Why do we use the word “testament” and not “covenant” to describe the old and new testament divisions in the bible? In Hebrew, “berit” is translated as covenant. In the Greek it is translated as testament. Is testament completely interchangeable with covenant? Some do not think so because the Hebrew word “berit” or covenant has a broader meaning than testament.
The idea of covenant sounds political because of political treaties between nations (i.e., treaties between ancient patriarchs, e.g., Jacob and Laban in Gen. 31). Therefore, covenant is more of a political idea and is religiously applied to Israel. Covenant is also used to speak of a marriage covenant (e.g. Mal. 2:14). Covenant also brings a sense of a contractual promise (i.e., in the Old Testament sense, a promise made with an oath) to distribute certain “goods” or “assets” to the beneficiary at a certain time. We have interpreted the word “berit” in the broad sense of “contract.” “Testament”, however, is more specific and stresses the promissory nature of the covenant which God made with his people. Therefore, some people feel that “testament” is more accurate than “covenant”.