Posts Tagged ‘G K Beale’

It is my custom to end the year with a “5 Favorite New Reads of the Year” post here at BBG, highlighting my 5 best books I read for the first time that year.  It’s not that they were published that year, I hardly have time only to read the latest and greatest (which cease to be the latest and greatest in short order anyway).  This year, however, is a little different.

I mentioned to Marcus the other day that I only completed 3 books this year, which upon further review isn’t true.  There’s one I have yet to finish, although I’m putting it on this list anyway because I’m almost done.  So I’ve actually only read 2 books from front-to-back this year.  With my family making a major move this year, there simply wasn’t time to read.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever read this few books in a calendar year since I learned how to read.  Shoot, I used to polish of 3 books a week.  Granted, I was in middle school and they were the Hardy Boys, but still.  (Side note: I’m eternally thankful for Franklin W Dixon for introducing the phrase “Man alive!” into my vocabulary.)

So this year I’m only going to highlight 2 books for the year, with a look ahead at 2 more books that I’m looking forward to reading in 2012.

2. God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, by James Hamilton

I’m actually working through this book (albeit very slowly) for a book review.  Quite honestly, I could write 100 pages on it.  It’s been one of the more interesting books I’ve read in a while, even though I have some big reservations at points.  I have a million (give or take) markings in the margins recording my thoughts and, sometimes, rather frank reactions.  Part of the reason why it’s so intriguing to me is that Hamilton has stated his thesis so strongly (that the center of the Bible’s theology is… well… read the title) that it’s fun seeing whether or not he can pull off a defense of it.

So I’ll give Jim Hamilton some credit.  He didn’t hedge his bets at all.  He’s making a big claim and he’s doing what he can to back it up.  He also includes a lot of other tidbits throughout the book, breaking up the monotony a bit, as well as distracting from his point.  All in all, I’m glad I’ve worked through it so slowly.  It repays careful reading.  You’ll have to wait for my review to see my final thoughts… if I ever get around to writing it.

1. T4T: A Discipleship ReRevolution, by Steve Smith with Ying Kai

This book is written by a veteran missionary and a Chinese church planter, detailing the method (T4T- Training for Trainers) used by Ying Kai which (in part) led to one of the largest church planting movements in the world.  It is no exaggeration that using this method has radically changed the work of many in cross cultural ministry.  It’s a convicting and convincing call to adjust ministry methods that are neither commanded in the Bible or demanded by necessity.

The strength of the book is it’s attempt to emphasize that there’s nothing new they’re promoting, hence the word “rerevolution” in the title.  It would be easy for some to slip this book from “very helpful and effective” to “don’t mess with it, it’s perfect.”  The latter would be wrong, but just as bad would be to breeze over it with some lame excuse of “that’s overseas, not the US” or “what about tradition.”  Smith and Kai try their best to root all of their suggestions in the Word, and even if they can’t convince you (or me) that it’s 100% what the Bible says, at least it’s biblically grounded and sound.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  I think it needs to be read more than once, and best if in a group of people who can beat the ideas around together, going back to the Scripture and praying through the method.

Now for what’s ahead…

Gregory Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology

It’s rare that I’m completely surprised by a Christmas gift, but this was one.  Beale’s strength is in connections between the Old and New Testaments, as well as eschatology, which for Beale go hand-in-hand.  Given the paucity of spare time in my life, I can’t imagine how long it’ll take me to read this book.  But I’ll give it a go.  I’m convinced that eschatology is more important in biblical theology than most Christians care to think, but I’m also convinced that biblical eschatology looks radically different from the eschatology commonly peddled in the church.  This book, hopefully, will help me sort through all that.  If I ever get around to reading it.

Rachel Jankovic, Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches

I know, I know.  This book is for mothers, not fathers.  But I am married to a mother of little children, so I’m only one step removed from the target audience.  If crusty old men can review movies for adolescent girls and get paid big bucks to do it, surely I can handle this.

