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The text is as follows (the context is the Jews who did not accept Christ had a spiritual veil over their eyes, which prevents them from recognizing and accepting the truths of the New Covenant):

2 Cor 3:14 ἀλλὰ ἐπωρώθη τὰ νοήματα αὐτῶν ἄχρι γὰρ τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναγνώσει τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης μένει μὴ ἀνακαλυπτόμενον ὅτι ἐν Χριστῷ καταργεῖται

but their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament: which [veil] is taken away in Christ.

This would seem significant. I had thought that the respective Testaments only came to be called such much later than this early, primitive time in which St. Paul is writing (when Christianity was definitely in its infancy), similar to how the 'Gospels' only came to be called such much later, whereas beforehand they had simply been known as the authentic 'memoirs of the Apostles.'

Question: Does this amount to St. Paul calling the Scriptures which succeed the Tanakh or Old Testament Scripture temporally, by implication, 'the New Testament' (which is what makes the former ones "old")? Or does the following verse militate against this understanding ("ἕως σήμερον ἡνίκα .. ἀναγινώσκηται Μωϋσῆς"—i.e. when the Old Covenant is 'read about')?

  • See Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25. – Lucian Feb 6 '18 at 4:10
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    @Lucian, although the NT is intrinsic to my question, the notion that the Apostles and Jesus were aware that they were in the New Covenant is not itself in question; but rather whether there existed the convention of calling the Books pertaining to the Old Covenant 'the Old Testament' and (perhaps implied) the same for the New. – Sola Gratia Feb 6 '18 at 14:25
  • Were there any New Testament books written by the time of the Last Supper ? – Lucian Feb 6 '18 at 15:46
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You are correct that the exact formation of the canon of the Old Testament remained relatively fluid until the first centuries CE (and strictly speaking until the protestant reformation), but already in the last centuries BCE there were ideas about what books should/n't be included in a canon, i.e., which books are authoritative and worthy of study. So although the marginal areas of the canon (think of Esther, Ecclesiastes, etc. but also the minor prophets) were still contested, the core was firmly established.

The book of Sirach provides evidence of a collection of sacred scripture similar to portions of the Hebrew Bible, which dates from 180 BCE (and is not included in the Jewish canon), which includes a list of names of biblical figures (44–49) in the same order as is found in the Torah and the Nevi'im (Prophets), and which includes the names of some men mentioned in the Ketuvim (Writings) (Wikipedia: Development of the Hebrew Bible canon).

From internal references we furthermore know that the Torah was already considered authoritative during or shortly after the exile:

[...] the postexilic books of Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles employ phrases such as 'the Torah of the Lord,' 'the Torah of Moses,' 'My [God's] Torah,' and simply 'the Torah.' [...] By the Hellenistic period, Jews treated other books as important and worthy of study as well; for example, the Book of Daniel specifically reinterprets the seventy-year oracle of Jeremiah [...] (Brettler 2005, p. 274).

The "Old Testament" in 2 Cor 3:14 is literally the "Old Covenant" - with the idea that the old covenant with Moses is replaced by the new covenant with Jesus. The translations that have "Old Testament" rather than "old covenant" perform a not so far-fetched interpretation in line with Thayer's Greek lexicon on διαθήκη:

By metonymy of the contained for the container ἡ παλαιά διαθήκη is used in 2 Corinthians 3:14 of the sacred books of the O. T. because in them the conditions and principles of the older covenant were recorded.

Thus, we must not understand this παλαιά διαθήκη as the exact collection you will find nowadays in your OT/HB (after all, there are several canons to choose from) but as referring to the books about the old covenant in general. I don't know what canon Paul would adhere to if he could choose, but this verse would seem to apply equally to books that had not reached full authoritative status by his time.

Paul is not establishing a New Testament by calling the former one Old. He does make a difference between the Old and the New covenant (and indirectly between the texts that are written about them, although this does not give any canonical status to books about the New Covenant in general).

  • Thank you for a great answer! But how doesn't 'this range of books is the 'Old' Testament (treating of the Old Covenant) imply that what he is writing is the 'New' Testament (treating of the New Covenant)? Do you take 'old' to mean '[very] old' rather than 'the former fo the two Testaments'? – Sola Gratia Feb 5 '18 at 18:27
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    @SolaGratia "old" refers to the oldness of the old covenant compared to the new covenant, not to the oldness of the old testament compared to the new testament. It implies that there are scriptures about the old covenant, but not that there is a fixed canon of books about the old covenant. It sets apart Paul's own (and other) writings as writings about the new covenant, but does not suggest a group of new writings to be put into a canon - if Paul would have wanted to suggest that, he should have included a list of writings, because at that time many more writings circulated. – Keelan Feb 5 '18 at 18:49
  • I feel we fundamentally agree—and that's why I opted for 'range of books [i.e. pertaining to the Old Covenant]' instead of 'books in a fixed canon pertaining to the Old Testament.' So you do agree, then, that "old" is in contradistinction to the successor Testament (hence 'new;' hence 'old), and not to its relative old ness as a set of documents? – Sola Gratia Feb 5 '18 at 19:32
  • @SolaGratia oh, yes, definitely. – Keelan Feb 5 '18 at 19:50
  • I'm marking yours as the answer :) Thanks again. – Sola Gratia Feb 5 '18 at 20:48
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The Old Covenant is NOT synonymous with the “Old Testament.”

