Bound for the Promised Land: The Land Promise in God’s Redemptive Plan

Oren R. Martin, Bound for the Promised Land: The Land Promise in God’s Redemptive Plan, Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015. Pp. 208. $25.00, paper.9780830826353

In this book, Oren R. Martin demonstrates how, within the redemptive-historical framework of God’s unfolding plan, the land promised to Abraham advances the place of the kingdom that was lost in Eden. This promise also serves as a type throughout Israel’s history, anticipating the even greater land, prepared for God’s people, which will come as a result from the person and work of Christ. This land will be enjoyed in the new creation for eternity. Martin unpacks the land promise as it progressively unfolds across the Bible’s two Testaments in ten chapters as follows.

1. BIBLICAL THEOLOGY AND THE LAND PROMISE

Here Martin lays the foundation for his study by briefly surveying the land promise in biblical scholarship. He explains his approach, which includes unity in the diversity among the books of the Bible, continuity between the Old and New Testaments, progressive typology, and interpreting texts within their textual, epochal, and canonical horizons.

2. THE BEGINNING AND THE END: THE LAND AND THE KINGDOM

In this chapter, Martin shows how the land theme is organically related to both the kingdom of God and the covenants as they unfold and progress across the canon. More specifically, he establishes a framework for understanding the place of God’s people in the kingdom. Martin concludes that the biblical story describes the teleological design of God’s people in his place under his rule.

3. MAKING THE PROMISE: GENESIS

Martin considers here the importance of Genesis 1–11 for the entrance of Abraham into God’s redemptive plan. He examines the nature and scope of the Abrahamic covenant and the promise of God in Genesis 12–50. He concludes that, with Eden as the prototypical place for the kingdom, the land promised to Abraham advances the place of the kingdom. This land promised is a type of a greater reality with international and worldwide dimensions.

4. ADVANCING THE PROMISE: EXODUS-DEUTERONOMY

This chapter evaluates the progress of God’s fulfillment of his promise of land to Abraham in two plot movements in Israel’s history. First, Martin looks at the exodus event and demonstrates how it is a means through which God fulfills his promises to his people, constituting the beginning of a great journey to relocate to a new land. Second, Martin considers Deuteronomy’s way of portraying the land. This includes the land as a gift Yahweh owns, a new paradise with the Edenic creational mandate passing on to Israel, and a place of inheritance and rest where “life” and “prolonging of days” are experienced when there is obedience.

5. PARTIALLY FULFILLING THE PROMISE: JOSHUA-KINGS

In this chapter, Martin continues his focus on the progress of the fulfillment of the land through Joshua and Kings. Standing in continuity with Deuteronomy, Joshua marks a new beginning that results in conquest, occupation, and possession of the land. With the arrival of David, who appears in a Joshua-like role, the fulfillment of God’s promise of the land significantly advances and escalates. Solomon is portrayed as an Adam-like figure who on the one hand typifies a restoration to Edenic conditions, while on the other hand being responsible, through his disobedience, for the second expulsion from the sanctuary-land and the end of the monarchy.

6. FULFILLING THE PROMISE? EXILE AND THE PROPHETS OF AN ESCHATOLOGICAL HOPE

In this chapter, Martin examines the loss of land in exile and the prophetic anticipation of an international and universal restoration brought through a new covenant, which advances God’s cosmological plan from Adam through Abraham, and is cast in terms of an Edenic land, city, and temple—all of which are coextensive. Martin concludes that through the substitutionary work of a Davidic Servant-Shepherd-King, God will make a new creation that is reminiscent of the idyllic conditions of Eden, where his people will dwell securely.

7. THE FULFILLMENT OF THE PROMISE INAUGURATED: THE GOSPELS

In this chapter, Martin examines the most relevant passages in the Gospels of Matthew and John to demonstrate that the land promised to Abraham will finally be won by Christ. Christ, being the typological fulfillment of Israel, has inaugurated a new creational kingdom through his physical resurrection.

8. THE FULFILLMENT OF THE PROMISE INAUGURATED: THE EPISTLES

Martin considers here the fulfillment of the land promise in Paul, highlighting the inheritance language that Paul uses which is linked to the Abrahamic promises. There is a future orientation inherent within the idea of inheritance, which is expressed through the typological correspondences that unfold within the Old Testament. The fulfillment in Hebrews comes through Christ and his work. God will bring those who preserve in faith into his eschatological rest, the heavenly Jerusalem, their final homeland, and the unshakeable kingdom. Finally, in Peter we see a transformed eschatological reality with the promised new heaven and new earth.

