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A biblical covenant is a religious covenant that is described in the Bible. All Abrahamic religions consider biblical covenants important. Of these covenants, the Noahic Covenant is unique in applying to all humanity, while the other covenants are principally agreements made between God and the biblical Israelites. Jeremiah 31:30–33 also mentions "a new covenant" that God would establish with Israel and Judah. Most Christians believe this New Covenant is the "replacement" or "final fulfilment" of the Old Covenant described in the Old Testament and as applying to the People of God, while a minority believe both covenants are still applicable in a dual covenant theology.
In Judaism, the Seven Laws of Noah (Hebrew: שבע מצוות בני נח Sheva mitzvot B'nei Noach), or the Noahide Laws, are a set of moral imperatives that, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of laws for the "children of Noah" – that is, all of humanity. The Noahic covenant [Gen 9:8-17] applies to all of humanity and to all living creatures. In this covenant, God promises never again to destroy all life on Earth by flood[9:11] and creates the rainbow as the sign of this "everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth".[9:12-17]
The Abrahamic covenant found in Genesis 12-17 is known as the Brit bein HaBetarim, the "Covenant Between the Parts" in Hebrew, and is the basis for brit milah (covenant of circumcision) in Judaism. The covenant was for Abraham and his seed, or offspring, both of natural birth and adoption.
In Genesis 12–17 three covenants can be distinguished based on the differing Jahwist, Elohist and Priestly sources. In Genesis 12 and 15, God grants Abraham land and descendants but does not place any stipulations (unconditional). By contrast, Gen. 17 contains the covenant of circumcision (conditional).
Covenants in biblical times were often sealed by severing an animal, with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate. In Hebrew, the verb meaning to seal a covenant translates literally as "to cut". It is presumed by Jewish scholars that the removal of the foreskin symbolically represents such a sealing of the covenant.
The Mosaic covenant, beginning in Exodus 19-24, contains the foundations of the written Torah and the Oral Torah. In this covenant, God promises to make the Israelites his treasured possession among all people[Exo 19:5] and "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation"[Exo 19:6], if they follow God's commandments. As part of the terms of this covenant, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. These will later be elaborated on in the rest of the Torah.
The form of the covenant resembles the suzerainty treaty in the ancient Near East. Like the treaties, the Ten Commandments begins with Yahweh's identification and what he had done for Israel ("who brought you out of the land of Egypt"; Ex 20:2) as well as the stipulations commanding absolute loyalty ("You shall not have other gods apart from me"). Unlike the suzerainty treaty, the Decalogue does not have any witness nor explicit blessings and curses. The fullest account of the Mosaic covenant is given in the book of Deuteronomy.
The priestly covenant (Hebrew: ברית הכהונה brith ha-kehuna) is the covenant that God made with Aaron and his descendants, the Aaronic priesthood, as found in the Hebrew Bible and Oral Torah. The Hebrew Bible also mentions another perpetual priestly promise with Phinehas and his descendants.
The Davidic covenant[2Sam 7] establishes David and his descendants as the kings of the united monarchy of Israel[Jer 33:17-21] (which included Judah). The Davidic covenant is an important element in Jewish messianism and Christian theology. In Jewish eschatology, the messiah is believed to be a future Jewish king from the Davidic line, who will be anointed with holy anointing oil, gather the Jews back into the Land of Israel, usher in an era of peace, build the Third Temple, have a male heir, re-institute the Sanhedrin and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age.
Christian theologian John F. Walvoord maintains that the Davidic covenant deserves an important place in determining the purposes of God and that its exegesis confirms the doctrine of a future reign of Christ on earth. While Jewish theologians have always pointed out that Jesus did not fulfill the expectations of a Jewish messiah, for conservative Christian theologians the opinion is almost unanimous that Christ fulfills the Davidic covenant, the provisions of which include the following items:
The only reference in the Hebrew Bible that uses the wording "new covenant" is found in Jeremiah 31:30–33 and Judaism's view is that the words "new covenant" do not refer to a commitment that replaces a previous one, but rather to an additional and greater level of commitment. Because the Mosaic covenant applies only to Jews and converts to Judaism they do not see this phrase as relevant in any way to non-Jews.
The key biblical text for the Christian concept of the New Covenant is found in the Book of Hebrews verses 8:6–13 which references the Book of Jeremiah. The Christian New Covenant involves the theological concept of a new relationship between God and humans mediated by Jesus. This new relationship is available to all people, both Jews and Gentiles, if they convert to Christianity, under most views of Supersession while under dual covenant theology Jews should practice Judaism while Gentiles should convert to Christianity or follow the Noahide Laws to be assured of a place in the world to come.
Christians vary in their view of the New Covenant. Some believe the New Covenant extends the Mosaic Covenant but it seemingly accomplishes new things. Christian laws of faith[clarification needed] claim that a New Covenant of the trinitarian God with the Christians and the Christian Church replaces, fulfills or completes God's Mosaic covenant.
There are other sections in the New Testament that are often considered to be relevant to the new covenant.
The Gospel of Luke tells of the birth of John the Baptist. His father, Zacharias, prophesied at the time. In his prophecy he says that God has remembered His holy covenant. The events at the beginning of the Christian story are connected to the covenant God made with Abraham. Just before his crucifixion, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples. All three of the synoptic gospels describe the special attention he gives to the bread and the wine. When he presents the wine to his disciples, he says that it is the blood of the covenant poured out for them. Matthew explains that the pouring out of the blood was done for the forgiveness of sins. In most modern English translations of the Bible, Luke 22:20 calls it the "new covenant", however Luke 22:17–20 is also disputed by Greek New Testament scholars. Six forms of the text have been identified; for example, the Western text-type such as Codex Bezae omit verses 19b–20.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John heal a crippled man. Peter speaks to the wondering crowd. He says they are the children of the covenant God made with their fathers and quotes the promise to Abraham, "And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed." Peter tells them that God has sent the resurrected Jesus first to them to bless them and forgive them of their sins. He proclaims Jesus to be the covenant "seed" promised to Abraham.
In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul addresses God's covenantal relationship with the Jewish people. He states emphatically that God has not rejected the Jewish people. To drive home his point, he recalls the time when Elijah felt all alone in his service to God. God assured Elijah that he wasn't alone, that there were 7000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal. Paul says that the Jewish people's rejection of Christ was a stumbling but not a falling. He writes that the Jewish rejection has opened the way for the Gentiles to be saved. Paul considers this turn of events to be a great blessing for the Gentiles. He then asks, if this Jewish failure to accept Christ brought such blessings to the world, what greater blessings will come when the Jewish people finally join the fellowship.