Does the Greek
word "διατίθεμαι" (dia·ti'the·mi) mean "to make a covenant," as some Bible
No, it does not! Although the word
διατίθεμαι (dia·ti'the·mi) is defined
in some Bible Dictionaries "to
make a covenant," as one of its meanings
(being related to the word covenant/will),
not in itself mean to make a covenant or a will,
any more than the English word "bequeath" (to leave assets for others after
your death) means to make a will!
In the Greek language the word διαθήκη (diathēkē)
both covenant and will. The
Watchtower Society does not accept this basic fact, claiming that a covenant is
not a will (testament); and for that reason they also do not refer to the Hebrew and Greek
Scriptures as the "Old Testament" and "New Testament," respectively, as they are
otherwise commonly referred to. This has also influenced their definition of the
word διατίθεμαι, for which they have sought support from other sources.
In order to better help us understand the meaning of the word "διατίθεμαι", please consider the English word "will" or "testament" as an example.** A "will", or "testament", as a noun, refers at law to "a legal document in which a person states who should receive his or her possessions after he or she dies." The word "will" can also be a verb (or an adjective), where a person "wills" his possessions to someone after his death; and the possessions become the willed and legal property of that one. Does "to will" (verb) mean the same as "to make a will"? Is it proper English to say that the person "willed a will"? No! He doesn't "will a will", rather he "makes a will," in which he instructs how his estate is to be disposed of after his death. It is not the will that a person inherits, but rather what is stated in the will. Therefore, it is always necessary to specify what it is that is being willed or granted or bequeathed (verb).
In the same way, the word "διατίθεμαι" in itself does not mean to make a will, or a covenant (both of which are the same in Greek), but rather refers to something that is being bequeathed or promised. One would not say, "he (God) covenanted a covenant." That would be redundant. As in the case of the verb "will," with diatithemi it is necessary to state what it is that is being willed. At Luke 22:29, Jesus grants, bequests (diatithemi) the Kingdom to his disciples (no mention of a covenant); while at Hebrews 8:10 Paul explains that God promised to "diatithemi" [grant, make] a new covenant with the house of Israel, quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34. Since "diatithemi" does not in itself mean to make a covenant, it is always necessary to state what it is that is being bequeathed; or assigned; or conferred; or given; or granted; or appointed; or bestowed upon; as other Bible Versions translate the word.
Why then do some Bible Dictionaries say that διατίθεμαι means "to make a covenant" διαθήκη? For the same reason other words are often defined beyond their actual meanings — being greatly influenced by the beliefs of the author, translator, scholar, on a certain subject. Consider just one example (though there are many others) such as the word agape. Regarding the word agape (αγάπη, η), one recent Watchtower article stated:
"The ancient Greeks had four basic words, used in various forms, to describe love: stor‧ge′, e′ros, phi‧li′a, and a‧ga′pe. Of these, a‧ga′pe is the term used to describe the God who 'is love.' Concerning this love, Professor William Barclay in his New Testament Words says: 'Agapē has to do with the mind: it is not simply an emotion which rises unbidden in our hearts; it is a principle by which we deliberately live. Agapē has supremely to do with the will.' In this context, a‧ga′pe is love that is governed, or guided, by principle, but it is often accompanied by strong emotion. As there are good and bad principles, it is evident that Christians should be guided by good principles, which are laid down in the Bible by Jehovah God himself. When we compare Biblical descriptions of a‧ga′pe with other terms used in the Bible to describe love, we will better understand the love that we should demonstrate." —w09 7/15 p. 12 Do You Follow the “Surpassing Way” of Love?
A search of the word agape in the Scriptures will quickly discount the above definition of the word, and reveal that it does not refer to any special sort of love. (See "What is the "AGAPE" [αγάπη] as used in the Scriptures? Is it a godly or Christian love?" Note what the Hastings. J Dictionary of the Bible says on the subject in the above link.) If you have the Greek Version of the New World Translation, you can also check for yourself the many ways in which the word "agape" is translated, both in the Greek as well as the Hebrew portions of the Bible. ***
No, the word "διατίθεμαι" (dia·ti'the·mi) in itself does not mean "to make a covenant" as some Bible Dictionaries define the word, and as it appears in the New World Translation. Does it really matter? Yes, a great deal, when it is claimed that Jesus made a covenant for a kingdom with his disciples on that last night with them; and then teach that this same "covenant for a kingdom" is the new covenant, restricted to only 144,000 disciples.
For further consideration, please see "Did Jesus Make a Covenant for a Kingdom with his Disciples?"