All these things came upon Jerusalem the bond woman, in which some also reigned who were children of the free woman, holding that kingdom in temporary stewardship, but holding the kingdom of the heavenly Jerusalem, whose children they were, in true faith, and hoping in the true Christ.
Chapter 10.—How Different the Acts in the Kingdom of the Earthly Jerusalem are from Those Which God Had Promised, So that the Truth of the Promise Should Be Understood to Pertain to the Glory of the Other King and Kingdom.
As I was preparing for Part 5 of the Reformed Northwest Podcast series on 1689 Federalism, it ocurred to me that 1689 Federalism’s view of Israel and the church is, in a sense, the inverse of Dispensationalism’s. Dispensationalism teaches that God’s plan has always been for the nation of Israel and that the church is a parenthesis in that plan. Once the church is raptured away, God will resume his plan with Israel. 1689 Federalism teaches that God’s plan has always been for the glorification of Christ in the redemption of the church (promised in Gen. 3:15) and that the nation of Israel was a temporary, typological event in redemptive history. Of course, we don’t mean precisely the same thing by “parenthesis” (i.e. “Plan B”), but I think it’s decently helpful rhetoric to help people understand the position. Please listen to the podcast to hear the full explanation.
Here is how I put it on Twitter.
The first typological Abrahamic promise was given in order for us to
better understand the second, anti-typological promise of Christ.
Dec 17, 2017, 10:51 AM
Contrary to Dispensationalism, the Church was not a parenthesis in God’s plan. If anything, the nation of Israel was.
Dec 17, 2017, 2:44 PM
A reformed paedobaptist responded:
Don’t read the scriptures, the fathers, or the reformers and you’ll come up with this view. twitter.com/brandon_adams/…
Dec 28, 2017, 11:35 AM
This was disappointing given the presence of the Augustine quote in my initial tweet. I sent him a link to numerous quotes from Augustine making the same point. He replied
@brandon_adams One down, how many more to go?
Dec 28, 2017, 11:42 AM
I find this kind of tone very unedifying, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to show more support for the statement. The issue is whether Israel was/is the church, or whether Israel was a type of the church.
Melito of Sardis
“On the Passover” was a sermon about the typology of the Passover by Melito of Sardis (d. 180), a Hellenistic Jew who converted to Christianity. He goes into great detail to explain what a “model” (type) is (“a preliminary sketch [of] the future thing out of wax or clay or wood”). I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read the whole thing (here is a slightly better translation, but it is only a portion). Here are some excerpts:
The law is old, but the gospel is new; the type was for a time, but grace is forever…
The one [the sheep] was the model; the other [Christ] was found to be the finished product…
35. Beloved, no speech or event takes place without a pattern or design; every event and speech involves a pattern–that which is spoken, a pattern, and that which happens, a prefiguration–in order that as the event is disclosed through the prefiguration, so also the speech may be brought to expression through its outline.
36. Without the model, no work of art arises. Is not that which is to come into existence seen through the model which typifies it? For this reason a pattern of that which is to be is made either out of wax, or out of clay, or out of wood, in order that by the smallness of the model, destined to be destroyed, might be seen that thing which is to arise from it–higher than it in size, and mightier than it in power, and more beautiful than it in appearance, and more elaborate than it in ornamentation.
37. So whenever the thing arises for which the model was made, then that which carried the image of that future thing is destroyed as no longer of use…
39. Therefore, if it was like this with models of perishable objects, so indeed will it also be with those of imperishable objects. If it was like this with earthly things, so indeed also will it be with heavenly things. For even the Lord’s salvation and his truth were prefigured in the people, and the teaching of the gospel was proclaimed in advance by the law.
40. The people, therefore, became the model for the church, and the law a parabolic sketch. But the gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment, while the church became the storehouse of truth.
41. Therefore, the type had value prior to its realization, and the parable was wonderful prior to its interpretation. This is to say that the people had value before the church came on the scene, and the law was wonderful before the gospel was brought to light.
42. But when the church came on the scene, and the gospel was set forth, the type lost its value by surrendering its significance to the truth, and the law was fulfilled by surrendering its significance to the gospel. Just as the type lost its significance by surrendering its image to that which is true by nature, and as the parable lost its significance by being illumined through the interpretation,
43. so indeed also the law was fulfilled when the gospel was brought to light, and the people lost their significance when the church came on the scene, and the type was destroyed when the Lord appeared. Therefore, those things which once had value are today without value, because the things which have true value have appeared…
45. The Jerusalem here below once had value, but now it is without value because of the Jerusalem from above. The meager inheritance once had value; now it is without value because of the abundant grace. For not in one place alone, nor yet in narrow confines, has the glory of God been established, but his grace has been poured out upon the uttermost parts of the inhabited world, and there the almighty God has taken up his dwelling place through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever. Amen.
Written around 150AD, Dialogue with Trypho is a Christian apologetic against the Jews. Justin shows how the church is the true circumcision, the true Israel, promised to Abraham, and prophesied throughout the Old Testament.
“No,” I said, looking towards Trypho, “since, if the law were able to enlighten the nations and those who possess it, what need is there of a new covenant? But since God announced beforehand that He would send a new covenant, and an everlasting law and commandment, we will not understand this of the old law and its proselytes, but of Christ and His proselytes, namely us Gentiles, whom He has illumined, as He says somewhere: ‘Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard Thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped Thee, and I have given Thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, and to inherit the deserted.’ What, then, is Christ’s inheritance? Is it not the nations? What is the covenant of God? Is it not Christ? As He says in another place: ‘Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.’ (CXXII)
“As, therefore, all these latter prophecies refer to Christ and the nations, you should believe that the former refer to Him and them in like manner… ‘Therefore, saith the Lord, I will raise up to Israel and to Judah the seed of men and the seed of beasts.’ And by Isaiah He speaks thus concerning another Israel: ‘In that day shall there be a third Israel among the Assyrians and the Egyptians, blessed in the land which the Lord of Sabaoth hath blessed, saying, blessed shall my people in Egypt and in Assyria be, and Israel mine inheritance.’ Since then God blesses this people, and calls them Israel, and declares them to be His inheritance, how is it that you repent not of the deception you practise on yourselves, as if you alone were the Israel, and of execrating the people whom God has blessed? For when He speaks to Jerusalem and its environs, He thus added: ‘And I will beget men upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall inherit you, and you shall be a possession for them; and you shall be no longer bereaved of them.’ ”
“What, then?” says Trypho [the Jew]; “are you Israel? and speaks He such things of you?”…
I continued: “Again in Isaiah, if you have ears to hear it, God, speaking of Christ in parable, calls Him Jacob and Israel. He speaks thus: ‘Jacob is my servant, I will uphold Him; Israel is mine elect, I will put my Spirit upon Him, and He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any one hear His voice in the street: a bruised reed He shall not break, and smoking flax He shall not quench; but He shall bring forth judgment to truth: He shall shine, and shall not be broken till He have set judgment on the earth. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.’ As therefore from the one man Jacob, who was surnamed Israel, all your nation has been called Jacob and Israel; so we from Christ, who begat us unto God, like Jacob, and Israel, and Judah, and Joseph, and David, are called and are the true sons of God, and keep the commandments of Christ.” (CXXIII)
“I wish, sirs,” I said, “to learn from you what is the force of the name Israel.” And as they were silent, I continued: “I shall tell you what I know… the name Israel signifies this, A man who overcomes power; for Isra is a man overcoming, and El is power. And that Christ would act so when He became man was foretold by the mystery of Jacob’s wrestling with Him who appeared to him, in that He ministered to the will of the Father, yet nevertheless is God, in that He is the first-begotten of all creatures… But Israel was His name from the beginning, to which He altered the name of the blessed Jacob when He blessed him with His own name, proclaiming thereby that all who through Him have fled for refuge to the Father, constitute the blessed Israel. But you, having understood none of this, and not being prepared to understand, since you are the children of Jacob after the fleshly seed, expect that you shall be assuredly saved. But that you deceive yourselves in such matters, I have proved by many words. (CXXV)
[T]hose who were selected out of every nation have obeyed His will through Christ,—whom He calls also Jacob, and names Israel, —and these, then, as I mentioned fully previously, must be Jacob and Israel. (CXXX)
Jacob was called Israel; and Israel has been demonstrated to be the Christ, who is, and is called, Jesus. (CXXXIV)
“And when Scripture says, ‘I am the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, who have made known Israel your King,’ will you not understand that truly Christ is the everlasting King? For you are aware that Jacob the son of Isaac was never a king. And therefore Scripture again, explaining to us, says what king is meant by Jacob and Israel: (Is. 43:1-4). Then is it Jacob the patriarch in whom the Gentiles and yourselves shall trust? or is it not Christ? As, therefore, Christ is the Israel and the Jacob, even so we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelitic race. Is. 65:9-12
Such are the words of Scripture; understand, therefore, that the seed of Jacob now referred to is something else, and not, as may be supposed, spoken of your people. For it is not possible for the seed of Jacob to leave an entrance for the descendants of Jacob, or for [God] to have accepted the very same persons whom He had reproached with unfitness for the inheritance, and promise it to them again; but as there the prophet says, ‘And now, O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord; for He has sent away His people, the house of Jacob, because their land was full, as at the first, of soothsayers and divinations;’ (Is. 2:5f) even so it is necessary for us here to observe that there are two seeds of Judah, and two races, as there are two houses of Jacob: the one begotten by blood and flesh, the other by faith and the Spirit. (CXXXV)
[T]he true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (who in uncircumcision was approved of and blessed by God on account of his faith, and called the father of many nations), are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ, as shall be demonstrated while we proceed. (XI)
Blessed therefore are we who have been circumcised the second time with knives of stone. For your first circumcision was and is performed by iron instruments, for you remain hard-hearted; but our circumcision, which is the second, having been instituted after yours, circumcises us from idolatry and from absolutely every kind of wickedness by sharp stones, i.e., by the words [preached] by the apostles of the corner-stone cut out without hands… But you do not comprehend me when I speak these things; for you have not understood what it has been prophesied that Christ would do (CXIV)
Written around 180AD, Against Heresies argues (amongst other things) that the God of the OT is the same God of the NT.
Chapter XXV.—Both covenants were prefigured in Abraham, and in the labour of Tamar; there was, however, but one and the same God to each covenant.
1. For thus it had behoved the sons of Abraham [to be], whom God has raised up to him from the stones, and caused to take a place beside him who was made the chief and the forerunner of our faith (who did also receive the covenant of circumcision, after that justification by faith which had pertained to him, when he was yet in uncircumcision, so that in him both covenants might be prefigured, that he might be the father of all who follow the Word of God, and who sustain a life of pilgrimage in this world, that is, of those who from among the circumcision and of those from among the uncircumcision are faithful, even as also “Christ is the chief corner-stone” sustaining all things); and He gathered into the one faith of Abraham those who, from either covenant, are eligible for God’s building. But this faith which is in uncircumcision, as connecting the end with the beginning, has been made [both] the first and the last. For, as I have shown, it existed in Abraham antecedently to circumcision, as it also did in the rest of the righteous who pleased God: and in these last times, it again sprang up among mankind through the coming of the Lord. But circumcision and the law of works occupied the intervening period.
[Editor’s Note: the Gentile Church was the old religion and was Catholic; in Christ it became Catholic again: the Mosaic system [starting with circumcision, per Irenaeus] was a parenthetical thing of fifteen hundred years only. Such is the luminous and clarifying scheme of Irenæus]
3. For it was requisite that certain facts should be announced beforehand by the fathers in a paternal manner, and others prefigured by the prophets in a legal one, but others, described after the form of Christ, by those who have received the adoption; while in one God are all things shown forth. For although Abraham was one, he did in himself prefigure the two covenants, in which some indeed have sown, while others have reaped; for it is said, “In this is the saying true, that it is one ‘people’ who sows, but another who shall reap;” but it is one God who bestows things suitable upon both—seed to the sower, but bread for the reaper to eat. Just as it is one that planteth, and another who watereth, but one God who giveth the increase. For the patriarchs and prophets sowed the word [concerning] Christ, but the Church reaped, that is, received the fruit. For this reason, too, do these very men (the prophets) also pray to have a dwelling-place in it, as Jeremiah says, “Who will give me in the desert the last dwelling-place?” in order that both the sower and the reaper may rejoice together in the kingdom of Christ, who is present with all those who were from the beginning approved by God, who granted them His Word to be present with them.
Chapter XXII.—Christ did not come for the sake of the men of one age only, but for all who, living righteously and piously, had believed upon Him; and for those, too, who shall believe.
…2. For it was not merely for those who believed on Him in the time of Tiberius Cæsar that Christ came, nor did the Father exercise His providence for the men only who are now alive, but for all men altogether, who from the beginning, according to their capacity, in their generation have both feared and loved God, and practised justice and piety towards their neighbours, and have earnestly desired to see Christ, and to hear His voice. Wherefore He shall, at His second coming, first rouse from their sleep all persons of this description, and shall raise them up, as well as the rest who shall be judged, and give them a place in His kingdom. For it is truly “one God who” directed the patriarchs towards His dispensations, and “has justified the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.” For as in the first we were prefigured, so, on the other hand, are they represented in us, that is, in the Church, and receive the recompense for those things which they accomplished.
Written in 248AD, Testimonies Against the Jews explains the relationship between Christianity and Judaism.
[T]he Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God’s favour, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future; while the Christians had succeeded to their place, deserving well of the Lord by faith, and coming out of all nations and from the whole world…
8. That the first circumcision of the flesh is made void, and the second circumcision of the spirit is promised instead.
In Jeremiah: “Thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah, and to them who inhabit Jerusalem, Renew newness among you, and do not sow among thorns: circumcise yourselves to your God, and circumcise the foreskin of your heart; lest my anger go forth like fire, and burn you up, and there be none to extinguish it.” Also Moses says: “In the last days God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God.”…
19. That two peoples were foretold, the elder and the younger; that is, the old people of the Jews, and the new one which should consist of us.
In Genesis: “And the Lord said unto Rebekah, Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated from thy belly; and the one people shall overcome the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Gen 25:23) [Note: This interpretation is found in numerous early church writings that I read]. Also in Hosea: “I will call them my people that are not my people, and her beloved that was not beloved. For it shall be, in that place in which it shall be called not my people, they shall be called the sons of the living God.” (Hos 2:23; 1:10)
See extensive quotations here.
As I explain in Calvin vs 1689 Federalism on Old vs New, the magisterial reformers’ perceived need to defend the state church model led them to depart from the Augustinian understanding of Israel. However, it can still be found in some (notably Congregationalists, who were not led astray by a need to defend a state church).
Answerably unto this twofold end of the separation of Abraham, there was a double seed allotted unto him; — a seed according to the flesh, separated to the bringing forth of the Messiah according unto the flesh; and a seed according to the promise, that is, such as by faith should have interest in the promise, or all the elect of God… It is true, the former carnal privilege of Abraham and his posterity expiring, on the grounds before mentioned, the ordinances of worship which were suited thereunto did necessarily cease also. And this cast the Jews into great perplexities, and proved the last trial that God made of them; for whereas both these, — namely, the carnal and spiritual privileges of Abraham’s covenant, — had been carried on together in a mixed way for many generations, coming now to be separated, and a trial to be made (Malachi 3) who of the Jews had interest in both, who in one only, those who had only the carnal privilege, of being children of Abraham according to the flesh, contended for a share on that single account in the other also, — that is, in all the promises annexed unto the covenant. But the foundation of their plea was taken away, and the church, unto which the promises belong, remained with them that were heirs of Abraham’s faith only.
The persons with whom this covenant is made are also expressed: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah.”… Wherefore this house of Israel and house of Judah may be considered two ways:
[1.] As that people were the whole entire posterity of Abraham.
[2.] As they were typical, and mystically significant of the whole church of God.
Hence alone it is that the promises of grace under the old testament are given unto the church under these names, because they were types of them who should really and effectually be made partakers of them…
In the second sense the whole church of elect believers is intended under these denominations, being typified by them. These are they alone, being one made of twain, namely, Jews and Gentiles, with whom the covenant is really made and established, and unto whom the grace of it is actually communicated. For all those with whom this covenant is made shall as really have the law of God written in their hearts, and their sins pardoned, according unto the promise of it, as the people of old were brought into the land of Canaan by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham. These are the true Israel and Judah, prevailing with God, and confessing unto his name.
Hebrews 8:8 Commentary
The whole nation of the Jews. They were a typical people; their Church-state being very ceremonial and peculiar to those legal times, (Therefore now ceased and abolished) did adumbrate and shadow forth two things.
- Christ himself; hence Christ is called Israel, Isa. 49.3. By Israel is meant Christ, and all the faithful, as members of him their head.
- They were a type of the Church of God under the New Testament. Hence the Church is called Israel, Gal 6.16 and Rev 7. The twelve tribes of Israel are numbered up by name, to shew forth the Lord’s particular care of every one of his people in particular. That place is not meant properly of Old Israel, because it relates to the times of the Antichristian locusts; compare cap 7. with cap. 9.4.The analogy lies in this, that they were a peculiar people to the Lord, chosen and singled out by him from all the world: So is Christ the Lord’s chosen, Behold my servant whom I have chosen, mine elect in whom my Soul delighteth: So are all the Saints, 1 Pet 2.9. A royal nation, a peculiar people, gathered from among all nations, Rev 5.9. Hence the enemies of Israel were typical enemies; as Egypt and Babylon under the Old Testament, types of Antichristian enemies under the New: And the providences of God towards that people of Old, types and shadows of his intended future dispensations towards his people under the New; as you will see further when we come to speak of typical providences.
That nation, that family of Israel according to the flesh, and with regard to that external and carnal qualification, were in some sense adopted by God to be his peculiar people, and his covenant people… On the whole, it is evident that the very nation of Israel, not as visible saints, but as the progeny of Jacob according to the flesh, were in some respect a chosen people, a people of God, a covenant people, an holy nation; even as Jerusalem was a chosen city, the city of God, a holy city, and a city that God had engaged by covenant to dwell in. Thus a sovereign and all-wise God was pleased to ordain things with respect to the nation of Israel…
That nation was a typical nation. There was then literally a land, which was a type of heaven, the true dwelling-place of God; and an external city, which was a type of the spiritual city of God; an external temple of God, which was a type of his spiritual temple. So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny. And the covenant by which they were made a people of God, was a type of the covenant of grace; and so is sometimes represented as a marriage-covenant.
