Repost: DOES DIATHEKE MEAN “LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT” IN HEBREWS 9:16-17?

Most of our English Bible versions translate Hebrews 9:16-17 this way (I have provided vv.15 and 18 for context):

And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16 For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. (NKJV, vv. 16-17 are in italics)

Or the ESV:

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. (ESV vv.16-17 in italics)

With the translation diatheke as either “testament” or “will” the reader is led to conclude that these verses are not talking about the new covenant. In verse 15 the Greek word diatheke is translated as “covenant.” The same translation (“covenant”) is repeated in v.18.

If I were to give all the occurrences of diatheke in Hebrews you would see that, apart from 9:16 and 17 the word is uniformly translated “covenant.” One doesn’t have to think hard about why this word is rendered as “covenant” in these 16 other instances. The contexts make it very clear that the writer is referring, either to the Mosaic Covenant or Law, or to the New Covenant which replaces it. And one doesn’t have to seek too far for proof of this. Hebrews 9:15 contrasts the “first covenant” with the “new covenant,” as does verse 18. The chapter itself reinforces the contrast and the appropriate translation “covenant.”

Why translate diatheke, which has been expressed as “covenant” everywhere else in the Book, as “testament” or “will” in vv.16-17? The answer is because it has been assumed that “the death of the one who made it” refers to a “testator” as per a modern “Last Will and Testament.” For we all know that when a person makes a will it only comes into force when they are dead. Thus, one writer stated,

In the New Testament the diatheke as a ‘last will’ is once brought into connection with the sacrifice of Christ… – Geerhardus Vos, “Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke,” in The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 13, No.4, [1915], 601.

But is he right? What is it in the context which demands the switch from “covenant” to “testament,” other than this assumption that a will is being referred to simply because of “the death of the one who made it”? It seems to me that the whole case depends upon the supposition that diatheke can only mean “last will and testament” in Hebrews 9:16-17. There are several reasons for believing this to be a faux pas:

1. The meaning of diatheke in Hebrews 9:15 is “covenant.” This is clear because the writer is referencing the Mosaic “covenant” in the preceding verses (vv.11-13). If the word meant “last will and testament” in v.15 the connection with the Mosaic Covenant in vv.11-13 would be lost and the writer’s whole argument rendered suspect. Such a switch would create an equivocation within the argument. That is, it would have the author mean two things by one word in a confusing way. This problem comes into sharp relief once chapter 8 is considered. The superiority of the “better covenant” (e.g. Heb. 8:6) demands it be contrasted with the Mosaic Covenant, and hence, that it be itself a true covenant and not a last will and testament. This understanding is assured by the contrast in 8:7 which see. Following on from this, Hebrews 8:8-12 gives the longest quotation of the OT by any NT writer. Is this quotation to do with a testament or a covenant? The answer is impossible to ignore. It is to a “covenant” (OT berith), not a testament!

2. But secondly, the meaning “covenant” makes perfect sense. George H. Guthrie, an acknowledged expert on Hebrews, writes:

Interpreters often have read 9:16-17 in terms of “will” or “testament,” but these verses should be read, in their context, as speaking of the establishment of a covenant… “The one arranging [diatithemi] it,” occurring in participial form, in 9:16-17, refers to the sacrificial animal that must die for a covenant to be established… This fits perfectly with the argument of 9:18-22, which deals with Moses’ inauguration of the Sinai covenant with the sprinkling of blood (Exod.24:3-8). – in G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson, editors, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old, 973.

3. When one adds to this the critical observations of P. T. O’Brien this position is weakened yet further. O’Brien’s full discussion can be found on pages 328-332 of his recent The Letter To The Hebrews (in the Pillar series). I shall condense his argument below using several quotes:

O’Brien says,

a. “As we have seen, the context of v.15 seems to demand the sense of ‘covenant’ because only covenants have mediators[underlining mine], while in v.18 mention is made of the ‘first diatheke‘, namely, the Sinai event and hence can only be a covenant.”

b. “What our author says in vv.16-17 does not correspond to any ‘any known form of Hellenistic (or indeed any other) legal practice.’ A Hellenistic will was secure and valid when it was written down, witnessed and deposited, not when the testator died. Further, the distribution of the estate could occur when the testator was still living.”