Actually, my wife got this for Christmas and we decided we’d read it aloud together.  It’s short (just barely over 100 pages), fun (so far, haven’t read too far into it) and comes highly recommended.  I actually haven’t read a single parenting book, partly because I dread “how to” manuals.  This doesn’t seem like that sort of book, and I’m grateful.  Besides, my wife will be blessed by it, and her blessedness is in my best interest.

What books did you read this year?  Anything you’d recommend?

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I’m going to be honest: I don’t feel like I read as many good books this year as I did last year.  My guess is that’s due largely to having a baby in April; less time = fewer books, unless you count Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See.  When I did this list last year, I had to think about how to narrow down my number to 5.  This year, I’m pushing it to get to 5.  Anyway, here goes.  Like last year, books on this list may not have been published in 2009 (I don’t have time to keep that up-to-date), but that I first read it this year.  Here we are, in no particular order:

The Epic of Eden, by Sandra Richter

Okay, I lied about the whole “no particular order” thing.  This was my favorite new read of 2009.  Simply put, this is the best book that I’ve read geared towards lay people that clearly explains the often foreign world of the Old Testament.  As I said in my review, “One gets the sense that she’s explained these things in non-academic settings before.”  My biggest complaint now is trying to find a way to fit it into an already jammed packed training school curriculum.

Introducing Paul, by Michael Bird

This is another book written by a biblical scholar but can be read by non-scholars.  I mentioned Bird’s wit in my review, as well as in a video, and it helps liven up the book considerably.  There are a million books out there on Paul, but few that lay out the issues so clearly as this one.  Bird isn’t content to focus merely on academic debates, but can get practical as well.  I look forward to what this young scholar will be offering down the road, and I hope he continues writing books on this level as well as his more in-depth academic treatments.

The Revelation of Saint John, by Ian Boxall

After reading this book, I finally felt like I had found a commentary on Revelation I could recommend to people in my church.  Let me be clear, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.  By its very nature any commentary on Revelation will be a bit difficult to wade through.  But time and time again I felt like Boxall took a position and explained it clearly and concisely.  By the end of it I found myself wishing he had more space.  One of Boxall’s strength is the use of Ezekiel in Revelation, which has inspired me to study Ezekiel more in-depth than I ever had before (I’m actually following through on what I wrote in my review of this book).  At any rate, this is my favorite non-technical commentary on Revelation.

The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24, by Daniel Block

Okay, I’m cheating a bit here.  One, I haven’t actually finished this book.  Two, it was published 12 years ago (hence my “not necessarily published in 2009” caveat above).  Block’s 2-volume commentary has been regarded by many evangelical scholars as the best commentary on Ezekiel since it came out.  As mentioned above, Boxall on Revelation inspired me to study Ezekiel more deeply, so I used some gift cards to get Block’s commentary.  I’m so thankful I did, as it has been a reliable (and enjoyable) guide to this often confusing OT prophet.

We Become What We Worship, by Gregory Beale

I think I have to include this one, since I did a 5-Part book review of it.  I had my disagreements with Beale’s exegesis at points, thinking that he stretched a bit to fit things under his thesis.  But still, I came away with a stronger sense of the Bible’s teaching on idolatry and how it destroys our worship of our God.  Tough reading at points, but worth the time and effort.

Honorable Mention

The Book of Basketball, by Bill Simmons

Okay, this is definitely cheating.  But, this is Boston Bible Geeks, and Bill Simmons is known as the Boston Sports Guy.  Maybe there aren’t that many people who would read a 700 page book on the NBA, and even fewer who would do it in a weekend, but I’m one of them.  The problems with Simmons: juvenile humor and an overload of soon-to-be-outdated pop culture references (which I’m sure will be his excuse to update this book every 5-10 years to sell more copies).  The upside: well, he writes about sports and entertains while he does it.  I’m a sucker for sports history- comparing eras, taking on longheld myths, arguing about which players are the best and who’s overrated.  Sure, Simmons is gimmicky and overplays his “I’m just an average fan” hand.  (He brags about how he pays for his season tickets instead of using a press pass- big deal when you make a ton of money and have the time to go to all those games.)  But, he does take the discussions that many of us “regular” fans have and turns them into columns and books, and manages to do it reasonably well.  He isn’t for everybody, but for the younger generation of  Boston sports fans, well, we’re obligated to read him.