What Christians refer to as "The Old Testament" is correctly termed the Tanakh (TNK), an acronym for its three traditional sections, Torah (Teaching or The Law), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).

In addition, the New Covenant and the Old Covenant were both narrowly defined in the Tanakh. According to the prophet Jeremiah . . .

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV)

The Old Covenant is defined by Jeremiah as the Law given to Moses on tablets of stone. However, the price of the New Covenant is described by Jesus as

And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:20 (ESV)

And John 3:16 succinctly summarizes the New Covenant.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

As Jeremiah said, this New Covenant is written on our hearts.

Dieter

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The veil of which Paul speaks in 2 Cor 3:14 is the veil that Moses put on his face to hide from the Jews the fact that his glory was departing:

2Co 3:13  and are not as Moses, who was putting a vail upon his own face, for the sons of Israel not stedfastly to look to the end of that which is being made useless,

Paul employs the fading glory of Moses' face to illustrate the fading significance of the Sinai covenant:

2Co 3:14  but their minds were hardened, for unto this day the same vail at the reading of the Old Covenant doth remain unwithdrawn—which in Christ is being made useless—  2Co 3:15  but till to-day, when Moses is read, a vail upon their heart doth lie,

He is saying that God has hid from the Jews the obsolescence of the law, made obsolete by the arrival of the gospel:

2Co 3:7  and if the ministration of the death, in letters, engraved in stones, came in glory, so that the sons of Israel were not able to look stedfastly to the face of Moses, because of the glory of his face—which was being made useless,  2Co 3:8  how shall the ministration of the Spirit not be more in glory?  2Co 3:9  for if the ministration of the condemnation is glory, much more doth the ministration of the righteousness abound in glory;  2Co 3:10  for also even that which hath been glorious, hath not been glorious—in this respect, because of the superior glory;  2Co 3:11  for if that which is being made useless is through glory, much more that which is remaining is in glory.

One can easily relate Paul's argument to brightly a flashlight appears in a dark room but how dim it appears before the noonday sun. So when a Jew turns to the Lord the veil is "taken away" and they see that Moses no longer has any glory nor does the Sinai covenant:

2Co 3:16  and whenever they may turn unto the Lord, the vail is taken away.

Jeremiah had predicted that God would give the Jews a new covenant that was unlike the Sinai covenant in that it would be written upon their hearts and required teachers to explain it one to the other:

Jer 31:33  For this is the covenant that I make, With the house of Israel, after those days, An affirmation of Jehovah, I have given My law in their inward part, And on their heart I do write it, And I have been to them for God, And they are to me for a people.  Jer 31:34  And they do not teach any more Each his neighbour, and each his brother, Saying, Know ye Jehovah, For they all know Me, from their least unto their greatest, An affirmation of Jehovah; For I pardon their iniquity, And of their sin I make mention no more.

Paul is dismissing any charge that he lacks credentials by his living credentials written by the spirit in the hearts of men:

2Co 3:6  who also made us sufficient to be ministrants of a new covenant, not of letter, but of spirit; for the letter doth kill, and the spirit doth make alive.

When did/does the new covenant take effect?

"To the Hebrews" explicitly explains that the new covenant could not be in effect prior to the death of Jesus. Jesus was the "animal" who's death "sealed the deal" between God and the houses of Israel and Judah:

Heb 9:16  for where a covenant is , the death of the covenant-victim to come in is necessary,  Heb 9:17  for a covenant over dead victims is stedfast, since it is no force at all when the covenant-victim liveth,  Heb 9:18  whence not even the first apart from blood hath been initiated,  Heb 9:19  for every command having been spoken, according to law, by Moses, to all the people, having taken the blood of the calves and goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, he both the book itself and all the people did sprinkle,  Heb 9:20  saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant that God enjoined unto you,'

This indicates that the chapters of the gospels prior to Jesus' death (and perhaps ascension, since Hebrews speaks of him cleansing the heavenly temple with his blood:

Hebrews 9: 18...This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”e 21In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

With less confidence I submit that it appears that the covenant, though ratified is still awaiting implementation. Paul speaks of a time when he will take away Israel's sin:

