Does Hebrews Have a Covenant Theology?

Elliot Johnson | May 24, 2010

The federal covenant theology posits a heavenly pre-existent covenant of grace which differs from the biblical New Covenant as stated in Jer 31:31-34. To answer the question, “Does Hebrews have a Covenant Theology?,” four themes for evaluating the federal theological covenant of grace are (1) the use of Scripture and the one people of God, (2) the unity between the Old and New Covenants, (3) the discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants, and (4) the warning passages and the doctrine of predestination. The epistle does not support the replacement of the houses of Israel and Judah by another people. Nor does Hebrews equate the New Covenant with one theological covenant existing from eternity past. It does support a discontinuity in moving from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. The federal theology model fails to allow for contingency found in the warning passages of the book. The federal covenant theology neglects Hebrews’ omission of any mention of a federal covenant established in eternity past, but the biblical covenant model does find textual support in four areas: (1) Scripture and the application of the New Covenant, being based on Hebrew’s extensive use of relevant OT texts; (2) covenant ratification and the coherent relationship between the first and the New Covenant, since the epistle bases the two covenants on different priesthoods; (3) discontinuity between the New Covenant and the last will and testament, since the last will and testament (9:16-17) is based on the death of Christ; (4) warning passages and the doctrine of inheritance, since there is contingency as well as predestination involved in receiving the promised blessings. The federal covenant theology model fails through a lack of textual support, but the biblical covenant model receives support because it recognizes distinct priests supported by distinct covenants for distinct services.

Vol. 21, no. 1 (Spring 2010)

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Johnson, Elliot. "Does Hebrews Have a Covenant Theology?." The Master's Seminary Journal 21, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 31-54.