Canon and Covenant Part 2 -- By: Meredith G. Kline

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 32:2 (May 1970)
Article: Canon and Covenant Part 2
Author: Meredith G. Kline


Canon and Covenant
Part 2

Meredith G. Kline

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered 38–100, but in this electronic edition are numbered 1–63 respectively.}

II. All Scripture Covenantal

Granted that biblical canonicity is in its beginnings covenantal, what of the Old Testament beyond the original Mosaic documents which are clearly couched in the classic treaty form? And what of the New Testament? Can the conclusions we have reached concerning the covenantal identity of biblical canon in its origins be justifiably extended to the whole Bible? Are all the Scriptures covenantal?

It is, of course, the common Christian practice to refer to each of the two main divisions of the Bible as a “testament.” In the case of the Old Testament there is ancient, even biblical, precedent. The apostle Paul speaks of the Israelites’ reading of their Scriptures as a reading of “the old covenant” (2 Cor 3:14). Whether he had in view the Pentateuch only or the entire Old Testament,1 he plainly identifies Scripture in an extensive sense with covenant. Similarly, in a passage in 1 Maccabees, where the Scriptures collectively are called “the books of the law,”2 an individual book of the Scriptures is referred to as “a book of the covenant” (1:56f).

The aptness of the broad identification of the pre-messianic Scriptures as “the covenant” or “the old covenant” will be perceived if the Old Testament’s comprehensive witness to

itself is accepted at face value. The human dimensions of the Old Testament are to be duly appreciated, but it is supremely important that we apprehend in faith the Old Testament’s claim that God is its primary author. If we do, we will see the Old Testament as more than an anthology of various types of literature produced by a series of authors across a span of centuries. We will understand that it all issued ultimately from the throne room of Israel’s heavenly King and that all its literary forms possess a functional unity as instruments of Yahweh’s ongoing covenantal oversight of the conduct and faith of his vassal people.

We may come to the same understanding of the Old Testament by viewing it not directly in its ultimate issuance from its invisible heavenly source but in its immediate earthly derivation from the Israelite community. For all Israel’s life, cult and culture, the latter in both the private-family and public-kingdom spheres, stood under the covenant rule of...

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