How about you?  I’d love to hear some thoughts from our reader(s) regarding what new reads they’d recommend for us.

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Once again, I extend my thanks to Adrianna of IVP for a review copy of this book.  For more on this book, consult Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

We Become What We WorshipIn this last portion of the review I will summarize briefly the contents of the last 2 chapters, as well as offer some final thoughts on the book as a whole.

G K Beale set out from the beginning of the book to demonstrate his thesis: we resemble what we revere, either for ruin or restoration.  He surveys the biblical data thoroughly and fleshes out nuances carefully.  It is easy to tell that he has spent years, if not decades, thinking on this subject and what the Bible teaches about it.  We stand in his debt for all his hard work.

In the final 2 chapters, Beale discusses briefly the flip side to idolatry, being conformed to the image of Christ.  Since humans are “imaging beings” (a phrase he likes to use), we will reflect the image of something, whether it be God Himself or something we have constructed in His place.  The final reflection of Christ’s image will be seen at our resurrection, which itself follows Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:45-54, Philippians 3:20-21).

As far as the contemporary church, Beale relies heavily on David Wells (the theologian, not the pitcher) in demonstrating modern forms of idolatry, specifically idolatry in personal life (the idolatry of self) and idolatry in church life (the idolatry of psychology and business managing in running our churches).  Beale issues a call for the church to reflect the character of God more than reflect the latest trends in marketing and entertainment, which our bound to change rapidly.  We must realize that idolatry is more subtle in our day than in the days of wooden idols, but it is no less dangerous.  “Sometimes the sin of idolatry is like gum disease: we may not feel the spiritual hurt until significant harm has happened; though we have eyes we may not be able to see the destruction that is occurring within us” (p309).

Of course, one could wish for a more extended discussion of contemporary applications, particularly how the theme of reflecting an idol is seen today (in other words, how does one reflect money when money is his idol?).  In fact, I’d love to see more work done on modern forms of idolatry in the church.  Beale could have also spent more time on reflecting the image of God (in case he’s looking for ideas for his next book), though what he does say is very good.  But Beale’s book is intentionally a detailed study of relevant biblical texts on idolatry, and he surveys the texts admirably.

If you have been reading the previous portions of this review, you’ll know that I have lodged some disagreements here and there.  There have been times I felt that Beale was digging a little too deep for support of his thesis.  I just wasn’t always convinced it was as front-and-center as he thinks it is.  I’m not denying that it is explicitly stated in Scripture, nor am I denying that it is assumed rather than demonstrated in certain places.  I’m just not sure it pops up as often as Beale does.

But these disagreements can be misleading, because I’m convinced that Beale has done us a great service by writing this book.  Truthfully, I would not have spent the time working on a 5-part review of a book that I didn’t think was worthy of it. I not only learned a ton about the biblical teachings on idolatry, but learned more about picking up intertextual hints and echoes throughout Scripture.  In fact, at numerous times throughout the book I found myself thinking, “I really need to get a copy of his book, The Temple and the Church’s Mission.”

For any pastor or teacher who is covering the issue of idolatry, Beale’s book is a must read.  Not only does it include countless helpful insights, Beale brings to the fore the gravity of idolatry and its disastrous consequences.  For those who have ears to hear, the call to forsake the idols of our generation and turn back to our Creator will be heard loud and clear in this book.  May we grow to reflect the image of God in Christ more fully as we learn to worship Him as He deserves.

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Special thanks again to Adrianna of IVP for a review copy of this book.  See also Part I, Part II, Part III.

This portion of the review covers Beale’s chapters on Paul’s epistles and Revelation.  As we work through these chapters, keep in mind that Beale’s thesis statement is: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.”

