Hebrews 9:16
Parallel Verses
English Standard Version
For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.

King James Bible
For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

American Standard Version
For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it.

Douay-Rheims Bible
For where there is a testament, the death of the testator must of necessity come in.

English Revised Version
For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it.

Webster's Bible Translation
For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

Weymouth New Testament
For where there is a legal 'will,' there must also be a death brought forward in evidence--the death of him who made it.

Hebrews 9:16 Parallel
Commentary
Vincent's Word Studies

For where a testament is (ὅπου γὰρ διαθήκη)

"The English Version has involved this passage in hopeless obscurity by introducing the idea of a testament and a testator." This statement of Rendall (Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 159) is none too strong. That interpretation, however, is maintained by a very strong array of modern expositors. It is based upon κληρονομία inheritance; it being claimed that this word changes the whole current of thought. Hence it is said that the new covenant established by Christ is here represented as a testamentary disposition on his part, which could become operative in putting the heirs in possession of the inheritance only through the death of Christ. See Additional Note at the end of this chapter.

There must also of necessity be the death of the testator (θάνατου ἀνάγκη φέρεσθαι τοῦ διαθεμένου)

Rend. it is necessary that the death of the institutor (of the covenant) should be borne. With the rendering testament, φέρεσθαι is well-nigh inexplicable. If covenant the meaning is not difficult. If he had meant to say it is necessary that the institutor die, he might better have used γένεσθαι: "it is necessary that the death of the institutor take place"; but he meant to say that it was necessary that the institutor die representatively; that death should be borne for him by an animal victim. If we render testament, it follows that the death of the testator himself is referred to, for which θάνατου φέρεσθαι is a very unusual and awkward expression.

Additional Note on Hebrews 9:16

Against the rendering testament for διαθήκη, and in favor of retaining covenant, are the following considerations:

(a) The abruptness of the change, and its interruption of the line of reasoning. It is introduced into the middle of a continuous argument, in which the new covenant is compared and contrasted with the Mosaic covenant (8:6-10:18).

(b) The turning-point, both of the analogy and of the contrast, is that both covenants were inaugurated and ratified by death: not ordinary, natural death, but sacrificial, violent death, accompanied with bloodshedding as an essential feature. Such a death is plainly indicated in Hebrews 9:15. If διαθήκη signifies testament, θάνατον death in Hebrews 9:16 must mean natural death without bloodshed.

(c) The figure of a testament would not appeal to Hebrews in connection with an inheritance. On the contrary, the idea of the κληρονομία was always associated in the Hebrew mind with the inheritance of Canaan, and that inheritance with the idea of a covenant. See Deuteronomy 4:20-23; 1 Chronicles 16:15-18; Psalm 105:8-11.

(d) In lxx, from which our writer habitually quotes, διαθήκη has universally the meaning of covenant. It occurs about 350 times, mostly representing בְּרִית, covenant. In the Apocryphal books it has the same sense, except in Sir. 38:33, where it signifies disposition or arrangement. Διατιθέσθαι to dispose or arrange represents כָּרַֽת, to cut off, hew, divide. The phrase כָּרַֽת בְּרִֽת, to cut (i.e., make) a covenant, is very common. The verb marks a disposing by the divine will, to which man becomes a party by assent; while συντιθέσθαι indicates an arrangement between two equal parties. There is not a trace of the meaning testament in the Greek O.T. In the classics διαθήκη is usually testament. Philo uses the word in the sense of covenant, but also shows how it acquired that of testament (De Mutatione Nominum, 6 ff.). The Vulgate has testamentum, even where the sense of covenant is indisputable. See Exodus 30:26; Numbers 14:44; 2 Kings 6:15; Jeremiah 3:16; Malachi 3:1; Luke 1:72, Acts 3:25; Acts 7:8. Also in N.T. quotations from the O.T., where, in its translation of the O.T., it uses foedus. See Jeremiah 31:31, cit. Hebrews 8:8. For διατιθέσθαι of making a covenant, see Hebrews 8:10; Acts 3:25; Hebrews 10:16.

(e) The ratification of a covenant by the sacrifice of a victim is attested by Genesis 15:10; Psalm 1:5; Jeremiah 34:18. This is suggested also by the phrase כָּרַֽת בְּרִֽת, to cut a covenant, which finds abundant analogy in both Greek and Latin. Thus we have ὅρκια τάμνειν to cut oaths, that is, to sacrifice a victim in attestation (Hom. Il. ii. 124; Od. xxiv. 483: Hdt. vii. 132). Similarly, σπονδὰς let us cut (make) a league (Eurip. Hel. 1235): φίλια τέμνεσθαι to cement friendship by sacrificing a victim; lit. to cut friendship (Eurip. Suppl. 375). In Latin, foedus ferire to strike a league foedus ictum a ratified league, ratified by a blow (ictus).

(f) If testament is the correct translation in Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17, the writer is fairly chargeable with a rhetorical blunder; for Hebrews 9:18 ff. is plainly intended as a historical illustration of the propositions in Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17, and the illustration turns on a point entirely different from the matter illustrated. The writer is made to say, "A will is of no force until after the testator's death; therefore the first covenant was ratified with the blood of victims.

Hebrews 9:16 Parallel Commentaries

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

be. or, be brought in.

Hebrews 9:16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

Cross References
Hebrews 9:15
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 9:17
For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.

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