A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his estate and provides for the transfer of his property at death. This property an inheritance.

What I am wondering is the origin of the word Old Testament, or New Testament. Does 'testament' imply the death of Life in order that we receive an inheritance? Is the Old Testament, a 'Testament' or just a Covenant? Was the Old Covenant truly a Testament, or is only the New Covenant a Testament? If the Old Covenant was also a Testament which would not be ratified until the testator died, in what sense is the Old Covenant a testament before the actual death of Christ?

Does the word testament in the titles 'Old Testament' and 'New Testament' imply the death of the testator in both covenants and thus provide a biblical basis for calling the two divisions of the Bible testaments, rather then just covenants?

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    In the context of a will executable upon death, I have always heard it called "the last testament"; which would indicate that "testament" itself has no sense of finality to it.
    – Flimzy
    Apr 28, 2013 at 20:55

5 Answers 5


It has more to do with the translators and languages than the bible itself. The word Testament is derived from Latin testamentum-a will. I understand you confuse it with the modern meaning of the word, but Blue Letter Bible tries to explain it as follows:

The word "testament" is an old English word that means, "covenant." The Latin term testamentum was used to translate the Greek and Hebrews words for covenant. The English word was derived from the Latin. Hence the Old and New Covenants became the Old and New Testaments.src

Old and New Testaments just means old and new covenant. That is the covenants before and after Jesus Christ. That is here both Testament and covenant have the same meaning. The sourced cited above goes on to even say:

It is unfortunate that the English word "testament" is used to describe the Old and New Covenants that God has made with His people.

I also don't understand how the 'Old Testament' implies the death of testator? God did not die in the Old Testament.

Note: The word covenant came into usage only in Middle English (12th - 15th century) borrowed from Old French, from present participle of convenir, meaning to agree; src So, we can't blame the translators for not using the proper word.

  • Interesting. I thought maybe somebody was being clever and was applying the outcome of this: "Hebrews 9:17-18 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood." i.e. The OT was ratified in blood making covenant prefigure testament, while the NT the testator did die making a fulfilled testament. However I think you are probably right and that is to tricky to be true for the translators use of the titles. Good answer.
    – Mike
    Apr 29, 2013 at 0:32
  • To @Mike: I would also like to note that the Hebrew word ברית (berith) is translated “covenant” in English versions. For Israelites, a ברית is something that can be broken only by death. And it is usually made with contracting parties shedding their blood and mixing it with each others. That is to say it is a very serious matter. Its not like a pact, agreement. A covenant involves full consent of both the parties. Unlike a testament where only a testator gets to decide. Apr 29, 2013 at 6:06
  • A good read in a related topic: God’s Covenant Relationship With Abraham Apr 29, 2013 at 6:07
  • @Jayarathina Madharasan: The parties of the covenant never mixed their own blood. I'm not sure why you say that. Rather, a sacrificial offering was cut in, usually in half, and the parties of the covenant passed between.
    – user900
    Apr 29, 2013 at 6:56
  • To @H3br3wHamm3r81: I think they do mix their blood. Please see the pdf link I posted before. Also see here for different ways to contract a covenant. Even Jewish encyclopedia says so here. It also says that the root word "barah"= to cut. I am sure it is a reliable source. Also that is why when Jesus said This cup is the new covenant in my blood (Lk 22:20) even though the disciples could not have understood it, I am pretty sure they knew something serious was happening. Apr 29, 2013 at 7:21

The Greek word "diatheke", according to Hebrews 9:15-17 means: "the will of the dying father for his children". In this "will" the father pledges to transfer his property to his children after he dies. For the will/the pledge to take an effect, it implies the death of the father. Thus, the Christians receive God's will/pledge/promise (the eternal salvation), not after the death of God the Father, but after the death of Jesus Christ, who perfectly represent God the Father.
Now, the debatable question is: Was the Hebrew word "BERITH" also used to mean "the will/the pledge" of the father? That is not certain. What is certain, however, is that the word implied the death of the sacrificial animal, which typified the death of Jesus Christ, the Son, the perfect representative of his holy Father.


