A Book Review from Books At a Glance
By Paul Lamicela
The Story Retold offers a New Testament Introduction focused on the New Testament’s relationship to and use of the Old Testament. Whole-Bible biblical theology and the use of the OT in the NT have been at the forefront of Greg Beale’s work, and in more recent years of Benjamin Gladd’s with him. (A good entry point is Beale’s Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament [paperback; Kindle].) The book begins with a few introductory chapters and then devotes one chapter to each book in the NT. The full-color text contains pictures and quote boxes throughout, as well as occasional diagrams.
The Story Retold opens with a chapter sketching the storyline of the Bible. The authors present this story around three figures: Adam, Israel, and the Messiah with “restored Israel.” As expected of Beale, Eden is depicted as God’s temple with Adam as king and priest. Post-fall, Israel is chosen as a “corporate Adam” figure; but they recapitulate Adam’s fall. The storyline is pushed forward by the prophets, who projected the coming of the true Israel / Adam—the Messiah—who would create a “restored Israel.”
This leads to a discussion of the “latter days,” introducing inaugurated eschatology and its importance for interpreting the NT. The chapter closes by underscoring the importance of the OT storyline and inaugurated eschatology for the rest of the textbook:
As we survey the New Testament, we will situate each book and examine every major passage in light of the overlap of the ages. We will consider how each New Testament author explored the depths of the Old Testament and latter days and exhorted his audience to live soberly in light of the coming climax of the history of redemption (17).
The following chapter is on the NT use of the OT, which summarizes some of the key points of Beale’s Handbook. After defining key terms (quotation, allusion, etc.) and introducing students to the contextual vs. non-contextual use debate, the chapter explores the major ways the NT interpretively uses the OT. These include direct fulfillment, typological fulfillment, analogy and symbol, “abiding authority,” and “prototype or blueprint” (23–30). These two opening chapters are valuable summaries of major emphases found throughout Beale’s corpus, and they explicitly function as foundations for the rest of the book’s approach to the NT.
The final introductory chapter is on the Gospels. This chapter concisely treats some of the standard introductory issues related to the Gospels, including the genre debate, the nature and significance of eyewitness testimony, the audiences of the Gospels, and the Synoptic problem. The authors seek to strike a balance here: they introduce students to the major debates, but in a very concise manner that avoids getting bogged down in issues that are uncertain and relatively unimportant.
Each chapter on books of the NT follows the same general format. First there is a brief discussion on authorship, dating, purpose and audience, genre, critical questions, and an outline of the book. Next comes a section on redemptive-historical themes that are relevant to the NT book. After these introductory sections, Beale and Gladd work through each section of the NT book. While the authors summarize and discuss every portion of the NT book, they remain focused on how each section relates to, assumes, and uses the OT.
I will use as an example the chapter on 1 Peter (407–431). After the introductory considerations, the “Biblical-Theological Themes” section recaps the theme of “royal priesthood” which runs through Scripture and which Peter employs. The chapter then works through 1 Peter according to the outline given. In the “Letter Opening” section, the authors discuss Peter’s designating his readers “elect” and “scattered exiles.” In the section on 1:3–25, they address the OT background of the motifs of promised inheritance, holy living, the latter days, and redemption from slavery.
The section on 2:1–3:22 focuses on “the church as the growing end-time temple,” which includes the “stone of stumbling” and “cornerstone” language (from Psa 118, Isa 8, and Isa 28) and the “royal priesthood, holy nation” quote from Exodus 19. They also discuss Christians’ relation to government, brief background to the issue of slavery, instruction to husbands and wives, and Greco-Roman household codes. The section on 4:1–19 is labelled “Called to Godly Living.” Like the righteous sufferers of the OT (e.g. Joseph and David), Peter’s readers are a suffering community. They “participate in the sufferings” of the Messiah. The final section, 5:1–14, is on church leadership and letter closing. Church leaders are described with the OT’s “shepherd” motif. Throughout the chapter, virtually every citation of and allusion to specific OT passages are pointed out and both their OT context and NT use explained.
The great strength of The Story Retold is that it helps students think about every book of the NT in light of the OT. Studying this textbook gives students an understanding of both testaments—and of how both fit together. It also introduces students to whole-Bible biblical theology—from the redemptive-historical storyline to principles of typology to various ways the NT authors use the OT. The text covers each book of the NT in sufficient detail to give students a solid grasp of them but avoids getting bogged down in scholarly debates that do not actually illuminate the NT text. The book is well-formatted and engaging for students to read.
Since this NT Introduction is focused on the NT’s relationship to the OT, it spends less time on other topics that may be covered by a more “general” NT introductory text. (There is some similarity with the NT Introduction edited by Michael Kruger [hardcover; Kindle], though as an edited work it lacks the unity of Beale and Gladd’s. On the opposite end, a text focusing on “special introduction” matters—though not historical backgrounds and literature—is Doug Moo and D. A. Carson’s NT Introduction [hardcover; Kindle]).
There is little emphasis on introducing students to historical and current NT scholarship (in contrast, see David deSilva’s NT Introduction [hardcover; Kindle]); scholarship is referenced primarily when directly relevant or particularly important. The book does not focus too much on historical questions or historical backgrounds, though Second Temple Jewish literature is referenced in relation to OT use in NT. Unlike many other NT Introductions, there is not a chapter on Jewish or Greco-Roman backgrounds (for comparison, see the introductions of N. T. Wright and Michael Bird [hardcover; Kindle]; Andreas Köstenberger, Scott Kellum, and Charles Quarles [hardcover; eTextbook]; Mark Powell [paperback/hardcover; Kindle]; and deSilva [hardcover; Kindle]). But then again, the weakness of other NT introductions is often a lack of robust engagement with the OT background of the NT.
Two minor weaknesses are as follows. First, unlike some other recent NT Introductions, The Story Retold does not have accompanying online resources or video lectures. Second, the work is filled with European art illustrating the various Bible stories being discussed. While I highly value such art, it sometimes seems a bit out of place in a textbook that specifically emphasizes the OT background to the NT—particularly since the pictures often represent the NT or OT story in more of a medieval or Renaissance European setting than in an ancient Jewish one.
I would seriously consider assigning this textbook to students in an NT intro class; it is well-written and saturates students in the text of Scripture. However, if I were to do so I would also assign additional reading on the historical background of the NT.
Paul Lamicela is a PhD candidate in biblical theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Editor’s Note: See our interview with the authors of this book here.
Buy the books
THE STORY RETOLD: A BIBLICAL-THEOLOGICAL INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT, by G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd