Appendix: The Protoevangelium and the Fictitious Covenant of Grace
Dr. Belcher’s handling of Gen 3.15 is problematic and careless. I had already reviewed his uses of Gen 3.15 during the initial notes as I encountered them when I decided to check the index. There were several hits for Genesis 3.
[Note that in this appendix I’m concerned only with references found only in the first 8 chapters, ppg. 1–137, and the verses in the range of Gen 3.14-19.]
- 3.10-14: (incorrect citation, it appears that it was a false hit on Gal 3.10-14, not Gen 3.10-14)
- 3.15: 30, 38-41, 38n2, 40n5,40n6, 43, 44, 49, 57, 72, 76, 127
- 3.16: 39
- 3.17-19: 39
The table below shows the page hits in ascending order. The purpose of this exercise is to give Dr. Belcher the fairest possible chance to present his arguments, if he made any in the full range of Gen 3.14-19, even if they occur over several pages and/or chapters.
Not important relative to the citation of Gen 3.15; the name assigned to the fictitious Covenant of Grace does not affect the Protoevangelium.
To characterize this section of Scripture as the assignment of “responsibilities” is incorrect. Those responsibilities had already been assigned; this was the pronouncement of the curse upon the serpent, Eve and Adam. The curse would have a profound effect on those responsibilities, of course (something acknowledged by Dr. Belcher).
Accurate. (The footnotes present some esoteric items not worth considering, IMO.)
Does not affect the Protoevangelium. As to the substance of the clip, I refute this hideous "theological mashup of covenants” in the main body of this article.
That there is a “third party” in Gen 3.15 is a given; that we can identify that One as the Mediator having from our vantage point the complete Canon of Scripture is also a given. However, Adam and Eve could not have reasonably assigned the function ‘mediator’ to the third party in Gen 3.15 with the revelation they had. Nor is there any other passage in which Adam or Eve identified that third party as a mediator.
Accurate. Dr. Belcher avoids the language of the "mediator" here.
An expression of the same error of the beginning of the Covenant of Grace in Gen 3.15. A full treatment of this error is the purpose of this appendix.
Accurate. Does not supply any information on the Protoevangelium and the so-called Covenant of Grace.
Accurate regarding the "seed to come". The use of Gen 49 does not appear to fit well into the prophecy of Gen 3.15, except that Judah is pictured as the ruler and a lion. There is no reference to bruising or heels.
No. The Covenant of Grace is not mentioned. All we need to know is encompassed in the text in Gen 3.14-19.
Let’s also look at the complete context of Gen 3.15 (something that the table above shows us that Dr. Belcher did not do) (v15 in bold):
The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”
Let’s begin with this extraordinary clip:
"This is the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace and has been called the Protoevangelium (the First Gospel)." [pg 38]
Completely "out of the blue" Dr. Belcher makes this grand pronouncement: “This [the Protoevangelium] is the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace”.
This is it!?!? This is the beginning of the defense of the Covenant of Grace!? A single, unimaginative reference is made to Gen 3.15 (completely out of context), and we now have the Covenant of Grace, one of the two pillars of Covenant Theology!?
Really?! This is not even an introduction; it can’t be considered even the beginning of a serious defense! This is a great example of the "theological gaslighting" found in his book.
I’ll accept that the term Protoevangelium has probably been around for many centuries–maybe even longer than CT (something I couldn’t determine, though I looked)–but it lacks at least the minimum of the following characteristic of a covenant (points 1-4 below).
The LORD promises to do something for the benefit of the recipient(s) of the covenant. (More on this below.)
Where is the declaration of the covenant!?
I’ll restrain my surprise for a short time to observe a few things about Gen 3.15, truths not covered by Dr. Belcher in the whole of his book:
- From top to bottom, it is a curse! The first curse is to the serpent, the second curse is to Eve, and the last curse is to Adam.
I dare any CT to show me a real OT covenant (that is, one of the Noahic, Abrahamic, Circumcision, Mosaic, Davidic, and New) that contains only curses!
