Monday, March 26, 2007

The New Covenant - Guest Post by Bill Dumbrell

I am glad to include a guest post by Bill Dumbrell on "the New Covenant" which I hope will inform many of the work that Bill has done in the past in this subject and arouse the attention of others to the significance of "covenant" for biblical theology.
- MB
The New Covenant

The New Covenant of Luke 22:20 was Jesus' only significant interpretation of the purpose of his death, fulfilling by his resurrection the prophetic expectations of a revived Israel (cf. Ezek 36:25-27, Ezek 37:1-14 and Ezek 37:14-28 with John 3 and 4). In the construction of NT theology, we must give major weight to Jesus' action. Like the intersecting covenants of the OT (see my publications, 1984, 2002) we might expect the significance of the New Covenant to control the future of the revived Israel of Acts 2 (see my Romans 2005 and, published in Australia, Galatians and John).

The onset of the New Covenant meant the full implementation of God's undertaking to Noah (Gen 6:18) to maintain his covenanted purposes for the New Creation (Gen 1:26-28; Gen 2 - see Dumbrell 2002). I note that the use of heqim berit (Gen 6:18a) in the OT always points to maintenance, not commencement. Moreover, Gen 6:18b with 6:18a indicates that the salvation of Noah is that maintenance of purpose for creation. 'Covenant' from Gen 6:18a onwards becomes the language by which God's promise structure for history proceeds. That a divine intention to bring to a conclusion the work commenced with creation should be given the title of 'covenant' should not surprise. Biblical covenants are divine promises unilaterally imposed, firmly backed by covenant arrangement.

Jeremiah's New Covenant which Jesus' death and resurrection inaugurated, but not completely implemented until the Parousia, meant the dismissal of disobedient national Israel's election for service and the end of her institutions: law, temple, sacrificial atonement etc. Divine creational law (cf. the Decalogue), however, continues with a general obligation for all and to be written in the heart of believers (OT and NT). Jesus' New Covenant meant the onset of the New Creation age begun by the appointment of a New Israel (cf. John 20:22 correlated with John 1:12).

The New Covenant was thus the implementation of the Abrahamic Covenant of which the Sinai Covenant with Israel had been a subset. Paul's New Covenant ministry (2 Cor 3:6) that recognized all of this (cf. Rom 6:14, Gal 2:23, 2 Cor 3:6) confronted Jewish Christians (cf. 3:6 - note the present of 'kills') who saw Jesus as operating within the continuing Mosaic Covenant.

This was the problem facing Paul in Galatians, Romans and 2 Corinthians and we may see traces of it elsewhere in the Pauline Epistles. Paul's in his appraisal of Israel carefully recognized the changed position resulting from the cross (cf. Rom 2:1-3:20; 9:30-10:8; 7:1-6, 6:14, etc.).

The general reluctance of NT scholarship to accept a covenant emphasis, in view of Jesus' action and the Jewish character of the early church is puzzling. It is an undervaluing of how OT theology of kingdom and covenant works its way through the whole Bible. The usual objections of lack of reference to the terms, apply to the OT as well as to the new but the notion is basic to the correlation of the two Testaments/Covenants.


The Halpinator said...

thanks for the info on the book links. that was easy enough.

Michael Barber said...

Great post!

What I find fascinating is the association of restoration vision of Jeremiah 31 with the Lord's Supper. Aune and others have looked at the way the Dead Sea Community tied eschatological hopes to their common meals and rituals. In my dissertation I'm going to argue that something similar is taking place here. I've got a lot more to say on that, but I'll hold off until later.

Thanks again for hosting a post by one of my favorite NT scholars. I hope Dr. Dumbrell will be around in the future. Thanks so much Dr. Dumbrell for a great post.

Joe said...

Thanks for putting this post on your blog. It makes us think and rethink what we think the message of the whole canon is.

With respect to Dumbrell referring to the lack of NT scholarship 'underrvaluing of how OT theology of kingdom and covenant works its way through the whole Bible' we might point out that very few 'complain' that the phrase 'kingdom of God' is seldom found in the OT. This is because it is clear that the theme of the kingdom of God undergirds the OT and, indeed, the NT.


Bryden Black said...

Just finished reading Brant Pitre’s Jesus and the Last Supper (Eerdmans, 2015), which has delightful insights into the New Covenant that Bill Dumbrell takes up in that Guest Post of 26 March 2007 via Luke 22:20. I’m sure he’d be impressed with the radical renewal of understanding Pitre brings to this central Christian rite of New Passover, New Exodus, New Covenant. But of course one fancies he might be already sitting down at the Res of the Thing! (If one may excuse some forms of eschatology!)