Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 5

Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Thesis 24

Despite the dispensationalists’ partial defense of their so-called literalism in pointing out that “the prevailing method of interpretation among the Jews at the time of Christ was certainly this same method” (J. D. Pentecost), they overlook the problem that this led those Jews to misunderstand Christ and to reject him as their Messiah because he did not come as the king which their method of interpretation predicted.

Response: It is not advisable to refer to dispensational interpretation as “literalism”—so-called or otherwise, since this leads to misunderstandings and misrepresentations (see below). It is far better to treat the Bible the same way one would treat any other book. It seems preposterous to us to scout around for an alternative hermeneutics just because the Bible is the Word of God. In fact, it is precisely because the Bible is the Word of God to man that one would expect it not to require some esoteric interpretation unless very good reasons could be given for doing so.

Although some evangelicals would disagree, we think there is great wisdom contained in these words of Peters:

If God has really intended to make known His will to man, it follows that to secure knowledge on our part, He must convey His truth to us in accordance with the well-known rules of language. He must adapt Himself to our mode of communicating thought and ideas. If His words were given to be understood, it follows that He must have employed language to convey the sense intended, agreeably to the laws grammatically expressed, controlling all language; and that, instead of seeking a sense which the words in themselves do not contain, we are primarily to obtain the sense that the words obviously embrace, making due allowance for the existence of figures of speech when indicated by the context, scope or construction of the passage. (George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, 1.47)

That many Jews in the time of Jesus expected Him to fulfill the Word by setting up His literal (not spiritual) messianic kingdom at His first advent was due in part to their not realizing that He must first suffer and become “sin for us” (Isa. 53) before He would come as king (e.g. Matt. 26:64, 27:11 with Dan. 7:13-14) They did not see that there would be a time-gap between the first and second advents (see Mic. 5:2, Isa. 61:1-2, Lk. 1:31-33).

Unless they are heretics, all Christians believe in a time gap between the advents. And they do this, not by employing some allegorizing hermeneutic (which would be suspicious as an apologetic), but rather, by believing what the Bible says. Christ will come again (Lk. 18:8, Jn. 14:1-3, Acts 1:11, Rev. 22:20).

Finally, how strange it was that those who were closest to Him, who heard more of His teaching than anyone else, should ask Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Apparently not only did they expect a literal earthly kingdom in line with OT predictions, but they also appeared not to think the Church was the “New Israel”! And Jesus said nothing to alter their expectation!

Thesis 25

Despite the dispensationalists’ partial defense of their so-called literalism by appealing to the method of interpretation of the first century Jews, such “literalism” led those Jews to misunderstand Christ’s basic teaching by believing that he would rebuild the destroyed temple in three days (John 2:20-21); that converts must enter a second time into his mother’s womb (John 3:4); and that one must receive liquid water from Jesus rather than spiritual water (John 4:10-11), and must actually eat his flesh (John 6:51-52, 66).

Response: Since no dispensationalist has ever made these same mistakes in interpretation, this objection is pointless. This is what happens when one goes fishing for red herrings rather than paying attention to how the (older) hermeneutics manuals (Terry, Ramm) define grammatical-historical hermeneutics. In this case, “literal” interpretation is morphed into “literalistic” interpretation. All objectors to dispensational interpretation get a couple of pages worth of material from this mischaracterization.

Thesis 26

Despite the dispensationalists’ interpretive methodology arguing that we must interpret the Old Testament on its own merit without reference to the New Testament, so that we must “interpret ‘the New Testament in the light of the Old’” (Alan Johnson), the unified, organic nature of Scripture and its typological, unfolding character require that we consult the New Testament as the divinely-ordained interpreter of the Old Testament, noting that all the prophecies are “yea and amen in Christ” (2 Cor 1:20); that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10); and, in fact, that many Old Testament passages were written “for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11) and were a “mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Col. 1:26; Rev 10:7).

Response: First, Alan Johnson is not a dispensationalist. But since Scripture is a unified and organic whole, certainly we must, in some sense, “interpret the New Testament in light of the Old.” Every Bible interpreter must do that. What responsible Bible student would deny it? Where would our biblical worldview be if we did not allow Genesis 1-4 to guide us as New Testament believers?

The question is, “To what extent can the New Testament be used to interpret the Old?” The passages cited do not answer this question for us. Second Corinthians 1:20 speaks to the Divine provenance of the Gospel preached by Paul and his companions. The verse does not say “prophecies” but “promises.” In context the promises are those of the Gospel. However, because Christ is the Fulcrum of the outworking of God’s decrees it would not be amiss to relate every promise to Him. But this hardly gives Christians license to give the OT promises a complete makeover so that they look nothing like the original statements. Likewise 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that the OT stories “were written for our instruction.” The context is Divine recompense upon evil works (v.6). To enlist the passage to teach the legitimacy of an ill-advised mixture of allegorical/typological/literal interpretation of the OT is to be guilty of “textual kidnapping.”

The Colossians passage will be dealt with in due time. It proves nothing as it stands in the sentence. It has simply been spliced and connected to a strand from the 1 Corinthians passage without regard for its original usage. We are unclear as to what function Rev. 10:7 is supposed to play in establishing this thesis.

But the cat is being let out of the bag by this thesis. The Nicene Council require the OT to be exposed to the acid of their “typological” hermeneutic whenever it suits. This makes the OT a wax nose that can be made to look any way the objectors wish it to look. Responsible dispensationalists refuse to operate this way. We affirm the integrity of both Testaments as equally worthy of the same grammatical-historical hermeneutical consideration. We affirm that to use the NT – especially an artificial set of theological covenants not found in the NT – as a lens through which to re-interpret the OT is not at all to use it “as a divinely-ordained interpreter of the Old Testament” but to demean the OT so as to make room for the deductions of systems such as Covenant theology.

