and the Covenant of Death
This is my second look at this most intriguing Greek word, which is variously (I would say, too variously) translated as “destroyed” “fade away“, “done away“, “make void“, and otherwise. The previous article was introductory, delving closer into a few of the twenty some verses. I had planned to dig deeper in following days.
Well, I dug deeper – and my shovel broke.
Translated: There is more here than could be covered in just one article. Instead I would like to just focus on those KATARGEO passages that deal with death and the Old Covenant.
COVENANT OF SIN, CONDEMNATION, AND DEATH
Several of these verses either equate or closely connect the previous Covenant with sin and death: In these verses the word or words that translate KATARGEO are underlined and the pertinent descriptions of the earlier Covenant are in bold. Here is 2 Cor. 3:7-14:
7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.
12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded [lit. hardened]. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament [lit. Old Covenant], because the veil is taken away in Christ.
Notice that the previous Covenant is characterized by, not only condemnation and death, but also the state of being old. We are so used to referring to the Old Covenant that we forget that term, only first found in the pages of the New Testament, is a negative one. The word for “old” is not the one meaning merely previous or ancient, but implies also obsolescence and wearing out. See Trench’s book on New Testament Synonyms for more on this.
At this point it may seem that this article is moving away from my original intentions to do a word study on KATARGEO. But these other points need first to be established, and then I will return to the uses of the word.
THE LETHAL OLD COVENANT
Several other passages also continue this association of the Old Covenant with death or similar terms. The passage just before the one quoted above shows that Old Covenant as not only dead but actively fatal, spiritually lethal for all those who rely on it. 2nd Cor. 3:2-6. Paul tells the Corinthian Christians…
3 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. 4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
These characterizations of the Old Covenant stand out:
Written with black ink,
chiseled in hard stone,
on dead tablets.
All these are contrasted with the excellences of the New Covenant:
The invisible new life in Christ
and the work of God’s Spirit in our hearts.
Spiritual guidance from the Spirit of new life in Christ, the Second Adam being a life-giving Spirit.
This is much better than the killing letter of the Law we could never fulfill. This helps us to thankfully realize the blessedness of Christ’s first fulfilling, then abolishing the Law. Matt. 5:17.