The Spring 2008 issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was released last week. The theme of the journal is the kingdom of God. Peter Gentry, OT professor here at Southern, has an important article for the kingdom and biblical theology called, "Kingdom Through Covenant: Humanity as the Divine Image."
Many theologians with a Reformed slant have affirmed that there is at least some sort of covenant in Gen. 1-3. Many hold to a covenant of works, but others hold to a covenant with creation and reject any notion of a covenant of works. Gentry is not a traditional Reformed covenant theologian. He follows the work of Dumbrell, who has convincingly shown that God did indeed make a covenant with creation. Paul Williamson has done a lot of work on covenant lately, and he avidly denies any covenant before Noah. Gentry lays out the biblical-theological framework of Gen 1.26-28, explains covenants in the OT & Ancient Near East (ANE), then walks through the major covenants in the biblical metanarrative (Creation, Noah, Abraham, Mosaic, David, and New Covenant) showing that the covenants form the backbone of the biblical story. Next, Gentry gives several linguistic and theological arguments for a covenant with creation, noting along the way that Williamson "appears to base his research on the study of Weinfeld instead of examining all of the evidence himself" (20). Gentry, on the other hand, has "carefully examined all instances of berit [covenant in Hebrew] and in particular, all expressions in which berit is the modifier of a verb in the Hebrew Bible. My research is based on two independent and separate studies of all the evidence conducted ten years apart" (40).
The next section of the article is on the divine image in Gen. 1.26-28, showing from the literary structure that humans are the crown of creation. Before exegeting the passage, Gentry surveys the various views on the divine image. Gentry's exegesis is careful and laborious (get the article!). The ideas of rulership and sonship are behind the terms likeness and image. Both terms refer to the divine-human relationship, but "image" focuses on the idea of a king under God. Humans rule as a result of being the image of God. "Likeness" indicates the father/son relationship.
Next Gentry spends a couple of pages on the meaning of the prepositions "in" and "as/according to." God created us as the divine image. In the ANE, only the king is the image of God, but in the Bible, every single human being is the image of God. Gentry writes:
"Man is the divine image. As servant-king and son of God mankind will mediate God's rule to the creation in the context of a covenant relationship with God on the one hand and the earth on the other. Hence the concept of the kingdom of God is found on the first page of Scripture. Indeed, the theme is kingdom through covenant." (30)
He then spends 4 pages on the meaning of the first person plural "Let Us." After a nuanced argument from the linguistic, theological, and cultural background, Gentry believes Gen. 1.26-27 "provides a strong argument that God is addressing the heavenly court" (37). "God has communicated to the divine assembly, that his rule in the world will be effected largely through humans, not through "gods" or "angels" (37). He concludes the article with a section on the garden of Eden as a separate place and sacred place (sanctuary) with Adam as a kind of priest-king worshipping in the garden sanctuary (38). "Only when the father-son relationship is nurtured through worship, fellowship, and obedient love will humankind appropriately and properly reflect and represent to the world the kind of kingship and rule intrinsic to God himself. Kingship is effected through covenant relationship" (39).
This short post does not even come close to doing justice to the argument in Gentry's article. Maybe it will wet your taste buds to pick up or order the journal though. I thank God for men like Dr. Gentry who are so careful, and labor so meticulously to be faithful to the text.