Hebrews 9:16—Gr., διαθήκη (di·a·theʹke)
1887 “for where a covenant is, the death The Holy Bible, by
of the covenant-victim to come in Robert Young,
is necessary” Edinburgh.
1897 “For where a covenant is it is The Emphasised
necessary for the death to be Bible, by
brought in of him that hath J. B. Rotherham,
1950 “For where there is a covenant, New World
the death of the human covenanter Translation of the
needs to be furnished.” Christian Greek
The word di·a·theʹke occurs 33 times in the Greek text, namely, in Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 1:72; 22:20; Acts 3:25; 7:8; Romans 9:4; 11:27; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6, 14; Galatians 3:15, 17; 4:24; Ephesians 2:12; Hebrews 7:22; 8:6, 8, 9, 9, 10; 9:4, 4, 15, 15, 16, 17, 20; 10:16, 29; 12:24; 13:20; Revelation 11:19. The New World Translation renders the Greek word di·a·theʹke as “covenant” in these 33 places.
The word di·a·theʹke occurs in quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures seven times, namely, in Romans 11:27 (from Isaiah 59:21); Hebrews 8:8 (from Jeremiah 31:31), Heb 8:9 (twice, from Jeremiah 31:32), Heb 8:10 (from Jeremiah 31:33); Heb 9:20 (from Exodus 24:8); Heb 10:16 (from Jeremiah 31:33). In these seven quoted texts the Hebrew word in the Masoretic text is ברית (berithʹ, “covenant”), and the Greek word in LXX is διαθήκη (di·a·theʹke).
Although the obvious meaning of di·a·theʹke in the Christian Greek Scriptures is in the ancient Hebrew sense of “covenant,” many modern translators render di·a·theʹke in Hebrews 9:16, 17 as “will” or “testament.” They thus indicate that the writer of the book of Hebrews intended a change of meaning for this Greek word.
However, the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by John McClintock and James Strong, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1981 reprint, Vol. II, p. 544, states: “The Sept. having rendered בְּרִית (which never means will or testament, but always covenant or agreement) by διαθήκη consistently throughout the O. T., the N. T. writers, in adopting that word, may naturally be supposed to intend to convey to their readers, most of them familiar with the Greek O. T., the same idea. . . . In the confessedly difficult passage, Heb. ix, 16, 17, the word διαθήκη has been thought by many commentators absolutely to require the meaning of will or testament. On the other side, however, it may be alleged that, in addition to what has just been said as to the usual meaning of the word in the N. T., the word occurs twice in the context, where its meaning must necessarily be the same as the translation of בְּרִית, and in the unquestionable sense of covenant (comp. διαθήκη καινή [di·a·theʹke kai·neʹ, “new covenant”], Heb. ix, 15, with the same expression in viii, 8; and διαθήκη, ix, 16, 17, with ver. 20, and Exod. xxiv, 8).”
Likewise, B. F. Westcott, coeditor of the Westcott and Hort Greek text, in his work, The Epistle to the Hebrews, London, 1892, p. 300, wrote the following:
“The Biblical evidence then, so far as it is clear, is wholly in favour of the sense of ‘covenant,’ with the necessary limitation of the sense of the word in connexion with a Divine covenant. When we pass to the consideration of the sense of διαθήκη in c. ix. 15 ff. one preliminary remark offers itself. The connexion of vv. 15—18 is most close: v. 16 ὅπου γάρ [hoʹpou gar, “For where”] . . . : v. 18 ὅθεν οὐδέ [hoʹthen ou·deʹ, “Consequently neither”]. . . .
“This connexion makes it most difficult to suppose that the key-word (διαθήκη) is used in different senses in the course of the verses, and especially that the characteristic of a particular kind of διαθήκη, essentially different from the πρώτη διαθήκη [proʹte di·a·theʹke, “former covenant”] of vv. 15, 18, should be brought forward in v. 16. For it is impossible to maintain that the sacrifices with which the Old Covenant was inaugurated could be explained on the supposition that it was a ‘Testament.’ Nor does it appear that it could be called a ‘Testament’ in any sense.
“It is then most reasonable to conclude that διαθήκη has the same sense throughout, and that the sense is the otherwise universal one of ‘covenant,’ unless there are overwhelming arguments against such a view.”
Therefore, in Hebrews 9:16, 17, the Greek word di·a·theʹke has the same meaning as in the surrounding verses, namely, “covenant,” corresponding to the Hebrew word berithʹ. These verses are imbedded in the apostle’s discussion of the Mosaic Law covenant as compared with its antitype, the new covenant. Paul speaks of the mediator (“covenanter”) dying in order for the covenant to become legal and binding. In the case of the Law covenant, the animal victims took the place of Moses, the mediator of the Law covenant, their blood substituting for his in legalizing and making the covenant operative. Correspondingly, in the case of the new covenant, Jesus Christ, the mediator of the new covenant, actually gave his perfect human life in sacrifice. When he shed his blood in death, the new covenant was validated.
2 Corinthians 3:14—Gr., ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναγνώσει τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης (e·piʹ tei a·na·gnoʹsei tes pa·lai·asʹ di·a·theʹkes); Lat., in lectione veteris testamenti
1611 “in the reading of the old testament” King James Version.
1808 “at the reading of the old covenant” The New Covenant,
Commonly Called the
Translated From the
Greek, by Charles