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Covenant

The Federal Myopia

Sometimes exponents of a “covenantal” understanding of the Bible or of Christian theology refer to their framework using the term “federal”. In this view, “covenantal” and “federal” are essentially synonymns. I think that this is a mistake, because it imposes a particular and narrow understanding of what a “covenant” is …

The Purpose of the Law in Galatians 3

What is the purpose of the law according to Galatians 3? (This post is part of a series) The immediate question in Galatians 3:17 is that of the status of the Sinai covenant. Paul’s opponents seem to have been arguing that the Gentiles could only be blessed if they joined …

The mediator in Galatians 3:20

Galatians 3:20 is literally translated: A mediator is not of one, yet God is one. The word “one” can mean either “one (as opposed to many)”; or it can mean “united (as opposed to divided)”. What does it mean in this verse? And what does this verse have to do …

Postscript: Why the New Perspective claims that “righteousness” means “covenant faithfulness” – and why it’s wrong

Here’s a very insightful post from Lee Irons critiquing the theory that “righteousness” means “covenant faithfulness”. I’ll quote a sizeable chunk of Irons’ conclusions because they’re highly relevant to both of my series on righteousness and covenant: As you can see, the New Perspective claim that “the righteousness of God” …

The singular seed of Galatians 3:16

What is the purpose of Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:16? (This post is part of a series) In Galatians 3:16, Paul exegetes a phrase from the Abrahamic narrative: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It does not say, ‘And to seeds’, as though to a …

The word ‘covenant’ in Galatians 3:15

What does the word διαθήκη (“covenant”) mean in Galatians 3:15? (This post is part of a series) Some interpreters understand the word to mean “last will and testament”.[1] In this understanding, when Paul speaks in “human terms” (κατὰ ἄνθρωπον) about a “human” covenant (ἀνθρώπον [. . .] διαθήκην) he refers …

The covenants in Galatians 3:15-22 – Introduction

The argument of Galatians 3:15–22 is “generally reckoned among the most difficult in Paul”.[1] In Galatians, Paul is strenuously arguing against opponents who want the Gentile Christians to adopt circumcision and the law (i.e. become ethnic Jews) as a prerequisite for salvation in Christ (e.g. Gal 2:14, 4:21, 5:3, 11, …

The sectarian covenants of Qumran and the New Perspective

We asked, in our previous post in this series, whether we could detect a shift in the second temple literature away from the pervasive Old Testament understanding of the word “covenant” (“an elected relationship of obligation under oath”) towards a more sociological concept (akin to the New Perspective’s emphasis). The …

Covenants in Second Temple Judaism

We have seen, in our series so far, the way that the word “covenant” is used in the Old Testament. A covenant is not a catch-all term for “relationship”, but it refers to a specific kind of relationship: “an elected relationship of obligation under oath”. Furthermore, although some of the …

Two kinds of covenant at Sinai: law and mediation

Just as there are two distinct but related covenants described in Genesis 12-22, so also there are two distinct but related covenants stemming from the events at Sinai. Firstly, there is the well-known covenant of law, which is a covenant between God and Israel. But the word “covenant” is also …

What is the significance of circumcision in Genesis?

Why did God give circumcision to Abraham (Gen 17:9–14)? What is it for? It’s not very useful as a “boundary marker” or “badge of membership”, because under most circumstances people can’t tell whether you’ve been circumcised! Furthermore, lots of other ancient peoples practiced circumcision. Can we discern why circumcision is …

What Saint Paul Rarely Said

Being a Christian is about being in a relationship with God. Few people would deny this statement. But what, exactly, does this statement mean? What does a relationship with God look like? How does it operate? What is the nature of a Christian’s relationship with God? The word “covenant” has …

Bibliography for the series on acovenantalism

(An introduction to this series) Bibliography of Primary Sources Cited Aristophanes. Translated by Jeffrey Henderson. 4 vols. Loeb Classical Library 178, 488, 179, 180. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1998–2002. “The Epistle of Barnabas”. Pages 1–83 in Volume 2 of The Apostolic Fathers. Edited and Translated by Bart D. Ehrman. …

Acovenantalism: the series

A few years back I investigated the use of the word ‘covenant’ in the Old Testament and in Paul’s letters, as a project for my final year at Moore College. The whole thesis is available in PDF here, but I thought it would be a good idea to break it …