Beale takes on Paul’s letters, specifically Romans 1:20-28 and 1 Corinthians 10.  There are no real surprises here; he sees Psalm 106:19-20 and Jeremiah 2:5-11 in the background of the Romans passage, as well as allusions to Genesis 1-3 (important texts for Beale, as we saw in part II of this review).  The language of worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator, exchanging their glory and becoming vain are all seen in idolatrous contexts of the OT, all of which is also seen in 2 Kings 17:15-16.  The idolater is “punished by means of its own idolatry (p216).  While he argues, fairly persuasively, that these idolatry texts are in the background, how does it fit his thesis statement?  Beale says, “the punishment is that the idol worshipers’ unnatural relationships with others resemble their unnatural relationship with God” (p204).

He gives a little portion of this chapter to Romans 12:1-2 to show the flip side of his thesis statement.  Here, when someone gives themself to worship God, they are transformed and conformed to His image (see also Romans 8:29).  I actually wish he would have spent more time  here, but I understand this is a book about idolatry.

Beale explores the quotations and allusions to the OT in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22.  Paul doesn’t want the Corinthians to partake in sacrificing to demons because “I do not want you to become sharers in demons” (v20).  On the phrase “sharers of demons,” Beale states, “the idea in 1 Corinthians 10: 18,20 is that of sharing in or reflecting the nature or attributes of the demons in contrast to those who share in Christ and are identified with him and reflect his spiritual character” (p229).  We see similar uses of “sharer” in 1 Peter 5:1, 2 Peter 1:4, 2 Corinthians 13:4, and other places.  This, of course, fits Beale’s thesis very well.  I found his analysis of idolatry in Paul to be quite helpful.

Beale has written extensively on the book of Revelation, including what I have called elsewhere the best commentary on Revelation.  This chapter contains a wealth of insight into the problem of idolatry in Revelation: the “Jezebel” of chapters 2-3, the harlot of chapters 17-18, the Beast of chapter 13, etc.  While he does go into 9:20-21 a bit, I think he probably could have done more here.  Let me explain.

As much as I enjoyed this chapter on Revelation, I didn’t find much support for his thesis: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.”  Idolatry is prevalent in Revelation, and Beale offers many helpful suggestions throughout his discussion.  But I fail to see where Revelation talks about someone becoming like the idol they revere (with the possible allusion in 9:20-21).  Beale states, “They [the Beast worshippers] have devoted themselves to the beast and so have themselves become beastly, which is part of the consequence of being identified with the name of the beast” (p258).  But where in Revelation are idol worshippers portrayed as beasts?  Beale doesn’t demonstrate this.  To be sure, those who worship the Beast suffer the same fate as the beast, but that is not saying the same thing.  Nor is noting that idol worshippers identifiy themselves with the Beast (they receive “the mark”) saying the same thing as them coming to resemble the Beast.

For instance, in passages in Isaiah and Psalms (115, for example), there is a clear teaching that idol worshippers become like their idols.  Beale demonstrates this clearly back in the earlier chapters of the book.  So, if someone worships an idol of stone which cannot see or hear, they themselves will be unable to see or hear what the Lord is doing and saying.  They take on the characteristics of the idol.

This is different from saying they will someday be destroyed like that idol.  That is what we have in Revelation.  The worshippers of the Beast do not become like the Beast.  The descriptions of the Beast are not applied to those who worship it.  Thus, while I think Beale offers some wonderful insight in this chapter, he does not support his actual thesis statement.

As I look back on this chapter and go back through Revelation, I wonder if one would be better trying to make the case that those who worship the Beast do so because they were already idolaters.  In other words, because they came to resemble the idols they worship (i.e., they cannot see or hear what is really going on), they were unable to spot the deception of the beast.  So, worshipping the Beast is actually a consequence of their idolatry, as well as a continuation of it.  This wouldn’t be hard to demonstrate, since we know that pretty much all pagans in John’s day were idolaters.  John’s call for the church not to participate in idolatry in chapters 2-3 are all that much more important considering they need to be able to discern what is really the driving force behind the Beast.  So, I do think Beale’s thesis can be found in Revelation, just not where he thinks it is.