…as things were termed unclean, which were types or emblems of moral impurity, so the Jews were termed holy, not only because they were separated from other nations, but because they typified real Christians, who are in the fullest and noblest sense a holy nation, and a peculiar people (a). Types are visible things, different in their nature, from the spiritual things which they typify. If then the Jewish dispensation was typical, we may safely conclude, that the holiness of the Jewish nation being intended to typify the holiness of the Christian church, was of a different nature from it. And it is for this reason, that the Jewish dispensation is called the flesh and the letter, because persons and things in that dispensation, typified and represented persons and things under a more spiritual dispensation. (a) 1 Pet. ii. 9.
Why is there so much judicial imagery in the book of Revelation? In Revelation 5, while he’s seated on the throne, he hands out a seven-sealed scroll, which I believe represents God’s divorce decree against Israel. It’s his bill of divorcement against Israel. He is divorcing this harlot so that He can take a new bride, the church. That’s the judicial imagery in Revelation.
All evangelical Christians are accustomed to viewing the Old Testament sacrifices and feasts and ceremnonies as being types, that is, teaching tools pointing forward to the work of Christ. Why then should the elements that we will consider now – the land of Canaan, the city of Jerusalem, the temple, the throne of David, the nation Israel itself – not be understood using the same interpretive insight that we use in interpreting the sacrifices and ceremonies?…
The true Israel is Christ… Since Christ is the true Israel, the true seed of Abraham, we who are in Christ by faith and the working of his Spirit are the true Israel, the Israel of faith, not of mere natural descent (Gal 3:7-9, 26-27, 29). Too often in meditating on this wonderful truth, we omit the all-important link in the chain of redemption that Christ himself is. We say: `Yes, the nation of Israel was the people of God in the old covenant. Now in the new covenant the believing church is the people of God.’ And thus we quickly run past (or we miss the blessed point entirely) the fact that we Christians are the Israel of God, Abraham’s seed, and the heirs to the promises, only because by faith, we are united to him who alone is the true Israel, Abraham’s one seed (Gal 3:16).
[T]he socio-geo-political sector of the Israelite kingdom of God was a part of the total system of kingdom typology established through the covenantal constitution given to Israel in the law of Moses… Israel as a geo-political kingdom is… expressive of the restorative-redemptive principle, it is…a type of the antitypical kingdom of Christ, the Redeemer-King… This kingdom of Israel – not just the temple in its midst, but the kingdom of Israel as such, the kingdom as a national geo-political entity – was a redemptive product of God, a work of divine restoration, given as a prototype version of the kingdom of God in the perfect form it was to attain under the new covenant in the messianic antitype of that Israelite kingdom.
Chris Whisonant brought to my attention a rather pertinent quote from Michael Horton’s Pilgrim Theology.
Paul’s contrast between the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem in the allegory of Sarah and Hagar (Gal 4:21-31) redraws the boundaries of Israel around Jesus Christ. Earthly descent no longer means anything, since the Mosaic covenant is no longer in force and it could never annul or revise the earlier Abrahamic covenant, which promised blessing to the nations through the seed of Abraham and Sarah. As a result, the Jew-Gentile distinction no longer has any religious or ecclesial significance (Gal 3:15-4:7). It is the promise, not the law, that determines inheritance – and this is true now for everyone. “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the chidren of the promise are counted as offspring” (Rom 9:8). The church is not a parenthesis in the history of redemption between national Israel’s rejection and embrace of the kingdom. Rather, the national theocracy was a parenthesis in what Paul calls the mystery of the church (Eph 1:9; 3:4; 5:32; Col 1:26). The church is Israel – the truly circumcised remnant within the nation that clung to God’s promises even through the exile, now with natural branches broken off and foreign branches grafted in.
Israel was not, however, God’s natural Son. That much was evident in the wilderness, in Canaan and finally in the ejection when God changed the name of his “son” Israel to “Lo Ammi, not my people” (Hos 1.9-10)
God disinherited his adopted, temporary, national “son” Israel as a national people precisely because God never intended to have a permanent earthly, national people. After the captivity, they had largely fulfilled their role in the history of salvation. As a sign of this fact, the Glory-Spirit departed from the temple. This is because their chief function was to serve as a type and shadow of God’s natural Son, Jesus the Messiah (Heb 10.1-4).
It is the argument of this essay that Jesus Christ is the true Israel of God and that everyone who is united to him by grace alone, through faith alone becomes, by virtue of that union, the true Israel of God. This means that it is wrong-headed to look for, expect, hope for or desire a reconstitution of national Israel in the future. The New Covenant church is not something which God instituted until he could recreate a national people in Palestine, but rather, God only had a national people temporarily (from Moses to Christ) as a prelude to and foreshadowing of the creation of the New Covenant in which the ethnic distinctions which existed under Moses were fulfilled and abolished (Ephesians 2.11-22; Col 2.8-3.11).
A former student of R. Scott Clark’s noted how he expressed this in class.
Dr. Clark taught in class that Israel was the parenthesis, not the church and that The church is the Israel of God.
Dec 29, 2017, 12:22 PM
He would add qualifications to that whereby he differs with Baptists, but he at least holds to this basic truth.
Dec 29, 2017, 3:38 PM
He said it in the context of where covenant theology differs from Dispensationalism. Dispy says that the church is the parenthesis and Israel is the main show, so to speak. However, cov theo holds to the opposite.
Dec 29, 2017, 3:41 PM
Where Clark and Horton “differ with Baptists” is they try to argue that “theocratic Israel” (the parenthesis) is only Mosaic and is somehow distinct and separate from Abraham’s descendents in the Covenant of Circumcision. But this distinction is entirely untenable. As Irenaeus noted, the parenthetical intervening period began with circumcision. A more biblical version of Clark’s statement above would be “God only had a national people temporarily (from Abraham to Christ) as a prelude to and foreshadowing of the creation of the New Covenant.” The magisterial reformers argued for national holiness and thus a national church from Abraham because theocratic Israel is thoroughly Abrahamic (see Gen 17:7; Ex. 2:24-25; 6:6-7; 19:4-6; Ezek 16:8; Deut 4:32-40; 29:10-13; Ps. 147:19-20; Amos 3:1-2; Hosea 1:9; Deu 7:12-13; Jer 11:3-5). So is true Spiritual Israel. Both are the offspring of Abraham – one as type, the other as antitype. Both correspond to two different Abrahamic promises, as Augustine explained at the beginning. Acknowleding this undoes Horton and Clark’s paedobaptistism. They want to argue that Israel was the Church and that Israel was a type of the Church, but they cannot have their cake and eat it too.
For further reading:
- A Critique of R. Scott Clark’s Covenant Theology
- Heidelcast “I Will Be a God to You and to Your Children”
- They are not all Israel, who are of Israel (Rom 9:6)
- The Olive Tree (Rom 11:16-24)
- Calvin vs 1689 Federalism on Old vs New
- Implications of Israel as a Type
- Amillennialism’s Two-Edged Sword
- Kline’s Two-Level Fulfillment 184 Years Before Kingdom Prologue
- Gal. 3:18 – Generic Law and Promise, or Sinai and Messiah?
Van Til’s disciple K. Scott Oliphint has been arguing for years that a rejection of scholastic, classical apologetics entails a rejection of classical theism as well. He says “much of systematic theology that’s done, especially in theology proper, needs a complete revision and re-write.” Oliphint himself has started such a re-write of theology proper. Pushing back against these revisions, and rightly defending classical theism, many reformed have regretfully felt the need to affirm Thomistic, classical apologetics as well. I do not believe that is necessary in order to affirm classical theism.
It is important to recognize that Oliphint sees deductive reasoning itself as Thomistic natural theology. When someone defends the doctrine of divine impassibility by stating “The Scripture speaks in such a way as to require viewing certain texts literally and others metaphorically or anthropopathically; otherwise we are left with seemingly contradictory propositions respecting the doctrine of God (cf. John 1:18 with Exod 33:23),” Oliphint objects that requiring Scriptural propositions to be non-contradictory is to impose Thomistic natural theology on Scripture. We should not seek to logically reconcile Scripture but should instead allow Scripture to limit our logic/reason.
So what is really a debate about the role of logic in the interpretation of Scripture has instead become a debate over Thomism vs presuppositionalism, regretfully (note that Oliphint has helpfully suggested that Van Til’s apologetic be called “Covenantal” rather than Presuppositional in order to distinguish his idiosyncratic view from other presuppositionalists).
Having said all of that, I actually found Oliphint’s recent 2-part lecture on Thomistic apologetics to be helpful insofar as it lays out Thomas’ a posteriori view of natural theology. Here are PDFs [1 and 2].
First, knowledge of God is not self-evident to men. All men possess implicit knowledge of God’s likeness, but it is very vague, general, ambiguous, and confused. We desire happiness (our “beatitude”), therefore we desire God.
“For man knows God naturally in the same way as he desires Him naturally. Now man desires Him naturally in so far as he naturally desires happiness, which is a likeness of the divine goodness. Hence it does not follow that God considered in Himself is naturally known to man, but that His likeness is.”
To really have knowledge of God, we must observe the world around us and make various logical deductions until we arrive at who God is. This is known as a posteriori knowledge.
“Wherefore [because this implicit knowledge is vague] man must needs come by reasoning to know God in the likenesses to Him which he discovers in God’s effects.”
From Sense Experience
Thomas was not a fan of anything a priori. Knowledge was always and only gleaned by way of the senses…
[Rom 1:19] “Our natural knowledge begins from sense. Hence our natural knowledge can go as far as it can be led by sensible things, but our mind cannot be led by sense so far as to see the essence of God, because the sensible effects of God do not equal the power of God as their cause. Hence from the knowledge of sensible things, the whole power of God cannot be known, nor therefore can His essence be seen. But because they are His effects and depend on their cause, we can be led from them so far as to know of God whether he exists and to know of Him what must necessarily belong to Him as the first cause of all things, exceeding all things caused by Him.”
So Thomas’ understanding of Romans 1:19 is that Paul is speaking of the possibility of the human intellect, that is, natural reason, of itself to be able to demonstrate and conclude for the knowledge of God [based on sense experience].
Prove God’s Existence
“[T]here are certain things to which even natural reason can attain. For instance, that God is, that God is one, and others like these. Which even the philosophers proved demonstratively of God, being guided by the light of natural reason.”
So you can see in Thomas there’s no ambiguity in what he’s doing here and there’s no ambiguity in what he means by natural reason because he says his example is the philosophers did this – they demonstratively did this.
There was some precedence in the history of the church for the possibility of the beginning of a reformation in this area… John of Damascus, for example, argued that Romans 1 teaches that the knowledge of God is implanted in all men. Thomas is aware of that. What does he say about it? He cites John of Damascus in his argument against the self-evidence of God.
Objection 1. It seems that the existence of God is self-evident. Now those things are said to be self-evident to us the knowledge of which is naturally implanted in us, as we can see in regard to first principles. But as Damascene says (De Fid. Orth. i . 1, 3), the knowledge of God is naturally implanted in all. Therefore the existence of God is self-evident.
Reply Obj. 1. To know that God exists in a general and confused way is implanted in us by nature, inasmuch as God is man’s beatitude. For man naturally desires happiness, and what is naturally desired by man must be naturally known to him. This, however, is not to know absolutely that God exists; just as to know that someone is approaching is not the same as to know that Peter is approaching, even though it is Peter who is approaching; for many there are who imagine that man’s perfect good which is happiness, consists in riches, and others in pleasures, and others in something else.
So he’s rejecting what John of Damascus has set forth because he cannot imagine a situation in which the proposition “God exists” is known by us in a way that the terms are self-evident.
[A] problem with Thomas is, if it is the case that the Logos has been revealing who God is from the beginning [John 1] such that we all know God, by virtue of being in the image of God, then guess what? The existence of God is self-evident to us – utterly so – and that’s what we suppress.
I completely agree with Oliphint here. The knowledge of God is not something arrived at as the result of contemplation of creation (wisdom). Rather, knowledge of God is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). And everyone, even infants – not simply those who rationally reflect upon nature – possess knowledge of God and what he requires of us. (I disagree with Oliphint that this knowledge is not propositional. I believe it is.)
This is not a new idea. These two epistemologies have wrestled against each other for centuries.
Arnobius asks, “What man is there who has not begun the first day of his nativity with this principle; in whom is it not inborn, fixed, almost even impressed upon him, implanted in him while still in the bosom of his mother?” (Stirling)
In the early chapters of his De fide orthodoxa, the Eastern Christian Father John of Damascus claims that human beings possess a naturally implanted knowledge of God’s existence. The Patristic tradition from which the Damascene draws his ideas emphasizes the ambiguity of this claim.
On the one hand, there are sources that treat such knowledge as naturally implanted propositional content. “God exists” is a proposition that governs our actions prior to any inferences we make about the world. On the other hand, there are sources that consider naturally implanted knowledge of God’s existence to be the conclusion of an innate inferential capacity. “God exists” is a proposition we arrive at posterior to our knowledge of the world.
Augustine is a pre-eminent representative of the implanted, immediate, self-evident view, while Aquinas is a pre-eminent representative of aquired, mediate, a posteriori empiricism.
Augustine of Hippo stands unrivaled as the brilliant exponent of the Christian thesis that the knowledge of God and of other selves and the world of nature is not merely inferential. Whatever else is contributory to the content of human cognition, this knowledge involves a direct and immediate noesis because of the unique constitution of the human mind. Knowledge of God is no mere induction from the finite and nondivine, but is directly and intuitively given in human experience. However much knowledge of the self and of the physical world may be expounded by inference, it is brackted always by a primal antecedent relationship to the spiritual world which makes man’s knowledge possible and holds him in intuitive correlation with God, the cosmos, and other selves.
God, Revelation, and Authority – Carl F. H. Henry
Calvin followed Augustine in this regard.
The knowledge of God is given in the very same act by which we know self… That the knowledge of God is innate (I. iii. 3), naturally engraved on the hearts of men (I. iv. 4), and so a part of their very constitution as men (I. iii. 1), that it is a matter of instinct (I. iii. 1, I. iv. 2), and every man is self-taught it from his birth (I. iii. 3), Calvin is thoroughly assured.
Calvin’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God B. B. Warfield
B. B. Warfield and Charles Hodge followed Calvin and Augustine.
Those who are unwilling to admit that the idea of God is innate as given in the very constitution of man, generally hold that it is a necessary, or, at least, a natural deduction of reason. Sometimes it is represented as the last and highest generalization of science. As the law of gravitation is assumed to account for a large class of the phenomena of the universe, and as it not only does account for them, but must be assumed in order to understand them;so the existence of an intelligent first cause is assumed to account for the existence of the universe itself, and for all its phenomena. But as such generalizations are possible only for cultivated minds, this theory of the origin of the idea of God, cannot account for belief in his existence in the minds of all men, even the least educated… We do not thus reason ourselves into the belief that there is a God; and it is very obvious that it is not by such a process of ratiocination, simple as it is, that the mass of the people are brought to this conclusion… Adam believed in God the moment he was created, for the same reason that he believed in the external world. His religious nature, unclouded and undefiled, apprehended the one with the same confidence that his senses apprehended the other.
Adam possessed in himself, apart from the cosmos, everything that was necessary to have knowledge of God. Undoubtedly many things concerning God were manifest to him in the cosmos also; without sin a great deal of God would have become manifest to him from his fellow-men; and through the process of his development, in connection with the cosmos, he would have obtained an ever richer revelation of God. But apart from all this acquired knowledge of God, he had in himself the capacity to draw knowledge of God from what had been revealed, as well as a rich revelation from which to draw that knowledge. Our older theologians called these two together the “concreate knowledge of God”; and correctly so, because here there was no logical activity which led to this knowledge of God, but this knowledge of God coincided with man’s own self-knowledge. This knowledge of God was given eo ipso in his own self-consciousness; it was not given as discursive knowledge, but as the immediate content of selfconsciousness… [I]n this clear and immediate self-knowledge there was, without any further action of the logos in us, an equally immediate knowledge of God, the consciousness of which, from that very image itself, accompanied him who had been created in the image of God. Thus the first man lived in an innate knowledge of God, which was not yet understood, and much less expressed in words, just as our human heart in its first unfoldings has a knowledge of ideals, which, however, we are unable to explain or give a form to. Calvin called this the seed of religion (semen religionis), by which he indicated that this innate knowledge of God is an ineradicable property of human nature, a spiritual eye in us, the lens of which may be dimmed, but always so that the lens, and consequently the eye, remains.
pg 186-187, Abraham Kuyper, Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology
See also Kuyper’s The Natural Knowledge of God
It would be a mistake to assume Thomism is simply the historic Christian view.
Oliphint’s selections from Muller are very interesting. I hope to get my hands on a copy to read in full.
“A generalized or pagan natural theology, according to the reformers, was not merely limited to non-saving knowledge of God. It was also bound in idolatry.”
The interpretation of that is that the theistic proofs, when done by one who is not regenerate, produces and idol – is bound by idolatry…
“This view, the problem of knowledge, is the single most important contribution of the early reformed writiers to the theological prolegomena of orthodox protestantism. Indeed, it is the doctrinal issue that most forcibly presses the protestant scholastics toward the modification of the medeival models for theological prolegomena.”
Thomism is merely one of the epistemologies offered in church history. There are good reasons to doubt that it is biblical. Instead, consideration should be given to the belief that general revelation is innate, propositional revelation implanted in every heart prior to any experience in the world – and that this latter view is more consistent with the reformed belief in the self-authenticating nature of Scripture. Oliphint has helped lay out these differences, even if his particular Van Tillian perspective is not to be embraced.
- The Silent Shift on 7.1 A discussion of Oliphint & Van Til’s concept of “covenantal revelation”
[Note there is a new category on the Welcome page called “Specific Passages” that lists all the posts addressing specific verses. Also, special thanks goes to Reformed Books Online for their helpful collection of commentaries.]
