- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Presbyterian and Reformed; First edition (22 Dec. 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0875524184
- ISBN-13: 978-0875524184
- Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14 x 1.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 414,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Christ of the Covenants Paperback – 22 Dec 1987
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Presents the richness of a covenantal approach to understanding the Bible. Treats the OT covenants f....
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Top Customer Reviews
The title is not entirely accurate and is misleading. It is not about Christ but the covenants.
The Covenant of Redemption made within the Trinity is not included - it only concerns itself with those made with man. All this covenant gets is a few words with a comment that it will not be included.
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Robertson's book was, and is, a distinctive contribution to covenant theology. Unlike some of his contemporaries like the great John Murray, Robertson appears to argue for the conditionality (to varying degrees) of each Biblical covenant, rather than trying to determine which covenants were allegedly conditional versus unconditional. However, where certain contemporary covenant theologians stress covenants in the context of the Kingdom of God, Robertson stresses covenants in the context of human redemption. The reader should therefore understand that Robertson's version of covenant theology, while having many similarities with virtually all forms of conservative Reformed covenant theology, is not the only version that has been proposed and argued for.
The book does show its age in spots. His chapter interacting with dispensationalism was spot on 25 years ago, but not now. The progressive dispensational movement of today does not look a whole lot like the dispensationalism that Robertson interacts with here. But more importantly for Reformed readers, Robertson's emphasis on covenants that are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture is a feature that is also on the wane in today's covenantal circles. Robertson forcefully argues for the 'covenant of works/covenant of grace with Adam' structure that is outstanding in my view, but is a feature of covenant theology that's becoming less and less stressed today. He properly stays away from presenting eternal divine decrees within the godhead as covenantal.
One of the central themes of this book is that covenants are far more unified than diverse, demonstrating continuity rather than discontinuity. In many ways, this has been the central issue of debate surrounding Biblical covenants. Robertson's emphatic stress on the unity of the covenants is still a staple of covenant theology, though greater discontinuity is being allowed in covenant circles today in ways that Robertson does not leave room for here. I happen to think that Robertson's presentation, while undoubtedly highly systemic and therefore susceptible to flattening the Bible and minimizing its diversity, is nonetheless very good and mostly correct. His contention that Jesus Christ is the comprehensive fulfillment of all Biblical covenants and that the New Covenant that He inaugurated is the final covenant is an essential aspect of covenant theology that puts each Biblical covenant into a distinctly Christological context.
In summary, any investigation of the merits of covenant theology must include a perusal of this book. Whatever disagreements I may have on the edges, I think Robertson has given us a lasting contribution in this area that has become the starting point for most formulations of covenant theology in the years following its publication. A crucial contribution worthy of purchase.
This is not a "light" book, but a treatment of the theology of the Covenant which is accessible to most, nonetheless. It is not terribly scholarly, but does take a more academic tack on the subject than most books. Given this caveat, this is a tremendous resource for those who wish to convey this subject to small group or other audiences within the church.
In this book, Robertson traces the development of God's covenantal dealings with humanity - through the various administrations connected with Abraham, Moses, David and Christ. Each administration, Robertson emphasizes with great aplomb, is not indicative of different covenants (with different requirements, or rewards, as some segments of the church teach), but in fact different reflections of the same Covenant of Redemption that finds its highest fulfillment in Christ and the New Covenant.
This work was truly a joy to read, and a refreshingly intense study of a very important subject. Again, I would recommend this to any pastor, elder, or lay teacher who wishes to take up the subject of Covenant theology in their church or home bible study group.
Robertson promotes the view that each successive covenant was a progression in God's redemptive plan and that each covenant in its uniqueness was in ways a revealing of a different aspect of that ultimate plan of redemption.
I recommend this book to anyone interested at a fuller understanding of the Bible as a whole and those seeking to understand the role of the Biblical covenants. This book is an excellent treatment of redemptive history.
What this book does best is show how the covenants (and not dispensations) truly structure Scripture. Indeed without understanding the covenants, one will inevitably fail to understand much of Scripture.
Being raised a dispensationalist, I had a somewhat vague understanding that there are several covenants mentioned in Scripture. But I never understood how important and influential they really are. Interestingly, in an excursus focusing on dispensationalism, Robertson compares the Old and New Scofield Bibles and shows that contemporary dispensationalism now also emphasizes the importance of the Biblical covenants.
Starting with the basics, Robertson defines the term "covenant" against the backdrop of ancient middle-eastern covenants. He concludes that in Scripture a covenant is "a bond in blood sovereignly administered." Robertson delves into the technical discussions surrounding this concept, but at the same time manages to keep it somewhat simple. A relationship is established unilaterally, and loyalty is demanded on pain of death.
Robertson moves on to discuss the extent, the unity and the diversity of the Biblical covenants. He makes a good case for understanding the Gen. 1-2 in terms of a covenant of creation, citing Jeremiah 33 and Hosea 6:7 as proof. He contends that after the fall, the Biblical story is a progression of covenants each more specific and more glorious, culminating in the new covenant which was begun and inaugurated with the death of Christ. Yet he maintains that there are important differences worth noting between the covenants, and particularly between the Law and the new covenant.
Then he begins a discussion of all the important Biblical covenants, starting with the covenant of creation. He admits that the focus of that covenant is on the prohibition concerning eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but claims the covenant establishes a gracious relationship whereby man is called to rule God's creation and given instruction concerning marriage and Sabbath observance (he contends that there is a binding Sabbath principle to be observed on Sundays still today). He rightly emphasizes that ignoring the foundational teaching of how man should relate with the rest of creation has negatively impacted how Christians relate with and think about culture today.
Then he takes up the covenant of redemption which he sees as started in Gen. 3:15, and progressively developed through the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and then the new covenant. He develops each covenant insightfully, focusing on the Scriptural passages which establish the covenant idea, and applying important truths in a fresh way for all of us today. His discussion of the new covenant, and particularly Jer. 31:3-34, is particularly rich and insightful.
That is Robertson's book. Except I should note he stresses how the idea and promise of Christ is developed through each covenant. And he also has a great excursus chapter on dispensationalism. In that chapter he tries to show how dispensationalism has grown and changed. He finds contradictions within the system, however, and argues the point that dispensationalism depends on a false dualistic view that the physical and the spiritual must necessarily be distinguished. His chapter on dispensationalism (a mere 26 pages in length) alone is worth the price of the book. It would be well for those studying out the dispensational/covenant theology debate to listen to Robertson's insights. Perhaps I will try to flesh out the arguments in that chapter in a later post.
In conclusion, I highly recommend Robertson's book. After 300 pages one gets a thorough education in the Biblical covenants. At times it may be difficult reading, but the rewards gained are worth the effort spent. Mostly, Robertson has a gift for cutting to the heart of the matter. And a detailed study on the nature and teaching of the Biblical covenants demands the attention of any Biblical student. This book will help you understand Scripture better, and will increase your wonder at the glorious workings in God's plan of redemption.