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Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God's Unfolding Purpose (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Paperback – March 14, 2007
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While other books undoubtedly offer a more approachable introduction to covenant in biblical theology, Sealed With an Oath is a helpful addition. This book will particularly benefit pastors teaching and seminary students studying divine-human covenants. Laypersons interested in learning more after reading Robertson or Dumbrell will find much complementary material in Williamson's excellent book. (Jason Button, TheoSource, May 22, 2008)
"Few will be the readers who will not learn a great deal . . . and who will not appreciate the firm but respectful way Dr. Williamson disagrees with his dialogue partners. And perhaps some of those who are much too indebted to atomistic exegesis, unable to see how the Bible hangs together, will glimpse something of the comprehensiveness and wholeness of God's self-disclosure in Scripture, and find their worship of the covenant-making God enhanced." (D. A. Carson)
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Sealed with an Oath is the 23rd volume of the series New Studies in Biblical Theology, edited by D.A. Carson. I have really appreciated other books in this series--those that I have read were excellent models of "Biblical Theology," and Williamson's book is no exception.
Williamson writes that "the aim of [this book] is to highlight the significance of covenant for biblical theology, and explore the role of this concept within God's unfolding purpose" (11). Later he expresses his hope that his study of covenant will also illustrate the unity of the Bible amidst its diversity, though this is not his primary purpose (19). Demonstrating an awareness of the danger of arguing for a "center" to biblical theology, Williamson is careful to insist that he is not arguing that "covenant" is the comprehensive theological theme, but rather is "one of Scriptures major theology themes." He sees this as an important admission, since much of the Bible does not seem to relate directly to the idea of "covenant" (e.g., wisdom literature; see 32).
The first chapter lays the groundwork for his subsequent discussion. He interacts with previous scholarship on the concept of the covenant, including Reformed (i.e., Covenantal) Theology, which he critiques for imposing the distinction between the Covenant of Works/Life and the Covenant of Grace (28). In this chapter he also defines "covenant" (berit in Hebrew and diatheke in Greek) as "a solemn commitment, guaranteeing promises or obligations undertaken by one or both parties, sealed with an oath" (43).Read more ›
The content of the book is about 200 pages, plus a thorough bibliography. If you need to give yourself a quick refresher as I did, you can easily skip portions of each chapter when the author launches into several pages on a particular theological debate related to one of the covenants, or takes several pages to go deeper than you need to go. If you are writing a theology paper for seminary, you'll find those sections helpful and interesting. You could easily read about 100 pages of this book and get a really good handle on it. (And by the way, you really can preach a 45 minute sermon encapsulating all the covenants . . . I did!)
For non-pastors or non-academic types . . . the language here is not overly heady, or overly bogged down in the original languages. I would feel comfortable recommending this to any lay person who has reasonable reading skills.
And you can't really go wrong with a book edited by DA Carson.
Overall, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to survey what the Bible has to say about covenants. It faithfully walks us through the Bible from cover to cover and thus lives out its stated goal of providing a Biblical Theology.