1 Corinthians 10:1-5 is often used by paedobaptists to support their sacramentology. This post will provide a positive explanation of the passage. A follow-up post will address false inferences made from the text by paedobaptists.
The context begins in 1 Corinthians 8:1. Because we know the truth, we know that idols are nothing and therefore there is nothing wrong with eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. However, some weaker brothers might not understand that yet and they might think you are participating in idol worship if you eat that food. So rather than make them think sin is ok (cause them to stumble), you should refrain from eating it. This requires self-denial. Paul holds himself up as an example. He has a right to compensation for his labor among the Corinthians, but he has not made use of that right in order not to hinder the preaching of the gospel. In fact he has become all things to all people that he might by all means save some. He denies himself for the sake of the gospel, in order to partake of it himself. In doing so, he is diligent to run the race to obtain the prize, lest in preaching to others, he forgets the gospel himself and becomes disqualified.
Paul then uses the Israelites as an example (v6 literally “type”) as to why Christians should not rest content in having heard the gospel and professed faith (begun the race), but must run the race with persevering faith. If we do not deny ourselves we will be tempted to lust for evil things, which leads to destruction. One who thinks he cannot be tempted should “take heed lest he fall.” Therefore, although it may be lawful for you to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols, you should not seek your own good but that of your neighbor, who will think it is ok to sin if he sees you eat the meat.
So what precisely is the example of “Israel according to the flesh” (note literal translation of v18)? The whole nation together experienced the miraculous power of God’s redemption from slavery in Egypt and provision in the wilderness. They all shared the same experience, but only some of them persevered (“all run, but one obtains the prize”). Most of them lusted for evil things and committed idolatry and sexual immorality and were destroyed.
The analogy between this passage and the preceding is striking: this nation, that had come out of Egypt to get to Canaan, corresponds to the runner who, after starting in the race, misses the prize, for want of perseverance in self-sacrifice.
[T]he correction of those Corinthians who, in reliance on a spirit of confidence they had, rashly did whatever in their want of thoughtfulness they imagined themselves able to do without danger, especially in the matter of eating idol-meats along with idolaters; to which they were led, partly by familiar habit, partly by the pleasures of the feast itself.
The apostle saw that many in this church of Corinth were puffed up with their knowledge, and other gifts and great privileges with which God had blessed them; as also with the opinion of their being a gospel church, and some of the first-fruits of the Gentiles unto Christ, and might therefore think, that they needed not to be pressed to such degrees of strictness and watchfulness;
The Corinthians, by going to the utmost verge of their Christian liberty in eating things offered to idols, were in danger of being drawn back into actual idolatry.
There is a grave danger lest the Corinthians, puffed up by their superior knowledge, consider themselves immune to contamination from idolatry.
‘All our fathers left Egypt; Caleb and Joshua alone entered the promised land.’ All run, but one obtains the prize…The Israelites doubtless felt, as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea, that all danger was over, and that their entrance into the land of promise was secured. They had however a journey beset with dangers before them, and perished because they thought there was no need of exertion. So the Corinthians, when brought to the knowledge of the gospel, thought heaven secure. Paul reminds them that they had only entered on the way, and would certainly perish unless they exercised constant self-denial.
All our fathers
Abraham had two offspring: spiritual and natural. Note v18 “Observe Israel after the flesh” (NKJV). NASB footnote says “Lit Israel according to the flesh.” Compare that with Romans 1:3 “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh” (NASB) and 9:3-5 “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites… whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh” (NASB). In Romans 4:1, Paul speaks specifically to the Jews in his mixed audience, saying “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?” (NASB).
The Israelites in the wilderness were the fathers of the Jews according to the flesh. They were not the fathers of believing Gentiles.
The apostle says ἡμῶν, speaking, as in Romans 4:1, from his national consciousness, which was shared in by his Jewish readers, and well understood by his Gentile ones.
Despite not clearly understanding Abraham’s two different offspring in this quote, Hodge still recognizes that in this passage, Paul is referring to the fathers of Israel according to the flesh.
Abraham is our father, though we are not his natural descendants. And the Israelites were the fathers of the Corinthian Christians, although most of them were Gentiles. Although this is true, it is probable that the apostle, although writing to a church, many, if not most, of whose members were of heathen origin, speaks as a Jew to Jews.
Baptized into Moses
Being “baptized into Moses” is different from being “baptized into Christ” (Romans 6:3; Gal 3:27).
1. Baptized into Moses (10:1, 2). The Old Testament clearly sees Israel’s passing through the sea and the accompanying cloud as divine activity (Exod 13:21; Ps. 105:39; Wis 10:17; 19:7), but the Old Testament itself does not even imply that Israel was baptized into Moses. Nor is there sufficient evidence to suggest this was a view current in Judaism of Paul’s day. Rather, Paul moves backward from his Christian experience and from it interprets the Exodus events, not vice versa… Accepting that Paul begins with Christian baptism and moves by analogy back to Moses best accounts for the phrase ‘into Moses,’ The expression was created to resemble the experience of Christians being baptized ‘into Christ’ (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27).
As Christians are saved by being ‘baptized into Christ Jesus’ (Rom 6:3; cf. Gal 3:27), so Israel of old was related salvifically to Moses by the cloud and the sea; he brought them to deliverance and safety.
[T]hat is, brought under obligation to Moses’s law and covenant, as we are by baptism under the Christian law and covenant. It was to them a typical baptism.
Moses was a type of Christ, Galatians 3:19.
Into Moses – into the covenant of which Moses was the mediator; and by this typical baptism they were brought under the obligation of acting according to the Mosaic precepts, as Christians receiving Christian baptism are said to be baptized Into Christ, and are thereby brought under obligation to keep the precepts of the Gospel.
[B]aptized unto Moses–the servant of God and representative of the Old Testament covenant of the law: as Jesus, the Son of God, is of the Gospel covenant (John 1:17 , Hebrews 3:5 Hebrews 3:6).
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Of course, they were baptized into Moses, and not into the Trinity, but there must be some similarity in the two types of baptism… The similarity between Moses’ baptism and Christian baptism must be sought in their significance, or in a part of it. In both cases, the baptism is a visible sign that the baptized persons are the disciples of him into whose name they are baptized.
[I]n reference to Moses, so as by baptism to be made his disciples. See 1:13; Rom 6:3… The cloud and the sea did for them, in reference to Moses, what baptism does for us in reference to Christ. Their passage through the sea, and their guidance by the cloud, was their baptism. It made them the disciples of Moses; placed them under obligation to recognize his divine commission and to submit to his authority. This is the only point of analogy between the cases, and it is all the apostle’s argument requires… The display of God’s power in the cloud and in the sea, brought the people into the relation of disciples to Moses. It inaugurated the congregation, and, as it were, baptized them to him, bound them to serve and follow him.
The words, ‘unto Moses,’ cannot mean sub auspiciis Mosis, but as always with the verb ‘baptize’ they denote the relation or fellowship into which they entered with Moses, who, as the servant of the Lord, was the mediator of the Divine manifestations. With this there is connected the obligation to follow him faithfully as the leader given unto them by the Lord, and legitimated by Him ( Exodus 14:31).
The phrase eis ton Moses [“into Moses”] may be patterned after the similar New Testament phrase eis ton Christon [“into Christ”], but it can never be taken in the same sense of “into Moses” or Christ. No baptism nor anything else could in any conceivable sense carry the Israelites “into” Moses. The idea expressed is one of union: “to,” “unto,” or “for Moses.” This symbolical baptism united the Israelites to Moses as God‘s representative to them, the Old Testament mediator, in whom was foreshadowed Christ, the New Testament eternal Mediator…. The deliverance from the Egyptian bondage through Moses by this symbolical baptism through the cloud and the sea likewise typifies our deliverance from the bondage of sin and of death through Christ by means of Christian baptism.
This miraculous crossing separated them thenceforth from Egypt, the place of bondage and idolatry, exactly as the believer’s baptism separates him from his former life of condemnation and sin… This crossing was to them as baptism is to the believer, the threshold of salvation. This spiritual analogy is expressed by Paul in the words: and were all baptized into Moses. By following their God-given leader with confidence at that critical moment, they were closely united to, and, as it were, incorporated with Moses to become his people, in the same way as Christians in being baptized on the ground of faith in Christ become part of the same plant with Him (Rom. vi. 3-5); they are thenceforth His body.
They were baptised unto Moses by their acceptance of his leadership in the Exodus. By passing through the Red Sea at his command they definitely renounced Pharaoh and abandoned their old life, and as definitely pledged and committed themselves to throw in their lot with Moses. By passing the Egyptian frontier and following the guidance of the pillar of cloud they professed their willingness to exchange a life of bondage, with its security and occasional luxuries, for a life of freedom, with its hazards and hardships; and by that passage of the Red Sea they were as certainly sworn to support and obey Moses as ever was Roman soldier who took the oath to serve his emperor. When, at Brederode’s invitation, the patriots of Holland put on the beggar’s wallet and tasted wine from the beggar’s bowl, they were baptised unto William of Orange and their country’s cause. When the sailors on board the “Swan” weighed anchor and beat out of Plymouth, they were baptised unto Drake and pledged to follow him and fight for him to the death. Baptism means much; but if it means anything it means that we commit and pledge ourselves to the life we are called to by Him in whose name we are baptised. It draws a line across the life, and proclaims that to whomsoever in time past we have been bound, and for whatsoever we have lived, we now are pledged to this new Lord, and are to live in His service. Such a pledge was given by every Israelite who turned his back on Egypt and passed through that sea which was the defence of Israel and destruction to the enemy. The crossing was at once actual deliverance from the old life and irrevocable committal to the new. They died to Pharaoh, and were born again to Moses. They were baptised unto Moses.
Spiritual food… spiritual drink… spiritual rock
These were supernaturally given.
[T]he same sense in which the special gifts of God are called spiritual gifts… Spiritual gifts and spiritual blessings are gifts and blessings of which the Spirit is the author. Every thing which God does in nature and in grace, he does by the Spirit… [The food and drink] was given by the Spirit. It was not natural food, but food miraculously provided… The water which they drank was spiritual, because derived from the Spirit, i.e. by the special intervention of God… The bread and water are called spiritual because supernatural.
The “spiritual food” or manna ( Exodus 16:13 ff.) is distinguished from all earthly food, either because of some supernatural quality in it, or because of its supernatural origin. Here unquestionably we are to suppose the latter. The epithet ‘spiritual’ denotes that the food came from the Spirit—was produced by a Divine miraculous power (comp. Exodus 16:14). [“It is here employed in special reference to its descent from heaven and its designation in Psalm 78:24-25 as “the bread of heaven” and “angels’ food.” Stanley. “Thus, also, Isaac is called, Galatians 4:29, ‘he born after the Spirit,’ in opposition to Ishmael, who is spoken of as ‘born after the flesh.’” Alford.
All the Israelites shared equally.
[“the same spiritual food… the same spiritual drink” means] they all had it. They all eat the same spiritual meat. They were all alike favored, and had therefore equal grounds of hope. Yet how few of them reached the promised rest!
For they were drinking
Some translations have “for they drank” but “The imp. ἔπινον, were drinking, was intended to denote their continuous drinking all through the entire march in the wilderness.” (Lange; see NASB).
“For” means this is an explanatory note for why their drink was spiritual – because it came miraculously from the rock.
That spiritual rock that followed them
God’s miraculous provision of water for them throughout their 40 years in the desert, which had a long tradition of commentary in Jewish tradition.
Byron notes that, interestingly, Paul is not the only person to suggest that the Israelites were followed by a water source during their wilderness wanderings. A first-century C.E. source called Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities makes a similar claim: “But as for his own people, he led them forth into the wilderness: Forty years did he rain bread from heaven for them, and he brought them quails from the sea, and a well of water following them” (10.7).
Pseudo-Philo claims that a well of water followed the Israelites through the wilderness, whereas in 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says that it was a rock that followed them. How did these two ancient interpreters come to their conclusions?
“What they seem to have concluded,” Byron explains, “is that since Moses named both the rock at Rephidim (Exodus 17:7) and the one at Kadesh (Numbers 20:13) ‘Meribah,’ the logical conclusion was that both were one and the same rock and that it, therefore, must have accompanied Israel on their journey.”
1 Corinthians 10:4 reflects a common ancient interpretation—that the Israelites were followed by a water source during their wilderness wanderings, which is demonstrated by Paul’s casual reference and supported by Pseudo-Philo.
John Gill explains the more extensive Jewish tradition.
[N]ot that the rock itself removed out of its place, and went after them, but the waters out of the rock ran like rivers, and followed them in the wilderness wherever they went, for the space of eight and thirty years, or thereabout, and then were stopped, to make trial of their faith once more; this was at Kadesh when the rock was struck again, and gave forth its waters, which, as the continual raining of the manna, was a constant miracle wrought for them. And this sense of the apostle is entirely agreeable to the sentiments of the Jews, who say, that the Israelites had the well of water all the forty years. The Jerusalem Targum says of the
“well given at Mattanah, that it again became unto them violent overflowing brooks, and again ascended to the tops of the mountains, and descended with them into the ancient valleys.”
And to the same purpose the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel,
“that it again ascended with them to the highest mountains, and from the highest mountains it descended with them to the hills, and encompassed the whole camp of Israel, and gave drink to everyone at the gate of his own dwelling place; and from the high mountains it descended with them into the deep valleys.”
Yea, they speak of the rock in much the same language the apostle does, and seem to understand it of the rock itself, as if that really went along with the Israelites in the wilderness. Thus one of their writers on those words, “must we fetch you water out of this rock?” makes this remark:
“for they knew it not, (eloh Klhv ypl) , “for that rock went”, and remained among the rocks.”
And in another place it is said,
“that the rock became in the form of a beehive; (elsewhere it is said to be round as a sieve;) and rolled along, (Mhme tabw) , “and came with them”, in their journeys; and when the standard bearers encamped, and the tabernacle stood still, the rock came, and remained in the court of the tent of the congregation; and the princes came and stood upon the top of it, and said, ascend, O well, and it ascended.”
Now, though in this account there is a mixture of fable, yet there appears something of the old true tradition received in the Jewish church, which the apostle has here respect to.
All we know for certain is, that they had two miraculous supplies of water – one, near the outset of their wilderness journey, at Horeb (Ex. xvii. 4-6); the other, at Meribah Kadesh, near its close (Num. xx. 11); and since without a supply of water all through they could not have subsisted for a week, and yet no such fatal want overtook them, one may well say that they had an unfailing supply, or (in the apostle’s way of putting it), that ‘the Rock followed them.’
At the divine command, Moses smote the rock Horeb, in the sight of the elders of Israel; when the waters gushed out, ‘they ran in the dry places like a river,’ (Ps. cv. 41; lxxviii. 15, 16). The supply thus obtained was very abundant. Not only did the whole multitude, with their cattle, satisfy their thirst on that occasion, but it would seem that the stream of water, thus opened, formed a channel for itself, and followed the people in the desert. Thus we do not read of any scarcity of water being felt for about thirty-eight years. This the Apostle expresses, by saying, ‘the rock followed them.’
Their second objection is more foolish and more childish — “How could a rock,” say they, “that stood firm in its place, follow the Israelites?” — as if it were not abundantly manifest, that by the word rock is meant the stream of water, which never ceased to accompany the people. For Paul extols the grace of God, on this account, that he commanded the water that was drawn out from the rock to flow forth wherever the people journeyed, as if the rock itself had followed them.
That Rock was Christ
Given that this entire context is dealing with typology, it is likely that Paul means the rock was a type of Christ. Jesus says the manna was a type of Himself, the true bread that comes down from heaven (John 6:48-58). He also told the woman at the well that He was living water (John 4:10-14). As the rock was smitten, so was Christ, as he poured out blood and water (John 19:34).
[T]he water out of the rock, which was typical of the blood of Christ, which is drink indeed, and not figurative, as this was… but as those waters did not flow from thence without the rock being stricken by the rod of Moses, so the communication of the blessings of grace from Christ is through his being smitten by divine justice with the rod of the law; through his being, stricken for the transgressions of his people, and and being made sin, and a curse of the law in their room and stead. And as those waters continued through the wilderness as a constant supply for them, so the grace of Christ is always sufficient for his people; a continual supply is afforded them; goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their lives.
‘this rock was an emblem of Christ.’ He was smitten by the rod of Heaven, before the elders of Israel, and from his pierced body flow the refreshing streams of salvation. This is that river ‘which makes glad the city of God,’ and which follows the church through the barren wilderness of this world, till it shall arrive at the heavenly Canaan… ‘That rock was Christ,’ namely a type of Christ.
The manna on which they fed was a type of Christ crucified… this rock was Christ, that is, in type and figure. He is the rock on which the Christian church is built; and of the streams that issue from him do all believers drink, and are refreshed.
This food, though carnal in its nature and use, was truly “spiritual;” inasmuch as it was,
1. A typical representation of Christ—
[Our Lord himself copiously declares this with respect to the manna: He draws a parallel between the bread which Moses gave to the Israelites, and himself as the true bread that was given them from heaven; and shews that, as the manna supported the natural life of that nation for a time, so he would give spiritual and eternal life to the whole believing world [Note: John 6:48-58.]. The same truth he also establishes, in reference to the water that proceeded from the rock. He told the Samaritan woman, that if she would have asked of him he would have given her living water [Note: John 4:10-14.]. And on another occasion he stood in the place of public concourse, and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink [Note: John 7:37-38.];” thereby declaring himself to be the only “well of salvation,” the only rock from whence the living water could proceed. Indeed, the Apostle, in the very words of the text, puts this matter beyond a doubt; “they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them;” and “that Rock was Christ.”]
Note Lightfoot on John 19:36 (“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”)
[Came there out blood and water.] It is commonly said that the two sacraments of the new testament, water and blood, flowed out of this wound: but I would rather say that the antitype of the old testament might be here seen…
II. It must not by any means let pass that in Shemoth Rabba;
“‘He smote the rock, and the waters gushed out,’ Psalm 78:20, but the word yod-zayin-vav-bet- yod signifies nothing else but blood; as it is said, ‘The woman that hath an issue of blood upon her,’ Leviticus 15:20. Moses therefore smote the rock twice, and first it gushed out blood, then water.”