Indeed, don’t we see this very thing in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, where the son took his inheritance before the father had died?

c. The wider context of Hebrews with our author’s view of inheritance and his emphasis on the cult appears incongruous with the model of the secular Hellenistic testament.

from Peter. T. O’Brien, The Letter To The Hebrews, Pillar (2010), 329-330

I conclude from all this evidence, both internal and external, that there is no good reason for translating diatheke as “testament” in the sense of “last will and testament” in Hebrews 9:16-17. Thus, we commend the following translation of these verses as given below:

“For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a covenant is valid only over the dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it [the one who must die] lives.”

 

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21 comments

  1. The Greek word translated “covenant” is ‘diatheke’ and that word has two meanings. One meaning is a promissory disposition and another meaning refers to another type of promissory disposition, specifically a last will and testament.

    A ‘diatheke’ (promissory disposition) sometimes has a death associated with it but not in all cases. However, a death is required in every single instance in regard to a ‘diatheke’ (last will and testament).

    Therefore, these words can only be speaking of a last will and testament because that is not always true of a promissory disposition.:

    “For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.”

    1. Well, first, the NT writers use it as a synonym for covenant, as do the authors of the LXX, so your definition (whatever your source) is incorrect. Your argument stands or falls on this false definition. Sorry.

      1. If the NT wanted to use a word which means “covenant” then they would not have used the Greek word ‘diatheke’ but instead the word ‘suntheke’:

        Louis Berkhof wrote that “In the Septuagint the word ‘berith’ is rendered ‘diatheke’ in every passage where it occurs with the exception of Deut. 9:15 (‘marturion’) and I Kings 11:11 (‘entole’). The word ‘diatheke’ is confined to this usage, except in four passages. This use of the word seems rather peculiar in view of the fact that it is not the usual Greek word for covenant, but really denotes a disposition, and consequently also a testament. The ordinary word for covenant is ‘suntheke'” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, 1949], 262-263).

        For more on the meaning of the word ‘diatheke’ please go to my site.

      2. I know about ‘syntheke’ but that is not the term that the LXX or the NT authors used when they translated ‘berit’. In Heb 8:8-12 the author cites Jer.31 where the word has to be “covenant”. Ergo the writer employs ‘diatheke’ for covenant whether we like it or not. In Heb. 9:4 we get “the ark of the diatheke’. He assuredly does not mean the ark of the last will and testament.

        In Heb. 9:14-15 it is Christ who offers Himself as the covenant sacrifice to initiate the New covenant and become its Mediator so as to replace the “first covenant”. It is extremely problematic to imagine a switch in the meaning of ‘diatheke’ from covenant to testament when context is referring to “first covenant” and the second “New covenant”, which is the covenant Christ died to establish. The quotation of Berkhof (which looks too selective) does not do anything but say that in Greek there is another word that was used for covenant. Everyone knows this. But ‘syntheke’ is not ever used by NT writers, and they do refer to covenants so the point is moot.

        I will not be going to your website on the evidence I have read so far.

        All the best.

  2. Let us look at what the experts say about the meaning of the Greek word “diatheke.”

    Geerhardus Vos wrote that “in the Gospel i.72 the ‘diatheke’ is equivalent to the promise given to the fathers; the parallelism in which it stands with the ‘oath’ of God proves this: ‘to remember his holy ‘diatheke,’ the oath which He swore unto Abraham, our father'” [emphasis added] (Geerhardus Vos, “Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke,” The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 13, No.4, 1915, 613).

    When we look at Luke 1:72 we can see that the word “diatheke” is equivalent to the word “oath” and it cannot be denied that the LORD’s oath is a promise.

    Vos also wrote that the Greek word diatheke can mean “disposition,” writing that “all that they (the translators of the Greek New Testament) wanted out of ‘diatheke’ was the emphasis which the word enabled them to throw upon the one-sided initiative and the unimpaired sovereignty of God in originating the order of redemption..Their procedure appears intelligent only on the supposition that they believed ‘diatheke’ capable of retaining or reacquiring the sense of ‘disposition'” (Geerhardus Vos, “Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke,” 604-605 ).

    Now let us look at the following verse:

    “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants (diatheke) of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph.2:12).

    In his commentary on this verse Vos says that “in Eph. ii. 12 the phrase ‘covenants of the promise,’ in which the genitive is epexegetical, yields positive proof that Paul regards the ‘diatheke’ as so many successive promissory dispositions of God, not as a series of mutual agreements between God and the people” [emphasis added] (Ibid., p.609).

