Reviewed by Samuel Emadi
My introduction to academic biblical theology came through reading G. K. Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission. A prospective seminarian at the time, I was overwhelmed with Beale’s attention to textual detail, exegetical ability in both testaments, and sweeping command of the whole of Scripture. The Temple and the Church’s Mission was a watershed moment in my personal theological education. Since that time I have found Beale’s publications and lectures to be a constant source of illumination and also a model for academic integrity and faithfulness. Suffice it to say I’ve been “hooked” on Beale’s writings ever since my first encounter with him roughly 10 years ago. In light of this, I am very thankful that Gurtner and Gladd are honoring Beale with this Festschrift, From Creation to New Creation.
As is often the case, learning just a little about the biography of a scholar often increases personal sympathy and appreciation for their work. Beale is no exception. In the preface, Gurtner and Gladd reflect on their former professor’s passion for doing scholarship that ultimately serves the church:
An academic? Yes. But some of us recall his passionate threat to jettison from the classroom anyone who was not engaged in some capacity of pastoral ministry… For him, being a pastor is not a license for less rigor and care in one’s study but a motivation, even responsibility, to pour all the energies of one’s mind into engaging the Scriptures and relating them faithfully in preaching and teaching (xi).
This type of commitment to producing pastor-theologians is sorely needed in every generation of theological education, and I am thankful no less a scholar than Beale takes that task seriously. As Gurtner and Gladd note, Beale models the highest level of academic excellence while prioritizing the centrality of the church and church ministry: “Many of the contributors of this volume can readily attest to the personal sacrifice [Beale] makes in discipling his students, as he is far more concerned with training men and women of the church than the academy” (xiii). On a less serious note, I was both shocked and highly amused (as I’m sure other readers will be) to discover that Beale “read the 750 pages of dense and complicated argument in N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God while brushing his teeth morning and evening!” (x).
From Creation to New Creation is divided into three parts; part one includes articles on the Old Testament, part 2 on the “Use of the Old Testament in the New,” and part 3 on “Biblical Theology.” At the risk of being pedantic, the rest of this overview will list each chapter of the book, briefly summarizing the thesis of each article.
Part 1: Old Testament
- Daniel Block, “Eden: A Temple?” Block argues against the notion defended by Beale and host of other scholars that Moses portrays Eden as a temple.
- C. Hassell Bullock, “The Shape of the Torah as Reflected in the Psalter, Book 1.” Bullock shows how Book 1 of the Psalter is steeped in the language of the Torah and how “the language, personalities, events, and practices of the Torah describe and prescribe the spiritual posture of the later community and the individual psalmist” (33).
- John Currid and L. K. Larson, “Narrative Repetition in 1 Samuel 24 and 26: Saul’s Descent and David’s Ascent.” Currid and Larson analyze the close relationship between the incidents in 1 Samuel 24 and 26. They demonstrate, against historical-critical readings, that these two accounts are not “alternate memories of one event,” but part of a narrative strategy that develops the credibility of “David’s claim to the throne of Israel (62).
- Gordon Hugenberger, “Samson and the Harlot at Gaza (Judges 16:1-3).” Hugenberger offers us a small glimpse of much larger project to be revealed in his forthcoming commentary on Judges (AOTC)—a project that will provide a “reappraisal in the wider context of a much-needed reexamination of the entire Samson narrative and of the book of Judges as a whole” (66). In this article, Hugenberger argues that Samson does not have sexual relations with a harlot in Judges 16:1-3. Instead, “Samson’s intention for coming to the harlot at Gaza was deliberately the same as the intention of Joshua’s spies for coming to Rahab the harlot at Jericho: to take an appropriate step that would enable the divinely approved work of dispossession to begin” (79).
Part 2: Use of the Old Testament in the New
- Richard Bauckham, “The Power and the Glory: The Rendering of Psalm 110:1 in Mark 14:62.” Bauckham looks at the use of the term “the power” (δυνάμεως) in Mark 14:62 as way “to protect the divine transcendence from anthropomorphism” (101).
- Roy Ciampa, “Genesis 1-3 and Paul’s Theology of Adam’s Dominion in Romans 5-6.” In this article Ciampa posits that “Paul’s argument in Romans 5-8 is a very Jewish argument rooted in his theological interpretation of the Genesis narratives, especially his reading of Gn 3 in light of Gn 1:26-28” (121).
- Daniel Gurtner, “Luke’s Isaianic Jubilee.” Gurtner explores Luke’s use of Isaiah 58:6 and 61:1-2 in Luke 4:16ff.
- Douglas Moo, “Genesis 15:6 in the New Testament.” Moo examines Genesis 15:6 and its use in Galatians 3, Romans 4, and James 2.
