KINGDOM THROUGH COVENANT: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants
Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum
Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012
Kingdom Through Covenant, a 700 page work, is not for everyone. In fact, I must admit that it was heavy reading for me. I even scanned sections of it. Nevertheless, I read enough to see that it is an incredible piece of scholarship by two Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professors: Old Testament professor, Peter J. Gentry (Ph D. from University of Toronto) and systematic theology professor, Stephen J. Wellum (Ph D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). These two scholars consulted hundreds of books and articles and, of course, used the original biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek, in their research for this massive and original tome.
Concerning Kingdom Through Covenant Thomas Schreiner, New Testament professor at Southern Baptist Seminary wrote: “Here we find incisive exegesis and biblical theology at its best. A must read that will be part of the conversation for many years to come.”
Another reviewer, Miles V. Van Pelt, Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, noted “Hermeneutically sensitive, exegetically rigorous, and theological rich – Gentry and Wellum have produced what will become one of the standard texts in the field.”
Personally I believe this book is in some ways revolutionary. Up until now most evangelical Bible students have sought to pull together the overall message of the Bible in one of two ways – through “covenant theology”, dating from the 16th century, or through “dispensational theology”, dating from the 19th century. (Covenant theology is a conceptual overview and interpretive framework for understanding the overall structure of the Bible. It uses the theological concept of a covenant as an organizing principle for Christian theology. Dispensational theology advocates a system of interpreting history in terms of a series of God’s dispensations.)
The authors of Kingdom through Covenant attempt to approach the unity of the biblical message in a different way than either of these two well-known systems. They write:
Even though we stand on the shoulders of giants in both camps, our goal is to propose a mediating biblical-theological system – ‘Kingdom through covenant’ – which we believe does better justice to the story line of Scripture and how God has ‘put together’ His biblical covenants.
In brief, Gentry and Wellum see the kingdom of God as a theme of prime importance in the Bible. The idea of God’s reign over the world, over His creation, and especially over His chosen and redeemed people, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, is central to His plan. His kingly and sovereign rule is carried out in somewhat different ways throughout redemptive history as seen in the various covenants He made with His people.
The table of contents provides a glimpse into how the authors approach the theme of God’s reign through covenant.
PART ONE – PROLEGOMENA
- The importance of Covenants in Biblical and Systematic theology
- Covenants in Biblical-Theological Systems: Dispensational and Covenant Theology
- Hermeneutical Issues in “Putting Together” the Covenants
PART TWO – EXPOSITION OF THE BIBLICAL COVENANTS
- The Notion of Covenant in the Bible and in the Ancient Near East
- The Covenant with Noah
- The Covenant with Creation in Genesis 1-3
- The Covenant with Abraham (I)
- The Covenant with Abraham (II)
- The Israelite (Mosaic) Covenant: Exodus
- The Israelite (Mosaic) Covenant: Deuteronomy
- The Davidic Covenant
- The New Covenant: Introduction/Isaiah/Ezekiel
- The New Covenant: Jeremiah
- The New Covenant in Daniel’s Seventy Weeks
- Speaking the Truth in Love (Ephesians 4:15): Life in the New Covenant Community
PART THREE – THEOLOGICAL INTEGRATION
- “Kingdom through Covenant”: A Biblical-Theological Summary
- “Kingdom through Covenant” Some theological Implications
Needless to say, this new way of putting together the overall biblical message has an impact on various branches of systematic theology as explained in a blurb on the back cover:
The disciplines of biblical and systematic theology join forces to investigate anew the biblical covenant and the implications of such a study for conclusions in systematic theology. By incorporating the latest research from the ancient Near East and examining implications of their work for Christology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and hermeneutics – biblical scholar Peter Gentry and systematic theologian Stephen Wellum present a thoughtful and viable alternative to both covenant theology and dispensationalism.
P.S. Three years after this 700 page work came out the authors, Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum, wrote a 270 page abridgment. It is also published by Crossway and has the same basic content as the larger work with just less detail. This second work is entitled God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants.
If you are looking for a thirty page summary of the authors’ case I would encourage you to read chapter 11 in the abridgement, entitled KINGDOM THROUGH COVENANT: A Biblical Theological Summary.
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