“That rock was Christ,” 1 Corinthians 10:4. Compare these two together: Moses smote the rock, and blood and water, saith the Jew, flowed out thence: the soldier pierced our Saviour’s side with a spear, and water and blood, saith the evangelist, flowed thence.
However, if Paul is speaking typologically here, it seems odd that he would only call out the rock as a type, and not the manna, given that Christ identified the manna as a type of himself even more directly than the rock. Furthermore, the grammar Paul uses does not seem to specifically match his grammar elsewhere when speaking of types.
But what do these statements import? Certainly not… that the rock was a symbol of Christ, as of one out of whom streams of living water flow. In such a case it would have read, not “was Christ,” but, “is Christ.”
The Rock as Provider
An alternative explanation of Paul’s meaning is found in the Song of Moses, where the Lord is identified as Israel’s Rock who created them and provided for them.
For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect;… “He made him ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock;… “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation… Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you… How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, And the Lord had surrendered them? For their rock is not like our Rock. (Deut 32)
“The miracle of bringing water out of the rock, happened not once, but at least twice (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11). It was therefore not one particular rock which was concerned in the miracle; but as often as a like necessity occurred, there on the spot was also the water-yielding rock again.” Now since every rock could render the same service by the same influence, so it appeared as if the rock accompanied the Israelites. The material rock, in this case, is non-essential; the water-giving power is the chief thing. This power was God’s, that same God who has manifested Himself to us in Jesus Christ. And He is called the Rock that followed them, because it was through His agency that the several rocks, one after the other, acquired the same water-yielding power.” Burger.
Thus Paul may be identifying Christ as the Lord who provided for Israel. This finds further support in 1 Cor. 10:9 where Paul says “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,” compared with Deuteronomy 6:16 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.” Note that Massah was where the rock was first struck for water.
[T]he people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?”… And the Lord said to Moses… “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”
And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:2-7)
In verse 9, Paul does not specifically refer to this tempting at Massah, but to a later tempting of the Lord on the same grounds (lack of provision).
And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. (Numbers 25:5-6)
This reinforces the idea that Paul is identifying Christ as the one who provided physical sustenance for Israel throughout their wanderings, rather than narrowly identifying Christ with the specific rock at Horeb.
ver. 9 represents the Christ in the wilderness acting as the representative of Jehovah, from the midst of the cloud! Is it not perfectly simple to explain this figure of which Paul makes use, by the numerous saying of Deuteronomy, in which the Lord is called the Rock of Israel: ‘The Rock, His work is perfect’ (xxxii. 4); ‘Israel lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation’ (ver. 15); ‘Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful’ (ver. 18), etc., and by all those similar ones of Isaiah: ‘Thou hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy strength’ (xvii. 10); ‘in the Lord is the Rock of ages’ (xxvi. 4)? Only, what is special in the passage of Paul is, that this title of Rock of Israel, during the wilderness history, is ascribed here, not to Jehovah, but to the Christ. The passage forms an analogy to the words John xii. 41, where the apostle applies to Jesus the vision in which Isaiah beholds Adonai, the Lord, in the temple of His glory (ch. vi.). Christ is represented in these passages, by Paul and John, as pre-existent before His coming to the earth, and presiding over the theocratic history. In ch. viii. ver. 6, Paul had designated Christ as the Being by whom God created all things. Here he represents Him as the Divine Being who accompanied God’s people in the cloud through the wilderness, and who gave them the deliverances which they needed.
This finds further support when we consider Christ as the Wisdom of God (Proverbs 8).
the role of the fiture of Wisdom in guiding, protecting, and nurturing Israel through the wilderness is very widely attested in literature in hellenistic Judaism over the century before Paul’s writing, in contemporary synagogue homilies, and in Paul’s near-contemporary Philo. Both Wisdom 2, the Book of Wisdom, and Philo speak of Wisdom’s provision of water to wandering Israel “from a flinty rock” (Wis 2:4) on which Philo observes: “the flinty rock is the wisdom of God” [cp. Deut 8:15] (Philo, Legum Allegoriae 2.86). The point here is that it is clearly and widely recognized that Paul informs his own Christology by drawing explicitly on traditions of preexistent Wisdom from the OT Wisdom literature (e.g., Proverbs 8)…
We cannot readily underplay the role for Paul of Christ the Wisdom of God (1:30) when it not only plays a major role in his dialogue with Corinth and “the strong”… Paul could take for granted a background about the role of divine Wisdom as protector, guide, nourisher of Israel in the wilderness which could readily be applied to the preexistent Christ, while this background, which was the stock-in-trade of hellenistic Jewish diaspora [note “our fathers” discussed above] synagogue sermons, has become unfamiliar now to most modern readers, and hence requires explanation.
in what sense was the rock Christ? Not that Christ appeared under the form of a rock; nor that the rock was a type of Christ, for that does not suit the connection… The expression is simply figurative… He was the source of all the support which the Israelites enjoyed during their journey in the wilderness. This passage distinctly asserts not only the preexistence of our Lord, but also that he was the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
This is how the passage was understood by Melito of Sardis in a sermon on the typology of the Passover delivered around 160AD.
81. O lawless Israel, why did you commit this extraordinary crime of casting your Lord into new sufferings–your master, the one who formed you, the one who made you, the one who honored you, the one who called you Israel?
82. But you were found not really to be Israel, for you did not see God, you did not recognize the Lord, you did not know, O Israel, that this one was the firstborn of God, the one who was begotten before the morning star, the one who caused the light to shine forth…
84. This was the one who guided you into Egypt, and guarded you, and himself kept you well supplied there. This was the one who lighted your route with a column of fire, and provided shade for you by means of a cloud, the one who divided the Red Sea, and led you across it, and scattered your enemy abroad.
85. This is the one who provided you with manna from heaven, the one who gave you water to drink from a rock, the one who established your laws in Horeb, the one who gave you an inheritance in the land, the one who sent out his prophets to you, the one who raised up your kings.
But with many of them God was not well pleased
Notwithstanding they had been thus highly favored… with a great number… he was displeased.
Despite the fact that Christ, Jehova miraculously provided for the Israelites by redeeming them out of slavery, delivering them from Pharoah, providing them with food and water for 40 years, many of them did not finish the race because they did not deny themselves. They were destroyed. Paul uses this as a typological warning to the Corinthians. Christ’s provision was not the same in both instances. To Israel, as the Triune God, he miraculously provided physical sustenance: bread and water. To the Church, as incarnate suffering servant, he miraculously provided himself: the bread of life and living water. If anyone who makes a profession of faith and is baptized into Christ becomes puffed up in his knowledge of the forgiveness of sins and becomes lax in their fight against the temptation to sin, there is a very real possibility that they will not finish the race and will be destroyed eternally, just as the Israelites in the wilderness were destroyed temporally.
[T]he Apostle Paul… in his first Epistle to the Corinthians shows that even the very history of the Exodus was an allegory of the future Christian People.
(Augustine, On the Profit of Believing)
Note, if you are not familiar with 1689 Federalism’s understanding of the Old and New Covenant, please visit http://www.1689federalism.com
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.
Commentators lament that Galatians 3:16 is one of the most difficult verses to interpret in the Bible. Pink says “this passage has occasioned the commentators much trouble, no two of them agreeing in its interpretation. It is commonly regarded as one of the most abstruse passages in all the Pauline Epistles.” Morris notes “At first glance, Gal 3.16 seems to be an example of careful grammatical exegesis; Paul observes and interprets the minutia of the text, stopping to parse a single word in the Biblical text.” I’ve seen the verse used to defend the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture: “Paul rests his argument of Galatians 3:16 upon a doctrine of verbal inspiration. Here the difference between a singular (“seed”) and plural (“seeds”) in Genesis 12:7; 13:15; and 17:7 is the basis of Paul’s argument.” But upon closer inspection one realizes that there is no such minutia in the text. There simply is no “seeds” vs “seed” in the text of Genesis. The word ולזרעך/σπέρμα itself can refer to plural or singular seed. In Genesis 13:15 and 17:8 (the two verses commentators believe Paul is quoting), it is clearly plural (“like the dust of the earth”). Furthermore, Paul uses the word in the plural sense in Romans 4:18; 9:7, and Galatians 3:29. Thus there simply is no appeal to the text to make Paul’s argument.
A common interpretation is that Paul is simply arguing typologically. Yes, Israel were Abraham’s descendants (plural), but Christ is Abraham’s true descendant. He is true Israel. Lightfoot notes “the people of Israel is the type of Christ: and in the New Testament parallels are sought in the career of the one to the life of the other. (See especially the application of Hosea xi. 1 to our Lord in Matt. ii. 15.)” While this may be true and in line with Paul and other NT writing elsewhere, it doesn’t explain his “seeds” vs “seed” comment. Typology involves analogy and does not deny the type when explaining the anti-type. Matthew’s citation of Hosea 11:1 does not deny that God also called the nation of Israel out of Egypt, but Paul here denies the plural was ever intended by the promise and argues only for the singular. Lightfoot says “Doubtless by the seed of Abraham was meant in the first instance the Jewish people, as by the inheritance was meant the land of Canaan; but in accordance with the analogy of Old Testament types and symbols, the term involves two secondary meanings…” But Paul is not arguing for a “secondary meaning” of the seed. He is arguing for the only meaning.
Corporate Solidarity Interpretation
Some try to evade this dilemma by taking the typological interpretation one step further, arguing that Paul is referring to the body of Christ – all believers united to Christ, the head. Therefore Paul does have in mind a plurality and there is no need to get hung up on the singular vs plural. Pink argues “‘to Abraham and his seed’ must mean ‘to Abraham and his spiritual seed were the promises made.'” Summarizing this view, Morris says “then there is no reason for the individual sense to war against the corporate, because the two are so closely tied to one another.” But this simply ignores the fact that Paul’s argument rests precisely upon making the individual sense war against the corporate, plural sense.
Another step is taken down this line of interpretation by arguing that although the promises were originally made in the plural, over the course of history the line in which the promise was fulfilled was narrowed. First Isaac, not Ishmael, then Jacob, not Esau, and on down the line until it is narrowed down to one individual, Jesus. Pink “The promises were limited originally, and that limitation was evidenced more clearly by successive revelations, until it was shown that none but Christ (and those united to Him) were included: “And to thy seed, which is Christ” (mystical)!… The promises of God were never made to all the descendants of Abraham, like so many different kinds of “seed,” but were limited to the spiritual line, that is, to “Christ” mystical.” Calvin argues in this manner.
Among Abraham’s own sons a division began, for one of the sons was cut off from the family… Since the ten tribes were carried away, (Hosa 9:17,) how many thousands have so degenerated that they no longer hold a name among the seed of Abraham? Lastly, a trial was made of the tribe of Judah, that the real succession to the blessing might be transmitted among a small people… The uninterrupted succession to this privilege must have been in force until Christ; for, in the person of David, the Lord afterwards brought back by recovery, as we might say, the promise which had been made to Abraham. In proving, therefore, that this prediction applies to a single individual, Paul does not make his argument rest on the use of the singular number. He merely shews that the word seed must denote one who was not only descended from Abraham according to the flesh, but had been likewise appointed for this purpose by the calling of God.
What Calvin says is true. God’s sovereign election determined which of Abraham’s physical seed were recipients of the promise. That is precisely what Paul argues in Romans 9. But that is not the argument Paul makes here. Rather Paul does “make his argument rest on the use of the singular number.” Furthermore, it ignores that Genesis 13:15 and 17:7 promise that a plurality of seed will inherit the land of Canaan – a promise that was fulfilled (Deut 34:4; 2 Chron 20:7; Num 23:10; 1 Kings 3:8) many years prior to Christ.
Sensus Plenior Interpretation
Looking at these interpretive challenges, Morris concludes that Galatians 3:16 demonstrates the validity and necessity of Roman Catholicism’s sensus plenior, which sees multiple meanings in the texts of Scripture, over against Protestantism’s singular meaning – because Paul could not have arrived at his conclusion from the text of Genesis.
Regardless of the text cited, whether Gen 13.15, ff. or 17.5-8, the Old Testament interpreter would almost certainly read these references to the seed (σπέρμα/ זֶרַע ) as a collective singular; plural in meaning with no indication that the original human author intended a truly singular sense. As demonstrated in the preceding examination of Rom 4 and Gal 3, Paul reads them as both plural and singular, without any evidence from the original context to signal singularity other than a form that he himself uses as collective (cf. Gal 3.29)…
Is it possible to see an original/ literal sense and at the same time read a present, ecclesiological sense in a single passage. As Hays so ably argues this seems to be Paul’s use of the Abrahamic seed in Gal 3.39 The two seem to be in parallel portions of a hermeneutical chiasm that converges at Christ and his advent. In this scheme Christ and the Christological meaning in the text would be the most inclusive and fullest sense (a sensus plenior) flanked by the two lesser (temporally bound) meanings, the original and the “ecclesiological.”
Setting aside the problems with the sensus plenior view (see also here), if we admit its validity for argument’s sake, it still does not resolve the problem in Galatians 3:16! As we saw above, Paul does not claim to be merely drawing out the “fullest sense” of the Abrahamic promises in Genesis 13 and 17, while acknowleding a separate original meaning. Paul is aruging that his interpretation is the original and only meaning! His argument against the Judaizers rests upon it.
Alternate Source Interpretation
Most commentators believe Paul is quoting/referencing Genesis 13:15 and/or 17:7. Lightfoot notes ““(1) The words must be spoken to Abraham himself, and not to one of the later patriarchs; (2) That καὶ must be part of the quotation. These considerations restrict the reference to Gen. xiii. 15, xvii. 8, either of which passages satisfies these conditions.” But as we have seen, Paul cannot be appealing to these verses for his argument about the seed. Are there any other verses in Genesis that Paul could be referring to? Some commentators argue that Paul has Genesis 22:18 in mind. Collins argues that “The best criterion for whether this is Paul’s source is whether it allows us to make sense of his argument.”
Collins helpfully starts this inquiry where many commentators do not: Galatians 3:8. He notes that Paul could potentially be quoting Gen 12:3; 18:18; or 22:18 [he also notes 26:4; 28:14; Ps. 72:17 contain the “blessing”], concluding that “Paul’s source in Galatians 3:8 is a composite, mixing terms from… these LXX passages.” Turning to Galatians 3:16, Collins lists the verses in Genesis where σπέρμα (‘seed, offspring’) occur with a bearing on Abraham:
[W]e have 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:8, 19; 22:18; 24:7. Of these, most deal with the giving of the land to Abraham’s offspring: 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:8; 24:7… In my judgment, the land promise texts (such as Gn. 13:15; 17:8) are not an encouraging line for investigation, because (1) the local nature of the promised land would not easily serve Paul’s argumentative purpose for the Gentiles; and (2) none of these is in the list of ‘blessing’ texts [that Paul quotes in Gal. 3:8]. The comment of F.F. Bruce is telling: ‘The reference to the land, however, plays no part in the argument of Galatians.’
Let that sink in. Paul has already told us which promise he is referring to. Why would we then assume he is arguing from a verse (Gen 13:15 or 17:8) that does not refer to that promise? That leaves Gen. 17:19 and 22:18. 17:19 is actually about the offspring of Isaac, so it does not apply. Thus we have 22:18.
Collins notes “Desmond Alexander has offered grammatical reasons for taking the ‘offspring’ in this text as a specific descendant.” Alexander concludes
The blessing of ‘all the nations of the earth’ is thus associated with a particular descendant of Abraham, rather than with all those descended from him. When we look outside of Genesis for allusions to 22:17b-18a, only one appears to exist. This
comes in Psalm 72:17 where we find the expression, (‘and may all nations be blessed through him’). From the content of Psalm 72 it is clear that the individual
mentioned here, through whom all nations shall be blessed, is a royal figure… The similarity between Genesis 22:18a and Psalm 72:17b is striking and supports the idea that the ‘seed’ mentioned in Genesis 22:17b-18a does not refer to all Abraham’s descendants, but rather to a single individual.
Morris summarizes this view:
Most references to Abraham’s seed in Genesis are immediately preceded or followed by plural pronouns or other referents for which the seed serves as antecedent, seeming to make plain the term’s collective sense in the context. Gen 22.18 emerges from the promises in Genesis fitting for a singular referent and works well theologically as looking forward to Christ’s redeeming the Gentiles. In the context of Gen 22, it is much easier to find an individual referent in verse 18. Verses 16 and 17 still deal with the multiplication of Abraham’s seed, but in verse 18, the seed is named as the agent of blessing for the nations, a unique statement among YHWH’s promises concerning Abraham’s seed. It parallels the original promises of Gen 12.2, 3, in which Abraham is said to be a blessing for others and it is in him that all the families of the earth will be blessed…
In the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, YHWH’s promise to Abraham differs from His previous covenantal pronouncements. He has tended to promise Abraham and his unidentified seed blessings and land (cf. Gen 13.15, 17.8) whereas in Gen 22, YHWH emphasizes the blessing that will come through or “in” Abraham’s seed. In other pronouncements of the Abrahamic promises, the “seed” serves as the antecedent for plural pronouns in the following verses, as is noted above. However, in 22.18, even though there have been references to plurality (cf. 17a) there is a sudden shift to the singular in v. 17b. Often translated with a plural gloss to smooth out the reading, the text literally reads, “your seed will possess the gate of his enemies.” This would seem to be a legitimate textual clue within the original context to see a sudden shift in referent, probably signaling some messianic or prophetic significance.
Problems with Genesis 22:18
Thus it appears quite clear that Paul is referring to Genesis 22:18 when he argues that the seed is singular. This would resolve a lot of problems and bring significant clarity to Galatians 3 as a whole. However, some have raised objections. Pink argues
J. N. Darby seeks to cut the knot by changing the apostle’s “promises” to “the promise,” restricting the reference to Genesis 22. Yet not only is the Greek in the plural number, but such an idea is plainly refuted by the “four hundred and thirty years after,” which necessarily carries us back to Genesis 12.
