Covenant theology questions

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arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Been doing some reading on different (Baptist vs Presbyterian) covenant theology and how ANE literature is in a sense helping it all out. However, others are not of that opinion ans they believe it needs to be discarded.

One objection I have come across is that no one, let alone the ANE culture of Israel and Moses, would ever seen one covenant through the Bible constantly renewed (or a collection of covenants as one single) except for covenant renewels explicitly stated.
What say you?
 

Zork

Puritan Board Freshman
Going to get killed here but im going to say it anyway. Im leaning towards a literal interpretation. God still has plans for Israel.(If God didnt have plans for them why they the only ones around? They would have dissap ) Rapture. Literal 1000 Years Kingdom. Some say its dispensationalism vs covenant theology. Im in the middle. I agree with some points on both and i disagree on some points. I read a good book about this. Neutral views of both. Will check tonight and post the name. This is going to be a interesting discussion.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The "comparative-culture" hermeneutic is an extremely leveling enterprise, especially as it has come to be used: a hammer instead of tweezers.

We might as well say that there are no differences of appreciable measure between the US Fed.gov. and the Canadian. "Just think of all the similarities, and the common history; they're practically identical." If scholars from the future look back at our time, and make the basis of their analysis the (putative) common essence of "North American governance," of course we won't be around to complain against unwarranted homogenization of two (or more) distinct cultures.

If someone starts out disbelieving the Bible contains one, long saga; he's not likely to find any unifying motif, unless (as he might say it) one is imposed on the text by some later interpreter or reader. He might even think himself that this is legitimate for each party in its own era; but having said that, he might further raise objection if that subjective judgment is pressed on even later eras as dogma.

In the history of Israel, we find evidence in different generations there was some conception of some kind of covenant-continuity between Abraham's covenant and the days of the Exodus (covenant at Sinai), then of the judges, then of the kings (a covenant with David). What some people want to say is that later eras were "theologizing" about the past and previous revelation. A prophet like Isaiah (e.g. 63:16) was "bringing Abraham into his own time," not out of any legitimate sense of belonging to that covenant, but because it suited his needs, the need he felt in his time to give folks in the 8th cent. B.C. motives for... whatever.

What I think we should be saying is that Moses indeed was theologizing, even as he wrote his history. He gives us the first inkling that God's covenants with his people have continuity. Theology and history are not two different categories of thinking and interpreting, but a single work when it comes to revelation. So Moses teaches that Israel coming out of Egypt is entering into a covenant-relation with God, but it is built on the promises made to Abraham. It is not somehow a purely other, an unconnected relation.

Therefore, circumcision (an Abrahamic convention and sign of covenant) is incorporated into the national self-conception from Sinai. Here is an important mark of continuity. That isn't the sole mark of connection; nor do these connections mean that there are no distinctions, no qualities of one covenant era unchanged to the next. But it is a strange read of even Moses' history that chops up the history of the Twelve Tribes, which Moses takes back to the beginning of the world.

Are we supposed to believe that those ancient records in Genesis were merely traditional collective memory (Moses wouldn't tamper with that), and Moses had no intention of connecting the primeval history (the fall, the flood, etc.) all in one connected tale that culminated in the deliverance?

I say: No way. Moses didn't just dust off some family and world history (which he may have had, I'm not doubting that), and with some light editing weave a nice back-story together for Israel--kind of like Thomas Jefferson might have done if he wrote the authoritative account for justifying the American Revolution.

That's not what happened, anyway not the way Bible-believers have traditionally taken the founding document of our religion. Scripture is more than a bound-collection of legends, even truthful ones.

Moses is our first teacher of the right interpretation of those ancient genealogies. The theology he imposes on the record is the theology that he imposes on the future. "To the law and the testimony! If they speak not according to this word there is no light in them." Later revelation must be consonant with the previous, as a mark of its authenticity.

Besides, there is one God; and one humanity. There is a single story of redemption, which is the paradigm of our self-understanding. Why wouldn't God have one plan of salvation for the human race, and unfold it in history? It is the conviction that he did this very thing that led men to work out the shape of that plan, and how it came to expression under various historic covenants in the Bible. That is theology and we shouldn't apologize for declaring our confidence that the Bible was given in part to reveal these things.

People who try to end the debate about the proper approach to reading the text by saying the other side is "imposing," while their side is simply letting the text "speak," have their own agenda. Only they've wrapped it up in alleged superiority by claiming greater objectivity. What could be more "objective" than the measure of reading all the ANE texts at "the same level?"

Well, they aren't the same level to begin with; and saying that they are is the contrary postulate. The Bible (alone) is revelation, and is privileged. That is a form--a laudable form--of elitism, Amen.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
One objection I have come across is that no one, let alone the ANE culture of Israel and Moses, would ever seen one covenant through the Bible constantly renewed (or a collection of covenants as one single) except for covenant renewels explicitly stated.

On ANE lit., it is useful for a certain kind of information. It shouldn't be altogether excluded. It helps to show the historical situation into which special revelation is given. It has grammatico-historical value. When it comes to the actual theological content of Scripture, though, it is obvious from the divine mandate of Israel's separation from the idolatrous nations that special revelation stands in its own exclusive domain of authority. The monotheistic faith of Israel is placed in stark contrast with the ANE lit., and this monotheism is of such a personal nature that it is comprehensive in its claims.

The fact of multiple historical "covenants" is not disputed so far as the use of exegetical terms is concerned. Nor is it denied that these historical "covenants" have some contrasting features with one another. The issue pertains to the "unity" of God's dealings with fallen humanity as seen in the light of Christ's fulfilment of God's promises. Apart from this overarching "unity" these historical covenants would have no significance for a Christian, and the Old Testament itself would be a veiled book, a condemning letter, without any spiritual life and power. When the Old Testament is understood in terms of God's saving purpose from age to age, viewing revelation in its entirety, it is clear that there is only one covenant of grace in various dispensations.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The fact of multiple historical "covenants" is not disputed so far as the use of exegetical terms is concerned. Nor is it denied that these historical "covenants" have some contrasting features with one another. The issue pertains to the "unity" of God's dealings with fallen humanity as seen in the light of Christ's fulfilment of God's promises. Apart from this overarching "unity" these historical covenants would have no significance for a Christian, and the Old Testament itself would be a veiled book, a condemning letter, without any spiritual life and power. When the Old Testament is understood in terms of God's saving purpose from age to age, viewing revelation in its entirety, it is clear that there is only one covenant of grace in various dispensations.
This is what I don't think some of the objectors understand. As a result they attack straw men.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Naturally, it is a charge that sounds absurd to the other side. For our part, we ask: How can our view diminish, when it performs admirably?

The claim is that the other side does "newness" better. Think about that for a moment.

It's like saying that Billy likes his birthday toys better than Johnny, because he threw away last year's batch when he unwrapped the latest ones; Johnny kept a few of his old ones to use together with his new ones--"You're an idiot, Johnny."

First, one should be forced to demonstrate why there's nothing (or so much less) that should carry over into the next era.

Is the New Covenant (relative to what passed beforehand) more akin to the break in U.S.A. history that is marked by various independent transatlantic departures from the old countries, or to the break on the N.A. continent that is marked by the success of the War of Independence?

The latter created something very new (almost unheard of in the world), in terms of what went before in the Colonies, which had no formal union or government. At the same time, many of the former manners of the people, and the functions of individual states went on with very few disturbances.

Was that "new" enough? Was the French Revolution better at "new?"

Just so, I think CT's apprehension of the newness of the New Covenant is exactly as it should be.
 
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