9. THE FULFILLMENT OF THE PROMISE CONSUMMATED: THE ESCHATOLOGICAL KINGDOM IN REVELATION

In this chapter, Martin examines the new creation in the book of Revelation as the fulfillment of the land promise. More specifically, the new creation is depicted as Edenic paradise, temple, and city (new Jerusalem).

10. THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS

Martin concludes his study by making theological connections and applying the interpretative findings of the previous chapters to eschatology. More specifically, this chapter evaluates how the land promise is interpreted and fulfilled in the theological systems of dispensationalism and covenant theology. In the end, the chapter provides a via media in the light of the arguments presented throughout the book.

Martin’s via media is indeed what covenant theology teaches if understood properly. It seems that Martin is equating covenant theology with replacement theology, which is not accurate. Covenant theology does not see the church replacing Israel; rather the church consists of the believing Israel along with believing gentiles in both the Old and New Testaments.

Martin skillfully connects the land theme with the garden of Eden in one hand, and the new heaven and new earth on the other. He reads the land promise in light of the overall plan of redemption and particularly through the person and work of Christ. Martin interacts with many scholars and cites a number of resources to the point where his own voice is lost in the presentation. It is hard to distinguish his own argument or contribution in the subject.

Rev. Dr. Sherif L. Gendy

This Strange and Sacred Scripture: Wrestling with the Old Testament and Its Oddities

Matthew Richard Schlimm, This Strange and Sacred Scripture: Wrestling with the Old Testament and Its Oddities, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015. Pp. 272. $22.99, paper.9780801039799

In this book, Matthew Richard Schlimm offers strategies for reading and appropriating the OT, showing how it can shape the lives of Christians today and helping them appreciate the OT as a friend in faith. Schlimm discusses twelve theological and biblical issues found in the OT.

1- IS THE OLD TESTAMENT AN ENEMY, STRANGER, OR FRIEND TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH?

In this chapter, Schlimm shows how the OT can give the church fresh ways of thinking about God, humanity, and creation.

2- OUR FLEETING MOMENTS IN PARADISE

Schlimm tries to make the case for reading the stories in Genesis 2–4 symbolically rather than being historical narratives. For Schlimm, the characters of Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel are simply mirror images of ourselves as representatives of humanity as a whole. This conclusion seems to go against the way in which the rest of the Scripture understands these chapters and their characters.

3- DARKNESS OVER THE FACE OF THE DEEP

Schlimm argues here that the OT critically borrowed ideas from surrounding cultures. Therefore, Christians should be critically open to evolution and see science as a friend to the Scripture. Schlimm does not address the question of the extend to which Christians should be pen to evolutionary theories and scientific discoveries when they contradict the Scripture?

4- THE R-RATED BIBLE

Schlimm discusses different approaches of dealing with Bible’s morally questionable stories including, in one hand, searching for saints in the text to uphold them as examples to follow, and on the other hand, the “pursuing paradigms” approach which admits that no human in Scripture provides a perfect model for us to emulate. Schlimm argues that reading stories well requires us to understand the story experience, which reflects real-life experiences.

5- KILLING ALL THAT BREATHES: VIOLENCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

Schlimm seeks to correct some mistaken premises when one reads the OT violence. He makes helpful hermeneutical observations that description is not prescription, we should not imitate God, we should not apply such texts directly to our daily lives, and we should not read individual passages in isolation from other passages.

6- MALE AND FEMALE GOD CREATED THEM: GENDER AND THE OLD TESTAMENT

Schlimm provides his approach, which requires rejecting biased interpretation and seeking gender equality, counteracting male-centeredness, by questioning troublesome texts, and by recovering neglected texts that work against male domination.

7- GOD COMMANDS US TO DO WHAT?! THE STRANGE LAWS OF THE BIBLE

Schlimm lays out some laws that seem strange in the OT including dietary, purity, and ritual laws. Schlimm suggests that we read these laws with sympathy and openness, paying attention to culture’s customs and relating particulars to the whole.

8- IS THE LAW ENGRAVED IN STONE? THE DYNAMIC NATURE OF GOD’S LAW

Schlimm invites us to think of the OT as a law professor, where we encounter issues that beckon for serious theological reflections—matter like holiness, poverty, disgust, food, sacred space, and sacrifice.

9- TRUTH IS MANY SIDED

Schlimm deals with the question whether the OT contradicts itself. He admits that there are many sorts of theological and ethical tensions within the Bible. He argues that since God is transcendent, his truths in the Bible are much bigger than we are and present conversations about who God is and what he wants from us.

