Covenantal Theology & Dispensational Theology

For Starters

In short, these two theologies are “big picture” theologies. Each focuses on the overall story of the Scriptures as it unfolds with their differences being in how each approach views Scripture’s narrative with different angles &/or foci.

It is often stated that Covenant Theology focuses on the continuity of all Scripture whereas Dispensational focuses on the discontinuity of the unfolding of all Scripture.

These statements are true but they do not give you much detail. The truly difficult part is where to go from that description, however, as neither theology has been static over the years. Dispensational theology use to be broken down into far more periods of time or “dispensations” than what most would do today.

In addition to the above, there are additional hurdles like forks in theology and flat out divergences such as between reformed baptist (who are typically credo-baptist like the dispensational types – so now you have cross-over) and the Presbyterians who are paedo-baptist (infant baptizers). I bring this up because this is an example of one of those “forks” as it is a difference in their covenant theology that brings them to different conclusions about baptism.

Dispensationalists would include many baptist congregations as well as those that consider themselves nondenominational but it also includes many Pentecostals as well. They would agree with much of the overarching story of Scripture and of eschatology but diverge on the topic of Pentecost and the cessation of gifts.

I think you begin to get at least a glimpse of some of the challenges in trying to decipher out what is purely covenantal theology and what is purely dispensational theology simply by this description but there do remain certain trends – namely in eschatology.

Eschatology

I have already mentioned the continuity versus discontinuity difference but another common element of difference tends to be eschatology. Now, I know I mentioned it in an example only a moment ago but this is going to get more specific.

Historically speaking, I have come across examples of individuals and groups who held to many of the various eschatological views held in history while still being under the Covenant Theology umbrella. With that being said, it is much more common (I find) for the typical member under this umbrella to be some form of amillennialist. There continue to be prominent leaders who may take a different form of premillennialism from that of the Dispensationalist and there are also those who continue to be postmillennial. Even so, amillennial certainly would appear to be most prominent.

Again, even with that said there can be quite a bit of variety still as being amillennialist merely means there is agreement in that there is to be no millennial kingdom on Earth before the end of all things.

The biggest component to the Covenant Theology camp is to the development and progression of covenants in the Scriptures and how they are part of God’s overall plan of redemption. Dispensationalism does not necessarily ignore the existence of the covenants, in fact it recognizes their existence, but it is far more focused on God’s seemingly changing interaction with His people in redemptive history. Covenants were often a marker of this change and Israel central in it all.

Getting back to particular end times views, the Dispensational Theology umbrella is pretty well exclusively a futurist eschatology and, thereby, is premillennial with a millennial kingdom reign on Earth by Christ (though the belief did not always have Christ ruling over this kingdom) in the future. There are differences among them as to the timing of the rapture (pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, post-tribulation) but they are rather convinced of a complete removal of all true believers from this world before Christ returns. Much of everything will be centered around Jerusalem in Israel and include the Israeli people. It is this theological umbrella in particular that makes the strongest claims for supporting the Jews and Israel to this day.

I realize this may all seem a bit vague but at other times more specific. As I have suggested, these theologies are frameworks that incorporate the entirety of Scripture and have developed over time. As such, not everyone in a given approach has even held the exact same view throughout its respective history. There continues to be variations to this day. In addition, some emphasize certain texts over others which leads to further differences in interpretation. This article was never meant to explain it all but to stand as a sort of introduction to some of the differences between the two theologies. At different points in my life, I have held to some form of each which you can find out more about that in the links below.


If all of this gets you to wondering what I may think or where I may stand, you can see for yourself on my “Simply Me” page where I’ve got multiple articles linked on various topics includes ones such as eschatology.

Hebrew Tidbit #7

It was mentioned before that Hebrew has a cursive style of writing. So today I want to share with you what that looks like and the best source I have found is in the following video.

The “written” or “handwriting” form they keep referencing in the video is also called the cursive.

Of course, this video covers more than simply handwriting. If you’ve read the other Hebrew Tidbits, some of this material will seem already familiar.


This concludes the Hebrew Tidbit mini-series. Further Hebrew material will be coming separately.

