Tag Archives: NSBT

Review: Unceasing Kindness

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For such a short book, I’ve always found the book of Ruth to be quite perplexing. Why does she remain with Naomi, the “bitter” woman? Then she meets Boaz, and for some reason is at his feet very late at night so of course she asks in a roundabout way if he will marry (“redeem”) her. But there’s a closer relative who could be the kinsman redeemer. He doesn’t foot the bill, so Boaz takes Ruth to be his wife, and eventually we get King David. And, of course, Christ is our kinsman redeemer. Why? Just because Boaz marries (and redeems) Ruth and now she has a child and land? How do we see that in what Christ does? In the book of Ruth, everything occurs ever so naturally. It’s too natural.

As a new volume in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, Lau and Goswell’s volume on Ruth does what commentaries don’t have space to do. They look at Ruth in light of it’s canonical placement(s)yes, there are three different placements where Ruth is found in various manuscripts. Lau and Goswell focus “on the meaning of the text as intended by the author for [the] original hearers, but mindful of the fact that the book as we have it is set within a wider context of Scripture” (1). These include not only the books around Ruth, but the entire biblical canon. Both major and minor themes from Ruth are examined, with many reoccurring in multiple chapters. These major themes are redemption, kingship, and mission; the minor themes/motifs are kindness, wisdom, famine, refuge, seed, doxology, and the hiddenness of God and human agency.

Peter Lau (PhD University of Sydney) is lecturer in Old Testament Studies at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia and an honorary research associate at the University of Sydney. He is the author of Identity and Ethics in the Book of Ruth (BZAW) and co-editor of Reading Ruth in Asia (IVBS). Gregory Goswell (PhD University of Sydney) is academic dean and lecturer in biblical studies at Christ College, Sydney. He is the author of Ezra-Nehemiah (EP Commentary Series).

Summary

Chapter 1 sets the goal for the book: focusing on Ruth as the author intended and through the wider lens of Scripture (as the Author intended), setting Ruth up against Jesus, “the midpoint and endpoint of salvation history,” and discussing Ruth’s themes in light of the canon of Scripture (3).

In Chapter 2, the authors examine how those in the early restoration period (during the time of Ezra-Nehemiah) would have read Ruth. Some scholars argue that Ruth contradicts Ezra and Nehemiah, due to their insistence on breaking up exogamous marriages and their using Torah to exclude, restrict, and threaten the Israelites. By placing Ruth next to Ezra-Nehemiah and actually looking at what the text says, these issues fall apart. We also see how Ruth encourages Israel with the promise of the Davidic king, God’s seemingly-silent but all pervasive presence, and that they are not left to their own devices, but God is with them and is sovereign above the Persians.

Chapters 3-5 portray themes in relation to the OT contexts. At these angles, we can see similarities and differences between Ruth and the books ‘she’ is placed among. When it comes to the question of the correct canonical position of Ruth, Lau and Goswell say that “There may be no right or wrong answers to that question; rather the point is that the differing canonical positions make a difference to how one views and reads a book” (23).

Chapter 3 compares Ruth with it’s placement in the LXX (and in our English Bibles) in between Judges and Samuel. Ruth answers the question over how Israel will conquer their lack of a king (Judg 21.25).

Chapter 4-5 compares Ruth with it’s placements in the Hebrew scriptures. In some manuscripts, Ruth comes after Proverbs. With similar wording, Ruth is like the wise woman of Proverbs 31. She doesn’t “destroy kings” (Prov 31:3), but instead builds up the Israelite kingdom (Ruth 4.17, 21). Both show kindness (Prov 31.26; Ruth 3.10) and are praised by their husbands as being superior (Prov 31.28-29; Ruth 3:10-11). In Proverbs 1-9, the foil to Lady Wisdom is the adulteress, an Israelite woman who acts like a foreigner seeking to devour any man who will come into her. Yet Ruth is a foreigner who acts like an Israelite, seeking to know Yahweh and live righteously before all.

In Chapter 5, the authors examine how in the Babylonian Talmud (Baba Bathra 14b), Ruth comes before the Psalms. Boaz commends Ruth for taking “refuge” under the “wings” of the Lord, a motif found throughout the Psalter (Pss 17.8; 61.4; 91.4). We see that “the ancestress of the chief psalmist anticipates the piety of David, who calls on God to defend and help him in his troubles” (61). It would be wrong to think that in the psalms we should try to separate the historical from the poetical, for both interpret each other. The theology of the OT is seen in God’s “kindness” and remembered in his historical acts.

Chapters 6-9 describe themes in relation to the Bible as a whole: famine (6), God’s hiddenness and human agency (7), redemption (8), God’s mission (9).

Chapter 10 concludes with summarizing each chapter and reminding the reader (and themselves) that ethics is not to be quarantined off from Old Testament narratives. “Who God is and how he acts (theology) has moral implications (ethics)” (165).

The Chocolate Milk

Chapter 2 was a unique chapter. While the other chapters are associated with themes and canonical placement, here Ruth is placed in conversation with Ezra and Nehemiah. While I did have some difficulty remembering what this chapter had to do with Ruth (Ezra-Nehemiah get more face time than Ruth), it exampled how God’s word does not contradict itself, but instead illuminates the text and nuances how we are to think about God’s word. All three books emphasize a relationship with God through human acts of generosity and kindness. If people say the Bible contradicts itself, ask them if they’ve done their homework.

