G.K. Beale’s Newest – A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New

I just got G.K. Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology in the mail and began doing some skimming.  I won’t be able to delve in until late December, but I was thrilled to spend a few minutes spot-reading.

So far I’m quite pleased.  I was anxious as I awaited this book since I’ve been so disappointed by his last two books.  (Readers of this blog will remember that we’ve expressed some hesitation/critique of Beale’s Inerrancy and Idolatry books – use the blog’s search widget and you’ll see those posts.)

While I felt some of his introductory chapter raised some of the same methodological concerns that his Idolatry book raised, once the book got rolling, it was nice, familiar territory – just like the good old days of The Temple and the Church’s Mission and The Book of Revelation!

Here are a few things I’ve enjoyed thus far.

Beale’s discussion of “escalated blessings” that awaited even pre-fall Adam was quite rich.  I just preached on Rom 1.1-7, and was struck that even here, Paul contrasts Adam’s sinless/unglorified state with Christ’s sinless/glorified state.  Beale’s discussion on pages 33-46 was quite fine.

While discussing whether Adam would have eaten from the Tree of Life prior to the fall, Beale makes a contribution that I hadn’t considered.  I’ve tended to follow M.G. Kline’s view that Adam had not eaten of the tree, but have recognized the philological problems of this view and struggled with it. Beale suggests another possibility:

Whether or not Adam was able to eat of the tree of life before his sin, it is likely that there is reference in Gen. 3:22 to what might be termed a “consummative eating.”  The word “also” is the first indication that this was a decisive “onetime” act of eating: “And now, lest he stretch out his hand and take also [gam] from the tree of life, and eat …” …. Thus, even if Adam had been eating previously of the tree of life, this was to be a more decisive act of eating of that tree than had ever occurred…. Adam’s exclusion from the garden and from partaking of the tree indicates that he would be prohibited from decisively eating of the tree of life and enjoying the consequent escalated blessing of eternal life.”

Pgs. 38-39.

This notion of decisive or consummative eating is intriguing.  I’ll look forward to thinking more about this!

A chapter that will likely draw interesting attention to those interested in the recent justification debates is chap. 15 “The Inaugurated Latter-Day Justification.”  I haven’t read enough of it to evaluate how he parses out the “future” aspect to justification, though from what I’ve read so far, it sounds more Gaffin-esque than N.T. Wright-esque.  I was pleased to see him boldly affirm the imputation of Christ’s active obedience (pgs. 471-80).

A few quotes:

Four texts traditionally adduced to support [the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience] are Rom. 5:15-19; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9.  All, in my view, support the concept of Christ’s righteousness being passed on representatively to those who believe in him.  Here my purpose is to review briefly what I think are viable texts supporting the notion of the attribution of Christ’s righteousness to saints.

Pgs. 471-72.

The notion of Christ doing what Adam should have done and achieving the glorious blessed position that Adam should have inherited and then having believers identified with this glorious position is close conceptually to and suggestive of the idea of attributing Christ’s positive obedience to believers.

Pg. 480.

Whereas many biblical scholars exaggerate the difference between biblical terminology and systematic-theological terminology, especially the later quote by Beale is a solid way of noting that one can still robustly affirm traditional doctrinal formulations while noting that the biblical writers themselves use a different set of terms in explaining those concepts.

All this to say, I’m excited to have this volume in my hands.  Though I suspect that I’ll find myself rubbing up against some positivistic/fundamentalistic strands that characterize Beale’s writing, what I’ve read so far is delightful!  Spend the money, get the book!  From what I can tell so far, it is not going to disappoint!

__________________
Andrew

4 thoughts on “G.K. Beale’s Newest – A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New”

  1. Thanks for the review. Not sure if I’ll actually get it in the near future, since I too was disappointed with some of his earlier work. Let us know in the future if you think he makes BT points that are less than certain (you know, the old maximalist debate!).

    I do have a question though: how is his writing style itself? Not talking content here, but style. Is it readable? “Inerrancy” and “Idolatry” were not well written and stylistically were not a pleasure to read. Is it better in this volume?

    shane

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    1. I’ll definitely let you know what it looks like the further I delve in. The idolatry book was just weird in some places and I just couldn’t figure out what was going on, but partly I think that is because he was trying to turn something that was (at best) an article or two into a full length monograph. Other people might have had a better take on that book, but when he was doing chapters (like the Acts chapter) that just didn’t fit his (overly) narrow thesis, I was just convinced we were looking at CV padding …

      One gripe I’ve seen already (and this was also from the Idolatry book) is that he flattens out Judaism, citing everything from the Qumran texts to the Midrashim to Ben Sira in describing something he calls “Judaism.” He’s done it already in this book and what is most telling is that he’s cited next to no secondary literature from academic Jewish studies. I think this is some of that maximalism at play.

      As for writing style – so far I think it is very good. I agree with you about the stylistics of the last two books, but this one seems much stronger. Again, just remember the ‘feel’ of Revelation and the Temple!

      I’ll be curious to see how the entire thing shapes up, but I’m hoping that Idolatry and Inerrancy were just two misfires in what is otherwise a fairly insightful publishing record!

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  2. Mine is supposed to arrive tomorrow. I was surprised to hear Beale say his BT is most comparable to Stuhlmacher and Huber. I would have thought Vos and Ridderbos.

    The seminal thoughts of this volume were first laid out in his essay, “The eschatological conception of New Testament theology,” in Eschatology in Bible and Theology, eds. Brower and Elliott (IVP, 1997).

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    1. Yeah – he’s got a pretty diverse set of influences. I actually appreciate that Vos and Ridderbos (and, of course, Kline) aren’t the core of his project. Some writings that do that feel a bit inbred. Instead, he’s got a bit richer approach, one kept in place by some of the well-trod paths of the Germans, but kept more robustly confessional by the Dutch biblical theologians.

      Thanks for the citation for the 1997 essay.

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