Reviewed by Jonny Atkinson
Hidden But Now Revealed is the combined work of G. K. Beale and Benjamin Gladd which further builds upon both of their doctoral studies, namely, The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984) and The Use of Mystery in Daniel and Second Temple Judaism with Its Bearing on First Corinthians, BZNW 160 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), respectively. The majority of the book is an inductive study of every passage that contains mystērion in the New Testament, and thus is largely a thematic word study. The importance of such a study is the fact that the word itself is tied to a variety of significant doctrines, and the content of the mystery has largely been unexplored.
The book begins with a study of the word mystery (raz) in Daniel, which becomes foundational to the understanding of the word in the New Testament. Specifically drawing from the visions in Daniel 2 & 4, Beale and Gladd argue that revelation from God in Daniel comes in two stages. The first stage of revelation comes in a hidden form; that is, the interpretation is hidden from the recipient, in this case Nebuchadnezzar in the form of his dreams. The second stage of revelation is the interpretation of the prior revelation; this is when Daniel receives the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The authors also argue that while in the first stage of revelation the meaning is hidden, it is only partially so. They show from Daniel 4 that in relaying the content of his dream to Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar seems to understand that his vision of the tree refers to a man, likely himself. Thus they argue that “the revelation of mystery is not a totally new revelation but the full disclosure of something that was to a significant extent hidden” (30).
This understanding of mystery (rāz) then takes on a technical meaning when mystery (mystērion) is used in the New Testament. Thus when Beale and Gladd survey the New Testament occurrences they seek to discern first what is the specific revealed mystery in the New Testament passage, and then secondly, while largely hidden, how was this mystery already partially revealed in the Old Covenant. Before examining the New Testament data, chapter two briefly surveys the use of mystery in the Second Temple period.
The term mystery occurs twenty eight times in the New Testament in a variety of contexts. The first occurrence is in Matthew 13:11 (see also Mk 4:11 and Lk 8:10) in the context of Jesus’ kingdom parables. Here Jesus teaches his disciples that it is only granted to some to know the mysteries of the kingdom. From this Beale and Gladd discern two types of hiddenness: temporary hiddenness and permanent hiddenness (60). In the New Testament mysteries are being revealed and temporary hiddenness is removed for some; for others, however, the hiddenness remains permanent. Thus the understanding of mysteries is due to the regenerating work of the spirit. The newness of the kingdom mystery in Matthew 13 is that the kingdom starts small and grows over a period of time. This mystery was only partially revealed in Old Testament texts such as Psalm 110:1-2.
The mystery in Romans 11:25-26 is not that Gentiles are being saved, but rather the order of salvation. While the gospel is to the Jew first and then the Greek, in Paul’s day more Gentiles were being saved than Jews. It was revealed in the Old Testament that Gentiles would be saved, but the newness of the mystery resides in the order of the eschatological salvation of Jews and Gentiles (90-91). Similarly in Romans 16:25-26 the mystery that is revealed is that the Gentiles have been lead to the obedience of faith. This was partially revealed in the Old Testament (Gn 49:10, Ps 2) as a forced submission of the Gentiles but has now been revealed as a voluntary submission (95-97).
1 Corinthians 2:1, 7 uses mystery in tandem with the concept of wisdom, thus creating an explicit link to Daniel 2. This new revelation that was only partially revealed in the Old Testament is that of a crucified king. Paul goes on to describe himself as a steward of mysteries in 1 Corinthians 4:1 understanding himself in a mediatory role much like Daniel (124). “Knowing” and “speaking” mysteries are then mentioned by Paul in 13:2 and 14:2. The authors show how in Second Temple literature tongues and angels were often linked, and Beale and Gladd offer a plausible explanation for the enigmatic statement “because of the angels” in 11:5 (128). They conclude that the nature of tongues, which require an interpreter, comes closest to how mysteries were revealed in two stages in Daniel. The final mystery in 1 Corinthians pertains to the resurrection in 15:51. The resurrection was already revealed in the Old Testament, so what is the newness of this revealed mystery? Beale and Gladd contend that the newness of the mystery refers to the transformation of the bodies of those who are alive when Christ returns (131).
The mystery in Ephesians 1:9 relates to the scope of Christ’s rule (universal), the instrumentality of his rule (his death and resurrection) and the result of his rule (the new creation). A fantastic discussion ensues concerning the newness of the revelation in Ephesians 3:4. Beale and Gladd argue convincingly that Gentile inclusion in the people of God was not new revelation but that the manner of their inclusion was. Gentiles become God’s people not by taking on a Jewish identity, but by being in the true Israel, namely Christ (159-173). Paul reveals that the church, not Israel, is the bride of Christ in Ephesians 5, and Ephesians 6:19 labels the gospel message itself a mystery (183).
Colossians parallels Ephesians in expounding the hidden but now revealed mysteries of the gospel, while tying it explicitly to wisdom, a theme already noted in 1 Corinthians 2 and Daniel 2. The man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians has obvious connections to the book of Daniel. Beale and Gladd aver that the mystery of lawlessness is that it is already at work before the appearance of the individual himself (223). Moreover, the work of lawlessness is one of deception, that is, maintaining the state of permanent hiddenness upon certain people (226). Paul introduces the idea of mystery in 1 Timothy 3:9 and 3:16 before his hymn. The mystery thus again pertains to gospel doctrine. In seeking the newness in this context, the authors point to the fact that it is no longer the deeds of YHWH that are proclaimed among the nations but the Christ himself (248).
Finally, Revelation 1:20 reveals that the church is now the temple of God and that God’s kingdom is emerging in the midst of trial rather than after trial as it appeared in Daniel (265, 267). Revelation 10:7 reveals that God has delayed his consummate judgment, and 17:5, 7 newly reveal that the destruction of the beast comes not only from without but also from within as she self-destructs. Two concluding chapters contain other “revealed mysteries” where the word mystery is not used in the New Testament and contrast Christian mystery with the mystery religions before a concluding synthesis is offered.
The exegesis found in this relatively lengthy work for a thematic study is rigorous. There has not been space in this review to note the examples, but at many times an Old Testament text has been discerned in the fabric of Paul’s argument that illuminates further the content of the mystery. While Beale, a self-acclaimed “maximalist,” acknowledges that not everyone will agree with his proposed allusions, he and Gladd offer some very convincing examples that enhance the understanding of the mystery and contribute to the field of Biblical Theology. The authors also note the importance that their study of mystery (the Old revealed in the New) has for understanding the apostolic hermeneutic. Although they do not offer a comprehensive synthesis of their findings, the book will certainly enhance the discussion.
Jonny Atkinson is a PhD student in Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology Of Mystery