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27. THE CRISIS OF COVENANTAL THEOLOGIES We have JOUyiu that three covenantal perspectives govern much of the literature of the Old Testament: the Priestly, the Mosaic, and the royal. In major bodies of Scripture each of these is associated with an outstanding figure: the promissory covenant with Abraham and Sarah,- the covenant of law with Moses, Miriam, and Aaron,- and the covenant of dynastic leadership with David. It is too simple to think of these covenants as belonging exclusively to a particular period or "dis­ pensation." To be sure, in the Bible they follow one another in historical sequence: the Abrahamic covenant was instituted in the ancestral period,- the Mosaic covenant in the time of the exodus and the Sinai sojourn,- and the Davidic covenant at the beginning of the united monarchy. Whenever and however each of these patterns of symbolization arose, we should think of them as running alongside of each other during most of the biblical period, like the trajectories of three jet planes whose jet streams parallel each other in the course of flight. In the Old Testament, then, we find a theological pluralism. The situation is similar to the New Testament, where we find different christological perspectives: the apocalyptic perspective of Mark, the salvation history view of Luke-Acts, the Logos christology of the Johannine literature, or the Pauline theology of divine grace. Just as there is christological pluralism in the New Testament, so there is theological diversity in the Old Testament. The Interrelationship ojthe Covenants In the Old Testament, pluralism does not arise out of intellectual differences or partisan strife, as is often the case in modern societies,- rather, it is rooted in the fundamental experience of the holy Cod in the midst of the people. Each of these covenant perspectives nuances the God-human relationship in a different way, with a distinctive symbolic vista. Hence all of them are necessary to express God's relation to Israel, human beings, and the world. If one of them were lacking, the richness of biblical theology would be diminished. Each covenant has its place in the economy of God's saving purpose. Also, these covenantal perspectives—as we have seen again and again—give expression to certain polarities (Fackenheim: "dialectical contradictions") that are inherent in the experience of the presence of the Holy One in the midst of the people. For instance, in the Abrahamic covenant, we find the polarity of the uni­ versal and the particular. The God whose sovereignty is universal chooses to enter into relationship with a particular people, the descendants of Abraham and Sarah. The Mosaic covenant evinces the polarity of divine sovereignty and human free­ dom. The God who is the Sole Power, who is praised as God Almighty (El Shaddai, Gen. 17:1), calls human beings to responsible freedom. And the Davidic 239 2 4 0 Contours of Old Testament Theology covenant deals with the paradox of divine transcendence and divine immanence. The God who is transcendent or "far off" is also immanent or "near," that is, sacramentally present in the temple and graciously manifest in the rule of the Davidic king. Further, it is wrong to segregate the covenants from each other, on the suppo­ sition that they are independent or even antithetical. Some theologians want to separate the Mosaic covenant from the Davidic covenant, on the supposition that the latter is a "fall from grace," or in sociological terms, a lapse into ideology.1 It may be difficult for us to integrate these covenants,- but those who have given us the Scriptures in their final form apparently perceived no fundamental incompat­ ibility. The covenants are interrelated, and interact with each other, adding rich­ ness and depth to the scriptural presentation.2 Combination ofAbrahamic with Mosaic Covenant To recall one example, the Torah in its final Priestly version emphasizes the ever­ lasting covenant made with Abraham, but in tandem with this covenant goes the Mosaic covenant, as evidenced by the insertion of the book of Deuteronomy into the Torah story just before the death of Moses. In this canonical context, the Mosaic covenant is included within the Abrahamic covenant: it is, one might say, an extension or elaboration of the obligations of the people who are embraced within the Abrahamic covenant. Before Israel was a people, before they decided to accept the covenant obligations at Sinai, they were already embraced within God's covenant of grace. Accordingly, the Priestly narrator says, on the eve of the exo­ dus, that "God...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781451404241
Print ISBN
9780800698348
MARC Record
OCLC
868221272
Pages
372
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-07
Language
English
Open Access
N
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