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The book of Hebrews uses the Hebrew Bible as support for its arguments many times. The author cites Jeremiah 31:33 in two different places and chooses to render the verse curiously differently each time.

The first citation occurs in Hebrews 8:10:

ὅτι αὕτη ἡ διαθήκη ἣν διαθήσομαι τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰσραὴλ μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας, λέγει Κύριος, διδοὺς νόμους μου εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν αὐτῶν, καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίας αὐτῶν ἐπιγράψω αὐτούς, καὶ ἔσομαι αὐτοῖς εἰς Θεόν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔσονταί μοι εἰς λαόν. (NA27)

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

The second citation is in Hebrews 10:16:

Αὕτη ἡ διαθήκη ἣν διαθήσομαι πρὸς αὐτοὺς μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας, λέγει Κύριος· διδοὺς νόμους μου ἐπὶ καρδίας αὐτῶν, καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν διάνοιαν αὐτῶν ἐπιγράψω αὐτούς (NA27)

This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws on their hearts and write them on their minds

For reference, Jeremiah 31:33 reads

כִּי זֹאת הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר אֶכְרֹת אֶת־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל אַחֲרֵי הַיָּמִים הָהֵם נְאֻם־יְהֹוָה נָתַתִּי אֶת־תּוֹרָתִי בְּקִרְבָּם וְעַל־לִבָּם אֶכְתְּבֶנָּה וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם לֵאלֹהִים וְהֵמָּה יִהְיוּ־לִי לְעָם׃ (MT)

But such is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel after these days—declares Hashem: I will put My Torah into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts. Then I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people.

Why does the author of Hebrews use "house of Israel" the first time and "them" the second time? Is there textual support for the second citation? If so, which citation has better textual support? If not, why change the words of Jeremiah?

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  • Interesting question with a broad application to prophetic fulfillment. Up-voted +1 and answered below.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 23 at 18:20
  • This is rather typical of how NT writers "quote" OT passages - they are often paraphrased rather than quoted. This is a perfect illustration of this habit.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 23 at 21:54
  • I think there's a hermeneutical meta-principle here: the distinction between "misquoting" a verse and "paraphrasing" it depends entirely on ones priors Commented May 23 at 22:38

2 Answers 2

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For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: [Hebrews 8:10 KJV]

The writer to the Hebrews quotes from the prophet Jeremiah, the words being a prophecy about the future. The realisation of that prophecy is fulfilled in the New Testament.

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; [Hebrews 10:16 KJV]

Here the writer broadens the application of the words as he addresses those who are the beneficiaries of the gospel, called out from among the Jews, and who are the true inheritors of the promise made in Jeremiah.

Thus the writer, in this second quotation, further on in his argument, does not focus on the original prophecy to the 'house of Israel' (the figure) but broadens the application to 'them' that is to say 'to all those who shall benefit, through faith'.

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  • Is this a misquote of Jeremiah then? Commented May 26 at 14:46
  • @AviAvraham Clearly not. No. See my answer and its explanation.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 26 at 15:37
  • What would be an example of misquoting Jeremiah 31 then? If there’s no textual reason to change the quotation, what’s the basis for the “broadening” you mentioned? Commented May 26 at 15:44
  • @AviAvraham Again. please see my answer for the 'basis' of the broadening. I do not wish to debate this, please. My answer, in full, is above. Thank you.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 26 at 15:46
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  • Hebrews 8:10:

Hebrews 8:10 uses the words “the house of Israel.” It follows the wording in the Hebrew Bible (Jeremiah 31:33).

  • Hebrews 10:16:

The second passage, Hebrews 10:16, uses the word “them.” The usage of this term includes not only the house of Israel but also all believers (Jews and Gentiles).

  • Text considerations:

Both citations are rooted on the same underlying passage from Jeremiah 31:33. Therefore, when we look at the passage in context, the differences in wording serves to make a theological and point rather than to be a misquote of the original text.

In conclusion, the variation in wording shows different aspects of the covenant. The writer wants to reveal its universal application to all believers. Therefore, the writer broadens the scope beyond Israel to include all who participate in the new covenant.

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  • "the differences in wording serves to make a theological and point rather than to be a misquote" - that makes sense. I think the obvious question is what's the difference between "misquoting a text" and "changing the words of the text to suit a theological point" Commented May 23 at 19:58

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