Morris likewise objects “It is striking that “the promises made to Abraham and to his seed” are most definitely plural (αἱ ἐπαγγελίαι), and therefore almost certainly cannot come from Genesis 22.18 alone, if at all, as there is only one promise made to the seed in that passage (cf. 22.17).”
First, even commentators that do not hold to the “22:18 view” recognize that the plural “promises” refers to repetitions of God’s promise, not to multiple promises. Lightfoot notes that promises is in “The plural, for the promise was several times repeated to Abraham.” Burton likewise notes “the basis for which is the repeated occasions on which the promise was made to Abraham, and the various forms in which it was expressed.” This makes complete sense when we recall Collins’ observation that “Paul’s source in Galatians 3:8 is a composite, mixing terms from… these LXX passages.” Thus Paul’s primary appeal to 22:18 is inclusive of the other repitions of the same promise.
Second, Pink objects to the timing, noting that Genesis 12 must be in view. Coxe agrees regarding the timing “From the giving of the first promise to Abraham, which we have recorded in Genesis 12:2, 3, to that very night in which the children of Israel were brought out of their Egyptian bondage, is the computation of these years made. This will be evident to anyone who will diligently compare the chronology of those times with the express testimony of Moses (Exodus 12:41).” But this is no problem at all if we recognize that the promise in 22:18 is inclusive of Genesis 12:3.
Next, Morris raises a grammatical objection.
Isolated from the original Hebrew text this option appears to have great potential as a resolution for Paul’s seemingly deviant contention in Gal 3. Unfortunately, this view encounters more difficulties in the phrasing and syntax of Gal 3.16. As noted above, Paul makes his citation (whether allusion or quotation) using the dative (τῷ σπέρματι). And while the Greek dative allows for some ambiguity (in either the NT or LXX), the Hebrew constructions used are syntactically exclusive. The two semantic functions have the possibility of sharing a form in Greek, but in Hebrew there is a formal difference: either a prefixed בְּ or לְ preposition.
Perhaps Paul was merely alluding to the text, rather than quoting it? Morris objects.
Paul’s attention to the exact forms within the text coupled with his using an exact match forGen 13.15 or 17.8 makes too compelling a case for direct quotation. It does not feel loose or divergent enough for a conceptual allusion. The presence of the otherwise rogue καί is even more compelling. In the context of Gal 3.16, the use of καί is too awkward to be anything other than a portion of the quote…
Paul’s language here is not generic enough to include promises from Gen 12.2, 3; 15.5; or 22.18. His phrasing is an exact match for Gen 13.15 and 17.8… So, Paul has quoted directly, and he has done so in a way that excludes Gen 22.18, the only text that seems to have a singular seed clearly in view.
So we have quite the dilemma. There is a text in Genesis that perfectly fits the logic of Paul’s argument, but Paul is specifically quoting a text that does not fit the logic of his argument at all, and in fact refutes it.
Two Promises Made to Abraham?
What if Paul is specifically quoting Gen. 13:15 and 17:8, but making an argument about 22:18? Paul is addressing Judaizers, which were made up of the physical descendants of Abraham who possessed the land of Canaan – that is, the people referred to in Gen. 13:15 and 17:8. And he is arguing with them about a different promise concerning blessing the nations, found in 22:18. The Judaizers did not distinguish those promises, but conflated them. They argued that all of the promises God made to Abraham were made to them. Paul responds by pointing out the difference between the promises. There was, in fact, a promise made to or about them, as we find in 13:15 and 17:8 “and to your offspring (plural).” But this other promise was different. In Genesis 22:18 “It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” In other words, Paul’s point is that the promise in 22:18 is different from the promise in 13:15 and 17:8.
The truth is, there is no ground to suppose that it is the statement of an argument at all. It is just as Riccaltoun observes, “a critical, explicatory remark.” It is just as if he had said, ‘In the passage I refer to, the word seed is used of an individual, just as when it is employed of Seth, Gen. iv. 25, where he is called “another seed,” and said to be given in the room of Abel, whom Cain slew. In looking carefully at the promise recorded, Gen. xxii. 16-18, the phrase “seed” seems used with a different reference in the two parts of the promise — the first part of the 17th verse plainly referring to a class of descendants; the last clause and the 18th verse to an individual, and that individual is Christ.’ There is no doubt that this is the fact — that in the promise, “In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed,” the reference is not to the descendants of Abraham generally, nor to his descendants by Isaac, nor to his spiritual descendants, but to bis great descendant, the Messiah.
Note John Glas (particularly note his reference to Gen 22:18 & Gal 3:16).
It must be agreed among Christians that own the authority of the New Testament, that Christ is that seed promised to Abraham, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed, Gen. 12:3 and 22:18. comp. Gal 3:16…
Thus far then God’s promise to Abraham was spiritual and eternal; and here lay the object of that faith, whereby Abraham was justified and eternally saved; even as his spiritual seed of all nations are blessed with him in the faith of the same thing, that was then to be found in the promise, but now in the accomplishment of that promise, as is declared in the gospel.
Yet there was something in this promise peculiar to Abraham, and not common to him with all believers; and that was that Christ should come of his seed, Gal. 3:16; Heb 2:16. That this might be evidently fulfilled, it was necessary that Abraham’s seed according to the flesh, of whom Christ was to come, should be preserved distinct from other people, till the promised seed, Christ, should come of them. And of this, that was peculiar to Abraham in the promise of Christ, there came another promise, which we may see Gen. 12:2, 7. I will make of thee a great nation – Unto thy seed will I give this land. See likewise Gen. 13:14, 15 and Gen 15 from ver. 13. It is evident this promise was temporal, as the other is spiritual and eternal, and behoved to be accomplished before that other. And this temporal promise was given as a pledge of the accomplishment of the eternal promise, and carried in it a type or earthly pattern of the heavenly things of that promise: For the land of Canaan, promised as an inheritance to his seed, according to the flesh, was a type of the heavenly inheritance, and so Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob took it to be, Heb 11:8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16. And the seed of Abraham according to the flesh that became a nation, and inherited Canaan’s land is evidently a type of Abraham’s spiritual seed of all nations, the heavenly nation that inherits the heavenly country. And the difference betwixt these two, was typified by Ishmael, the son of the bond woman, and Isaac the son of the free woman, in Abraham’s family, Gal 4:21-31.
Abraham’s Two Seeds
One chapter later in Galatians 4:21-31, Paul distinguishes between two sons of Abraham. Commenting on this passage, Augustine notes
This interpretation of the passage, handed down to us with apostolic authority, shows how we ought to understand the Scriptures of the two covenants—the old and the new… In the earthly city, then, we find two things—its own obvious presence, and its symbolic presentation of the heavenly city. And this was typified in the two sons of Abraham,—Ishmael, the son of Agar the handmaid, being born according to the flesh, while Isaac was born of the free woman Sarah, according to the promise. Both, indeed, were of Abraham’s seed; but the one was begotten by natural law, the other was given by gracious promise. In the one birth, human action is revealed; in the other, a divine kindness comes to light.
Commenting on the parallel passage Romans 9:6-8, Augustine said
And no doubt the great apostle understood perfectly well what he was saying, when he described the two testaments as capable of the allegorical distinction of the bond-woman and the free,—attributing the children of the flesh to the Old, and to the New the children of the promise
Augustine traced this back to the Abrahamic Covenant.
Now it is to be observed that two things are promised to Abraham, the one, that his seed should possess the land of Canaan, which is intimated when it is said, “Go into a land that I will show thee, and I will make of thee a great nation;” but the other far more excellent, not about the carnal but the spiritual seed, through which he is the father, not of the one Israelite nation, but of all nations who follow the footprints of his faith, which was first promised in these words, “And in thee shall all tribes of the earth be blessed.”…
“And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said unto him, Unto thy seed will I give this land.” (Gen 12:7) Nothing is promised here about that seed in which he is made the father of all nations, but only about that by which he is the father of the one Israelite nation; for by this seed that land was possessed…
[T]he people were settled in the land of promise, so that, in the meantime, the first promise made to Abraham began to be fulfilled about the one nation, that is, the Hebrew, and about the land of Canaan; but not as yet the promise about all nations, and the whole wide world, for that was to be fulfilled, not by the observances of the old law, but by the advent of Christ in the flesh, and by the faith of the gospel.
This is precisely Paul’s point.
In a helpful essay titled “The Covenant in the Church Fathers”, Andrew A. Woolsey notes that “Augustine built upon the patristic position, with his main emphasis upon two covenants, the ‘old’ as manifested supremely in the Sinaitic arrangement, and the ‘new’ in Christ.” with the important qualification that “Augustine did not confine the giving of the law covenant to Sinai… he considered the Sinaitic covenant to be ‘a more explicit’ form of a pre lassos Edenic covenant made with Adam.” The difference between the Adamic and the Old Covenants was that “obedience to the [Edenic] covenant, Augustine speculated, would have caused Adam to pass into the company of the angels with no intervening death, to ‘a blissful immortality that has no limit’” while the Old was limited to temporal blessings in Canaan. “[T]he law of works, which was written on the tables of stone, and its reward, the land of promise, which the house of the carnal Israel after their liberation from Egypt received, belonged to the old testament [covenant]… the promises of the Old Testament are earthly… In that testament, however, which is properly called the Old, and was given on Mount Sinai, only earthly happiness is expressly promised.”
Salvation is found in Christ the mediator through the New Covenant, which was “hidden in the prophetic shadows until the time should come wherein it should be revealed in Christ.” “These pertain to the new testament [covenant], are the children of promise, and are regenerated by God the Father and a free mother. Of this kind were all the righteous men of old, and Moses himself, the minister of the old testament, the heir of the new,—because of the faith whereby we live, of one and the same they lived, believing the incarnation, passion, and resurrection of Christ as future, which we believe as already accomplished.” “Now all these predestinated, called, justified, glorified ones, shall know God by the grace of the new testament [covenant], from the least to the greatest of them.”
Woolsey explains that “Christ was their Mediator too. Though his incarnation had not yet happened, the fruits of it still availed for the fathers. Christ was their head… So the men of God in the Old Testament were shown to be heirs of the new. The new covenant was actually more ancient than the old, though it was subsequently revealed. It was ‘hidden in the prophetic ciphers’ until the time of revelation in Christ.”
Augustine developed his covenant theology amidst debate with Pelagians, who denied total depravity and taught that man may be righteous through obedience to the law and that many in the Old Testament were. One of five formal charges brought against Pelagius was his claim that “The Law leads people to the kingdom of heaven in the same way as does the gospel.” Pelagius argued that “The kingdom of heaven was promised even in the Old Testament.” Augustine’s response was that the Old Testament Scriptures do reveal the kingdom of heaven, but in the Old Covenant “given on Mount Sinai, only earthly happiness is expressly promised.” However, it served as “figures of the spiritual blessings which appertain to the New Testament.” Saints during that time who understood this distinction “were accounted in the secret purpose of God as heirs of the New Testament.” Eugen J. Pentuic explains “In chapters 14 and 15 [of On the Proceedings of Pelagius], Augustine seeks to refute Pelagius’s thesis on the parity between the Law and the gospel. For Augustine, the distinction between the two testaments lies with the nature of their promises. If the Old Testament’s promises are centered on earthly realities, the New Testament’s promises concern the heavenly realities such as the kingdom of heaven.”
Augustine argued that “by the words of Pelagius the distinction which has been drawn by Apostolic and catholic authority is abolished, and Agar is supposed to be by some means on a par with Sarah[.] He therefore does injury to the scripture of the Old Testament with heretical impiety, who with an impious and sacrilegious face denies that it was inspired by the good, supreme, and very God,—as Marcion does, as Manichæus does, and other pests of similar opinions. On this account (that I may put into as brief a space as I can what my own views are on the subject), as much injury is done to the New Testament, when it is put on the same level with the Old Testament, as is inflicted on the Old itself when men deny it to be the work of the supreme God of goodness.”
That Pelagius was correct in seeing the Old Covenant as a law of works was assumed throughout Augustine’s writings. Pelagius’ error was that he did not recognize the typology involved in the fact that the Old Covenant was limited to earthly promises and he believed the New Covenant was a continuation of the same law of works. For Augustine, then, the difference between the Old and the New Covenants was the difference between law and gospel, as well as the difference between earthly and heavenly.
Moving forward a millennium, Augustinian monk Martin Luther articulated the same concept. “For the old testament given through Moses was not a promise of forgiveness of sins or of eternal things, but of temporal things, namely, of the land of Canaan, by which no man was renewed in spirit to lay hold on the heavenly inheritance. Wherefore also it was necessary that, as a figure of Christ, a dumb beast should be slain, in whose blood the same testament might be confirmed, as the blood corresponded to the testament and the sacrifice corresponded to the promise. But here Christ says ‘the new testament in my blood’ [Luke 22:20; I Cor. 11:25], not somebody else’s, but his own, by which grace is promised through the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, that we may obtain the inheritance.” Philip Melanchthon agreed. “I consider the Old Testament a promise of material things linked up with the demands of the law. For God demands righteousness through the law and also promises its reward, the Land of Canaan, wealth, etc… By contrast, the New Testament is nothing else than the promise of all good things without regard to the law and with no respect to our own righteousness… Jer, ch.31, indicates this difference between the Old and New Testaments.”
Once the reformation began to address Anabaptist criticisms of infant baptism we start to see a shift away from Augustine’s view. Joshua Moon notes “looming over all of the Swiss Reformed discussions of Jer 31:31-34 is the dispute with the Anabaptists.”
Bullinger’s central solution to the Anabaptist arguments, as for Zwingli, rests in a particular view of the continuity and sufficiency of the Old Testament. In the treatise Bullinger aims to establish that there is one single covenant of God that has always been in operation: the same essence, with the same basic requirements (faith and love), even if with different accompaniments. The payoff is the continuity of the way in which God deals with the children of believers – at least as far as baptism.
The contrast between the Old and the New, according to Bullinger, referred only to the “accidents.”
[T]he nomenclature of the old and new covenant, spirit, and people did not arise from the very essence (substantia) of the covenant but from certain foreign and unessential things (accidentibus) because the diversity of the times recommended that now this, now that be added according to the [difference] of the Jewish people. These additions (accessere) did not exist as perpetual and particularly necessary things for salvation, but they arose as changeable things according to the time, the persons, and the circumstances. The covenant itself could easily continue without them.
Moon notes “Bullinger’s reading, and the positing of a unity of substance and contrast of accidents, shows what will emerge as the boundary markers of Reformed thought on the subject. Such language becomes common for the Reformed and will influence the whole of the tradition through the period of orthodoxy and into the contemporary Reformed world.” That said, “The difficulty of limiting the contrast in the oracle [Jer. 31] to ‘accidents’, however, will be felt by a number of the Reformed.”
Following in this same line, Calvin’s treatment of the topic in his Institutes is framed as a response to Anabaptist arguments.
This discussion, which would have been most useful at any rate, has been rendered necessary by that monstrous miscreant, Servetus, and some madmen of the sect of the Anabaptists, who think of the people of Israel just as they would do of some herd of swine, absurdly imagining that the Lord gorged them with temporal blessings here, and gave them no hope of a blessed immortality.
It is a bit difficult to confirm Calvin’s summary of the Anabaptists with their own statements for two reasons. First, the label Anabaptist was applied broadly to all radical reformers with a wide variety of beliefs. “For polemical purposes, Calvin often loosely placed all the sectarians in one group.” Second, Anabaptist writings are much more scarce than reformed literature (perhaps because many of the Anabaptists did not defend their ideas in writing, but preferred the “Apostolic” method of oral discourse, making it more difficult to determine what precisely they believed). Willem Balke notes “It is difficult to trace all of the sources from which Calvin drew his information about the Anabaptists.” Calvin had a great deal of first-hand experience with Anabaptists throughout his life, including strategically joining a tailor’s guild in Strasbourg where “nearly all members were Anabaptists.” He even married the widow of one ex-Anabaptist that he had converted after he debated him publicly.
Far from a tangential debate, Anabaptism was an integral part of the development of Calvin’s theology. “He defined his theological position with two distinct foils in mind ‐ Rome and the Radicals.” “In 1539, Calvin provided a much broader theological exposition for his polemic against the Anabaptists. His controversy with them occasioned much of the overall expansion of the Institutes.” Neither was his debate with Anabaptists merely an academic exercise. In the eyes of Calvin and other reformers, the very success of the Reformation hinged upon whether they could refute the Anabaptists, and Calvin was seen as the very best hope of doing so.
Neither was this task an impersonal one. The Anabaptists were a consistent political and personal thorn in Calvin’s flesh throughout his ministry. Calvin’s exile from France was a result of being lumped with Anabaptists himself.
From the perspective of [King] Francis, all Protestants—including everyone from Antoine Marcourt, the architect of the placards incident, to Lutherans to Calvin—were, like the German Anabaptists, a threat to political harmony. One might say fairly that Calvin spent the rest of his life trying to distance himself from this distasteful comparison, and he himself admitted as much in the preface to his commentary on the Psalms. Through the final edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1559 and until his death five years later, Calvin never ceased instituting “true religion” in opposition to what he, no less than Francis, thought to be Anabaptist extremism.
His exile from Geneva was also directly related to Anabaptists. Calvin wrote a confession that denounced Anabaptism and required all the citizens of Geneva to personally swear an oath affirming it, or be banished. The Anabaptists refused but the Geneva Council was reluctant to enforce the banishment. Calvin warned the Council that he would excommunicate the Anabaptists from the church if they refused the confession. The Council forbid him to do so. “In the midst of the conflict and confusion, Calvin and Farel refused to administer the Lord’s Supper on Easter. Demonstrations developed in the streets and emergency meetings of the Council were held. Three days later the decision came: Calvin and Farel were expelled from the city.”
