Weighing in at 962 pages—not counting indices or bibliography—Greg Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (NTBT) is a tour de force in the field of New Testament studies. From the opening pages, Beale argues convincingly that the story of the Bible must be understood through the lens of an already-not yet eschatology, with a specific emphasis on the new creational reign of God through the death and resurrection of the Messiah, all for glory of God. From Eden in Genesis all the way to the New Eden in Revelation 21-22, Beale masterfully connects the eschatological dots that make up the Old and New Testament. Because of the size and the amount of time that it took for me to finally finish, I will offer some of my thoughts and highlight some of the best parts of the book.
A New Testament Theology on Steroids
While Beale calls this a “New Testament” Theology, it can almost be a Full-Bible Theology. Beale admits as much when he describes the method he adopts for writing his NTT as “overlapping in some degree not only with whole-Bible theologies but also with OT biblical theologies as well” (1). The beauty of this book is Beale’s deep familiarity with the OT. He spends over 100 pages tracing the storyline of the OT, setting the reader up for the heart of what his understanding of NTT is: the unfolding of the Old Testament in the New.
Part One—The Biblical-Theological Storyline of Scripture—consist of six chapter, all of which develop the storyline of the OT. Beale first establishes the “canonical storyline of the OT.” After which, he spends the remaining chapters of Part One “moving towards [the] eschatological goal,” which Beale argues is at the heart of the biblical storyline. I found his discussion on “centers” (i.e. the main theme of the Bible) and “storyline” (i.e. a unified storyline with multiple themes) helpful in understanding not only his approach, but also the various approaches of OT and NT theologies. Beale’s storyline approach does not confine him to one theme nor force him to work within one theme. He is able to weave in and out of any number of themes in order to compose a Biblical Theology that is multifaceted.
The Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament
It should come to no surprise that this is the bread and butter of the NTBT. Anyone who has read Beale knows that this is where he excels, and NTBT is the pinnacle of Beale’s work in the field of intertextuality. I was left in awe at Beale’s unbelievable knowledge of both the OT and the NT. He has an uncanny ability to spot allusions and echoes and tie them into the biblical narrative. This book is built on understanding how the NT interprets and fulfills the OT, and Beale is the right man for this job!
Much of his work in NTBT is predicated on his previous works: The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, The NIGTC commentary on the Book of Revelation, and other works. But this is not to say the he simply recycled these. Rather, he elaborated on and tied together what he has been writing and teaching on in one place. While reading through NTBT you get the full picture of Beale’s intertextual methodology in one magisterial NTT.
Inaugurated Eschatology (The Already and Not Yet) and the New Creation
The emphasis on Inaugurated Eschatology in at the heart of A New Testament Biblical Theology. According to Beale, “we should think of Christ’s life, trials, and especially death and resurrection as the central events that launched the latter days. These pivotal events of Christ’s life, trials, death and resurrection are eschatological in particular because they launched the beginning of the new creation and kingdom.” Beale concludes that “the end-time-new-creational kingdom has not been recognized sufficiently heretofore as of vital importance to a biblical theology of the New Testament, and it is this concept that I believe has the potential to refine significantly the general scholarly view of the eschatological already-not yet.”
Buy and Read this Book!
Everyone needs to buy and read this book! I understand that the number of pages may be intimidating and seem to be more than one can chew. But believe me, you will not read a better book on the storyline of the Bible. Most of the books today are nothing more than pick-me-ups intended to make you feel good about yourself. Beale’s NTBT will be a book that makes you think, and think hard about Christ and his coming kingdom. It will cause you to look at Scripture in a whole different way, seeing the storyline from the Garden in Genesis all the way through to the New Garden in Revelation 21-22.