Review: The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology (Volume I – Old Testament Expectation) by Paul Martin Henebury, Maitland, Florida: Xulon Press Elite, 467 pages; reviewed by Ed Vasicek
This is a brilliant, straightforward analysis of the nature of the Old Testament Covenants and their continuity throughout the Old Testament, including its latter portions. The author offers compelling evidence that the purpose of the covenants was clarity, not obscurity. He argues that the covenants should be interpreted in straightforward ways and understood as originally presented, with no future changes-of-definition allowed. When it comes to the covenants, God’s very faithfulness is on the line.
Henebury argues convincingly that the covenants are foundational to our interpretation of the rest of Scripture, and are the subject of constant appeal and rehearsal throughout the Bible (but in this volume, the author focus more so upon the Old Testament with only occasional treks to the New).
The author sees six covenants, covenants which are not assumed or interpolated, but stated in Scripture. They include the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Priestly Covenant (with Phineas), the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant.
Henebury interprets the Scriptures in normal fashion (he uses the term “literal,” but he allows for figures of speech), not as a code to be later deciphered by the New Testament. Although the New Testament adds much, Henebury’s concern is to understand the Old Testament within its own context, reading the Bible from a forward-looking perspective and then building upon those foundations.
Henebury’s arguments are substantial, logical, and convincing; his hermeneutics are consistent. Henebury allows Scripture itself to trump religious imagination or “spiritualization.”
This is a thorough approach to the subject; the author is in no hurry and evades nothing. The appendixes deal with the intertestimental period, the popular “Cosmic Temple” paradigm, and whether portions of the Bible are apocalyptic (in the full sense of the word).
I personally, on the one hand, found the book invigorating, but the print edition was a strain on my eyes with its small font, so I ended up reading through it a few pages at a time. Others with better eyes than mine (or with the Kindle edition) might have a better experience, but the hard copy itself is an attractive volume apart from this issue.
I give this book my highest recommendation and urge all pastors, theologians, Biblical academics and serious lay persons to take the time to read and study this volume. Even if readers agree with Henebury’s perspective apriori, they will learn much and increase in clarity about this important subject. God’s covenant promises are the best foundation for interpreting the rest of Scripture, and taking them at face value will protect us from numerous blind alleys and important theological missteps.
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Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic but, during high school, Cicero (IL) Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed earned his BA at Moody Bible Institute and served as pastor for many years at Highland Park Church, where he is now pastor emeritus. Ed and his wife, Marylu, have two adult children. Ed has published over 1,000 columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and posted many papers which are available at edvasicek.com. Ed has also published the The Midrash Key and The Amazing Doctrines of Paul As Midrash: The Jewish Roots and Old Testament Sources for Paul's Teachings.