Review of Jim Puterbaugh’s “One Covenant” (2)

By Jim McDonald

The “Type” Jim Calls For

Hebrew 8:1-10:18 is cited by brother Puterbaugh as proof that Jesus was a priest only to offer sacrifice for sins. He argues that Hebrew 8:1 points to the role of a priest offering blood for forgiveness of sins and affirms there is no picture in the Old Testament of a priest dying to act as a testator for a new will or law. Brother Puterbaugh asks, “Where, in the Old Testament . . . is there a type set up for Jesus to die to institute as a testator a last will and testament? Did a priest provide a death in order to be the testator of a new will and testament? You see, that context is not in the Bible!” (1-C) We acknowledge the role of Jesus as a priest is argued in this section but its special significance is a contrast between the work of Jesus and that of Moses. All of the following comparisons and contrasts between Moses and Christ are found or implied in this text. Moses was a mediator of a covenant, so was Jesus. Moses gave a covenant to his people, so did Jesus. Moses built the tabernacle according to the pattern shown to him in the mount (Heb. 8:5). Jesus built the church according to God’s eternal purpose (Matt.16:18; Eph. 3:10f). Moses dedicated the tabernacle, the people, and the book of the law with the blood of animals, which blood was also the blood they offered for forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:21-22).

Jesus dedicated the church and his law or covenant with his blood, which blood also is the blood shed for forgiveness of sins (Acts 20:28; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 10:10; 1 John 1:7). While Hebrews 8:1-10:17 presents Christ as a priest, it is a comparison and a contrast between Christ and Moses who served in an identical function. Moses predicted such a prophet as himself would arise (Deut. 18:15, see also John 1:17). This is the picture seen in this section of Hebrews. Did Moses function as a priest when he revealed the law, built the tabernacle, and dedicated not only the law and the tabernacle with the blood of animals, but the people as well? Who can deny it? (Heb. 8:3-5)

The type brother Puterbaugh calls for (“a priest pro-vides a death in order to be the testator of a new will and testament”) (1-C) is in the Bible in his very text from He-brews 9:19-20. “For when every command had been spoken by Moses unto all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people saying, `This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded to youward”‘ (Exod. 24:8).

Moses was a type of Christ (Deut 18:18; Acts 3:22, 23). The offering of the blood of animals was to dedicate the covenant with Israel (Heb. 9:18). The point from Exodus 24:8 illustrates what Jesus did on the cross. The animal blood Moses sprinkled on the book and the people was to dedicate a covenant they had not formerly enjoyed (Deut. 5:1-3). The blood of those animals was not shed to forgive sins of an existing covenant that Israel had already broken, but to dedicate the new covenant they had entered into with God. In exactly the same way Jesus’ blood was shed to dedicate a new, different covenant with Israel, which is what the prophet Jeremiah promised (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8:7-13). Did Jesus shed his blood for the forgiveness of sins committed under the first covenant? Yes (Heb. 9:15). He also shed his blood to dedicate a new, different covenant he was making with a “new Israel.” It is exactly this to which Jesus refers to in Matthew 26:28, “This is the blood of the (new, Mark 14:24) covenant which is poured out for many unto remission of sins.”

Moses took the blood of animals and sprinkled it on the book of the covenant and the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded to youward,” referring to a new covenant God had made with Israel but which he had not made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So it was with Jesus. When Jesus shed his blood, he dedicated a new covenant God had made with spiritual Israel but which was not the same as either the one made with Israel at Horeb, or with Abraham. Brother Puterbaugh asks, “Where in the Old Testament is there a type set up for Jesus to die to institute as a testator a last will and testament? You see, that context is not in the Bible.” Exodus 24:8 coupled with Matthew 26:28 and Hebrews 9:19f are the type and anti-type of that which brother Puterbaugh says is not in the Bible.