Rom 11:25  For I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, of this secret—that ye may not be wise in your own conceits—that hardness in part to Israel hath happened till the fulness of the nations may come in;  Rom 11:26  and so all Israel shall be saved, according as it hath been written, 'There shall come forth out of Sion he who is delivering, and he shall turn away impiety from Jacob,  Rom 11:27  and this to them is the covenant from Me, when I may take away their sins.'  Rom 11:28  As regards, indeed, the good tidings, they are enemies on your account; and as regards the choice—beloved on account of the fathers;  Rom 11:29  for unrepented of are the gifts and the calling of God;  Rom 11:30  for as ye also once did not believe in God, and now did find kindness by the unbelief of these:  Rom 11:31  so also these now did not believe, that in your kindness they also may find kindness;  Rom 11:32  for God did shut up together the whole to unbelief, that to the whole He might do kindness.

However Paul also speaks of dedicating a "first fruits offering" of Jews to God by jealousy of his ministry success among the gentiles:

Rom 11:13  For to you I speak—to the nations—inasmuch as I am indeed an apostle of nations, my ministration I do glorify;  Rom 11:14  if by any means I shall arouse to jealousy mine own flesh, and shall save some of them,  Rom 11:15  for if the casting away of them is a reconciliation of the world, what the reception—if not life out of the dead?  Rom 11:16  and if the first-fruit is holy, the lump also; and if the root is holy, the branches also.

Believing Jews were taught to celebrate the ratification of the new covenant during the celebration of the Passover:

1Co_11:25  In like manner also the cup after the supping, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; this do ye, as often as ye may drink it —to the remembrance of me;'

But to return to the original question, no, the reference to reading the old covenant referred to the reading of the writings of Moses and in particular the terms of the Sinai covenant.

YLT unless otherwise noted.

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The context shows he is reffering to The Mosaic (Old) Covenant or agreement made by God with Israel:-

2 Corinthians 3:14 New International Version But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away."

Which was concluded when Jesus made a "new" one with the 11 at his last Passover on earth.

Luke 22:20 “This cup means the new covenant. . ."

The scriptures are all one "testament" or witness God gave to man etc..

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This is an interesting question about the inauguration of the New Testament, its prominence against the background of the Old, and the relevance of written documentation relating to both Old and New.

In II Corinthians 3:14, the apostle Paul uses the word διαθηκη, diatheke, which is defined by the writer to the Hebrews in Heb. 9:16,17 :

where a testament is there must also, of necessity, be the death of the Testator (διατιθεμι, diatithemi) for a testament is of force after men are dead. [KJV]

The root word θηκη, theke, confirms this as it is a containment. Apotheke is a barn Strong 596. Theke, itself, is used once in scripture 'put up thy sword into the sheath' John 18:11, which has been, I believe, misunderstood for my understanding is that Jesus is telling Peter to keep the thing at home in a box, not carry it around as an offensive weapon for 'they that live by the sword shall die by the sword' (Matthew 26:52). But not to argue the point, it is a containment.

In relation to a Testament, the theke would be a coffin or a tomb - the containment of a dead body.

This is what a Testament is. It is not a 'covenant' - as such - between two parties. It is that which comes into force after the decease of the Testator, immediately, upon death.

The 'Old' Testament did not become 'Old' until there was a 'New' Testament. And the Old Testament was never fully realised until the New demonstrated what the Old had actually been about.

God covenanted with the progeny of Abraham to depict (by artefact and by ritual) on earth, in a tent or in a temple, what would - eventually - be 'The New Testament'.

This agreement with the children of Israel was a covenant. It was a covenant between two parties to display something on earth for a while, until the reality was revealed.

It can be referred to as a 'covenant' when the agreement is being spoken about. Or it can be referred to as a 'testament' when that which is depicted is being referred to.

The 'covenant' was about the depicting of a 'testament', which testament could not - yet - come into force until the death of the Testator, Jesus Christ.


The documentation regarding the agreement about depiction is contained in what Jesus refers to as 'the law' when he speaks of 'the law and the prophets' (Matthew 5:17 and 7:12) - an expression which encapsulates a number of volumes. Elsewhere he speaks of the psalms, Luke 20:42.

The documentation regarding the 'New' Testament - which superseded the Old - began, I understand, with Peter's first epistle. Peter was given the keys (Matthew 16: 18, 19) and Peter unlocked many things. Peter 'unlocked' the tomb wherein Christ was buried and from which he rose, for Peter was first inside it, when John did not go in, allowing Peter to be first.

Peter 'unlocked' the Greek scriptures, I understand, being the first to write to the diaspora. After that, James wrote - also to the diaspora. Some time around this, Matthew wrote as did Jude. Later, Mark saw that - within the book of Matthew regarding the Kingdom of Heaven - there was another book, the Messenger of the Covenant.

I shall stop here as I do not wish to stray too far from the OP.

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