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

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 33:1 (Nov 1970)
Article: Canon and Covenant Part III
Author: Meredith G. Kline


Canon and Covenant
Part III

Meredith G. Kline

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered 101–144, but in this electronic edition are numbered 1–44 respectively.}

III. Canon and Community

Another conceptual model of the Scriptures is suggested by the account of their beginnings found in the Book of Exodus. This other way of viewing the Bible is complementary to the foregoing identification of the Old and New Testaments as the documentary witnesses to the Lord’s covenants, old and new. In fact, it brings out more clearly the specific function performed by Scripture in its character as a covenantal document, clarifying in particular the nature of the relationship between biblical canon and covenant community.

The timing of the birth of the Bible was precisely conditioned; there were definite historical prerequisites for its appearance. If the Scriptural form of revelation was to be what it is—God’s covenant addressed to the kingdom of his earthly people—then the Bible could have come into existence only when it did. Not earlier, for the appearance of Scripture having the character of kingdom-treaty required as its historical prelude the formation of a community peculiarly God’s own and, beyond that, the development of this people to the stage of nationhood under God’s lordship.

In the midst of a fallen world and in the face of Satanic hostility manifested in various historical guises, an elect people of God could not attain to kingdom status apart from redemptive judgments delivering them from the power of the adversary. Only when the Lord God had accomplished this soteric triumph would the way be prepared for him to promulgate his kingdom-treaty, setting his commandments among his elect people and ordering their kingdom existence under the dominion of his sovereign will.

In the pre-Messianic age the Noahic deluge constituted a divine triumph of redemptive judgment by which a remnant community was delivered from the tyranny of the godless and lawless prediluvian world powers1 and made heirs of a new world. Yet the Noahic community was a family, not a nation to which a kingdom-treaty might appropriately be directed.2

The necessary conditions were met only in the formation of the nation Israel and only at the Mosaic stage in the course of God’s dealings with the Israelite nation.3 Covenantal revelation was already addressed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with their households, offering them the kingdom in promise. But Scripture required for i...

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