G. There are some noteworthy discussions of passages in the book. Probably the most intriguing part of Gentry’s contribution is his promotion of a pre-fall “Creation covenant.” Gentry’s exposition of this covenant is found in Chapters 5 and 6. While pursuing an exchange with Paul Williamson, Gentry traces out the difference between the phrase “to cut a covenant” (karat berith), and “to uphold an existing covenant” (heqim berith). And he makes a reasonable circumstantial case for tying in the Noahic covenant, which adopts the language of “upholding a covenant”, with a previously existing “Creation covenant” (155-156, 217-221). On a personal note, a Creation covenant would support my own theological project considerably. Still, when all the pages about the imago Dei and ANE parallels are covered, the actual proof for a Creation covenant is, I think, unimpressive. Even if we grant its existence, the problem is one of definition. Supposing one can prove such a covenant. What, precisely, did it say? Where are its clearly drawn terms? If we cannot determine with any solid confidence the wording of the original covenant, how can we say anything about it which will be theologically productive? And as we have had cause to point out, once our surmises are given entry to our theologies, they have a nasty habit of stealing the limelight from more clearly revealed truths.
I think it is dubious to think about Noah (let alone Abraham, Israel, David, etc.) as “new Adams,” as these writers, in line with some contemporary CT scholars do. This kind of thinking comes quite naturally to those with a predisposition for types, but although one may grant some sort of representative function to these people, we are nowhere told they are “new Adams.” We are told that Jesus Christ is “the second Man” (1 Cor. 15:47), and it is well to leave it at that. There is some pleading for a straight-forward reading of the text (e.g. 157) in this section, but one has cause to ponder its selectivity (see, e.g. 192 where the author wants to assume identity of meaning for “image of god” between 15th century B.C. ANE customs and Genesis. Surely here interpretation is being decided beforehand and foisted on the text from without?).
H. Turning to a few more examples, are we really to believe that utter destruction comes upon humanity because “they have violated the instructions and terms of the Noahic covenant” (172)? I rather thought God made the covenant with Noah and the rest of creation. God sent a flood. Noah built an Ark. God said He wouldn’t do that again. What was to violate?
The authors both stress the inadequacy of viewing covenants as unilateral or bilateral, or unconditional or conditional (see Wellum’s summary on 609f.), but this reviewer can think of no scholar who does not place exception clauses on these ways of thinking. As every dispensational scholar I know about is careful to explain, the “unconditional” covenants with Abraham, Israel, David, etc., do contain temporal conditions, which if not kept will cause God to act in judgment. But these can never finally frustrate the outcome of the oaths God bound Himself to keep, since those promises obligate Him to insure the conditions are eventually met (which is where the New covenant comes in).
It seems to me that trying to create a tension between the covenants by rejecting the unilateral/bilateral dichotomy opens up another opportunity for typology to enter and begin dictating the play. This pliancy assists supercessionism of all stripes greatly.
I. Although ranging for several pages, Gentry’s explanation of Jeremiah 33:14-26 is rather a thin veneer, and disappoints. Gentry’s preferred pattern of pursuing detailed digressions from the text and then bringing his conclusions to his interpretations of the text strike me as more impressive and substantial looking than they are. When all is said and done, his actual dealing with passages sometimes appears a little shallow and strained. This is certainly the case with his treatments of Jeremiah 30-33 (although chs. 34 & 35 illuminate those chapters much), and, as we shall see, Daniel 9.
The treatment of Jeremiah 33 is especially inattentive. Although noting the connection of the New covenant “with the covenant with David, the covenant with Levi, and the covenant with creation [which is more probably the Noahic covenant]” (522), Gentry fails to give attention to the direct quotation of or strong allusion to the terms of these covenants in this passage (see Jer. 33:15 refers to after the second advent; 33:17 quotes from the Davidic covenant; 33:18 alludes strongly to the Priestly covenant of Num. 25:12-13; then Jer. 33:20 ties in with the preamble to the Noahic covenant in Gen. 8:22; Jer. 33:22, 26 partly cites the Abrahamic covenant; and 33:25 probably refers to the creation ordinances). Here we have perhaps the strongest example of intertextuality in the OT, but he skips over much of it: for example, what he doesn’t say about the throne of Israel, and in his remarks about the covenant with Levi, where Ezek. 44, Zech. 14, and Mal. 3 are ignored.
If there is a more strongly worded statement from God in all of Scripture than Jeremiah 33:14-26 I should like to see it. Moreover, as Gentry (253, quoting K. Mathews) seems to recognize, the passing through the parts of the animals in Jer. 34 recalls the self-imprecation of God in Gen. 15. It is passing strange that few scholars have connected Jeremiah 34 with God’s oaths in the previous chapter (and 31:31-36).
