Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 31 by Thomas

Jeremiah 31:31-34 is an important ‘Proof Text’ for many
Christians who believe it foreshadows the replacement of the Mosaic Law with Jesus.

However, while Christian apologists claim Jeremiah had an
entirely new covenant in mind, biblical scholars disagree, and say that
Jeremiah did not have a different covenant in mind which would replace the Law
of Moses; rather, it would be an internalizing of the Law of Moses. Here is a
brief selection of scholars on this subject:

“The newness of the covenant will not be found in a
different set of laws. The new covenant would still be centered in the law
(torah) of Mt. Sinai, so in this regard there was to be no change, for the
problem of the old covenant was not in its inadequacy but in the Israelites’
inability to keep it and to obey its laws…in the new covenant, the law would
be written on human hearts. ..Speaking and hearing of the law would no longer
be necessary; for no man would have to teach his neighbour or be taught, for
each would know and obey the law from the least to the greatest.”

‘Introduction to the
Bible,’ By John Haralson Hayes (Emory University)

“The contrast between the old and new covenant is in its
mode of reception. The old covenant from Sinai was resisted until it was broken
and abrogated. The new covenant will not be resisted, because the torah – the
same commandments as at Sinai – will be written on their hearts. That is, the
commandments will not be an external rule which invites hostility, but now will
be an embraced, internal identity-giving mark, so that obeying will be as
normal and as readily accepted as breathing and eating…All inclination to
resist, refuse or disobey will have evaporated, because the members of the new
community of covenant are transformed people who have rightly inclined hearts.”

’A commentary on Jeremiah: exile and homecoming’ By Walter
Brueggemann (United Church of Christ Minister; retired from Columbia
Theological Seminary)

“The circumcising of the heart (Deut 10:15, 30:6) is a figure of cleansing and
inner change; in Deut 10:16 it is a demand and in 30:6 a promise that Yahweh
will circumcise ‘your hearts and the hearts of your descendants.’ The effect of
this will be pure and copious springs of motivation, and undivided love for
Yahweh. This will result (as at Jer 31:31-34) in constant obedience to the Law:
‘Then you will obey Yahweh once more and keep all his commandments.’”

‘A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Jeremiah, Vol. 2:
Commentary on Jeremiah, XXVI-LII’ By William McKane (late professor of Hebrew
& Oriental Language at St. Andrew’s University and ordained into Church of

“Jeremiah affirms the continuity of the Mosaic formulation
of covenant; the allusion to the Exodus is clear. The essential content of this
new covenant will remain the same: the union of YHWH will put his Torah inside
them by writing it on their hearts.”

‘Reading the Old Testament: an introduction to the Hebrew
Bible,’ By Barry L. Bandstra (Hope College)

“Among Christians, the new covenant passage is perhaps the
most well-known and misread of Jeremianic texts. The new covenant prophecy does not cancel YHWH’s covenant in favour
of Christianity
. Christians will, of course, place great significance on
this short passage, using its language to express their faith that the newness
of divine revelation in Jesus Christ stands in continuity with YHWH’s covenant
with Israel. When the book of Jeremiah speaks of the new covenant, however, it
is referring to renewed relationship between Israel and YHWH.”

‘The Oxford Bible commentary,’ By John Barton (priest,
Church of England; University of Oxford)

“Jeremiah looks forward to a time in which Israel and Judah
will have completely internalized the stipulations of the covenant (i.e., the

‘Constructing a new covenant:discursive strategies in the
Damascus Document and Second Corinthians,’ By Thomas R. Blanton (Luther

“Furthermore, Jeremiah’s new covenant does not refer to the New Testament or to Christianity, though it
has often been interpreted this way…it is a utopian vision.”

‘Covenant,’ By Steven L. McKenzie (Rhodes College)

“There also seems to be almost
a full consensus
that this oracle does not refer to a new revelatory
meaning of the Torah; rather, that the Torah’s internalization is the issue…
In other words, but for the internalizing/realization, Jeremiah’s covenant was
the same covenant, albeit renewed, as the preceding ones: same nation, same
kernel of both new and old – the Lord’s Torah.”

‘Mapping the New Testament: Early Christian Writings as a
Witness for Jewish Biblical Exegesis,’ By Serge Ruzer (Hebrew University, and
the only non-Christian on this list).

In sum, the claim of Christian apologists that Jeremiah
31:31-34 represents a replacement of the Law of Moses with Jesus is rejected by
modern scholars, many (perhaps most) of whom are Christian. These scholars
believe that Jeremiah’s new covenant “does not refer to…Christianity,” and does
“not cancel YHWH’s covenant in favour of Christianity.” Rather, the almost
“full consensus” among scholars is that Jeremiah 31 is centered on the “torah
of Mt. Sinai” and “constant obedience” to it.

If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.

Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.

Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

This entry was posted in Thomas. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 31 by Thomas

  1. Mitch W says:

    That’s something else. When you see how overwhelmingly rejected the missionaries’ arguments are by so many christian scholars, it should make anyone reconsider the strength of their arguments.

  2. Shomer says:

    In Christianity it is widely pretended that the so-called New Testament is the new covenant foretold in Jeremiah 31. If you read Jeremiah 31:33 thoroughly and compare it with statements from the “NT” such as Rom 10:4 (The Torah is expired because of “Christ”) e. g. you can never ever come to this conclusion. It is an obvious contradiction.

    In Christianity, even the difference between the house of Yehuda and the house if Israel is unknown, because they pretend to be the spiritual Israel.

  3. Pingback: The Applicant with 353 References | 1000 Verses

  4. Pingback: Responding to the Missionary Proof-texts | The "Proof-texts" – a project of Judaism Resourc

  5. Pingback: RESPONDING TO THE MISSIONARY PROOF-TEXTS by Rabbi Blumenthal | Noach ben Avraham

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.