What is ‘The Covenant’? Part 1

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

      “Covenant” is not a term we use in ordinary communication.  We much prefer to use “testament” or “contract.”  “Testament” has entered into the English speaking world through the King James Bible of 1611 and the Book of Common Prayer (1662).  Covenant sounds witchy, like a coven.  It carries with it an overtone of a blood ritual or something.  The English word, “covenant” is an old word that simply means, “agreement” or “meet agreeably” (to convene).

     The Latin Bible (405) has the word testamentum for the Hebrew and Greek terms, berith and diatheke, respectively.  The English Standard Version (2001, from the RSV, 1971) uses the word “covenant” 319 time in both the Old and New “testaments”.  This is an unfortunate division on our “Bibles”, old and new testaments, for the suggestion is that everything from Genesis to Malachi is old covenant, whereas everything in the new testament is, well, new covenant.  The Scriptures themselves did not use these artificial divisions, and neither do I.

     In the Scriptures, we have “the word of God”, “the Scriptures”, “the Law”, “the Law and the Prophets,” etc.  The term, “old covenant” (or, in Latin and older English Bibles following the Latin, “old testament”) is never used to designate Genesis-Malachi as such.  Genesis-Malachi is the Hebrew Scriptures, the Law and the Prophets and the Writings (LPW from here on out).  In fact, this is the designation give by Jewish nomenclature: the TaNaKh (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim – Law, Prophets, Writings).  Numerous examples can be given if required.

     In fact, for this scholar, I think that the Christian division of our Bible can imply a bit of racism, historically speaking.  I am not one at all that succumbs to every pitter patter of crying “racist” like the unhinged Leftists are in this country, so do not get me wrong here.  I am not at all trying to be politically correct.  I do, however, wish to be biblically correct, and where a designation such as this stands in the way of a better understanding of our subject matter, then be rid of it!

     This is first point is actually a very important, fundamental one.  When, for example, I am reading, Zephaniah, the Prophet, I am not reading the “old testament” in terms of Bible-speak.  In terms of Bible speak I am reading, well, the Prophet Zephaniah!  Now, Zephaniah, may he be forever remembered, was a Prophet around the time of 641-610 before our common era (B.C.E., or as Christians use, Before Christ –somewhere around the 15th century).  He was not an old testament Prophet any more than he was a new testament prophet.  He was a prophet that spoke and wrote before the arrival of Messiah Jesus.  He was a Prophet from the nation of Israel, which was established by the old covenant.

     Now, the first time we find this phrase, “old testament” or “old covenant” is in the Blessed Apostle Paul.  In his letter to the Corinthian assemblies, he wrote, “But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away” (3.14).  And, in the context, it is quite plain as to what he means by “old covenant” for he wrote, “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was…” (3.7, see also verse 13).  Verse 15 hammers away any doubt as to what Paul meant by old covenant: “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read…”  Not when Judges is read, or Jeremiah is read, but when Moses is read.  Particularly Moses’ words which were “engraved on stone.”  This is the “old covenant.”

            In fact, and this may shock modern readers, this is the only place we find the term ‘tes palaias diathekes’ (the old covenant) in the entire Bible!  Imagine that.  Our entire Bible has been split right in two by a designation found only once.  And, in that designation only Moses is referred to!

            Now, of course, we have not yet defined what a “covenant” is, be it old or new.  So far, we are interested only its usage as a phrase found in the Scriptures, in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.  There is only one other book in the Greek Scriptures that clearly alludes to what Paul called the old covenant in the way in which we are focused: Hebrews.[i]  In that book we find the peculiar phrase, “the first covenant” (8.7, 13; 9.1).  And it is, all agreed, in reference to the law-code of Moses, for it speaks of the Tabernacle, its furnishings, and its priestly worship (the words of Moses in Exodus-Deuteronomy given to the young nation of Israel).  The author of Hebrews uses only the adjective, “first”, but he uses a Perfect verb in Greek to describe this covenant: it has been made old following that with a Present adjectival participle, is old.  The Perfect tense in Greek is strong past tense.  It also brings out the fact that what has been done in the past is the current status in the present.  This is brought out, then, by the participle (which is descriptive, but highlights no “time” except in relation to the main verb).  If, say, the Atari game counsel has been “made old” (a while ago), then it is still old presently (no one uses it, it’s outdated).  Accordingly, then, to the author, the “first covenant” (the one made with Moses) has been made old (some time in the past), and because of this fact, it’s present status is what it has been made to be: outdated, no longer in function, not made any more, not in production).  A retail-store word would be, “discontinued.”  I’m in retail, and I come across this daily.  A customer picks up an item (we have one left) and wants another, but we can’t get it anymore.  It’s been discontinued (it still is, it is discontinued – it’s present status).  Quite frustrating to the consumer, but there’s always EBAY.