I don’t know when I learned that the books of the Bible were ordered differently in the MT and LXX, but it was Stephen Dempster who introduced me into seeing a theological rational behind that ordering (in the Babylonian Talmud). In their volume on Ruth, Lau and Goswell go further than Dempster and examine Ruth through the lens of the different orders of the canon (i.e., MT, Babylonian Talmud, and LXX) and the books that surround Ruth in those respective sequences. While I must say that some of the canonical information was difficult to read, and has left me with even more questions, this was extremely beneficial and an excellent work of interpreting Scripture with Scripture. Lau and Goswell are careful interpreters, and I would enjoy seeing more books on the biblical canon and their relationship to those books which surround them in each of the canonical sequences.

Recommended?

Ruth has long been a mystery to me, but Lau and Goswell have done me (and the church) a service with this book. This book isn’t for the average person in the pew, but it for those who are well read and who want to study deeply the book of Ruth. Pastors and teachers should get a hold of this volume also. They won’t preach all of the details, but they will see the books where Ruth appears, making the unity of the Bible more pronounced in the minds of the congregation.

Lagniappe

  • Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology
  • Authors: Peter Lau & Gregory Goswell
  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (November 19, 2016)

Buy it on IVP Academic or on Amazon!

(Special thanks to IVP Academic for sending me this book to review!)

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Review: Acts (PNTC)

Acts

Peterson begins his commentary with a 97 page Introduction divided into two sections. The first deals with issues like Authorship, Date, Genre, Sources, Historical Reliability, Character, Structure, Purpose, and Interpretive Issues (e.g., the use of key terms, Scripture, narrative repetition, parallel and contrasting accounts, etc).

In the second section Peterson helpfully presents ten aspects of Acts’ theology covering 40 pages: God and His Plan, the Gospel, the Atoning Work of Jesus, Miracles, Magic and the Demonic, and more. The commentary proper is already quite large (626 full pages, which even for Acts is quite long), and this holistic overview of the theology of Acts helps give the teacher/pastor/student the proper perspective through which to view Acts from as they enter into the commentary proper.

Peterson brings out connections between Luke’s first and second volume and shows how Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT, saying, “From beginning to end… the ascended Lord is shown to be sovereign over every thing that happens, furthering his purpose in the world through his word and his Spirit” (27). In Acts the “growth of the word is clearly coextensive with the growth of the church…” (33). In fact, the “gospel is shown to prosper in spite of, and even because of, suffering” (33-34).

Peterson’s Aims

Peterson tries to be comprehensive, but says he writes specifically with a “bias towards theological analysis and an exploration of hermeneutical issues” (xvii). Basically, what does the text say, why does it say it, and what does it mean? Peterson is aware of the many monographs and scholarly articles that most readers will never lay their eyes on. He boils down the insights of others into a readable format for the general reader.

He argues that “Acts was written primarily for the edification of the church and for the encouragement of gospel ministry,” and he believes it has just as much relevance for us today.

Peterson is aware of the difficulty in preaching biblical narratives, and offers “more clues for understanding the purpose and meaning of various elements” of Acts. Alongside those issues are matters of interpreting texts dealing with the Holy Spirit, miracles, Christian gatherings, divine guidance, and the relevance of the OT and of Jews.

The Text

Though there’s more to Peterson’s commentary than these few points, I will try to give you a small taste of Peterson’s take on Acts.

1.8: Peterson sees this verse as “a prediction and promise of the way [the] divine plan will be fulfilled” (112). Jerusalem (Acts 2-7) comes first, then in Judea and Samaria (8-12), and then to the ends of the earth (13-28).

2.2-4: Peterson comments that the gift of the Spirit in Acts 2 “was a sign that God was about to accomplish a mighty work of renewal” (132). He continues saying that the “Pentecostal gift is God’s empowering presence with his people in a new and distinctive way, revealing his will and leading them to fulfill his purposes for them as the people of the New Covenant (133). He believes that these ‘tongues’ are different than those of 1 Corinthians 12-14, though without providing much evidence for his claim (134).

Ch 6; The Jewish leaders couldn’t stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave Stephen. Only two other references to wisdom are made, Joseph (7.10) and Moses (7.22). Stephen also shares grace and power with these two characters, “suggesting [the] prophetic authority and significance” of Stephen (240). He is “specifically portrayed as experiencing the fulfillment of Luke 21:14-15… [and is] an example for all who are on trial for their faith in Jesus and who trust in his promises” (240).

Ch 7: This chapter brings to a head the “story of the conflict between the Christian mission and the temple authorities… that first appeared in 4:1-3” (244). The Jewish leaders have consistently denied God’s prophets, his law, and ultimately his Righteous One. “Stephen’s ultimate aim is to glorify the exalted Lord Jesus and to convict those who have denied him” (244).

9.1-18; 22.6-18; 26.12-18: Here we see one of the Literary Features of Acts: Narrative Repetition. The reason why these accounts differ in wording or emphasis is because they are told from different perspectives (Luke [9]; Paul [22; 26] to different audiences (Christians reading Acts [9]; Jews [22], King Agrippa [26]).

