Volume 36 - Issue 2

Canon as Tradition: The New Covenant and the Hermeneutical Question

By Mark R. Saucy


The relatively recent interest among evangelicals in engaging ancient Christian tradition is without question a welcome development. However, unlike earlier voices that valued the early post-apostolic church’s theologizing within the context of the reformation’s sola scriptura hermeneutic, recent voices appear to assign categories like necessity and normatively to a “patristic hermeneutic.”

The relatively recent interest among evangelicals in engaging ancient Christian tradition is without question a welcome development.1 However, unlike earlier voices that valued the early post-apostolic church’s theologizing within the context of the Reformation’s sola scriptura hermeneutic,2 recent voices appear to assign categories like necessity and normatively to a “patristic hermeneutic.” D. H. Williams, for example, writes in the introduction to Baker Academic’s Evangelical Ressourcement series, “If evangelicalism aims to be doctrinally orthodox and exegetically faithful to Scripture, it cannot do so without recourse to and integration of the foundational tradition of the early church.”3 This and similar claims for the mind of the Fathers being a kind of ground zero in the hermeneutical task,4 in my view have not sufficiently attended to the Bible’s own deep hermeneutical structure of the new covenant and the post-apostolic church’s legacy with it. To this end this essay makes three distinct claims:

  1.  The theology of the new covenant is central to the story of the Old and NT and so comprises the canonical tradition.
  2.  The patristic church did not pay sufficient attention to the canonical tradition of the new covenant.
  3. Therefore, by implication, the claims for the patristic church’s necessity and normativity in the hermeneutical question must be moderated accordingly.

For the apostles Jesus was no doubt the center of God’s Story (Eph 1:9–10), but he was not the beginning of it. That Story was a covenanted movement of God emerging from the OT that the NT canonical writers saw fulfilled in Jesus. It is not merely Jesus who was the center of the apostles’ thought, but Jesus as fulfillment of the new covenant that provides the hermeneutical key for understanding Scripture’s Story and the standard by which the church of any era, including the patristic, must be measured.

1. The Canonical Nature of the Apostolic New Covenant Hermeneutic

1.1. The Eclipse of the New Covenant in Biblical Theology

What do we mean by the new covenant? The locus classicus in Jer 31:31–34, together with its other prophetic enunciations, reveal the nucleus of provisions for which God’s people would look in the coming age. They are broadly categorized as:

  1. a new measure of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the human heart providing
  2. a divinely immanent impulse to know and obey Yahweh’s will that would
  3. make obsolete all mediation to fellowship with Yahweh himself, entailing radical changes in the functioning of the Law and the temple institution to which it was tied.5
  4. In continuity with the overarching covenant program of Scripture, especially the covenant made with Abraham, the prophets made clear that the inaugurator of the new covenant would be Yahweh’s anointed Servant and that the blessings of the covenant would reach beyond the individual’s heart to include
  5. a revived Israelite nation and
  6. a renewal of the creation itself.
  7. The basis of these provisions was Yahweh’s final resolution of the sin-problem in a gracious forgiveness of his peoples’ sin.7

While it might seem counterintuitive for biblical theology concerned with the NT corpus, the new covenant per se finds little heuristic value for modern practitioners of NT theology. I. Howard Marshall’s recent New Testament Theology may stand as a case in point. Only a brief footnote on page 719 is all that we are offered of the new covenant as the hermeneutic key to understanding the NT writers’ interpretation of Jesus: “The old covenant-new covenant distinction is not at all that prominent on the surface of the New Testament, but it seems to underlie Christian thinking on the understanding of the progress of salvation history.” But in this neglect of the new covenant, Marshall is in good company. Other NT theologies having little or no significant treatment of the new covenant include those by Ladd, Morris, Goppelt, Guthrie, and more recently Schreiner and Thielman.8

Part of the reason for this lack of attention to the new covenant Marshall does supply, namely, its relative rare appearance on the pages of the NT—indeed, just one mention by Jesus, a couple of times in Paul, and a few scant chapters in Hebrews. Another part of the reason also lies in the way scholarship has tended to isolate the Testaments and leave OT theology and NT theology as what Barr calls “separate blocks.”9 Fortunately for the discipline, there appears to be a revival of the view that the individual parts cannot be understood without grasping the whole and that grasping the meaning of the whole forces a review of the parts. Other voices are now calling for a more systematic treatment of the entire corpus of Scripture: “pan-biblical theology” (Gese), or “intermediate theology” (Scobie), or merely the one biblical theology as William Dumbrell calls it.10 Offering the same prospective for the new covenant as a longitudinal theme in Scripture are thinkers of theological method and hermeneutics like Vanhoozer and Dockery, who call evangelical theology to a “canon competence” above all as we exposit the glorious theology of the gospel for our day.11

1.2. The New Covenant in the New Testament

As the concept of the covenant being the organizing theme of OT theology again claims new advocates in the academy,12 I argue that the same needs to be taken up in the NT. Only a suggestive menu can be attempted here, but there is no doubt that more should be made of the new-covenant script as the bridge from the older testament that the writers of the NT travelled in their reflections and interpretation of Jesus of Nazareth. The fact that “new covenant” is rare terminology in the NT should not deflect us from seeing its magisterial highway running throughout the entire NT. Marshall is right: the new covenant underlies the canonical tradition’s account of the progress of salvation history.13

1.2.1 The New Covenant in Jesus

We begin our brief survey of the canonical new-covenant tradition with Jesus. His appearance in the Gospels as the preacher and worker of the deeds of the kingdom in every way hearkens to the prophetic new covenant.14 As the fulfillment of the Law (Matt 5:18), Jesus comes as the new Moses authoritatively delivering his own commandments.15 He is the unique Spirit-bearer and baptizer (Luke 4:16ff) who inaugurates the kingdom age characterized by a new work in the human heart (John 3:3–5) and new interiorized standards of Yahweh’s Torah (Mark 7:15).16 The presentation of the fatherhood of God and the new means by which the Father and he will dwell with his people establishes the covenant’s sonship ideal for the relationship between God and his people.17 Likewise, Jesus sidesteps the mediating temple cult as he presents himself as the new institution of atonement in the scandalous claim to forgive sins (e.g., Mark 1:41) and to stand as Lord of the temple sacralizing all times and all places (John 4:20–24). 18

The zenith of Jesus’ revelation of the new covenant—and its only explicit mention in the Gospel record—however, is the last-supper formula for the cup: “this is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20 cf. Mark 14:24).19 Matthew’s addition here of “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:28) is significant and leaves no doubt of the new-covenant predication of forgiveness of sins as the condition for all the blessings of the new age to be realized. There would be no new movement of God by his Spirit toward the creation, no interiorization of the Torah in the heart of God’s people, no restoration of Israelite sovereignty or renewed created order without a decisive movement against sin and the one who stood armed with its decree. Elsewhere the Gospel writers keenly show Jesus as Isaiah’s Suffering Servant who “bore the sins of many” (Isa 53:6, 12; cf. Mark 10:45; 14:24)—a note to the universal character of the Servant’s role as “light to the nations” (Isa 42:6; 49:7–8), and as the one who would bind the “strong man” who contended with God’s people (Isa 49:24–25; cf. Matt 12:44).20 The climax of divine resolution of the sin problem is reached at the cross when the veil of the temple that symbolized the mediated access to God in the old covenant tears top to bottom as the blood of the new covenant is shed.21 Thus it should be no surprise to us that in the complex of these momentous events a new meal is instituted from the hands of the new Moses for his new community.22

The significance of the new covenant’s appearance in the passion narratives is also marked by its correlation there with Jesus’ rhetorical motif of the kingdom of God. The covenant form of the language in Jesus’ words to his disciples in Luke 22:29, “I appoint unto you a kingdom,” has been duly noted by scholars,23 but beyond this, the promise of v. 30 that the disciples would share Jesus’ table in his kingdom (cf. Luke 22:18) and judge the twelve tribes of Israel retains the elements of the covenant and kingdom Story that began with Abraham and that would see fulfillment in all of the world through the people and land of Israel.24

This brief survey of the new covenant in the ministry of Jesus concludes as Jesus sends his disciples out with the kerygma of the new covenant. The Lukan Great Commission, “that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem,” (Luke 24:47) effectively links the new-covenant provision of repentance for forgiveness to the message the church carried throughout Acts (forgiveness [α??φεσις] at Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18; repentance [μετα?νοια] at Acts 5:31; 11:18; 13:24; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20.25 The new covenant’s Spirit, who makes rare appearance in the Synoptic Gospels, appears in Acts as the heart of the “promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4; 2:33) orchestrating the formation and growth of the church as well as its proclamation of the forgiveness of sin.26 The Spirit’s mission also proclaims hope for the nation of Israel to restore their function before the nations—only this time in Christ (Acts 1:6; 3:18, 21; 26:6–7).27 Finally, the new covenant interfaces with the kingdom-of-God motif in Acts because, like forgiveness of sins, the kingdom also functions as cipher for the early church’s proclamation.28

1.2.2. The New Covenant in Paul

The continued ritual remembrance of the Lord’s death and resurrection in the apostolic churches after Jesus demonstrates the abiding presence of the new-covenant matrix for the early church’s tradition. But with many NT theologians, we may ask, “How central can something be that does not appear all that often on the pages of the NT?” The writings of Paul are a case in point.

