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Covenant Language in Biblical Religions and the Book of Mormon

TitleCovenant Language in Biblical Religions and the Book of Mormon
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsReynolds, Noel B.
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
KeywordsAncient Near East; Babylonian Captivity; Covenant; Covenant Theology

In this paper I will briefly review the ups and downs in the career of the covenant concept in key Christian traditions before turning to a more in-depth review of theological and scholarly efforts to understand the Israelite concept of divine covenant before the Babylonian exile as it could have been understood and appreciated by Lehi and Nephi during their lives and education in ancient Jerusalem. Over the last two centuries, scholarly efforts in history, linguistics, theology, the Hebrew Bible, and even anthropology have contributed to a sometimes contentious but continually enlightening expansion of our understanding of the divine covenant in the religion and culture of ancient Israel. I will review these developments and point out their most promising contributions. In the end, I will explain why the 1998 approach of Bible scholar Frank Moore Cross seems to explicate the pre-exilic Israelite conception of covenant better than other alternatives by pointing to its origins in the kinship associations that provided moral and legal structure for the desert tribes of the ancient Near East (hereafter ANE). I will then test that conception against the teachings of the Nephite prophets and demonstrate the ways in which it can clarify and enrich those teachings for a modern reader.