Recommended?

The Greek Text is transliterated throughout the commentary, and Peterson has a solid grasp on the secondary literature. Peterson is an evangelical who takes the Bible seriously as God’s Word (see his NSBT volume on the Holy Spirit and Sanctification in the Christian). Peterson’s volume would suit the student and teacher quite well. Peterson’s volume would be beneficial for the (not too busy) pastor, although the pastor will want to look elsewhere for more application (e.g., Hughes; Schnabel). 

Lagniappe

  • Series: The Pillar New Testament Commentary
  • Hardcover: 846 pages

Buy it from Amazon or from Eerdmans!

(Special thanks to IVP and SPCK for the review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book).

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Review: Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? (NSBT)

WSATMOTL?

It’s the new year, and perhaps you’ve already started reading your through-the-Bible-in-a-year program. The number one bane of reading through the Bible comes early: Leviticus. Why is it even in the Bible? Just to make Christians thank God we don’t have those laws?

L. Michael Morales, professor of biblical studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Taylors, SC, has written the latest volume in the NSBT series. The foundation for this volume can be seen here: Ps 15.1 and 24.3 ask the prime question, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?” The psalmists write about dwelling in God’s house forever (23.6), drinking from the river of his pleasures (36.8-9), and longing to see his face (16.9-11; 26.8). Yet only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies. How could dwelling with God be a corporate ideal? Morales says that the dominating concern of Leviticus and of the entire Bible is how humanity will dwell in the house of God. For more on this, read here.

Summary

There are eight chapter in all, four of which are specifically about Leviticus.

Chapter One sees Leviticus as the center of the Pentateuch, and the Day of Atonement (Lev 16), as the center of Leviticus.

Chapters Two and Three give the background narrative to Leviticus by looking at the overall story of the exile from and the entrance to God as seen throughout Genesis and Exodus. Moses was a Levite, and with Leviticus forming the center of the Five Books of Moses, we should expect Levitical language and concepts in the other four books. A crisis ends Exodus: God’s presence fills the tent of meeting, but now Moses cannot enter.

In Chapter Four Morales shows how the sacrificial cultus in Leviticus 1-10 was the divinely revealed way for Israel to meet with God, an ascent into his Presence. A crisis ends chapter 10: God’s glorious Presence fills the tabernacle, but Aaron’s two sons are killed in their disobedience.

Chapter Five brings the next section, Leviticus 11-16. Here Morales draws connections between Nadab and Abihu’s death and the Day of Atonement (e.g., both happen on the same day). The intervening cleansing laws (Lev 11-15) sprout from Lev 10.10 — Aaron is to teach Israel to distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean. Cleanliness and holiness pervade not only Leviticus, but both Testaments. The Day of Atonement was when the “new Adam entered Eden,” the place where God was, and made atonement for God’s people. The chapter ends with an interesting excursus on Adam’s fall and how he should have reacted. 

Chapter Six covers Israel’s call to holiness (17-22) and the priests’ call (23-25). Israel was to pursue YHWH, their only source of holiness. The goal of holiness was communion and fellowship with God – something those in Genesis and Exodus could not do on a regular basis. Morales makes a good argument that Lev 24.1-9 is a symbolic picture of the Sabbath (cf. Num 6.22-27).

Chapter Seven looks at how Zion is the mountain of God and it is Israel’s inheritance. It is the city of David, it has the purpose of the nations coming to it to meet God, and it will be the “Eden” in Israel’s end days (Isa 2.1-4).

Chapter Eight moves from the earthly to the heavenly Mount Zion. Morales brings out the theology of Leviticus in Hebrews and, primarily, in John’s Gospel. In John, the place to meet God (the Temple) is found in the person of God (Jesus). Jesus is the Temple. In his ascension he went to the Father, and the Spirit descended to make all Christians part of God’s household, that we may be able to ascend the mountain of YHWH.

The Spoiled Milk

My one complaint is when Morales doesn’t give Scriptural references to the connections he makes (though not extremely common). For example, when covering the sacrifices in Leviticus 1-8, Morales changes the names of some of the sacrifices (the burnt offering becomes the ascension offering) to better represent their function. But when he names a few of these newly-named sacrifices together without the references to the Levitical chapter/verse, I don’t know where I’m meant to be looking. However with all that this book does, this is easily overlooked.

Recommended?

Leviticus isn’t a book that Christians should read and say, “Thank God we don’t have to keep those laws anymore.” Leviticus is central to the Pentateuch, and it has atonement at its the center (not to mention at the center of Christian theology too). The theology of Leviticus pervades the OT. The less we understand Leviticus, the less we understand the Bible. Not only does Morales do an incredible job of broadly overviewing Leviticus and connecting the dots between the Testaments, but Morales’ book helps me to want to read the Bible even more. And if a book can help fuel that desire, then it’s worth reading.

This work is in line with both Dempster’s and Beale’s first-rate works in the NSBT series. Both seek to put the entire Scripture together, both shift a few paradigms, and Morales no less accomplishes this feat. I second Carson’s statement that this “will spawn some excellent sermon series on Leviticus!” (8). There are a number of good volumes in the NSBT series, and this is one of the best.