And thus “It was the Anabaptists who prompted Calvin, like Zwingli, to reconsider the question of the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. This matter lay close to Calvin’s heart.” “According to Schrenk, Calvin depended on Zwingli and Bullinger with respect to this concept. They were compelled to develop their theology of covenant in their conflicts with the Anabaptists.” “It did not start in Wittenberg or Geneva but in Zurich. For Reformed Theology, Zwingli is the real renewer of the biblical idea of the covenant, but its impulse may have come from the Anabaptist side. Bullinger gave this Zwinglian doctrine its first design. The struggle against the Anabaptists and the desire to establish a national church are the driving forces behind this thought.”
“[T]he doctrine of the covenant was critically important as a basis for infant baptism. [Calvin] fully developed his ideas in this regard in the Institutes. His line of reasoning focuses entirely on this fundamental concept.” “With the obvious intention of refuting Anabaptism, he added an entire chapter on the relationship between the Old and New Testament, which became the most significant basis for his defense of infant baptism.”
With regards to the Old and New covenants, Calvin finds himself in an interesting situation. The Anabaptists appear to be in agreement with Augustine and the Lutherans that the Old Covenant was limited to earthly promises, but they would appear to disagree that those blessings revealed the gospel in types and shadows during the Old Testament era and thereby saved Old Testament saints through the New Covenant. Calvin could refute their error on this point by arguing, like Augustine, that the New Covenant was also operative during the Old Testament era, and therefore Israelites did have a hope of blessed immortality. Though adopting Augustine’s view would be entirely sufficient to establish the point, it would not leave Calvin with any defense of infant baptism because it does not entail that the Old and New Covenants are one. Peter Lillback explains
Calvin both presents his case for paedobaptism as well as defends it against various attacks by employment of the covenant idea. His positive arguments build initially upon his already established point of the continuity of the Old and New Covenants. It is due to the continuity of the covenant with the Jews and with Christians that enables Christians to baptize their infants.
However, various “passages seem to argue that there is not one divine covenant throughout Scripture, but rather that there are two of quite a different character. Should that interpretation be correct, then Calvin would be forced to concede the argument to the Anabaptists after all. How can he explain this difference and still maintain the continuity of the Covenants?” Therefore, instead of refuting the Anabaptists with Augustine’s argument, Calvin addresses this point by appeal to the anti-Anabaptist argument from covenant unity established by Bullinger. “The covenant made with all the fathers is so far from differing from ours in reality and substance, that it is altogether one and the same: still the administration differs.”
In Book 2, Chapter 10 of the Institutes, he outlines the reasons why “both covenants are truly one… although differently administered”
- The Old Covenant promised eternal life, just like the New.
- The Old Covenant was established in the mercy of God, just like the New.
- The Old Covenant was confirmed by the mediation of Christ, just like the New.
In Chapter 11, Calvin gives “five points of difference between the Old and the New Testaments” which “belong to the mode of administration rather than the substance.”
- “In the Old Testament the heavenly inheritance is exhibited under temporal blessings; in the New, aids of this description are not employed.”
- “The Old Testament typified Christ under ceremonies. The New exhibits the immediate truth and the whole body.”
- “The Old Testament is literal, the New spiritual.”
- “The Old Testament belongs to bondage, the New to liberty.”
- “The Old Testament belonged to one people only, the New to all.”
Regarding the similarities, Calvin says the first point is “the foundation of the other two” and therefore “a lengthy proof is given of it” taking up most of the chapter. It is “the most pertinent to the present subject, and the most controverted.” To prove that the Old Covenant promised eternal life, Calvin argues
The Apostle, indeed, removes all doubt when he says that the Gospel which God gave concerning his Son, Jesus Christ, ‘he had promised aforetime by his prophets in the holy Scriptures,’ (Rom. 1:2)… Most clearly, therefore, does the Apostle demonstrate that the Old Testament had special reference to the future life, when he says that the promises of the Gospel were comprehended under it.
Based upon this fact, he then argues “we infer that the Old Testament was both established by the free mercy of God and confirmed by the intercession of Christ.”
Calvin further argues “that the spiritual covenant was common also to the Fathers” because their souls were quickened by the “inherent efficacy” of the word of God in the Old Testament. “Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, and the other patriarchs, having been united to God by this illumination of the word, I say, there cannot be the least doubt that entrance was given them into the immortal kingdom of God.” He then provides numerous examples showing that these believers aspired to “a better life” elsewhere, making them “pilgrims and strangers in the land of Canaan.”
On this point, there is much overlap with Augustine, but Calvin makes an inference that Augustine does not. Augustine agrees with Calvin that regenerate Israelites were pilgrims, but he says they were pilgrims because they looked beyond the Old Covenant and were thereby counted heirs of the New Covenant. Augustine did not believe this meant the Old and the New were one.
[W]hatever blessings are there figuratively set forth as appertaining to the New Testament require the new man to give them effect… the happy persons, who even in that early age were by the grace of God taught to understand the distinction now set forth, were thereby made the children of promise, and were accounted in the secret purpose of God as heirs of the New Testament; although they continued with perfect fitness to administer the Old Testament to the ancient people of God, because it was divinely appropriated to that people in God’s distribution of the times and seasons.
Contrary to Augustine, based upon the above arguments, Calvin asserts
Let us then lay it down confidently as a truth which no engines of the devil can destroy – that the Old Testament or covenant which the Lord made with the people of Israel was not confined to earthly objects, but contained a promise of spiritual and eternal life, the expectation of which behaved to be impressed on the minds of all who truly consented to the covenant.
But this does not follow. It is an invalid inference to claim that because regenerate Israelites were part of the immortal kingdom of God, therefore the Old and New covenants are one. It does not follow that the Old covenant promised eternal life. Augustine and the Lutherans affirmed that regenerate Israelites were part of the immortal kingdom of God, but they also affirmed that the Old and New were two distinct covenants and that the Old was limited to earthly blessings. Calvin’s inference, which he asserts throughout as foundational, is simply invalid. The correct inference, made by Augustine, is that regenerate Israelites partook of the New covenant. As we will see below, Calvin ends up having to make use of this correct inference when he encounters problems with his argument.
The first difference between the Old and the New Covenants is that “God was pleased to indicate and typify both the gift of future and eternal felicity by terrestrial blessings, as well as the dreadful nature of spiritual death by bodily punishments, at that time when he delivered his covenant to the Israelites as under a kind of veil.”
The second difference “is in the types, the former exhibiting only the image of truth, while the reality was absent, the shadow instead of the substance, the latter exhibiting both the full truth and the entire body.” Here we begin to see an interesting tension in Calvin’s substance/accidents distinction. Previously he argued that the Old and New are the same in substance, only differing in accidents. But here we are told one difference between them is that the New actually has the substance, while the Old does not.
In regards to Hebrews 7-10, he says that because the typical ceremonies “were the means of administering the covenant, the name of covenant is applied to them, just as is done in the case of other sacraments. Hence, in general, the Old Testament is the name given to the solemn method of confirming the covenant comprehended under ceremonies and sacrifices.” This definition of the term “Old Testament” is important to keep in mind. “Old Testament” refers only to the accidents of the covenant prior to Christ. Calvin then notes that the Old covenant was to be annulled because “there is nothing substantial in it, until we look beyond it” to “Christ, the surety and mediator of a better covenant.” Again we see that the Old Testament lacks the substance it is supposed to share with the New. Here Calvin’s problem is clear. The “Old Testament” refers only to the accidents, but the “New” refers to the substance. Thus the difference between them apparently is not accidents vs accidents, but accidents vs substance.
Calvin is forced into these comparisons, against his earlier framework, because of “the many passages of Scripture in which they are are contrasted as things differing most widely from each other.” In the above, Calvin dealt with Hebrews 7-10, arguing that it was addressing only ceremonies. He next deals with 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 and Jeremiah 31:31-34. While Calvin must attempt to keep these differences on the level of outward administration, we have just seen that he is unable to. As Augustine remarked on these same passages:
I beg of you, however, carefully to observe, as far as you can, what I am endeavouring to prove with so much effort. When the prophet promised a new covenant, not according to the covenant which had been formerly made with the people of Israel when liberated from Egypt, he said nothing about a change in the sacrifices or any sacred ordinances, although such change, too, was without doubt to follow, as we see in fact that it did follow, even as the same prophetic scripture testifies in many other passages; but he simply called attention to this difference, that God would impress His laws on the mind of those who belonged to this covenant, and would write them in their hearts, (Jer 31:32-33) whence the apostle drew his conclusion,—“not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart;” (2 Cor 3:3)… It is therefore apparent what difference there is between the old covenant and the new,—that in the former the law is written on tables, while in the latter on hearts; so that what in the one alarms from without, in the other delights from within; and in the former man becomes a transgressor through the letter that kills, in the other a lover through the life-giving spirit.
Commenting on Jeremiah 31:31-34 as quoted in Hebrews 8:8, Calvin himself acknowledges the same.
[H]ere the question is respecting ceremonies, but the Prophet speaks of the whole Law: what has it to do with ceremonies, when God inscribes on the heart the rule of a godly and holy life, delivered by the voice and teaching of men? To this I reply that the argument is applied from the whole to a part. There is no doubt but that the Prophet includes the whole dispensation of Moses when he says, “I have made with you a covenant which you have not kept.” Besides, the Law was in a manner clothed with ceremonies; now when the body is dead, what is the use of garments? It is a common saying that the accessory is of the same character with his principal. No wonder, then, that the ceremonies, which are nothing more than appendages to the old covenant, should come to an end, together with the whole dispensation of Moses. Nor is it unusual with the Apostles, when they speak of ceremonies, to discuss the general question respecting the whole Law. Though, then, the prophet Jeremiah extends wider than to ceremonies, yet as it includes them under the name of the old covenant, it may be fitly applied to the present subject.
In other words, because the substance (body) is different, then of course the accidents (garments) will change as well. Note, that this contradicts his argument in the Institutes that in Hebrews 7-10 (which is built upon Jeremiah 31:31-34), “the Old Testament is the name given to the solemn method of confirming the covenant comprehended under ceremonies and sacrifices.” In his commentary on Jeremiah 31, Calvin says “the Prophet speaks of the whole Law… the whole dispensation of Moses… extends wider than to ceremonies”.
Returning to the Institutes, Calvin says that both Jeremiah (31:31-34) and Paul (2 Cor. 3:5-6) “consider nothing in the Law but what is peculiar to it.” Thus he asserts that “Old covenant” in these two passages is referring simply to “the Law” while “New covenant” refers to “the Gospel.” “The Law is designated by the name of the Old, and the Gospel by that of the New Testament.” Properly defining the terms is crucial to Calvin’s position. Calvin insisted that in Heb 7-10, “Old Testament” referred only to the typical ceremonies. Here he insists it refers to “the Law.” But what precisely does Calvin mean by “the Law” in this instance? Does he mean the moral law? Does he mean the books of Moses? Does he mean Mosaic law as a whole (moral, judicial, ceremonial), delivered on Mt. Sinai? It’s not immediately clear.
the Law here and there contains promises of mercy; but as these are adventitious to it, they do not enter into the account of the Law as considered only in its own nature. All which is attributed to it is, that it commands what is right, prohibits crimes, holds forth rewards to the cultivators of righteousness, and threatens transgressors with punishment, while at the same time it neither changes nor amends that depravity of heart which is naturally inherent in all.
Broadly speaking, “the Law” contains promises of mercy, but those promises are extrinsic to it. Again, it is not immediately clear what Calvin means by “the Law” in this instance – whether it refers to the writings of Moses or to the Mosaic Covenant as a whole. He first says “the Law” contains promises of mercy, then he says that it does not. If by “the Law” Calvin means the moral law, then he is incorrect because it does not contain any promises of mercy, not even “adventitiously.” If by “the Law” Calvin does not mean simply the moral law, then is he equivocating when he proceeds immediately (“All that is attributed to it is…”) to describe “the Law” in terms of the moral law, arguing that “Jeremiah indeed calls the Moral Law also a weak and fragile covenant”?
Perhaps he means that “the Law” refers to the five books of Moses. Thus promises of mercy are found in the writings of Moses. But that does not make sense of his comment that the promises are adventitious to it. How can part of Moses’ writings be adventitious to Moses’ writings? He later explains that is not what is meant by “the Law” when he says that the Old Testament “is of wider extent [than just the Law] (sec. 1), comprehending under it the promises which were given before the Law” thus identifying the Law with a particular point in history.
The best explanation appears to be that by “the Law” Calvin means the law delivered by God to Israel on Mt. Sinai, including the moral, judicial, and ceremonial law. This would seem to be confirmed by the above statements regarding the moral law, crimes, and the timing, taken together with other statements such as “For the Apostle speaks of the Law more disparagingly than the Prophet. This he does not simply in respect of the Law itself, but because there were some false zealots of the Law who, by a perverse zeal for ceremonies, obscured the clearness of the Gospel” as well as when he works through Paul’s antitheses in 2 Cor 3 and concludes “The last antithesis must be referred to the Ceremonial Law.” This reading is confirmed by Calvin’s earlier statement in chapter 7. “By the Law, I understand not only the Ten Commandments, which contain a complete rule of life, but the whole system of religion delivered by the hand of Moses.” We find this confirmed in his commentary on Jeremiah 31:31-34 as well. “[T]he Prophet speaks of the whole Law… There is no doubt but that the Prophet includes the whole dispensation of Moses.”
Thus the whole Mosaic law delivered on Mt. Sinai to the people of Israel is what Jeremiah and Paul refer to as the Old Covenant. This Old Covenant is contrasted to the Gospel. Promises of mercy may be found here and there in this Old Covenant, but they are adventitious to it because the Old Covenant “neither changes nor amends that depravity of heart which is naturally inherent in all.” Therefore “the Old Testament is literal, because promulgated without the efficacy of the Spirit: the New spiritual, because the Lord has engraven it on the heart.” An example of this is found in Calvin’s commentary on Deuteronomy 30:6. “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart. This promise far surpasses all the others, and properly refers to the new Covenant, for thus it is interpreted by Jeremiah.”
We once again find Calvin depicting the differences between the Old and the New, not as a difference in accidents, but in substance. Calvin previously argued they were the same in substance because they both equally promised eternal life and because the patriarchs were members of the “immortal kingdom of God” through “illumination [regeneration] of the word.” Now, because he is explaining the meaning of Jeremiah, Paul, and the author of Hebrews, Calvin says the exact opposite: the promise of mercy is adventitious to the Old covenant and the Old covenant regenerates no one. How can Calvin speak so contradictorily? As we will see below, it is because he is defining “Old covenant” differently in each instance. Joshua Moon notes “The only way in which he is able to do this without blatant contradiction is through the broadening of the term ‘Old Testament’ in the first of the comparisons, as he admits to doing (‘The first extends more widely…’).”
Calvin’s fourth difference is that “The Old Testament belongs to bondage, the New to liberty.” Referencing Heb 12:18-22 and Gal 4:25-26, Calvin says “The Old Testament filled the conscience with fear and trembling – The New inspires it with gladness.” Echoing the previous point, Calvin affirms that the holy fathers shared in the liberty from bondage, but explains that this freedom was not derived from “the Law.” Commenting on this, Peter Lillback notes “Calvin’s explanation once again indicates his understanding of the New Covenant as the place of salvation in all of redemptive history.”
He concludes “The three last contrasts to which we have adverted (sec. 4, 7, 9) are between the Law and the Gospel, and hence in these the Law is designated by the name of the Old, and the Gospel by that of the New Testament.” Note carefully that by this Calvin considers the typical ceremonies of the Old Covenant (difference #2, sec. 4) to fall under “the Law” in contrast to “the Gospel” even though they reveal the Gospel typologically. He says that the holy fathers
were under the same bonds and burdens of observances as the rest of their nation. Therefore, seeing they were obliged to the anxious observance of ceremonies (which were the symbols of a tutelage bordering on slavery, and handwritings by which they acknowledged their guilt, but did not escape from it), they are justly said to have been, comparatively, under a covenant of fear and bondage, in respect of that common dispensation under which the Jewish people were then placed.
Calvin re-visited this issue in his commentary on the book of Hebrews, where he again wrestles with Jeremiah’s stark contrast.
But what he adds is not without some difficulty, — that the covenant of the Gospel was proclaimed on better promises; for it is certain that the fathers who lived under the Law had the same hope of eternal life set before them as we have, as they had the grace of adoption in common with us, then faith must have rested on the same promises. But the comparison made by the Apostle refers to the form rather than to the substance; for though God promised to them the same salvation which he at this day promises to us, yet neither the manner nor the character of the revelation is the same or equal to what we enjoy.
Again Calvin attempts to explain the difference as a matter of form or outward administration. The difference is the manner and character of the revelation (i.e. obscure vs. clear). But in expositing the text, Calvin runs into his recurring dilemma. “There are two main parts in this covenant; the first regards the gratuitous remission of sins; and the other, the inward renovation of the heart.” This presents Calvin with the problem of how these two things can be attributed to the New covenant in contrast to the Old. He argues it was simply a matter of degree (lesser vs greater), as well as clarity.
But it may be asked, whether there was under the Law a sure and certain promise of salvation, whether the fathers had the gift of the Spirit, whether they enjoyed God’s paternal favor through the remission of sins? Yes, it is evident that they worshipped God with a sincere heart and a pure conscience, and that they walked in his commandments, and this could not have been the case except they had been inwardly taught by the Spirit; and it is also evident, that whenever they thought of their sins, they were raised up by the assurance of a gratuitous pardon. And yet the Apostle, by referring the prophecy of Jeremiah to the coming of Christ, seems to rob them of these blessings. To this I reply, that he does not expressly deny that God formerly wrote his Law on their hearts and pardoned their sins, but he makes a comparison between the less and the greater. As then the Father has put forth more fully the power of his Spirit under the kingdom of Christ, and has poured forth more abundantly his mercy on mankind, this exuberance renders insignificant the small portion of grace which he had been pleased to bestow on the fathers. We also see that the promises were then obscure and intricate, so that they shone only like the moon and stars in comparison with the clear light of the Gospel which shines brightly on us.
But this answer is confounded by the fact that Abraham’s faith, far from being less than ours, is the prime example of ours. So it cannot be a difference in degree.
