Myers’s first chapter surveys the history of covenant theology from the New Testament through to the twenty-first century.
I think Myers opening claims would have been more convincing if, instead of arguing that covenant theology existed in the New Testament and post-apostolic era, he had argued that certain elements that are significant to the system of covenant theology are present in the early church. For instance, in the section on the post-apostolic church, Myers seems to understand covenant theology as teaching “an unbroken unity to God’s work” from Abraham to Christ, with Christ being the fulfilment of all the OT promises (18). But this definition is broad enough to encompasses progressive coventantalists and progressive dispensationalists. The breadth of his definition for what counts as covenant theology in this period is seen in his appeal to the Epistle of Barnabas as evidence of covenant theology in the patristic period: “Certainly, the author of Barnabas had a rather peculiar structure to his covenant theology, one very different from that set forward at present, but what is important is that he was using covenants and covenant theology in his apologetic and evangelistic engagement with Jews” (19). I think Myers would have been better off to simply claim that Irenaeus taught that there was a succession of divine covenants that culminate in the new covenant or that Augustine taught the covenant of works (though not by that name). In other words, Myers would have been on much firmer ground to claim that elements that became a significant part of covenant theology had their origins in this period.
Myers then turns to the medieval period, and he makes the case that Jerome translated covenant words in the OT and NT with different words, thus leading to a distortion in the medieval concept of covenant.
Myers’s treatment of covenant theology from the Reformation to the nineteenth century was well done. Someone who desires to study covenant theology in these centuries from the primary sources would do well to use the footnotes in this section as a reading guide. I understand that Myers probably limited the depth of his discussion to keep the book of a manageable length, but I wish Myers had spent a bit more space in this section explaining the distinctive contribution of each of the men discussed as well as what was common to them all.
When he comes to the nineteenth century, Myers briefly and effectively deals with Heppe’s distortion of covenant theology as read through a Calvin vs. the Calvinists lens. He then turns to dispensationalism, and he makes the quintessential error of covenant theologians—he discusses Darby and Scofield as if they represent dispensational theology. It is of course appropriate to treat Darby and Scofield in a historical survey. But it is scholarly malpractice to treat them as defining dispensationalist beliefs at present. For instance, Myers claims “the heart of dispensationalism as a system” is the idea of “a dispensation is “a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God” (35). But no current dispensational scholar holds this view. It plays no part in Ryrie’s three distinctives, Feinberg’s six distinctives, Vlach’s six distinctives, or in any progressive dispensational presentation. Notably the only sources cited in this section were the Scofield Reference Bible and covenant critiques of dispensationalism. No recent dispensationalist sources are cited. This treatment of dispensationalism happens with such regularity that I’m starting to think that progressive dispensationalists should change their name to something without “dispensationalist” so that scholars will interact with what they actually write.
Myers then moves on to a cogent critique of Barth and his heirs for their revision of covenant theology in a monocovenantalist and universalist direction.
Myers concludes the chapter with an extended discussion of Murray and Kline. His summary of both men’s positions is helpful, and his critique of Murray is on the mark. I also think Myers cogently critiques Kline’s reliance on now outdated scholarship about ANE covenants. Nonetheless, I the distinction between two covenant types need not rest on appeals to ANE covenants. There seems to have been a minority report within the history of covenant theology that at least rhymes with Kline’s approach to covenant theology.
All in all I found this to be a helpful survey of covenant theology, especially from the time of the Reformation through Kline.