About the Authors
Peter J. Gentry (PhD, University of Toronto) is professor of Old Testament interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Hexapla Institute.
Stephen J. Wellum (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.
This book presents the central argument in the authors’ previous work Kingdom through Covenant in an abridged form. Some of the more technical arguments of their first work are glossed over, but the main points with the main supporting arguments are presented in a clear and succinct manner. The book maintains that God establishes his kingdom through the biblical covenants, all of which point forward to, terminate in, and are fulfilled by Jesus Christ. There is a marked progression as the covenants build on one another and move towards Jesus. The covenants are seen as the backbone for the metanarrative of Scripture. The authors examine key issues of biblical and systematic theology, hermeneutics, and exegesis, all of which are necessary in order to come to a proper understanding of the significance of the covenants in God’s plan of redemption. Understanding the plotline of Scripture demands an accurate understanding of the relationship and development of the covenants.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Importance of Covenants in Grasping the Bible’s Story
Chapter 2 Covenants in the Bible and the Ancient Near East
Chapter 3 The Covenant with Noah
Chapter 4 The Covenant with Creation in Genesis 1-3
Chapter 5 The Covenant with Abraham (I)
Chapter 6 The Covenant with Abraham (II)
Chapter 7 The Mosaic Covenant—Exodus/Sinai
Chapter 8 The Mosaic Covenant—Deuteronomy/Moab
Chapter 9 The Davidic Covenant
Chapter 10 The New Covenant
Chapter 11 “Kingdom through Covenant”: A Biblical-Theological Summary
The Importance of Covenants in Grasping the Bible’s Story
This book shows how “covenants” are central and foundational to the Bible’s plot and theology. Christ is the goal and fulfillment of every covenant. Covenants form the backbone of the Bible’s storyline, and God’s historical covenant making and covenant activity is essential to his revelation and a proper understanding of the work of Christ. Since covenants are central to redemptive-history and the Scriptures, it is essential that they be properly interpreted. It is critical to understand the interrelationship of the biblical covenants. Covenant theology and dispensationalism are two popular theological systems that disagree about how the covenants are related — this disagreement is not merely theoretical, but generates a host of practical entailments for Christian theology and practice. It is essential that we understand that the biblical covenants are progressive: they build on one another until they are fulfilled in Christ.
The discipline of biblical theology has been understood and attempted in different ways, but an evangelical approach recognizes that the Scriptures are God’s written Word and that all of their diversity is contained in a fundamental unity. The Bible itself presents an unfolding, unified plotline. Proper biblical theology seeks to read Scripture as a divine revelation that progressively develops over and through time. Thus biblical texts need to be read with a sensitivity to both their immediate context and to their location in God’s unfolding revelation (i.e. texts need to be understood on the basis of their place in the canon — it is important to know what is revealed before and after them). God’s unified plan is revealed in the unified Scriptures, but this unity progresses and develops until its culmination in Christ. It is only when Scripture is interpreted this way that a proper foundation is laid for systematic theology, which is the discipline that seeks to apply Scripture to every area of life.
When we engage in biblical theology, we must approach the text in light of what it is, which is the very Word of God. Because it is God’s revelation, everything in the Bible is true and trustworthy, and it is unified and coherent. The relationship of the covenants, therefore, will likewise be coherent and united. The Bible’s theology is not inconsistent, nor are the human authors writing things that are hermetically sealed from one another — on the contrary, every human author is led by the same Spirit to write the words of God that are ultimately part of one revelation. Since God’s revelation is progressive, parts must be read in light of the whole, and earlier parts must be interpreted in light of the revelation that comes later in time. A canonical reading of texts is not optional but necessary.
Scripture is God’s authoritative interpretation in verbal form of his redemptive acts. God not only acts in time and space, he interprets his saving acts for us in Scripture. Just as his acts do not all take place at one time, his Word is not given all at one time. God makes covenants in history that are interpreted in Scripture and which are organically related. The NT contains several key passages that hinge on reading covenants and Scripture canonically. Antecedent Scripture can only be properly interpreted in light of the canon’s own progression. God intends Scripture to be read canonically, with the key being the centrality and culmination that comes in Christ. Because of the fulfillment that is found in Christ, the relationship between the biblical covenants is marked by both continuity and discontinuity, tied largely to promises made and fulfilled. Due to God’s intention and design, the Bible contains legitimate prophetic, typological realities. These types are fulfilled in Christ, which is where their true significance is seen. This entails that previous types in Scripture must be read in light of their subsequent, antitypical fulfillment. Types are invariably connected with covenants. The points in this chapter must be borne in mind when it comes to interpreting any of the biblical covenants.
Covenants in the Bible and the Ancient Near East
Covenants were made in Israel and across that nations of the ancient Near East. They were made to operate at different levels, from individual agreements to national and international treaties. Covenants formalize relationships and carry obligations. In the ancient Near East royal grant covenants and suzerain-vassal covenants were common. In the former, kings gave special grants of privilege or possession to those they favored, while in the latter the greater would formalize obligations with the lesser. OT covenants may contain elements of both. The six major biblical covenants are the covenant with creation, Noah, Abraham, the covenant made at Sinai, the covenant with David, and the new covenant. These covenants form the backbone of the Bible’s storyline. These covenants represent critical epochal developments, but their interrelationship demonstrates their centrality in one unified plotline. Biblical covenants are not contracts that are concerned with benefits and things — on the contrary. . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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God's Kingdom Through God's Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology