The Importance Of The Noahic Covenant To Biblical Theology -- By: Aaron Chalmers

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 60:2 (NA 2009)
Article: The Importance Of The Noahic Covenant To Biblical Theology
Author: Aaron Chalmers

The Importance Of The Noahic Covenant To Biblical Theology

Aaron Chalmers


This article seeks to draw attention to the importance of the Noahic covenant to biblical theology. This article suggests that rather than being of only marginal significance, the Noahic covenant is of decisive importance for understanding the broader metanarrative of Scripture. In particular, this covenant establishes the basis or foundation for the story (God’s commitment to creation, and in particular, the preservation of life on earth), establishes the parameters of the story (God’s activity reaches out to embrace not only humanity, but also the created animals and the earth), and provides an anticipation of the conclusion of the story of redemption (God’s judgement on sin, salvation of the righteous, and renewal of creation).

1. Introduction

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the concept of covenant as a key theme within biblical theology. Works by Williams, Williamson and Robertson have identified the various covenants as a possible way of approaching the metanarrative of Scripture, or at least the Old Testament.1 Generally speaking, however, these works have tended to focus on the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants and

placed least emphasis on the so-called Noahic covenant found in Genesis 8-9.2 For example, Robertson devotes only seventeen pages, or just over five percent of his book to this covenant.3 Outside of these works, the Noahic covenant has faired little better. In fact, within critical circles the Noahic covenant is often maligned or virtually ignored altogether. Mendenhall and Herion’s comment seem to be reasonably representative of the critical scholarly position.

The narrative of the covenant established with Noah, his descendents, and all the occupants of the ark (Gen. 9:8-17) perhaps illustrates the ultimate demise of the ‘covenant’ tradition. The historical development of the covenant from a constitutive act instrumental in creating a new society and a correspondingly new value system in the time of Moses has, in this late narrative, become little more than a theological motif or literary device by which to confer religious value upon that which already existed, namely, the orderly process of the natural world...In place of the rich complexity of the LB suzerainty treaty tradition and its function as a vain attempt to create orderly and peace...

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