The title of the New Testament

We might begin with the very title of the collection, known from the time of Tertullian onwards as the New Covenant (Latin Test amentum). Like the word Gospel, it had evolved from reference to the reality of salvation in Christ to the form of its written representation. The basis for such a title is decidedly thin in the New Testament itself. Apart from some versions of the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, it does not figure in the Gospels at all. Paul occasionally exploits the two senses of the word, covenant, as God's contract with Israel and as last will and testament, to show the theological necessity for the death of Christ. It appears in Hebrews as part of the author's demonstration that the Old Testament itself points forward to its fulfilment in Christ (Heb. 9:15). In general, it has the sense of God's original covenant, now renewed, as Jeremiah prophesied (Jer. 31:31). In later Christian usage, however, the emphasis falls on the newness rather than the renewal, the beginning of a new religion, rather than the consummation of the faith of Israel. The title of a book is an important factor in the interpretation of its contents, and the title of this book tends to support the traditional assumption of a radical divide between two competing religions.

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