Blaising and Bock on the Mosaic Covenant

In the early 90s, Dallas Theological Seminary professors Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising helped to formulate a new version of dispensationalism called progressive dispensationalism. Progressive dispensationalism differed from earlier versions of dispensationalism (classic and revised) by advocating for more continuity in God’s plan of redemption. Like every bibilical-theological system, the covenants place an important role in the system, including the Mosaic covenant.

Like many interpreters, Bock and Blaising believe the Abrahamic covenant is the fundamental covenant of the Bible’s story (141). Like some covenant theologians, Bock and Blaising believe the Mosaic covenant is based upon grace: “Reconfirming the patriarchal grant, the Lord first bound that generation of Israel to Himself by faith (Ex. 14:31), and then He established a covenant with them” (141). Bock and Blaising also see the Mosaic covenant bringing to historical fulfillment the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant (142). Therefore, there is some continuity between both covenants.

While continuity exists between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenant, Bock and Blaising also see discontinuity between them. What makes them different? The primary different is the form of the covenant: “Whereas the covenant with Abraham was a grant covenant, the Mosaic covenant follows the form of a Suzerain-vassal treaty” (142). The difference in form means that the blessings of the Mosaic covenant are “conditioned on the fulfillment of the stipulations” (143). In other words, Israel must keep the covenant in order to be blessed. If she disobeyed the covenant, she would be cursed.

Now, it’s important to understand the national aspects of the covenant. Not every single Israelite would be a believer, but if the vast majority of the nation believed, Israel would be blessed (145-48). But if the nation as a whole was faithless, they would be cursed. Yet the fact that the Abrahamic covenant was foundational to the people meant that the “complete failure by one generation may be replaced by blessing on a future one” (144).

While God certainly deals with the nation as a whole, another principle is also in play: the remnant principle. Those who believe God within the nation of Israel are the “true recipients of the Abrahamic grant” (149). They not only receive the blessing but are to mediate it to the rest of Israel and the nations (149). The blessing the remnant receives, even while God is pouring out his wrath upon the nation as a whole, is an “eschatological hope that the wrath of God falling upon the nation will function as a purifying, refining fire which will usher them – the remnant of faith – into the covenanted blessing” (149). In other words, it is like God will chop down the tree to the remnant and allow it to regrow as a tree of only believers (150).

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