- Nicholas Perrin, “The Temple, a Davidic Messiah, and a Case of Mistaken Priestly Identity (Mark 2:26).” Perrin offers a fresh solution to the “Abiathar problem” in Mark 2:26. As Perrin explains, “the difficulty surfaces on the Evangelist’s claim… that Abiathar was high priest at the time when, according to the relevant passage of 1 Sm 21:1-9, Ahimelech was the high priest” (163). In response, Perrin argues that the term “high priest” could be applied to relatives and colleagues of the actual high priest and also that “Jesus’ choice of names was intentionally preserved by Mark as a means of evoking a particular storyline” (165). This storyline serves Mark’s larger theological program, “a program which envisions the church—not the official cult at Jerusalem—as the continuation of the true temple into the future” (166).
- Joel White, “The 144,000 in Revelation 7 and 14: Old Testament and Intratextual Clues to Their Identity.” White challenges Beale’s interpretation of the 144,000 in Revelation 7:1-8 as the same as the “the countless and ethnically diverse multitude” in Revelation 7:9-17. He instead argues that they should be identified with the faithful Jewish remnant.
- Rikk E. Watts, “How Do You Read? God’s Faithful Character as the Primary Lens for the New Testament Use of Israel’s Scriptures.” Watts explores the hermeneutical implications of God’s self-revealed faithfulness in redemption. Watts proposes that “a citation of or an allusion to Israel’s Scriptures is best understood as evoking some principle concerning God’s character, and thus his intention, in a situation that is deemed similar to an earlier promise” (202).
Part 3: Biblical Theology
- D. A. Carson, “The Tripartite Division of the Law: A Review of Philip Ross, The Finger of God. Carson’s contribution is an incisive and penetrating critique of Ross’s defense of the traditional understanding of the law as moral, civil, and ceremonial.
- Christopher Beetham, “The Biblical Epic of King, Human Vicegerency, and Kingdom.” Beetham traces the theme of kingship across Scripture arguing that “the divine program to renew creation is nothing less than the reassertion of rightful divine rule through restored human vicegerency over the usurped kingdom of the world” (237).
Benjamin Gladd, “Dare to Be a Daniel: An Exploration of the Apostle Paul as a Danielic Figure.” Gladd argues that Paul, through allusions to the book of Daniel in 1 Cor 1-2, Rom 11:33, and 2 Tim 4:17 “aligns” the himself with the figure of Daniel such that “the apostle appears to view himself as someone who wades in the stream of Danielic behavior” (273).
As is the case with any edited volume, readers will find some chapters more profitable and thoughtful than others. Given the diversity of topics covered, there will be something of interest (or disinterest) almost anyone. More positively, I am glad to commend each of the contributors for submitting essays that are rigorously exegetical while also seeking to contribute to our understanding of the “big picture” of biblical theology. While the last few decades have witnessed the rise of the popularity of a particular brand of evangelical biblical theology that seeks to put together the Bible’s metanarrative according to its own terms and categories, some students and scholars have engaged in this task without careful, assiduous attention to the particularities of the text. In my experience, a common mistake among some who focus on the big picture is that they minimize the crucial and indispensable role of exegesis—the granular, nuts-and-bolts work of good biblical theology. In fact, this type of exegesis-driven biblical theology is what has characterized Beale’s academic labors. Thankfully, none of the contributors to this volume run afoul in this regard. Each article is intensely exegetical and most authors do an admirable job showing how their exegesis fits within a larger biblical-theological framework.
A few articles are particularly worth noting in more detail. Daniel Block’s, “Eden, a Temple?” is a provocative piece that challenges the notion that Eden should be seen as a temple. While I ultimately disagree with Block’s argument, I found that my own convictions are perhaps now on firmer exegetical ground and also more nuanced after having to reckon with Block’s objections. Doug Moo’s article (as usual) deserves special mention for its exemplary exegesis and careful handling of a notorious crux interpretum—the use of Gen 15:6 in Paul and James. Finally, D.A. Carson’s review of Philip Ross’s defense of the tripartite division of the law in The Finger of God is a compelling critique of both Ross’s book and the familiar notion that the OT law neatly divides into moral, civil, and ceremonial categories. My only quibble here is that Carson ought to have included a bit more constructive theological work alongside his criticisms of Ross.
Greg Beale’s writings are gift to the church. It is a joy to see him honored with this collection of essays—a collection that reflects Beale’s own evangelical commitments and academic excellence. Anyone interested in OT theology, NT theology, hermeneutics, or biblical theology will certainly want to pick up this volume. The exhaustive list of Beale’s publications at the end of the volume is also worth having for those who want to continue the project of working through Beale’s written works.
Samuel Emadi is a PhD candidate in Biblical Studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the Director of Theological Research for the president of SBTS and a member at Third Avenue Baptist Church. You can follow him on twitter at @scemadi.
Buy the books
FROM CREATION TO NEW CREATION: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF G. K. BEALE, edited by Daniel M. Gurtner and Benjamin L. Gladd