The ‘New Covenant’ Debate Revisited
September 30, 2021 03:30 PM - 04:00 PM On Demand Save the Date
Jonathan Klawans’ 2019 volume, Heresy, Forgery, Novelty: Condemning, Denying, and Asserting Innovation in Ancient Judaism, has inspired a review of the debate concerning interpretation of the term ‘new covenant’ in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament, and whether or how it relates to Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Although Klawans does not himself discern Essenic influence on the historical Jesus, this study builds on my previous research, which concluded that the Last Supper took place in southwest Jerusalem on 1 April 33 C.E. in an Essenic household of which Jesus’ brother James was the mebaqqer. Following Klawans, it will be argued that reference in the Dead Sea Scrolls to ‘new covenant’ is best understood as relating to renewal or restoration rather than innovation. Likewise, Klawans’ insights are followed for the exploration of the Gospels and Acts as to whether Jesus regarded himself as instituting a new covenant, and in assessment of the various versions of the cup saying, particularly 1 Cor. 11:25 and Luke 22:20.
Following Klawans, it will be argued that reference in the Dead Sea Scrolls to ‘new covenant’ is best understood as relating to renewal or restoration rather than innovation.
In light of traditional Jewish condemnation of religious novelty, the embrace of innovation in Christian literature is a surprising development. This phenomenon is discussed, with attention drawn to the marked shift that occurs in the Epistle to the Hebrews and later works, toward undisguised derogation of Judaism, and to supersessionism. These trends are explicated on the basis of Bibliowicz’s perception that the ‘parting of the ways’ resulted originally not from Jewish–Christian tensions, but rather from disputes between the Jewish founders of the Jesus movement, and Gentile Christians.
In conclusion, it will be asserted that the findings are consistent with my depictions of Jesus and James, and that the eucharistic cup saying refers to the covenant renewal — not replacement — that was anticipated at the eschatological banquet.
Eschatology in Gospels & Acts Research
- The Son of Man Problem and a Narratival Solution
- The Eschatological Attack of Jerusalem by Non-Israelite Nations in Zechariah and the Death of Jesus
- Ethics and Eschatology in the Synoptic Tradition: A Response to N. T. Wright on Gospel Eschatology in His Gifford Lectures
- Where is the Son of Man coming or going? Daniel 7’s place in Jesus’ eschatology