J. We must move on and say something about the ingenious but unpersuasive exposition of Daniel 9:24ff. To put it in a nutshell, the authors believe that the six items listed in Daniel 9:24 were all fulfilled in Christ at the first advent (541, 553-554 – though they admit “anoint the most holy person” is abnormal, typology again steps in to help). “Messiah the Prince” or “Leader” of 9:25 is equated with “the prince [or leader] who shall come” of verse 26 even though it appears that he comes after “Messiah is cut off.” From chapter 7:8, 23-25 the antichrist arises from the fourth kingdom (the Roman empire), seemingly just prior to the second coming (7:13-14 with 7:21-22). This prepares the reader for “the people of the prince who is to come” who “shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (9:26).
Two questions loom before us if we follow Gentry’s and Wellum’s interpretation. The first concerns the fact that the “he” of verse 26b causes the sacrifice and offering to cease “in the middle of the [seventieth] week.” If this refers to Jesus then it also refers to His crucifixion. That would leave three and a half years of the seventieth week left to fulfill. This is generally where those who don’t like a second coming context will jump thirty-five or so years into the future and see fulfillment in Titus’s armies in A.D. 70. This expedient appears to be adopted by Gentry (561), although he seems to hedge his bets. On page 560-561 he writes,
Jesus came and was cut off, and his people ruined the city and the sanctuary. It was Caiaphas’ rejection of Jesus’ testimony at the trial that meant that that temple had to fall…the Jews cut off their Messiah and ruined the city as the culmination of their continued transgression, and the Romans destroyed the city “in a flood”…
Gentry admits the “people” who destroy city and sanctuary do “appear to be enemy armies” (560), so he has to read two peoples into the context: the Jews who “destroyed” the city metaphorically circa A.D. 30, and the Romans who adopted a more literal method in A.D. 70! (Readers who want a more straightforward exegesis of these verses could do worse than read Paul D. Feinberg’s essay in John S. and Paul D. Feinberg, Tradition and Testament, 189-220).
K. Do they believe the OT is not to be interpreted by the NT? Their interaction with the NT is very deficient, but it is clear that their appreciative use and agreement with CT’s like Beale, Goldsworthy, Dumbrell, Waltke and others to prop up major planks in their argument; from their supercessionism (e.g. 228, 243, 247, etc.); from their use of the Cosmos-Eden-Land-Temple typology as a hermeneutical principle (e.g. 322, 706); their “New Israel” as the one people of God (104, 598, 688-689, 716, and charts on 619-620), and their insistence that salvation is what it’s all about (614), they are in most places fully in step with covenant theologians. Most of the disagreements would be ecclesiological. The eschatology is the same, and so, to a large degree, is their reinterpreting the OT with their take on the New (Cf. 714 n.146).
L. For some reason, Limited atonement is brought into the fray, but I for one do not see much of a case for its inclusion in the book or the validity of the argument. I am not going to engage the question here; the basis of which is that the New covenant is made only with God’s true people, therefore, Christ’s blood was shed only for them. This is where they seem to forget their rejection of the unconditional versus conditional view for a both/and model in speaking about the covenants.
M. I have said that in writing about their applied method the authors seem to erect two contrary goals: they say they want to let the text speak in its context (see also e.g., 558), but they also want to bring in a front-loaded version of intertextuality into their exegesis. In similar fashion, they say they don’t want to read the OT in light of the NT, but their operating assumption is that the “kingdom through covenant” motif must be understood through the lens of Calvary and Pentecost. They say they want to steer a middle course between CT and DT, but their apparent minimal interaction with DT works causes them to make unsure generalizations (like all DT’s held to believer’s baptism), while NCT’s close affinities with CT and its typology, and their basic agreement with and endorsement of the typological position of G.K. Beale, Stephen Dempster, etc., shows that they are far from sticking to the middle of the road.
On pages 605-606 Wellum states,
In contrast to other theological views, our proposal of “kingdom through covenant” wants consistently to view and apply the previous covenants through the lens of Jesus’ person and work and the arrival of the new covenant age. It is only when we do so that our theological proposals and conclusions will be biblical in the full sense of that word-according to God’s intention of letting Scripture interpret Scripture at the canonical level.
Kingdom through Covenant does educate the reader and good points are made. But, in reality, differences with paedo-baptist covenant theology notwithstanding, this is biblical theology in contemporary supercessionist tones. There is not a covenant oath God made which cannot be wrestled to the ground by typology. Despite their assurances otherwise (435), both writers assume that covenant fulfillment happened largely at the first advent. This allows them to reshape covenant promises to fit first coming/ecclesial revelation and keeps the doors open for any of the eschatological options of CT while banging shut the door to dispensational premillennialism.