The Info List - Mosaic Covenant

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The MOSAIC COVENANT (named after Moses
), also known as the SINAITIC COVENANT (named after the biblical Mount Sinai ), refers to a biblical covenant between God
and the biblical Israelites
, including their proselytes . The establishment and stipulations of the Mosaic covenant are recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
, which are traditionally attributed to Moses
and collectively called the Torah
, and this covenant is sometimes also referred to as the Law of Moses
or Mosaic Law or the 613 Mitzvot
613 Mitzvot


* 1 Historical-critical scholarship

* 1.1 Scholarly theories

* 2 Judaism * 3 Christianity * 4 See also * 5 References * 6 External links


See also: Historical criticism
Historical criticism

Scholars have examined the sources of the Mosaic covenant, including those within the Pentateuch (such as the Deuteronomist ). In the mid-twentieth century, George Mendenhall advanced comparisons of the covenant with agreements in nearby cultures.


The concept of a covenant began long before the biblical era, specifically the beginnings of Israel. According to George E. Mendenhall, covenants were originally estabished as legal customs and then later were replicated in the field of religion. These covenants were created on the basis of an oath, a promise between two parties followed by performance. Engaging in an oath implied that if one side were to default, God
would consequently ensure they receive proper punishment. Such covenants assured that either blessings or curses be enacted in response to the circumstances. However, in addition to the legal influence in regards to the creation of covenants, Mendenhall also addresses the theory behind blood ties and their significance to the concept of a covenant. As stated in the bible, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the descendants of Israel and because of their shared blood, they consequently form a bond. This blood tie is compared to the tie that is established by a covenant, and implies that without their shared blood, covenants would be the only way to ensure such unification of a religious group. Furthermore, Mendenhall notes two additional theories noting how covenants may have begun with the work of Moses, or are even thought to have been established during a true historical event with a valid setting. Regardless of the theories, the creation of covenants may be a mystery to scholars for centuries to come, however, the use of covenants evidenced throughout the biblical sources is an undeniable fact.

According to Mendenhall, the covenant was not just an idea, but actually a historical event. This event was the formation of the covenant community. Wandering the desert, the clans left Egypt following Moses. These people were all of different backgrounds, containing no status in any social community. With all these circumstances they formed their own community by a covenant whose texts turned into the Decalogue. The Israelites
did not bind themselves to Moses
as their leader though and Moses
was not a part of the covenant. Moses
was just seen as a historical figure of some type sent as a messenger. The Israelites
followed the form of the suzerainty treaty and were bound to obey stipulations that were set by Yahweh, not Moses.

In addition to Mendenhall's input and perspective, Weinfeld argues that there are two forms of covenants to have occurred throughout the Old Testament: 1.) the obligatory type "> A depiction of the famous Sermon on the Mount
Sermon on the Mount
of Jesus
in which he commented on the Old Covenant . Christians believe that Jesus
is the mediator of the New Covenant. Painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch
Carl Heinrich Bloch
, Danish painter, d. 1890.

The Mosaic covenant
Mosaic covenant
or Law of Moses
which Christians generally call the "Old Covenant", in contrast to the New Covenant
New Covenant
has played an important role in the shaping of Christianity and been the source of serious dispute and controversy since its inception, such as Jesus
' expounding of the Law during his Sermon on the Mount
Sermon on the Mount
, the circumcision controversy in early Christianity , and the Incident at Antioch which has led scholars to dispute the relationship between Paul of Tarsus and Judaism
Paul of Tarsus and Judaism
. The Book of Acts
Book of Acts
recorded that after the ascension of Jesus
, that as the first Christian martyr
Christian martyr
Stephen was killed in a controversy over which he was accused of speaking against the Jerusalem Temple and the Mosaic Law . Later, in Acts 15:1-21, the Council of Jerusalem
Council of Jerusalem
addressed the circumcision controversy in early Christianity.


* Christianity and Judaism
Christianity and Judaism
* Christian views on the Old Covenant
Christian views on the Old Covenant
* Covenant theology
Covenant theology
* Covenantal nomism * Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments


* ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Proselyte: "...Isa. lvi. 3-6 enlarges on the attitude of those that joined themselves to Yhwh, "to minister to Him and love His name, to be His servant, keeping the Sabbath from profaning it, and laying hold on His covenant."" * ^ Exodus 20:8: "thy stranger that is within thy gates" * ^ George E. Mendenhall * ^ Mendenhall, George E. Covenant Forms in Israelite Tradition. The American Schools of Oriental Research. pp. 49–76. JSTOR
3209151 . * ^ Mendenhall, George E. Covenant Forms in Israelite Tradition. The American Schools of Oriental Research. pp. 49–76. JSTOR
3209151 . * ^ M. Weinfeld * ^ Weinfeld, M. (Apr–Jun 1970). "The Covenant of Grant in the Old Testament and in the Ancient near East". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 90: 184–203. doi :10.2307/598135 .