Winter 1995

The New Covenant: A Theology of Covenant in the New Testament

Joseph Ratzinger

"When it is said of man that he is the image of God, it indicates that he is the being designed for being-in-relation."

1. Testament of covenant? From analysis of the word to the formulation of the question


We call the slender book which constitutes the foundation of Christian faith the "New Testament." This book, however, refers at the same time to another, which we simply call "Scripture," or "the Scriptures," meaning the Bible, which has grown throughout the history of the Jewish people until the coming of Christ, and which Christians call the "Old Testament." The whole of Scripture, on which the Christian faith rests, thus appears as a two-tiered testament addressed by God to man, a proclamation of his will to the world. The word "testament" was not attached extrinsically to the Scriptures, but rather drawn from within them: the title given by Christians to the two books does not merely intend to describe their essential meaning in retrospect, but rather to bring to light the interior thread of Scripture itself and to identify the basic word which provides the key to the whole. With this word, which arises from its very source, we are attempting somehow to sum up conclusively the "essence of Christianity."

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