            It may be remarked as well that the use of the numerical (ordinal number) designations of “first covenant” and “second” (8.7) is not a commentary on the chronological (though that is involved), but on the comparison of the two covenants the author has in mind.  The first covenant compared to a second covenant.  If I have two credit cards in my hand and I say, “this first card needs to be shredded and we will only keep this second one” I am not at all saying, “this is the first credit card I ever had, and this is the second credit card after that one.”  It may be the case that I have many credit cards, but I am only talking about these two, this one (the first in my example) and that one (the second in my example).  Scholars understand this point simply because Moses’ covenant was not at all the first covenant in Scripture!  And, by that token, the “new covenant” (which we have yet to consider) was not the second one.  It is the last one.

            From this brief analysis it is a settled matter that when Paul or the author(s) of Hebrews (which has the influence of Paul) spoke of the “old covenant” or “first covenant” or the “covenant that has been made old and is, in fact, old as a result of its being made old sometime before” the author wrote, is in reference to Moses’ covenant (the Mosaic Covenant).  Not Jeremiah, and certainly not HaggaiHaggai was not “that which has been made old”.  Genesis has not “been made old”, either. From this, we have established that the old testament is not Genesis-Malachi.  The old testament is in the Hebrew Bible, but it is not the whole Hebrew Bible.  It is particularly in the words of God to a man named, Moses, and made with a group of people to be designated as a nation: Israel.  In our second part, we will explore the instances this word occurs in the Scriptures.

[i] This is not at all a negation of the fact that the old covenant is not designated by other terms in the Scriptures.  My only focus here is the term associated with the word, “covenant”.

