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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

Testament . The word is not found in the OT. In the text of the RV [Note: Revised Version.] of the NT it occurs only twice (  Hebrews 9:16 f.) and is used to translate the Gr. word diathçkç , elsewhere rendered ‘covenant’ (with ‘testament’ in the margin). In   Hebrews 9:15-20 diathçkç is three times translated ‘covenant,’ and twice ‘testament.’ An indication of the difficulty involved in its interpretation is given in the marginal note: ‘The Greek word here used signifies both covenant and testament .’

In classical Greek diathçkç means ‘a testamentary disposition,’ and synthçkç ‘a covenant.’ The latter word connotes an agreement between two persons regarded as being on an equal footing ( syn- ); hence it is unsuitable as a designation of God’s gracious covenants with men. The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] therefore use diathçkç as the equivalent of the Heb. word for ‘covenant’ ( bÄ•rîth ), its most frequent application being to the Divine covenants, which are not matters of mutual arrangement between God and His people, but are rather ‘analogous to the disposition of property by testament.’ In the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] diathçkç was extended to covenants between man and man, but Westcott says: ‘There is not the least trace of the meaning “testament” in the Greek Old Test. Scriptures, and the idea of a “testament” was indeed foreign to the Jews till the time of the Herods’ ( Com. on Hebrews , Additional Note on   Hebrews 9:15 ).

In the NT ‘covenant’ is unquestionably the correct translation of diathçkç when it occurs ‘in strictly Biblical and Hebraic surroundings’ [see Covenant]. But, as Ramsay has pointed out, there was a development in the meaning of the word after the publication of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] . This development was ‘partly in the line of natural growth in Greek will-making, … partly in the way of assimilation of Roman ideas on wills ’ ( Hist. Com. on Galatians , p. 360). Therefore the question which the interpreter must ask is, ‘What ideas did the word convey to the first readers of the NT writings?’

The Revisers’ preference for ‘testament’ in  Hebrews 9:16 f. is strongly confirmed by the fact that ‘the Roman will … appeared in the East as a document which had no standing and no meaning until after the testator’s death, and was revocable by him at pleasure.’ But whilst the Epistle to the Hebrews was written to those who knew only the Roman will, the Epistle to the Galatians was written at a time when in Hellenized Asia Minor ‘irrevocability was a characteristic feature’ of Greek will-making. The Galatian will had to do primarily with the appointment of an heir; no second will could invalidate it or ‘add essentially novel conditions.’ Such a will furnished St. Paul (  Galatians 3:15 ) with an analogy; like God’s word, it was ‘irrevocable.’ It might be supplemented in details, but ‘in essence the second will must confirm the original will’ (Ramsay, op. cit . p. 349 ff.).

In the NT, testamentum is the uniform Lat. tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of diathçkç . Frequently, therefore, it means ‘covenant’ (  Luke 1:72 ,   Acts 7:3 ,   Romans 11:27 etc.). This use of the Latin word is the explanation of the fact that, as early as the second cent of our era, the books of the Old and New Covenants were spoken of as the Old and New Testaments.

J. G. Tasker.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [2]

This word is very familiar to the reader of the Bible. Every one knows what is meant by the New Testament; but perhaps the peculiar blessedness of the name, seen with an eye to Christ, is not so richly and so fully enjoyed as it ought even by real believers. There is indeed a most precious savour in the word, when we have respect to it, as Jesus had to the symbols of his supper, when he called the sacred service "the New Testament in his blood."

A testament, in the common acceptation of the term, implies the last act and will of a person in disposing of his effects. So the apostle called it,  Hebrews 9:15-17. Such therefore was the blessed act of Christ; and the gospel was called so because it contained the legacies and testamentary effects Jesus bequeathed to his church and people.

In respect to the term, New Testament, that was not added as if the contents of it differed from the Old; for in fact it became a fulfilment and confirmation of all that went before: every thing in the Old Testament was the shadow and type of the New. But the peculiar cause for calling it New was, as being newly accomplished and sealed by the blood of its almighty Author; and when first so called the Lord Jesus had but just shed his blood at Jerusalem.

