Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God's Unfolding Purpose by Paul Williamson

Sealed with an Oath

The latest volume in the outstanding New Studies in Biblical Theology series is entitled Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God's Unfolding Purpose by Paul Wiliamson. My review of this book for Review of Biblical Literature has just been published and can be found here.

I will not repeat the review here, but I will make a few comments. Overall the book is a very interesting read and does an excellent job of showing the relationship of the various biblical covenants to each other. The most distinctive part of the book is Williamson's argument that Gen 15 and Gen 17 present two distinct but related covenants; the first is national and the second is international. The two are related in that the international cannot take place without the national first coming to pass.

Also worth noting is that Williamson rejects the idea of a covenant in Eden. This conclusion rests not only on the absence of covenantal language in Gen 1-2 but also the very nature of covenants themselves. He argues that they exist only in contexts where there is potential mistrust; in such cases a covenant is entered into as a guarantee that the parties will fulfill their obligations.

As I note in the review, the biggest weakness of the book is the fact that he spends only three pages discussing the consummation of the covenants in Revelation 21-22. Given the amount of covenantal references in these two chapters, it was a disappointment to see such a short treatment.

That notwithstanding, I warmly recommend this book as a thought-provoking and helpful guide to understanding the biblical covenants.

3 comments:

Marty said...

Matt,
Thank you for pointing to this. That is a well-done book review.

Paul does reference Bill Dumbrell quite a bit in the book. Have you read Dumbrell's treatment of Revelation 21-22? If so, what is your take on it?

Take care,
Marty

Matt Harmon said...

Marty,

Yes I have read Dumbrell's "The End of the Beginning" and I very much enjoyed it. IT is only about 200 pages long and he traces the following five themes: new Jerusalem, new covenant, new Israel, new creation. The treatments are necessarily selective, but his tracing of the themes in the rest of the canon as a way of understanding the imagery of Rev 21-22 is very helpful. Dumbrell's treatment of the new covenant would thus be a good supplement to Williamson's book to fill in the gap.

evedyahu said...

Interesting book. Have you read Niehaus' article about covenants in JETS (a few issues back)?

I thought that was useful too.

Blessings,
Chris