10- DROWNING IN TEARS AND RAGING AT GOD

Schlimm reflects on the prayers of complaint in the Bible to highlight their acknowledgment of the grief, anger, and anguish that normally accompany life. But there is also hope: that night shall end, and a brighter day shall arrive.

11- GREAT AND TERRIBLE IS THE WRATH OF THE LORD

Schlimm seeks to explain God’s anger to show how the OT reveals a God who is deeply concerned about evil—but also slow to anger. He argues that God’s anger exists in uneasy tension with his love. Schlimm concludes that the OT shows four characteristics about God’s anger: 1) it is real; 2) it needs to be taken seriously; 3) God is slow to anger; and 4) This anger does not endure.

12- THE OLD TESTAMENT’S AUTHORITY

In thinking about the OT’s authority, Schlimm offers his model of the Old Testament as our friend in faith. According to this model, the OT offers an invitation to a richer, fuller, and more faithful life.

This seeks to invite Bible readers to see the OT as a friend of faith, thus it becomes accessible, personal, and practical. Each chapter ends with a list of annotated books and recommended resources for further study.

Working under the false assumption that the OT is an enemy, Schlimm tries to make a friend out of it. The weakness of Schlimm’s suggested model is not recognizing that the Scriptures primarily bear witness to Christ and his work (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39). Thus, any reading that dismisses Christ and his work from its focus misses the purpose of the OT and its role as a Christian Scripture.

 Rev. Dr. Sherif L. Gendy

The Song of Songs: An Introduction and Commentary

Iain M. Duguid, The Song of Songs: An Introduction and Commentary, Grand Rapids, MI: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. Pp. 160. $18.00, paper.9780830842865

In this book, Iain M. Duguid offers an introduction to the Song of Songs with discussion on its title, authorship, date, approaches of interpretation, canonicity, themes and message, and structure and unity. This introduction is followed by an analysis, translation, and commentary of the text. Duguid argues that Solomonic authorship is not necessary and considers a date after the exile as more likely for the book.

Duguid takes the book as a love song. He briefly discusses the allegorical, natural, typological, and the three-character hermeneutical approaches. Duguid adopts the twofold interpretation, combining natural and spiritual meanings. He reads the book against the backdrop of wisdom literature. For Duguid, the Song is designed to show us an idealized picture of married love in the context of a fallen and broken world. Duguid also regards the book “parabolic” in that it speaks of our imperfection as humans and as lovers and thus it drives us into the arms of our heavenly husband, Jesus Christ.

While Duguid does not rule out the typological reading of the book, he prefers to couple it with the allegorical interpretation where both comprise the spiritual meaning. He then wishes to divorce this spiritual interpretation from the book’s literal meaning—what Duguid calls “natural” reading. One is left wondering, to what extent can we divorce the spiritual and natural readings? Is it even possible to separate the two at all? And what constitutes the “natural” reading of any Scripture if it does not include any typological or spiritual sense?

A more helpful hermeneutical approach is the analogical and canonical reading, which seriously takes into consideration the book’s immediate context and literary genre as wisdom literature. According to this approach, the book is read following Proverbs and Ruth in the Hebrew canon. Proverbs 31:10 speaks of אֵשֶׁת־חַיִל (‘eshet-hayil) “virtuous woman” (cf. Prov. 12:4) and then comes Ruth as an example and embodiment of this virtuous woman, thus was called אֵשֶׁת חַיִל (‘eshet hayil) (Ruth 3:11). The Song of Songs follows this motif as it presents the celebration of the virtuous woman’s love with her lover. Proverbs describes the ideal wife, which Ruth is. Song of Songs describes the bliss of love and can apply to Boaz and Ruth by juxtaposition. This canonical consideration sets the stage for the analogical reading once we consider the wider canonical context. In this context, we learn that Yahweh’s relationship with his people is often couched in the language of the covenant of marriage. This relationship finds its ultimate expression through the covenant mediator’s work on the cross.

Duguid summaries the main themes and message of the book, which are centered on love and sex within a committed marriage. The Song also speaks against asceticism. Once the book’s message is identified through natural or literal reading, Duguid wishes to see a message beyond marriage that looks into the heavenly bridegroom through the work of Christ.

Although not arguing for a strict narrative behind the Song or a chiastic structure, Duguid sees a broad development and logical flow where there is a movement that leads up to and way from the marriage. Duguid rightly observes that the Song leaves the couple (and us) at the end longing for something more complete.