Of course, the proposed “centers” of Paul’s theology are nearly as broad as the list of those offering them,29 but the claim of the new covenant to this role can hardly be overlooked for this apostle, who considers himself the “minister of a new covenant”(2 Cor 3:6).30 The progress of the covenant-program stands behind Paul’s whole kerygma: he proclaims the mystery of Christ internalized to the believer, the advent of the eschatological gift of the Spirit, the reconciling righteousness of Christ’s cross, and the destiny of his countrymen.31

As with the Gospel-tradition, for Paul the person of Christ marks both the continuity and advance of the covenant-program. Both continuity and progress of the covenant shine in the “mystery” now revealed in Paul’s gospel. What was mere hope for Jeremiah and his people, “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col 1:27) is the dawn of a new age for Paul:

It is in light of this [Christ-Sinai parallel] that we are probably to understand his references to Christ being in him and living in him, the inwardness of the new covenant of Jeremiah’s hope is achieved for Paul through the indwelling Christ, the new Torah “written in the heart.” The Law within him is Christ in him; the indwelling Christ has replaced the old Torah written on tablets of stone and has become a Torah written within.32

Still connected to the past as its fulfillment, the participation of the believer’s life with Christ is also something truly new—a move from “holy religion to that of life”: “‘life in Christ,’ the ‘new life,’ that is the life of God himself communicated to his sons. . . . And that is something quite new.”33

The Spirit-letter or Spirit-law polarity in Paul’s writings illustrates his new-covenant thinking regarding the nature of Christian identity in the new age inaugurated by Christ. Paul makes the contrast clear in 2 Cor 3:1–6 and Gal 3–4, where he specifically puts it in terms of the two covenants. In answer to his Judaizing opponents who saw Christ as needing incorporation into the Law of Moses, Paul argues the opposite: the Law finds its fulfillment in Christ. And because the man Jesus fulfilled the Law, the new covenant has become a reality. The inherent limitations of an old covenant is undone as the required mediation by Moses, angels (cf. Gal 3:19), and the temple cult are now exchanged for the Law written “on the tablets of the human heart” (2 Cor 3:3), making the Spirit’s new temple in the believer’s body (1 Cor 6:19).34

The former covenant also in its limitations brought condemnation and death (2 Cor 3:7, 9), merely demonstrating—but not rectifying—the ravages of sin (Gal 3:10). But the forgiveness of sins provided in Christ’s cross was the new covenant’s way to righteousness abounding in glory (Rom 3:21–29; cf. 2 Cor 3:9).35 The cosmic victory of Christ’s cross achieved the new covenant’s defeat of the enemies who were armed themselves with the believer’s sins (Col 2:13–15). His blood removed the barrier to the full adoption of the believer as a new-covenant son or daughter (Col 1:19–22).36 For Paul, the new covenant was the means by which heaven’s order of salvation itself was near and available to the believer in Christ (Gal 4:21–31).37

The new covenant’s forgiveness also represents the means by which Paul’s countrymen according to the flesh would find their promised restoration as Yahweh’s national servant who would channel the blessings of the promise to the whole world. Rom 9–11 shows that in Christ the covenant promises to his people are not annulled, for God’s election is irrevocable (Rom 11:29); but the new exodus from sin’s bondage means that God’s plan for his people is still in force once they are found in Christ according to the new covenant’s promises: “And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Rom 11:27). Paul makes it clear that non-Jews are also now Abraham’s heirs by faith, but he is just as clear that Gentiles join and do not replace Israel in the future fulfillment of the promise made to them through Abraham:

Theologically [the replacement of Israel’s election by the Church’s] is an impossible position for it calls in question not only God’s wisdom and power, but his faithfulness. Thus the very meaning of covenant in the biblical sense is annulled. In the context of prophetic revelation berit invariably means God’s “unswerving loyalty to Israel” and stands as a sign and token for “the faithfulness of the unchanging God.” Israel, therefore, must remain the am Yahwe not because he deserves it, but because the God of Israel is a Covenant-keeping God.38

This radical shift that the gospel of Christ had meant for Paul did not, thus, sever him from his OT covenant- and kingdom-roots. Paul was no innovator; he was a Jew preaching the Jewish Scriptures aware that his proclaiming “Christ crucified” was the final crucial link of a chain of events mapped out in a straight line to him and his people from his forefather Abraham.

1.2.3. The New Covenant in Hebrews

In accord with the new-covenant tradition already seen in Paul and the Gospels, the writer to the Hebrews also centers the advance in the covenant storyline in the person and work of Jesus Christ.39 In explicit terms, the high priesthood of Christ introduces the first occurrence of διαθ?κη 7:22, and from there the extensive exposition of the new covenant follows in chapters 8–10; but it would be a mistake to subsume the covenant-theme to the priesthood or other cultic motifs also prominent in this epistle. As Lehne and others have rightly noted, the deeper inner logic of the covenant grounds the author’s portrayal of Jesus’ superior priesthood (chs. 8–10) and his superior revelation (1:1–3).40

It is by means of the covenant-concept that the author of Hebrews charts both the continuity and discontinuity called for by the advent of the new covenant. Both realities appear in the context of the author’s treatment of the disposition of the older covenant’s cult in the new priesthood of Christ. While Jeremiah anticipates the demise of the Mosaic cult in Jer 31:34,41 the new covenant’s superiority is clear specifically in regards to its provision to forgive sins (also noted in Jer 31:34).42 Gräbe and others have documented this in the strategic placement of the Jer 31 text in the author’s argument.43 The citations from Jer 31 in Heb 8:8–13 and 10:16–17 form an inclusio to the main soteriological section of the epistle, which has its key center in 9:15: “And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant . . . .”44 The new covenant’s superior handling of the sin-problem is the fundamental axis around which the writer argues for the correspondence, contrast, and superiority of the new covenant to the old throughout the epistle, especially in chapters 8–10.45

The new covenant order corresponds to the old:

  1. Both are based upon a sovereign act of God on behalf of his people (8:8–13).
  2. In both covenants God’s people are summoned as an assembly bound by God’s word (12:18–24).
  3. Both orders are similarly inaugurated by a bloody ceremony involving the death of the victim (9:15–22).
  4. Both require allegiance and obedience to God to gain a promised inheritance (9:15).

Contrast is marked most prominently by the author’s comparing the two priesthoods associated with the two covenant-orders:

  1. mortal priests with genealogies vs. one high priest who lives forever (7:3)
  2. appointment by fleshly Law or commandment vs. appointment by word of an oath (7:28)
  3. priests offering for their own sins vs. one who is sinless (9:14)
  4. daily earthly offerings vs. a superior heavenly ministry (9:25)
  5. patterns of heavenly things vs. the real heavenly things themselves (9:11)
  6. holy places made with hands vs. heaven itself (9:24)
  7. many annual entries vs. one final entry (9:11)
  8. limited access and barriers vs. the real presence of God (10:20)
  9. no final purgation of sin vs. final removal of sins (9:9; 10:1–2; 10:14; 10:18)
  10. animal sacrifice and blood vs. the sacrifice and blood of Christ himself (9:12)

Superiority of the new covenant’s order in the epistle also revolves around the forgiveness of sins and includes

  1. a superior appointment (7:21),
  2. a superior rule by an indissoluble life (7:16),
  3. a superior, infinite duration without succession (7:23–24),
  4. the superior nature of the Son, made perfect forever (7:28),
  5. a superior locus of ministry in heaven (9:24), and
  6. the superior offering of Christ’s own blood, one time, consummated in life and death, in submission to God’s will (10:9).

Gräbe puts it another way: “The two qualities that constitute the superiority of the covenant of ‘better promises’ are (1) it is heavenly in rank, because it is based on the ministry (λειτυργι?α) of the heavenly high priest; (2) unlike the Levitical cult, it is able (through Christ) to accomplish the ministry (λειτυργι?α) of forgiveness of sins.”46

It is in the new covenant’s superiority that the author gains most traction for the paraenetic intentions he has for his readers, which are reviewed and emphasized in the portions of the letter following 10:18. Here the covenant appears first in the warning of 10:26–31, where the author, having just pointed out the significance of the better (new) covenant, warns of the seriousness of falling away from it (10:29). In 12:24, again the readers are reminded of their relationship to “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood,” which at once recalls the better sacrifice of the better covenant they enjoy in Christ.47 Finally, in 13:20, the “blood of the covenant” appears in a positive way as the basis for Jesus’ resurrection. The new salvation order established in the atoning blood of the superior high priest is a heavenly resurrected order.48

The continuity and discontinuity of the canonical tradition is thus reiterated by means of the author to the Hebrews’s analysis of the cult under the old and new orders. The new covenant inaugurated by Christ continues the divine intention to redeem the creation from sin that was earlier found in Israel’s covenant-heritage at Exod 24:8 and Lev 16.49 However, “by stressing the element of newness and drawing contrast to the former system, the writer succeeds in presenting Christ as the permanent, definitive, superior replacement of the same heritage.”50

1.3. Summary: The Continuity and Discontinuity of
the New Covenant in the Canonical Tradition

As is clear from this brief survey of the canonical tradition, Johannes Behm’s assessment accurately reflects the view of the NT writers: “Jesus conceived of His Messianic work fulfilled in His death from the standpoint of the fulfillment of prophecy of the eschatological διαθ?κη.”51 In this fulfillment, Jesus truly continues the Great Covenant Story of restoration of the creation promised to Abraham back to the earliest parts of Israel’s Scriptures. But he also advances that Story by moving it beyond and cancelling earlier transitional elements. The final resolution of the sin-problem accomplished in Christ’s cross made obsolete earlier mediated approaches to God in the temple cult. With the life of God’s own Spirit pulsing within, the believer in Jesus has new knowledge of the Holy One of Israel as Father, giving the new, true power of full acceptance and sonship from within that enables obedience and holy living. As heirs of God’s irrevocable promises, the blessing of all flesh could be expected in the future restoration of Israel itself. Here then is the canon of Scripture’s tradition of the new covenant’s continuity and discontinuity that founded the church by the apostles’ inspired witness. It remains now to assess this legacy of the new-covenant tradition in the early patristic church to determine to what extent that tradition reflects the canonical tradition’s record of continuity and discontinuity in the new covenant.