With all that said, I don’t want to come across as if one can simply discard all that Beale has written here.  On the contrary, I find myself being driven back to the Bible to see what Scripture is saying.  I look forward to reviewing the final chapters of this book soon.

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Thanks once again to Adrianna at IVP for a review copy of this book.  See also Part I, Part II.

We Become What We WorshipI’m picking up this review with Beale’s chapters on the Gospels and Acts.  I’m skipping his chapter on Intertestamental Judaism, not because it wasn’t helpful or interesting, but because this review is ridiculously long already.  Remember, Beale’s thesis is: what people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.

Beale’s main text, Isaiah 6, appears clearly in the Gospels, usually quoted along with Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matthew 13:10-15, Mark 4:12, etc).  It does not, however, seem explicitly connected to idolatry.  Beale admits this is a potential problem for his thesis.  In fact, idolatry doesn’t seem present in the Gospels at all.

Beale, however, appeals to the use of Isaiah 29 in Mark 7:6-13 (and Matthew 15:7-9).  The Isaiah passages use sensory-malfuncation language, which Beale has argued all along is due to idolatry (becoming like what you worship).  In the case of the Gospel passages, however, the worship is not of physical idols but of tradition itself.  Thus, Beale reads this use of Isaiah 29 back into the use of Isaiah 6.  Tradition has become the new idol, particularly of the Pharisees.  “Jesus’ application of Isaiah 6:9-10 and Isaiah 29:13 to his Israelite contemporaries indicated that what had happened in Isaiah’s day was happening again: Israel was being judged for idolatry–committing itself to something besides God” (p176).

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this.  It makes sense, but I still can’t help but think that he is, at points, making connections that are tenuous at best.  Here’s how I see it working in Beale’s scheme: we see the context of idolatry in the use of Isaiah 6 in Mark 4 via the use of Isaiah 29 in Mark 7.  I have to be honest, I find myself scratching my head on this one.  It makes sense, to be sure, but I’m wary of needing multiple steps to come to such a strong conclusion.  It’s not that I think he’s wrong, it’s just that I feel like more work would need to be done here.  I can accept Beale’s statement at the end of the chapter that “adequate interpretation necessitates that the interpreter retrieve unmentioned correspondences between two passages” (p183).  I’m just not sure he’s done so convincingly here.

Beale admits that while idolatry shows up in a number of places in Acts, “the notion of idol worshippers becoming like their idols is difficult to discern in the book” (p200).  It’s interesting that the one place in Acts (28:25-28) that quotes Beale’s central passage of Isaiah 6 is discussed only briefly, since even Beale admits idolatry is not central here.  He does try to show how it might fit, but one wonders if he’s trying too hard to make it all work together.

This chapter does include an extremely helpful discussion on Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, which Beale summarizes, “For Jews to continue to believe that God’s unique revelatory presence was in their physical temple and not in Christ was idolatry–the same as believing that God’s unique presence was in some wooden idol or ancient tree (p195).  He appeals to the references of the golden calf incident and Stephen calling the Jewish leaders “stiff-necked” (see part II of this review for more on that) as evidence of his central thesis that people resemble what they revere.  I found this section illuminating; I’ll probably not read Stephen’s speech quite the same way again.

My plan is to review his chapters on Paul’s epistles and Revelation in Part IV, then Part V will discuss his concluding chapters as well as summarize my final thoughts on the book.

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Thanks again to Adrianna of IVP for a review copy of this book.

We pick up from part 1 of this review, starting with chapter 3, which covers “evidence elsewhere in the Old Testament.” As a reminder, Beale’s thesis statement is “what people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.”  The first review dealt with his introductory chapter (covering assumptions and methodology) and the chapter on idolatry and Isaiah 6.  In this review, we summarize Beale’s treatment of the story of Israelites worshipping the golden calf and idolatry in the Garden of Eden.