Of course, the NT provides much more light on many precious truths. But both Testaments can be interpreted together satisfactorily without the adoption of such a fabricated prioritization of one Testament above the other.

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JobK's picture

Do many dispensationalists believe that Israel was rash to accept the covenant that God offered to them at Sinai? Or is that just a fringe view held by a few that has no real effect or influence on the dispensational system?

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
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Paul Henebury's picture

I have heard one or two state their belief that Israel was rash in accepting the Sinaitic Covenant, but I don't see it as representing anything else but a rather odd point of view. For one thing, if God Almighty was thundering at me from close proximity I think I'd agree to anything. The adverb "rashly" is inappropriate under the circumstances. The very nature of God requires of the creature full obedience. Hence, to refuse the covenant would be to refuse God Himself.

The view has nothing going for it biblically and is wholly separate from Dispensationalism as a system. What the Law Covenant did was to set Israel apart from the nations. It was their covenant which the prophets called them back to repeatedly. Israel was to be different; a kingdom of priests and a light to the nations. This required them to be distinct, and, moreover, will require it in the future (e.g. Isa. 62:1-2; Zech. 8:20-23; 14:16-21; Rom. 11:25-29).

Hope this helps.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

JobK's picture

I have seen this in quite a few of these "dispensationalism versus covenant theology" charts such as the one below. However, I am wondering if it is "dispensationalism as explained by non-dispensationalists."

http://faithbibleonline.net/MiscDoctrine/DispCov.htm
http://www.angelfire.com/ca/DeafPreterist/compare.html
http://www.fpcjackson.org/resources/apologetics/covenant%20theology%20&%...

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'd add to what Paul said that I think there is ample reason to believe every covenant God has made/offered has been gracious in character, including the Mosaic/Sinai covenant, law-focused though it was. And it's never "rash" to gratefully welcome grace.

JobK... on the links there: they do all appear to be pretty biased in the anti-disp. direction. Some more than others. Even http://faithbibleonline.net/MiscDoctrine/DispCov.htm this one which appears more fair than the others, makes the generalization that dispensationalists are "almost never 5 point Calvinist." I think this used to be closer to the truth than it is today. I know quite a few five pointers who are dispies.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

JobK's picture

Upon further inspection, all those charts seem to have a very similar common origin. Looks like various separate people found the same work and appropriated it for their websites. And since the originator of the chart A) is unknown and Cool did not provide sources or footnotes (i.e. did he come to these conclusions by reading Ryrie or Scofield) we have no way of knowing how widespread these beliefs are, or how influential they were in developing the dispensational system.

Now as far as whether Israel was "rash to accept the covenant", the truth is that they had no choice in the matter to accept or deny. God imposed the covenant on them, exercising His prerogative, right and authority to do so as the sovereign Creator. The Biblical narrative makes this explicit and obvious as God tells them through Moses: "I am your God and this is what you will do." If the theologians who developed the dispensational system had the view that Israel somehow had any sort of choice or say in the matter, then that is a serious problem because they were operating from a very erroneous set of presuppositions.

Now the idea that Israel had a choice to accept or reject being God's covenant nation was an idea that Jewish rabbis developed at some point. The story goes that God offered the covenant to all the nations of the world and they rejected it. Israel was simply the last nation, and they accepted God's offer only because He was holding a mountain over their heads threatening to crush and kill them if they didn't! This teaching or belief of theirs has its purposes within Jewry, but I find the presupposition between this idea - that God either could not or would not act in this matter without at least the appearance of human decision or consent - to be simply amazing. It reminds me of the similarly jaw-dropping Roman Catholic teaching that Mary had the ability to decide to choose or reject whether to bear Jesus Christ, and that God chose Mary for this role only because He knew in advance that she would accept.

Now many anti-dispensationalists allege that dispensationalism was developed by Christians who became too familiar and comfortable with the Talmud and other Jewish traditional writings, and developed a Christian theology that centers on (or at least elevates) Israel and Judaism. I would have to learn more about the development of dispensatonalism to see if those charges are true.

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

When I read Exodus, it looks to me like they had a choice. Of course, rejecting the covenant would have had consequences and they probably felt (probably accurately) that they would be destroyed.
Still, it's a covenant and they do "ratify" it. A second generation does so again in the closing chapters of Deuteronomy.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Still, it's a covenant and they do "ratify" it. A second generation does so again in the closing chapters of Deuteronomy.

Here Geerhardus Vos comments on the so-called "Covenant," writing that "however bilateral the arrangement may be in its outcome, to God alone belongs the prerogative of initiating it and with Him alone lies the right of determining its content. God never deliberates or bargains with man as to the terms of the 'berith' He condescends to enter into. Man may accept voluntarily but can in no wise modify what the sovereign divine will arranges for him. Thus even in the case of an avowed bilateral 'berith' there already is seen to exist a balance of monergism on the divine side sufficiently strong to exclude every thought of a contractual procedure unworthy of God. But the 'berith' by no means involves such a two-sided arrangement everywhere in the Old Testament. There are numerous instances where the 'berith' is wholly one-sided in its import, where man assumes no obligations but is purely receptive in regard to it, in other words, where it amounts to a solemnly sanctioned promise or disposition on the part of God. Such are the 'berith' made with Noah and that made with Abraham. Further the frequent equivalence of 'berith' and 'law' can only be explained on this same principle. The conclusion of the matter, therefore, is that the element of two-sidedness plays a very subordinate role in the Old Testament usage of the term 'berith,' and where it does enter, it is very much restricted in scope” (Geerhardus Vos, "Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke," The Princeton Thelogical Review, Vol. 13, No.4, 1915, 601-602).

