Archive for the ‘Covenants’ Category

Helpful Books in Determining the Meaning of Gal 3:10-14

The New Perspective debate rages on, but there are few exegetical resources or arguments floating about the blogosphere (but plenty in print). I recently preached on Gal 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree,” which demanded deeper research than I had previously done in Galatians. The meaning of Gal 3:10-14 is hotly contested including debate over the meaning of “works of the law,” the accuracy of Paul’s Deuteronomic quotation, the meaning of the “righteous shall live by faith,” to name a few. Several resources struck me as particularly helpful in sorting through some of these theological issues, especially as it pertains to working through Wright’s position:

Climax of the Covenant, N.T. Wright

Covenant & Salvation, Michael Horton

Perspectives Old and New on Paul, Westerholm

Presence & Function of Scripture in Galatians 1 & 2, Roy Ciampa

Review of Above

Covenants: One or Many?

Dr. Jeffrey Niehaus recently wrote an article entitled “An Argument against Theologically Constructed Covenants,” (June, JETS) in which he challenged the idea that the Bible sets forth a singular, overarching covenant in God’s relationship to man. Critiquing two main proponents of this monocovenantal approach, W.J. Dumbrell and Scott J. Hafemann, Niehaus insists that these scholars have imposed a “theologically constructed covenant” upon the Bible as a whole. Instead, he argues for an interpretation of the biblical covenants in terms of special and common grace. Hafemann’s articulation of a single covenant approach can be found in the fine, newly edited Central Themes in Biblical Theology.

According to Niehaus, the covenant with Adam and Noah is a covenant of “common grace,” affecting the whole of humanity, while the rest of the biblical covenants, Abraham to the New Covenant, are covenants of “special grace,” focused particularly on the elect of God. He states that the common grace covenants are part of the same “legal package.” The problem with Niehaus’ alternative is that it, too, is theologically constructed. In a brief email response to Niehaus’ article, Hafemann wrote: “So it is not a matter of being theologically construed or not; rather it is a matter of which theological construal is most biblical.” The notion of common and special grace, though arguably biblical notions, are in fact theological constructs.

Diving deeper, Niehaus’ main critique of the monocovenantal approach is that it does not make the proper distinctions between covenants and covenant renewals in the Bible (following ancient Near East convention). So, for Hafemann and Dumbrell, all covenants “confirm or formalize a relationship that already exists between two parties.” Not so for Niehaus. Instead, he argues that there are covenants (new relationships) and there are covenant renewals (renewed relationships).

To quicken to the implications, if all covenants confirm a pre-existing relationship, then no matter who makes it—Adam, Moses, David, etc—then God works the same way in all times with all people. As Hafemann has argued, creation is the Historical Prologue, the Grace of God that enables Adam’s obedience in the Garden. READ= no covenant of works. Meredith Kline, Niehaus and others strongly aver that there are two covenants, two new relationships between God and man, one based on works (Adamic, Mosaic) and one based on grace (Abrahamic, New Covenant).

In forthcoming posts, I will develop the deeper layers of the exegetical issues involved in answering the question: “Is there One Covenant or Many?”