The second major part of this book has an analysis, where Duguid outlines the book, Duguid’s own translation of the book, and then a commentary. The commentary discusses the context of each passage at hand, then Duguid offers comment on the passage where some key phrases and words are highlighted, and finally there is the meaning that explains the passage from a practical perspective with spiritual life applications.

Although the book is a poetic song in its genre, this does not negate the possibility that it might reflect a story that took place in history. In other words, it could be a historical account written poetically in form of a song, in the same way Genesis 1, for example, is written in a poetic style to reflect historical account.

Duguid takes the approach that the man in the poem is an idealized figure, a poetic persona rather than a historical individual. For Duguid, the focus of the Song is not on the specific identity of the lovers so much as it is on the nature of their love. He understands אֲשֶׁר לִשְׁלֹמֹה (‘asher lishlomoh) “which is Solomon’s” (1:1) not as designated authorship, rather as possession. Thus, according to Duguid, the Song’s title suggests that this book is in some general sense about “that which belongs to Solomon.”

Duguid’s book is good for pastors and preachers. It is not academically technical as one might expect, rather it is practical and handy. It relies on many resources and Ancient Near Eastern comparisons. While there are spiritual applications, this book lacks a coherent presentation of the Song’s contribution to biblical theology. Since Duguid adopts the view that Solomon is neither the subject of the Song, nor its author, he sees the Song’s primary significance as describing human relationships. He fails to read the Song canonically in its final shape and place within the canon. This canonical hermeneutics operates within a theologically articulate interpretive method that opens the door for reading the Song, which belongs to Solomon, in light of the Davidic covenant and the promise for David’s son and everlasting throne (2 Sam 7). The Song also has borrowing images from the Garden of Eden (Gen 2–3) that one cannot neglect if we are to understand it canonically. These images not only connect the Song to the first garden, but also looks forward to the consummate garden in the new heavens and new earth.

Rev. Dr. Sherif L. Gendy

Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin: Theological, Biblical, and Scientific Perspectives

Hans Madueme and Michael Reeves, eds., Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin: Theological, Biblical, and Scientific Perspectives, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014. Pp. 352. $26.99, paper.9780801039928

This book is a collection of fifteen essays, organized in four parts, and written by different scholars, to present a theological, biblical, and scientific case for the necessity of belief in original sin and the historicity of Adam and Eve in response to contemporary challenges.

Part One: Adam in the Bible and Science

1. Adam and Eve in the Old Testament by C. John Collins

Taking Genesis 1–11 as a coherent narrative, Collins argues that the writer of Genesis was talking about what he thought were actual events, using rhetorical and literary techniques to shape the readers’ attitudes towards those events.

2. Adam in the New Testament by Robert W. Yarbrough

Yarbrough exegetically considers the New Testament’s Adam passages. He argues that Paul faithfully represented Jesus’s intent and commission.

3. Adam and Modern Science by William Stone (a pseudonym)

Stone places Adam in conversation with crucial evidence from paleoanthropology to show how Adam’s historicity and the human fossil record are not in conflict. He provides evidence to confirm the expectation of a discontinuity between the genus Homo and the australopithecine genera and places Adam at the root of genus Homo.

Part Two: Original Sin in History

4. Original Sin in Patristic Theology by Peter Sanlon

Sanlon focuses on Augustine and his vision of God, humanity, and ethics that was thoroughly informed by his understanding of original sin. For Augustine, had Adam not been a historical person, then the reality of original sin, which shaped God’s grace and its conception, would collapse.

5. The Lutheran Doctrine of Original Sin by Robert Kolb

Kolb highlights the relational aspect of Luther’s definition of original sin, which is the breaking of the bond between Creator and human creature. He traces the development of Luther’s understanding of original sin through Philip Melanchthon, the Formula of Concord, Martin Chemnitz, and Philipp Jakob Spener.

6. Original Sin in Reformed Theology by Donald Macleod

Macleod summaries the Reformed view of original sin that all human beings are born with a propensity to sin, and by nature are incapable of loving God, repenting of sin, or believing in Christ, apart from the new birth. Macleod explains the covenant of works, Adam’s federal relationship to his posterity, the imputation of Adam’s guilt, and our inheritance of corruption.

7. “But a Heathen Still”: The Doctrine of Original Sin in Wesleyan Theology by Thomas H. McCall

McCall offers an overview of the Wesleyan doctrine of original sin, which historically held to federalism but later modified it.

8. Original Sin in Modern Theology by Carl R. Trueman

Trueman surveys the highly diverse phenomenon in modern theology of original sin. He reviews six mainline theologians who have been influential on various strands of modern thought and stand in continuity with certain aspects of Enlightenment critiques of classical orthodoxy.

