How is the new covenant similar to and different from the covenants of the Old Testament?

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So, as we start to interpret the new covenant it is helpful to understand a little bit about the old covenants, because when Jeremiah announces the days are coming when God will cut a new covenant, he says, it's not like the old one that they broke. So, somehow you've got to understand the new covenant, and you've got to know what the old one is. And he's really referring back to the Mosaic covenant, and we usually… There are other covenants in the Old Testament, but we often think about the contrast between Mosaic covenant and new covenant. The new covenant language is found in the book of Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 31. Jeremiah is living under the old covenant. That's the time. And not only is he living under the old covenant, but King Josiah has been renewing the old covenant… And of course, the covenant that Jeremiah announces, it also says that the days are coming when God will "cut" a covenant. We use the language of "making," but the Hebrew is "cut." The Hebrew term "cut" implies the death of an animal … right? To make a covenant you cut an animal, and Jeremiah is not explaining how this is going to happen, but he does use the language of cutting a covenant, suggesting blood. And of course, when Jesus at his last supper says, "Behold the blood of the new covenant," and it's his own blood that is going to inaugurate the new covenant, which is just a wonderful, wonderful gift of seeing what Jesus does in terms of inaugurating this new era. And then, if we look at it as Christians today, we're not under the old covenant. Of course, Hebrews talks about this, Hebrews 8 and 9. We're not under the old, the old is fading away, but we are under the new covenant, which is through Jesus, offering forgiveness for our sins — wonderful that we enter by faith and trust in Jesus who is the one who inaugurates. He's the mediator of the new covenant, and he inaugurates it. So, it's wonderful that we're living in this time rather than living under the Old Testament and under the old covenant.

Answer by Dr. Carol Kaminski

Dr. Kaminski teaches Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston MA.