A new book has come out which seeks to clarify the strand of the Reformed tradition that sees republication of the covenant of works in the Mosaic economy. It is a collection of essays divided into historical, exegetical, and systematic categories. This book is timely for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the vast amount of confusion I have seen on the internet and in the literature concerning the republication thesis. No one seems to have the foggiest idea what is supposed in this thesis. Just to take one example concerning the relation of the Mosaic economy to the covenant of grace in the republication thesis:
First, to affirm that in some sense the covenant of works is republished at Sinai is not to say that there is a different way of salvation in the Old Testament from the New. The doctrine of republication is not in any way dispensationalism. Advocates of republication universally affirm that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that the gospel was in operation from the instant of man’s fall. Secondly, to affirm the doctrine of republication does not entail the view that the Mosaic covenant is not part of the covenant of grace (p. 14).
Indeed. This is something that opponents of republication cannot seem to get their head around. That there is a two-fold relation (as Turretin would put it) of the Mosaic to the CoW and to the CoG seems impossible to many. They might even claim that republication mixes law and gospel. Careful readers of this book will hopefully have such erroneous conceptions dispelled.
The first section contains historical articles by John Fesko, Darryl Hart, and Brenton Ferry. Fesko talks about Calvin and Witsius, Hart about Princeton, and Ferry about all the various views that have been promulgated on republication.
The second section has articles by Bryan Estelle on Leviticus 18:5 and Deut 30:1-14, Richard Belcher on the Psalms, Byron Curtis on Hosea 6:7, Guy Waters on Romans 10:5, T. David Gordon on Galatians 3:6-14, and S.M. Baugh on Galatians 5:1-6.
The third section has two theological articles, one by David Van Drunen on the natural law as related to the works principle, and one by Michael Horton on Christ’s total obedience to the law.
I felt that all the articles were competent, and addressed the topic well. For me, the most striking article was T. David Gordon’s article on Galatians 3:6-14. He exegetes the passage extremely well, and finds five ways in which the Sinaitic covenant differs in kind from the Abrahamic as Pauline exegesis (Sinai excludes Gentiles, whereas Abrahamic includes them; Sinai curses, whereas Abrahamic blesses; Sinai is characterized by works of the law, whereas Abrahamic is characterized by grace; Sinai does not justify, whereas the Abrahamic does; and Paul refers to Sinai as ‘law,’ whereas Abrahamic is described as ‘promise.’). Now, his discussion is only summarized this way. His actual argumentation, and the qualifications he puts on these five differences are extremely important. Equally convincing is the response he gives to those who argue that Paul is merely putting down a misinterpretation of the law. Paul is doing no such thing. This is evident in Gordon’s discussion of the translation issue concerning the gratuitous addition of the words “rely on” in many modern translations of Galatians 3:10. He says:
Such a gratuitous error is difficult to account for apart from sheer theological prejudice, a sheer unwillingness to grant that Paul is here speaking of the covenant-administration given at Sinai itslef, not some later, alleged Jewish perversion thereof (p. 245).
In other words, in Galatians 3:10, Paul is not rejecting a perverse “relying on” the works of the law, but rather is showing us that those who are of the works of the law, in that works covenant, are cursed. This, of course, has to be balanced with other descriptions of Sinai as part of the Covenant of grace. Gordon’s target in all this is John Murray’s wholesale recasting of covenant theology in a monocovenantal mode. Gordon argues convincingly that monocovenantal views cannot read Galatians properly.
The book as a whole is well-written. Certainly, many will disagree with some or all of the book. But it is a very important contribution to the discussion.