Part Three: Original Sin in Theology

9. Original Sin in Biblical Theology by James M. Hamilton

Hamilton argues that biblical theology is the attempt to discern the interpretative perspective that the biblical authors employed in order to adopt it as our own. This perspective includes a first man, Adam, whose sin had ramification for all humans and universal consequences.

10. Threads in a Seamless Garment: Original Sin in Systematic Theology by Michael Reeves and Hans Madueme

Reeves and Madueme demonstrate that a gospel that omits Adam and original sin is far less good news, if good news at all. These biblical doctrines show how kind and good God is and what good news is therefore offered to the weak and helpless sinner.

11. “The Most Vulnerable Part of the Whole Christian Account”: Original Sin and Modern Science by Hans Madueme

Madueme acknowledges that science is an aspect of God’s general revelation and Christianity is a revelatory faith with divinely revealed doctrines including original sin. For Madueme, full harmonization between science and Christianity will ultimately and certainly happen in the eschaton.

12. Original Sin in Pastoral Theology by Daniel Doriani

Doriani discusses original sin in relation to pastoral call, evangelism, church leadership, and pastoral care.

Part Four: Adam and the Fall in Dispute

13. Original Sin and Original Death: Romans 5:12–19 by Thomas R. Schreiner

Schreiner argues that the most plausible reading of Romans 5:12–19, both exegetically and theologically, supports the doctrine of original sin and original death.

14. The Fall and Genesis 3 by Noel Weeks

Weeks deals with the difficulties of searching for earlier texts or sources behind Genesis 3 then he turns to what the text itself says, working his way through some of the crucial exegetical puzzles before making sense of the sequential narrative. He affirms the reality of Adam’s sin and relative relationships of God, Adam, Eve, and the animals.

15. Adam, History, and Theodicy by William Edgar

Edgar argues that the historicity of Adam is crucial in theodicy. It explains why God is not accountable cause for evil in the world. In fact, as Edgar shows, there is no intrinsic reason why God’s goodness could not allow evil, as long as it will one day be eradicated.

The essays in this volume are timely and much needed in contemporary discussion on the historicity of Adam. The historicity of Adam and original sin are essential, irremovable, relevant, and credible elements of the Christian faith.

Rev. Dr. Sherif L. Gendy

A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology

Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014. Pp. 336. $26.99, paper.9781441241382

In this book, J. Richard Middleton presents a fresh reading to the biblical teaching of new heaven and new earth with a purpose of laying out a coherent biblical theology of the eschatological vision of the redemption of creation. He explores some ethical implications of a biblically grounded holistic eschatology. He also surveys different trends of understanding the redemption of the earth in the history of Christian eschatology.

Part 1, “From Creation to Eschaton,” focuses on God’s original intent for humans to image him by developing the culture. He critiques the notion that man was created to worship God. For Middleton, man worships God by interacting with the earth to transform the environment into a complex sociocultural world. However, in different places the Scriptures teach that man was created to glorify God (cf. Ps 86:9; Isa 60:21; Rom 11:36; 1 Cor 6:20; Rev 4:11). Surely, worship is a form of glorifying God.

Middleton also believes that heaven was never part of God’s purposes for humanity. Rather, eschatological redemption takes place in the renewal of human cultural life on earth. Yet, the Bible clearly speaks of new Jerusalem that will come down out of heaven (Rev 21:2, 10). This heavenly Jerusalem ushers in the “new heavens and new earth;” a totally new order of things (2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1). This is not the result of human effort, nor is it simply a development of earthly culture and environment. This is the supernatural work of God in Christ who is making all things new (cf. Rev 21:5; cf. 2 Cor 5:1, 17; Heb 12:27).

Part 2, “Holistic Salvation in the Old Testament,” uncovers the Old Testament’s portrayal of God’s ongoing commitment to the flourishing of earthly life through the exodus event, Israel’s laws, wisdom traditions, prophetic oracles, and theophany’s texts.

Part 3, “The New Testament’s Vision of Cosmic Renewal,” explores the inner logic of the hope of resurrection and its connection to the restoration of human rule of the earth.

Part 4, “Problem Texts for Holistic Eschatology,” is where Middleton attempts to correct the misunderstanding of some New Testament texts that are misread as if they teach the destruction or annihilation of the cosmos at Christ’s return (e.g., Matt 24; Rev 6; 20–21; Heb 12).