    The word diatheke does not carry with it the sense of a compact or of a mutual agreement between two parties, which is the normal understanding of a covenant. Albert Barnes wrote that “the writers of the New Testament never meant to represent the transactions between God and man as a ‘compact or covenant’ properly so called. They have studiously avoided it…The word which they employ – ‘diatheke’ – never means a compact or agreement as between equals” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Commentary at Hebrews 8:8).

    J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan say that diatheke “is properly ‘dispositio,’ an ‘arrangement’ made by one party with plenary power, which the other party may accept or reject, but cannot alter. A ‘will’ is simply the most conspicuous example of such an instrument, which ultimately monopolized the word just because it suited its differentia so completely” [emphasis added] (J.H. Molton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930], 148).

    So we can see that the Greek word diatheke can mean a “Promissory Disposition” and it can also mean a “Last will and Testament.”

    Therefore, we can understand that at Hebrews 9:16-17 the reference is to a testament because a death is not always essential to bringing into force a regular promissory disposition but it is ALWAYS necessary to bring a last will and testament into force.

    1. Sorry Jerry,

      I already quoted Vos and showed that scholars have realized he was mistaken because of the anachronistic way he understood a last will and testament. It is these scholars (e.g. Guthrie, O’Brien, etc.) who you must answer. You must also be willing to admit that diatheke means covenant according to its use in the rest of Hebrews.

      Too, an oath is at the center of biblical covenants, so focusing on the oath only highlights the presence of covenant, not just promise (which does not require an oath). See https://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/covenants-clarity-ambiguity-and-faith-2/

  3. So are you denying that a “diatheke” is a promise with the following words of Luke in view?:

    “To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant (diatheke); The oath which he sware to our father Abraham. That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Lk.1:72-75).

    According to Luke the “oath” was a unilateral promise which the LORD made to the children of Israel. And Luke identifies that “oath” with the “diatheke,” which can only mean that in Luke’s mind that “diatheke” is a promise.

    Do you think that a unilateral promise made to the children of Israel is the same thing as a covenant made with them? Do you think that the following scholars were in error when they defined “diatheke” in the way that they did?:

    Albert Barnes wrote that “the writers of the New Testament never meant to represent the transactions between God and man as a ‘compact or covenant’ properly so called. They have studiously avoided it…The word which they employ – ‘diatheke’ – never means a compact or agreement as between equals” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Commentary at Hebrews 8:8).

    J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan say that diatheke “is properly ‘dispositio,’ an ‘arrangement’ made by one party with plenary power, which the other party may accept or reject, but cannot alter. A ‘will’ is simply the most conspicuous example of such an instrument, which ultimately monopolized the word just because it suited its differentia so completely” (J.H. Molton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930], 148).

    Thanks again!

    1. Well, Luke 1 there is referring to the Abrahamic covenant. That is the subject. All covenants are promissory by nature, but not all promissory arrangements are covenantal. Therefore, the diatheke in Luke 1:72f. is a covenant – the Abrahamic. You say it refers to the oath and you are right – the oath of the Abrahamic covenant!

      Ergo, calling a diatheke a ‘promissory disposition’ does nothing to resolve the question of whether or not it is used by the NT authors as the word for covenant. The simple fact is that diatheke = covenant in the NT.

      You ask me: ” Do you think that a unilateral promise made to the children of Israel is the same thing as a covenant made with them? Do you think that the following scholars were in error when they defined “diatheke” in the way that they did?”

      Well, yes (with a proviso) and yes (although I qualify Moulton & Milligan below). I have already given reasons for both positions. I can’t think of an example of a unilateral promise with an oath, that is not housed within a covenant. It certainly is in the example you provide.

      Barnes is not much of an authority and he is simply and demonstrably wrong. Moulton & Milligan are authorities but their work is older and does not take into account what we know about wills in the ancient world (e.g. that they did not require the death of a testator). But M & M do not prove your contention anyway. A will is an example of a diatheke. Sure, but not in the NT.

      Respectfully, I do not find you interacting with the article I wrote but sort of arguing around it.

  4. Let us look at the following passage from the LXX which is in regard to what is commonly known as the “Noahic Covenant”:

    “And God spoke to Noe, and to his sons with him, saying, And behold I establish my covenant (diatheke) with you, and with your seed after you, and with every living creature with you, of birds and of beasts, and with all the wild beasts of the earth, as many as are with you, of all that come out of the ark. And I will establish my covenant (diatheke) with you and all flesh shall not any more die by the water of the flood, and there shall no more be a flood of water to destroy all the earth” (Gen.9:8-11).