Who should read this? College level and up. Admittedly some parts will be challenging, but the gains are much greater than the losses.

Lagniappe

  • Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (December 10, 2015)

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Buy it on Amazon or from IVP!

(Special thanks to IVP and SPCK for the review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book).

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How is the Ascension Important?

Ascension Ethiopia

One of the main tenets of Jesus’ life is that after his death and resurrection, he left the disciples and went ascended to heaven where God the Father was. The ascension is amazing considering nobody else did it (though Elijah did go up in a whirlwind to heaven [2Kings 2.11]). 

But why did Jesus go up in a cloud? Was it just so he could return in the same way (Acts 1.11)? Did it prove his divinity in any sort of way? Was it a neat trick, or did it actually do something for believers? (For a connection with YHWH’s divinity, read here). 

L. Michael Morales has an answer. In newest volume of the NSBT series, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? (my review here),  Morales presents a biblical theology of… Leviticus, a word that strikes fear into the heart just as a drill brings pain to a tooth. Yet this book is far from boring (really!).

Israel’s Hope

Israel had a deep hope and pleasure to “dwell in the house of YHWH forever” (Ps 23.6) because it is in God’s house where he gives them “drink from the river of [his] pleasures” (Ps 36.8-9). Morales takes the “rivers of pleasure” as an allusion to Eden’s river of life (Gen 2.10; Rev 22.1-2).

Israel longs to dwell in the house of God and, ultimately, to behold YHWH himself (Ps 16.9-11; 26.8; cf. 2 Cor 3.18). Dwelling with YHWH is the one thing the psalmist asks for in Ps 27.4:

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

The Crisis

But how is this possible? How can Israel wish to ascend the mountain of God when only Israel’s High Priest could enter into God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies? 

Considering that only the high priest had been allowed entrance in to the holy of holies within the tabernacle and later temple, how is it songs could be sung [by all of Israel] about dwelling in YHWH’s house ‘for ever’ and ‘all the days of my life’? (19).

Psalm 24.3 asks,

Who shall ascend the hill of YHWH? And who shall stand in his holy place?

And similarly, Psalm 25.1,

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

Morales says that the dominating concern of Leviticus and of the entire Bible is how humanity will dwell in the house of God. In Gen 28.12, Jacob sees a vision of the “angels of God” who “were ascending and descending” on a ladder that stretched from earth to heaven. It represented “earthly access to God’s heavenly abode,” the place the builders of the Tower of Babel wanted to reach. Now God is reaching down to Jacob and promising him offspring, land, and that he, YHWH, would be with him (Lev 26.12; 2 Cor 6.16b; Rev 21.3). 

“What Jacob saw was the spiritual archetype of the temple [in Leviticus] — its inner reality and function as the connection between heaven and earth” (162). John 1.14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled] among us.” In John 2.21, Jesus was “speaking about the temple of his body” when he spoke of his resurrection.

The Tie-In

We can see both of these themes in John 1.49-51,

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

It is through Jesus that the Levitical tabernacle, the place where God’s people met God, would transfigured into a person (Jn 4.20-24).

And the Ascension?

After showing the broad themes and structure of Leviticus, Morales shows how its theology of meeting God points to Christ.

“The advent of Christ would open a new and living way into the house of God; indeed, that was the goal of his taking our humanity upon himself, of his suffering, of his resurrection and ascension” (20).

And wouldn’t you know it, but Jesus’ ascension brought him up to God. For Morales, the theology of Leviticus is about “dwelling with God in the house of God, and how that reality is finally made possible” (20). The reality of the Levitical cultus, the tabernacle (and later Temple), the sacrifices, the rituals, etc, were all divinely given so that Israel could meet God, become holy, and be a light to the nations. We now have this in Christ. We are holy. We have God’s Holy Spirit in us, and we belong to God. 


So who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?

By the loving-kindness of the Father, the redemption of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a sure answer has been found: even the church of Jesus Christ (306).

WSATMOTL?

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Review: Dominion and Dynasty (NSBT)

dd1

There are 39 books in the OT. The Bible is a unity, but how do they all fit? How does Proverbs fit with Kings? Isaiah with Chronicles? Leviticus with Ecclesiastes? Stephen Dempster, Stuart E. Murray Professor of Religious Studies at Atlantic Baptist University, New Brunswick, Canada, writes an OT theology on the final form of the canon. He reads the OT through a ‘wide-angle lens’ and looks at the overarching story of the OT.

Dempster begins the book discussing approaches to the OT made by other OT theologians (the concept of this chapter is explained in the Recommended? section below) along with his rationale for his approach, to view the OT (and the Bible) as a unity. The OT is not a ‘ragbag’ of differing themes and ideas about God, but is connected by the ideas of dominion and dynasty (or genealogy and geography). Not only this, but Dempster’s OT theology is based on the Hebrew OT, mainly the Babyonian Talmud: tractate Baba Bathra 14b [BB], saying that the details are best interpreted in light of the full text, the “Story” seen from Genesis to Chronicles. The Hebrew OT (the Tanakh) is divided into three ways, the Torah (the Law, or Pentateuch), Nebi’im (the Former and Latter Prophets), and Kethubim (Writings). 