The Mosaic Covenant (the only conditional covenant in the OT) has blessings and curses conditioned upon obedience and disobedience, respectively.
The Covenant of Circumcision was unconditional. Its terms, though, were black or white; the male was either circumcised or he was not circumcised. If the former, he remained as part of the people of Israel, if the latter he was to be “cut off”. (And, once circumcised, the male would never become uncircumcised.) There was no mention of blessing or curses.
Much the same occurred around the Noahic Covenant. It was unconditional; the "blessing" (if you want to call it that) was that land-dwelling beings would not ever again be destroyed by the waters of a flood. There were no curses.
Great blessings were promised to Abram and his descendants in the covenant the LORD made with him. There were no curses.
Likewise, great blessings were promised to David in the Covenant the LORD made with Him. There were no curses.
Last of all, the greatest blessings of all come through the New Covenant the LORD made with "the house of Israel and the house of Judah": the LORD will turn their hearts to love Him as they ought! There were no curses.
Where is anything like the above found in the full context of Gen 3.14-19? Yes, of course, there is the promise that the woman’s seed will crush the serpents head, but this is expressed as a certain victory over the sin successfully tempted upon Adam and Eve rather than as a blessing. It is not presented as a blessing; it is given as a prophecy.
- Ignoring the parties for a moment (which is handled next), is the simple declaration that Gen 3.15 is primarily a curse, not a covenant! It never could be construed as a covenant and can never be construed as a covenant.
- Dr. Belcher asserts (correctly) that covenants have parties. So, who are the parties to Gen 3.15, the Protoevangelium? Applying Dr. Belcher’s "parties to the covenant principle", the serpent is the first party, Eve is the second party and Adam is the third.
Continuing to take Dr. Belcher at his word, "This is the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace and has been called the Protoevangelium (the First Gospel).". In other words, the Protoevangelium (Gen 3.15) and the Covenant of Grace are one and the same (apparently)! Therefore, if Gen 3.15 is the declaration of that covenant, then the first party to the covenant is the serpent!.
So, the Covenant of Grace is a covenant with the devil! Is that what you want us to believe, Dr. Belcher? Show me any other real OT covenant in which the first party to the covenant is an enemy of the LORD who is making the covenant! And, while we’re thinking about this problem, why do you, Dr. Belcher, never acknowledge this, claiming instead that “Adam and Eve were its first two members.” If you were true to the context, you should have said, “The serpent, Eve, and Adam were its first three members.”
The Covenant of Grace is even harder to accept than the Covenant of Works!
- The key term, at least with reference to the CT, appears to be “bruise”. The CT looks at that term and says, “See, the Covenant of Grace!”, and suddenly, magically, we have another theological ecosystem fully constructed for a new, foundational covenant.
Yes, this verse is typically termed the Protoevangelium (The First Gospel), but let’s consider a few other facts to mitigate the CT’s reckless enthusiasm surrounding the term–including among those of who are not CT (thankfully!). The use of the term “bruise” in no way resembles a "gospel" message–at least not to Adam and Eve, who could not possibly have known what the gospel was. They had essentially no revelation (and there is nothing in the text to indicate otherwise). The LORD gave them a relatively simple hope: your seed, woman [Eve had not yet been named by Adam], shall one day defeat the serpent who has defeated you–and your posterity–this day. The LORD provided no other details.
Slowly and steadily throughout history it would be the job of the LORD’s prophets to reveal the One who would one day defeat the serpent. The "gospel" in Gen 3.15 is primarily for us who have the privilege of the full revelation of Scripture.
One last word: if Gen 3.15 is a covenant, it is the shortest, most detail-free covenant in the entire OT. Even the debates in the world of the CT show how problematic it is. Remember Dr. Belcher’s four-part section, "Issues related to the Covenant of Grace". If the CTs can’t agree on these fundamental elements, how are they supposed to convince those of us who make a point of reading what the Scripture says, not what it doesn’t say!? Moreover, the mere word of the CT is hardly trustworthy.
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