Tag: 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 upon the more variegated biblical […]

  • Are the Gentiles included in Israel?

    Μὴ γένοιτο! No way! Gentiles don’t need to be included in Israel. In fact, the opposite is true; we Gentiles are saved by faith in Christ without being included in Israel. That’s one of the apostle Paul’s big points in Romans and Galatians. We are, of course, included in the promises given to Abraham (Rom […]

  • 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 covenant people and submitted […]

  • 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 with Paul’s argument about the […]

  • 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” is a cipher denoting “God’s […]

  • The ratification of the covenant in Galatians 3:17

    We have seen that the “seed” of Galatians 3:16 is referring to Genesis 17:8. In Galatians 3:16, Paul is explaining to the gentile Galatians that the “seed” of Genesis 17:8 is the “one” nation Israel, not the “multitude” of nations who will also have Abraham as their father (Genesis 17:5). In Galatians 3:17, Paul goes […]

  • 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 multitude (ὡς ἐπὶ πολλῶν), but […]

  • 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 to the secular Graeco-Roman practice […]

  • 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, 6:13). Wright, in the light […]

  • The covenants in the background to Paul’s letters – a summary

    Before we look in detail at Paul’s use of the word “covenant”, it’s worth pausing briefly to review what we have learned about the use of the word “covenant” in the Old Testament, second-temple Jewish literature, and Greek sources. In particular, two important conclusions flow from our survey of the idea of “covenant” in the […]

  • 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 answer was “no” – apart […]

  • 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 covenants are made between God […]

  • Covenants in Cloudcuckooland and the Greek Old Testament

    We have seen, in our series so far, the way that the word “covenant” is used in the Old Testament. How did the Hebrew word for covenant (בְּרִית) come to be translated by the Greek word διαθήκη? A good case can be made that there is a specific use of the Greek word διαθήκη that […]

  • The two-fold covenantal relationship in the prophets: with Israel, for the nations

    We have seen that the covenants with Abraham envisaged two distinct but related goals: nationhood for Abraham’s seed, followed by blessing for the world. The eighth-century prophets use the word “covenant” sparingly, but when they do this two-fold structure is also evident. The prophets never promise that the nations will be included in Israel’s covenants. […]

  • Permanent link to acovenantalism series

    For those who are following the series on acovenantalism – I’ve now created a page with a list of links to every post in the series. The list will be updated whenever a new post appears.

  • 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 used to speak of another […]

  • 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 commanded in the story of […]

  • The two covenants with Abraham – part 2 (Genesis 15, 17 and 22)

    In the previous post we saw how Genesis 12:1-3 makes two distinct but related sets of promises. The first set of promises involves blessing to Abraham (Gen 12:1-2c). The second set of promises involves blessing through Abraham to the world (Gen 12:2d-3). Following Paul Williamson’s analysis, we will now see how these two sets of […]

  • The two covenants with Abraham – Part 1 (Genesis 12)

    This post, and the next few posts, will examine the way that the word “covenant” (בְּרִית) features in Genesis 12–22, which one of the key foundational texts for Galatians 3. (This post is part of a series. See here for an introduction to the series.) It is common to speak of “the Abrahamic covenant”. However, […]

  • What’s the precise meaning of the word ‘covenant’ in the Old Testament?

    The word “covenant” in the Old Testament has a precise and consistent meaning. It doesn’t just mean ‘relationship’, as is commonly assumed today. Rather, “covenant” refers to a very specific type of relationship. The best definition of the word, which accounts for all of its uses in the Bible, is as follows: Covenant = an […]

  • Some important features of Paul’s use of the word ‘covenant’

    We’ve seen a couple of approaches to the task of detecting ‘covenant’ ideas in Paul. These approaches are, in the end, hopelessly subjective, because they start with an assumed definition of ‘covenant’ which is then read into Paul’s texts. A much better approach is to begin with Paul’s actual use of the word ‘covenant’ and […]

  • How should you look for ‘covenantal’ ideas in Paul?

    How do you look for ‘covenantal’ ideas in Paul when he only rarely uses the word ‘covenant’? (This post is part of a series. See here for an introduction to the series.) Of course, we must admit that “covenantal” concepts may be present in a Pauline passage without the word διαθήκη appearing. Porter, for example, […]

  • 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 often been used as an […]

  • 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. 2 vols. Loeb Classical Library […]

  • 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 down into bite-sized pieces, massaging […]