Chapter 2 gives a short summary approach to what will follow in the book. Chapter 3 covers the beginning of the story seen in Genesis and the themes that will be unrolled throughout the book. Chapter 4 continues the storyline seen in Exodus through Deuteronomy, covering Israel’s relationship with God and the Promised Land. Chapter 5 covers the Former Prophets (Joshua through Kings) dealing with gaining the land, receiving a king, and then off to exile. Chapter 6 brings us to the storyline suspended, the poetic commentary of the earlier OT narrative, the Latter Prophets (Jeremiah to the Twelve) dealing with destruction, life, hope, and the future eschaton. Chapter 7 continues the poetic commentary with the Writings (Ruth to Lamentations) covering the return from exile, David, and being governed by wisdom. Chapter 8 ends the poetic commentary of the Writings and continues the narrative storyline (Daniel to Chronicles) which speaks of the coming kingdom of God and the end which points to the future hope. Chapter 9 is short, but it covers typology and OT connections to the NT.

The Spoiled Milk

One aspect of this volume that I’m uncertain about is why/how Dempster chose this particular reading of the OT. If you don’t already know, the Hebrew OT is ordered differently than our English OT (which follows the LXX, the Greek translation of the Masoretic text [i.e., MT, the Hebrew OT]). Yet, as stated above, Dempster follows after the Babyonian Talmud: tractate Baba Bathra 14b [BB]. I don’t have space to write out the MT order, but in the order Dempster follows Isaiah is placed after Ezekiel, and Ruth before Psalms. What I don’t understand is why Dempster chose this order instead of the common MT order. I understand that Scott Hafemann also chooses this order, and Roger Beckwith argues for it in his book The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and Its Background in Early Judaism. But it still strikes me as odd, especially since Dempster argues that order and placement in the canon does matter (In the English OT, Ruth is after Judges, which leads us to think differently about how it fits in the canon compared to its placement before Song of Solomon or Psalms).

However, in the end, the difference between BB and the MT seems to only be the different placement of two books, Isaiah and Ruth. For the most part Dempster’s interpretation would be similar to what it is now. And with a book like this, Dempster spends the time making connections rather than defending them (which, while interesting, would make this book much larger and not so layman-friendly). Most connections work, but some seem stretched. But really, the good far outweighs the bad.

Recommended?

Dempster does what many OT scholars have not done (due to their presuppositions). As he says in the first chapter, “[T]he fact remains that, of the approximately sixty biblical theologies written during the last century, there are almost as many theologies as there are theologians…. The ‘Bible’s own theology’ has turned out to be the interpreters’ own theologies” (15). Yet there is an appropriate way to read the text. We must immerse ourselves in the Bible to understand their culture, their mindset, their words. Something that everyone’s opinion is valid, thereby making all readings of the text invalid. Taking a cue from Judges, “there was no king (no true reading) in Israel and everyone read what was right in his own eyes” (17). It’s the same with sports: “‘No matter how much the golfer with a sand wedge or cleated shoes wants to play squash, the squash court expects something else: rubber soled shoes, a squash racket, and a player who has come to play squash'” (19, quoting Seitz). And while Dempster has his own interpretation, he looks through a lens that views the OT (and the whole Bible) as one unity, a “Story,” rather than an ‘alien’ lens. And a book that looks at the thematic connections of the OT and how God’s story plays out across the ages is well worth considering.

Lagniappe

  • Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology 15 (Book 15)
  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (December 7, 2003)
  • PDF Sample
  • Interview with Justin Taylor from The Gospel Coalition

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[Special thanks to IVP Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book].

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Review: The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus (NSBT)

ARLJ NSBT

Why do you read Acts? To figure out if the gifts of the Spirit are for today or if they’ve ceased? How should we baptism? Believers? Children? What about church politics? How should the church today be run? How should we do missions? How does the Holy Spirit guide us today? Is there one or two fillings? These are important points to consider, but are we missing the main point?

Alan J. Thompson writes the 27th volume in the New Studies in Biblical Theology [NSBT] series. The series usually takes a topic and goes through various passages of Scripture (Beale and the Temple, Ortlund and Adultery, Shead and the Word of God in Jeremiah). Here, Thompson writes this volume not to give us a full-blown theology of Acts, but to “see Luke’s ‘framework’ of God’s kingdom and the reign of Christ more clearly” in Acts (13). “Now that Jesus has suffered, died, risen and ascended as he said he would, what happens next? As Jesus’ teaching indicated, the kingdom has come ‘already’; nevertheless, the kingdom has ‘not yet’ been consummated in fullness and there will be a period in-between” (43). Luke shows how God’s New Covenant people live ‘between the times’ by framing the book of Acts with two references to God’s kingdom on each side of the book (1.3, 6; 28.23, 31).

One thing I’m continuing to learn is that I have to relearn a lot of what I’ve learned about the Bible during my youth. The main parts are correct (Jesus is my Savior), but there are many things I’ve taken for granted that I’ve come to realize don’t make much sense. Acts has never held much interest with me.There’s some action, a lot of traveling, and not much theology. At least, that’s what I used to think. It’s the book of Acts that shows us how the Church transitioned from living under the Old Covenant into the New. And it’s Thompson’s book that assists in grasping the broader message of Acts.

