listed in Galatians 5:22, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.[32] Holy spirit cannot be seen by the five senses being in substance as immaterial,[33] but the fruit of it can be seen in the Christian's life. The believer is re-created after the image of God and loves God and can therefore love his brother.[34]

The requirement of the Law can be fulfilled according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4). The Law of God can be carved in the human mind through the Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27). The man then delights in the law of God after the inward man (Romans 7:22). He is re-made after the pattern of Christ who had no sin and could say, ‘yea, thy law is within my heart’ (Psalm 40:8).[35]

Kingdom of God

The New Covenant and the Kingdom of God are two very related concepts. So much so, that they are often considered interchangeable synonyms. While Jesus was much more likely to refer to the Kingdom of God (perhaps his favorite topic, as understood from the New Testament), he was not unknown to refer to the New Covenant. In the following passage reported by Luke, Jesus uses both terms to refer to the very same upcoming event, his death and resurrection, being represented in the Last Supper.

And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide [it] among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake [it], and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup [is] the new testament [i.e. new covenant] in my blood, which is shed for you. But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me [is] with me on the table. And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing.Luke 22:14-23 KJV [36]

John the Evangelist recorded Jesus as saying:

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.John 18:36 KJV

Luke the Evangelist recorded Jesus as saying:

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.Luke 17:20-21 KJV



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Marc Zvi Brettler in his book, How To Read the Bible,[37] argues that:

This prophecy offers a radical solution to this dilemma: "a new covenant" (v.31). The text gives no sign that this covenant will be new in content. Rather, God will now "put" and "inscribe" it inside the people themselves (v.33). In other words, they will be preprogrammed with the covenant (as firmware, in the parlance of computers), unable to break it. As a result, there will be no more need for the prophets to harangue the people (v.34). Stated differently, God will take away free choice from Israel. They will automatically abide by God's wishes, assuring divine blessing. The exile will not recur because Israel will not sin again-it cannot. Only in this way will the people's special relationship with God be established as a lasting fact (v.33). (pp.180-81)

From Brettler's analysis, it is deduced that the New Covenant in Jeremiah is a continuation of the Mosaic Law, rather than introducing new content. Thus, the only way that Jeremiah's New Covenant differs from the covenant at Sinai is that the Israelites are not going to be given the choice of following it or not, they will be forced to. This conclusion reflects one of several views on the debated topic of Free will in theology. This view has been largely discredited by modern theologians.

A relatively small group of Christians, such as members of the Sacred Name Movement begun in the United States in the 1930s, consider themselves bound to practice some or all of the mitzvot of Mosaic Law and other Jewish customs. This can, for example, include keeping the kosher dietary laws.