I cannot dismiss the subject, after thus explaining the meaning of the term itself, without calling upon the reader to remark with me how very precious the very name of the New Testament ought to be to every lover of the Lord Jesus, who by the regenerating influence of the Holy Ghost is conscious that he is interested in the contents of it. Reader! pause over the name—"The New Testament in Christ's blood," Surely, I would say, Jesus by his death hath confirmed it, and made all the blessed legacies in it secure and payable. For as the Holy Ghost saith by Paul, "A Testament is of force after men are dead, otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." ( Hebrews 9:17) Shall we not enquire then what Jesus hath left, and to whom he hath left, his vast property? We know that all power is his in heaven and in earth; all blessings are his, temporal, spiritual, and eternal. And surely, it is worth enquiry after such durable treasure!

Now Jesus, before his departure, expressed himself to his disciples on this subject when he said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you." ( John 14:27) Hence therefore the legacies of Jesus are to his people, his disciples, his children. As men before they die make their wills, and give their property to their relations and friends, so the Lord Jesus did his. It is his church, his spouse, his offspring, which are by name mentioned in his will, and who alone are interested in it. Oh, for grace then to prove the Lord's will in it. Oh, for to lay claim to all the legacies contained in it! Am I married to the Lord, and hath Jesus bethrothed me to him for ever? Am I gathered out of nature's darkness, and become a child of God by adoption and by grace? It is said, If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Am I a new creature, renewed by the Holy Ghost; and hath the Lord given me a new heart and a new mind, so that old things are passed away, and all things are become new? Oh! for the blessed discovery of these sure marks of a relationship to Christ, and in Christ; for then sure I am, that I have an interest in Christ's will, and he that gave himself for me, hath given all blessings to me. And as he died to make his Testament valid, so he ever liveth to be the executor and administrator of his Testament, and to see the whole blessings of his will faithfully given to his whole Church and people. Hail thou glorious Testator of the New Testament in thy blood!

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

The property or estate of the father fell, after his decease, into the possession of his sons, who divided it among themselves equally, with this exception, that the eldest son had two portions. The father expressed his last wishes or will in the presence of witnesses, and probably in the presence of the heirs,  2 Kings 20:1 . At a more recent period the will was made out in writing. The portion that was given to the sons of concubines depended altogether upon the feelings of the father. Abraham gave presents, to what amount is not known, both to Ishmael and to the sons whom he had by Keturah, and sent them away before his death. It does not appear that they had any other portion in the estate. But Jacob made the sons whom he had by his concubines heirs as well as the others,  Genesis 21:8-21;  Genesis 25:1-6;  Genesis 49:1-27 . Moses laid no restrictions upon the choice of fathers in this respect; and we should infer that the sons of concubines, for the most part, received an equal share with the other sons, from the fact, that Jephtha, the son of a concubine, complained that he was excluded without any portion from his father's house,  Judges 11:1-7 . The daughters not only had no portion in the estate, but, if they were unmarried, were considered as making a part of it, and were sold by their brothers into matrimony. If they had no brothers, or if they had died, the daughters then took the estate,  Numbers 27:1-8 . If any one died intestate, and without offspring, the property was disposed of according to  Numbers 27:8-11 . The servants or the slaves in a family could not claim any share in the estate as a right; but the person who made a will, might, if he chose, make them his heirs,  Genesis 15:3 . Indeed, in some instances, those who had heirs, recognized as such by law, did not deem it unbecoming to bestow the whole or a portion of their estates on faithful and deserving servants,  Proverbs 17:2 . The widow of the deceased, like his daughters, had no legal right to a share in the estate. The sons, however, or other relations, were bound to afford her an adequate maintenance, unless it had been otherwise arranged in the will. She sometimes returned back again to her father's house, particularly if the support which the heirs gave her was not such as had been promised, or was not sufficient,  Genesis 38:11 . See also the story of Ruth. The prophets very frequently, and undoubtedly not without cause, exclaim against the neglect and injustice shown to widows,  Isaiah 1:17;  Isaiah 10:2;  Jeremiah 7:6;  Jeremiah 22:3;  Ezekiel 22:7;  Exodus 22:22-24;  Deuteronomy 10:18;  Deuteronomy 24:17 .

