I am certain there must be a great answer to this question. Please inform me, as my learning is not so great and I have only started on the study of the Scriptures.

Many Christians use the text of Jeremiah 31.31-34 to support their perspective of the "New Covenant" that Jesus supposedly brought. Here is the text:

"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

My own conflicts with this are as follows:

1a) If G-d's Law was truly G-d's Law, then the possibility of a "New Covenant" that replaces the Law of Moses would be impossible, since it would undercut the entire reality of the Law to begin with. If G-d is unchanging, immutable, then His Law would be both unchanging and unalterable.

1b) The Christian reading of this passage takes it out of the greater context of the Tanakh as a whole. It must be interpreted in light of all the Tanakh teaches. If G-d said certain institutions and ordinances were forever, then they cannot be changed or altered, forever (as the daily prayers clearly attest to; see yig'dal).

2) Reading this within a Jewish context we can see the Messianic overtones. However, these do not point to the "spiritual ministry" of Jesus, but to the Messianic Age, when a true and actual peace will reign on the Earth, when all will truly know and understand Torah knowledge.

The bottom line, the question, is whether or not my interpretive reading of the text is or is not in line with Jewish exegesis. Am I understanding this text properly, from the appropriate Jewish point of view, and are my arguments against the Christian misinterpretation useful?

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    here is one resource drazin.com/?10._The_Eternal_Torah – rosends Apr 23 '14 at 15:12
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    Malachi prophesied after Jeremiah. Look what he says in verse 22: mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et2403.htm – Baby Seal Apr 23 '14 at 15:26
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    also see Deuteronomy 10:16 mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et0510.htm and 30:6 mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et0530.htm the verse from Jeremiah segwes pretty beautifully from it as an explanation. Looks like as things are now (post-Eden) we must actively wrestle with ourselves, circumcizing our own hearts. In the future, Gd will circumcize our hearts, which will forge a new approach to our relationship with him, hence the new covenant. – Baby Seal Apr 23 '14 at 15:27
  • @Danno, thank you for the great article, full of refutations on a wide variety of points. Will definitely be using this site! – Yochanan Michael Apr 23 '14 at 16:18
  • @BabySeal, thank you as well, for the Scriptural insights and putting the verses more into the context of the Tanakh as a whole. – Yochanan Michael Apr 23 '14 at 16:19

You are correct that they are twisting what Jeremiah said in order to support their missionary efforts.

Radak points out that the "newness" will be that the Bnai Yisrael will have grown to to the extent that they will no longer fall prey to the evil inclination (as occurred with the golden calf) and break it on their end. Malachi 3:22 points out that there will no longer be prophets and that the Torah as given at Horeb (Har Sinai) is everlasting.

Malbim explains that when the Bnei Yisrael were taken out of Egypt, Hashem had to take them by the hand and pull them out before they fell below the 49th level of tum'ah and became totally lost. They had not yet reached the level of the Torah. They were like young children who had to be taught what to do and are too young to fully understand. As a result, since we have free will, we could and did break the covenant, but Hashem (as Metzudas David says) continued and maintained the covenant to save them from their enemies.

Ibn Nachmiash explains the Torah must always seem new and fresh, as if we have just accepted it. The only reason that it might seem old and boring are the actions of the evil inclination (as exemplified by the claims of other religions that the Torah has been "replaced").

For example Is Jeremiah’s “new covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31-34) a prophecy fulfilled by the New Testament?

Answer: The term “new covenant” would be meaningless unless what Jeremiah meant by it was the renewing of the old covenant, which will thereby regain its full original vigor. The covenant of old is of eternal duration, never to be rescinded or to be superseded by a new covenant (Leviticus 26:44-45). The covenant between God and Israel is frequently referred to as everlasting (e.g., Genesis 17:7, 13, 19; Psalms 105:8, 10; 1 Chronicles 16:13-18).

The Christian position concerning Jeremiah’s covenant is the complete opposite of what the Jewish Scriptures teach. Hebrews 8:13 states: “In that he says, a new covenant, he has made the first obsolete. Now that which is being made obsolete and growing old is near to vanishing away.” In stark contrast to this statement, the Scriptures state: “The works of His hands are truth and justice; and His precepts are sure. They are established forever and ever, they are done in truth and uprightness” (Psalms 111:7-8); “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God shall stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Jeremiah’s “new covenant” is not a replacement of the existing covenant, but merely a figure of speech expressing the reinvigoration and revitalization of the existing covenant. The people of Israel possess an old covenant yet a new covenant, truly an everlasting covenant.

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  • @sabbahillel Thank you graciously not only for your swift answer, but for its depth of content and well-researched information. This is not only an answer, but an answer that could potentially ward off follow-up questions. I cannot thank you enough. – Yochanan Michael Apr 23 '14 at 16:06

Jeremiah did not say "make a new Torah or new Tanach", but make to make the same covenant refreshed, refreshing and renewing our understanding of the covenant we received thousands of years ago. It's all about a covenant of "just as Hashem is faithful in providing all our physical needs, so is He expecting our faithfulness to Him." Not for His good, but for our own good. He provides even though we still are only human. He has faith in us and looks at our potential.

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