OT Themes Paper.docx - The Five Main Themes of the Old...

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The Five Main Themes of the Old Testament: Covenant, Kingship, Grace, Sacrifice, and Prophetism A Research Paper Presented to Dr. Fowler of Liberty University Lynchburg, VA In Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for Honors Old Testament Life & Literature BIBL 205-002 by Noel M. R. Pena 20 November 2015
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Pena 2 Old Testament Themes Paper American mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell can be quoted, “Computers are like Old Testament (gods), lots of rules and no mercy.” Sadly enough, many people, even some Biblical scholars, hold to this stereotype that the Old and New Testaments display different foundational characteristics of God: law versus grace. As will be examined here, the stories of the OT are abundant in both God’s grace and His holiness, and the histories within these books are saturated with the theological themes of covenant, kingship, grace, sacrifice, and prophetism. Each of the five subsections listed will first answer the “who, what, why, when, where, and how” questions. After a thorough explanation of the historical and theological significance of each theme, this exposition will address a crucial debate concerning the theme, if such is applicable. We begin with the theme of covenant in this study of five prominent OT themes. Covenant. The history and use of covenant are crucial to the development of the OT plot. The idea of covenant within the Ancient Near East (ANE) was clearly pre-Mosaic, probably beginning within the Sumerian covenants in the 3 rd millennium BC (Thompson 792). According to Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach , a covenant can be generally defined as “a solemn bond established between two or more parties (usually on the basis of a promise or pledge) and involved a firm commitment to the relationship established by the covenant and to its obligations” (Routledge 163). The Hebrew word for covenant is bĕrît, which indicated “eating bread with” or “alliance.” Another way to describe a covenant is as a legal obligation, often with religious sanctions (Payne, J. 1051). ANE covenants were either parity or suzerainty covenants. Parity covenants were made by a negotiation between two people/nations of equal standing. Examples include those between Jonathon and David or David and Abner (Thompson 791). Suzerainty covenants, which more accurately parallel God’s many covenants with man, are between parties of unequal standing. Such covenants were drawn up by the suzerain (God), who laid forth the stipulations and reasons, and were then entered into by the vassals (Israelites) (Payne, J. 1052-1054). Suzerain covenants included five main aspects: the introduction/preamble (identified the speaker), the historical prologue (detailed the events leading up to the treaty, what the suzerain had already done, and the obligations of vassal), the stipulations (telling how both parties were to live while bound by the covenant), a call for a witness (the god[s] of nations), and a list of blessings and curses (based on [non]compliance) (Thompson 790). Israelite covenants with God were often compared to marriage, in which the bond is for life, with full-hearted devotion to the other party (Thompson 791).
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