Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 4

Having laid some typological groundwork, Fesko turns his focus towards explicating the covenant between God and Adam, expressed in the WCF as follows: “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.”

The word “covenant” (בְּרִית) denotes a special kind of treaty between two or more parties. There are a variety of covenantal agreements found in Scripture: friendship (e.g. David and Jonathan), marriage (e.g. Adam and Eve), parity (e.g. Abram and Abimelech), and Suzerain-Vassal (God and man).

Obviously, the covenant of works would fall under the purview of this last kind of covenant. The major covenants between God and fallen man in the Old Testament are each, to greater or lesser extents, in some sense unilateral. The Mosaic covenant most explicitly contains bilateral elements, denoting human responsibility (not synergism per se). As one would, for obvious reasons, expect a covenant of works to be bilateral, an outline of the nature of a Suzerain-Vassal treaty – within the Mosaic context especially – would, should one find that Genesis 1-3 is similarly structured, certainly strengthen the argument that God covenanted with Adam:

1. The introduction of the Suzerain (God) and Vassal (man).

2. Historical comments about the God’s relation to man.

3. The stipulations of the treaty.

4. A clause requiring both periodic reading of the treaty and its preservation in the temple.

5. The articulation of the blessings and curses of God depending upon man’s response to the stipulations of the treaty. 

6. The ratification of the treaty by witnesses.

So, for instance, when one compares this outline to the Mosaic covenant, he finds the parallels are striking. Exodus 20:2 lists the Suzerain, Vassal, and their relation (God has protected Moses and Israel). The stipulations are, of course, the 10 Commandments, covered throughout verses 3-17. These verses also outline the blessings or curses one can expect to receive depending upon the adherence to the stipulations in the covenant – prolonged days and loving kindness from the Lord as blessings, and punishment and the visiting of “iniquities of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him” as curses (verses 5-7, 12). Exodus 25:16 invokes the document clause and 24:4 entails the witnesses.

Obviously, there was as yet no historical relation between God and man except insofar as God explained the purpose of that which He prepared for man (Genesis 1:28-30, 2:15, 19-20). 1:28-30 and 2:3, 15-17 express the dominion mandate, command against eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge (cf. Exodus 20:13-15), and the blessings (permanent Sabbath and fellowship) and curses (death, alienation) which would be bestowed on Adam depending upon the result of his actions during the probative period. Moreover, the tree of life and tree of knowledge, like signs in other Suzerain-Vassal treaties, “function sacramentally by serving as visual reminders of God’s stated blessing and curse, the promise of life or death,” which would in turn serve as the constant reminders of the covenant. Finally, the aerial imagery used to describe the presence of Holy Spirit in God’s (re)creative activity (Genesis 1:2, cf. Genesis 8:1-8, Exodus 13:21-22, Matthew 3:16, Revelation 10:1) should not be overlooked, as He is the witness to God’s covenantal exercise (cf. Jeremiah 33:19-20).

Even if the rest of Scripture were silent on the nature of God’s fellowship with Adam, then, the fact that a covenant does not need to be explicitly identified as such within the immediate context of a passage – note that, in addition to Jeremiah 33:19-20, a marriage ceremony is never explicitly mentioned, although Genesis 1-2 certainly implies such – and the fact that Genesis 1-2 follows the covenantal standard is sufficient to show that the essentials of such a relationship were extant. Fesko proceeds to note that extra-contextual evidence supports the interpretation that God covenanted with Adam.

Firstly, the fact that God said he would “establish” rather than “cut” or “make” a covenant with Noah – the first time בְּרִית appears in Genesis (6:18) – implies the republication of an extant covenant rather than a formulation of a new covenant. That the command in Genesis 1:28 is repeated in 9:7, the context in which God did establish the Noahic covenant, certainly points toward the idea that the covenant which God was re-establishing with Noah was one which He had originally “made” with Adam.

Secondly, Hosea 6:7 – “Like Adam,  they have broken the covenant…” – is proof God established a covenant with Adam. No less than Calvin argued that “Adam” means “men,” and yet this substitution lacks the specificity necessary in order for the analogy Hosea draws to be intelligible; on the other hand, it would make sense if Hosea was observing Adam and Israel – both the sons of God (Exodus 22-23, Luke 3:38) – were both unfaithful to the covenant (cf. Job 31:33).

A final passage Fesko cites in conjunction with his argument is Romans 5:12-19, as explicit a typological explanation as can be found within Scripture. Given all the ways in which Adam is said to prefigure Christ, it would be improbable that one would have lived within a covenantal context if the other did not. Regardless, the preceding arguments the nature of this covenant (explanation forthcoming in the next post) suggest that it is untenable to regard Adam’s relationship with God as anything if not covenantal.

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