COVENANT (an O. Fr. form, later convenant, from convenir, to agree, Lat. convenire), a mutual agreement of two or more parties, or an undertaking made by one of the parties. In the Bible the Hebrew word הירב, bĕrith, is used widely for many kinds of agreements; it is then applied to a contract between two persons or to a treaty between two nations, such as the covenant made between Abimelech and Isaac, representing a treaty between the Israelites and the Philistines (Gen. xxvi. 26, seq.); more particularly to an engagement made between God and men, or such agreements as, by the observance of a religious rite, regarded God as a party to the engagement. Two suggestions have been made for the derivation of bĕrith: (1) tracing the word from a root "to cut," and the reference is to the primitive rite of cutting victims into parts, between which the parties to an agreement passed, cf. the Greek , and the account (Gen. xv. 17) of the covenant between God and Abraham, where "a smoking furnace and burning lamp passed between the pieces" of the victims Abraham had sacrificed; (2) connecting it with an Assyrio-Babylonian biritu, fetter, alliance. Bĕrith was translated in the Septuagint by , which in classical Greek had the meaning of "will"; hence the Vulgate, in the Psalms and the New Testament, translates the word by testamentum, but elsewhere in the Old Testament by foedus or pactum; similarly Wycliffe's version gives "testament" and "covenant" respectively. The books of Scripture dealing with the old or Mosaic, and new or Christian dispensation are sometimes known as the Books of the Old and the New Covenant. The word appears in the system of theology developed by Johannes Cocceius (q.v.), and known as the "Covenant" or "Federal" Theology, based on the two Covenants of Works or Life made by God with Adam, on condition of obedience, and of grace or redemption, made with Christ. In Scottish ecclesiastical history, covenant appears in the two agreements signed by the members of the Scottish Church in defence of their religious and ecclesiastical systems (see Covenanters).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)