What is the New Covenant “Law” in Jeremiah 31:33? Femi Adeyemi
Some biblical scholars have regarded the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34 as the one of the most profound and incitable verses at the highest point of Old Testament Scriptures due to the nature of promises. The predominant promises are inclusion of: (a) genuine spirituality (“I will put My Law within them and on their heart I will write it”), (b) intimate fellowship between Israel and Yahweh (“I will be their God, and they shall be My people”), (c) universal knowledge of God on the part of Israel (“they will all know Me”), and (d) absolute forgiveness of sin (“I will forgive their iniquity”) (312).
The richness of the texts also indicates its predominance over any previous prophetic predictions. Because of the nature of the promises, Stewart claims that the covenant has unique features that make the covenant itself a unique one. In his own words, “It is the high-water mark of the Old Testament and the supreme achievement of Hebrew religion” (313). I could not have said any better than this. The covenant also shows how God is going to deal with Israel in the near context on account of his covenant relationship with Israelites in the salvation history.
The New Covenant in Jeremiah does not seem to be a unique prophecy for some scholars. Having said this, these scholars argue that each of its features had been already featured in Mosaic Covenant. So they are the renewal form of the Mosaic Covenant which should merely be called a “renewed covenant,” as Kaiser maintains his view.
The varying references from the Old and New Testament to the New Covenant Law have widened the gap of understanding of the text. The author of this journal is simply addressing the relationship of the New Covenant to Israel and not its relationship to church-age believers. The diverse applications of Law are to be underscored in order to get the mind of Jeremiah in the text. Are the references of Law here indicating the Pentateuch legislation, the Ten Commandments, or as a whole Deutero–Law? Or, is it simply advocating for a New Torah which transcends the old Torah and invalids it or just a combination of the old and new one?
John Calvin holds a view that mostly covenant theologians after him embrace regarding the New Covenant Torah (Law) is that the “newness which he before mentioned, was not so as to the substance, but as to the form only“. God does not give any hints of another Law, by which means, it is the same Law but only differed to be in the form.
But this is not case for all theologians. Although von Rod agrees with Calvin and advocates that Jeremiah never quashed in whole or partly what God reveled at Sinai, others believe that New Covenant is the termination of the Old Covenant as a result of miserable failure of Israel to comply with the covenant made at Sinai. So, they argue that God could not have envisioned the same failing old covenant with his people. Bennett affirms that Jehovah will rule by the influence of His Spirit in the heart of men. He will engrave and instill His divine Law into the heart of people. Thus, the New Covenant differs in the context from the Mosaic and Sinaitic Covenants and it annuls the notion of “renewed covenant.”
Moreover, the New Covenant in Jeremiah is the “new” or “fresh” covenant which cannot be overlooked. Being a new one, it is not the continuity of Mosaic Covenant. In other words, the New Covenant Law is in contrast to the Mosaic Covenant and “not in continuum with it” (320). For this reason, it voids the certain instruction of the Mosaic Covenant in light of the perfect forgiveness of sin. Significantly, Jeremiah refers to fresh commandments from God than referring to the Mosaic Law. And this New Covenant Law will be obeyed completely and the Old Covenant will be abolished. Thus, the New Covenant Law will guide the Israelites in the future millennial age.
Yet, from my vantage point, there are many questions to be answered in the journal. And it is also understandable that this kind of short journal cannot cover the whole doctrinal debates. Still, the exploration of the journal review somehow discloses the backdrop of the meaning of the New Covenant Law. The author has done such a critical analysis of the text in Hebrew and Greek to bring forth the proper interpretation of the text. The suspicion whether Jeremiah 31 was addressing the Mosaic Covenant or Sinaitic Covenant is no more lingering in confusion.
There were, however, some unacquainted Hebrew and Greek words used in the journal which made me feel little disappointed. The journal seems to be for only the Bible scholars and students of higher degree who have proficiency in Hebrew and Greek readings and writings. There are many places where author has used those foreign alphabets. If he had used English terms for those particular foreign terms, any Bible students and believers could get great benefit from this journal.
Adeyemi, Femi. “What is the new covenant “law” in Jeremiah 31:33?.” Bibliotheca sacra 163.651 (2006): 312-321. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. EBSCO. Web. 2 Feb. 2009.
 John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and Lamentations, vol. 4, trans, John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1850; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), 4:131-32 (italics his); and idem, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971), 2.10.2.