A Brief Book Notice from Books At a Glance
By Fred Zaspel
Okay, normal people don’t generally pick up a 1,000-page book just to read through. And if they are to attempt such a feat, the book must promise somehow to reward the effort. Greg Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology holds out just such a promise, and it delivers. It’s just one of those landmark books that stockpiles a life-time of learning and opens up the thought-forms and trajectories of the biblical writers in a way that preachers and teachers really don’t want to miss.
This book has been around a few years, of course. I purchased my copy when it was first published and spent some good time looking through it. And I’ve consulted it over the years. Now recently I decided to take the time to work through it more carefully and again found it wonderfully rewarding at each step.
Beale argues that the New Testament writers see in Jesus a culmination of the biblical story. That is to say, the eschatological outlook of the Old Testament culminates in Jesus. If to us “eschatology” concerns only events surrounding the return of Christ at the end of history, we miss the point – we misunderstand the nature of Christ’s first coming, the character of the church, and the glory of Christian salvation and life. In Systematic Theology we may address such topics as the coming Antichrist, the end-time tribulation, the coming of God and consummation of his kingdom, the shape of things in “the latter days,” and so on. But a close eye to Biblical Theology uncovers the massive bearing all this has on the present – and, therefore, its shape in the future also. “Eschatology” is, to borrow I. Howard Marshall’s description, a slippery term. It of course concerns things future and the end of the age, but it is not just one of many theological topics: it is for the New Testament writers a broad, all-inclusive category that deeply informs Christology, pneumatology, soteriology, ecclesiology, hermeneutics, and the whole shape of New Testament teaching.
Beale works all this out in painstaking detail. Of course in such a work he is bound to take steps that will make some readers uncomfortable – his understanding of the Sabbath or his equation of the church with Israel, for example. But on whichever side of such fences you find yourself, you do not want to miss what Beale has to offer. It deserves careful reading and digesting, and it is one of those books preachers should then keep handy and make good use of its Scripture index continually to enrich weekly preaching from any number of New Testament passages.
It’s big – massive in scope and meticulous in detail. And it will require dedication to read through it all carefully. But it’s one of those genuine contributions to biblical learning that repays the effort many times over. Highly recommended.