Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


Word used in the New Testament to contrast and compare both the quantitative concept of the recent with the former and the qualitative idea of the better with the inferior. The theological connotation of the word is used with both these meanings in phrases such as "new covenant" (Luke 22:20; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:8, 13; 9:15), "new creation" (2 Cor 5:17), "new commandment" (John 13:34), and "new self" (Eph 2:15; 4:24; Col 3:10).

Two words are employed in the Greek New Testament to convey these ideas. The word kainos [καινός] appears more than forty times and the word neos [νέος] is used more than twenty times. Efforts have been made to differentiate these by ascribing to the former a qualitative meaning such as "fresh" and to the latter a quantitative or temporal meaning such as "new" or "recent." According to this distinction Jesus introduced a new covenant (kaine, Luke 22:20) in the sense of its being a fresh understanding of the former covenant rather than a different and supplanting one.

However, there are places where the two words seem to be used synonymously. For example, Hebrews 8:8, 13 refers to the new covenant with the word kaine while 12:24 calls it a neos [νέος] covenant. Mark 2:21-22 speaks of sewing a new (kainon) patch on an old garment and putting new neos [νέος] wine in old wineskins. Thus, it is probable that the words are virtually synonymous in the New Testament unless contextually differentiated.

Generally the word "new" is used to draw a contrast with the old. Jesus' teaching was contrasted with that of the scribes by some who heard him, calling it "new" (Mark 1:21-27). The new aspect was that Jesus taught with authority. Paul wrote that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor 5:17). John looked for new heavens and a new earth, because the first ones had passed away (Rev 21:1).

Most of what Jesus taught was rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures and was new only in point of emphasis or application. He reaffirmed the teaching of Hebrew Scripture that centralized the Shema as the heart of Jewish religion: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut 6:5-6). To this Jesus added the corollary: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt 22:39). He said these two commandments fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus made love for one another the mark of discipleship: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). His command to love one's enemies seems to be an innovation (Matt 5:44).

John McRay


Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell Copyright 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'New'". "Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology".
<>. 1897.