The Old Promise And The New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-34 -- By: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 15:1 (Winter 1972)
Article: The Old Promise And The New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Author: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.


The Old Promise And The New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.*

One of the most important, yet most sensitive of all theological texts, is the new covenant theme of Jeremiah 31:31–34. Hardly has the exegesis of this passage begun when the interpreter discovers to his great delight and consternation that he is involved in some of the greatest theological questions of our day. No matter what he says, some evangelicals are bound to be scandalized because of their commitments either to a covenantal or dispensational understanding of theology. Nevertheless, the issues are too exciting and the passage is too important for a simple retreat to past theological battlelines. For one thing, God’s action in historical events has made the contemporary evangelical too responsible and blameworthy for him to simply repeat the previous generation’s theology. For another, too many excellent points have been made by both of the current evangelical schools of interpretation to abandon the attempt for a reproachment.

The Issues At Stake

The time is now ripe for evangelical scholarship to restate for our age our credos on the following relationships: (1) the amount of continuity and discontinuity between the two testaments, (2) the separate and/or identical parts played by Israel and the Church in the composition of the people and purpose of God in the past and the future, and (3) the crucial importance of authorial will, i.e., the truth as intended by the writers of Scripture as a basis for resolving the present stalemate on a hermeneutical stance and a Biblical philosophy of history.

This latter question is handled so brilliantly in its basic theoretical argumentation by E. D. Hirsch1 that no attempt will be made to repeat his invincible arguments here. Evangelicals would be well advised to study this volume carefully and then apply its insights to such debate-able areas as eschatological hermeneutics.2 The other two questions however, will be features in the ensuing discussion.

*Associate Professor of Old Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Bannock-burn, Deerfield, Illinois.

The Old Promise

The promise of God is one of the greatest unifying themes running throughout the various books of the Bible and binding them into one organic whole.3 Interesting enough, the Old Testament itself possessed no single, special word to designate the idea of “promise”; rather it has a series of rather ordinary words: dibber, “to. ...

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