Friday, August 19, 2011

Baker on Bullinger and the Covenant

No serious study of Bullinger and the covenant can be made without seriously considering the work of J. Wayne Baker. His major work is Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenant : The Other Reformed Tradition. After criticism by Dowey, Muller, Archilla and others of his major thesis that the covenant is the central underlying theme of Bullinger’s writings Baker followed up with “Heinrich Bullinger, the Covenant, and the Reformed Tradition in Retrospect”, Sixteenth Century Journal, vol 29 (no2, 1998), pp359-376. There is no doubt that Baker is one of few scholars that have read and studied a wide breadth of Bullinger’s works. This is clearly evident form the extensive footnotes in the Sixteenth Century Journal article.

To my knowledge, no one has yet done a detailed analysis of Baker’s work bearing in mind the extensive number of Bullinger’s works he cites. Baker is often cited in the literature but there is rarely an examination of Bullinger’as actual works to evaluate if Baker’s conclusions are accurate or not.

There is no doubt that Baker’s works are stimulating reading. Here is a quote concerning Bullinger and the Anabaptists from Baker’s book published in 1980:

“This, the preservation of the unity of the covenant, was exactly Bullinger’s point when he defended the authority of the Old Testament against the Anabaptists. Christ has not abolished the moral law but only the ceremonies, which He had fulfilled. Although he had thus freed from the Christian from the condemnation of the law, the moral law remained as the holy and correct guide for living and civil society. The Old Testament still had great authority in the church because New Testament Christians were one with the old people of God. ‘These are truly one people of God, in one church and communion, in one covenant or testament; and they have one and the same redemption and salvation, one and the same teaching, one faith, one spirit, one hope, one inheritance, one calling and equivalent sacraments.’ The Anabaptists, however, rejected that whole concept of covenant unity, arguing that Christ made a new covenant of faith. Their rejection of infant baptism rested on their insistence of this new covenant and thus stemmed from their rejection of the Old Testament.

When Bullinger treated infant baptism he again dealt with the covenant. Baptism was a sign of the people of God, a covenant sign equivalent to the circumcision of the Old Testament. The covenant made with Abraham was an eternal covenant, and the Anabaptist contention that Christ had established a new covenant, abolishing the old was erroneous. God’s promise that he would be the God of Abraham and his children remained firm after Christ. Since children had been included in the sign of the covenant in the Old Testament, they also were included in baptism, for God would not be less merciful in the New Testament period than He had been in the Old. The covenant was sometimes called ‘new’ because it had been renewed and confirmed by Christ and because the heathen were now included. Bullinger made several arguments from the New Testament to demonstrate that children were still included in the covenant. Christ said that little children were in the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14), and He referred to children having faith (Matthew 18:6). With regard to the latter, Bullinger explained that the Scripture spoke of faith and the faithful in two ways. First, there were those who heard the word of God and believed; this did not refer to children. But the Scripture also referred to the faithful, which did include children, because ‘they are counted and reckoned among the faithful out of the free grace of God, who has included the children in the covenant.’ Therefore, Christ could not have excluded children from the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Furthermore, Paul clearly taught that baptism was the new sacrament of the covenant, replacing circumcision (Colossians 2:11-2), and he himself baptized entire households (1 Corinthians 1:16; Acts 16:33), which must have included children. Baptism was thus ‘a sign of the people of God and the seal of the covenant.’’

This is a helpful summary by Baker of Bullinger’s thoughts. But I believe Baker errs when he argues that Bulligner developed his understanding of the covenant partly to counteract the Anabaptists. Bullinger was first and foremost a biblical theologian and the covenant is an integral underlying theme of the canon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bullinger and God’s Accommodation in the Covenant

In De Testamento Bullinger emphasizes that God accommodates Himself to mankind in the covenant. This is evident from this following quote from De Testamento :

‘ The following words of Moses, which are set forth in this passage from Genesis 17 :1-14, testify to the fact that God entered into a covenant with us according to human custom : ‘Now when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said to him : ‘I am the almighty, all-sufficient God. Walk before me and be upright. And I will make my covenant between me and you and between your seed after you in your generations an everlasting covenant, that I may be your God and the God of your seed after you. And I will give to you and to your seed after you all the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession, and I will be their God. And you on your part will keep my covenant, you and your seed in their generations. This is my covenant between me and you and your seed after you. Every male from among you will be circumcised. The male, however,whose flesh shall not have been circumcised on the foreskin, his soul will be blotted from his people, because he has made my pact void.’ These are the words of my covenant, not written down verbatim but brought together and united in a summary. If you examine these words carefully, you will see that God has acted according to human custom at every point.’