That explains why the Greek word meaning "covenant" was not used by the translators of the LXX nor in the NT when this arrangement is referred to. Louis Berkhof wrote:

"In the Septuagint the word ‘berith’ is rendered ‘diatheke’ in every passage where it occurs with the exception of Deut. 9:15 (marturion) and I Kings 11:11 (entole). The word ‘diatheke’ is confined to this usage, except in four passages. This use of the word seems rather peculiar in view of the fact that it is not the usual Greek word for covenant, but really denotes a disposition, and consequently also a testament. The ordinary word for covenant is ‘suntheke.’" [emphasis added ] (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, 1949 ], 262-263).

Adolf Deissmann wrote that "There is ample material to back me in the statement that no one in the Mediterranean world in the first century A.D. would have thought of finding in the word diatheke the idea of ‘covenant.’ St. Paul would not, and in fact did not" (Adolf Deissmann, Light From the Ancient East, translated by Lionel R.M. Strachan [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1927 ], 337-338).

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

No argument with any of that, really. I don't think the fact that God offers the covenants on His own terms is in dispute. But always He extends a relationship opportunity that must then be accepted or rejected.
And that opportunity is always a gracious act that the human beings involved are foolish to refuse.

Exodus 19:7–8 (NKJV) — 7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. 8 Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.

Deuteronomy 29:9–13 (NKJV) — 9 Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do. 10 “All of you stand today before the LORD your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, 11 your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water— 12 that you may enter into covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath, which the LORD your God makes with you today, 13 that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
No argument with any of that, really. I don't think the fact that God offers the covenants on His own terms is in dispute. But always He extends a relationship opportunity that must then be accepted or rejected.

Why do you continue to call the relationship a "covenant"?

Geerhardus Vos writes that “in Eph. ii. 12 the phrase 'covenants of the promise,' in which the genitive is epexegetical, yields positive proof that Paul regards the 'diathekes' as so many successive promissory dispositions of God, not as a series of mutual agreements between God and the people" (Geerhardus Vos, "Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke," [The Princeton Thelogical Review, Vol. 13, No.4, 1915 ] 609).

J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan say that diatheke "is properly 'dispositio,' an 'arrangement' made by one party with plenary power, which the other party may accept or reject, but cannot alter. A 'will' is simply the most conspicuous example of such an instrument, which ultimately monopolized the word just because it suited its differentia so completely" (J.H. Molton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930 ], 148).

Why do the Covenant Theologians insist that the various relationships are "covenants" when in fact they are "promissory dispositions"?

Why do Covenant Theologians speak of the Members of the Godhead entering into agreement in order to ratify a "covenant" when there is no such thing associated with a "promissory disposition"?

The Covenant Theologians also overlook the fact that the Scriptures speak of no "Covenant of Grace" but instead the New Diatheke that applies to the Church today is a "New Testament"? The new Testament is the "gospel of grace" and according to the author of Hebrews this New Testament is a "will" (Heb.9:16-17).

from all of this we can also understand that the New Diatheke promised to the house of Israel is a "type," and the "anti-type" is the New Diatheke that applies to those in the Body of Christ.

Matthew Henry understood that when Paul referred to a New Diatheke at 2 Corinthians 3:6 that he was referring to a "New Testament," the gospel:

"Here the apostle makes a comparison between the Old Testament and the New, the law of Moses and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and values himself and his fellow-labourers by this, that 'they were able ministers of the New Testament,' that God had made them...the Spirit of the gospel, going along with the ministry of the gospel, giveth life spiritual and life eternal...the gospel is the ministration of righteousness: therein the righteousness of God by faith is revealed. This shows us that the just shall live by his faith. This reveals the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, for obtaining the remission of sins and eternal life. The gospel therefore so much exceeds in glory that in a manner it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation" (Matthew Henry, Commentary of the Whole Bible; Volume VI [Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library 2000 ], 957.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The idea of covenants does not come from covenant theologians. The idea comes from the Bible. The guys you're quoting there don't deny the existence of covenants but rather emphasize the distinctions between the biblical covenants and some features of other types of covenants.
"Covenants" is a perfectly good word for them. We really don't need another. "Testament" is really just another word for covenant.

In the end, it makes little difference what we call them. What they are is quite clear. But using terms that are generally understood is usually a good rule if we want to avoid confusing people.

Dispensationalists also affirm the reality of covenants. For example, Ryrie, p.190 Dispensationalism:

Quote:
... the covenants of with Abraham, Israel, David, and others are so clearly and specifically revealed. Abraham had no doubt that a covenant was being made when God Himself passed between the pieces of the sacrifice (Gen. 15:17-21).

In the context he is arguing against the Covenant Theology idea of a "Covenant of Grace" on the grounds that it is not clearly revealed like the other covenants are.

Also, I'm pretty sure that Moulton is a Covenant Theologian (he is certainly no dispensationalist) and prefers "promissory dispositions" because CT likes to see the covenants as aspects of the one Covenant of Grace.
So you have the relationship between "covenants" and Covenant Theology almost exactly backwards.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
The idea of covenants does not come from covenant theologians. The idea comes from the Bible.

Louis Berkhof wrote:

"In the Septuagint the word ‘berith’ is rendered ‘diatheke’ in every passage where it occurs with the exception of Deut. 9:15 (marturion) and I Kings 11:11 (entole). The word ‘diatheke’ is confined to this usage, except in four passages. This use of the word seems rather peculiar in view of the fact that it is not the usual Greek word for covenant, but really denotes a disposition, and consequently also a testament. The ordinary word for covenant is ‘suntheke.’" [emphasis added ] (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, 1949 ], 262-263).