    Here the Greek word “diatheke” is used twice and there is not even a hint that the “diatheke” spoken of in these verses required a death in order bring it into force. So it appears to me that the following translation which you prefer is not speaking about the kind of “diatheke” which is spoken of at Genesis 9:8-11:

    “For where a ‘diatheke’ is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a ‘diatheke’ is valid only over the dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it [the one who must die] lives.”

    Perhaps you can give some evidence from the Scriptures that indicates that a death of some kind was actually responsible for bringing the “diatheke” of Genesis 9:8-11 into force.

    If not, then it appears that the only kind of “diatheke” which fits what the author of Hebrews wrote at Hebrews 9:16-17 is a Testament.

    1. Genesis 8:20-21. You are strenuously avoiding the fact that the LXX and the NT regularly employ diatheke for covenant. You need to stop dancing around this elephant in the room.

  5. Let us look at your preferred translation of the following passage:

    “For where a ‘diatheke’ is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a ‘diatheke’ is valid only over the dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it [the one who must die] lives.”

    In regard to what is commonly called the “Noahic Covenant” it was the LORD who made the “diatheke” (Gen.9:9).

    I cannot see how Noah offering a burnt offering answers these words:”for where a ‘diatheke’ is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.”

    I cannot see how Noah offering a burnt sacrifices can possibly be construed in any sense as being a death of the LORD. Could you please explain how Noah offering a burnt offering can be understood to mean that that offering somehow represented the death of the LORD.

    Besides that, I searched and searched and I could not find even one translation of Hebrews 9:16-17 which even comes close to the translation which you think is correct. Can you quote a translation from any version of the Bible which matches the one which you think is the correct one? And you said that the Greek experts which I quoted are in error so please give me a definition for “diatheke” from a Greek expert of your choice.

    Thanks!

    1. First, the NASB has “For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.”

      Here diatheke is translated as “covenant” in continuity with the rest of the Book of Hebrews. The inclusion of “men” in v.17 is an interpretation, the word “men” is not present. So NASB agrees with the translation I gave in verse 16. It differs from my preferred rendering in v.17 because it interprets the subject to be men not the sacrificial animal, which is what I and e.g. Guthrie argue for.

      Young’s Literal Translation has “covenant victim”, which at least shows that some scholars lent this way in the 19th Century. Another who saw this was Frederic Gardner: http://polumeros.blogspot.com/2009/04/diatheke-in-hebrews-916-17.html

      Second, you have kept avoiding the translation of diatheke as covenant in the rest of Hebrews. You should admit this before proceeding.

      Third, you have also avoided the crucial matter that we now know that ancient wills did NOT require the death of the testator to be in force. This is crucial because the whole argument of changing the translation from covenant to testament in Heb. 9:16-17 relies on the necessity of the death of a testator. William Lane writes,

      “There is no evidence in classical papyriological sources to substantiate that a will or testament was legally valid only when the testator died. A will became operative as soon as it was properly drafted, witnessed, and notarized. Moreover, inheritance did not occur only after the death of the testator, since it was common legal practice for an inheritance, as parental distribution
      inter vivos (“among the survivors”), to take place before death.” – Hebrews 9 – 13 WBC, 231

      Finally, every translation of this passage has to paraphrase and interpret a little to make it legible. My argument here is that it can be translated so as to show that Christ is the sacrificial animal of the New covenant. If that view is accepted there is no problem with seeing that just as an animal was sacrificed for e.g. the Noahic and Mosaic covenants.

  6. Let us look at the translation you think is correct:

    “For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.”

    It says that the “diatheke” is never in force while the one who made it lives. That certainly rules out the idea that this is referring to a “covenant” because a covenant can come into force while the one who made is still alive. In regard to Young’s Translation of verse 17 he just added words which are not found in the original Greek:

    “for a covenant over dead victims is stedfast, since it is no force at all when the covenant-victim liveth,”

    All of the other translations say basically that the “diatheke” is never in force while the one who made it lives. Besides that, there is no Greek word found in the verse which can be translated “covenant-victim.” Instead, the Greek word used is referring to the one who made the “diatheke” and not to any victim. So I can only conclude that Young’s translation is not correct.

