Editor’s note: the following editorial by Concordia Seminary Professor Robert Hoerber (1918–1996) served as the introduction to the January 1978 issue of the Concordia Journal (volume 4, issue 1).
The new calendar year, following closely upon a new church year, reminds us of St. Paul’s description of a Christian as a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17; cf. Gal. 6:15). But this reminder, at first seemingly pointing to a comparison, on closer reflection develops into a decided contrast, for “new” has two different implications.
A new calendar means newness in time—a man-made artificial device for dividing a continuum into years, months, etc. A Christian as a “new creation” denotes newness in quality—a divine change, a difference from what has preceded. As the apostle Paul states, “…the old has passed away (aorist), behold, the new has come (perfect)” (2 Cor. 5:17).
The two connotations of “new” frequently are distinguished by two Greek adjectives: neos and kainos. Neos refers primarily to something new in time, recent, young. It is the word for the new wine in Mark 2:22 and its parallel passages. The wine is not necessarily different in quality from that produced in previous years; it has been recently freshly made. The comparative of neos is used for a younger person (e.g., the younger son in Luke 15:12).
Kainos, in general, implies a newness in quality. It is employed to modify the wineskins in Mark 2:22. They are not merely freshly made but different in quality from the old ones, supple and elastic instead of hard and brittle. In Mark 1:27, this adjective implies that there is a newness of quality in Jesus’ teaching, different from anything the audience had heard previously. Also Paul’s preaching at Athens was new in quality (Acts 17:19). In Revelation we read of a Jerusalem new in quality (3:12; 21:2).
Although the distinction between neos and kainos is not always observed in the New Testament (e.g., forms of both are used for the new covenant in Hebrews 8:8 and 12:24), the frequent distinction between the two Greek adjectives should stress the vital difference between a new year (neos) and a Christian as a “new creation” (kainos). We are not to be content with merely beginning a new calendar, essentially no different from the one recently discarded. The new year should remind us that as “new creations” we are on a new level of life—through God’s creative power in Baptism and His Word. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).
Robert G. Hoerber