If the various diatheke we are discussing are referring to a "covenant" then why was the ordinary word for "covenant" not used in the LXX or in the NT?

Quote:
The guys you're quoting there don't deny the existence of covenants but rather emphasize the distinctions between the biblical covenants and some features of other types of covenants. "Covenants" is a perfectly good word for them. We really don't need another. "Testament" is really just another word for covenant.

In the following verses the reference is obviouly to a "will" and not a covenant:

"For where a testament (diatheke) is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth" (Heb.9:16-17).

Adolf Deissmann certainly understood that in the first century diatheke referred to a testament and not a covenant:

“Perhaps the most necessary investigation still waiting to be made is that relating to the word diatheke, which so many scholars translate unhesitatingly ‘covenant.’ Now as the new texts help us generally to reconstruct Hellenistic family law and the law of inheritance, so in particular our knowledge of Hellenistic wills has been wonderfully increased by a number of originals on stone or papyrus. There is ample material to back me in the statement that no one in the Mediterranean world in the first century A.D. would have thought of finding in the word 'diatheke' the idea of ‘covenant' " (Adolf Deissmann, Light From the Ancient East, translated by Lionel R.M. Strachan [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1927 ], 337-338).

Are you willing to argue that a "last will and testament" is the same thing as a "covenant"?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

As with so many things, context is the key.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
As with so many things, context is the key.

That is exactly what Scott R. Murray says about the Hebrew word (beriyth) which is often translated "covenant":

"The Hebrew word bĕriyth has an uncertain etymology. Terms normally connected with ‘beriyth’ provide little insight into the meaning of the term except that they give evidence of the fixed validity of the promises given in a ‘bĕriyth.’ Thus the word itself and the words associated with it give only a vague outline of its meaning. The context in which the word was employed better determines the meaning of the word" (Scott R. Murray, "The Concept of διαθήκη in the Letter to the Hebrews," Concordia Theological Quarterly 66:1; Jan. 2002, p.42).

The translators of the LXX and the authors of the books of the NT considered the context of the verses in the OT and determined that the word diatheke best fit the meaning of the relationship. They did not use the word which means "covenant" (suntheke) but instead used one that does not refer to a covenant. As mentioned earlier, Adolf Deissmann wrote that "There is ample material to back me in the statement that no one in the Mediterranean world in the first century A.D. would have thought of finding in the word 'diatheke' the idea of ‘covenant.’ "

If the authors of the books of the NT wished to convey the idea of a "covenant" then why didn't they use a Greek word that means a "covenent"? If they wanted to convey the idea of a "covenant" then why would they use a word which no one in the Mediterranean world in the first century A.D. would have thought of finding the idea of ‘covenant’ ?

The NT authors certainly considered the context and the conclusion to which they came was that the various relationships that the Lord had with the nation of Israel was not a covenant relationship. Gerhardus Vos certainly understood this, writing that “in Eph. ii. 12 the phrase 'covenants of the promise,' in which the genitive is epexegetical, yields positive proof that Paul regards the diatheke as so many successive promissory dispositions of God, not as a series of mutual agreements between God and the people.”

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Regardless of the vocab. choice of the NT writers, the OT is crystal clear about what these were. They were covenants. Not covenants in which both sides negotiate the terms, no. But a covenant is simply a promise.

On diatheke...

BAGD Lexicon wrote:

2. As a transl. of בְּרִית in LXX δ. loses the sense of ‘will, testament’ insofar as a δ. decreed by God cannot require the death of the testator to make it operative. Nevertheless, another essential characteristic of a testament is retained, namely that it is the declaration of one person’s will, not the result of an agreement betw. two parties, like a compact or a contract. This is without doubt one of the main reasons why the LXX rendered בְּרִית by δ. In the ‘covenants’ of God, it was God alone who set the conditions; hence covenant (s. Murray, New [Oxford ] Engl. Dict. s.v.‘covenant’ sb. 7) can be used to trans. δ. only when this is kept in mind.

Louw, J. P., and Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 2: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains wrote:

διαθήκη, ης f
a making of a covenant: 34.43
b covenant: 34.44
c testament: 57.124

Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains wrote:

1347 διαθήκη (diathēkē), ης (ēs), ἡ (hē): n.fem.; ≡ DBLHebr 1382; Str 1242; TDNT 2.106—1. LN 34.43 making of a covenant, promise in a solemn agreement (Mk 14:24; Lk 1:72; 22:20; Ac 3:25; 7:8; Ro 11:27; 1Co 11:25; 2Co 3:6; Gal 4:24; Eph 2:12; Heb 7:22; 12:24; 13:20); 2. LN 34.44 covenant, the content of an agreement between two parties (Gal 3:15); 3. LN 57.124 testament, making of a will (Heb 9:16, 17+)

It appears to me that the claim that no one in the NT world would have understood the term to mean "covenant" is unjustified especially given the fact that the NT occurrences usually refer to OT texts where the covenant idea is quite clear.
I think the BAGD entry makes a very solid point that God's covenants are such that He alone sets the terms. However, the recipients enter into the agreement in most cases (the covenant we all Noahic would be an example of one where no agreement seems to have been involved. God just promises. In the case of David, there is no formal entering into the covenant by David, but conditions are clearly included and so David's response and commitment to keep the conditions clearly represents his entering into the covenant God offered. The Sinai cov't is the most clearly mutual in my view. Again, the terms are presented unilaterally and non-negotiably by God, but the people clearly accept them.)

But once again, we could call them nergopharps if we wanted to. They remain what the contexts clearly indicate they were, regardless.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jack Hampton's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
Jack,

Can you help me here?

What is the big win when a diatheke is defined as a promissory disposition rather than a covenant? Especially, as it relates to both covenantalism and dispensationalism.