If it be objected and said, that the faith and obedience of Abraham so excelled, that hardly any such an example can at this day be found in the whole world; my answer is this, that the question here is not about persons, but that reference is made to the economical condition of the Church. Besides, whatever spiritual gifts the fathers obtained, they were accidental as it were to their age; for it was necessary for them to direct their eyes to Christ in order to become possessed of them. Hence it was not without reason that the Apostle, in comparing the Gospel with the Law, took away from the latter what is peculiar to the former. There is yet no reason why God should not have extended the grace of the new covenant to the fathers. This is the true solution of the question.
To escape this dilemma, Calvin must abandon his unity of Old and New and flee to Augustine’s view. The true solution is to admit that the saving faith experienced by the fathers was not derived from the Old covenant, but was rather “accidental” to it. Their salvation was a blessing of the New covenant extended back to them.
Was the grace of regeneration wanting to the Fathers under the Law? But this is quite preposterous. What, then, is meant when God denies here that the Law was written on the heart before the coming of Christ? To this I answer, that the Fathers, who were formerly regenerated, obtained this favor through Christ, so that we may say, that it was as it were transferred to them from another source. The power then to penetrate into the heart was not inherent in the Law, but it was a benefit transferred to the Law from the Gospel.
Joshua Moon notes
The borrowing from Augustine is no less strong in these passages than is admitted in the Institutes, and is invoked to resolve the question of the attributes of the member of the new covenant which are clearly evidenced in the ancients. If the new covenant member is identified by the law on the heart, which is regeneration, then those who were regenerate before Christ were members of the new covenant. But Calvin has simply side-stepped the difficulty raised in identifying the law on the heart (regeneration) with the ‘form’ of the covenant.
Calvin’s “Old Testament”
So then what exactly is the Old covenant that Calvin believes is one and the same with the New covenant? He says that “The three last contrasts to which we have adverted (sec. 4, 7, 9), are between the Law and the Gospel, and hence in these the Law is designated by the name of the Old, and the Gospel by that of the New Testament. The first [the Old Testament] is of wider extent (sec. 1) [than the Law], comprehending under it the promises which were given even before the Law.” Calvin is not here arguing that the Old Testament means the Old Scriptures, having been revealed before the Law. Rather, he means that the Old covenant God made with the Israelites on Mt. Sinai includes more than just the Mosaic Law (“the whole system of religion delivered by the hand of Moses”). It also includes promises of eternal life – the same promises which were given prior to the Old covenant. Thus he says “the Old Testament or covenant which the Lord made with the people of Israel was not confined to earthly objects, but contained a promise of spiritual and eternal life, the expectation of which behaved to be impressed on the minds of all who truly consented to the covenant” making it clear he is not simply referring to the Old Scriptures.
Recall from above that Augustine encountered a related argument in Pelagius. He recounts the trial.
After the judges had accorded their approbation to this answer of Pelagius, another passage which he had written in his book was read aloud: “The kingdom of heaven was promised even in the Old Testament.” Upon this, Pelagius remarked in vindication: “This can be proved by the Scriptures: but heretics, in order to disparage the Old Testament, deny this. I, however, simply followed the authority of the Scriptures when I said this; for in the prophet Daniel it is written: ‘The saints shall receive the kingdom of the Most. High.’” (Dan 7:18) After they had heard this answer, the synod said: “Neither is this opposed to the Church’s faith.”
Augustine then replied:
Was it therefore without reason that our brethren were moved by his words to include this charge among the others against him? Certainly not. The fact is, that the phrase Old Testament is constantly employed in two different ways,—in one, following the authority of the Holy Scriptures; in the other, following the most common custom of speech.
For the Apostle Paul says, in his Epistle to the Galatians: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free woman… Which things are an allegory: for these are the two testaments; the one which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and is conjoined with the Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children; whereas the Jerusalem which is above is free, and is the mother of us all.” (Gal 4:21-26)
Now, inasmuch as the Old Testament belongs to bondage, whence it is written, “Cast out the bond-woman and her son, for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac,” (Gal 4:30) but the kingdom of heaven to liberty; what has the kingdom of heaven to do with the Old Testament? Since, however, as I have already remarked, we are accustomed, in our ordinary use of words, to designate all those Scriptures of the law and the prophets which were given previous to the Lord’s incarnation, and are embraced together by canonical authority, under the name and title of the Old Testament, what man who is ever so moderately informed in ecclesiastical lore can be ignorant that the kingdom of heaven could be quite as well promised in those early Scriptures as even the New Testament itself, to which the kingdom of heaven belongs?
At all events, in those ancient Scriptures it is most distinctly written: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will consummate a new testament with the house of Israel and with the house of Jacob; not according to the testament that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to lead them out of the land of Egypt.” (Jer 31:31, 32) This was done on Mount Sinai. But then there had not yet risen the prophet Daniel to say: “The saints shall receive the kingdom of the Most High.” (Dan 7:18) For by these words he foretold the merit not of the Old, but of the New Testament. In the same manner did the same prophets foretell that Christ Himself would come, in whose blood the New Testament was consecrated. Of this Testament also the apostles became the ministers, as the most blessed Paul declares: “He hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not in its letter, but in spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Cor 3:6)
In that testament, however, which is properly called the Old, and was given on Mount Sinai, only earthly happiness is expressly promised. Accordingly that land, into which the nation, after being led through the wilderness, was conducted, is called the land of promise, wherein peace and royal power, and the gaining of victories over enemies, and an abundance of children and of fruits of the ground, and gifts of a similar kind are the promises of the Old Testament. And these, indeed, are figures of the spiritual blessings which appertain to the New Testament; but yet the man who lives under God’s law with those earthly blessings for his sanction, is precisely the heir of the Old Testament, for just such rewards are promised and given to him, according to the terms of the Old Testament, as are the objects of his desire according to the condition of the old man.
But whatever blessings are there figuratively set forth as appertaining to the New Testament require the new man to give them effect. And no doubt the great apostle understood perfectly well what he was saying, when he described the two testaments as capable of the allegorical distinction of the bond-woman and the free,—attributing the children of the flesh to the Old, and to the New the children of the promise: “They,” says he, “which are the children of the flesh, are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (Rom 9:8) The children of the flesh, then, belong to the earthly Jerusalem, which is in bondage with her children; whereas the children of the promise belong to the Jerusalem above, the free, the mother of us all, eternal in the heavens. (Gal 4:25, 26) Whence we can easily see who they are that appertain to the earthly, and who to the heavenly kingdom. But then the happy persons, who even in that early age were by the grace of God taught to understand the distinction now set forth, were thereby made the children of promise, and were accounted in the secret purpose of God as heirs of the New Testament; although they continued with perfect fitness to administer the Old Testament to the ancient people of God, because it was divinely appropriated to that people in God’s distribution of the times and seasons.
How then should there not be a feeling of just disquietude entertained by the children of promise, children of the free Jerusalem, which is eternal in the heavens, when they see that by the words of Pelagius the distinction which has been drawn by Apostolic and catholic authority is abolished, and Agar is supposed to be by some means on a par with Sarah? He therefore does injury to the scripture of the Old Testament with heretical impiety, who with an impious and sacrilegious face denies that it was inspired by the good, supreme, and very God,—as Marcion does, as Manichæus does, and other pests of similar opinions. On this account (that I may put into as brief a space as I can what my own views are on the subject), as much injury is done to the New Testament, when it is put on the same level with the Old Testament, as is inflicted on the Old itself when men deny it to be the work of the supreme God of goodness.
Augustine says that “following the most common custom of speech” we can say that the Old Testament promised eternal life because by “Old Testament” we simply mean “all those Scriptures of the law and the prophets which were given previous to the Lord’s incarnation.” However, if we properly define the Old Testament “following the authority of the Holy Scriptures” as the covenant that was “given on Mount Sinai” to “the ancient people of God” then “only earthly happiness is expressly promised.” He goes so far as to say that claiming the Old and the New covenants offer the same promise “does injury to the scripture of the Old Testament with heretical impiety.”
Calvin was aware of Augustine’s objection to his position.
When Augustine maintained that [the promises of eternal life] were not to be included under the name of the Old Testament (August. ad Bonifac. lib. 3 c. 14), he took a most correct view, and meant nothing different from what we have now taught; for he had in view those passages of Jeremiah and Paul in which the Old Testament is distinguished from the word of grace and mercy. In the same passage, Augustine, with great shrewdness remarks, that from the beginning of the world the sons of promise, the divinely regenerated, who, through faith working by love, obeyed the commandments, belonged to the New Testament; entertaining the hope not of carnal, earthly, temporal, but spiritual, heavenly, and eternal blessings, believing especially in a Mediator, by whom they doubted not both that the Spirit was administered to them, enabling them to do good, and pardon imparted as often as they sinned. The thing which he thus intended to assert was, that all the saints mentioned in Scripture, from the beginning of the world, as having been specially selected by God, were equally with us partakers of the blessing of eternal salvation. The only difference between our division and that of Augustine is, that ours (in accordance with the words of our Saviour, “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John,” Mt. 11:13) distinguishes between the gospel light and that more obscure dispensation of the word which preceded it, while the other division simply distinguishes between the weakness of the Law and the strength of the Gospel. And here also, with regard to the holy fathers, it is to be observed, that though they lived under the Old Testament, they did not stop there, but always aspired to the New, and so entered into sure fellowship with it.
Calvin defends himself by claiming by “Old Testament” he means “all the prophets and the law” – that is, the Scriptures prior to Christ. In which case, the only difference between the two is the degree of clarity, and thus a difference in administration. But as we have just seen, that is not in fact how Calvin has been using the term. He again side-steps the issue and does not answer Augustine. Moon notes “The necessary equivocations … show the incompatibility of [Calvin’s] approach.”
In sum, Calvin’s position hinges upon how one defines the Old covenant. If we define it according to Jeremiah, Paul, and the author of Hebrews as “the whole system of religion delivered by the hand of Moses,” then the difference between the Old and New is the difference between Law and Gospel, and thus Augustine is correct (according to Calvin) that eternal salvation is found in the New covenant alone. However, if Jeremiah, Paul, and the author of Hebrews were improperly abstracting only one part of the Old Covenant, which is defined as something other than “the whole system of religion delivered by the hand of Moses” or “the whole dispensation of Moses” and the Old covenant itself promises eternal life, then the Old and New are really one and the same covenant.
After more than a century of development, the reformed view articulated by Bullinger, Calvin, and others became solidified in the Westminster Confession. However, not all reformed theologians were happy with the position. Ironically, chief among these dissenters was the “Calvin of England” John Owen. There appears to be development in his thought over the years, but it finds its fullest expression on this question in his several thousand page magnum opus, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is there, in over 150 pages of meticulous analysis of the logic of Jeremiah and the author of Hebrews on 8:6-13 that Owen finds reason to reject Calvin’s view and return instead to Augustine’s.
Here then ariseth a difference of no small importance, namely, whether these are indeed two distinct covenants, as to the essence and substance of them, or only different ways of the dispensation and administration of the same covenant. And the reason of the difficulty lieth herein: We must grant one of these three things:
- That either the covenant of grace was in force under the old testament; or,
- That the church was saved without it, or any benefit by Jesus Christ, who is the mediator of it alone; or,
- That they all perished everlastingly.And neither of the two latter can be admitted…
I shall take it here for granted, that no man was ever saved but by virtue of the new covenant, and the mediation of Christ therein.
Suppose, then, that this new covenant of grace was extant and effectual under the old testament, so as the church was saved by virtue thereof, and the mediation of Christ therein, how could it be that there should at the same time be another covenant between God and them, of a different nature from this, accompanied with other promises, and other effects?
On this consideration it is said, that the two covenants mentioned, the new and the old, were not indeed two distinct covenants, as unto their essence and substance, but only different administrations of the same covenant, called two covenants from some different outward solemnities and duties of worship attending of them…
But on the other hand, there is such express mention made, not only in this, but in sundry other places of the Scripture also, of two distinct covenants, or testaments, and such different natures, properties, and effects, ascribed unto them, as seem to constitute two distinct covenants…
The judgment of most reformed divines is, that the church under the old testament had the same promise of Christ, the same interest in him by faith, remission of sins, reconciliation with God, justification and salvation by the same way and means, that believers have under the new. And whereas the essence and the substance of the covenant consists in these things, they are not to be said to be under another covenant, but only a different administration of it. But this was so different from that which is established in the gospel after the coming of Christ, that it hath the appearance and name of another covenant… See Calvin. Institut. lib. 2:cap. xi…
The Lutherans, on the other side, insist on two arguments to prove, that not a twofold administration of the same covenant, but that two covenants substantially distinct, are intended in this discourse of the apostle…
After setting up the dilemma and accurately representing the two possible orthodox positions, Owen gives his opinion.
[T]he Scripture doth plainly and expressly make mention of two testaments, or covenants, and distinguish between them in such a way, as what is spoken can hardly be accommodated unto a twofold administration of the same covenant. The one is mentioned and described, Exodus 24:3-8, Deuteronomy 5:2-5, — namely, the covenant that God made with the people of Israel in Sinai; and which is commonly called “the covenant,” where the people under the old testament are said to keep or break God’s covenant; which for the most part is spoken with respect unto that worship which was peculiar thereunto. The other is promised, Jeremiah 31:31-34, 32:40; which is the new or gospel covenant, as before explained, mentioned Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24. And these two covenants, or testaments, are compared one with the other, and opposed one unto another, 2 Corinthians 3:6-9; Galatians 4:24-26; Hebrews 7:22, 9:15-20.
These two we call “the old and the new testament.” Only it must be observed, that in this argument, by the “old testament,” we do not understand the books of the Old Testament, or the writings of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets, or the oracles of God committed then unto the church… for this old covenant, or testament, whatever it be, is abrogated and taken away, as the apostle expressly proves, but the word of God in the books of the Old Testament abideth for ever.
Owen understood very well what the central issue was: how to define the Old Covenant. Owen concludes, with the Lutherans and against Calvin, that Jer 31:31-34, 2 Cor 3:6-9, Gal 4:24-26, and Hebrews 7:22, 9:5-20 use the term “Old covenant” properly, not improperly. They define what the Old Covenant is. It is “the covenant that God made with the people of Israel in Sinai” in contrast to the “gospel covenant,” according to the authority of Scripture.
Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than a twofold administration of the same covenant merely, to be intended. We must, I say, do so, provided always that the way of reconciliation and salvation was the same under both. But it will be said, —and with great pretense of reason, for it is that which is the sole foundation they all build upon who allow only a twofold administration of the same covenant, —’That this being the principal end of a divine covenant, if the way of reconciliation and salvation be the same under both, then indeed are they for the substance of them but one.’ And I grant that this would inevitably follow, if it were so equally by virtue of them both. If reconciliation and salvation by Christ were to be obtained not only under the old covenant, but by virtue thereof, then it must be the same for substance with the new. But this is not so; for no reconciliation with God nor salvation could be obtained by virtue of the old covenant, or the administration of it, as our apostle disputes at large, though all believers were reconciled, justified, and saved, by virtue of the promise, whilst they were under the covenant…. the covenant of grace is called “the new covenant,”
Owen again pinpoints the central issue: Calvin’s first argument for the unity of the Old and the New from the salvation of the patriarchs. He recognizes the error in Calvin’s logic. It is false to argue that because an Israelite was saved, therefore the Old and the New are one. The correct inference, following Augustine, is that the Israelite was saved by the New covenant.
The greatest and utmost mercies that God ever intended to communicate unto the church, and to bless it withal, were enclosed in the new covenant. Nor doth the efficacy of the mediation of Christ extend itself beyond the verge and compass thereof; for he is only the mediator and surety of this covenant.
Owen also agreed with Augustine and the Lutherans that the Old Covenant was limited to temporal blessings.
This covenant thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. All that lived under the administration of it did attain eternal life, or perished for ever, but not by virtue of this covenant as formally such. It did, indeed, revive the commanding power and sanction of the first covenant of works; and therein, as the apostle speaks, was “the ministry of condemnation,” 2 Corinthians: 3:9; for “by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified.” And on the other hand, it directed also unto the promise, which was the instrument of life and salvation unto all that did believe. But as unto what it had of its own, it was confined unto things temporal. Believers were saved under it, but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works.
In conclusion, Owen denied that the Old and New covenants are of the same substance.
This is the nature and substance of that covenant which God made with that people; a particular, temporary covenant it was, and not a mere dispensation of the covenant of grace.
Owen was at liberty to disagree with the reformed view and instead affirm that Jeremiah, Paul, and the author of Hebrews correctly identified the Old Covenant because refuting the Anabaptists was not his chief concern. One could say exegeting Hebrews was. Owen did not face any significant Anabaptist presence in England in his day. He did, however, encounter many Particular (“reformed”) Baptists, who were altogether different than Calvin’s Anabaptists. Rather than “frantic,” “hairbrained,” “crazy zealot,” “lunatic,” “drunkard,” “heretical” “vermin” who were “enemies of God and of the human race” Owen found co-laborers for Christ, common allies in Congregationalism’s view of the church as a gathering of visible saints, and fellow-sufferers in Non-Conformity. He even found among these baptists a preacher so powerful that Owen told the King of England he would “willingly relinquish all [his] learning” if only he could “possess the tinker’s ability for preaching.” He has been described as “a friend of baptists.” Working alongside baptists in government-appointed committees, “Owen likely discovered that his new colleagues were actually more orthodox than he had suspected, and indeed that their position, especially in ecclesiological terms, was far closer to his than was that of the Presbyterian party with whom he had formerly been linked.”
His Vindication of a Treatise on Schism in 1657 refused to admit that those who renounced and repeated the baptism they received as infants should be described as schismatic. In the face of widespread criticism, Owen defended baptists from the charge of repeating the Donatist heresy… Owen refused to criticize them. Time and time again, Owen defended baptists from their critics.
Refuting credobaptism simply was not the concern for Owen that it was for Calvin and the 16th century reformed.
Neither was refuting credobaptism a concern for the 17th century Particular Baptists. They thus came to the same conclusions as Owen regarding the Old and New covenants. Nehemiah Coxe, the probable editor of the Second London Baptist Confession (1677), wrote one of the few systematic particular baptist treatments of covenant theology (as opposed to a merely polemical work). He wrote on covenants in general, the Covenant of Works, the Noahic Covenant, and the Abrahamic Covenant. But when he came to the Old and New Covenants, he felt no need to write his own treatment.
