Brian Small Comments on Hebrews 9:14-17
In a recent post, "Hebrews 9:14-17 on Covenant and Testament," I commented on the word diathēkē (διαθήκη), translated as "testament" in the old King James Version:
The word for "testament" in the original Greek is diathēkē (διαθήκη), which has a double meaning that might be significant, i.e., "testament" in the legal sense of a will and "covenant" in the legal sense of a contract, if I might be allowed to distinguish the two meanings in this way.I received a comment from Brian Small on this post:
I note this because verse 16 states that "where a testament [is], there must also of necessity be the death of the testator." The author of Hebrews applies this to Christ, whose 'last will and testament' (διαθήκη) is effected by his death.
The old diathēkē (διαθήκη), however, is put into effect by God, who assuredly does not die. The term here therefore cannot mean 'last will and testament,' but "covenant" in the sense of "compact" or "contract."
Actually, this is a highly controverted passage. Many scholars interpret διαθηκη as "covenant" as you do, but many others take it to mean "testament" or "will" in this context. Personally, I think that the author is using a word-play on διαθηκη, as does Attridge. God does not die, but Jesus as the mediator of the new covenant/testament dies instead.My first thought was that I had been misunderstood:
Actually, I'm also using it as a wordplay -- as "covenant" for the old arrangement and as "testament" for the new.But after more reflection, I wonder if Mr. Small meant that the wordplay "covenant/testament" applies to both the old diathēkē (διαθήκη) and the new diathēkē (διαθήκη). I had applied the wordplay differently, "covenant" to the old and "testament" to the new. Perhaps Mr. Small means that Jesus was considered 'retroactively' to have died for the old covenant as well, but in doing so gathered in to the "testament" that is new all of those covered by the old covenant, such that it can be thought of as a "testament" as well.
At least, I am putting forth this suggestion.
I'm not quite sure that this logic works, but I'm also not sure that I've understood Mr. Small's point, so I'll perhaps need to inquire.
He has an interesting and useful website on Hebrews, by the way, titled "Polumeros kai Polutropos: A Resource Blog on the Book of Hebrews," which might be helpful to my investigations into this epistle.
Mr. Small also happens to be a doctoral student at my old alma matar, Baylor University, a good school that is getting even better.