While Middleton does not teach universal salvation, he denies the fact of eternal judgment, and believes in annihilation. He suggests that the final judgment is akin to cosmic disinheritance of the earth; a permanent exile from God’s creation. However, the Bible confirms eternal punishment to those sinful and guilty persons who rejected the work of Christ (cf. Isa 34:10; Matt 18:8; 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 14:10–11; 19:3; 20:10).

Middleton also covers the New Testament texts that seem to promise an otherworldly destiny in heaven including the “rapture” texts and those that speak of the intermediate state between death and resurrection (e.g., Matt 24:40–41; 25:34; 2 Cor 5:1–5; 1 Thess 4:13–18; 1 Pet 1:3–5; Rev 6:9–10; 21:1–2; ). His main point is that these texts present an apocalyptic pattern of preparation in heaven followed by unveiling on earth. Middleton dismisses any view of heaven as a place to which the righteous go when they die.

The interim state, for Middleton, is simply “soul sleep” where one moves subjectively from death to resurrection, with no consciousness of the intermediate state. This applies, according to Middleton, to Jesus’s promise to the believing criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). The theory of souls sleep does not really find biblical warrant and is nowhere taught in the Scriptures.

Part 5, “The Ethics of the Kingdom,” focuses on the holistic, this-worldly character of Jesus’s announcement of good news in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:16–30), and addresses the ethical challenge of the kingdom that Jesus brings.

Comprehensive in its scope, this book is offers a holistic biblical worldview regarding the redemption of creation, including both physical cosmos and human culture and society. Middleton’s ethical implications of such a vision are noteworthy. Ultimately, what we desire and anticipate as the culmination of salvation is what truly affects how we attempt to live in the present. “Ethics is lived eschatology” (24). Middleton’s attempt to ground eschatology in the entire biblical story is another commendable aspect of this book.

What might cause some controversy is Middleton’s view on heaven as not being the hope for the Christians and their home afterlife. His alternative suggestion of soul sleep may not be well welcomed by many. While some would rightly agree with Middleton on his emphasis on the renewal of the world as the biblical vision for eschatology, this renewal is not a man-made effort that involves the flourishing of earthly culture and environment. Hugely influenced by N. T. Wright, Middleton’s consistent pursuit of eschatological notion that requires a this-worldly final state is highly questionable. In sum, this book is a welcome reminder of the biblical story of holistic salvation and God’s commitment to an integral and comprehensive restoration of the creation.

Rev. Dr. Sherif L. Gendy

Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery

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. 51HeDSftSNL

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

The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament

Kenneth E. Bailey, The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014. Pp. 288. $24.00, paper. 9780830840632

In The Good Shepherd, Kenneth E. Bailey surveys the motif of the good shepherd as it appears in nine major biblical texts. He first looks at Psalm 23 as the foundational good shepherd passage for the subsequent texts of Jeremiah 23:1–8; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 10:2–12; Luke 15:1–10; Mark 6:7–52; Matthew 18:10–14; John 10:1–18; and 1 Peter 5:1–4.

Bailey’s treatment of each text includes a discussion on its rhetorical style, a commentary with insights from Middle Eastern culture, and a theological cluster that summarizes God’s work as the good shepherd. He suggests ten main elements for the good shepherd story in the Bible and shows how most of them appear in each text in various degrees. These elements are:

1) The good shepherd and his identity (in the OT always identified as God)

2) The lost sheep (or lost flock)

3) The opponents of the shepherd (the bad shepherd)

4) The good host(ess?)

5) The incarnation (promised or realized)

6) The high cost the shepherd sustains to find and restore the lost

7) The theme of repentance/return

8) Bad sheep

9) A celebration

10) The end of the story (in the house, in the land or with God?)

Bailey’s survey shows how the good shepherd motif is used in three ways in the Bible where; 1) God/Jesus is described as the shepherd of his people; 2) The leaders of Israel, the disciples, and the church leaders are also referred to as shepherds; and 3) in the OT a promise of a new shepherd will come from Bethlehem with the fulfillment of this promise in the NT in Christ.

While Bailey reads the good shepherd motif in relation to some biblical and theological concepts, some events in redemptive history deserve more attention including for example the exodus tradition where God delivers Israel as her shepherd using Moses who was a shepherd (Exod 3:1; Isa 63:11; cf. Num 27:17). Kingship in Israel is another biblical concept that needs more elaboration since it is portrayed in a shepherding image through David the shepherd-king (1 Sam 17:15, 34; cf. Ezek 37:24–28). The shepherding language in the Song of Songs is another important missing discussion in Bailey’s work (cf. Song 1:7–8; 2:16; 4:5; 6:2–3).

