Covenantal Theology Cross-Examined

Frank Moore Cross and Roland de Vaux stand as intellectual giants in the fields of Old Testament history and archaeology. When combined, their sociological assessments concerning the nature of covenant contracts in the ANE display a simple concept that has been well accepted by modern OT scholarship but has the potential for profound and lasting implications. The idea that covenants served two purposes, namely, to establish kinship relationships between non-kin entities via legal fictions (Cross), and to forge peace amid the potential for hostility (de Vaux), presents real concerns for certain theological convictions of Covenantal theology, and others which espouse certain extra-biblical covenants. This paper will seek to analyze the implications of these historical-contextual understandings of covenants and the impact these implications have on an eternal covenant of redemption and a covenant of works. Particularly, this paper will argue that if Cross and de Vaux are correct in their assessment of covenant contracts, then covenants can only exist between non-kin entities, and that these relationships must serve to preempt hostility. This would necessarily mean a reevaluation of the covenants of eternal redemption and works as properly understood. Accepting the premise of Cross finding earlier covenant concepts seemingly mistaken, alternative theories of explanation for the biblical phenomena will then be provided as a way forward.

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