Summary

In his introduction, Thompson tells us that “Luke is writing to provide reassurance to believers about the nature of the events surrounding Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, the spread of the message about Jesus, and the nature of God’s people following Jesus’ ascension [Lk 1.1, 4]” (19). Luke doesn’t simply provide us with an early church history for our sake, but instead a ‘biblical history.’ Luke imitates LXX language, fulfillment language (Christology, the mission to the Gentiles, and the Holy Spirit), themes that were central to the OT (Jerusalem, Temple, and Law), certain episodes in Acts have similarities to the OT, and the theological understanding that God is in control and keeps his covenant promises. Luke’s Gospel shows how Christ fulfills the OT, and Acts shows that Jesus continues to reign in heaven and work in his people.

Chapter 1 takes us through the speeches of Stephen (Acts 7) and Paul (Acts 13) where they cover God’s sovereignty in Israel’s history. God’s work is seen in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and his purposes are accomplished in the life of the church. Acts emphasizes the continuing reign of the Lord Jesus (hence the title of Thompson’s book), and how the kingdom of God, which began with Christ, continues to expand with his people. In the midst of the growth of the church through Jews and now Gentiles, there will be suffering in this interim period (Acts 14.22). Christ reigns, but his kingdom is still ‘not yet.’ Suffering happens in the midst of evangelism and growing the church. God’s people suffer because they follow a suffering Saviour, and churches need encouragement and strengthening.

In Chapter 2 Thompson focuses on the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. “As Schreiner observes… in Ezekiel 37, it is clear that ‘resurrection signifies the fulfillment of God’s promises, the inauguration of the age to come – the restoration of exile and the return of Israel'” (72). All the OT Scriptures pointed to the death and resurrection of Christ. Resurrection was the hope of Israel. Because Jesus was resurrection, the future age begins now. Now forgiveness can be received, along with the Holy Spirit, and salvation.

Chapter 3 looks at how God fulfills his promises of restoring his people. In Acts, both Jews and Gentiles belong together as God’s people because they have received the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word. Thompson starts on Acts 1.6-8 to show how those verses are programmatic to the book of Acts. The disciples ask, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (1.6). Jesus “[affirms] and [clarifies] their role in this restoration” in 1.7-8 (108). ‘Israel’ and ‘Judea’ are seen at Pentecost, ‘Samaria’ points to the northern kingdom (as there has always been a division between the northern and southern kingdoms since Solomon’s son, and now Israel will be united), and ‘the ends of the earth’ (eunuchs and Gentiles) are brought into being God’s people.

In Chapter 4 Thompson tells us why the Holy Spirit plays such an important role in Acts. “The Holy Spirit has been poured out in fulfillment of God’s promises for the last days because God’s kingdom has been inaugurated through [Jesus]” (125). The Spirit is not an ‘additional gift’, but everyone who believes on Christ has the Spirit.

Chapters 5 and 6 are about ‘the end of an era.’ Now that Jesus is reigning, what happens to the old system (the Temple and the Law)? Chapter 5, Jesus replaces the temple. The lame man in Acts 3 is helpless outside of the Temple door, but “Jesus fulfills all of God’s saving promises in Scripture,” and he is sufficient to heal this man (156). Jesus is the cornerstone, he has universal authority, and he has given authority to the apostles.

Chapter 6, with this authority, the teaching of the apostles is held over the law? Why? Jesus came and fulfilled the law, and now the apostles are his authorized delegates who are to proclaim Christ’s gospel. All of God’s blessings are found in Jesus, the one who is now ruling and reigning. Although the law doesn’t have direct authority over believers, we see in Acts that there are some sensitivities to Jews (Timothy is still circumcised in Acts 16 and Paul makes vows in Acts 21, all done to reach more Jews with the gospel).

Recommended?

If you’re a teacher, or a pastor, or if you simply interested in the book of Acts, then you should really consider buying this book. Thompson is detailed, but he works to start true to Scripture and to keep the Luke’s main themes in mind. To be faithful to Luke’s intentions, the expositor must keep Luke’s central themes in mind. Any readers who takes this book into consideration will come away knowing much more about how Christ fulfills the OT and how he sits at the right hand of God, ruling, reigning, and leading his people to victory.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon!

[Special thanks to IVP Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book].

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Review: The Temple and the Church’s Mission

The Temple and the Church’s Mission; G.K. Beale

G. K. Beale is the professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He’s well known for his commentary on Revelation (and a shorter one too) and books on the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament [Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament and Handbook of the NT Use of the OT], and a New Testament Biblical Theology.

Beale poses this question as his thesis for TTATCM: If John sees a new heaven and a new earth in Revelation 21.1, what is the ‘holy city, new Jerusalem’ that comes down from heaven? Verse 3 says the dwelling place of God is with man, and in 21.10-22.3 “he sees a city that is garden-like, in the shape of a temple (p. 23). How does John provide an explanation for all this?

Beale proposes that the first temple we see in the Bible is the garden of Eden, for that is where God’s presence is located. God’s command to Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” is seen a a command to expand that garden, thus expanding God’s presence to fill the earth “with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2.14). Everything we see after dealing with the tabernacle and “temple” is thus God expanding His presence across the earth, looking toward the consummation of Revelation 21-22 where His presence fill the entire universe in the New Creation.