Today the most important controversy in the dispensational community concerns the New Diatheke promised to the house of Israel. Walter K. Kaiser, Jr., wrote that "somewhere in the decade of the 1960's, one of the most significant developments in dispensationalism took place. It happened so quitely, but so swiftly, that it is difficult to document, even to this day. This is what changed the whole course of dispensationalism: the view that there were 'two' new covenants, one for Israel and one for the church, was decisively dropped...when Israel and the church were viewed as sharing one and the same covenant, the possibilities for major rapprochement between covenant theology and dispensationalism became immediately obvious" [emphasis added ] (Blaising & Bock, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992 ], p.369).

This "major rapprochement" is being fulfilled today through the teaching of Progressive Dispensationalism. The dispensational community is now being split down the middle due to a misunderstanding of the meaning of a diatheke.

In order to understand the relationship between the New Diatheke promised to the house of Israel and the New Diatheke that is in affact at the present time the true nature of the meaning of the word diatheke must be understood correctly.

And once this meaning is made clear it becomes evident that the one promised to the house of Israel is a "type" and the "anti-type" is the one which is in effect at the present time. It is not that there are two New Covenants but instead there is a New Diatheke that was promised to the house of Israel and which remains in the future and there is a New Diatheke that is in effect now.

As regards the importance of a correct understanding in Covenant Theology please consider the following statement that is typical of that teaching:

"Theologians speak, first, of a Covenant of Redemption, made between the members of the Godhead; second, of a Covenant of Works, made between God and man; and third, of a Covenant of Grace; which is basically a repetition to man of the first Covenant of Works, with the added proviso that a Redeemer would be provided to fulfill the required works in the place of all covenant-members, as their federal head" (Reformation Theology).

A diatheke is not an contract between parties but instead it is a promissory disposition. Therefore it is an error to speak of a diatheke as being "made between the members of the Godhead.

Hope this helps.

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think the BAGD entry makes a very solid point that God's covenants are such that He alone sets the terms. However, the recipients enter into the agreement in most cases (the covenant we all Noahic would be an example of one where no agreement seems to have been involved. God just promises.

Here is what is said in the BAGD entry for diatheke:

"Nevertheless, another essential characteristic of a testament is retained, namely that it is the declaration of one person’s will, not the result of an agreement betw. two parties, like a compact or a contract."

Quote:
But once again, we could call them nergopharps if we wanted to. They remain what the contexts clearly indicate they were, regardless.

Yes, we could call them that but according to what I have read concerning Covenant Theology the following statement is accurate of that teaching:

"According to covenant theology, the covenant of grace, established in history, is founded on still another covenant, the covenant of redemption, which is defined as the eternal pact between God the Father and God the Son concerning the salvation of mankind" (Covenant).

http://mb-soft.com/believe/text/covenant.htm

Here we read that the so-called "Covenant of Redemption" is an eternal pact between God the Father and God the Son. A "promise" is not a pact between two or more parties.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

You have a pact as soon as one party promises something and another promises something back. This clearly occurred at Sinai and again later at the plains of Moab. The BAGD entry on diatheke doesn't rule that out if you look at the whole thing. But if it did, it would be wrong.

I don't think the meaning of diatheke really has a whole lot to do with the progressive dispensationalism controversy. Whether we call it a "new covenant" or a "new diatheke" we still have to figure out if there are two of them or just one. And we are still talking about promises.

Personally, I have no difficulty at all with calling a one way promise a covenant... especially since in almost every case there is the option of entering into it or rejecting it (and suffering the consequences).

Deuteronomy 26:17–18 (NKJV) — 17 Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice. 18 Also today the LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments

I'm sorry, but you'll never convince that this is not a covenant.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Thanks Jack. That was quite helpful.

I finished "The Kingdom of Christ" by Russell Moore a few weeks ago. Its all about the rapprochement of dispie and cov't theologies, and the promise that holds for social and spiritual benefits. Interesting read. But i didn't come across the battle on diatheke, nor when I read Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church by Blaising and Bock, et. al.

So thanks for pointing out the issue.

So, from your perspective, if you hold that a diatheke is a promissory disposition (epangellia, I guess?), how does that help you define exactly what the New Covenant is for the church today? IOW, what light does it shed that we have missed perhaps before?

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
You have a pact as soon as one party promises something and another promises something back. This clearly occurred at Sinai and again later at the plains of Moab. The BAGD entry on diatheke doesn't rule that out if you look at the whole thing. But if it did, it would be wrong.

The following promisorry dispostion of God stood whether or not the children of Israel agreed to it or not:

"Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel" (Ex.19:5-6).

Even though Israel said that "all that the LORD hath spoken we will do" (v.8) does not effect the promise in any way, especially considering the fact that they did not do all that the Lord said.

Quote:
Personally, I have no difficulty at all with calling a one way promise a covenant... especially since in almost every case there is the option of entering into it or rejecting it (and suffering the consequences).

Deuteronomy 26:17–18 (NKJV) — 17 Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice. 18 Also today the LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments.


The option to enter in does not effect the validity of the promissory disposition in any way nor does a failure to enter in effect the existence of the promissory disposition in any way. After all, the promissory disposition remained in effect for hundreds of years despite the fact that the children of Israel never entered in by keeping the conditions.

Jack Hampton's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
So, from your perspective, if you hold that a diatheke is a promissory disposition (epangellia, I guess?), how does that help you define exactly what the New Covenant is for the church today? IOW, what light does it shed that we have missed perhaps before?