2. New Covenant Continuity and Discontinuity in the Early Patristic Tradition

2.1. Continuity in the Tradition of the Second-Century Church

It is in the dialogue with those also claiming to be Abraham’s heirs (i.e., Jews) where the early post-apostolic church first reflects seriously on the concept of the covenant. The works of the Apostolic Fathers make no mention of either the new covenant or of the locus classicus of the new covenant in Jeremiah. Neither do they appear to have any knowledge of the new covenant from the Eucharistic tradition of Jesus and Paul.52 However, early Christian polemic with Jews about who were the real people of God tended to frame everything in covenant-terms.53

2.1.1. Barnabas

The first Christian writer in this discussion was the Alexandrian writer of Barnabas. In Barnabas, Christians indeed enjoy a covenant relationship with God, but the covenant they have is not “new.” In fact for this writer the reality is that there is only one covenant, so the question of “new” and “old” is mooted altogether. In Barnabas, the Jews were never members of the covenant-program because of their idolatry at Sinai. Christians are the true children of the covenant since they alone fulfill the covenant’s spiritual requirements. Thus, Christians are the only ones who can lay claim to being the people of God.54

2.1.2. Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho

The awkward exegetical and theological attempt at covenant self-definition in Barnabas reaches greater sophistication by the mid-second century in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho. Here also in anti-Jewish polemic is the first real accounting for a two-covenant system that resembles the canonical tradition’s presentation of redemptive history.55 However, Justin’s account of the new covenant break significantly with the new-covenant canonical tradition as he makes clear that Christians are the true people of God, the new Israel, who replace ethnic Israel in God’s covenant program. Skarsaune notes the substance of Justin’s deviation from Paul:

whereas in Paul the Gentiles are added to the true Israel of Jewish believers to share in their inheritance, in Justin it is the other way around: the few Jewish believers are added to the church of the Gentiles to share in their inheritance. This shift of perspective had far-reaching consequences. While in Paul the Gentiles share in the promises given to true Israel, in Justin the promises are transferred from the Jewish people to the church of the Gentiles. This church replaces the Jewish people. It takes over the inheritance of Israel while at the same time disinheriting the Jews. 56

Isa 2:2–4 is the key passage for Justin and the church tradition that follows to show the church as “the mountain of the Lord” and sole proprietor of the covenant’s continuity.57 The replacement of literal Israel in Justin extends to all aspects of the Mosaic covenant where the church, Jesus, and the cross can now be spiritually found. In Christ, Christians spiritually fulfill all of the washings, fastings, Sabbaths, and other stipulations given to Israel (Dial. 29.2).

The irony of Justin’s account of redemptive history is how it effectively de-historicizes the OT and the new-covenant Story in the church’s developing tradition. Jocz notes the situation for the covenant Story:

Many of the Church Fathers understood the novum of the gospel to constitute a break in the story of election. The implication being that because God failed with the Jews, he transferred his favours to the Gentiles. Thus Lactantius literally says that God “changed” his covenant from Israel to the “foreign nations” (Lactantius, Div. Instit. IV, 11).58

The result is similarly observed in Origen, whose allegorical program also utterly effaces the historical dimension of the covenant when he says, “I do not call this law an Old Testament if I understand it spiritually. The law becomes an Old Testament only for those who want to understand it carnally.”59

The transition from Gentile inclusion to a complete Jewish exclusion from the covenant that was started in Justin became the theological and hermeneutical fund for what Jaroslav Pelikan has aptly termed the “re-judaization” of the church in the early centuries.60 Re-judaizing patterns of praxis and doctrine that eventually prevailed and shaped the patristic tradition along with the numbing effects such a pattern had for Christian self-identity and treatment of the OT are observed by Neve, who notes of this period of church history how

[g]radually Old Testament institutions—especially the priesthood and the sacrificial idea—came to be looked upon as emblematic of the Christian congregation. Such a conception and interpretation of the Old Testament naturally destroyed any historical insight into it. With few exceptions this conception and its application continued to prevail until the Reformation.61

By means of a “spiritual Israel” hermeneutic, then, the patristic tradition does engage the discontinuity in the canonical covenant program, but the end result for continuity is ultimately historically dysfunctional as the OT Story of Israel is reduced in the Fathers to a mere quarry for types of Christ and the church.62

2.1.3. Irenaeus

The most perceptive and thorough-going thinker regarding the new covenant in the early Church was Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons. In polemics against Gnostics and Marcionites, Irenaeus followed his predecessor Justin by writing often of the one God’s two-covenant program of redemptive history and also taking up Justin’s lead about the Gentile church supplanting Israel.63

It is, however, in his theological reflection about the two covenants that Irenaeus breaks new ground in the matters of the new covenant’s continuity with the prior covenant of Moses. Unlike Justin, who tended to see continuity only by Christ’s shadowy presence in the old covenant, Irenaeus maintains something closer to Paul and the canonical tradition. He notes the common root of both covenants in Abraham and sees Christ as the cornerstone of the building being constructed from the righteous of both covenants (Haer. 4.25.1). The righteous and prophets and patriarchs of the older covenant through their faith also dealt with Christ and had their sins remitted through him just as the believer does today (Haer. 4.27.2). Similarly, both covenants reveal at their core “the precepts of an absolutely perfect life” in their call to love God and neighbor (Haer. 4.12.3). So, Irenaeus argues, it must be clear to all that both old and new covenants, although directed to two peoples at two different times, are the work of one and the same God in the divine plan of the recapitulatio mundi (Haer. 4.12.3; cf. 3.12.11).64

In Irenaeus the church had now a fully integrated operation of the new and the old covenants in one history of salvation that was still sensitive to the historical distinctives of both old and new covenants. Unlike most of his contemporaries and those who followed after him, he is not yet so far down the re-judaizing road of Christian supersessionism that continuity in the canonical covenant Story comes at the expense of historical distinctives.65

2.2. Discontinuity in the Tradition of the Second-Century Church

2.2.1. Irenaeus

Irenaeus’ view of the contrast in the old and new covenants may serve also as the starting point considering the new covenant’s discontinuities in the patristic tradition. This is because again in Irenaeus we are at something of a highpoint in earliest post-apostolic Christian reflection regarding the new covenant’s novum in two particular areas: his attention to Paul and his understanding of the new covenant itself.

Early Christian neglect—passive neglect at best—of the apostle who thought of himself as a “minister of a new covenant” is a well-documented phenomenon in scholarship of the last century.66 Pauline scholars lament the apostle’s virtual “unintelligibility” to the early post-apostolic Church,67 but we must ask, “At what particular point was Paul so hard to understand?” It is no secret that Paul was the darling of the heretical Valentinians and Marcionites, but was it only guilt by association that made him damaged goods to the church? Perhaps it was that he had too thoroughly enriched the lexical arsenal of Gnostics with the “spiritual” and “soulish” categories of his anthropology?

Several lines of thought issuing from Irenaeus’ accounting for Paul suggest that it was the apostle’s presentation of the new covenant’s novum of forgiveness that made him harder to digest for the moralizing orthodox and such a delight to the heretics. First, Irenaeus’ explicit program was to rescue Paul from the heretics’ madness and misrepresentation: “to examine his opinion, to expound the apostle, and to explain whatever passages have received other interpretations” (Haer. 4.41.3–4). Second, from what is known about the Gnostic and Marcionite use of Paul, it is in his account of the discontinuity, of what is new, in Jesus that made Paul so attractive to them.68 For Marcion, Paul was the only true apostle.69 Third, Irenaeus’ own exposition of Paul’s “centers” (Haer. 3.16.3 and 4.24.1) reveals that the advance of salvation history from Adam to Christ, corruption to incorruption, is the nucleus around which his other principle themes of monotheism and the incarnation orbit.70

Emphasizing the theology of history as Irenaeus does, it is no surprise that he develops the content of the new covenant particularly in its contrast to the old. For him, the new covenant “renovates man and sums all things up in itself” (Haer. 3.11.8), and as such, the key concept is freedom. “Covenant of liberty” is a favorite description of the new covenant (Haer. 3.13.14; 4.33.14; 4.34.3; 4.16.5) that is closely linked for Irenaeus to the new present time of adoption in contrast to the age of slavery under the “laws of bondage” in the old covenant (Haer. 4.22.1; 3.21.4). The new age of adoption means something more is present in the new-covenant age than merely a new kind of spiritual law administered just like the old law. Rather, like the apostle Paul he aimed to exposit, for Irenaeus the new-covenant humanity has not a new law with new rewards and punishments (i.e., a new religion), but a new life in a new spiritual relationship to God—a relationship that is dominated by love and freedom, not fear and slavery.71

Even if the question of theological supersessionism of the new-covenant provisions for national Israel is set to the side, it is the understanding of the new condition and new administration of the covenant relationship in which Irenaeus seems to rise above his environment and touch on the struggle the early church’s tradition had with the new covenant’s discontinuity. The re-judaizing tendencies, the advocacy of the new covenant’s novum by the heretics, and the likelihood that the church’s first teachers after the apostles were themselves converted Jews72 all give force to continuing traces in the church’s tradition of the moralistic mindset Paul addresses in his letter to the Galatians—a mindset that does not grasp fully the new covenant’s discontinuity with the old.73 And while even Irenaeus himself may not have fully exploited Paul because of the apostle’s gnostic associations,74 the novelty of his historical focus for the covenant Story of the changed nature of the divine-human relationship still demonstrates how such notions had become dimmed in the patristic tradition.

2.2.2. Four Divergences from the New-Covenant Canonical Tradition

The moralistic leanings (i.e., the tendency to express the genius of the new covenant in terms of reward, merit, and punishment) and the developing supersessionism document the dulling of the new covenant’s genius in the patristic tradition. Because of this moralistic motif, Barnett bluntly states that when we leave the canonical tradition in church history, “we are stepping into another world.”75

The same point is affirmed by students of early Gnosticism. For example, van den Broek claims, “The gnostics experienced their salvation as a gift of grace which made them free of the world and put them right away into the new life. They understood Paul better than most of their fellow-Christians, who tended to express salvation in the ethical categories of merit and reward.”76

As van den Broek’s claim for the deficient understanding of the doctrine of grace in patristic tradition has been taken up and argued by others like Drewery and McGrath,77 there are other ways in which the divergence of the mentum patrorum from the new-covenant canonical tradition may be noted. I offer four that are both early and dominate in the patristic tradition.

All four represent what one might call a “dimming” of the fundamental grace of forgiveness of sins provided in the new covenant that was explicated and proclaimed in the documents of the apostolic church (see §1 above). To be sure, one must tread carefully at this point and not overstate the measure of patristic divergence to the new-covenant tradition as is typical in Protestantism. Clearly, the catholic church was the heir of the biblical tradition, but to assert it was unaffected by its social and historical context would be unjustified as well. The following represent particular early ecclesial emphases and praxis of the developing patristic tradition that, in addition to supersessionism, betray a less than full assimilation of the covenant canonical tradition.78

First, dominance of the Christus Victor model of the atonement in the early patristic tradition means that things other than forgiveness of sins occupy center stage. Aulen notes this in his remarks concerning Irenaeus: “Irenaeus, in common with other Eastern theologians, places relatively little emphasis on sin, because he regards salvation as the bestowal of life rather than of forgiveness, and as a victory over mortality rather than of forgiveness, and as a victory over mortality rather than over sin.”79 As Burns has demonstrated, the pattern seen in Irenaeus continues to mark the Eastern Church’s economy of salvation, but Augustine, moved through his deep study of Paul, characterized the different focus that developed among the Latins.80

Second, the second-century church tended to dissipate the power of Christ’s cross to other mediating objects and human moral striving. Thus, they displaced the church’s canonical new-covenant tradition, namely, that the Suffering Servant’s sacrifice resolved the sin-problem.81 This development applied especially to the growing sacramental theology that also tended to color the sacraments in quasi-magical tones as Lampe’s study of baptism clearly shows. He notes how in the patristic tradition

the seal of the Spirit, received in Baptism, begins to be conceived in quasi-magical terms as a mark impressed upon the soul by the due performance of the baptismal ceremonial, a stamp whose purpose is to safeguard the recipient from the hostile powers of the Devil, and preserve him in soul and body unharmed for the enjoyment of immortality.82

Proliferation of sacramentals and other alien elements in the worship and theological tradition of the fathers reflect similar divergence from the new-covenant tradition’s trajectory of the all-sufficiency of Christ’s cross. It is as N. T. Wright has observed: when one presently lacks assurance that their sins are forgiven because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone and that their hope is sure and certain, then “all the things of Roman theology to which true Protestantism rightly objects grow from this root.”83

Third, as Wright’s statement suggests, the ecclesiology of the church’s tradition developed along vectors alien to the canonical tradition’s new-covenant ideals. Worship forms and ecclesial institutions gradually reinstituted mediation to the worshipper’s access to the Father, who had rent the temple veil in the cross of his Son (Matt 27:51). Holy buildings, holy hierarchies, and holy calendars began to constrain what the Spirit had poured into the soul of every believer according to the prophets’ expectation for a coming age. According to Jesus and Paul, this expectation “now is” in the inaugurated new covenant (John 4:22–24; Col 2:20–22). Accordingly, the ecclesial praxis represented on the pages of the NT is different from that of the old covenant and the church tradition that had re-judaized itself by those older patterns: it is more lay than clerical, congregational than hierarchical, and voluntary than professional.84 The charismatic power of the Spirit authorizes a more democratized ministry where each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, an interpretation (1 Cor 14:26). Thus, laid bare is a faulty assumption behind the charge often made that the canonical tradition is materially insufficient for the needs of the church’s worship. In actuality with new-covenant fullness, matters of form and ritual so necessary for an older day are decidedly secondary to the freedom of worship that is in the Spirit and the new truth of Christ (John 4:23).85

Fourth, the growing institutionalization of the patristic tradition also correlated well to a perception of God quite alien to the new-covenant canonical tradition. Whereas the new-covenant Story climaxes in the unbroken communion between creature and Creator provided in the forgiveness of sins, God the Father in the patristic tradition waxes again strangely distant and becomes shrouded in the mist of absoluteness, impassibility (α?π?θεια) and apophatic discourse as the maxims of Neoplatonism are enlisted to talk of him and battle pagans.86 God’s nature as love, revealed in the cross of the incarnate Son, gets light play in the Fathers compared to the du jour pagan neoplatonist agenda of divine transcendence, unity, and creation ex nihilo and where the Son appears as the incarnation of the Father’s reason.87 Justin, as Grant notes, defines God just as he did as a Platonist: eternally immutable and the source of all existence. God has no name, for a name is applied by someone “elder” than the one named; his names are merely derived from his relations with man and the cosmos.88 Albinus uses the school definitions when he asserts that the human mind can reach God only by means of abstraction or negation, analogy, or gradual ascension.89 The same goes for the Aristides, Theophilus of Antioch, and the apophatic description of God given by Athenagoras: ungenerated, invisible, impassible, incomprehensible, and immeasurable.90 These and many other examples establish Pelikan’s claim that the patristic doctrine of God is one of “the most reliable indications of the continuing hold of Greek philosophy on Christian theology.”91

2.3. Summary

The “spiritual Israel” hermeneutic of Justin that had wrestled the OT from the Jews bore in the patristic tradition certain implications for the continuity and discontinuity of the canonical covenant-Story. First, it tended to de-historicize the new covenant’s continuity for the nation of Israel. The application of the new covenant to Gentiles of the church functioned effectively to unelect the Jews as if universality of the kingdom excluded out of hand a place for any Jewish ethnicity.92

Second, the discontinuity of the new covenant’s novum in the radical forgiveness of sins was blunted as the patristic tradition languished under older forms of religion and theology. The challenge the apostle Paul represented to the self-identity of his own generation continued to haunt the reflections of those who followed after and the stunning resolution to the problem of sin provided in the cross of Christ became diluted with notions and forms of an earlier time. The charisma of the Spirit, now poured out for the inauguration of the eschatological joy, became shackled in the institutional forms more characteristic of a day that knew of his work only as a violent irruption upon life, but not as the natural foundation of it.93 And the Father’s love, demonstrated in Christ’s cross that inaugurated unmediated communion with the creation, wanes distant through growing sacramentalism, moralism, and pagan philosophical categories.

3. Conclusion: Which Tradition?

Almost thirty years ago, David Steinmetz was reminding us all of “The Superiority of Pre-Critical Exegesis,” and in that same spirit it is not uncommon today to encounter apologia for the mentum patrorum and the “grammar of tradition” they authored.94 But the inner canonical logic of the covenant program that began in the OT and extends into the NT in the apostles’ new-covenant tradition suggests the limits of this patristic tradition and perhaps the more measured tones with which it should be advocated today as a hermeneutical maxim. While there can be no doubt that the legacy of the apostle’s kerygma is present in the early post-apostolic church, the so-called “grammar” of their tradition, as measured by how they attended to the continuity and discontinuity of the new covenant, bears the same marks of historical contextuality that binds the grammar of the church in every age.

Privileging the early patristic tradition as some kind of “hermeneutical ground zero” or as necessary for evangelicals to stay orthodox therefore neglects the hermeneutical norm the canonical writers employed in the new-covenant Story and falls into the same tar pit as the “other christianities” also being pushed today.95 Both camps mistakenly assume that Christianity simply began with Jesus Christ and then proceed to argue for heresy or orthodoxy from there. However, it was not in competition with other contemporary options that the disciples located their gospel. Rather, they looked back to the OT canonical script for their interpretation of the person, life, and ministry of Jesus Christ. This indeed was the hermeneutical lens for the gospel that founded the church and that always measures the church and that the Protestant Reformers intended under the maxim of sola scriptura.96

  1. ^ Jason Byasse’s enthusiastic review of D. H. Williams, Evangelicals and Tradition (see n. 3 below) refers to “the Evangelical wound” of a vast denominational spectrum driven by abuses of “private interpretation” as the need for attention to the ancient Church (Books and Culture 14 [May/June 2008]: 12). Scot McKnight has chronicled the way this and other factors has been prominent in why evangelicals move to historical churches (“From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals become Roman Catholic,” JETS 45 [2002]: 451–72).
  2. ^For example, Alister McGrath, “Engaging the Great Tradition: Evangelical Theology and the Role of Tradition,” in Evangelical Futures: A Conversation on Theological Method (ed. John G. Stackhouse Jr.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000): 139–58; idem, The Genesis of Doctrine: A Study in the Foundation of Doctrinal Criticism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990); and Harold O. J. Brown, “The Necessity and Temptations of Church Traditions,” in Reclaiming the Great Tradition: Evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox in Dialogue (ed. James S. Cutsinger; Downers Grove: IVP, 1997), 69–99.
  3. ^D. H. Williams, Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influence of the Early Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 18. Under a section entitled “Patristic Tradition as Canon,” Williams elaborates what is meant here by “patristic hermeneutic.” Whereas older evangelicals endorsed a robust doctrine of Scripture’s perspicuity, Williams appears to endorse the patristic church’s theologizing as the interpretive lens to understand Scripture. He states, “The apostolic and patristic legacies are foundational to the Christian faith in normative ways that no other period of the church’s history can claim” (D. H. Williams, Tradition, Scripture, and Interpretation [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006], 24; cf. the reprise of his thesis in SJT 55 [2002]: 105–12).
  4. ^Cf. R. L. Wilken’s assertion: “Any effort to mount an interpretation of the Bible that ignores its first readers is doomed to end up with a bouquet of fragments that are neither the book of the church nor the imaginative wellspring of Western literature, art and music” (The Spirit of Early Christian Thought [New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003], xvii; cited by Craig D. Allert, A High View of Scripture? The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007], 86).
  5. ^The “new” covenant is mentioned only in Jer 31:31, but by its other terminology (“everlasting covenant,” “my covenant,” e.g., Ezek 16:60–62; Isa 55:3) stands as the subject of Ezekiel, Isa 40–66, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Malachi (William J. Dumbrell, The End of the Beginning: Revelation 21–22 and the Old Testament [Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2001], 79–103). Principle passages of the new covenant include: Jer 24:7; 32:38–40; 50:5; Ezek 16:60; 34:25; 36:27–28; 37:26; Isa 42:6; 49:8; 54:10; 55:1–5; 59:21; 61:8; Mal 3:1; cf. 2:1–9. On the exegetical questions of the continuity and discontinuity of the new covenant for OT theology, see the discussion and bibliography in Petrus J. Gräbe, New Covenant New Community: The Significance of Biblical and Patristic Covenant Theology for Contemporary Understanding (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2006), ch. 1.
  6. ^Paul R. Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose (New Studies in Biblical Theology 23; Downers Grove: IVP, 2007), 146–81. The restoration of Israel by the Suffering Servant of the new covenant had worldwide significance in the implementation of the covenant program (Andreas Köstenberger and Peter T. O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission [New Studies in Biblical Theology 11; Downers Grove: IVP, 2001], 42–49, 252–53). See Isa 42:1–4; 49:1–6; 52:13–53:12. On the Savior-King figure in Isaiah, see Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (trans. J. A. Baker; 2 vols.; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961), 2:482–87; and Antony Edanad, Christian Existence and the New Covenant (Bangalore: Dharmaram, 1987), 55–66. On forgiveness of sins as the basis of all new covenant promises, see the comments on Jer 31:34 by Dumbrell (The End of the Beginning, 92–93) and Jack R. Lundbom, (Jeremiah 21–36 [AB 21B; Garden City: Doubleday, 2004], 470–71).
  7. ^I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses One Gospel (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 719n10.
  8. ^Leonhard Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament (ed. Jürgen Roloff; trans. John E. Alsup; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981); George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (ed. Donald A. Hagner; 2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993); Leon Morris, New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Academie, 1986); Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove: IVP, 1981); Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008); Frank Thielman, Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005).
  9. ^ James Barr, The Concept of Biblical Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), 585.
  10. ^ “[O]n my view we cannot construct an Old Testament theology or a New Testament theology, but only a biblical theology” (William J. Dumbrell, “Paul and Salvation History in Romans 9:30–10:4,” in Out of Egypt: Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation [ed. Craig Bartholomew et al.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004], 287). Cf. Charles H. H. Scobie, The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003); Hartmut Gese, Essays on Biblical Theology (trans. Keith Crim; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1981); and the discussion of Gese’s proposal in Barr, The Concept of Biblical Theology, 363–77; 581–85.
  11. ^Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “The Voice and the Actor: A Dramatic Proposal for the Ministry and Minstrelsy of Theology,” in Evangelical Futures, 61–106; idem, Is There Meaning in This Text? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 264; idem, The Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: John Knox, 2005); David S. Dockery, Biblical Interpretation Then and Now: Contemporary Hermeneutics in the Light of the Early Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992).
  12. ^Williamson, Sealed with an Oath, 28–34. See also the sources cited by Gräbe (New Covenant New Community, 1–3, 14–57), who notes the particular significance of Rolf Rentdorff’s work, Die “Bundesformel” (1995) for advancing the centrality of the covenant theme to the OT through his study of the interrelationship of the covenant and other significant OT motifs.
  13. ^Marshall, New Testament Theology, 719n10. Scott J. Hafemann has also argued recently for the integrative power of the covenant motif in Scripture as a whole and the NT in particular by means of the new covenant (“The Covenant Relationship,” in Central Themes in Biblical Theology [ed. Scott J. Hafemann and Paul R. House; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007], 20–65). See other sources offered there.
  14. ^Jesus appears on the stage of history without defining his meaning of the kingdom, only announcing its nearness (Mark 1:15). The theme of fulfillment permeates his ministry, including his identification with the prophetic voice in John (Matt 3:11), his application of Isaiah’s messianic prophecy to himself in the synagogue (Luke 4:16–30, cf. Isa 61:1–2), his answer to John’s disciples’ question of his identity from Isa 35:5 (Matt 11:5). Jesus preaches the “gospel” of the kingdom after Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa 40:9; 41:27; 52:7; 61:1), ”the favorable year of the Lord” of Israel’s Jubilee eschatological hope (Luke 4:19), going only to Jews (Matt 10:5–7), and choosing for himself twelve disciples who will one day judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28) (Mark Saucy, The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus in 20th Century Theology [Dallas: Word, 1997], 318–30).
  15. ^Dale C. Allison, The New Moses: A Matthean Typology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993).
  16. ^Particularly in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is presented as the Spirit-bearer, whose kingdom is inaugurated and sustained by the Spirit. See details in Darrell L. Bock, “A Theology of Luke-Acts,” in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament (ed. Roy B. Zuck; Chicago: Moody, 1994), 97–101. N. T. Wright says that the inwardness of the purity Jesus calls for “was the new heart promised as part of the new covenant” (Jesus and the Victory of God [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996], 287; emphasis his).
  17. ^Israel as Yahweh’s son (Exod 4:22–23) is a covenant concept taken up by Eichrodt (Theology of the OT, 67–69; cf. also Bruce K. Waltke with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007], 543–44. A recent account of the sonship-covenant relationship for Jesus’ teaching in John’s Gospel is Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit (New Studies in Biblical Theology 24; Downers Grove: IVP, 2008), 187–90; also W. L. Kynes, “New Birth,” DJG 574–76.
  18. ^James Sweeney, “Jesus, Paul and the Temple: An Exploration of Some Patterns of Continuity,” JETS 46 (2003): 605–31. Jesus’ actions in the court of the Gentiles of the temple complex have been noted as underscoring his openness to outsiders in concert with the original intent of the covenant to bless all peoples (A. J. M. Wedderburn, “Paul and Jesus: Similarity and Continuity,” NTS 34 [1988]: 161–82). On Jesus’ allocation of atonement to himself, see D. J. Antwi, “Did Jesus Consider His Death to Be an Atoning Sacrifice?” Int 45 (1990): 17–28.
  19. ^Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
  20. ^ It is particularly in his miracles and exorcisms that Jesus makes open war on the kingdom of Satan (see James Kallas, The Significance of the Synoptic Miracles [London: SPCK, 1961], 78–102).
  21. ^The “blood” of the new covenant is noted in all the Gospels and Paul, who follows Luke’s account in 1 Cor 11:23–25, and it remains the fundamental concept for atonement. Jesus’ “blood” is mentioned five times as often as either his “cross” or his “death” in the NT.
  22. ^Dumbrell (“Paul and Salvation History,” 292) and Gräbe (New Covenant New Community, 79–82) report on the observations of Gnilka and others how the last supper continues Jesus’ rhetorical motif of the eschatological meal for all nations (Luke 13:29; 14:15–24 and pars.; Joachim Gnilka, Das Evangelium nach Markus [1980]).
  23. ^Διατι?θεμαι (“appoint”) as a cognate of noun διαθήκη (“covenant”) of v. 20 is noted by Max Turner, “The Sabbath, Sunday and the Law in Luke-Acts,” in From Sabbath to the Lord’s Day: A Biblical Historical and Theological Investigation (ed. D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 99–157, cited by Dumbrell, “Paul and Salvation History,” 290; and the works cited by Gräbe, New Covenant New Community, 82–88.
  24. ^J. Ramsey Michaels considers that the ethnicity of the kingdom Jesus preached is “a question curiously neglected in the study of the kingdom of God.” See his discussion and defense of the nationalistic Jewish and universal nature of the kingdom in Jesus’ teaching (“The Kingdom of God and the Historical Jesus,” in The Kingdom of God in Twentieth-Century Interpretation [ed. Wendell Willis; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987], esp. 113–15).
  25. ^Cf. also the conceptual parallels to forgiveness in “washing away” (?πολου?ω, 22:16), “wiping away” sins (?φαλει?φω, 3:19), or “cleansing their hearts” (καθαρι?ζω, 15:9). The covenant storyline of the OT is also explicit in Acts at 2:29–30; 13:34 (David); 3:13, 25; 7:2ff, 17; 13:26 (Abraham); 10:17ff; 11:9; 15:10 (Moses—discontinued); 3:22; 7:37 (Moses—continued); and 13:40 (prophets).
  26. ^ The Spirit’s mission in Acts as proclaiming forgiveness of sins in Christ and forming the church as Christ’s body that lives from its forgiven status is taken up in Mark R. Saucy, “Regnum Spiriti: The Role of the Spirit in the Social Ethics of the Kingdom,” JETS (forthcoming).
  27. ^The disciples’ question in Acts 1:6 of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel reflects the OT storyline of the new covenant and probably should not be taken as wrongheaded according to immediate context (Jesus’ immediate teaching on the kingdom), the nature of Jesus’ answer (no rebuke for misunderstanding the nature of the kingdom, just its timing), and the disciples’ later preaching of a restoration of Israel in Acts 3. See further Antony Buzzard, “Acts 1:6 and the Eclipse of the Biblical Kingdom,” EQ 66 (1994): 197–215. The disciples’ use of the word α?ποκατα?στασις (restoration) in Acts 3:21 was a technical term for the messianic, political, restoration of Israel to the land according to A. Oepke (“?ποκατα?στασις,” TDNT 1:388–89).
  28. ^ The kingdom of God appears in summary statements at Acts 8:12; 19:8; 28:23, 31. Its appearance in 1:3 and 28:31 forms an inclusio to the book (D. W. Palmer, “Mission to the Jews and Gentiles in the Last Episode of Acts,” RTR 52 [1993] 63–64; cited by John Michael Penney, The Missionary Emphasis of Lukan Pneumatology [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1997], 69).
  29. ^See the survey by Don N. Howell Jr. “The Center of Pauline Theology,” BSac 151 (1994): 50–71.
  30. ^Διαθη?κη appears nine times in the letters of Paul: Rom 9:4; 11:2; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Gal 3:15, 17; 4:24; Eph 2:12. He mentions “two covenants” in Gal 4:24, but the only occurrence of “new covenant” is 2 Cor 3:6. “Minister of a new covenant” is parallel in form to Paul’s self-understanding as a “minister of the gospel” (Eph 3:6; Col 1:23) and likewise interfaces with his other self-appellations as “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:12; 15:15), “Christ’s ambassador” (2 Cor 5:20; Eph 6:20), and “prisoner of the Lord” (Eph 3:1).
  31. ^Bruce W. Longenecker, “Contours of Covenant Theology in the Post-Conversion Paul,” in The Road from Damascus (ed. Richard N. Longenecker; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 125–46; Helmut Merklein, “Der (neue) Bund als Thema der paulinischen Theologie,” TQ 176 (1996): 290–308; W. C. van Unnik, “La Conception Paulinienne de la Nouvelle Alliance,” Littérature et Theéologie Pauliniennes (RechBib 5; Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1960): 109–26; Jerome Murphy-O’Conner, “The New Covenant in the Letters of Paul and the Essene Documents,” in To Touch the Text (ed. Maurya P. Horgan and Paul J. Kobelski; New York: Crossroad, 1989), 194–204; W. S. Campbell, “Covenant and New Covenant,” DPL 179–83; Williamson, Sealed with An Oath, 186–201; Gräbe, New Covenant New Community, 108–24.
  32. ^W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology (4th ed.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), 226. On the mystery and fulfillment theme recently, see D. A. Carson, “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New,” in The Paradoxes of Paul, vol. 2 of Justification and Variegated Nomism (ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid; WUNT 181; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 393–436.
  33. ^Yves M.-J. Congar, The Mystery of the Temple: or, The Manner of God’s Presence to His Creatures from Genesis to the Apocalypse (London: Burns & Oates, 1962), 275; emphasis his. The prominence of the participation theme is seen in the “in Christ” language Paul favors.
  34. ^See Dumbrell, “Paul and Salvation History,” 293–95; Unnik, “La Conception Paulinienne de la Nouvelle Alliance,” 119; and Sweeney, “Jesus, Paul and the Temple,” 610–12.
  35. ^According to Louw and Nida, δικαισ?νη and διαθ?κη belong to the same semantic domain (L&N 2:451–53); cf. also Gräbe, New Covenant New Community, 115–16; Norman H. Snaith, Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament (London: Epworth, 1944), 51–78.
  36. ^Paul’s adoption theology is grounded in the covenant theme (J. M. Scott, “Adoption, Sonship,” DPL 15–18). Unnik notes the parallel between Paul’s adoption theology in Eph 1 and the covenant promises of Exod 19:5–6 (Unnik, “La Conception Paulinienne de la Nouvelle Alliance,” 120).
  37. ^Petrus J. Gräbe, “Καινη? διαθ?κη in der paulinischen Literatur,” in Ekklesiologie des Neuen Testaments (ed. Rainer Kampling and Thomas Söding; Freiburg: Herder, 1996), 287.
  38. ^J. Jocz “The Connection Between the Old and the New Testament,” Jud 16 (1960): 142–43; with citation of George A. F. Knight, A Christian Theology of the O. T. [1959], 224. Romans 9–11 is the crux interpretum for understanding Paul’s view of the relationship of the church and Israel. For the view that Paul in Rom 9–11 is discussing the progression of salvation history that still awaits fulfillment of the promises made to Israel as a nation, see Walter C. Kaiser, “An Assessment of ‘Replacement Theology’: The Relationship between the Israel of the Abrahamic-Davidic Covenant and the Christian Church,” Mishkan 21 (1994): 11–20; Mark A. Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness (New Studies in Biblical Theology 9; Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), 158–69; Williamson, Sealed with an Oath, 188–91. Unnik also concludes that a spiritualizing of the new covenant in Paul’s writings is an untenable exegesis of Rom 9–11 (“La Conception Paulinienne de la Nouvelle Alliance,” 118).
  39. ^For an overview of Hebrews in recent research, see Daniel J. Harrington, What Are They Saying about the Letter to the Hebrews? (WATSA; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 2005); George H. Guthrie, “Hebrews in Its First-Century Contexts,” in The Face of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research (ed. Scot McKnight and Grant R. Osborne; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 130–45; Craig R. Koester, “The Epistle to Hebrews in Recent Study,” CurBS 2 (1994): 123–45; and J. C. McCullough, “Hebrews in Recent Scholarship (Parts 1 and 2),” IBS 16:2 and 16:3 (1994), esp. 16:3, pp. 108–20.
  40. ^Suzanne Lehne (The New Covenant in Hebrews [JSNTSup 44; Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 1990], 94) notes, “If it is understood that the διαθ?κη is reduced to its cultic dimensions in Heb., then one is justified in making ‘covenant’ the overarching category for conceptual purposes and in treating priesthood and sacrifice from a covenantal angle.” John Dunnill considers the “covenant-renewal rite” to be the “inner genre” of the epistle (Covenant Sacrifice in the Letter to the Hebrews [SNTSMS 75; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992], 261; cited by Gräbe, New Covenant New Community, 125n3), and W. B. Morrice calls Hebrews “the Letter of the New Covenant” (“New Wine in Old Wine Skins,” ExpTim 86 [1975]: 134).
  41. ^Jer 31:34: “And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.” Jeremiah is predicting the obsolescence of the priesthood as the institution that taught Israel torah (Dumbrell, The End of the Beginning, 93). Lunblom sees also the prophetic office in this verse (Lundbom, Jeremiah, 470).
  42. ^See n. 6 above. The forgiveness of sins was the ground of all promises entailed in the new covenant.
  43. ^Gräbe, New Covenant New Community, 130–31, who also cites Jörg Frey, “Die alte und die neue διαθ?κη nach dem Hebräerbrief,” in Bund und Tora (ed. Friedrich Avemarie and Hermann Lichtenberger; WUNT 92; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1996), 279–80.
  44. ^Hebrews 9:15 “represents not only the climax, but also the sum of the whole covenant theology of Hebrews” (Gräbe, New Covenant New Community, 132–33; Gräbe cites Knut Backhaus, Der neue Bund und das Werden der Kirche: Die Diatheke-Deutung des Hebräerbreif im Rahmen der frühchristlichen Theologiegeschichte [Münster: Aschendorff, 1996], 185).
  45. ^Correspondence, contrast, and superiority are the organizing categories preferred by most commentators and taken up by Lehne, New Covenant in Hebrews, 98–99, and Gräbe, New Covenant New Community, 138. The account of these categories in this section follows Lehne.
  46. ^Gräbe, New Covenant New Community, 130.
  47. ^Ibid., 137.
  48. ^Ibid.
  49. ^Rolf Rendtorff, Canon and Theology (ed. and trans. Margaret Kohl; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993), 203; Lehne, New Covenant in Hebrews, 119; Gräbe, New Covenant New Community, 137.
  50. ^Lehne, New Covenant in Hebrews, 119. The emphasis in Hebrews on the new covenant’s redefinition and replacement in Christ of the Israelite cult need not be taken as the replacement of Israel itself in Christ as is common in supersessionism. Richard B. Hays rightly calls out the anachronism of such a reading of Hebrews that has been common in the book’s interpretive history since Chrysostom (“‘Here We Have No Lasting City’: New Covenantalism in Hebrews,” in The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology [ed. Richard Bauckham et al.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009], 151–73). Along with the understanding of Paul and Jesus, the writer to the Hebrews can still anticipate the future earthly rule of the one who is exalted to the right hand. See Mark R. Saucy, “Exaltation Christology in Hebrews: What Kind of Reign?” TJ 14 NS (1993): 41–62.
  51. ^J. Behm, “διαθ?κη,” TDNT 2:133.
  52. ^The absence of mention of the new covenant in connection with the Lord’s Supper tradition is particularly conspicuous in the Didache, which has an extensive treatment of the Lord’s Supper in chs. 9–10. See the discussion in Wolfram Kinzig, Novitas Christiana: Die Idee des Fortschritts in der Alten Kirche bis Eusebius (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), 123–24.
  53. ^E. Ferguson, “Justin Martyr on Jews, Christians and the Covenant,” in Early Christianity in Context: Monuments and Documents (ed. F. Manns and E. Alliata; Jerusalem: Franciscan, 1993), 396. As Ferguson and Kinzig note, the discussion was framed in the covenant terms of the LXX which, like the NT, used διαθ?κη for the Hebrew ???? (berith) bringing in the stronger legal tone of “heir” or “last will and testament” to its semantic domain. In Gal 3:15, 17 and Heb 9:16–17, διαθ?κη means “last will and testament” (E. Ferguson, “The Covenant Idea in the Second Century,” in Texts and Testaments: Critical Essays on the Bible and Early Church Fathers [ed. W. E. March; San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1980], 136–37; W. Kinzig, “Καινη? διαθ?κη: The Title of the New Testament in the Second and Third Centuries,” JTS 2:45 [1994]: 519–20; however, against this meaning in Heb 9:16–17, see G. D. Kilpatrick, “διαθ?κη in Hebrews,” ZNW 68 [1977]: 263–65). Kinzig follows the argument of Ernst Kutsch that when διαθήκη entered the Greek-Christian world in the LXX or the NT it came without the Hebrew background of ???? and became more legal and so “initiated a whole new series of theological metaphors and associations” including the disinheriting of the Jews discussed below (Kinzig, “Καινη? διαθ?κη,” 524). Dix comments on the difference between Hebrew and Greek cultural notions of διαθ?κη and the result this had for the new covenant in the patristic tradition of the Eucharist: “The whole conception of a ‘Covenant’ with God, so vivid and profound to a Jew, was entirely strange to the Greek. . . . The ‘traditional’ Eucharistic prayer of Hippolytus (c. a.d. 200) no longer mentions ‘the New Covenant’ at all, even in the Institution-narrative which it contains. And though after the canonization of the Gospels the influence of their accounts caused the phrase to be inserted in later Eucharistic prayers, it has never played any great part in forming Gentile eucharistic devotion” (Dom Gregory Dix, Jew and Greek: A Study in the Primitive Church [London: Dacre, 1953], 108–9).
  54. ^Barn. 4.3, 6–8; and esp. chs. 13–14. See Kinzig, Novitas Christiana, 125–26; Ferguson, “Justin Martyr,” 398–99; idem, “The Covenant Idea,” 137; and William Horbury, “Jewish-Christian Relations in Barnabas and Justin Martyr,” in Jews And Christians: The Parting of the Ways A.D. 70 to 135 (ed. James D. G. Dunn; London: SCM, 1991), 330.
  55. ^See, e.g. Dial. 10–12, 26, 34, 43, 51, 67, 118, 121–23; cf. Ferguson, “The Covenant Idea,” 140–41; Kinzig, Novitas Christiana, 128. Justin speaks of the new covenant only from Jeremiah, never from the tradition of Jesus, Paul, or the epistle to the Hebrews. Also, while many see a solid redemptive-historical understanding in Justin, Kinzig is inclined to see only foretastes of what would be more developed later in the writings of Irenaeus (Kinzig, Novitas Christiana, 132).
  56. ^Oskar Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove: IVP, 2002), 267–68; cf. also Knut Backhaus, “Gottes nicht Bereuter Bund,” in Ekklesiologie des Neuen Testaments (ed. Rainer Kampling and Thomas Söding; Freiburg: Herder, 1996), 50–52; Ronald E. Heine, Reading the Old Testament with the Ancient Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 50; Ray Pritz, “Replacing the Jews in Early Christian Theology,” Mishkan 21 (1994): 21–26; Jeffrey Siker, Disinheriting the Jews (Louisville: Westminster, 1991), 28–76, cited by Pritz, “Replacing the Jews,” 21; Kinzig, “Καινη? διαθ?κη,” 524, and most recently Michael J. Vlach, Has the Church Replaced Israel? A Theological Evaluation (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2010).
  57. ^“Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways” (Isa 2:2–4). Ferguson, “The Covenant Idea,” 156–57. In Justin, see Dial. 24.
  58. ^ Jocz, “Connection between the OT and NT,” 142; Backhaus, “Gottes nicht Bereuter Bund,” 54. Similar de-historicizing of the new covenant occurs in modern supersessionists for whom the new covenant’s fulfillment in the church reduces the prophetic announcement made to Israel to some vague message of hope (e.g., C. Fensham, “Covenant, Promise and Expectation in the Bible,” TZ 23 [1967]: 305–22).
  59. ^Num hom 9.4, cited by Ferguson, “The Covenant Idea,” 155. Origen’s “spiritualizing” program reflects the context of the “new διαθ?κη” moniker for the collection of the NT books that ultimately prevailed in orthodoxy. Regardless of a likely original allusion to some understanding of the progress of redemptive history, the nomenclature η? καινη? διαθ?κη for the NT corpus soon “lost its dynamic weight and became nothing more than just a title” (W. C. van Unnik “? καινη? διαθ?κη    —A Problem in the Early History of the Canon,” in Sparsa Collecta: The Collected Essays of W. C. Van Unnik [NovTSup 30; Leiden: Brill, 1980], 171; repr. from Studia Patristica 1 [Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1961]).
  60. ^Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, vol. 1 of The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100–600) (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1971), 26. Pelikan means in the term only the church’s adoption of OT nomenclature for aspects of its worship. I suggest more: that OT nomenclature carried with it old-covenant theology that continued to color the church’s apprehension of the fullness of the new covenant we see in the NT canonical writers.
  61. ^J. L. Neve, A History of Christian Thought, vol. 1 of History of Christian Doctrine (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1946), 41.
  62. ^“Justin represents a pattern followed by nearly all ancient Christian writers. He both relied on the LXX and used existing traditions of biblical “proof texts” to establish that Christ and the Church were the true subject of Jewish Scriptures” (Paula Fredriksen and Judith Lieu, “Christian Theology and Judaism,” in The First Christian Theologians [ed. G. R. Evans; Oxford: Blackwell, 2004], 92). The historical dysfunctionality addressed here is not intended to deny legitimacy to all “figural,” “symbolic,” or “reimaging” exegetical practices in the early church (on which see especially the overview of Frances M. Young, “Interpretation of Scripture,” in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies [ed. Susan Ashbrook Harvey and David G. Hunter; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008]: 845–63; idem, Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997]; John J O’Keefe and R. R. Reno, Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005]; David C. Steinmetz, “The Superiority of Pre-Critical Exegesis,” ThTo 36 [1980]: 27–38; and Heine, Reading the Old Testament, 75–95). The issue is not historical versus allegorical as taken up in these works. The anti-allegorist exegetes of the fourth century were also part of the “new Israel” re-judaization tradition discussed here as well as many of the Reformation churches.
  63. ^The covenant figures prominently in Irenaeus’ entire theological system. See his general summary of Christian faith in Against Heresies 1.10.3. In Haer. 3.11.8, Irenaeus does mention four covenants, but in his major discussion of the covenant concept in Haer. 4.32–34, he speaks of two (cf. also Haer. 4.9.1). Irenaeus’ view of Israel’s fate is closely tied to the redemptive-historical manner in which the old covenant is superseded by the new. Israel is the people of the old covenant; the church the people of the new. See especially Irenaeus’ discussion in Haer. 4.32.2 and 4.21.2. In Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching 95, it is because Israel “had left the real God and were giving service to unreal gods. . . . God was pleased to grant His inheritance to the foolish Gentiles, and to those who were not God’s citizens.” See the context for this comment in Epid. 93–96. Irenaeus emphasizes Israel’s role under the first covenant as preparatory and suited to the immaturity of humankind (Haer. 4.14.1, 3, 5; 26.1; 38.1). For these and other reasons, Marshall refers to Irenaeus as “one of the architects of traditional supersessionism” (Bruce D. Marshall, “Christ and the Cultures: The Jewish People and Christian Theology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine [ed. Colin E. Gunton; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997], 84). On the relationship of Israel and the church in Irenaeus, see Rolf Noormann, Irenäus als Paulusinterpret: Zur Rezeption und Wirkung der paulinischen und deuteropaulinischen Briefe im Werk des Irenäus von Lyon (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1994), 420–26; Ferguson, “The Covenant Idea,” 146.
  64. ^Supposed predecessors of Irenaeus’ recapitulatio mundi doctrine are presented by Sesboüé, but he notes that Scharl’s earlier thorough investigation concludes that such evidence is still meager and that Irenaeus likely took his idea of redemptive history in this form directly from Scripture (E. Scharl, Recapitulatio mundi. Der Rekapitulationsbegriff des heiligen Irenäus und seine Anwendung auf die Körperwelt [Freiberg: Herder, 1941], 131; cited by Bernard Sesboüé, Tout récapituler dans le Christ: christologie et sotériologie d’Irénée de Lyon [Paris: Desclée, 2000], 128).
  65. ^Heine, Reading the Old Testament, 64–70. See Reinhold Seeberg for a summary of the redemptive-historical thought of the early church (Seeberg, Text-Book of the History of Doctrines [trans. Charles E. Hay; 1895; repr.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977], 123–24).
  66. ^While Paul was treasured as the apostle to the Gentiles in the early church, Wilhelm Schneemelcher notes that his writings appear to have no significance—almost as if there were an “intentional shoving aside” of the apostle by the early generations of the Greek church (“Paulus in der griechischen Kirche des zweiten Jahrhunderts,” ZKG 75 [1964]: 9). For a recent discussion of the neglect of Paul in the second century, see J. Roetzel, “Paul in the Second Century,” in The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul (ed. James D. G. Dunn; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 227–41.
  67. ^See, e.g., Ernst Käsemann, “Paul and Early Catholicism,” in New Testament Questions of Today (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 20; cited by Roetzel, “Paul in the Second Century,” 227.
  68. ^Kinzing, Novitas Christiana, 138.
  69. ^Tertullian, AM 3.13.
  70. ^Richard A. Norris, “Irenaeus’ Use of Paul in His Polemic against the Gnostics,” in Paul and the Legacies of Paul (ed. W. S. Babcock; Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1990), 97–98.
  71. ^Ferguson, “The Covenant Idea,” 146; Noormann, Irenäus als Paulusinterpret, 410–16.
  72. ^As Skarsaune has effectively argued by making the case that the church’s post-apostolic teachers (authors of the Didache, Shepherd of Hermas and 1 Clement) were Jewish Christians (Skarsaune, Shadow of the Temple, 181; cf. 223).
  73. ^Neve (History of Christian Thought, 39) offers several examples of this moralism from Polycarp (“If you are able to do what is good, do not delay, for alms have the power to release from death”), Barn. 19.10 (“If you turn to the Lord with your whole heart and work righteousness the remaining days of your life, and serve him strictly according to his will, he will heal your former sins”), and others (Herm. Mand. 12.6.2, 2 Clement 16.4). He continues, “Due to Jewish and heathen impulses, the idea also arose that it is possible to perform an excess of good works, which is made the foundation of a higher morality. The Didache declares, “If you will wear the entire yoke of Christ, you will be perfect; if not, then do what you can” (VI.2), and Hermas says, “If you can do more than what God commands, you will earn more glory for yourself and you will have more honor before God” (Similitudo, V, 3, 3).
  74. ^A thesis advanced by Elaine H. Pagels, The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), 162.
  75. ^Paul W. Barnett, “Salvation,” DLNT 1074–75; cf. also Seeberg, History of Doctrines, 79, who, in reference to the Apologists, makes the link between missing Paul and going moralistic clear: “as the Pauline idea of justification was lost sight of, a moralistic element readily became interwoven . . . .”
  76. ^R. van den Broek, “The Present State of Gnostic Studies,” VC 37 (1983): 70–71.
  77. ^Benjamin Drewery, Origen and the Doctrine of Grace (London: Epworth, 1960); Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986]; cf. also T. F. Torrance, The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1996).
  78. ^D. H. Williams (“Justification by Faith: A Patristic Doctrine,” JEH 57 [2006]: 649–67) makes a compelling case against Protestant overstatement of the patristic divergence from biblical salvation, which he detects in Drewrey, Torrance, and McGrath (n. 76 above). Williams does not deny the early neglect of Paul and the presence of moralistic statements exemplified in Hermas and Barnabas, but his argument against overstatement comes largely from Hilary and does not address the trajectories of ecclesial praxis that began much earlier which are addressed here.
  79. ^Gustaf Aulen, Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement (London: SPCK, 1965), 22; Seeberg, History of Doctrines, 130.
  80. ^J. Patout Burns, “The Economy of Salvation: Two Patristic Traditions,” TS 37 (1976): 598–619.
  81. ^Seeberg charts the theological terrain here: “As the work of Christ is not understood as having directly in view the forgiveness of sins, so there is naturally a failure to retain this forgiveness as an essential object of faith. Good works are considered as necessary in order to become sure of forgiveness of sins. It is perfectly proper to speak of the ‘moralism’ of such views” (Seeberg, History of Doctrines, 80).
  82. ^G. W. H. Lampe, The Seal of the Spirit (London: SPCK, 1967), 150. Weltin sees three elements of quasi-magic in the church’s early sacramentalism: “(1) evidences of faith in the inherent power of words and signs in themselves and as imitative operations, (2) signs of efficaciousness in important ceremonies regardless of the subjective intention or character of the ministrant or recipients, (3) indications that God’s attention, response, and even presence can be compelled by the ministrant whenever he speaks the required words and makes the prescribed esoteric signs” (E. G. Weltin, “The Concept of Ex-Opere-Operato Efficacy in the Fathers as an Evidence of Magic in Early Christianity,” GRBS 3:1 [1960]: 80).
  83. ^Tom Wright, “Justification: The Biblical Basis and Its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism,” in The Great Acquittal: Justification by Faith and Current Christian Thought (ed. G. Reid; London: Collins, 1982), 31–32.
  84. ^James Tunstead Burtchaell, From Synagogue to Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 274; A. T. Lincoln, “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical and Theological Perspective,” in From Sabbath to the Lord’s Day, 368–78.
  85. ^Herbert Haag argues that the charge of the Roman state that Christianity was a religion without a liturgy together with the growing “new Israel” hermeneutic was impetus to retreat to old testament patterns in worship (Herbert Haag, Da Gesù al Sacerdozio [Turin: Claudiana, 2001], 82–83; cited by Ronald E. Diprose, Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology [Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media, 2000], 94).
  86. ^Cf. J. N. D. Kelley, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978), 83–87; G. L. Prestige, God in Patristic Thought (London: SPCK, 1964), 1–24.
  87. ^R. M. Grant, The Early Christian Doctrine of God (Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1966), 64. Grant sees this prevalent until Augustine’s famous interpretation of the Trinity. Cf. also Anders Nygren’s classic study of the inherent incompatibility of the pagan immutable and incorruptible god and the God of Christianity who is Agape and who forgives sin (Agape and Eros: A Study of the Christian Idea of Love [London: SPCK, 1938; trans. Philip S. Watson; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953], esp. 200–202).
  88. ^Justin, Dial., 3.5; 1 Apol. 13. 4, cited by Grant, Doctrine of God, 5, 21.
  89. ^Albinus, Epit. 10; cited in Grant, Doctrine of God, 23.
  90. ^Cited by Robert M. Grant, “The Doctrine of God in Early Christian Thought,” in Papers Presented to the Third International Congress on New Testament Studies Held at Christ Church, Oxford, 1965; Part II: The New Testament Message, vol. 5 of Studia Evangelica (ed. F. L. Cross; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1968), 65–66; repr. from ZKG 70 [1959]).
  91. ^Pelikan, Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, 51; cf. 52–55.
  92. ^See note 24 above.
  93. ^Gustav Friedrich Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament (London: T&T Clark, 1873; repr.; Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1978), 462–63.
  94. ^Steinmetz, “Superiority of Pre-Critical Exegesis.” Cf. Robert Louis Wilken, “How to Read the Bible,” First Things 181 (March 2008): 24–27; Thomas Weinandy, “Why Ask the Fathers? The Dynamics of Living Tradition,” American Theological Inquiry 1 (2008): 6–10.
  95. ^Mark R. Saucy, “Between DaVinci and Rome: The New Covenant as a Theological Norm in Early Christianity,” TJ 27:2 (2006): 199–225.
  96. ^See Calvin’s Institutes 4.9.8 and 4.8.9 for the “majesty” of the early Church’s councils and their place relative to Scripture (cf. J. F. Peter, “The Place of Tradition in Reformed Theology,” SJT 18 [1965]: 294–307). Keith A. Mathison (The Shape of Sola Scriptura [Moscow, ID: Canon, 2001]) articulates well the difference between the Reformers’ sola scriptura and its perversion in solo scriptura that appears to fund much criticism of the bona fide sola scriptura doctrine even among evangelicals (e.g., D. H. Williams, “In Search for Sola Scriptura in the Early Church,” Int 52 [1998]: 354–66).

Mark R. Saucy

Mark Saucy is professor of systematic theology and director of the Kyiv Theological Seminary extension at Talbot School of Theology (Biola University) in La Mirada, California.

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