Beale shows the verbal connections between Deuteronomy 4:27-28, 29:4- dealing with the earliest history of the Israelite people- and Isaiah 6:9-10 and Psalm 115:4-7.  “Thus the roots of the irony of idolatry are to be found as early as Israel’s first generation that emerged out of Egypt.  And so the wilderness generation and Isaiah’s generation are people who are becoming like the idols they are worshiping, and that likenss mortally injures them” (p76).

Beale demonstrates this in the “golden calf incident” (Exodus 32).  “The point of the comparison between the first generation’s idolatry and that of future generations is that the golden calf idolatry was seen to be paradigmatic of Israel’s future idolatry, so that the latter was patterened about the former” (p77).  We see this in Psalm 106:19-20, in the “stiff-necked” Israelites of 1 Kings 12:25-33 and 2 Kings 17:7-18 (notice in the latter passage “they followed vanity and became vain”), the idolatrous Israelites condemned in Hosea (4:7-17, 8:4-7, 10:5, 10:11, 13:2-3), and in Jeremiah (2:5-11, 7:22-27 among others).  Along with these texts, we see other places where “sensory-malfunction” language is used, the vast majority of which is connected to idolotary (see Ezekiel 12:2).

Even though there are places in this chapter where you have to wonder if Beale is seeing more than what’s there, there’s no doubt that he successfully makes his case that (1) idolatry is prevalent throughout the OT, (2) that the golden calf incident of the wilderness generation is the paradigmatic incident of idolatry and (3) the consequence of this idolatry is becoming like the object worshipped (stiff-necked and stubborn like cattle, “following vanity and becoming vain,” etc).

Beale then turns in chapter 4 to the narrative of Adam and Eve in the garden to discuss the idolatry of the first humans.  He acknowledges that idolatry is not specifically mentioned, but argues that this is precisely what happens.  “Adam’s allegiance shifted from God to himself and probably also to Satan” (p133).  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the place where judgment occurs (“knowing good and evil” frequently occurs in contexts of kings exacting judgment, and trees are often places where judgments are rendered), and is precisely where Adam failed to judge the serpent and guard the garden (again, Beale admits that “guard/protect” is never explicitly stated).

Keeping in mind that his thesis is “what people revere, they resemble,” Beale notes that Adam “comes to resemble the serpent’s character in some ways.  The serpent was a liar (Gen 3:4) and a deceiver (Gen 3:1, 13)” (p133).  Technically, I’m not sure the logical connection must be what Beale says it is.  In other words, Beale’s thesis is “a leads to b” but that doesn’t necessarily mean “b must be the result of a.”  With that said, it’s not hard to see the connection when you assume his thesis (which is easily demonstrable from elsewhere in the OT).

Interestingly, Beale appeals to Ezekiel 28 to show how the later prophet understood Adam’s sin.  Ezekiel 28:1-10 and 11-19 are successive judgments on the King of Tyre.  The second is often seen as a judgment on Satan (which I disagree with) or Adam, the stance that Beale takes.  So, the King of Tyre, who is judged because he promotes himself to the level of God (vv 2, 5, 9) is judged like Adam, whose heart is also “lifted up” (v17, see vv 2, 5).  “[T]he king of Tyre’s sin and judgment is seen primarily through the lens of the sin and judgment of the figure of Eden instead of his own particular sin, and the latter’s sin and judgment is viewed as a kind of recapitulation of the primeval sin” (p137).

Thus, what we have here is a development from the theme of worshipping an idol of stone or metal.  The specific form of idolatry here is idolatry of self.  “[W]hen we try to enlarge ourselves and try to bring glory to ourselves, then we are actually reflecting our ego in a greater and greater way.  If this is so, then it fits with the particular idea of idolatry that we have noted earlier: The idol that we revere, we reflect, which leads ultimately to ruin” (p140).

