The New Covenant: Its Problems, Certainties and Some Proposals -- By: Carl B. Hoch, Jr.

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 06:3 (Summer 1997)
Article: The New Covenant: Its Problems, Certainties and Some Proposals
Author: Carl B. Hoch, Jr.

The New Covenant: Its Problems, Certainties and Some Proposals

Carl B. Hoch, Jr.

It is a simple fact that Christians have a Bible with two parts. That the second part of this unified, whole Bible is a New Testament is not disputed. What is disputed, and has been for centuries, is this: “What is really new about this New Testament?”

For more than twenty years I have been thinking and reflecting upon what I consider to be one of the central themes of biblical theology—the newness of the new covenant. Some years ago I decided to go through the New Testament looking at the various occurrences of the word “new” (kainos, neos, and palaios). What I discovered profoundly affected me. What I was unprepared for was just how few biblical scholars had actually dealt with this very central theme. There can be little doubt that this theme of “newness” needs serious exploration and development by biblical scholars. It also cries out for exploration by the serious Christian reader, whether pastor or layman.


There are a number of exegetical and theological problems associated with the subject of the “newness” of the new covenant that raise interpretive difficulties for those who attempt to develop a definitive theology of the new covenant. I will cite several:

1) There is no systematic presentation of the complete new covenant. There is no one passage (including Jer. 31:31–34) to which the reader can turn and find the usual components of a covenant. These components are generally agreed to be: (1) the name of the covenant maker, (2) the names of the covenant recipients, (3) the requirements of the covenant, (4) the inaugural ceremony for the cutting of the covenant, (5) the public reading of the covenant or

recorded agreement of the parties to make a covenant, and (6) what consequences flow from the covenant, including any penalties that accrue from the breach of the covenant or rewards for compliance with the conditions of the covenant. Since no single New Testament text can be adduced where these covenantal elements are clearly articulated, it becomes necessary to reconstruct the nature of the covenant from bits and pieces scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments which seem to be related to the new covenant in one way or the other.

The reader must understand that this problem, however, is not unique to the new covenant. Scholars have struggled for years to reconstruct the particulars of the old covenant as well. This problem was exacerbated by source criticism where an attempt was made to demolish the integrity of the Pentateuch....

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