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [4]

In Scripture, usually signifies covenant, and not a man's last will,  Matthew 26:28 . Both meanings are blended, however, in  Hebrews 9:16-17 . Paul speaks of the New Testament, or covenant, in the blood of the Redeemer; and calls the law the old covenant, and the gospel the new covenant,  1 Corinthians 1:1-16:24   11:25   2 Corinthians 3:6,14   Hebrews 7:22   10:1-39   12:24 . See Bible , and Covenant .

King James Dictionary [5]

TEST'AMENT, n. L. testamentum, from testor, to make a will.

1. A solemn authentic instrument in writing, by which a person declares his will as to the disposal of his estate and effects after his death. This is otherwise called a will. A testament,to be valid, must be made when the testator is of sound mind, and it must be subscribed, witnessed and published in such manner as the law prescribes.

A man in certain cases may make a valid will by words only, and such will is called nuncupative.

2. The name of each general division of the canonical books of the sacred Scriptures as the Old Testament the New Testament. The name is equivalent to covenant, and in our use of it, we apply it to the books which contain the old and new dispensations that of Moses, and that of Jesus Christ.

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): ( n.) A solemn, authentic instrument in writing, by which a person declares his will as to disposal of his estate and effects after his death.

(2): ( n.) One of the two distinct revelations of God's purposes toward man; a covenant; also, one of the two general divisions of the canonical books of the sacred Scriptures, in which the covenants are respectively revealed; as, the Old Testament; the New Testament; - often limited, in colloquial language, to the latter.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

 Hebrews 9:15Bible

Holman Bible Dictionary [8]


Fausset's Bible Dictionary [9]

(See Covenant ; Heir; Wills )

Morrish Bible Dictionary [10]

See Covenant, The New

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [11]

See Covenant.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

is the frequent rendering, in the New Test., of the Greek Διαθήκη (literally a Disposal), and both are used in two distinct senses (see Cremer, Lex. Of N.T. Greek, p. 576 sq.).

1. The natural, and in classical Greek, as in ordinary English, the only, signification is a devisement by will or legacy (Plutarch, De A Dulat. 28; Plato, Legg. 922; Demosth. 1136, 12), and in this sense the word occurs in  Hebrews 9:16-17. (See Inheritance).

2. But the more common signification in the New Test. is one that has come over from the Sept., which often uses Διαθήκη . as a rendering of the Heb. בַּרַית , or Covenant; and in this sense "testament" is the rendering in the A.V. of the Greek word in  Hebrews 7:22;  Hebrews 9:20;  Revelation 11:19; and especially in the phrase the new testament ( Matthew 26:28;  Mark 14:24;  Luke 22:20;  1 Corinthians 3:6;  Hebrews 9:15 [i.e. "new covenant," as ill  Hebrews 8:8;  Hebrews 12:24]), which has gained currency as the title of the Christian Scriptures as a whole. See New- Englander; May, 1857, Lond. (Wesleyan) Quar. Rev. July, 1857. (See Covenant).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

tes´ta - ment  : The word διαθήκη , diathḗkē , almost invariably rendered "covenant," was rendered in the King James Version "testament" in   Hebrews 9:16 ,  Hebrews 9:17 , in the sense of a will to dispose of property after the maker's death. It is not easy to find justification for the retention of this translation in the Revised Version (British and American), "especially in a book which is so impregnated with the language of the Septuagint as the Epistle to the Hebrews" (Hatch). See Covenant In The New Testament .

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [14]