Leon Morris on Christ the testator of the covenant

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The necessity for His death is brought out with an unusual illustration in Hebrews 9, that of a man’s last will and testament. When a man makes a will, it is necessary for his death to occur before the terms of the will become operative. As long as he lives, nothing happens. Now the Greek word διαθήκη, which the writer employs for ‘will’, is used in the Greek Old Testament to translate the Hebrew word בְּרִית, meaning ‘covenant’. It is unmistakably the usual Greek word for a ‘will’. But there is an air of finality about a will. You cannot dicker with a testator. You accept what he leaves you on the conditions he lays down, or you reject it. You have no other line of action.

The one-sidedness of this process seems to have appealed to those who translated the Old Testament into Greek as a better way of characterizing the covenants God makes with men than συνθήκη, the usual word for ‘agreement’. This word might be taken as suggesting a relative equality, an ability on man’s side to make conditions. This is totally false. Man accepts the covenant on God’s terms or he rejects it. He has no other option. Thus the word in Greek at large means a will, and in the Old Testament it means a covenant. ...

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