Ted, the teaching of the Progressive Dispensationalists is that those in the Body of Christ partake of the New Diatheke promised to the nation of Israel completely contradicts the teaching of the Traditional Dispensationalists. The only way to answer this is by showing a "typological" relationship between the New Diatheke promised to the nation of Israel and the one that is in effect at the present time. The first step in establishing this typological relationship is to show that a diatheke similiar to the one promised to Israel can be a "type" of the New Diatheke that is in effect today. To understand this relationship please consider the words of J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan who say that diatheke "is properly 'dispositio,' an 'arrangement' made by one party with plenary power, which the other party may accept or reject, but cannot alter. A 'will' is simply the most conspicuous example of such an instrument, which ultimately monopolized the word just because it suited its differentia so completely" (J.H. Molton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930 ], 148).

My contention is that the "type" is a "promissory disposition" that was promised to Israel and the "anti-type" is another "promissory disposition" that is in effect now, more specifically a "last will and testament." That diatheke can be seen at Hebrews9:16-17. The New Diatheke which is effect now is also the "gospel" (see 2 Cor.3:6; 4:1-3).

Here the gospel can be understood in the sense of a "Last Will and Testament":

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Ro.3:21-24).

Here we can understand that the inheritance of the will is the righteousness of God apart from law. Those who inherit this righteousness are "all those who believe." And as in all wills, it is the death of the testator that makes it all possible--through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus--redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb.

The design of the typological relationship is the same as that concerning the "redemption" of the nation of Israel.

In a lecture addressed to Dallas Theological Seminary on the subject of Typology Charles T. Fritsch said that "the exodus, the deliverance of a nation, becomes a type of the redemptive work of Christ--also clearly adumbrated in the exile--where the individual is brought to realize his own tremendous guilt and need of redemption" [emphasis added ](Fritsch, "Principles of Biblical Typology," Bibliotheca Sacra, 104 [April-June, 1947 ], 220).

This same typological design can also be seen in relationship to the "nation" of Israel's forgiveness of sins (Acts 3:19) and to her "regeneration" (Ez.37:11). My contention is that the blesssings promised to the "nation" of Israel under her New Diatheke are typical and those blessings serve to picture or illustrate the blessings which the Christian inherits under the New Diatheke that is in effect at the present time.

Therefore those in the Body of Christ are not partaking of the New Diatheke promised to the nation of Israel and therefore the teachings of the Traditional Dispensationalists remain intact.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Thanks Jack. The last sentence helped me a lot to frame the argument.

How would you understand Hebrews 8:6, "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises."

Is Jesus right now not mediating a better covenant? Is he now mediating an antitype?

Also, where does God's election of the redeemed come into play (Eph. 1:4-7)? Is that specific redemption to foreknown people, or a general will of redemption, toward all people?

Thanks.

Jack Hampton's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
How would you understand Hebrews 8:6, "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises."

Is Jesus right now not mediating a better covenant? Is he now mediating an antitype?


Ted, let us look at the following verse:

"...and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than Abel’s does" (Heb.12:24; NET).

A note in the NET states that the Greek word mesites (mediator) in the context of Hebrews 12:24 "does not imply that Jesus was a mediator in the contemporary sense of the word, i.e., he worked for compromise between opposing parties. Here the term describes his function as the one who was used by God to enact a new covenant which established a new relationship between God and his people, but entirely on God’s terms."

This puts the Lord Jesus' work in regard to being a Mediator in the past. The Greek word translated "mediator" means "one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

It was the Lord Jesus' death on the Cross which restored peace between God and man by providing a "reconciliation":

"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor.5:19).

So the Lord Jesus' work in regard to His role as a Mediator was fulfilled at the Cross.

Quote:
Also, where does God's election of the redeemed come into play (Eph. 1:4-7)? Is that specific redemption to foreknown people, or a general will of redemption, toward all people?

I believe that the Lord's choosing for salvation is in regard to "individuals" and is based on His foreknowledge:

"Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (Eph.1:2).

I believe that the Lord looks into the future and chooses for salvation those who believe:

"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thess.2:13).

I hope that answers your question.

Paul Henebury's picture

This is an interesting discussion, and I would like to join in a little if I may?

If I am reading things right there are several threads going:

1. When God made a "covenant" - be it unilateral (e.g. Noahic) or bilateral (Mosaic), there was of necessity a human response to the revelation. Granted this is self-evident, the real issue is whether the human response is of any import. If the covenant is unilateral the answer is "No." For example, God will never bring another global flood upon the world regardless of any ones response to that promise. In the case of a bilateral covenant however, the response of those to whom the covenant is addressed obligates that party to the terms of the agreement.

In both cases the terms are drawn up by the Superior Party (the Suzerain if you like). This, by the way, may be the reason the LXX and the NT uses the more one-sided term "diatheke" instead of "syntheke." In the unilateral treaties in the OT it is the Suzerain (God), who obligates Himself, while no obligation to bring about the fulfillment of the terms of the covenant come upon the second party (e.g. Israel). And even though the unconditional covenants may have subsidiary conditions appended to them, these conditions in no way absolve God from His obligation to bring the wording of His covenant to pass.

2. As Aaron rightly says it is the context which decides the use of a word in Scripture. The various contexts in which the OT covenants were "cut" do not allow for much ambiguity. Always the divine initiative is to the fore, and always a trajectory, in line with God's overall purpose, is announced and usually set in motion. As most of God's covenants are unilateral in character (Noahic, Abrahamic, Land, Priestly, Davidic, New), Divine obligation becomes a sort of "test" of God's own Self-revealed nature (e.g. His veracity, omnipotence, immutability, righteousness). These things must be kept in mind when coming to the NT.

