Monday, August 10, 2009

Kinship By Covenant, Part 3: Curses Rehearsed

Returning to our look at Scott Hahn's Kinship By Covenant, we now come to what is perhaps the most interesting and significant section of the book (for Reformed folks anyway). As we have seen, Hahn argues that Yahweh's initial covenant with Israel was a kinship covenant according to which the nation was constituted as God's firstborn son (Exod.4:22). After Israel's repeated rebellion and idolatry (particularly in the golden calf and Beth-peor episodes), however, Yahweh imposed on the second generation an additional covenant (the Deuteronomic) that was intended to reconfigure Israel's relationship with Yahweh into a more servile form, like that of a vassal to a suzerain rather than a son to a father. In Section Two, Hahn attempts to apply his findings to Paul's epistle to the Galatians, particularly chapters 3-4. Our goal over the next several posts will be to examine, bit by bit, the various NT passages (from Galatians and elsewhere) that bear upon this dictinction between the Sinaitic and Deuteronomic covenants.

Since there's loads of material to cover, my plan will be to keep my posts down to manageable, bite-sized portions. In this one I'll simply draw the reader's attention to Paul's Old Testament citation in Galatians 3:10: "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.'" The quotation is from Deuteronomy 27 in which the Deuteronomic covenant is ratified on Mount Ebal with an utterance of twelve curses, the last of which reads: "Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them" (v. 26). The following chapter records the blessings and curses attached to the covenant, but the balance hardly seems fair: there are 14 verses recording the blessings and 53 that rehearse the curses.

Since it is the Deuteronomic covenant in particular that threatens curses for disobedience and not the Sinaitic, Hahn argues, then it stands to reason that when Paul states that "all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse" he understands "works of the law" to refer to the statutes and ordinances that Yahweh imposed on Israel by the Deuteronomic covenant as they moved from infancy to rebellious adolescence.