See also


  1. "Sermon on the Mount." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  2. This definition of covenant is from O. Palmer Robertson's book The Christ of the Covenants. It has become an accepted definition among modern scholars. See this summary of his book by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon.
  3. Jeremiah 31:31-34
  4. Hebrews 8:8-12
  5. The New Covenant is clearly a future event from the point of view of the prophet Jeremiah. Judaism still ascribes it to the future. Christianity ascribes at least its inauguration to the time of Jesus, particularly ten days after his Ascension on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:1-42.
  6. Understanding who is a member of the "house of Israel" is at the core of the difference between a Jewish and a Christian understanding of this prophecy. See Different Views of the New Covenant.
  7. Indeed, this is the very stated purpose of the New Covenant. This, unbroken, nature, of the New Covenant is understood by both Jewish and Christian scholars. (a very anti-Christian pro-Jewish site) makes this point in their commentary on Jeremiah 31:31-34, maintaining that Christians do not understand this truth because Christians are claiming the advent of the New Covenant has already occurred with the death of Jesus, and yet they still do missionary work, though the prophecy entails universal knowledge of God. The difference is explained in the differing understandings of who Israel is, and therefore who the recipients of the New Covenant are. The difference is also related to the "already and not yet" principle in Christian theology, see also Kingdom of God. See these sections in this article on these topics.
  8. These characteristics of the New Covenant's members are the content of the covenant. The New Covenant is changed hearts and minds, etc.
  9. A four-letter word, Y (yodh) H (heh) V (vav) H (heh), is the covenantal name of the God of the Bible. It is a Hebrew word. The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, translates YHVH as kurios, which means Lord in English. The New Testament does the same. The New Testament also ascribes the name to Jesus, who most Christians believe is YHVH incarnate. See Romans 10:5-13, where the name YHVH from the quoted passage in Joel 2:32 (quoted in Romans 10:13) is equated with Jesus Christ.
  10. Why "intimate" knowledge? Even beyond a word-study of the Hebrew word translated "know" (which does suggest intimate knowledge, see also Strong's H03045), simple context of this very passage shows that the knowledge in reference cannot be bare knowledge of God's existence, or something similar. To "know" God in Jeremiah (as in all the prophets) is primarily about obedience to him in the covenant (e.g. Jer. 22:16). So, again, the new covenant is a promise of covenantal fidelity: the very thing lacking among the people in the view of the prophet Jeremiah.,
  11. Luke 22:20
  12. 1 Corinthians 11:25
  13. 2 Corinthians 3:6
  14. Hebrews 8:8
  15. 9:15
  16. 12:24
  17. Strong's G1242
  18. Strong's G2537
  19. Strong's G3501
  20. Jewish Encyclopedia: New Testament: "The idea of the new covenant is based chiefly upon Jer. xxxi. 31-34 (comp. Heb. viii. 6-13, x. 16). That the prophet's words do not imply an abrogation of the Law is evidenced by his emphatic declaration of the immutability of the covenant with Israel (Jer 31:35-36; comp. 33:25); he obviously looked for a renewal of the Law through a regeneration of the hearts of the people."
  21. New Covenant (Ezekiel 47:21-23; Isaiah 2:1-4; 11:10; 56:1-8; Micah 4:1-5)
  22. End Times
  23. Scripture quotations marked "KJV" are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version. Blue Letter Bible.
  24. Romans
  25. Romans 4:9-12
  26. Scripture quotations marked "KJV" are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.Blue Letter Bible.
  27. The reference here is to children that have not themselves made a profession of Christian faith. For those that hold the paedobaptist view, the reception of believers' children into the covenant, via baptism, typically happens before the child is even able to express faith (usually as an infant, hence the name).
  28. J.D. Douglas, M.A., B.d., S.T.M., Ph.D. (1962) . “The New Bible Dictionary”, p.132. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan ISBN 0-8028-2282-7
  29. J.D. Douglas, M.A., B.d., S.T.M., Ph.D. (1962) . “The New Bible Dictionary”, p.131. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan ISBN 0-8028-2282-7
  30. E.W. Bullinger, (1980). “How To Enjoy The Bible”, p. 129. Samuel Bagster & Sons Ltd. London ISBN0 85150 200 8
  31. B.G. Leonard, “Gifts of the Spirit”, p.13
  32. J.D. Douglas, M.A., B.d., S.T.M., Ph.D. (1962). “The New Bible Dictionary”, p.442. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan ISBN 0-8028-2282-7
  33. J.D. Douglas, M.A., B.d., S.T.M., Ph.D. (1962). “The New Bible Dictionary”, p.1212. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan ISBN 0-8028-2282-7
  34. J.D. Douglas, M.A., B.d., S.T.M., Ph.D. (1962). “The New Bible Dictionary”, p.723. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan ISBN 0-8028-2282-7
  35. J.D. Douglas, M.A., B.d., S.T.M., Ph.D. (1962). “The New Bible Dictionary”, p.723. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan ISBN 0-8028-2282-7
  36. Scripture quotations marked "KJV" are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version. Blue Letter Bible[1].
  37. Jewish Publication Society of America (October 15, 2005), ISBN 082760775X

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