Outline (The Pre-Chocolate Milk)

One could think, “How can someone write a 458 (really 379) page book on a biblical theology of the dwelling place of God?” Could anything be more boring than the temple? Have you ever actually read the last third of Exodus (chs 25-31; 35-40)? Or 1 Kings 5-7? Those are the chapters we wish we could avoid when we read our Bibles, yet Beale has written a monster of a book in the NSBT series. Why read this book? As the outline shows, there is plenty to write about on the temple.

Chapter 2; Cosmic Symbolism of Temples in the Old Testament

Israel viewed Israel’s earthly temple to be a symbol of the heavenly cosmic temple (Ps 78.69), and the objects inside it also represented things God made on earth and in the universe (Ex 25.9; Isa. 66.1-2; Heb 8.5; 9.23-24). Beale proceeds into showing why God ‘rested’ on the seventh day, how the importance of that action would come to be known as ‘the Sabbath’ command, and how it is seen in other Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) writings as well (more on that later). We also look at how the tabernacle/temple reflected the first temple in the garden of Eden. The first priest was in the Garden. The “golden lampstand” and precious stones are first found in and around the Garden. Even the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple are decorated with garden-like features.

Chapter 3; The Expanding Purpose of Temples in the Old Testament

How the theme of mankind’s kingly/priestly role of serving God in the temple and the mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” to expand the Garden and thus God’s glory is seen and passed on to the patriarchs in their altar building, to Israel at Mt. Sinai, to David and Solomon at Mt. Moriah, and in how Israel should live post-exile.

Chapter 4; The Expanding End-Time Purpose of Temples in the Old Testament

How the OT authors saw the mandate to expand Eden may mean that even the borders of Israel were to be expanded to the whole world. If God is too big for a physical temple (Isa 66.1-2), where is He supposed to be? This mandate is seen in Numbers 24.5-9, Isaiah 66, Jeremiah 3, Ezekiel, Zechariah 1-2, and in Daniel 2‘s view of an expanding Kingdom (Dan 2.34-35,44-45),   This is a dense chapter (at least with plenty of biblical references) and I’m still excited to go back and look through all of the references again. There is plenty to look through in the book, and even when you’re done, you’re never really done.

Chapter 5; The ‘Already and Not Yet’ Fulfillment of the End-Time Temple in Christ and His People: The Gospels

How Christ is the last Adam and the temple (Jn 1.14, 2.19-21) of New Creation. Beale looks at the significance of the temple veil being torn at Christ’s death, along with the significance of the parable of the vineyard and Jesus as the ‘cornerstone.’ What did Jesus do that pointed to Him being the greater temple? Some examples would be Matt 9.1-8; 16.19; 18.15-20; 28.20. I encourage you to read them yourself and see how they give witness to Jesus being that greater temple, the place of God’s presence.

Chapter 6; The Inauguration of a New Temple in the Book of Acts

How Pentecost relates to Mt. Sinai in Exodus. How does Pentecost fulfill Joel’s prophecy of the latter days? Or the destruction of the old order and the creation of the new? And how does Peter know to interpret it this way? We see how Stephen (Acts 7) and James (Acts 15) views Christ as the temple and New Creation. What is the OT background for the Gentiles’ relationship to Christ’s rebuilt temple seen in Amos 9.11-12, Hos 3.5, and Jeremiah 12.15-16? There’s more there than you ever would have thought.

Chapter 7; The Inauguration of a New Temple in the Epistles of Paul

The use of Paul’s temple imagery in 1 Cor 3, 2 Cor 5-6, Eph 2, Col 2, and what that means for the Church to keep pure as New Creations who are unified in Christ and who bear fruit and increase by proclaiming the gospel to all the world.

Chapter 8; The Temple in 2 Thessalonians 2

The use of Paul’s temple imagery in 2 Thess 2. What do we do with the ‘falling away’ and the ‘man of lawlessness’ who exalts himself in the temple? While many may agree with Beale’s conclusions on most of Paul’s letters, many will also disagree with his conclusions on 2 Thess 2. All I can say on it now is that his case is compelling, and the reader should be willing to wrestle with the text.

Chapter 9; The Inauguration of a New Temple in Hebrews

Brings us to the ‘greater and more complete tabernacle’ which Christ as a priest walked through ‘not made with hands, that is to say not of this creation.’ In an excursus, Beale explains what Acts 7.48-49 tell us about OT ‘handmade’ temples and how this relates to Hebrews.

Chapter 10; The World-Encompassing Temple in Revelation

Reflects the temple in Rev 11.1-4, its background in Zech 4, and a few other texts in Revelation which give us information on the temple of Rev 21-22.

Chapter 11; The Temple in Ezekiel 40-48 and its Relationship to the New Testament

This will be of great interest to many people (which is probably why Beale puts it near the end of his colossus). Will Ezekiel’s temple (chs 40-48) be literal, or is it figurative? Why or why not? Beale gives his reasoning, and if you know anything about Beale, this is a very interesting chapter.

This chapter, more than the chapter on 2 Thess 2, gives reason to wrestle with the text (depending on where your eschatology lies, though all should wrestle with these passages despite which ‘end-time’ view you hold to).

