Thursday, May 12, 2011

Book Review: The Temple and the Church's Mission

I found out that I've been a bit of a fan of G.K. Beale's work for a while now without knowing it. G.K. Beale, with D.A. Carson, wrote a commentary of how the New Testament uses the Old Testament, which I have used as a backbone for two classes so far and will again: it's literally a gold mine. Then I heard a reference in an N.T. Wright talk (what's with all the double initials here? Unfortunately I'd have to be B.J. and that sounds like a truck driver!) to this book about what the temple meant in Revelation 21 and I quickly found that this Beale and that Beale are the same people. So The Temple and the Church's Mission feels like a book I should have read long ago.

Actually, Beale put forward a paper at a conference that summarizes his argument fairly well, and if you're pressed for time that paper does a masterful job of summarizing his argument. I read it first, wanted more, then read this 400-pager to follow up. To tell you the truth, I think it could have been about 100 pages shorter, because there's some reiteration and some lines of argument that may be unnecessary, but that's definitely debatable. What's not debatable is Beale's style, which relates themes across authors and takes each piece of Scripture seriously. Many other authors seem to have a "canon within the canon" for their emphasis but Beale truly gets the full scope of Scripture in. The topic is, basically, what did the Temple mean to Old Testament and New Testament authors? I'm convinced this is an important historical "blind spot" because we don't have an equivalent structure and haven't for 2000 years, so we've forgotten what it was. Beale goes a long way toward correcting for this. I would have liked more history and equivalent cultural features and the like but perhaps others have followed up on this? In any case, this is an important book and an important way of thinking. I'm going to have more about exactly what the Temple may have meant in my "Last Lecture" in two weeks (from today ... mild yikes ... ) but for now this was a theological page-turner. What more could you want?

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