Summary for The Abrahamic Covenant in the Gospels by Theophilus Herter
Mack Publishing Co., 1972
Herter's little known work is of significant value to students of Biblical Theology. Taking a Vosian line Herter demonstrates the organic promise and fulfillment pattern of God's covenantal revelation of redemption. Beginning with the thesis that Jesus consciously conducted His earthly ministry in relation to the Abrahamic covenant, Herter explains that the events of Jesus's life themselves not accidentally correspond to the events of Abraham's and thus Jesus fulfills Abraham's unresolved and seemingly arbitrary history. Herter sets out to demonstrate that the Evangelists' intentionally represent Jesus as the Seed and fulfillment of Abraham and he is successful.
Herter's language is scholarly but accessible. His footnotes are thorough and well-marked. He quotes extensively from a wide variety of sources including some of the best (O. T. Allis, E. E. Ellis, L. Goppelt, Machen, Stonehouse, Ridderbos, Vos, A. Schlatter, Clowney, , E. J. Young, Murray) some of our favorite liberal B-T exegetes (C. K. Barrett, O. Cullman, G. von Rad, Conzelmann, C. H. Dodd, H. W. Wolff, and Hengstenberg) as well as taking on some of the more familiar liberals (Bultmann, Barth, Brunner, Buber, Davies, Dillman, Bornkamm).
There are a few problematic statements in Herter's work, but none which cannot be justified with more explication than Herter gives them. For example on page 80 he states "The call of God [to Abraham] marked the beginning of the kingdom of God." In some sense this is true; that in calling Abraham God begins a covenantal relationship in which His kingship is newly and uniquely expressed. Is there no notion of God's kingdom in the garden of Eden? What relation does God's promise to Adam, reiterated to Noah, have in the promise to Abraham. The "Seed-language" is not new with Abraham; it had been first iterated in Genesis 3 with reference to the woman. Within the scope and concentration of Herter's work, this is understandable, but we would have liked a more qualified statement.
Herter begins a journey which he leaves, in our estimation, unfinished, at least on a couple fronts. First, in affirming Jesus's fulfillment of Abraham's history, Herter stops short of affirming Jesus's fulfillment of Abraham's geographic sojourn. Another is his toning down of the end of the world significance of Jesus's accomplishment. Though present, Herter seems to back off at times. As far as Herter takes us he does well, but we believe he could have taken us further.
Among our favorites sections are "Christ as Reward;" "The Experience of 'My Day';" and "The Nativity Hymns." There are many other very beneficial and enlightening sections. We highly recommend Herter's book to students and preachers of Biblical Theology.