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COVENANT AND SCRIPTURE

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  July 27, 2012 — 1 Comment

The Bible is very much a covenant document, as even a cursory reading demonstrates. The biblical words for “covenant” appear often in Scripture. The Hebrew berith occurs 285 times in the Old Testament, while the Greek word diatheke appears thirty times in the New Test-ament. Thus, we might well state that “the Biblical category which does the greatest justice to the persistence of God’s activity among his people is the covenant relation.” Indeed, the covenant “is the primary way in which the Bible portrays the relationship between God and his people.” Most Bible scholars hold that the covenant idea is a dominant biblical theme in Scripture.

Mutually established covenants are common among the ancients, as we see from numerous examples both in Scripture and in ancient non-biblical texts. By way of example, we might notice the covenants between Abraham and Abimelech (Ge 21:22–32), Isaac and Abimelech (Ge 26:26–31), Jacob and Laban (Ge 31:43–55), Joshua and the Gibeonites (Jos 9:3–15), and Solomon and Hiram (1Ki 5:12). Such mutually established covenants are similar to modern contracts and treaties, although with some important differences. These human covenants are between roughly equal parties: man to man.

Also appearing in Scripture are the much more important sovereignly established divine covenants. The parties in these are decidedly unequal: the infinite-eternal, perfect God and finite-temporal, fallen man. History-structuring divine covenants of epochal significance include those established with Adam (Hos 6:7), Noah (Ge 6:18), Abraham (Ge 15:18), Israel (Ex 24:8), and David (Ps 89:3). Off in the future from the Old Testament perspective lay the glorious, final, consummative “new covenant” (Jer 31:31–34). These divine covenants are unique to the biblical record, for “outside the Old Testament we have no clear evidence of a treaty between a god and his people.”

I will deal with the significance of these covenants for Scripture in a following blog where I demonstrate the relationship of “Covenant and Redemption.”

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

One response to COVENANT AND SCRIPTURE

  1. Jules Dubuisson July 28, 2012 at 6:30

    The New Covenant is repeated in the NT.

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