Author: Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

Samuel M. Frost has gained the recognition of his family, peers, colleagues, church members, and local community as a teacher and leader.  Samuel was raised in the Foursquare Gospel tradition and continued in the rising Charismatic Movement of the early 1980’s.  While serving in local congregations he was admitted to Liberty Christian College in Pensacola, Florida where he lived on campus for four years earning his Bachelor’s of Theology degree.  It was there under the tutelage of Dr. Dow Robinson (Summer Institutes of Linguistics), and Dr. Frank Longino (Dallas Theological Seminary) that he was motivated to pursue a career in Theology.  Dr. Robinson wrote two books on Linguistics, Workbook on Phonological Analysis (SIL, 1970) and Manuel for Bilingual Dictionaries: Textbook (SIL, 1969).  It was under these teachers’ guidance that Frost entered into his Master’s studies, being granted a scholarship for Greek I and II at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, accredited, in Cleveland, Tennessee (adjunct of Lee University).  Frost completed his study under Dr. French Arrington, who used the text of J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners. Frost studied Hebrew for two years under Dr. Mark Futato (author, Beginning Biblical Hebrew, Eisenbrauns, 2003) and Dr. Bruce K. Waltke (author, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, 1990) at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida. With combined credits from PTS and RTS, Samuel completed his Master of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Arts in Religion from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida under the direct tutelage of Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, co-author of the well reviewed work, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism (Whitefield Media, 2005) with Dr. Gary Crampton (and Foreword by the late, Dr. D. James Kennedy).  Dr. Talbot also oversaw Samuel’s Dissertation, From the First Adam to the Second and Last Adam (2012) earning him the Magister Theologiae (Th.M.) degree.  He also helped put together A Student’s Hebrew Primer for WTS and graded exams in Hebrew. Samuel’s studies lead him into an issue in the field of Eschatology where his scholarship and unique approach in Hermeneutics garnered him recognition.  Because of the controversial nature of some of his conclusions, scholars were sharp in their disagreement with him.  Frost’s initial work, Misplaced Hope: The Origins of First and Second Century Eschatology (2002, Second Edition, 2006 Bi-Millennial Publishing), sold over four thousand units.  While arguing for the Reformation understanding of sola Scriptura as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith, Frost’s book launched a heavily footnoted argument for a total reassessment of the doctrine known as the Second Coming of Christ.  The conclusion was that the events of the war of the Jewish nation against their Roman overlords in 66-70 C.E. formed the New Testament authors’ eschatological outlook, and went no further than their own first century generation; a view otherwise known as “full” or "hyper" Preterism.  Internationally recognized Evangelical author and speaker Steve Wohlberg remarked, ‘On the “preterist” side today…we have such influential leaders as Gary DeMar, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., David Chilton, R.C. Sproul, Max King, James Stuart Russell, Samuel M. Frost, and John Noe.  To these scholars…the beast is not on the horizon, he’s dead” (Italics, his)” (End Time Delusions, Destiny Image Publishers, 2004, page 133).  It should be noted that only Noe, King and Frost supported the “full” Preterist position. Thomas Ice and co-author of the best selling Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye, quote Frost’s work, Misplaced Hope, as well in their book, The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming under Attack (Harvest House Publishers, 2003, page 40).  Dr. Jay E. Adams, who single handedly launched “a revolution” in Christian Counseling with his work, Competent to Counsel: An Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling, (1970, Zondervan), also wrote an analysis of Frost’s work in Preterism: Orthodox or Unorthodox? (Ministry Monographs for Modern Times, INS Publishing, 2004).  Dr. Charles E. Hill, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, wrote of Misplaced Hope that Frost, “attacks the problem of the early church in a much more thoroughgoing way than I have seen” (When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper Preterism, Ed. Keith Mathison, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003, ‘Eschatology in the Wake of Jerusalem’s Fall’ p. 110-ff.).  There were several other works as well that took the scholarship of Frost seriously, like Ergun Caner in The Return of Christ: A Premillennial Perspective, Eds., Steve W. Lemke and David L. Allen (B&H Publishing, 2011). Because of the controversial nature of Frost’s conclusions on these matters, it was difficult to find a denomination within the Church-at-Large to work in terms of pastoral ministry.  That situation changed when Samuel was called by a Bible study group in Saint Petersburg, Florida to found a congregation.  Christ Covenant Church was established in 2002 operating under the principles outlined by Presbyterian historian James Bannerman’s work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, original, 1869).  By-Laws and a Constitution were drawn up in the strictest manner for what was considered an “Independent” establishment of a Presbyterian Church, granted that a “call” was received and recognized by Presiding Elders duly ordained from existing and recognized denominations.  Two Elders, one ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Mike Delores), and another ordained in the Presbyterian Church of America (Dr. Kelly N. Birks, now deceased) tested and reviewed the call, ordaining Samuel on October 20th, 2002, the Twenty Second Sunday after Trinity.  Proper forms were submitted to Tallahassee, Florida with the stamp of a Notary Public Witness.  Christ Covenant Church (CCC) functioned as a local church for five years with a congregation as large as 30 members.  Frost was gaining recognition after Misplaced Hope had been published in January of that year, and conferences were hosted that included debates with another prominent "full" Preterist educator, Don K. Preston.  CCC hosted best-selling authors, Thomas Ice, and Mark Hitchcock from Dallas Theological Seminary; and Dr. James B. Jordan (Westminster Theological Seminary), well-known author/pastor in Reformed theological circles.  Frost was invited for the next several years to speak at over 25 conferences nation-wide, was featured in articles and an appearance on local news in Tampa for one of CCC’s conferences.  The Evangelical Theological Society also invited Samuel to speak at the Philadelphia conference (Frost is currently a Member of ETS as well as Society of Biblical Literature). During this time Samuel had submitted one more book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead (TruthVoice, 2008; repr. JaDon Publishing, 2010); and co-wrote, House Divided: A Reformed Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Vision International, 2010).  Frost also wrote several Forewords for up and coming authors who were influenced by his teaching materials, as well as cited many times in books, lectures and academic papers.  However, because of certain aspects of Hermeneutics and Frost’s undaunted commitment to scholarship (with always a strong emphasis on the personal nature of devotional living to Christ), several challenges to the "hyper" Preterist view he espoused finally gave way, largely due to the unwavering commitment to Samuel by the Dean of Whitefield Theological Seminary, Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, who continually challenged him.  In what shocked the "hyper" Preterist world, Samuel announced after the Summer of 2010 that he was in serious error, and departed the movement as a whole, along with Jason Bradfield, Assistant Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida .  Christ Covenant Church had dissolved after 2007 while Samuel continued as a public speaker and writer, largely due to reasons that would unravel Frost’s commitment to "hyper" Preterism as a whole. The documentation of Frost’s departure was published by American Vision’s Founder, Gary DeMar, with a Foreword by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry.  Why I Left Full Preterism (AV Publishing, 2012) quickly sold out its first run.  The book was later republished under the arm of Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry and is sold today (GoodBirth Ministries Publishing, 2019).  Dr. Keith Mathison, Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida, endorsed the book as well.  Samuel has gone on to write, Daniel: Unplugged (Kindle/Amazon, 2019); The Parousia of the Son of Man (Lulu Publishing, 2019); God: As Bill Wilson Understood Him, A Theological Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous (Lulu Publishing, 2017).  He is also active as a certified Chaplain with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana, and enrolled with ICAADA (Indiana Counselor’s Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse) working directly under Dr. Dennis Greene, Founder of Christian Counseling and Addictions Services, Inc.  Frost’s passion is in the education of the local church on various issues and occasionally works Pastor Alan McCraine with the First Presbyterian Church in Lewisville, Indiana where he periodically is called upon to give the sermon.  He also is working with Redemption Life Bible Church with Pastor Tyler Jackson in New Castle, Indiana.  Samuel, with his wife, Kimberly, helped to establish Heaven’s Bread Basket food pantry that donates food items to local families in need once a month – a ministry of the Session of First Presbyterian Church. Samuel has four children, one step-son, ages sixteen to twenty-eight and has worked part time at Ace Hardware in New Castle, Indiana for over five years.  He has a solid reputation in the community, and has performed marriages and funerals.  He also sits on the Board of the Historical Preservation Committee in New Castle.

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