G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd, Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery, Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014. Pp. 393. $27.00, paper.
In this book, G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd trace the occurrences of the term mystery to define it with its uses in the Old and New Testaments and to grasp its significance. They articulate biblical topics that are found in conjunction with the term mystery. Starting with the background of mystery in the book of Daniel, the authors unpack inner-biblical allusions and intertextual relationship between the Old and New Testaments, highlighting areas of continuity and discontinuity. They also look at how the concept of mystery is used in early Jewish writings. They define mystery as the revelation of God’s partially hidden wisdom, particularly as it concerns events occurring in the “latter days.”
The authors identify nine occurrences of mystery in the book of Daniel and twenty-eight in the New Testament. They discuss each occurrence and pay close attention to the surrounding allusions to unlock the content of the revealed mystery. Their study shows how the New Testament incorporates Old Testament themes but expresses them in new ways, though still retaining some continuity with the original context.
Though the authors start with the book of Daniel, other Old Testament texts where mystery plays an important role in redemptive history are not discussed. While the exact term is not used, the concept of mystery is found in places like the promise of the seed of the woman which is an eschatological mystery revealed in the coming of Christ (Gen 3:15).
Worthy of note in chapter 7 is the authors’ discussion of Paul’s prayer request for an opportunity to proclaim the mystery of Christ in Col 4:3, which is the welcoming of the Gentiles into end-time Israel through faith alone. The authors are certainly right that Gentiles are invited to Christ through the preaching of the gospel as they come by faith alone. However, their articulation of Paul’s conviction to preach a Torah-free gospel to the Gentiles (213) does not seem to be biblically justified. The gospel is rooted in the Torah as it is foretold in types, figures, and shadows. Moses wrote of Christ (John 5:46) and Abraham was preached the gospel (Gal 3:8). Indeed, the sacred writings, the Torah, are able to make one wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15; cf. John 5:39).
The authors make a distinction between “temporary hiddenness;” that which is partially hidden but is undisclosed over a period of time and is eventually fully revealed, and “permanent hiddenness;” that which continues to be hidden only for intractable nonbelievers. Believers are able to understand the content of the revealed mystery. However, Scriptures talk about some mysteries that only God retains their significance and they remain hidden even to believers (Deut 29:29). Paul’s knowledge was in part as he declares that believers see in a mirror dimly, as in a αἰνίγματι “riddle” (1 Cor 13:12). When the disciples asked Jesus about the time he will restore the kingdom to Israel, Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:6–7). No one knows the hour of Christ’s return, not even the Son (Mark 13:32; cf. Job 36:26). Perhaps a third level of “utter hiddenness” is needed to describe those mysteries that remain undisclosed even to believers.
Hidden But Now Revealed is significant in its intertextual exegesis and hermeneutics for the sake of biblical theology. The authors demonstrate verbal and conceptual connections to show that an allusion is intended. Some are more convincing than others and minimalists may find a cumulative argument based on the sheer number of allusions sometimes does not ring true. In sum, serious Bible students will find helpful detailed intertextual analysis of the way in which mystery in the book of Daniel is interpreted, adapted, and revealed in the New Testament.
Rev. Dr. Sherif L. Gendy