Hermeneutics: How to Read the New Testament in Light of the Old Testament, Part 2

Another simple technique I use is a Bible concordance. Once upon a time, we used printed exhaustive concordances, which allowed you to find every verse in the Bible containing a given word. Those massive books have now been replaced by computers and the Internet. Even if you don’t own verse-search software, Bible Gateway gives free and easy access to sophisticated searching. And I’ve written many a post using nothing but Bible Gateway for my research.

Here’s a cool example.

(Mat 26:27-28 ESV)  27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you,  28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

(Mar 14:24 ESV)  24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

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

In all three accounts of Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper, he refers to the “blood of the covenant.” That’s an odd-sounding expression. What on earth does he mean? I pulled the New International and Tyndale commentaries on Luke 22:20, and neither says a word on the subject. But commentators routinely ignore Old Testament allusions.

Let’s pull out the concordance and search “blood of the covenant” in Bible Gateway to see if they overlooked something. Up pops —

(Exo 24:8 ESV) And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

That’s an odd verse, but it uses the very same phrase Jesus used. Why? Let’s check the context —

(Exo 24:4-11 ESV)  4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.  5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD.  6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar.

7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”  8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”  9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up,  10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.  11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

Moses read the text of God’s covenant to the people. It was sealed with blood — half thrown on the altar — symbolic of the atoning presence of God — and half on the people. The ancients often sealed covenants with the blood of sacrificed animals. This was the ritual making of a very serious covenant.

The making of the covenant was then followed by a fellowship meal among the leaders of the people and God himself: “they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.” They ate a ceremonial meal in the very presence of God, enjoying an intimacy and closeness that would usually bring death.

This was the ceremony and meal by which the Law of Moses was first sealed. And in the Jewish mind, it was a big, big deal. We Christians ignore the passage entirely, even though we should now see that our Lord’s Supper has roots in this ancient meal at Sinai — roots to which Jesus himself referred!

From here, we can go several directions. We can draw out the parallels between the original “blood of the covenant” and the new “blood of the covenant.” We can note that today we, like the apostles and like Moses, eat a meal in the very presence of Divinity. We enjoy a privileged intimacy with God when we take this meal with him.

We can reflect on the nature of the covenant. The Jews had just committed to written book of laws. The apostles committed to Jesus. What is the nature of this new covenant?

Next, we return to our concordance. In Luke 22:20, the language is “the new covenant in my blood.” A search under “new covenant” brings up —

(Jer 31:31 ESV) 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,

That just has to be part of what Jesus was talking about! And so we look at the context —

(Jer 31:31-34 ESV) 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 But 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.”

 And we’ve covered this passage here many times. This is the foundation for Hebrews 8 – 10. And so, we hear Jesus saying,

“At long last, the new covenant promised by Jeremiah is instituted. Like the old covenant, it’s instituted by the offering of blood and a ceremonial meal. But as Jeremiah taught, this is going to be a very different kind of covenant because everyone under this covenant will enjoy the intimacy with God enjoyed by Moses and a select few leaders.

“And this covenant is instituted with a very different sacrifice — the sacrifice of my own blood. Through my sacrifice, God will honor the blood covenant he made with your fathers and with Abraham before. God will pay the price of sin for you, through me.”

I’ve posted on this subject before at –

The Blood of the Covenant

The Blood of the Covenant, Part 2

 There are countless lessons to be drawn from this parallel — and yet commentaries routinely miss it. And we’ll discuss why in the next post of this series.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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4 Responses to Hermeneutics: How to Read the New Testament in Light of the Old Testament, Part 2

  1. Alan says:

    I pulled the New International and Tyndale commentaries on Luke 22:20, and neither says a word on the subject

    You really should check some of the older commentaries. Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, the Pulpit Commentary… they all address the significance of the phrase “blood of the covenant” in the old vs new covenant. There’s still a lot of valuable insight in those commentaries.

  2. Tim Archer says:

    I only found that parallel a few years ago. Now Exodus 24 is one of my favorite passages to study when discussing the Lord’s Supper.

    For the most part, our heritage has only focused on “the blood” as the meaning of the cup, totally missing the reference to the covenant. The two concepts were so intertwined for them that the word order was unimportant (this is my blood of the covenant, this is the covenant in my blood).

  3. Joshua Abril says:

    This was very insightful. Thank you and God Bless you.

  4. Burntribs says:

    Tim,

    Have you checked out Bobby Valentine’s current sermon series on the Exodus? About a month ago he did a great sermon on Ex 24:1-11.

    Josh

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