Covenant, Conditionality, And Consequence: New Terminology And A Case Study In The Abrahamic Covenant -- By: David Andrew Dean

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 57:2 (Jun 2014)
Article: Covenant, Conditionality, And Consequence: New Terminology And A Case Study In The Abrahamic Covenant
Author: David Andrew Dean


Covenant, Conditionality, And Consequence:
New Terminology And A Case Study In The Abrahamic Covenant

David Andrew Dean*

* David Andrew Dean is professor of Systematic Theology and Bible Exposition at Yan Fook Bible Institute, 16/Fl, Yan Fook Centre, 789 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

I. Introduction

Ever since the groundbreaking work of Mendenhall on second-millennium suzerainty covenants and their covenant parallels in the OT, interest in the topic of covenant in Scripture has grown steadily. Proponents of various forms of covenant theology have seen covenant as the central unifying concept of Scripture.1 Others do not go quite so far, but virtually all agree that a grasp of covenant is vital to an understanding of Scripture and God’s interactions with mankind, Israel, and the church.

Most have assumed that the resemblance of OT covenants to second-millennium covenants is evidence that Israel adopted pagan covenant forms. Recently, Jeffrey Niehaus has suggested a turning of the tables, arguing instead that ANE covenants reflect adaptation of God’s design for covenant, a design that is evident at the earliest stages of history in his interactions with Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 and 2.2 If this hypothesis is correct, then the covenants of Scripture are not just a convenient way of expressing a certain kind of relationship. Instead, they exemplify and to some extent define by their example the ways in which God establishes relationships with mankind as a whole and with select groups of individuals.

Theological debate regarding covenant generally revolves around what are called biblical and theological covenants. Biblical covenants are clearly stated or presented as such in Scripture, while theological covenants must be supported through theological and logical arguments since they have no direct textual basis.3 Covenant theologians often seek to subsume the biblical covenants under one or

more overarching theological covenants that emphasize the unity of God’s plan or the unity of God’s people.4 Dispensationalists agree that God’s plan is unified and purposeful, yet they insist that distinctions between Israel and the church that are established by the biblical covenants cannot be erased or eclipsed by theological covenants.

One area of ongoing debate involves the conditionality of th...

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