FOTS #8 WHY THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSAL COVENANT HAS BEEN ELUDED

 

Following on from my last post I am well aware that the Church’s theologians cannot rely on a single passage in Genesis but must compare scripture with scripture, and the concept of an inclusive covenant for fallen humanity implicit in the Cain and Abel story (explicit when utilising the Masoretic text) hardly fits in with much else as it has been historically and universally interpreted ever since Christian doctrine was systematised. Moreover, the Greek Septuagint (LXX) renders the key verse about God’s warning to Cain somewhat differently and that is the version to which most of the apostles and the early Church will have referred. The Hebrew (Masoretic Text) is just as dependable as the LXX but it simply was not utilised by the apostolic Church, the Greek language being lingua franca for the Roman Empire and therefore the Greco-Roman Church.  It is therefore no surprise that the apostles do not make direct reference to this verse (Gen4:7) whilst the early Fathers always quote from the LXX, which intriguingly refers to Cain’s incorrect division of his offering and that he should “be at peace and rule over him”; somewhat meaningless and surely a corruption of the Hebrew, presumably the “him” referring to the devil. I understand such obscurity to be an intentional veiling on God’s part regarding an understanding of a Universal Covenant, yet it is not dependant on this verse alone but can be deduced from Cain’s punishment and curse in which he became excluded from the nature of the relationship with God that his brother, his parents and indeed Cain himself experienced before the fratricide, which surely is the point (Gen4:11-14.).

However, the principle reason for what might in a dual sense be termed “the Lost Covenant” concerns the nature of the Bible itself which was never intended to be a detailed story of God’s creation; for example we know relatively little about the angelic realm from which evil had sprung and with which we will one day participate; rather scripture’s focus is the salvation history for the world centred on Christ, His cross and His peculiar peoples (the Jewish nation and the Church). Hence Abraham is a vastly more significant figure than Abel; both had “faith” and were justified by it, being representatives within covenants, but Abraham initiated the EXCLUSIVE  covenant from which his own son Ishmael who had been blessed by God and circumcised by his father was not admitted (Gen17:20,23: cf. 21:20). Such a covenant was formed to provide the royal priesthood through whom God might enlighten and reconcile the world to Himself (cf. Deut4:5,6; Ex19:5,6; 1Pet2:9). The inclusive covenant into which Abel was declared to be righteous and Cain defaulted does not have a direct role in that salvation story, firstly because it pertains to that which is intuitive (so is not dependant on special revelation or a specific creed) and secondly because individuals are not “saved” through it, i.e. they are not purged of their sin and spiritually empowered to experience a living, transformational relationship with Christ whilst still in the body so as to be fitted to be His eternal Consort in the ages to come. That is the nature of gospel “salvation” and it requires “the exceedingly abundant grace which is in Christ Jesus” to accomplish it (1Tim1:14).