There is no reference within the Old and New Testaments per se of an "Old Testament" or a "New Testament" section of the Bible.

In the Latin translation of Against Heresies, written sometime between 175 and 185 AD, Irenaeus uses the phrase "Scripturae veteris Testamenti". The Latin word "testamentum" is derived from the Latin verb "testari", meaning to witness, testify, attest, etc. It is recognizable as the root for the English word "testify", but it is also the root of the "-testor" words such as "protestor". It is, as others have pointed out, the word used in Latin when referring to the old and new covenants, but it is also used in Latin as you suggest, meaning "will" or "last testament". The former, however, is the Biblical usage; for example:

Luke 1:72

Ad faciendam misericordiam cum patribus nostris: et memorari testamenti sui sancti

To performe the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy Couenant (KJV)

Although the original 1611 King James Version (KJV) and the earlier Tyndale translation (1536) used the word "covenant" ("Couenant"), the 14th century Wycliffe Bible - written in Norman-influenced Middle English - used the word "testament":

To do merci with oure fadris, and to haue mynde of his hooli testament

At some point Church Fathers used the phrases "Old Testament" and "New Testament" to refer not only to the Old and New Covenants, but also as a shortening of the phrase "Old Covenant (Testament) Scriptures" and "New Covenant (Testament) Scriptures". Canon LIX, of the Synod of Laodicea (c. 365 AD), states,for example:

No psalms composed by private individuals nor any uncanonical books may be read in the church, but only the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments.

The writings of the 4th Ecumenical Council (451 AD) include the following commentary by Leo the Great:

For what learning has he received from the sacred pages of the New and the Old Testament, who does not so much as understand the very beginning of the Creed?


To sum all your comments up.... JESUS IS GOD IN THE FLESH who paid for the sins of the world with the blood of the human body that he prepared himself to be in. That's it.

Also THINK about it: The Father gave the testament/covenant to begin with. It is HIS covenant that HE made. So since a Will is not of force until the one who gives the Will actually dies, then by that very definition alone, the Father was showing all along that He, being the Maker of the Will, would be the Only one dying, in order for his Will to be effective for his (heirs) US!!!

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Mat 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Strong's Greek Word Testament





From G1303; properly a disposition, that is, (specifically) a contract (especially a devisory will): - covenant, testament.

Thesaurus Devisor

Noun 1. devisor - someone who devises real property in a will

testate, testator - a person who makes a will

Heb 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. Heb 9:16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. Heb 9:17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Rom 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Rom 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. Rom 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Heb 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, Heb 10:20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

Gen 15:17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. Gen 15:18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Heb 11:18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Heb 11:19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Yes Christ the testator did die to enact the New Will and Testament which brought us into the Kingdom of God. The word testament was used by Christ to describe his act of sacrifice for our sins. Strongs greek word for testament it specifically says the original word was a devisory will. I included the definition for devisory incase that word is unfamiliar. The Old covenant was a covenant established through the death of animals because of the willingness of Abraham to offer Isaac. There are no testators of the old covenant only partners.

I disagree with the other answer posted because it disagrees with Jesus and the writers of Hebrews 9 and offers a theological answer which does not properly reflect the words of Jesus nor the tone of the Bible.

  • I do not disagree that both the Old and New Testament indictae the inheritance provided by Christ's blood. The old figurativley in a promise and shedding of animal blood, the new by Christ's own death. However I am not sure who first started to use those phrases splitting Hebrew from Greek scriptures and under what meaning they had when the Bible was first translated into English. Although I accepted the other answer as probable, actually I am not sure and your point is valid.
    – Mike
    Jul 3, 2013 at 4:37
  • After thinking i need to switch to accepting your answer but not sure you explained it as good as it might have been. The main point upon which this argument can be built is that there was never any covenant between God and men in scripture without the 'shedding of blood'. Under the Old Testament we know that this blood was typical of the death of Christ under the New Covenant.
    – Mike
    Feb 1, 2014 at 5:20
  • @KorvinStarmast - I could not figure out what I was saying in that comment so I presume it was a misprint and deleted it. hehe
    – Mike
    Jul 14, 2016 at 17:29

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