In the Hebrews text, the Exodus passage is cited to establish the point:

For where a testament is there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it cloth never avail while he that made it liveth. Wherefore even the first covenant hath not been dedicated without blood (Heb. 9:16-18, 19-22).

Here is further proof that Jesus did die as a testator to institute a last will and testament. The text says (1) a testament requires the death of the testator, and (2) no will is valid while the testator still lives. These two points provide a mortal wound to brother Puterbaugh’s theory and he shows that he feels the force of it by denying that the word “testament” is a proper representation in these verses  it should be “covenant” (1-C). He correctly states that the words “covenant” in Hebrews 9:15 and “testament” in Hebrews 9:16, 17 are from the same Greek word diatheke. He correctly observes that diatheke occurs over thirty times in the Scriptures and is ordinarily translated “covenant.” But, brother Puterbaugh errs when he says the translators arbitrarily translated the word “testament” in those verses instead of “covenant.” (He pays scant attention to the verses them-selves.)

Either the word “testament” or “covenant” is a proper translation of the word diatheke. Contrary to brother Puterbaugh’s contention, the translators did not arbitrarily use “testament” in lieu of “covenant.” They had reason to translate the word diatheke as ‘testament” in the text. They used “testament” in these verses because the context demanded that translation over “covenant” (Heb. 9:15, 16, 17; ASV). Verse 15 speaks of an “inheritance.” An “inheritance” is ordinarily the result of something received upon the death of another and inasmuch as that is exactly what verses 16-17 says, the translators were correct in their treatment of diatheke in these two verses. True, we have not yet received all of our eternal inheritance, but what we now have and what we hope ultimately to receive will be the consequence of Christs last will and Testament!

Brother Puterbaugh does not like the word “testament” because it implies a will and ordinances concerning that will. He denies that statutes and commandments constitute a covenant. To him a covenant is a relationship, not law (although he admits there may be commandments in a covenant). He does not want a covenant to be law and he struggles with Deuteronomy 4:13 which reads, “And he declared unto you his covenant which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” Brother Puterbaugh calls Moses’ statement a “metonym” (1-3a). “Metonym” is a figure of speech in which one thing is named to suggest another, viz.: Jesus named “the cup” in the Lord’s supper to suggest the fruit of the vine, but the literal cup is not the fruit of the vine (1 Cor. 11:27). Ac-cording to brother Puterbaugh, the “Ten Commandments” were not the covenant, they only suggest the covenant! Jim has the wrong figure of speech. The figure of speech Moses used was a synecdoche, in which a part is put for the whole. The Ten Commandments were not the whole covenant, or just a sign of the covenant, but they were part of that covenant. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel” (Exod. 34:27).

An Eternal Moral Law?

Brother Puterbaugh’s assertion that “Christ did not nail the Ten Commandments to the cross, he taught the Ten Commandments” (MDR) is based upon his assumption that man has always been subject to the same eternal, moral law. Jim excludes, in a sense, the Sabbath from his statement. The issue swirls around passages like Matthew 5:31, 32 and Matthew 19:1-9 and the core of the issue is this, Did Moses permit divorce for a different reason than God’s original law, which permission Jesus rescinded, restoring God’s will concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage back to God’s original design? Here is the battleground. If it is true that Moses “permitted” some-thing not allowed at the beginning, then God’s moral law has not remained the same.

On the surface, it certainly appears that Jesus is dictating something different from Moses about Marriage-Divorce-Remarriage. The question of the Pharisee t, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every red by Jesus, essence, “No, It not 1913, 4-6)

The Pharisees understood Jesus to say that what they believed about “divorce for every cause” was not lawful. And they responded, “Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matt. 19:7). Jesus answered, “Moses, for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away you wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so” (Matt. 19:8).

Now all this seems plain enough but brother Puterbaugh differs. The contrast (he says) is not really between what Moses taught and Jesus taught, but between what Jews thought Moses taught and what Jesus taught about Moses. According to Jim, the Pharisees were an apostate religion and what they taught about MDR was not what Moses taught, but a corruption of it (MDR).

