Kinship by Covenant: A Biblical Theological Study of Covenant Types and Texts in the Old and New Testaments
Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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 also correlated with oath-swearing and curse-bearing, all of which are used to 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, where Christ's death is shown to fulfill the Old Covenant and ratify the New Covenant grant of divine sonship; This reveals how God keeps his sworn covenant promises according to the merciful ingenuity of his redemptive plan to reunite Israel and the Gentiles -- by entering into solidarity with them in their common plight -- to constitute one worldwide familia Dei. The arguments of Galatians and Hebrews reflect typological correlations of divine covenants in salvation history, and are advanced by the strategic deployment of OT texts according to the author's respectful awareness -- and deliberate evocation -- of their original contextual meanings. The use and meaning of diatheke in Gal. 3:15 and Heb. 9:16-17 is explained as "covenant-oath" (versus "last will and testament"), entailing a curse-bearing death. Using canonical criticism, we uncover unique features of scriptural narratives: (1) As the (only) righteous and blessed firstborn son, Shem may be narratively identified with Melchizedek, as presupposed in the Targums, and (we argue) in Heb. 7:1-28. (2) Royal-priestly primogeniture prevails until the golden calf, when the firstborn of Israel forfeit this to the Levites at Sinai (Ex. 4:22; 19:5-6; 32:7-29). (3) Deuteronomy reforms Israel according to a bi-covenantal constitution where the twelve "lay" tribes are reduced to vassalage under the Levites, and then subjected to the persistent curses of the Deuteronomic covenant (cf. Ezek. 20:3-25). (4) The Aqedah is charged with redemptive symbolism -- securing God's oath and preenacting its fulfillment in the Passover, the Temple sacrifices atop Moriah, and Christ's death. (5) Paul sees the New Covenant pre-enacted in the Abrahamic covenant; whereas the author of Hebrews sees it pre-enacted in the Davidic covenant. In this way, the New Testament presents the New Covenant as both preceding and superceding the Old Covenant (i.e., the Mosaic covenant). (6) Paul sees Israel's violation of the Sinai covenant leading to the Deuteronomic covenant curses ( e.g., exile); whereas the author of Hebrews interprets the violated Sinai covenant as leading to the symbolic -- but ineffectual and imperfect -- renewal via the Levitical covenant. In either case, Christ's curse-bearing death perfectly renews and fulfills Israel's broken covenant. (7) Finally, this familial conception of the covenant calls for a radical re-thinking of Christ's curse-bearing death in terms of Trinitarian lifegiving love, rather than simply a display -- and propitiation -- of God's just wrath. Christ's sacrifice is the instrumental means to fulfill God's purpose for his children, i.e., our filial deification (filii in filio), through the power of the Spirit ("of sonship").