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Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies

ISBN: 9781683593874
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What is the best framework for reading the Bible?

The question of how to relate the Old and New Testaments is as old as the Bible itself. While most Protestants are unified on the foundations, there are major disagreements on particular issues. Who should be baptized? Is the Christian obligated to obey the Law of Moses? Does the church supplant Israel? Who are the proper recipients of God’s promises to Israel?

In Discontinuity to Continuity, Benjamin Merkle brings light to the debates between dispensational and covenantal theological systems. Merkle identifies how Christians have attempted to relate the Testaments, placing viewpoints along a spectrum of discontinuity to continuity. Each system’s concerns are sympathetically summarized and critically evaluated.

Through his careful exposition of these frameworks, Merkle helps the reader understand the key issues in the debate. Providing more light than heat, Merkle’s book will help all readers better appreciate other perspectives and articulate their own.

Praise for Discontinuity to Continuity

We all know that we understand specific verses better if we have a good understanding of the larger landscape and context of the Bible. But what larger perspective is correct? Ben Merkle takes us on a wonderfully instructive tour of six different theological systems. He describes objectively each view and then provides an assessment of each position. I believe this is one of the most useful books on the market today. Students, pastors, and professors will have a better grasp of various theological options that have proven convincing to evangelicals. A most important contribution!

–Thomas Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY

Those interested in evangelical theology are usually aware of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology, and in more recent years Progressive Covenantalism and Christian Reconstructionism. But understanding the nuances of these systems and how they relate to each other often has been elusive. Fortunately, Benjamin Merkle has offered a helpful and concise explanation and comparison of each of these views. While admitting he has his own perspective, Merkle fairly presents each of the systems and uses many primary sources in doing so. This contributes to scholarly discussion by allowing a fair sideby‐ side look at each of the various positions.

–Mike Vlach, Associate Professor of Theology, The Master’s Seminary

In no other book I know of will you find a clearer presentation of these competing hermeneutical systems. Merkle is well-informed, insightful, even-handed, and precise in highlighting the critical distinctives of each system – all this while remaining concise and plainly accessible. All sides will find this analytical summary helpful.

–Fred G. Zaspel, pastor, Reformed Baptist Church in Franconia, Pennsylvania; adjunct professor of systematic theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

In this needed volume, Merkle deftly describes the contours of major theological systems. Students reading this book will both better understand their own theological assumptions as well as accurately understand those who differ from them. In Merkle you will find a teacher who can summarize, analyze, and communicate with excellence. It's no accident that Dr. Ben Merkle's upper-level hermeneutics seminar is affectionately called "Ninja Hermeneutics."

–Rob Plummer, Collin and Evelyn Aikman Professor of Biblical Studies, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Many of us don’t even realize when we read the Bible that we have certain presuppositions about how it all fits together. Yet how we relate the OT to the NT not only informs how we view Jesus, but also how we apply scripture to the Church today. Thankfully Benjamin Merkle provides a fair-minded description of a range of approaches, including different forms of dispensationalism and classic Covenant Theology. Listen to Merkle to better understand not only other traditions, but maybe even your own.

–Kelly M. Kapic, Professor of Theological Studies, Covenant College

Merkle successfully accomplished the difficult task of bringing us up-to-date on the major theological systems of today. This book is a clear, concise, and charitable resource that will help us understand the whole counsel of God, which will strengthen our confidence in our great Triune God who makes and keeps his promises in Christ.

–Oren Martin, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology, Boyce College

Shaped in the classroom and written with solid research and clear and compelling prose, this valuable introduction surveys six of evangelicalism’s major theological systems on the spectrum from discontinuity to continuity. Merkle effectively silences his own perspective and writes with a goal to inform rather than persuade. Whether treating classic, revised, or progressive dispensationalism on the one hand or progressive covenantalism, covenant theology, or Christian reconstructionism on the other, he allows key holders of the main views to answer the same questions and address the same topics, whether dealing with basic hermeneutics, the relationship of the covenants, the Israel-church relationship, or the nature of the kingdom of God. The pages also help the reader understand how each system handles the New Testament use of the Old. Better than any other book of which I am aware, this volume describes evangelicalism’s different perspectives on how the whole Bible progresses, integrates, and climaxes in Christ.

–Jason S. DeRouchie, Research Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Top Highlights

“Dispensationalists believe one’s basic hermeneutic must remain anchored in the Old Testament and that the New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament does not do away with the promises or meaning of the Old Testament texts in their contexts.” (Page 9)

“Dispensationalists have tended to emphasize the land promises of the Old Testament, and covenantalists have tended to emphasize the genealogical aspects of the Old Testament (i.e., promises regarding children).” (Page 16)

“First, we will seek to identify the basic hermeneutic for each position. Second, we will look at how each position understands the relationship between the covenants. Third, we will address each position’s stance on the relationship between Israel and the church. Fourth, we will consider each position’s understanding of the kingdom of God.” (Page 7)

“Both sides claim to interpret literally, and yet they derive different theological systems. This suggests that the difference is not literalism v. non-literalism, but different understandings of what constitutes literal hermeneutics.” (Page 7)

“Second, progressive dispensationalism sees the kingdom of God as primarily future but allows for some realization of the kingdom in the present.” (Page 22)


  • An Introduction to Theological Systems of Discontinuity and Continuity
  • Classic Dispensationalism
  • Revised Dispensationalism
  • Progressive Dispensationalism
  • Progressive Covenantalism
  • Covenant Theology
  • Christian Reconstruction
  • Summary of the Six Theological Systems

Product Details

  • Title: Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies
  • Author: Benjamin L. Merkle
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Pages: 288
  • Format: Logos Digital, Paperback
  • Trim Size: 6x9
  • ISBN: 9781683593874

Benjamin L. Merkle (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Dr. M. O. Owens Jr. Chair of New Testament Studies and professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of more than 40 books, including Greek for Life, Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek, Linguistics and New Testament Greek, Beginning with New Testament Greek, and Going Deeper with New Testament Greek. He is also the editor of Southeastern Theological Review.

Sample Pages from Discontinuity to Continuity


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Shop June's Monthly Sale!


Print list price: $25.99
Regular price: $22.99
Save $4.60 (20%)