    Besides that, the Scripture reveal that the Christians’ blessings are described as being an “inheritance,” and of course an “inheritance” is associated with a Last Will and Testament. In his comments on Hebrew 9:15 Kenneth S. Wuest, a noted New Testament Greek expert and former professor at Moody Bible Institute, wrote that “the word ‘inheritance’ in 9:15 leads the inspired pensman to define the content of ‘diatheke’ as it is used in this epistle. An inheritance involves the idea of someone making an disposition of his property, the heir receiving the same at the death of the testator…in verse 15 the writer speaks of the Messiah as the Mediator of the New Testament who made that Testament effective through His death, and in that way, lost sinners who accept salvation on the terms of the will or testament come into their inheritance” (Kenneth S. Wuest, Hebrews in the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1962).

    In regard to the “Noahic Covenant” I still cannot see how Noah offering a burnt sacrifices can possibly be construed in any sense as being a death of the LORD. Could you please explain how Noah offering a burnt offering can be understood to mean that that offering somehow represented the death of the LORD.

    Thanks!

    1. Jerry,

      You are simply choosing to ignore everything I have shown, the experts I have cited, and the crucial fact that wills in the ancient world did not require the death of anyone. Why should I continue to entertain you and your questions when you won’t answer any of my points?

      But I’ll have one more try. The one making the covenant in Heb. 9:16-17 is the Lord who IS the sacrifice (Heb. 9:26). So your argument against Young is incorrect.

      And I never said that the Noahic covenant can be seen as being a death of the Lord. You asserted that there was no sacrifice connected with the Noahic covenant. God recognized this sacrifice when making the covenant.

      So I need you to address the arguments I have given rather than just continue to plink away at definitions which you prefer. The article addresses what is now known about testaments in the ancient world, and how this solves the problem of continuity in the use of diatheke in Hebrews 9

  7. You said: “You are simply choosing to ignore everything I have shown, the experts I have cited, and the crucial fact that wills in the ancient world did not require the death of anyone. Why should I continue to entertain you and your questions when you won’t answer any of my points?

    Here is my answer and I would like to hear what your experts would say about the verses cited. In regard to Last Will and Testaments in Jewish life during OT times Richard H. Hiers wrote the following:

    “One other feature of the law of Deuteronomy 21:15-17 is to be noted first. Verse 16 refers to the day on which a man ‘assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons.’ This verse suggests a process very much like testation, the making of a will. What Deuteronomy 21:15-17 says, in effect, is that a man may not ignore his obligation to provide his first-born son with a
    double portion just be- cause he dislikes that son’s mother. Thus, this law is somewhat similar in purpose to modem statutes that prevent one spouse from ‘writing’ or ‘cutting’ the other ‘out of’ his or her will by providing that the survivor may elect a ‘spousal share’ in lieu of taking under terms of the will” (Hiers, “Transfer of Property by Inheritance and Bequest in Biblical Law and Tradition”).

    It sure seems that “assigning” one’s property as an inheritance is speaking about what one leaves another in a will after that person’s death. And it also sounds like a will which is an instrument by which a person can employ to “cut” someone out of a will. If a person received a transfer of something of value from another person while that person remains alive then that thing of value is a bequest, not something someone receives from the terms of a last will and testament. From this it is reasonable to believe that there were indeed last will and testaments being used in Israel during OT times.

    You also said:

    “And I never said that the Noahic covenant can be seen as being a death of the Lord. You asserted that there was no sacrifice connected with the Noahic covenant. God recognized this sacrifice when making the covenant.”

    In regard to the Noahic Diatheke what death was assigned to the LORD which is spoken of here?:

    “For where a ‘diatheke’ is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.”

    In that type of “diatheke” there must be a death of the one who made it and that would be the LORD. If a death was required to bring the “diatheke” of Genesis 9:9 into force then what death can you assign to the LORD?

    1. Look, I don’t wish to be harsh but you are not following my argument. This quotation of Hiers about Deut. 21 has absolutely nothing to do with a berith or a diatheke. The word berith is not even in that section of Deuteronomy. Just because Hiers says what is happening in Deut. 21 is like the making of a will proves nothing, since that chapter has nothing to do with the covenant per se. It certainly takes us far afield from Hebrews!

