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The religious concept of a covenant is central to the Abrahamic religions and derived from the biblical covenants, notably the Abrahamic covenant. It is a formal alliance or agreement made by God with that religious community or with humanity in general.
Covenant is the customary word used to translate the Hebrew word berith.1 It is used in the Masoretic Text 264 times.2 The equivalent word in the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament is διαθήκη, diatheke.3
The Mosaic covenant is central to Judaism and considered as applying only to Jews. For non-Jews, Judaism advocates the pre-Sinaitic Seven Laws of Noah. "...Judaism does not deny salvation to those outside of its fold, for, according to Jewish law, all non-Jews who observe the Noahide laws will participate in salvation and in the rewards of the world to come".4
Christianity asserts that God made a "New Covenant", which either replaces or exists alongside the Old Covenant of the Hebrew Bible. In this "New Covenant" the Crucifixion of Jesus atones for the sins of all who put their faith in him (Matthew 26:28).
Covenant theology, a theological system within Reformed Christianity, holds that God relates to man primarily through three covenants: the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. In this theological system a covenant may be defined as, "an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship."5
Covenant is an agreement between two or more persons to do or refrain from doing some act; a compact; a contract. The Hebrew word berith′, whose etymology is uncertain, appears over 280 times in the Hebrew Scriptures; more than 80 of these occurrences are in the five books of Moses. That its basic meaning is “covenant,” comparable to our modern legal word “contract,” is seen from cuneiform tablets found in 1927 at Qatna, an ancient non-Israelite city SE of Hamath. “The contents of the two tablets [of 15 found] are simple. Tablet A contains a list of names . . . Tablet B is a ration list . . . List A is thus a compact in which the men in question . . . agree to enter someone’s service or to carry out certain obligations. List B, written by the same scribe, then illustrates the nature of the compact; the men were to receive specified rations in return for their services. . . . the Israelite concept of berit, ‘covenant,’ was a central theme in Yahwist theology. Here we have the first published extra-biblical occurrence of the word from early times—not later than the first third of the fourteenth century B.C.”—Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, February 1951, p. 22. 6
As an Abrahamic faith, Islam continues belief in the covenant with Abraham. Circumcision is still carried out as a symbol of this covenant. Any person confessing to faith can become a Muslim and partake of this covenant with God:
Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We Covenanted with Abraham and Isma'il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).Quran 2:125
A covenant may also refer to an agreement between members of a congregation to work together according to the precepts of their religion. In Indo-Iranian religious tradition, Mithra-Mitra is the hypostasis of covenant, and hence keeper and protector of moral, social and interpersonal relationships, including love and friendship. In living Zoroastrianism, which is one of the two primary developments of Indo-Iranian religious tradition, Mithra is by extension a judge, protecting agreements by ensuring that individuals who break one do not enter Heaven.
- Covenant (biblical)
- Covenant (Latter Day Saints)
- Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh
- Covenant theology
- Covenantal theology (Roman Catholic)
- Mosaic covenant or Old Covenant (Greek • διαθήκη παλαιά, diatheke palaia)
- New Covenant (Hebrew • ברית חדשה berit hadashah — Greek • διαθήκη καινή, diatheke kaine)
- Christian views on the old covenant
- (ברית Tiberian Hebrew bərîṯ Standard Hebrew bərit)
- The Blue Letter Bible, Strong's G1242.
- The Torah, W. G. Plaut, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, New York, 1981; p. 71.
- Grudem, Wayne A. "The Covenants Between God and Man." Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. 515. Print.