Overall, Bailey’s extensive experience in Middle Eastern culture and his Arabic skills play an important role in his presentation of the richness of the good shepherd theme. His use of ancient NT versions as well as rare resources in English, Syriac, Arabic, and Armenian adds to the uniqueness of this book.

Rev. Dr. Sherif L. Gendy

A Community Called Atonement: Living Theology

McKnight, Scott. A Community Called Atonement: Living Theology. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007. 51yjoWk9tRL

Book Summary:

In this book McKnight unpacks different views on atonement with the goal of understanding the value of each theory by depicting the roles of atonement’s numerous biblical images that play out the fulsomeness of the redemptive work of God. McKnight holds many atonement theories in tension and maintains that atonement cannot be reduced to one theory. His controlling metaphor is that of a golf game where there are many clubs for different shots, so does each theory of the atonement is better suited to some context than others, requiring us to understand the value of each club. McKnight believes that identification for incorporation is the most important motif of the atonement.

In the introductory chapter McKnight explains how the atonement is the good news of Christianity, yet, he is asserting that atonement is not making any tangible difference in the lives of Christian people it ought to. He argues that the reason for this lack of atonement-fueled transformation is the failure to incorporate all the metaphors for atonement into a coherent whole. The four parts that make up the rest of the book attempt just such a holistic enterprise.

In part one McKnight discusses the teaching on God’s kingdom throughout Luke-Acts, defining the kingdom as the society in which the will of God is established to transform all of life. This society centers first on the Trinity, and moves to outline the restoration of humanity in four directions: toward God, self, others, and the cosmos. This combines both objective and subjective elements where atonement spools from the objective act of what God does for us into the subjective fresh and ongoing acts by God’s people. Thus the focus of Christ’s work must be understood as ecclesial. Because God is a community of Three-in-One, God’s work is always relational and community-focused. For McKnight any theory of atonement that is not ecclesial is inadequate.

McKnight, then, addresses the perichoretic union of God in the Trinity, highlighting the relationality of this union into which believers are drawn. According to McKnight, humans are “cracked Eikons” that Christ’s atonement restores. This restoration is not narrowly focused on individuals; rather, it transforms all of life in the context of community (the ecclesia, the church). As Eikons (images) of God, humans are co-missional beings with God. Furthermore, McKnight examines the basic problem of sin and its effects on people, describing it as “hyperrelational” because it disrupts not only humanity’s relationship to God but also to oneself, others, and the world. McKnight concludes this part by describing eternity in strictly corporate terms, delineating community in the three societies of Israel, kingdom, and church, and showing how human praxis is integrally connected to God’s role in atonement.

In part two McKnight examines some common metaphors for atonement, defending the appropriateness of these metaphors. For McKnight, the effect of seeing metaphor as possibility is that metaphors are not in need of decoding or unpacking but of indwelling. Arguing for a rhetorical approach to the function of metaphors, McKnight recognizes the natural limits of each metaphor in adequately summarizing and encompassing all of the biblical images of atonement and keeping them in balance. Penal substitution provides an example of this danger. Thus McKnight asserts that every image of atonement must be considered and used appropriately when working out the implications and meaning of God’s work. Therefore, he identifies four “moments” that inform atonement theology and must work together in any comprehensive theory of atonement: the incarnation, death, resurrection of Christ, and the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. McKnight affirms that the cross is the center of the atonement, pointing to the atoning function of the incarnation and making connections between the incarnation and atonement by examining the themes of Jesus as the perfect Eikon, Jesus as the second Adam, and union with Christ. McKnight suggests that the cross is the work of God to restore cracked Eikons to union with him and communion with others for a missional life focused on others and the world.

In part three McKnight unpacks atonement stories by surveying Christ’s death in the context of Passover, Paul’s notion of justification, and as understood by Irenaeus and Athanasius. Discussing the Last Supper, McKnight shows how Christ conceived his own death as a second Passover. McKnight proposes that Passover was a more appropriate way than Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, for Jesus to portray his death as an act of liberation from Rome and Israel’s unjust leaders. It is unclear precisely how this fits with McKnight’s statement later that Christ’s death liberates his people from their sins. Relying primarily on N.T. Wright, McKnight pushes for an accounting of justification that transcends both individual and forensic categories and argues that Christ fully identifies with humanity and incorporates humanity in his death for liberation from sin. This means that Jesus died with, for, and instead of humanity. McKnight summarizes justification as the restoration of the relationship between humans and God that results in righteousness. The foundation of this restoration is being “in Christ.” Righteousness is not just a declaration but a reality that is embodied in relationships and behaviors. McKnight proposes recapitulation as the most full-orbed understanding of the atonement found in Irenaeus and Athanasius. He captures all the relevant metaphors of the atonement in one phrase: “identification for incorporation.” That is Christ’s act of atonement has a dual focus in light of the enormity of the problem with cracked Eikons: Jesus identifies with humans by becoming one of them in order to remove sin and incorporates humans into his own victory over death and the devil to liberate them so that they can form the new community where God’s will is realized. McKnight reviews the various atonement metaphors including recapitulation, Christus Victor, satisfaction, representation, and penal substitution and suggests that each of these fits accurately under the larger notion of “identification for incorporation.”