Chapter 12; Theological Conclusions: The Physical Temple as a Foreshadowing of God’s and Christ’s Presence as the True Temple

How the NT interprets the Old (which I found very interesting). What does it mean for John to look back at the OT for descriptions of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21-22? Why is the city made of gold (Rev 21.18)? Why are the ‘unclean’ outside the gates (21.26-27; 22.14-15)? What is the relationship between the old temple and the new? All of this and more is expounded upon in this chapter.

Chapter 13; Practical Reflections on Eden and the Temple for the Church in the Twenty-First Century

Now that we are in Christ, how is the church supposed to live? What does God’s temple do?

The Chocolate Milk

As the size of this review may tell you, I enjoyed this book very much. One might think it would be easy to write a review on a book this size, but the trouble is finding where to start and where to end! There are so many god points that one can only surrender defeat and hope he gets the point across.

Beale hands the reader plenty of scriptural references to back up his points. It’s rare for him to be without scripture. This is immensly helpful, for I’ve read my fair share of books where a point was made yet no scripture was used to back it up (James Jordan’s Through New Eyes, and a few times in Peter Leithart’s A House For My Name). This way, when Beale makes a claim, he backs it up, and the reader can come to their own conclusions without being left in the dark.

I enjoyed that there was even a chapter 13. Beale doesn’t want to fill our heads with only “head knowledge” (although what he does give us at least provides a strong foundation for the unity of the whole Bible, even if one doesn’t agree with everything he says). I was impressed that he gave us some good practical application with his book. Being in Christ, we can be like Christ who resisted testing from Satan (Matt 4; Lk 4), and not be like Adam who allowed sin to reign (Gen 3). He relates the OT to Christians in Christ (the True Israel who completely obeyed) and how we live today. The temple is a house of prayer for all the peoples (Is 56.7)? Then we are to be ‘continually prayerful’ today (p. 398).

ANE Literature

The help Beale gives in comparing and contrasting what the OT biblical authors say to other ANE writings (also the NT authors to other non-canonical church writings) is fantastic. Its point of placement here in my review isn’t so much a critique as it is a tip-off that these sections may be hard to read. However, they are not as frequent as one might expect. Yet I will elaborate a bit on this to show the importance of this in Beale’s book, while hopefully not boring you.

However, reading parts of the Enuma Elish is less thrilling than reading about furniture arrangement in the Tabernacle. So why is it in here? It shows us that the biblical authors weren’t way ahead of their times. While some might say the OT authors copied from the other writings, Beale rejects that notion.

Cajun Example

Let’s say there are two authors who live in Louisiana who are both going to write separate non-fiction books. One lives in and writes about Lafourche parish; the other Bienville parish. Though their stories may be completely different, some parts of the book will still be similar. Concepts of architectural structures, the Louisiania government, the USA government, education, transportation, grocery stores, electronics, etc. Neither of them are borrowing from each other inasmuch as they simply live in the same era of time. Everything looks similar to them. And 1,000 years from now a historian could compare and contrast the two ways of live to show his students how people in Louisiana lived.

What now?

So looking at how the Sumerians and Egyptians viewed the concept of their gods ‘resting’, gives us a clearer idea of how the biblical authors viewed the true God as He rested over creation.

“The pagan religious material suggests further that after God overcame chaos and created the world and after he overcame Israel’s enemies and built the temple, he ‘rested’ as a true sovereign on his throne in contrast to the pretending, false deities whom pagan worshipers believed had done the same”

Beale: 66.

Israel lived in the same time period as other nations. Why would Israel’s day-to-day life be much different than the Sumerian day-to-day life? It’s not like Israel obeyed YHWH and then received iPads for Christmas. Both had temples, both grew crops, and both had to live like everyone else.

The difference between Israel and the other nations is that Israel knew the true God, YHWH. The biblical authors throughout the OT took what He said and they expounded on it as His Self-revelation progressed through the ages.

Recommended?

Though this book is quite dense and academic, I was immensely encouraged by it. Growing up, I always wondered why the biblical authors used the terms they used. In 2 Corinthians 5.1 when Paul says, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” what does “a house not made with hands” mean? Is it simply that God is making our resurrected bodies? This is true, but is there more to it? the subject matter of Paul’s letters is often times the tip of the iceberg, with the rest of the information lying under the surface (and throughout the OT). Beale shows the inter-connections of the New Testament with the Old, giving more confirmation that the Bible really is one unified book. And that even the most seemingly boring of subjects (like the temple) can be one of the most fascinating when viewed in light of Christ’s person and work.

To quote Beale and Clowney,

“While it is true that Christ fulfills what the temple stands for, it is better to say, ‘Christ is the meaning for which the temple existed'”

Beale: 374-75, Clowney: 177.

Lagniappe

Buy It on Amazon

[Special thanks to Chris at IVP UK for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]


“Do we come by faith to God’s word daily, as did Jesus, in order that we may be strengthened increasingly with God’s presence in order to fulfill our task of spreading that presence to others who don’t know Christ? Believers express their identification with Christ’s Adamic kingship when they spread the presence of God by living for Christ and speaking His word and unbelievers accept it, and Satan’s victorious hold on their heart is broken”

– Beale: 396-97.

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