covenant (kŭvˈənənt) [key], agreement entered into voluntarily by two or more parties to do or refrain from doing certain acts. In the Bible and in theology the covenant is the agreement or engagement of God with man as revealed in the Scriptures. In law a covenant is a contract under seal or an agreement by deed. In Scottish history the various pacts among the religious opponents of episcopacy were called covenants; those who agreed to the pacts were the Covenanters. The idea of the covenant between God of Israel and His people is fundamental to the religion of the Old Testament. God promised man specific good if man gave God the obedience and love due Him. In the covenant of God and Noah, He agreed never again to destroy man by a flood and set the rainbow in the sky as the sign of the covenant. Gen. 9. The covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob established Israel as God's chosen people and promised Canaan to them. Gen. 17; 26.1–5; 28.10–15; 32.24–32. The culmination of God's covenants with Israel comes in His promises and delivery of the Law of Moses. This provides the theme of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The great covenant with Israel is called in Christian theology the Old Covenant, because Jesus is believed to have come to fulfill it and set up a new and better covenant. Mat. 5.17, 18; Gal. 4; Heb. 8–10. This theology is behind the conventional names of the two parts of the Bible; for testament in the expressions "Old Testament" and "New Testament" is derived from a Latin mistranslation of a Greek word used in the Septuagint for covenant. In Protestant theology the covenant is especially prominent in the teaching of Johannes Cocceius. In English common law, covenants are agreements entered into by deed. One of the parties promises to perform or not to perform certain acts, or states that something has or will be done, or has not or will not be done. Covenants are bound by the same rules as other contracts and are variously classified. There are affirmative, alternative, auxiliary, collateral, concurrent, declarative, dependent, executory, express, and independent covenants, and covenants in law are covenants for title, covenants of seizin, covenants of warranty, and others. The express promise contained in a covenant is its most characteristic feature and distinguishes it from a bond, which is a simple record of indebtedness. The sealing and delivery of a covenant is an essential element of its validity. The covenantor is the party bound to perform the stipulation of a covenant; the covenantee is the party in whose favor the covenant is made.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.