on 5 August 2009
No-one who listens to Scott Hahn - a well-known Catholic speaker and author who teaches at Franciscan University of Steubenville - or reads one of his many popular books can fail to notice his emphasis on the importance of "covenant" as an over-arching Biblical theme. This book lays out the scholarly basis for Hahn's conviction.
"Kinship by Covenant" started life as the thesis for Hahn's doctorate which he completed at Marquette University in 1995. This edition - published as part of the Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library - is thoroughly rewritten and incorporates the fruits of Hahn's more recent scholarly work.
In a helpful introduction, he summarizes the existing literature on covenant. Far from a mere conventional preliminary, this summary is an invaluable initiation into the scholarly conversation about Biblical covenants for those who have not studied this area before.
The first two-thirds of the book contain a thorough study of covenant in the Old Testament. Hahn emphasizes a number of essential features of a covenant. In particular, the relationship created by a covenant is more than merely legal: covenants create kinship bonds. Drawing on a range of sources, he shows that the obligations imposed by the covenant are distributed in different ways: in a "kinship" covenant, both parties accept obligations; in a "treaty-type" covenant, the superior party imposes obligations on the inferior; and in a "grant-type" covenant, the superior party freely accepts obligations towards the inferior party. Hahn uses these categories to describe the divine covenants of the Old Testament and offer a thorough analysis in which he argues that they form part of God's consistent fatherly plan for Israel.
In the second part of his study, Hahn applies the findings of the first part to a number of New Testament texts. It is here that the value of Hahn's analysis of covenant types becomes clear. He shows that covenant was central to Jewish thought in the Second Temple period. In other words, the writers of the New Testament lived in a world where covenant was a crucial theological concept. In a series of convincing chapters, he uses his findings to illuminate the kingdom theology of Luke-Acts, Paul's argument in Galatians 3-4 and the royal priestly theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
The text is scholarly and amply supported by over 200 pages of endnotes and bibliography. It is not an easy book - unlike Hahn's excellent popular works which, complete with his trademark puns, are almost effortless to read - but it is quite accessible to the general reader who is prepared to make the effort. Indeed, it could serve as a helpful model for clarity and accessibility in scholarly writing.
This book is also an extremely valuable example of a canonical approach to the scriptures. Without ignoring historical-critical questions, Hahn seeks to illuminate the role particular texts play in the light of their position in the canon. As well as helping to make sense of the Biblical narrative, this approach proves remarkably successful in explaining a number of otherwise difficult (even incomprehensible) passages.
on 11 March 2013
Lots of people want to know what the Bible is all about but so few actually investigate the fundamental message of the scriptures - Covenant. Dr Hahn has proved himself very capable of teaching on this topic and this book is the fruit of some of his research. It is very well laid out and well written, though it may take a while to get into it. You have to want to go for it.
The book is (from what I understand) his Doctorial Thesis on Covenants. Consequently there is a bit of a scholarly approach which is going to be difficult for those who don't do 'scholarly'. I used to be like that but can mix and match. i also like Hahn so I was willing to go through the pain barrier.
He looks at ancient covenants, the various types, and compares them with the various Biblical covenants (Noah, Abraham, etc). He spends considerable time examining the person of Melchisedek which is very fascinating and insightful. In his usual style he also includes many quotes from Church Fathers. It is hugely fascinating and well worth a read.
For those who want covenant teaching that is simpler visit my website and get yourself a workbook. [...]