Covenantal theology (Roman Catholic)

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For Covenant Theology in the Protestant, Reformed perspective, see "Covenant Theology (Reformed)" on Wikipedia.

Covenantal theology is a scholarly, Roman Catholic approach to biblical theology, emphasizing a return or recovery of the Patristic model of scriptural interpretation. It employs a covenant-centric structural framework to interpret and understand the whole of scripture and thus salvation history. It differs primarily from Orthodox theology through its use of this framework but is closely aligned with Orthodoxy in its emphasis on the relationship, referred to as kinship, man has through Christ, His Church and its sacramental life. This direct appeal to synegeia, or synergy, between God and man puts the theological approach squarely within Orthodoxy despite its Roman Catholic and early Reformation origins.

General description

Through the use of the Church's teachings, the 'four senses' of biblical exegesis, Patristic understandings and writings, and a covenant-centered structural framework, there is to be found a cohesive unity between both the Old and the New Testaments that is centered upon, and emanates from, the covenantal correspondence between God and man.


Covenantal theology is distinctive in its emphasis of the following tenets:

  • The biblical covenants (Edenic, Adamic, Noahite, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New or Messianic) are taken to be the chief structural framework for salvation history.
  • The Abrahamic covenant (as distinct from the Mosaic) is taken to be the central Old Testament covenant that is fulfilled in the New Testament, in accordance with Pauline theology (Galatians 3:6-29).
  • The Old and New Testaments are taken to be integrally related through the sequence of covenants, with prophetic fulfillment understood chiefly in terms of covenantal correspondence.
  • Scripture is interpreted via the four senses, literal, allegorical, anagogical, and moral. An emphasis on describing the correspondence between covenants via the allegorical sense.
  • Jesus' prophecy in the Olivet Discourse is understood to have been fulfilled by the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD.
  • Old Testament prophecy of a restoration of Israel in which Jews and Gentiles are united is understood to have been fulfilled in the Church, cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 781 drawing on Lumen Gentium 9.
  • Jesus is understood to have inaugurated the Kingdom of God, which advances throughout history from the Ascension to the Last Judgment, cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 669-670.
  • The advance of the Kingdom of God throughout history is interpreted in terms of the Augustinian concepts of the City of God and the City of Man.

Covenantal theology is reflected, with varying emphases, in the works of contemporary authors such as Scott Hahn (1998, 1999), Timothy Gray (1998), Edward Sri (1999, 2005), Michael Barber (2001, 2005), Stephen Pimentel (2002, 2005, 2007), and Brant Pitre (2005, 2006).

Orthodox Covenantal Theology

Little scholarly or theological work has been done by Orthodox scholars and theologians in the area of Covenantal theology. Roman Catholic perspectives on Salvation history does not specifically make any theological assertions that can be identified as heterodox or outright heretical by Orthodoxy. In point of fact, the modern corpus of Covenantal theology (primarily by author and Roman Catholic theologian Scott Hahn) has taken pains to highlight the Patristic sources of Covenantal theology's understanding of scripture and tradition. Two major areas of alignment between Catholic and Orthodox theologians in this area are the use of typology and a balancing of the 'senses' of scripture. Typology and the senses of scripture are tightly linked in Orthodox biblical hermenutics. The rival schools of biblical exegesis in Alexandria and Antioch from the late second century A.D to the early fifth century A.D attest to the unescapable interplay between the literal and spiritual senses that Orthodox theologians attempted to flesh out for years. Thus identifying the gradual unveiling of salvation history through concrete persons, events, places, and things with the Old Testament, and extracting both the literal or historical sense of scripture as well as its spiritual sense is profoundly Orthodox. Eastern Orthodox theology has tended though to not emphasize a covenant-centric understanding of salvation history, but rather a Christological one. That is, Orthodoxy has stressed an over-arching focus on the Incarnation of Christ, His death and resurrection, and man's subsequent adoption as sons through Theosis as the primary vehicle to understanding scripture. However, that does not mean Covenantal thinking, such as Christ as Messiah7mdash;the fullfillment of the Law and the Prophets and covenant mediator has been lost on Orthodoxy by any means. Major precepts of Covenantal theology are to be found through out the writings of the Fathers, as the rise of Catholic Covenantal Theology proves, and indeed these precepts are present in contemporary Orthodox scholarship.[1]


  • Barber, M. (2001) Singing in the Reign: The Psalms and the Liturgy of God's Kingdom, Steubenville, OH, Emmaus Road Publishing.
  • Barber, M. (2005) Coming Soon: Unlocking the Book of Revelation and Applying its Lessons Today, Steubenville, OH, Emmaus Road Publishing.
  • Danielou, J. (1956) The Bible and the Liturgy, Notre Dame, IN, University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Danielou, J. (1958) The Lord of History: Reflections on the Inner Meaning of History, London, Longmans, Green & Co.
  • de la Potterie, I. (1988) Interpretation of Holy Scripture in the Spirit in Which It Was Written (Dei Verbum 12c). In Latourelle, R. (Ed.) Vatican II: Assessment and Perspectives. Mahwah, NJ.
  • de la Potterie, I. (1994) The Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Section on Sacred Scripture. Communio, 21, 450-460.
  • de Lubac, H. (1984a) Typology and Allegorization. Theological Fragments. San Francisco, Ignatius Press.
  • de Lubac, H. (1984b) On an Old Distich: The Doctrine of the 'Fourfold Sense' in Scripture. Theological Fragments. San Francisco, Ignatius Press.
  • de Lubac, H. (1998) Medieval Exegesis Vol. 1, Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • de Lubac, H. (2000) Medieval Exegesis Vol. 2, Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Gaillardetz, R. (2004). Do We Need a New(er) Apologetics? America. 190: 26-33.
  • Gray, T. (1998) Mission of the Messiah: On the Gospel of Luke, Steubenville, Emmaus Road Publishing.
  • Hahn, S. (1998) A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture, Ann Arbor, Charis, Servant Publications.
  • Hahn, S. (1999) The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, Doubleday.
  • Pimentel, S. (2002) Witnesses of the Messiah: On the Acts of the Apostles 1-15, Steubenville, OH, Emmaus Road Publishing.
  • Pimentel, S. (2005) Envoy of the Messiah: On the Acts of the Apostles 16-28, Steubenville, OH, Emmaus Road Publishing.
  • Pimentel, S. (2007) The Master Key: Pope Benedict XVI’s Theology of Covenant. Homiletic & Pastoral Review 108, no. 1.
  • Pitre, B. (2005) The 'Ransom for Many,' the New Exodus, and the End of Exile: Redemption as the Restoration of All Israel (Mark 10:35-45). Letter & Spirit: A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology, 1.
  • Pitre, B. (2006) Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement, Baker Academic.
  • Ratzinger, J. (1999) Many Religions - One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World, San Francisco, Ignatius Press.
  • Ratzinger, J. (2007) Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, New York, Doubleday.
  • Sri, E. (1999) Mystery of the Kingdom: On the Gospel of Matthew, Steubenville, OH, Emmaus Road Publishing.
  • Sri, E. (2005) Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary's Queenship, Steubenville, OH, Emmaus Road Publishing.
  • Wilken, R. (2003) The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God, New Haven & London, Yale University Press.
  • Wood, S. (1998) Spiritual Exegesis and the Church in the Theology of Henri de Lubac, Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Wikipedia, "Covenantal Theology (Roman Catholic)"
  • George C. Papademetriou "Our Faith"

External links