The text does not say that the Pharisees differed from Moses but that Moses and Jesus taught the same; the text says: “Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it hath not been so.” The contrast is not between what the Pharisees thought Moses suffered and what was in the beginning, the contrast is between what Moses suffered and what was in the beginning.

Moses permitted something that was not true in the be-ginning. And under Moses, when the divorce complied with Deuteronomy 24:1-4 it was not sin, for Moses permitted it. “But Jesus said to them, `Because of your hardness of heart he (i.e., Moses, jm) wrote you this commandment”‘ (Mark 10:5). It is true that God “hateth putting away” (Mal. 2: 16). Yes, the hardness of the peoples’ hearts caused God to allow divorce and thus Moses permitted it. Moses did not give people license to sin. In the hardness of their hearts Israel demanded a king. God did not like it; they had rejected him from being their king. Since God did not like it and he allowed them to have a king because of the hardness of their hearts, did Samuel allow Israel to sin when he granted their request for a king?

Whatever errors the Pharisees might have taught about the law of Moses, the principal quarrel of Jesus with the Pharisees was not what they taught, but with their hypocrisy and that by their traditions they set aside the law they taught (Matt. 23:2; 13, 14, 15; 15:4).

Matthew 19:1-9 is not a contrast between the Pharisaic misconception of what Moses taught about Marriage-Divorce-Remarriage with what Moses actually taught; the contrast is between what was intended for man from the beginning and what Moses allowed. All of the context is what Moses allowed, with what was at the beginning and what Jesus allows. That is the point of dispute and since Moses permitted something in the realm of morals different from what was in the beginning, God’s moral law has changed.

Revealing, Troubling Consequences of Jim’s Theory

There are many consequences that must be faced if God’smoral law has never changed, not the least of which is this: is polygamy right, then? At the conclusion of one of brother Puterbaugh’s “study sessions” on MDR the question was asked, “What about polygamy?” The following is his response.

The Bible never precisely condemns polygamy. It’s like slavery. God allowed slavery in the law of Moses and then slavery just disappears when we get over into Christianity . . . but is there a verse that says slavery is immoral? Even in Philemon Paul doesn’t condemn slavery. And that’s the way I look at the concubines or polygamy, that they do not precisely violate moral law as God reveals it but once you have Christianity, it just seems to disappear, like slavery does. . . . What about Abraham? He had a wife and a concubine under the original (moral law) as it was. Was he in sin, there? He was under the universal, original law and was he in sin? I think we’d all have to say that he, that we couldn’t say he was in a state of sin that was going to keep him from going to heaven, at least . . . that’s the only way I know how to deal with it . . . I just confess to you that it is a struggle, that it is a problem…” (MDR).

What conclusions may be drawn from brother Puterbaugh’s comments? Of great significance is (1) brother Puterbaugh’s acknowledgment that it is a struggle, that it is a problem (i.e., the question of polygamy, jm), (2) the Scriptures do not actually condemn polygamy; (3) one in such a state is not in a “state of sin that was going to keep him from going to heaven, at least” (which smacks a bit like Catholicism’s “mortal” and “venial” sins), and (4) it is al-lowed in the “eternal moral law.” Brother Puterbaugh seems to think that Abraham’s marriage code necessarily reflected God’s original moral code; apparently never considering that obviously it was not only under the Mosaic covenant that God permitted something less than what he desired about marriage, but that during Abraham’s day, the same allowance was made. God’s original desires for man, not only in marriage but also in other matters as well, were not always reflected in the behavior of people in Abraham’s day. Why must we conclude that Abraham’s marriage status reflected God’s original desires?