Quod autem Deus hominum more foedus nobiscum pepigerit testabuntur sequentia Moses uerba, quae XVII. Gen Cap. In hanc leguntur sententiam, Postquam uero nonaginta & nouem annorum esse coeperat Abram, apparuit ei dominus, dixitque ad eum : Ego Deus omnipotens siue omnisufficienta. Ambula coram me & esto integer. Ponamque foedus meum inter me & te & inter semen tuum post te in generationibus suis foedere sempiterno, ut sim Deus tuus & seminis tui post te. Daboque tibi & semini to post te omnem terram Chanaan in possessionem aeternam, eroque Deus eorum. Et tu quidem pactum meum custodies, tu & semen tuum in generationibus suis. Hoc est pactum meum inter me & semen tuum post te. Circumcidetur ex uobis omne masculinum. Masculus autem cuius caro praeputη circumcisa non fuerit delebitur anima illa de populo suo : quia pactum meum irritum fecit. Haec sunt uerba foederis, non uerbotim appensa sed summatim collecta coprehensaque : quae si perpendas uidebis Deum omni modo morem retulisse humanum.
(De Testamento p5a)

Das aber Gott den Bund mit uns nach menschlicher Gewohnheit eingegangan ist, bezeugen di folgenden Worte des Mose in Genesis, Kapitel 17 : «Als Abraham 99 Jahre alt war, erschien ihm der Herr und sprach zu ihm : Ich bin der Allmächtige und die Allgenugsamkeit. Wandle vor mir, und sei untadelig. Und ich richte meinen Bund auf zwischen mir und dir und deinem Nachkommen von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht als einem ewigen Bund, dass ich dein und deiner Nachkommen Gott sei. Und ich gebe dir und deinem Nachkommen das ganze Land Kanaan zu ewigem Besitz, und ich will ich ihnen Gott sein. Du aber halte meinem Bund, du und deine Nachkommen von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht. Das is mein Bund zwischen mir und euch und deinem Nachkommen : Alles, was männlich ist, das soll beschitten werden. Ein Mann aber, dessen Vorhaut nicht beschnitten worden ist, dessen Seele soll aus seinem Volk ausgerottet werden : meinen Bund hat er gebrochen.« Das sind die Worte Bundes, nich wörtlich wiedergegeben, sondern gesammelt und zusammengefasst. Wenn du diese Worte sorgfältig erwägst, wirst du erkennen, dass Gott ganz der menschlichen Gewohnheit gemäß gehandelt hat.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More on Bullinger and the Unity of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant

In De Testamento Bullinger wrote:

“Many arguments are found in Scripture that first glance seem clearly to distinguish between two covenants, two peoples and two spirits, such as that which we read in Jeremiah 31:31-32: ‘Behold the days will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and Judah, not according to the covenant I made with their fathers,’ etc. And again in Ezekiel 36:26, ‘I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in your midst.’ Again in Galatians 4:24, ‘These are the two covenants.’ Now I will explain from whence these terms were born and how they should be understood. To begin with, it is certain that the nomenclature of the old and new covenant, spirit, and people did not arise from the very essence of the covenant but from certain foreign and unessential things because of the diversity of the times recommended that now this, now that be added according to the contrariety of the Jewish people. These additions did not exist as perpetual and particularly necessary things for salvation, but they arose as changeable things according to the time, the persons, and the circumstances. The covenant itself could easily continue without them.”

Caeterum cum multa inueniantur in sacris argumenta quae prima statim fronte.
Testamenta duo, spiritus duos, & populos duos, longe lateque inter se uideantur
secernere, quale illud est quod apud Ieremiam legimus, Ecce dies uenient dicit dominus,& feriam cum domo Israel & Iuda testamentum nouum, non iuxta testamentum quod
pepegi cum patribus eorum & c. Item apud Ezechielem, Dabo uobis cor nouum &
spiritum nouum ponam in medio uestri. Item as Galat. IIII. Haec sunt duo testamenta,
consequens est ut nunc edisseram unde ista enata sint, quoue sensu dicantur. Principio ergo certum est ueteris & noui testamenti spiritus ac populi nomenclaturam non oriri ex ipsa foederis substantia, sed ascititηs quibusdam & accidentibus, quae temporum interuallis aliud atque pro diuersitate gentis Iudaicae suadentibus, accessere, non ut perpetua & unice ad salutem necessaria, sed ut mutabilia & pro tempore & pro personarum & caussarum ratione enata, sine quibus ipsum foedus facile subsisteret:

‘Nun sind aber in der Heiligen Schrift viele Äußerungen zu finden, die auf den ersten Blick zwei Testamente, zweierlei Geist und zwei Völker deutlich voneinander zu unterscheiden scheinen. So liest man etwa bei Jeremia 31,31-32 ‘Siehe, es kommen Tage, spricht der Herr, da schließe ich mit dem Hause Israel und mit dem Hause Juda einen neuen Bund, nicht einen Bund, wie ich ihn mit ihren Vätern schloss’ usw. Ebenso im Galaterbrief 4 :24 ‘Diese Frauen bedeuten zwei Bündnisse.’ Daher ist es folgerichtig, nun zu erklären, woher diese Begriffe stammen und mit welcher Bedeutung sie verwendet werden.

Zunächst ist also sicher, dass die Begriffe ‘Altes und Neues Testament’,’Geist’, und ‘Volk’ nicht aus dem Wesen des Bundes erwachsen sind, sondern aus gewissen beigezegonen und äußerlichen Umständen, die hinzutraten, weil die unterschiedlichen Zeitläufte, entspechend der Unstetigkeit des jüdischen Volkes, das eine Mal dies, das andere Mal jenes empfahlen. Sie sind also nicht aus ewigen und heilsnotwendigen Gründen entstanden, sondern als veränderliche Dinge, die der Zeit, den Personen und den Umständen entsprechend aufgekommen sind. Der Bund selbst kommt aber leicht ohne sie aus.’ (HB Schriften I, p80)