A solemn promise, fortified by an oath, concerning future action. The oath might be expressed in words or in a symbolic action. In the rhetoric of the Near East, covenants were spoken of as oaths and stipulations. Diverse situations of secular life were regulated by covenants, e.g., international relations. In the O.T. the usual (but not the only) word for covenant is b'rith. The religious covenants spoken of in the O.T. may be divided into two classes: those in which God is bound, as for example, the covenant struck by Abraham (Gn 15); and covenants in which Israel is bound, e.g., Jos 24. In the N.T. the notion of covenant surfaces preeminently in the account of the Last Supper (Mk 14:24), where the meaning of Christ's sacrifice is defined as the "new covenant." Both the Sinai covenant and the covenant in Christ's blood brought into being a people of God and called for complete surrender to God in response to His love.
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