Covenant

Dictionary.com

noun

  • an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified.
  • Law. an incidental clause in such an agreement.
  • Ecclesiastical. a solemn agreement between the members of a church to act together in harmony with the precepts of the gospel.

verb (used without object)

  • to enter into a covenant.

verb (used with object)

  • to promise by covenant; pledge.to stipulate.

Etymonline.com

c. 1300, covenaunt, “mutual compact to do or not do something, a contract,” from Old French covenant, convenant “agreement, pact, promise” (12c.), originally present participle of covenir “agree, meet,” from Latin convenire “come together, unite; be suitable, agree,” from com- “together” (see com-) + venire “to come,” from a suffixed form of PIE root *gwa- “to go, come.”

In law, “a promise made by deed” (late 14c.). Applied in Scripture to God’s arrangements with man as a translation of Latin testamentum, Greek diatheke, both rendering Hebrew berith (though testament also is used for the same word in different places). Meaning “solemn agreement between members of a church” is from 1630s; specifically those of the Scottish Presbyterians in 1638 and 1643 (see covenanter).

Discussion/Explanation

The above information is correct. It is a pact or a sort of promise if you will. However, in Old Testament Hebrew tradition, it went even further than that.

In the original Hebrew, the language used for making a covenant involved cutting. You were “cutting a covenant” agreement but the cutting analogy did not end there as it would turn red with blood too. An animal (or more) would be cut in two as a visual representation of the importance and severity that would result to the one who broke the covenant.

We think of covenants today as a sort of contract but in Old Testament times, they were a blood contract that demanded blood if you failed to keep it. This is an important component in Biblical Theology as man repeatedly could not keep the covenants made and paid the price.

Thankfully one day there was one who could keep them perfectly but instead of us paying the price, He did with His life which is why we now turn to Christ for salvation rather than anything/one else.


See more like this post in “ologies & key terms“.

Hebrew Tidbit #6

Hebrew is not a tense-based language.

This can be a difficult component for not only English native speakers to grasp but for most who learned a western language first.

Hebrew is a language of aspect and in order to translate into English which has tenses you have to consider which aspect you are translating from and the context.

So let’s unpack that a little bit.

  1. Hebrew is an aspect language.
  2. You have to consider the aspect when translating meaning there are multiple types of aspects in Hebrew. These aspects are focused on the verbs in the language.
  3. With the above in mind, a single aspect may have more than 1 English translation. In order to know which translation is the correct to use, you must consider the context of the surrounding text you are translating.

The point is that not every language has a 1 to 1 easy translation and that is particularly the case when you compare an aspect language like Hebrew to a tense language like English.

As a side note, Biblical Greek (Koine Greek) is also considered to be aspect driven but it is odd in that it actually does have some tense characteristics like that of English (in other words, it is sort of between Hebrew and English on this topic).

Merry Christmas!

Happy birthday Jesus!

Thank you Lord for sending us your Son!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Enjoy this time with family and friends and remember the reason for this holiday! Jesus Christ is our savior and we remember at this time why it was He came to Earth as a child, to die for our sins that we may live in Him!

Greek Word: αγαπη

Today – agape

In the Greek: αγαπη

Pronunciation (Erasmian): ag-ah’-pay

Definition/approximate English equivalent: love, charitably, dear

Example of its use:

  • Romans 5:8 (Tischendorf): συνίστησιν δὲ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἀγάπην εἰς ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἔτι ἁμαρτωλῶν ὄντων ἡμῶν Χριστὸς ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἀπέθανεν:

Hebrew Tidbit #5

One of the things I have craved in studying Hebrew is being able to hear the words I was studying being spoken. However, the dilemma I quickly ran into was that I was actually studying Biblical Hebrew and most sources out there like electronic dictionaries and such are Modern Hebrew.

Why is this a problem?

Well, comparing the two is like comparing a King James version of English to modern English. Sure, there is going to be crossover and things understood but the vocabulary, word frequencies, etc. have changed over time. What’s more, new words have had to be added for things like computers which simply didn’t exist in biblical times.

Strangely, realizing this actually was a comfort to me as I was able to start squaring why I would sometimes find a word in the Bible used in modern Hebrew but other times find the modern using a derivative term or entirely different term for a word I knew in the Bible.