In the next portion of this review, we’ll dive into Beale’s treatment of the relevant NT texts.

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Special thanks to Adrianna of IVP for a review copy of this book.

I mentioned at the end of last year that I had received a copy of Greg Beale’s book We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry and that I was genuinely excited to get a chance to read it.  In fact, I’m so excited that this will end up being a multi-part review, probably 4, if I had to guess.  This first review covers the first 2 chapters.

The first chapter helpfully sets out Beale’s thesis and approach.  His thesis: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration” (p16).  Not surprisingly, Beale starts with the assumption that Scripture coheres, and that biblical writers intentionally pick up passages and themes from previous contexts (sometimes in quotations, sometimes in allusions), and still respect the original context (intertextuality).  He considers himself a “maximalist” in regards to intertextuality, a refreshingly honest admission in a day when spaghetti-spined scholars want to paint themselves as “middle of the road” and “best of all worlds” kinds of guys.

He also openly admits to doing “hyperegesis,” which is “going beyond the Old Testament authors’ conscious original intention, not violating it but trascending it by creatively developing it in the ongoing light of progressive revelation and consistently within the parameters of the willed type of the original utterance” (p32).  Undoubtedly, some will not be convinced by this approach and wonder about its validity.

Two aspects of Beale’s approach are somewhat (though not entirely unique).  First, he tries to see where later OT writers used earlier OT writers.  Since most of the focus has been on the NT writers’ use of the OT, it’s interesting to see someone pick a slightly different path (though Beale isn’t the only one doing this, Douglas Stuart does this is in prophet commentaries).  Second, instead of arbitrarily picking a theme to study in Scripture, Beale opts for a text (in this case, Isaiah 6) and shows how it is developed.

Occasionally, you’ll find annoying caveats like, “I suspect there will be moments in the remainder of this chapter that some readers will have to exercise patience in following my discussion” (p22).  This, to me, is akin to a preacher starting his sermon, “Just a heads-up, this will be long and boring, but if you pay attention, you’ll get something good out of it.”

In one sense, it is odd that Beale opts for Isaiah 6 as his base text.  After all, Psalm 115 (and 135, with almost the exact wording) states his thesis clearly.  But, his point isn’t simply to prove the truth of his statement, but to show its importance for the biblical understanding of idolatry.

More than that, as noted above, Beale isn’t simply trying to trace a theme, but to trace a text (Isaiah 6) and its use in the rest of the Bible.  And Beale’s reading of Isaiah 6 is that it is a judgment of Israelite idolatry, and the punishment is becoming blind, deaf and unable to understand.  Take a second and read this chapter, especially vv9-13, in your English translation and you’ll probably wonder how he gets this reading from these verses.  Well, that’s what chapter 2 is for.

Beale notes that the “sensory-organ malfunction” language in Isaiah is applied to idols and those who worship them (42:17-20; 43:8,10; 44:17-18), as in Psalm 115.  Thus, the similar language in Isaiah 6 shows that the problem is idolatry, and the punishment is becoming like the idols being worshipped in place of God.  Beale also argues that the language in v13 (“subject to burning,” “terebinth,” “stump”) are words linked to idolatry elsewhere (see “terebinth” in Isaiah 1:29-31).  Thus, what we have here in Isaiah 6 is a denouncement and necessary punishment of Israel’s idolatry, becoming like the idols they revere.  I’m leaving out a lot of the discussion, largely because it’s rather dense.  Instead, I’m simply laying out Beale’s thesis and understanding of this passage.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first of this take on Isaiah 6.  But after reading this passage, I really feel that Beale may be on to something.  I would like to see an evaluation of a more established OT scholar, though endorsements on the back cover from Douglas Stuart, Bruce Waltke and T Desmond Alexander do count for something (though we all know endorsements don’t mean wholesale agreement, either).  There are enough connections with other passages on idolatry, both conceptual and lexical, that make his reading plausible, if not probable.

The next portion of the review will cover the next 2 chapters on other portions of the OT.

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