Covenant (religion)

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In religion, a covenant is a formal alliance or agreement made by God with a religious community or with humanity in general. It is central to the Abrahamic religions and derived from the biblical covenants, notably the Abrahamic covenant.


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 refers to a biblical covenant between God and the biblical Israelites.[4][5] The establishment and stipulations of the Mosaic covenant are recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, which are traditionally attributed to Mosaic authorship 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.


Main article: New Covenant

The New Covenant is a biblical interpretation originally derived from a phrase in the Book of Jeremiah, in the Hebrew Bible. Generally, Christians believe that the New Covenant was instituted at the Last Supper as part of the Eucharist, which in the Gospel of John includes the New Commandment.

There are several Christian eschatologies that further define the New Covenant. For example, an inaugurated eschatology defines and describes the New Covenant as an ongoing relationship between Christian believers and God that will be in full fruition after the Second Coming of Christ; that is, it will not only be in full fruition in believing hearts, but in the future external world as well. The connection between the blood of Christ and the New Covenant is seen in most modern English translations of the New Testament[6] with the saying: "this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood".[7]

Christians believe that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, and that the blood of Christ shed at his crucifixion is the required blood of the covenant. As with all covenants between God and man described in the Bible, the New Covenant is considered "a bond in blood sovereignly administered by God."[8] It has been theorized that the New Covenant is the Law of Christ as spoken during his Sermon on the Mount.[9]

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."[10]

Latter-day Saints[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) encourages its members to make and keep several covenants as a part of the new and everlasting covenant of the gospel. In Latter Day Saint theology, making and keeping covenants is necessary for exaltation.

In the LDS Church, there are formal covenants and informal covenants. Formal covenants are limited in number and are always accompanied by the performance of an ordinance. Informal covenants are made without the performance of an ordinance. Typically, formal covenants are made in the presence of other Latter-day Saints, while informal covenants are made privately between a Latter-day Saint and God without the performance of an ordinance. Informal covenants are most commonly referred to simply as commandments.


The original covenant made between God and mankind marked the beginning of creation according to Islamic theology. It is believed that before the creation of the heavens and the earth, God assembled all of creation (that would ever exist) in a timeless, placeless region and informed them of the truth of his existence. This moment is referred to in the verse 7:172 of the Quran as follows:

"When thy Lord drew forth their descendants from the children of Adam, He made them testify concerning themselves [saying]: Am I not your Lord?' They replied, Yes, we do so testify'".

This covenant is significant in that it asserts that an understanding of the origin of man is something deeply inherent to and natural within every person. Any disconnection from this memory is referred to as being ‘forgetful’ within the scripture, hadith literature and commentary. The Quran constantly implores people to recall and remember. Scholars suggest that the call to remember throughout the Quran is in fact a call to remember this particular moment in their spiritual history. Suggestions are also made that where people recognise people with ease, it is usually as a memory from this event. To strive to remember through invocations and contemplation is thus considered a form of worship in Islam called dhikr.

There are many scholarly perspectives taken on the significance of this covenant. It is understood as marking the beginning of human consciousness with mankind making their first conscious response to the divine question 'Am I not your lord?'. Some also see it as being relevant to the Islamic principle of Tawhid or unity as the entirety of mankind was said to have been assembled on the plane on this date.

Another perspective is that as an Abrahamic faith, the covenant was made with Abraham. 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]

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. ^ 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.""
  5. ^ Exodus 20:8: "thy stranger that is within thy gates"
  6. ^ but not in the KJV for example
  7. ^ "Luke 22:20". Retrieved 2011-09-24. 
  8. ^ This definition of covenant is from O. Palmer Robertson's book The Christ of the Covenants. It has become an accepted definition among modern scholars. See this critical review of his book by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon.
  9. ^ George R. Law, “The Form of the New Covenant in Matthew,” American Theological Inquiry 5:2 (2012).
  10. ^ Grudem, Wayne A. "The Covenants Between God and Man." Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. 515. Print.