The Story Retold
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament
- ISBN: 9780830852666
- Published By: IVP Academic
- Published: February 2020
In The Story Retold: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament, G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd attempt to write a New Testament (NT) introduction against the backdrop of the Old Testament (OT) aimed primarily at college and seminary students familiar with the Bible (xi). This would explain the casebound textbook format. The authors claim that there are only a few NT introductions that adequately integrate the story line of the OT. This work is not meant to be exhaustive in its social, cultural, and historical background, but instead seeks to introduce each NT book in view of the full redemptive history of the Bible.
The first chapter is foundational to the overall work. Therefore, at the authors’ strong recommendation, it is imperative for the reader to get a firm grasp of it before proceeding to the next chapters (xii). This first chapter is where the authors unpack the grand story of the Bible: creation, fall, and redemption. This same story is continued in the NT, in a period known as the latter days, “in which Israel’s enemies are judged and the covenant community is restored at the end of history [that] has now begun in the person of Christ” (14). The authors employ the “already and not yet” expression when speaking about the latter days. These days have already dawned in Christ, yet have not “consummately arrived” (15). According to the authors, the enemy has been defeated decisively by Christ’s death and resurrection (D-day), yet V-day is the final coming of Christ, where we look forward to the future where God will fully establish the kingdom, bodily resurrect believers and unbelievers, and create the new heavens and earth (15–17). Chapter 2, titled “The Use of the Old Testament in the New,” is also important for understanding the rest of the book, detailing the ways in which NT authors interact with the OT. It lays out definitions and briefly explains concepts such as typology and analogy.
To further assist readers, the authors provide several helpful maps, color pictures, and detailed diagrams to complement the content; for example, the map of Jerusalem at the time of Christ (120) and the diagram of Herod’s temple (137) are detailed, multi-colored, and easy to navigate. Further, the color pictures, for instance the Sea of Galilee (57) and the remains of the Great Synagogue at Capernaum (109), are clear and sharp. Moreover, before discussing specific NT books, the authors outline each book and lay out the its authorship, date, purpose and/or occasion, and biblical-theological themes. The highlight of these introductory materials are the biblical-theological themes sections, since they reinforce the integration of the OT and NT, as well as detail NT authors’ interaction with the OT. Although the book of Mark has the longest treatment, coming in at twenty-nine pages, Revelation comes in at twenty-five pages, demonstrating the depth of the authors’ analysis. The authors adopt what they call the “Redemptive-Historical Idealist view,” defending their position by showing the Apostle John’s usage of Daniel, Exodus, Habakkuk, Isaiah, and Ezekiel.
A few points of critique are in order. In the first chapter on Adam and the fall, it would have been very helpful to the reader to include explicit remarks on the Adamic covenant of works. As Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635–1711) a representative of the Dutch Further Reformation said that understanding the covenant of works is important to understanding the covenant of grace (The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 1.355.). Another critique is that the authors do not adequately spell out the different exegetical and historical positions on Romans 7:7–25. The authors take the position that since Paul alludes to Israel by citing the Decalogue (“You shall not covet” in Rom. 7:7), Paul’s words “‘when the commandment came’ (Rom. 7:9) probably recall God issuing his law in Genesis 2:16-17” (193). The authors conclude that by “alluding to Adam and Israel, Paul includes all of humanity in his experience. It is, in a very real sense, ‘the autobiography of all members of the larger Adam, humanity.” (194) The authors claim that when Paul uses the pronoun “I,” he is not speaking of himself struggling with his sinful nature, but rather to his “pre-Christian relationship with the law” (300). Willem van Vlastuin’s provides helpful exegetical observations, which are directly relevant to this interpretative question. Paul’s use of the “I” is unconvincing, observes Vlastuin, “because Paul does not use this device anywhere else in his letters. Wherever he writes in the first person singular on other occasions, he always speaks autobiographically.” Vlastuin observes that Paul’s use of the present tense “is even more remarkable in light of Paul’s use of the aorist in the first part of Romans 7.” Vlastuin continues that because of this switch, Paul has reason to speak in the present tense in Romans 7:14–25. He further observes that the stylistic reasons for Paul’s switching to the present tense is forced because in Galatians 1 and 2, when Paul is speaking of his past, he uses the past tense (Be Renewed: A Theology of Personal Renewal, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014). It is important to ask a question here: if Paul was speaking of his past, pre-Christian state in this passage and if we considered the “I” to be Paul, then why not employ the past tense?
Further, the authors take a controversial stance on the idea of a future justification, applying the “already and not yet” formulation to justification. The authors write, “believers still await Christ’s second coming, when God will publicly declare to all the world that believers are in the right. Justification, like all major doctrines of the New Testament, is an ‘already but not yet’ reality” (185). Further, they write that “although believers enjoy a present justification through faith in Christ (e.g., Rom 3:24–28), they await a future, final justification” (395). Justification according Reformed lights such as John Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, William Perkins, John Owen, Geerhardus Vos, and Louis Berkhof, to name only a few, never taught a future or final justification.
To do so would be foreign to what the Reformers fought for, namely the heart of the Gospel. Despite these critiques, this work can complement other tools on your shelf in understanding the NT’s use of the OT in a brief and thorough manner.
Inwoo Lee is an independent scholar.Inwoo LeeDate Of Review:August 31, 2022