Covenant (religion)

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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]


Main article: Mosaic covenant

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]


See also: Esoteric interpretation of the Quran

In Islam, before creation, God called the future humanity out of the loins of the not-yet-created Adam and addressed them with the words: "Am I not your Lord?", and they answered: "Yes, we witness it". This "primordial covenant" is the metahistorical foundation between God and humankind[6] and is mentioned in Sura 7:

When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): "Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?"- They said: "Yea! We do testify!" (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: "Of this we were never mindful".[Quran 7:172]

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]

Other religions[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (ברית Tiberian Hebrew bərîṯ Standard Hebrew bərit)
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ The Blue Letter Bible, Strong's G1242.
  4. ^ The Torah, W. G. Plaut, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, New York, 1981; p. 71.
  5. ^ Grudem, Wayne A. "The Covenants Between God and Man." Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. 515. Print.
  6. ^ Corbin, Henry (1993). History of Islamic philosophy (Reprinted. ed.). Kegan Paul International. pp. 1–14. ISBN 0710304161.