Kinship by covenant: A biblical theological study of covenant types and texts in the Old and New Testaments

Scott Walker Hahn, Marquette University


Drawing from D. J. McCarthy's findings on the family-properties of covenants, Part One analyzes various OT covenants between God and his people in terms of the father-son relationship as a basic interpretive category. Three covenant-types are differentiated (kinship, treaty, grant) by distinguishing which party swears the oath (both, vassal, suzerain). Kinship and covenant are correlated with oath-swearing and curse-bearing. Using canonical criticism, we classify and explicate God's covenants with Abraham (Gen. 15, 17, 22), and Israel (Sinai, Levitical, Deuteronomic, Davidic), in the light of the momentous occasions when God swore covenant oaths (e.g., Gen. 22:16-18; Num. 14; Deut. 32:40; 1 Sam. 2-3; Ps. 110:1-4). In Part Two, our findings are applied to Galatians 3-4 and Hebrews 1-9, to show how Christ's death fulfills the Old Covenant and ratifies the New Covenant grant of divine sonship, thus revealing God's covenant faithfulness and merciful ingenuity in executing his plan to reunite Jews and Gentiles--by sharing in their common plight--to constitute one worldwide familia Dei. Arguments in Galatians and Hebrews are based on a typological correlation of the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants, which are advanced by the authors' strategic deployment of OT texts cited according to their original contextual meanings. Diatheke in Gal. 3:15 and Heb. 9:16-17 is explained as "covenant-oath" (versus "testament"), in the light of curse-bearing entailed by oath-swearing. Unique findings of our canonical-critical analysis include: (1) identifying Melchizedek with Shem, presupposed in the Targums, and (we argue) in Heb. 1-7; (2) the royal-priesthood of firstborn sons forfeited by the 12 tribes to Levi after the golden calf; (3) Israel's bi-covenantal constitution (i.e., the Deuteronomic and Levitical covenants); (4) in Gal. 3-4, the New Covenant is pre-enacted by the Abrahamic covenant--in Heb. 1-7, by the Davidic. The New Covenant precedes and supercedes the Old (i.e., Mosaic) covenant; (5) Gal. 3-4 shows how breaking the latter led to the Deuteronomic covenant curses; in Heb. 1-7, to the symbolic but ineffectual Levitical priestly covenant, both of which foreshadow Christ's curse-bearing death.

Recommended Citation

Hahn, Scott Walker, "Kinship by covenant: A biblical theological study of covenant types and texts in the Old and New Testaments" (1995). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9600849.