That notion (which is often supposed in this discourse) that the Old Covenant and the New do differ in substance, and not in the manner of their administration only, doth indeed require a more large and particular handling to free it from those prejudices and difficulties that have been cast upon it by many worthy persons, who are otherwise minded. I designed to have given a further account of it in a discourse of the covenant made with Israel in the Wilderness, and the state of the church under the Law. But when I had finished this, and provided some materials also for what was to follow, I found my labour for the clearing and asserting of that point, happily prevented, by the coming for of Dr. Owen’s 3d vol. upon the Hebrews. There it is discussed at length and the objections that seem to lie against it are fully answered, especially in the exposition of the eighth chapter.
This position goes by the name of “1689 Federalism” today, in reference to the Second London Baptist Confession, popularly referred to as the 1689 London Baptist Confession.
We have seen that Augustine offered an orthodox interpretation of the Old and New covenants as two distinct, contrasting covenants. This view was held in various forms through the middle ages and was continued by the Lutherans. Andrew A. Woolsey notes that “Of all the fathers, the favourite of the Reformers was Augustine. John T. McNeill says that ‘Calvin’s self-confessed debt to Augustine is constantly apparent’ throughout the Institutes, and he proves his point in the “Author and Source Index” by listing 730 references to the Bishop of Hippo’s works.” However, Calvin and the reformed tradition departed from Augustine on the question of the Old and New covenants in an attempt to defend infant baptism. This led them into various tensions and inconsistencies and required Calvin to argue that the Old Covenant was something other than “the whole system of religion delivered by the hand of Moses.” These problems were eventually resolved when Owen rejected their innovations and returned to Augustine’s historic interpretation.
Calvin never offered an argument against 1689 Federalism’s view of the Old and New Covenants. Rather, he called its observations very shrewd and “most correct,” affirming 1689 Federalism’s belief that Old Testament saints were members of the New covenant, going so far as to say it is “the real solution to the problem.”
Are the promises of eternal life “to be included under the name of Old Testament”? Augustine and Owen said no. Calvin said they are correct if we define “Old Testament” according to “those passages of Jeremiah and Paul.” But Calvin chose not to do so. Instead, he argued that the Old Testament should be defined as the Law, in contrast to the Gospel, together with the Gospel. In other words, Calvin rejected Scripture’s definition of the Old Testament in favor of a self-contradictory definition of his own, all in an effort to defend infant baptism. And whenever this led him into further contradictions, he abandoned his definition and returned to Augustine’s – which was Jeremiah’s and Paul’s. It would thus appear that a biblical understanding of the Old and New covenants requires one to retain the aspects of Calvin’s interpretation that coincide with Augustine’s, and discard the rest.
 Andrew A. Woolsey ”The Covenant in the Church Fathers,” Haddington House Journal, 2003; 38.
 ibid, 40
 Augustine, A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter, ch. 36, 41. Augustine, A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius, ch. 14.
 Augustine, A Treatise Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, bk. III ch. 7
 ibid, III.11
 A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter, ch. 40
 Woolsey, 42-43
 Pentiuc, Eugen J. The Old Testament in Eastern Orthodox Tradition. Oxford UP, 2014, 38
 A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius, ch. 13
 Pentiuc, 38.
 Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.
 Melanchthon, Loci (1521), 120-121. Quoted in Moon, 79.
 Joshua Moon, Restitutiuo ad Integrum: An ‘Augustinian’ Reading of Jeremiah 31:31-34 in Dialogue with the Christian Tradition (PhD dissertation, St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, 2007), 86.
 ibid, 88-89.
 Bullinger, “Brief Exposition,” 120. Quoted in Moon, 89.
 Moon, 93-94.
 ibid, 94.
 Calvin, John (2011-01-28). Calvin: The Institutes of the Christian Religion (best navigation with Direct Verse Jump) (p. 677). OSNOVA. Kindle Edition. 2.10.1. Editor’s note: “The French is, “Veu qu’ils pensent qu notre Seigneur l’ait voulu seulement engraisser enterre comme en une auge, sans seperance aucune de l’immortalité celeste;” — seeing they think that our Lord only wished to fatten them on the earth as in a sty, without any hope of heavenly immortality.”
 Galen Johnson The Development of John Calvin’s Doctrine of Infant Baptism in Reaction to the Anabaptists (Mennonite Quarterly Review, Vol. 73, No. 4, Oct. 1999), 808. “Calvin lived in an era of theological confusion, and despite his tireless efforts to promulgate orderliness, he did not always sharply distinguish among non-magisterial reformers or “radical” groups who saw distinctions among themselves”. Hans Rudolf Lavater Calvin, Farel, and the Anabaptists: On the Origins of the Brieve Instruction of 1544 (Mennonite Quarterly Review, Vol. 88, July 2014, trans. John D. Roth), 323-324 “According to Karl H. Wyneken, Calvin used these labels to characterize ‘radicals‛ in general, even though, as George H. Williams has made clear, the terms did not provide a clear profile of his opponents. In the words of Williams, ‘the Radical Reformation was a loosely interrelated congeries of reformations and restitutions which, besides the Anabaptists of various types, included Spiritualists and spiritualizers of varying tendencies, and the Evangelical Rationalists, largely Italian in origin.‛” Willem Balke Calvin and the Anabaptist Radicals (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), 2. “It should be observed that it is not easy to characterize the Anabaptists or to distinguish them accurately from other Radicals such as the Spiritualists, the Fanatics, and the Antitrinitarians. The radicalism of the sixteenth century was a very complex phenomenon. Scholarly discussions concerning it offer so many different interpretations that we cannot expect a common opinion to emerge in Anabaptist scholarship in the near future.”
 Balke, 31.
 Alejandro Zorzin Reformation Publishing and Anabaptist Propaganda: Two Contrasting Communication Strategies for the Spread of the Anabaptist Message in the Early Days of the Swiss Brethren (Mennonite Quarterly Review, Issue 82, Oct. 2008), 503-516.
 Balke, 12.
 Lavater, 331.
 Lavater, 332.
 Balke, 213.
 ibid, 121.
 “[T]he young republic [Geneva] was being compromised and threatened. The conflicting parties were of approximately equal strength. The Reformation was barely a reality; many within the city did not respect it, while many outside the city slandered it. There was a legitimate fear in Europe that the rebellious Geneva would become the home for Anabaptism and anarchism. Many felt that the emperor should take strong measures against Geneva, as he had done in Munster…” Balke, 75. According to Calvin, “They destroy the unity of the church and discredit the evangelical doctrine in the eyes of government. They are thus a danger for the pursuit of the Reformation.” Balke, 331.
 “When Calvin, traveling through, stopped briefly in Geneva, Farel called on him for help. He put the call squarely to Calvin and impressed on him that God would curse him if he
did not stay. Farel swore that Calvin was the man to complete the work of reformation in Geneva. Calvin himself acknowledged that he agreed to stay because he was ‘overcome with fear.’” Balke, 76. “[O]ur colleagues think that a refutation is needed… They ask you, for God’s sake, that you take on this task… I suppose that we could ask someone else to accept this service, but tell us please: who could we find who could take up such a task… with your argumentative gifts or who could accomplish it as artfully as you?” Farel’s letter to Calvin, quoted in Lavatory, 333-334.
 Johnson, 804 “In this preface (1557), Calvin recalled that the French government of Francis I persecuted only those considered to be “Anabaptists and seditious persons,” but among them were many whom Calvin considered “faithful and holy.” Thus, Calvin wrote, “This was the consideration which induced me to publish my Institute of the Christian Religion. My objects were, first, to prove that these reports were false and calumnious, and thus to vindicate my brethren, whose death was precious in the sight of the Lord.” John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, trans. James Anderson (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1993), 1:xli-xlii (cf. McGrath, Lifeof John Calvin, 76). Indeed, Calvin‟s prefatory letter to Francis in the Institutes (dated August 1, 1535) pressed this very point.” Lavater, 327 “In his Commentary on the Psalms of 1557, Calvin clarified that the actual motivation for the Institutes was the ‘Anabaptists [anabaptistes] and rebels, who with their delusions and erroneous teachings destroy not only religion but also political order.‛” Balke, 70-71 “The fact that the Roman Catholic Church and the French government had lumped the reformers in one category with the Anabaptists moved Calvin to bring out very sharply his differences with the Anabaptists… Finally, of special importance was Calvin’s role in the Institutes as the defender on behalf of his French fellow believers, pleading their innocence against the charges that they were Catabaptists who were dangerous to the state.” Balke, 290 “Since Munster, the charge that the reformers were a danger to the state, just like those Anabaptists, touched a very sore spot with Calvin.”
 See Lavater, 328-330 and Balke, 73-95.
 Balke, 94.
 Balke, 99.
 Balke, 312.
 G. Schrenk, Gottesreich und Bund im älteren Protestantismus vornehmlich bei Johannes Coccejus (Gutersloh, 1923), pp. 36f. Cited in Balke, 311-312.
 Balke, 221.
 Balke, 97.
 Calvin says “The ground of controversy is this: our opponents hold that the land of Canaan was considered by the Israelites as supreme and final happiness, and now, since Christ was manifested, typifies to us the heavenly inheritance; whereas we maintain that, in the earthly possession which the Israelites enjoyed, they beheld, as in a mirror, the future inheritance which they believed to be reserved for them in heaven.” Institutes, 2.11.1
 Peter A. Lillback “Calvin’s Covenantal Response to the Anabaptist View of Baptism” The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, James B. Jordan, ed. (Geneva Divinity School, 1982), 221.
 ibid, 198.
 Institutes, 2.10.2. Johnson, 812 “While Calvin‟s exposition of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments in the Institutes is found largely in Book II (The Knowledge of God the Redeemer) rather than Book IV on the sacraments, one nonetheless observes that his treatment on Testamental unity first appeared at length in 1539, the same edition in which Calvin greatly expanded his defense of infant baptism. The two topics were integrally related”
 Institutes, 2.10.3
 Institutes, 2.10.3
 Institutes, 2.10.4
 Institutes, 2.10.7
 Institutes, 2.10.13
 A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius, ch. 14.
 Institutes, 2.10.23
 Institutes, 2.11.3
 Institutes, 2.11.4
 Institutes, 2.11.4
 Institutes, 2.11.1
 A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter, ch. 42
 Notice that Calvin here describes the ceremonies as accessories and appendages to the old covenant, the principal and body (substance?) of which is dead.
 Institutes, 2.11.7
 Institutes, 2.11.10
 Institutes, 2.11.7
 Institutes, 2.11.8
 Cf. Calvin’s commentary on Rom. 10:5 “The law has a twofold meaning; it sometimes includes the whole of what has been taught by Moses, and sometimes that part only which was peculiar to his ministration, which consisted of precepts, rewards, and punishments.”
 Institutes, 2.11.10
 Institutes, 2.11.7
 Institutes, 2.11.8
 Institutes, 2.7.1
 Compare with Witsius “Nor Formally the Covenant of Grace: Because that requires not only obedience, but also promises, and bestows strength to obey. For, thus the covenant of grace is made known, Jer. xxxii. 39. ‘and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever.’ But such a promise appears not in the covenant made at mount Sinai. Nay; God, on this very account, distinguishes the new covenant of grace from the Sinaitic, Jer. xxxi. 31-33. And Moses loudly proclaims, Deut xxix. 4. ‘yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.’ Certainly, the chosen from among Israel had obtained this. Yet not in virtue of this covenant, which stipulated obedience, but gave no power for it: but in virtue of the covenant of grace, which also belonged to them.” The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed), Vol. II, 187.
 Institutes, 2.11.8
 Compare with Bryan D. Estelle Leviticus 18:5 and Deuteronomy 30:1-14 in Biblical Theological Development: Entitlement to Heaven Foreclosed and Proffered (P & R Publishing, 2009), 128-130. “If one does not recognize this as a prophecy of the new covenant, then a host of unconvincing exegetical conclusions follow… Just as Leviticus 18:5 is taken up in later biblical allusions and echoes, so also is this Deuteronomy [30:6] passage. In Jeremiah 31:31-34, the language of the new covenant that was cloaked in the circumcision of heart metaphor is unveiled in this classic passage. I argued above that Deuteronomy 30:1-14 is a predictive prophecy of the new covenant, and, therefore, all that was implicit there becomes explicit in Jeremiah 31. In verse 31, Jeremiah says this will happen ‘in the coming days’ and in verse 33 he says ‘after these days’; both refer to the new covenant, messianic days.”
 Institutes, 2.10.7
 Moon, 114.
 In his commentary on Jeremiah 31, Calvin says “[T]he Fathers, who were formerly regenerated, obtained this favour through Christ, so that we may say, that it was as it were transferred to them from another source. The power then to penetrate into the heart was not inherent in the Law, but it was a benefit transferred to the Law from the Gospel…”
 Lillback, 218.
 Institutes, 2.11.9
 Calvin’s commentary on Hebrews 8:6.
 Commentary Heb. 8:10
 Commentary Heb. 8:10
 Commentary on Jer 31:33
 Moon, 119.
 Institutes, 2.11.10
 Institutes, 2.10.23
 A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius ch. 13
 ibid, ch. 14-15.
 Institutes, 2.11.10
 Moon, 120.
 Calvin’s definition of “the Law’ in Institutes, 2.7.1
 “There is no doubt but that the Prophet includes the whole dispensation of Moses when he says, ‘I have made with you a covenant which you have not kept.’” Calvin’s commentary on Hebrews 8:8
 Chapter 7, Paragraphs 5 and 6.
 Allen C. Guelzo, “John Owen, Puritan Pacesetter”, Christianity Today, 20, No. 17 (May 21, 1976), 14.
 John Owen “An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews: Hebrews 8:1-10:39” The Works of John Owen, vol. 22 (Johnstone & Hunter, 1855, ed. William H. Goold, “Books for the Ages” AGES Software, 2000), 84-89 (Heb. 8:6).
 Owen, 91-92 (Heb. 8:6).
 Owen, 92-93 (Heb. 8:6).
 Owen, 147 (Heb. 8:9).
 Owen, 103-104 (Heb. 8:6).
 Owen, 105 (Heb. 8:6).
 See Renihan, James M. Edification and Beauty: The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists, 1675-1705 (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008). Hulse, Erroll. Who Are the Puritans?: And What Do They Teach? (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2000), 188. Haykin, Michael A. G. Kiffin, Knollys and Keach: Rediscovering English Baptist Heritage (Leeds: Reformation Today, 1996). McGoldrick, James Edward. Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 2000). Belyea, G. “Origins of the Particular Baptists.” Themelios. 32, no. 3 (2007): 40-67.
 Lavater, 353.
 Andrew Thomson, John Owen, Prince of Puritans, (Fern, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1996), 54. Owen was referring to John Bunyan, whom he often went to hear preach.
 Crawford Gribben “John Owen, Baptism, and the Baptists” By Common Confession: Essays in Honor of James M. Renihan (Palmdale, CA: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2015).
 Nehemiah Coxe “A Discource of the Covenants that God made with men before the Law” Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ (Palmdale, CA: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2005), 30.
 see Moon.
 Woolsey, 37.
 “with regard to the holy fathers, it is to be observed, that though they lived under the Old Testament, they did not stop there, but always aspired to the New, and so entered into sure fellowship with it.” Institutes, 2.11.10
 Commentary Hebrews 8:10
I just came across this book today. It looks tremendous. It is Joshua N. Moon’s PhD thesis (University of St. Andrews, 2007).
The struggle to read Jeremiah 31:31-34 as Christian Scripture has a long and divided history, cutting across nearly every major locus of Christian theology. Yet little has been done either to examine closely the varieties of interpretation in the Christian tradition from the post-Nicene period to the modern era, or to make use of such interpretations as helpful interlocutors. This work begins with Augustine’s interpretation of Jer 31:31-34 as an absolute contrast between unbelief and faith, rather than the now-standard reading (found in Jerome) of a contrast between two successive religio-historical eras – one that governed Israel (the old covenant ) and a new era and its covenant inaugurated in the coming of Christ. Augustine s absolute contrast loosened the strict temporal concern, so that the faithful of any era were members of the new covenant. The study traces Augustine s reading of an absolute contrast in a few key moments of Christian interpretation: Thomas Aquinas and high medieval theology, then the 16th and 17th century Reformed tradition. The thesis aims at a constructive reading of Jer 31:31-34, and so the struggle identified in these moments in the Christian tradition is brought into dialogue with modern critical discussions from Bernhard Duhm to the present. Finally, the author turns to an exegetical argument for an Augustinian reading of the contrast of the covenants.
The study finds that Jer 31:31-34, read in its role in Jeremiah, contrasts Israel’s infidelity with a future idyllic faithfulness to YHWH: in the new covenant all will be as it always ought to have been. The contrast is thus a variant of Augustine’s proposal of two mutually exclusive standings before Yhwh. The study aims in this matter to contribute to the perennial exegetical, theological and ecclesial discussions of old and new covenants by examining a locus classicus in dialogue with oft-neglected discussions in the history of interpretation.
Note well: Moon is an advocate of the Federal Vision false gospel. He was tried in the PCA for his beliefs (though not convicted, just like all the other FV false teachers in the PCA). Note that in the end (after the historical survey), his own position diverges from Augustine (“a variant of Augustine’s proposal”). I assume his “variation” is that, unlike Augustine, he puts the New Covenant entirely into the final day of judgment (“future idyllic faithfulness”) where the “faithful” will be judged righteous by their works. This is because the Federal Vision rejects the visible/invisible church distinction in favor of the church militant/triumphant. Thus the triumphant church are those who have been faithful (works) and are therefore members of the New Covenant. Apparently his work builds upon the work of his father-in-law Robert S. Rayburn’s dissertation “The Contrast Between the Old and New Covenants in the New Testament” (Ph.D, Univ. of Aberdeen, 1978).
Both dissertations should be of interest to those studying 1689 Federalism (which is, as strongly as possible, opposed to the Federal Vision heresy).