Why does brother Puterbaugh have such a problem with polygamy? Why can he not give a forthright, clear answer about polygamy and say, “It is wrong”? He cannot because he knows such a declaration destroys his “covenant doctrine” and his teaching that there has always been just one moral law with no alteration in it. Those two doctrines linked together have caused him to boldly say: “Christ nailed no law to the cross.” “Christ did not nail the ten commandments to the cross, he taught the ten commandments”; Jesus “did not die to do away with the law and institute a new law as the last will and testament” (Mailout, 1-C, MDR). He has labored hard to “prove” that Christ taught exactly the same thing on moral law that Moses taught, and if it be true that Christ prohibited polygamy, then He and Moses did not teach the same thing about moral law.

Did Jesus allow or prohibit polygamy? “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. But, because of fornication, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:10. Each man is to have his own wife (singular); each woman is to have her own husband (singular). If a man can have two wives at the same time, a woman can have two husbands at the same time and at the same time that husband has two wives. If the command “every woman is to have her own husband” prohibits polyandry; the statement, “each man have his own wife” prohibits polygamy. God’s original law, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife (not wives); and the two (not three) shall be one flesh,” shows that God’s original law for marriage was one man, one woman, not one man, two women (Gen. 2:24).

The situation of Abraham was not in harmony with God’s original will concerning marriage although I would not dispute the fact that God allowed it. Furthermore, while I do not believe that 1 Timothy 3:2, “The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife . . . ” refers exclusively to prohibition of polygamy, it certainly includes that prohibition. And, if one object that the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are given to measure elders by, we ask, which other of the moral requirements in the list do not apply in equal force to every Christian? Consider Romans 7:2f,

For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man.

If it is true that “the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to that husband for so long as he lives, so that if she be joined to another man while that first husband liveth she shall be called an adulteress”; is it not equally true that “the man that hath a wife is bound by law to that wife for so long time as she lives so that if he should be joined to an-other woman while the first wife lives, he shall be called an adulterer”? Or does God have one standard for the man, another standard for the woman? Does God’s law prohibit polygamy? The law of Moses did not but the law of Christ does. Polygamy was not a sin under the law of Moses. Polygamy is a sin under the law of Christ. There is a difference in what Moses taught about polygamy and what Christ taught about the same subject.

God’s original law concerning marriage did not include polygamy. Christ’s present law does not include polygamy. The law of Moses did allow polygamy. Polygamy is a violation of God’s moral law. Polygamy is sin. Brother Puterbaugh is not willing to say that polygamy is a violation of moral law because that would prove Moses allowed something God did not originally intend as part of his moral law.


I have shown that there is more than one covenant and that the New Covenant of Christ is different from the Old Covenant of Moses. I have shown that the Covenant given through Moses to Israel was not a “renewing of the Abrahamic covenant” but different from it. I have shown that the New Covenant of Christ was neither the Abrahamic nor Mosaic Covenants, but different from both of them. I have shown that Christ nailed the Ten Commandments to the cross and initiated a new will and testament. I have shown that God’s moral law has not always been the same. The doctrine brother Puterbaugh has built on his theory of an unchanging, moral law from the garden of Eden through the patriarchs, through Moses, through Christ unto us to-day is not true because the premise it is built upon is not true. Brother Puterbaugh’s “One-Covenant” doctrine is confusing. It creates doubts and uncertainties. It cannot condemn polygamy. It justifies folks in a divorce and re-marriage whom Christ does not justify. It implies (although brother Puterbaugh does not specifically say so) that physical Israel is in a favored state now with God. The teaching is not only wrong because the Scriptures do not teach it; brother Puterbaugh’s “one covenant” doctrine is wrong because it contradicts the Holy Scriptures.


(1-C), a series of taped lessons Jim Puterbaugh gave on “One Covenant” in 1995.

(MDR), a series of taped lessons of brother Puterbaugh’s teaching on “Marriage-Divorce-Remarriage” given in Lutz, Florida, about 1993.

(Mailout), A circulated letter sent out by Wallace Little to more than 100 brethren in the States, January 1996.

Guardian of Truth XL: No. 21, p. 18-21
November 7, 1996