Israelite Covenants In The Light Of Ancient Near Eastern Covenants (Part 1 of 2) -- By: René A. López
CTSJ 9:2 (Fall 03) p. 92
Israelite Covenants In The Light Of Ancient Near Eastern Covenants
(Part 1 of 2)
Biblical scholars now perceive that “the relationship between God and man is established by a covenant.”1 Walther Eichrodt emphasizes the theme of covenants as the center in biblical studies.2 Although scholars once characterized his covenantal focus as narrow,3 “it is now generally admitted that his emphasis is not at all out of step with the Ancient Near Eastern world.”4 A key scholar now admits his own failure to “recognize that the concept of ‘covenant’ dominates the entire religious life of Israel to such an extent that W. Eichrodt’s apparently extreme position is fully justified.”5
This is a welcome development, since skeptical higher critics have always rejected the historicity of the Israelite covenants. The Documentary Hypothesis6 late-dated the Old Testament covenants to the
CTSJ 9:2 (Fall 03) p. 93
eighth or seventh centuries B.C.7 and rejected Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. These skeptics posited that modern interpreters could not understand supposedly non-historic Old Testament in historic terms.
Ample evidence shows that God communicated His divine plan through contemporary means. Israelite covenants resemble ancient Near Eastern covenants, so seeing biblical context in the context of the ancient world gives scholars an interpretive bridge.
Israelite Covenants in the Ancient Near Eastern Context
Many recent archaeological discoveries have clarified Scripture and contributed to biblical criticism, “not in the area of inspiration or revelation, but in historical accuracy and trustworthiness about the events that are recorded.”8 Albright correctly says, “Archaeological discoveries since 1925 have changed all this [skepticism over the patriarchal period]. Aside from a few die-hards among older scholars, there is scarcely a single biblical historian who has not been impressed by the rapid accumulation of data supporting the substantial historicity of patriarchal tradition.”9 Archaeological discoveries indicate that Israel’s covenants resemble a...
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