Testament, Old and New
Testament, Old And New.
When the books written by the apostles of Jesus Christ, or by apostolic men, came to be placed alongside the sacred books of the Hebrews, as comprising the entire scriptural canon, it became necessary to distinguish the two divisions by appropriate designations. A usage which already prevailed furnished the designations required. The gracious engagements into which God was pleased to enter with individuals and communities bear in the Old Test. the name of בּרַית, or covenant (q.v.), and to this corresponds the Greek διαθήκη in the Sept. and New Test. Of these covenants two stand out from all the rest as of pre-eminent importance- God's covenant with Israel mediated by Moses, and that covenant which he promised to establish through the Messiah. 'In the Jewish Scriptures this latter is designated בּרַית חֲדָשָׁה, ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη (Jer 31:31), and this, adopted by our Lord (Mt 26:28), and familiarly used by the apostles (2Co 3:6; Heb 9:15, etc.), would naturally suggest the application of the phrase ἡ παλαιὰ διαθήκη to the former. Among the Jews such expressions as הִבּרַית לוּחוֹת, πλάκες τῆς διαθήκης, for the tablets on which the law was inscribed (De 9:9); סֵפֶי הִבּרַית, βιβλίον τῆς διαθήκης (Ex 24:7; 2Ki 23:21; 2Ki 1 Macc. 1, 5.7), βίβλος διαθήκης (Ecclus. 24:23), were in common use. From these it is an easy transition to such an expression as that of the apostle (2Co 3:14), ἡ ἀνάγνωσις τῆς παλαιᾶς δίαθήκης, where the name appropriate to the thing contained is used of that which contains it. There thus arose in the Greek Church the usage of the phrases ἡ παλαιὰ διαθήκη and ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη as designations of the Jewish and Christian sacred writings respectively. In the Latin Church the usage prevailed of calling these Vetus et Novum Testamentum. Why the word Testamentum was selected to represent διαθήκη rather than Foedus or Pactum may be explained by the fact that the former rather than the latter is the proper equivalent of the Greek word. Hence in the old Italia made from the Sept. it is always used where the Greek has διαθήκη; and in the-Vulgate it is used similarly in those books that remain in the old version, whereas in those which Jerome translated from the Hebrew בוית is represented by feedus orpactum. That this usage was an early one in the Latin Church is evident from the words of Tertullian (Adv. Marc. 4:1): "Duos Deos dividens (Marcion) alterum alterius Instrumenti vel, quod magis usui est dicere, Testamenti." The use of Testamentum, however, does not seem to have leeln universally accepted till a much later period. In the passage quoted Tertullian evidently gives the preference to the word instrumentum, a term used technically to denote a writing by which anything is to be attested or proved (comp. Quintil. Inst. Orat. 12:8; 12); and this is the word he generally uses (comp. Adv. Marc. 4:2; De Pudic. c. 12, etc.). Rufinus also has "novum et vetus instrumentum" (Expos. Symb. Apostol.); and Augustine uses both instrumenturn and testamentum in the same context (De Civ. Dei, 20:4). Lactantius, however, freely uses testamentum as a well accredited term when he wrote (Inst. Div. 4:20).
From the Vulgate and the usage of the Latin fathers, Testament has naturally passed into the title of the two divisions of the Scriptures in the English and most of the European versions. SEE NEW TESTAMENT; SEE OLD TESTAMENT.