Michael D. Coogan: The Importance of Covenant

Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Literary and Historical Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP, 2014), 118.

The concept of covenant is central to the Bible. Its significance is indicated by its thematic importance in P, which is organized around three covenants, those between God and Noah, God and Abraham, and God and Israel. On a broader level, the two principal divisions of the Bible in Christianity are called the Old Covenant (“Testament”) and the New Covenant. As the word “testament” suggests, a covenant is a legal term.

The Hebrew word for covenant, berit, has an uncertain etymology, perhaps meaning a bond or mutual agreement. In the Bible, berit means something like “contract,” and it is used for legal agreements such as marriage (Ezek 16.8; Mal 2.14; Prov 2.17), debt-slavery (Job 41.4; compare Deut 15.17), solemn friendship (1 Sam 18.1-4), and especially treaties. On several occasions in the Bible, we are told of treaties between rulers. These are of two types: a parity treaty, in which the two parties are equals, and a suzerainty treaty, in which one party, the suzerain, is superior to the other, the vassal, to use medieval terms.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: