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Thursday, April 13, 2006 

Covenant Theology with the Patristics
Topic: Theology

Reading: Hebrew vocab lessons
Enjoying: Malt-o-meal version cinnamon toast crunch
Listening: FSF's Purevolume page. They've put some new songs up (one new to the site, one brand new).

The next time some hottsie-tottsie not-as-Reformed-as-me comes up and tells you that the Reformers invented such things as justification by faith alone, sola Scriptura, predestination, etc., tell them to go read a book. We've already weighed in on some resources for seeing justification amongst the Apologists and Patristics.

But what about covenant theology? While it is true that covenant theology saw development in an unparalleled way during this period, the Reformers and covenant theologians/Protestant Scholastics were growing the seed of covenant theology planted amongst the early church. Two important resources to consider:

J. Ligon Duncan "The Covenant Idea in Irenaeus of Lyons" Paper presented May 29, 1997 (Greenville, SC: Reformed Academic Press, 1998)

Everett Ferguson "The Covenant Idea in the Second Century" Texts and Tstaments: Critical Essays on the Bible and the Early Church Fathers ed. W. E. March (San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, 1980)

Secondly, let me provide what pehaps Dr. Duncan samples in his work. What follows are just some smatterings from Irenaeus' Contra Haerisis. You can find everything posted here by clicking over here at CCEL and viewing his complete work.

Chapter IX.-There is But One Author, and One End to Both Covenants.
Now, without contradiction, He means by those things which are brought forth from the treasure new and old, the two covenants; the old, that giving of the law which took place formerly; and He points out as the new, that manner of life required by the Gospel, of which David says, "Sing unto the Lord a new song; " and Esaias, "Sing unto the Lord a new hymn. His beginning (initium), His name is glorified from the height of the earth: they declare His powers in the isles." And Jeremiah says: "Behold, I will make a new covenant, not as I made with your fathers" in Mount Horeb. But one and the same householder produced both covenants, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who spake with both Abraham and Moses, and who has restored us anew to liberty, and has multiplied that grace which is from Himself.

For the new covenant having been known and preached by the prophets, He who was to carry it out according to the good pleasure of the Father was also preached; having been revealed to men as God pleased; that they might always make progress through believing in Him, and by means of the [successive] covenants, should gradually attain to perfect salvation.

Chapter XII.-It Clearly Appears that There Was But One Author of Both the Old and the New Law, from the Fact that Christ Condemned Traditions and Customs Repugnant to the Former, While He Confirmed Its Most Important Precepts, and Taught that He Was Himself the End of the Mosaic Law.
As in the law, therefore, and in the Gospel [likewise], the first and greatest commandment is, to love the Lord God with the whole heart, and then there follows a commandment like to it, to love one's neighbour as one's self; the author of the law and the Gospel is shown to be one and the same. For the precepts of an absolutely perfect life, since they are the same in each Testament, have pointed out [to us] the same God, who certainly has promulgated particular laws adapted for each; but the more prominent and the greatest [commandments], without which salvation cannot [be attained], He has exhorted [us to observe] the same in both.

The Lord, too, does not do away with this [God], when He shows that the law was not derived from another God, expressing Himself as follows to those who were being instructed by Him, to the multitude and to His disciples: "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens, and lay them upon men's shoulders; but they themselves will not so much as move them with a finger." He therefore did not throw blame upon that law which was given by Moses, when He exhorted it to be observed, Jerusalem being as yet in safety; but He did throw blame upon those persons, because they repeated indeed the words of the law, yet were without love. And for this reason were they held as being unrighteous as respects God, and as respects their neighbours.

Chapter XIII.-Christ Did Not Abrogate the Natural Precepts of the Law, But Rather Fulfilled and Extended Them. He Removed the Yoke and Bondage of the Old Law, So that Mankind, Being Now Set Free, Might Serve God with that Trustful Piety Which Becometh Sons.
And that the Lord did not abrogate the natural [precepts] of the law, by which man is justified, which also those who were justified by faith, and who pleased God, did observe previous to the giving of the law, but that He extended and fulfilled them, is shown from His words.


Excellent comments Brian! I also would add Peter Lillbeck's "The Binding of God." He brings to light some important Augustinian contributions and qualifies them in a very helpful way. He also clearly articulates the nominalist error, which I found very helpful.

On the Justification question I would recommend Thomas Oden's "A Justification Reader." Due to its brevity, however, I think he skips over a lot of differences among the Patristics.

Oden is at least partially responsible for the huge interest in the Patristics of late. I think this is very exciting since every Reformation saw such an interest in them as well. Perhaps Oden's version of Paleo-Orthodoxy need some revision, but it certainly won't hurt for today's theologically lazy theologians to pour over the Fathers.

That was a VERY interesting one! Seriously interesting.

That is great to hear, thank you for reading!

That was a VERY interesting one! Seriously interesting.

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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