      Getting back to Hebrews I have argued that
      1. The word diatheke is (and can only be) translated as ‘covenant’ in the Book outside of the disputed two verses.
      2. The immediate context has “the first diatheke” which is a covenant replaced by a second diatheke, which I say is the New covenant and you say is a testament.
      3. The scholars I have sighted (Guthrie, O’Brien, and Lane) from recognized authoritative works you have ignored. Hiers’ opinions on Deut. 21 are no answer to their work on Heb. 9. If you cannot see that then I must consider it futile to continue.
      4. You beg the question (e.g. about the Noahic covenant) with using your preferred translation of the verses without addressing the points made by the scholars above. Unless you do this we’re wasting energy.

      Please get back to Hebrews 9 and deal with the passage in light of the article.

  8. You quoted Peter T. O’Brien saying the following:

    “What our author says in vv.16-17 does not correspond to any ‘any known form of Hellenistic (or indeed any other) legal practice.’ A Hellenistic will was secure and valid when it was written down, witnessed and deposited, not when the testator died. Further, the distribution of the estate could occur when the testator was still living.”

    Again, In regard to Last Will and Testaments in Jewish life during OT times Richard H. Hiers wrote the following:

    “One other feature of the law of Deuteronomy 21:15-17 is to be noted first. Verse 16 refers to the day on which a man ‘assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons.’ This verse suggests a process very much like testation, the making of a will. What Deuteronomy 21:15-17 says, in effect, is that a man may not ignore his obligation to provide his first-born son with a
    double portion just be- cause he dislikes that son’s mother. Thus, this law is somewhat similar in purpose to modem statutes that prevent one spouse from ‘writing’ or ‘cutting’ the other ‘out of’ his or her will by providing that the survivor may elect a ‘spousal share’ in lieu of taking under terms of the will” (Hiers, “Transfer of Property by Inheritance and Bequest in Biblical Law and Tradition”).

    It sure seems that “assigning” one’s property as an inheritance is speaking about what one leaves another in a will after that person’s death. And it also sounds like a will which is an instrument by which a person can employ to “cut” someone out of a will. If a person received a transfer of something of value from another person while that person remains alive then that thing of value is a bequest, not something someone receives from the terms of a last will and testament. From this it is reasonable to believe that there were indeed last will and testaments being used in Israel during OT times.

    According to O’Brein there was no such thing as a Last Will and Testament in use in Israel during OT times but what is revealed at Deuteronomy 21:15-17 demonstrates that is not true. You said:

    “You are simply choosing to ignore everything I have shown, the experts I have cited, and the crucial fact that wills in the ancient world did not require the death of anyone.”

    I cannot see how the verses cited are not speaking about a will which comes into force at the death of the one who made it.

    And I still await your response as to what death was attributed to the LORD in regard to the Noahic Diatheke.

    1. Okay, I think we’re done. You are riding a hobby-horse and I have wasted enough time on this. In the quote from O’Brien (which you did not read closely) he did not say that there was no such thing as a last will and testament in the OT, and neither did I. He said that Heb.9 does not correspond to legal testaments in the ancient world. You missed that because you are riding a hobby-horse and not paying attention to the issues.

      Hiers is not a biblical scholar (he has a doctorate in religious studies, not biblical studies or OT or NT). Besides, what he says regards a passage in Deut. 21 which reflects testation. Well, since he is concerned about the correspondence of the OT with American Law it isn’t surprising he says such things. But this is wholly aside from the passage we are supposed to be discussing.

      Further, your last para. shows again that you are not paying attention. You have been answered. You are begging the question by asking it.

      That’s all I have time for. Unless you actually engage my points I shall delete all further comments from you. I do not wish to be unkind, but this is my blog and if you come here and comment you need to deal with all the points of the article and not swan off in tandem with a legal theorist whose opinion has nothing whatsoever to do with the article. You would see that if you weren’t fixated with your view of diatheke.

      Adieu

  9. Comment Deleted

    There was nothing in this comment that engaged the argument of the article, or even admitted that diatheke IS translated as covenant in the LXX and NT.
    Jerry doesn’t believe George H. Guthrie, P.T. O’Brien, and William L. Lane are experts in Greek. Well Guthrie co-wrote a Greek Exegesis book and is a renowned expert on – the Book of Hebrews. O’Brien was a top-ranked scholar in NT, and Lane, in addition to being a highly regarded NT commentator, was a contributor to the Dictionary of NT Theology edited by Colin Brown. The last two wrote commentaries in the WBC series. Yes, they are experts!

    I regret having to take this action, and I don’t mean it to impugn Jerry as a brother, but some people don’t know how to argue well. Anyway, time to move on. – Paul H.

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