3. Although Jack is correct that "diatheke" carries the usual meaning "disposition" (in the sense of legal settlement), or "testament" - a meaning the writer of Hebrews exploits in Heb. 9:15-17 - we must allow the central quotation from Jeremiah 31 in Hebrews 8:8f., (together with Christ's allusion to it at the Last Supper) to be decisive. As D. Hillers rightly says, "The point worth noting is that the death of Jesus has suggested the meaning he [the writer of Hebrews ] attaches to diatheke, "covenant," and not the reverse." - Delbert R. Hillers, Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea, (1994), 182.

4. Regarding the New Covenant the Jeremiah passage must guide our translation of the NT's "diatheke," especially as we cannot ask the inspired authors why they employed that particular word. Geerhardus Vos's study, though dated, demonstrates well that, as he says, "The idea of a testamentary disposition is present in only two passages." - "Covenant" Or "Testament"? in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation (1980), 411.

In those contexts where God's "one-sided disposition" is stressed, Vos is content to translate "covenant" in line with the Hebrew "berith" (Ibid.). He leaves upon a third, smaller category of texts which he regards as inadequately translated as "covenant." However, it should be noted that once the two forms of ANE covenants in the Bible are considered, Vos's unease is considerably ameliorated.

5. Personally speaking, I don't see why dispensationalists have pulled their hair out over the New Covenant. To me at least, the language of Luke 22:20, made as it was with those who were to become "foundations" of the church (Eph. 2:20), and repeated imperturbably by Paul in 1 Cor. 11:25; when taken with the argument in Hebrews, decisively shows that Jesus, "the Mediator of the New Covenant", made the New covenant with the Church! If one is expecting to find that in Jeremiah or Ezekiel then one is not a dispensationalist. Those prophets did not envisage "the Body of Christ" so they did not write about the relationship of the New covenant to the Church.

Does this necessitate two separate new covenants? No indeed! It means only that the same new covenant was given to the Church as shall be given to Israel. From my simplistic perspective I just don't see a real problem there Smile

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hi All,

Is there an article out there describing the various views on how the church "fits" into the New Cov't? Jack's perspective (if I read you right, Jack) is that it doesn't. Yours, Dr. Reluctance (and mine, too) is that it does. I'm guessing Aaron, you do too.

But it seems that the catching point for us who do see the NC having a relationship with the church is defining that relationship (except Jack - score one for you!).

After all we have to wrestle with these points. Even Heb. 8:8 mentions not the church, but Israel and Judah. But I think Paul's points, especially #5, must be a little challenging at least for you, Jack. And I didn't really get an answer to my question on Heb. 8:6 (if you did, forgive my thickheadedness).

Jack Hampton's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
I didn't really get an answer to my question on Heb. 8:6/

How would you understand Hebrews 8:6, "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises."

Is Jesus right now not mediating a better covenant? Is he now mediating an antitype?


Ted, let me try this again. The Lord Jesus' work in His role as Mediator was fulfilled at the Cross. Let us look at the following verse:

"...and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than Abel’s does" (Heb.12:24; NET).

A note in the NET states that the Greek word mesites (mediator) in the context of Hebrews 12:24 "does not imply that Jesus was a mediator in the contemporary sense of the word, i.e., he worked for compromise between opposing parties. Here the term describes his function as the one who was used by God to enact a new covenant which established a new relationship between God and his people, but entirely on God’s terms."

This puts the Lord Jesus' work in regard to being a Mediator in the past. The Greek word translated "mediator" means "one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

It was the Lord Jesus' death on the Cross which restored peace between God and man once for all, and that was by providing a "reconciliation":

"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor.5:19).

So the Lord Jesus' work in regard to His role as a Mediator was fulfilled at the Cross. To answer your question, He is the Mediator of a New Diatheke but He has already done the work in the past that defines that role. He has already done the work associated with His role as Mediator for both the "type" and the "anti-type."

Jack Hampton's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:
5. Personally speaking, I don't see why dispensationalists have pulled their hair out over the New Covenant. To me at least, the language of Luke 22:20, made as it was with those who were to become "foundations" of the church (Eph. 2:20), and repeated imperturbably by Paul in 1 Cor. 11:25; when taken with the argument in Hebrews, decisively shows that Jesus, "the Mediator of the New Covenant", made the New covenant with the Church! If one is expecting to find that in Jeremiah or Ezekiel then one is not a dispensationalist. Those prophets did not envisage "the Body of Christ" so they did not write about the relationship of the New covenant to the Church.

Hi Paul,

The following words of Lewis Sperry Chafer expresses what has been the belief in the Traditional dispensational camp from the beginning and if those in the Body of Christ are partaking of the New Diathake promised to the house of Israel then this position must be abandoned:

"But for the Church intercalation -- which was wholly unforeseen and is wholly unrelated to any divine purpose which precedes it or which follows it. In fact, the new, hitherto unrevealed purpose of God in the outcalling of a heavenly people from Jews and Gentiles is so divergent with respect to the divine purpose toward Israel, which purpose preceded it and will yet follow it, that the term 'parenthetical,' commonly employed to describe the new age-purpose, is inaccurate. A parenthetical portion sustains some direct or indirect relation to that which goes before or that which follows; but the present age-purpose is not thus related and therefore is more properly termed an intercalation" [emphasis added ] (Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. [Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948; reprint, 8 vols. in 4, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1993 ], 4:41; 5:348-349).

If Paul's words at 1 Corinthians 11:25 are teaching that Christians partake in the New Diatheke promised to the nation of Israel then why does he place that diatheke in the future here?:

"And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (Ro.11:26-27).

It is clear that the conditions which will be in place when the New Diatheke is in force are not conditions that are in place now:

"I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed" (Isa.61:8-9).

"Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you...Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor" (Isa.55:3,5; NIV).

Certainly it is impossible to imagine that those verses describe conditions which are in place now.

Besides, if the New Diatheke promised to Israel was for the Christian why does the author of Hebrews not apply it to the Christian?:

"The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds...Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more" (Heb.10:16-17; NIV).

