Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Brief History of the Covenant Relationship

Sacred Scripture recorded by Moses tells us that God established a covenant relationship with his people. The competition with the Temple establishment for religious authority constituted one of the core features of biblical prophecy. The prophets were messengers of Yahweh to the people who have breached the covenant with Yahweh. The prophets also announced the consequences of default. The messenger theme carried over to the new covenant announced by Jeremiah and proclaimed by John the Baptist.

Then Jeremiah stated: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” In the Second Temple period, Passover became the occasion of the annual renewal of the covenant.

The followers of Jesus believed He was the Messiah who established the new covenant promised by Jeremiah with His people, all of which is recorded in the writings of Luke and Paul. The Qumran community also understood itself as the fulfillment of the Jeremian promise to Israel that after the exile God shall turn again in mercy to his people and renew the covenant made with the patriarchs. Both Qumran and followers of Jesus made use of the concept of a new covenant which allowed them to redefine the community of the people of God. Serge Ruzer has suggested that the idea of the remission of sins to those belonging to the covenant community is a prominent feature of the Jeremihan promise of the new covenant.

The unknown author of The Epistle of Barnabas made a radical conclusion based upon his interpretation of the golden calf incident. When Moses “cast the two tables from his hands” because the Israelites had turned to idols, they lost the covenant.

Josephus responding to Luke-Acts and Barnabas rewrote sacred scriptures so that there is no covenant relationship. If there is no existing covenant relationship there can be no new covenant and his people could not have lost that which did not exist. Josephus solved a problem.[1]

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2008

[1] In Historians’ Fallacies, D.H. Fischer wrote that “history-writing is not story-telling but problem solving.”


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