Q: Does the Greek word "διατίθεμαι" (dia·ti'the·mi) mean "to make a covenant," as some Bible dictionaries state?



A: 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), it does 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) means 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. (See Footnote*)

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, phili′a, and aga′pe. Of these, aga′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, aga′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 aga′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?"
Compare:  http://biblehub.com/greek/1303.htm



This is what The Watchtowwer, March 1, 1995, said regarding the use of the terms "Old Testament" and "New Testament":

Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures”—Which?
      TODAY it is a common practice in Christendom to use the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” to describe the Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek language parts of the Bible. But is there any Biblical basis for using these terms? And for what reasons do Jehovah’s Witnesses generally avoid using them in their publications? True, 2 Corinthians 3:14, according to the King James Version as well as some other older translations, such as the German Septembertestament, Martin Luther’s first translation (1522), may appear to support this practice. In the King James Version, this verse reads: “But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.”
      However, is the apostle speaking here about the 39 books that are commonly called the “Old Testament”? The Greek word here translated “testament” is di·a·the′ke. The famous German theological encyclopedia Theologische Realenzyklopädie, commenting on 2 Corinthians 3:14, says that ‘the reading of the old di·a·the′ke’ in that verse is the same as ‘reading Moses’ in the following verse. Hence, it says, ‘the old di·a·the′ke’ stands for the Law of Moses, or at most, the Pentateuch. It certainly does not stand for the entire pre-Christian body of inspired Scripture.
      The apostle is referring to only a part of the Hebrew Scriptures, the old Law covenant, which was recorded by Moses in the Pentateuch; he is not referring to the Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures in their entirety. Furthermore, he does not mean that the inspired Christian writings of the first century C.E. constitute a “new testament,” since this term occurs nowhere in the Bible.

It is also to be noted that the Greek word di·a·the′ke that Paul here used actually means “covenant.” (For further information see New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References, Appendix 7E, page 1585, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1984.) Many modern translations therefore correctly read “old covenant” rather than “old testament.”
      In this connection, the “National Catholic Reporter” stated: “The term ‘Old Testament’ inevitably creates an atmosphere of inferiority and outdatedness.” But the Bible is really one work, and no part is outdated, or “old.” Its message is consistent from the first book in the Hebrew part to the last book in the Greek part. (Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) So we have valid reasons to avoid these terms that are based on incorrect assumptions, and we prefer to use the more correct terms “Hebrew Scriptures” and “Christian Greek Scriptures.”
w95 3/1 p. 19 “Old Testament” or “Hebrew Scriptures”—Which? (Bold added)



**  The words will and testament date back to 1250-1300; Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin & Latin; Late Latin testamentum covenant with God, holy scripture, from Latin, last will, from testari to be a witness, call to witness, make a will, from testis witness; akin to Latin tres three & to Latin stare to stand; from the witness's standing by as a third party in a litigation.


*** Another example of the dishonesty of some Bible scholars and translators is in connection with the Greek word "η αρχή", meaning the beginning. At Revelation 3:14 Jesus says, according to the English Standard Version: “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write, ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation." Here, some Bible Versions translate "the beginning" (η αρχή, feminine article) as "ruler" (ο άρχος,  masculine). Why the discrepancy, when in other places of the Scriptures they render η αρχή correctly as "the beginning," or "first", such as at John 1:1; Matt. 24:8; Mark 1:1; John 6:64; 15:27; 16:4; Heb. 1:10; 2 Peter 3:4; 1 John 2:13,14; etc.? They do so because of their belief that Jesus is God, or equal to God, and therefore he had no beginning. At Revelation 1:5 Jesus is called "The Ruler (ο άρχος) of the kings of the earth." Clearly, η αρχή and ο άρχος are not the same, although the words are related. They are not interchangeable.

Many scholars and translators, and religious leaders, are influenced by their beliefs when interpreting or teaching God's Word. They will not hesitate to tamper with the Scriptures in order to make them reflect their own teachings, doctrines, and traditions; thereby making God's Word invalid. (Matt. 15:3-9; 1 John 4:1, 6) That is the case also with the Greek word διατίθεμαι.