Friday, May 25, 2012

A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, by G.K. Beale - briefly reviewed

What are we to make of the Holy Bible?  To that very broad question there could be many answers.  For some people the Bible is an old book that may have once had value to society but is now archaic and irrelevant.  Others find it to be the source of their moral grounding in life, having value primarily in giving instructions for right living.  And others consider it to be the literal word of God, accurate in everything it teaches about God, history, science and any other topic it may address. 

And there are many other views besides these, too many for me to even name for my purposes here. The view that I hold to is that the organizing theme of the Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments, is to tell one story, the story of God’s plan to redeem his people through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Preaching and teaching along these lines is generally referred to as the Redemptive-Historical model.  It is a model that believes that not only the New Testament, but also that all of the divisions of the Old Testament (Law, Prophets and History), in some way articulate God’s plan to redeem his people.  To the body of work written along redemptive-historical lines G. K. Beale has added a masterwork: A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012).

While I used the term ‘theme’ above, Beale prefers to view the Bible as containing two storylines, one for each Testament.  The Old Testament storyline is:

The Old Testament is the story of God, who progressively reestablishes his new-creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit through promise, covenant, and redemption, resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this kingdom and judgment (defeat or exile) for the unfaithful, unto his glory.(16)

This storyline is transformed in the New Testament to:

Jesus’s life, trials, death for sinners, and especially resurrection by the Spirit have launched the fulfillment of the eschatological already-not yet new-creational reign, bestowed by grace through faith and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this new-creational reign and resulting in judgment for the unbelieving, unto the Triune God’s glory.(16)

Beale provides a brief Introduction to his project and then delves into a more fully detailed exploration of the redemptive-historical storyline of the Old Testament.  Then follow thorough discussions that show how the Bible demonstrates the inauguration of things predicted and anticipated in end-times.  These discussions include topics such as Idolatry and Restoration of God’s Image, Salvation, the Work of the Spirit, the Church, Christian Living, and several other broad topics, with each topic having several sub-divisions. 

In the two-part conclusion he first briefly discusses the connection between various Old Testament realities, showing what God has already inaugurated related to them and then what God promises in their consummation.  The final chapter sums up the purpose of the redemptive-historical storyline and its implications for Christian living succinctly as “the Glory and Adoration of God.” (958) 

At nearly 1,000 pages of text, which are extensively footnoted, Beale has written a book that is not for the theologically faint-of-heart.  He has in mind as his audience scholars, pastors and educated laypersons who are interested digging deeply into God’s word, not merely for their own education but in order that they may be better prepared to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a). 

To make disciples we need to have a firm grasp on our subject matter.  In this volume Beale intends to provide a solid foundation for teachers in the church, be they in the formal setting of pulpit or classroom, or the informal setting of small groups and one-on-one conversation, to clearly articulate the ways in which the Bible, all of it, points to God, and particularly his work in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, for the purposes of God’s glory, now and forever. 

Augustine’s experience of conversion took place as he heard the phrase “Take up and read,” leading him to pick up his Bible and discover the love God had for him within its pages.  Beale has written a book of great depth and powerful purpose.  I highly commend it to any serious student of the Bible, so that they may understand more deeply the purpose and unity of the Bible’s storyline, and then be better equipped to share God’s Good News in Jesus among the people where God has placed them, to God’s eternal glory.

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