The Old Testament and Christian Faith: A Theological Discussion

By Bernhard W. Anderson | Go to book overview

12 The New Covenant and the Old

BERNHARD W. ANDERSON

Jeremiah's prophecy concerning the "new covenant" ( Jer. 31: 31-34) provided an important motif for the Church"s understanding of itself as the People of God. Although references to covenant are surprisingly few in the New Testament, there is strong reason to believe that at least in some circles the Christian community, like the Qumran sect, regarded itself as the people of the new covenant. 1 According to tradition which may go back to Jesus himself, the new covenant belongs essentially to the sacramental liturgy of the Church. 2 The covenant motif is employed significantly in both the letters of Paul and in the Epistle to the

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1
See G. E. Mendenhall's article on "covenant" in the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible ( 1962), especially pp. 721-23. Paul's understanding of himself as "minister of the new covenant" is discussed by W. C. van Unnik in "La conception paulinienne de la nouvelle alliance," Recherches Bibliques V ( "Littérature et Théologie Pauliniennes"), by A. Descamps et al. ( 1960), pp. 109-26.
2
In the earliest account of the institution of the Lord's Supper ( I Cor. 11:23-25) Paul states that he "received from the Lord" the tradition of the "new covenant" in the blood of Jesus. The situation is not so clear in the Gospels. Mark and Matthew refer to "the blood of the covenant" ( Mark 14:24; Matt. 26:28). Variant readings add "new," as also in the long variant to Luke 22:19. Bultmann believes that the conception of a new covenant, both in I Cor. 11:23-25 and in the Synoptic Gospels, does not belong to the original tradition ( Theology of the New Testament, Vol. 1 [ 1957], p. 146).

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