Here the author of Hebrews changes the wording of the verse from the O.T. that speaks of Israel's New Covenant so that the Jewish Christians would not be left with the impression that the blessings of Israel's New Covenant were being applied to them.

The words from the OT which read "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel" (Jer.31:33) are changed to "this is the covenant that I will make with them."

So the author writes that "the Holy Spirit testifies to us...this is the covenant that I will make with them."

Now let us look more closely at what Paul said in regard to communion. It was only later after Paul was converted that a fuller understanding of the significance of the Lord Jesus' death upon the Cross was understood. Evidently Paul received a special revelation ("I have received of the Lord...") to give him a fuller understanding of the meaning of the Lord Jesus' words spoken on the eve of the Cross:

"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you...For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor.11:23; NIV).

In the upper room the blood of a New Diatheke was set in the context of the kingdom, and that is clearly in reference to Israel's New Covenant:

"...for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom" (Mt.26:28-29).

Paul specifically ties communion to the Lord's return at the rapture and not to the kingdom--"you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."

This is clear evidence that Paul's words in regard to the Lord's supper are not in regard to Israel's New Diatheke but instead is in regard to the New Diatheke which is in operation today. Further proof that Paul received a special revelation from the Lord in regard to this sacrament is found in his words here:

"When we bless the cup at the Lord's Table, aren't we sharing in the benefits of the blood of Christ? And when we break the loaf of bread, aren't we sharing in the benefits of the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor.10:16-17; NIV).

David K. Lowery writes that "the one loaf of bread, of which all partake, pictured their unity as members of the one body of Christ" (Walvoord & Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament [Colorado Springs: ChariotVictor Publishing, 1983 ], p.527).

The truths concerning the Body of Christ were not known until Paul was converted. Charles C. Ryrie said: "In the Upper Room that payment is clearly related to the future fulfillment of the new covenant. This is to be expected since those gathered there did not understand that there would even be an intervening church age" [emphasis added ] (Ryrie, Dispensationalism [Chicago: Moody Press, 1995 ], p.172).

H. A. Ironside states that "The twelve were, as we have seen, connected primarily with the testimony to Israel. Paul, as one born out of due time, was selected to be the messenger to the nations, announcing the distinctive truths of the present dispensation" [emphasis added ] (Ironside, Mysteries of God, [Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1938 ], p.74).

Paul Henebury's picture

We must be wary of not resting our case upon typology. We are not inspired and we are sometimes apt to see things, including types, which are not there. If a type/anti-type relationship exists let us acknowledge it retrospectively rather than make interpretive decisions on it.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Paul, thanks for your helpful comments here.
Jack: We seem to be sort of talking past eachother or something. When I say that God extends covenant on His own terms and people are given a chance to enter into it (what Paul referred to as bilateral), certainly the terms of the covenant are not altered at all. However, what God does is altered because the covenant is rejected.
In Israel's case, the passage you quoted clearly contains the word "if." What this means is that if they do not choose to meet the conditions (i.e., they reject the covenant) the promised blessings do not follow.

Some covenants have "ifs" and some don't. The ones that do, present people with a choice as to how they will respond to the covenant. The ones that do not are still covenants because God has promised something. It's just not conditioned on anybody's response.

But again, I can't see how it matters a whole lot--except that there is no way to do justice to the OT texts involved if we deny that these are covenants. That's never a trivial thing.

Paul, I like your take on New Covenant. It may be that I haven't read enough, but I don't really see the difficulty either. I'm guessing you probably have read enough so I feel validated. Smile

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jack Hampton's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:
We must be wary of not resting our case upon typology. We are not inspired and we are sometimes apt to see things, including types, which are not there. If a type/anti-type relationship exists let us acknowledge it retrospectively rather than make interpretive decisions on it.

Paul, I have a good reason for seeing a typological relationship. Do you think that the New Diatheke to which Paul refers to here is the same New Diatheke which was promised to the house of Israel?:

"Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament (diatheke); not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor.3:6; KJV).

From the immediate context we can see that the "ministry" to which Paul made reference is in regard to a "testament" and not to a "covenant":

"Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord" (2 Cor.4:1-4).

Paul's words "this ministry" are obviously pointing back to the "ministry" of 2 Cor.3:6 and it is evident that his words "this ministry" are in regard to the "manifestation of the truth," or preaching "Christ Jesus the Lord"-- "the glorious gospel of Christ."

In a commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:1 Homer Kent, Jr., writes that "'This ministry' to which he referred was the ministry of the new covenant (3:6). It was the task of proclaiming and teaching the gospel of Christ, the glorious news that sins have been forgiven through Christ's death" (Kent, "The Glory of Christian Ministry: An Analysis of 2 Corinthians 2:14 -4:18," Grace Theological Journal 2.2 [Fall 1981 ], p.181).

Matthew Henry believed that the "ministry" spoken of in these verses is in regard to preaching the gospel: "Here the apostle makes a comparison between the Old Testament and the New, the law of Moses and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and values himself and his fellow-labourers by this, that 'they were able ministers of the New Testament,' that God had made them...the Spirit of the gospel, going along with the ministry of the gospel, giveth life spiritual and life eternal...the gospel is the ministration of righteousness: therein the righteousness of God by faith is revealed. This shows us that the just shall live by his faith. This reveals the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, for obtaining the remission of sins and eternal life. The gospel therefore so much exceeds in glory that in a manner it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation" (Henry, Commentary of the Whole Bible; Volume VI [Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library 2000 ], 957).

Again, do you believe that the New Diatheke which Paul refers to at 2 Corinthians 3:6 is the same New Diatheke that was promised to the house of Israel?

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