In part four McKnight describes atonement in terms of practicing fellowship, justice, and mission, being shaped by the Word and in the church’s practices of baptism, Eucharist, and prayer. Drawing from Wesleyan theology, McKnight suggests that atonement should bear practical fruit in the lives of Christians as believers embody and extend God’s atoning work by engaging in missional love that seeks the holistic welfare of the community in which they live. Pushing it further, McKnight argues that atonement is not only something that God does for us but is also something we do for others. For McKnight, the central question of missional praxis is this: “How can we help?” Addressing the role of Scripture in atonement, McKnight declares that some Christians ascribe too much to the Bible when they should be starting with and centering on the Trinity. Scripture itself is missional, designed by God to work its story into persons of God so that they may become doers of the good. Finally, McKnight explores the atoning significance of the sacraments and prayer.

Critical Assessment:

McKnight’s work is a good introduction to an emerging church doctrine of atonement, having taken numerous biblical and historical resources of the Christian faith and applied them in an emerging church context. McKnight deconstructs simplistic, individualistic, one-sided theories of the atonement. He offers a fresh look at the atonement that takes into consideration the different images and metaphors that the Bible presents for the finished atoning work of Christ on the cross, encouraging more voices rather than offering a final word on atonement. For many years Protestants, and especially those from the Reformed circles, have focused on penal substitution as the precise, if not the only, way for understanding Christ’s death and resurrection. McKnight, however, helps us appreciate other ways of understanding the atonement through which the Scripture itself portrays it. He points to the limits of each metaphor and the need to consider all of them together to grasp a full picture of the nature of Christ’s atonement.

It is also important to point out McKnight’s focus on the corporate nature of God’s saving work on the cross. It is the work of the triune God who invites us to believe in Christ’s atonement for our salvation. This corporate nature of God’s redemption extends to his household (1 Tim 3:14-15) where God saves individuals from the kingdom of darkness into his kingdom to join with the saints of the triumphant church in heaven (1 Cor 12:12-31; Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18) and the militant church on earth (Eph 6:12). The emphasis on God creating a worshipping community through atonement is thoroughly appropriate in the pervasively Western individualized culture. Speaking of salvation only in individualistic terms can lead to a weakened doctrine of the church and an anemic view of the atonement. To keep things in balance, it is important to highlight, as well, the fact that the Bible speaks of the salvation of individuals who form together a community of believers. It seems that McKnight does not appreciate the fact that the transformation of individuals is foundational to the transformation of the community. He constantly asserts that the atonement cannot be restricted to saving individuals and that atonement is designed to create community. He even goes as far as to describe eternity as “so corporate that individuals simply are unrecognized” (p. 26, emphasis original).

McKnight challenges the church to actively seek out unbelievers rather than passively hope that they will seek out the church and to join God in his quest to seek out broken-yet-divinely-imaged people, which is an undeniably central biblical imperative. His emphasis on God’s restoration of mankind that goes in four directions is also an important aspect of Christ’s atonement. Christ’s saving work does not only restore or reconcile people to God but also to his creation. Since the fall of man has put humanity not only in enmity with God but also in hostility towards his good creation.

However, McKnight’s work does not come without problems. His understanding of Christ’s atonement in terms of Christians’ praxis and missional love to transform the community sounds more like the social gospel movement. It seems that McKnight combines and confuses the act of atonement with the consequences of atonement. He portrays atonement as an ongoing act rather than a one-time act of God with ongoing consequences (cf. Heb 10:1-18). To say that atonement “is the healing” of cracked Eikons and relationships distorts the once-for-all action of God in Christ on the cross with the ongoing effects of that action. McKnight depicts atonement as not just something done to us and for us, but as something we participate in—in this world, in the here and now. For McKnight atonement is something we do as we join God in the missio Dei.

Moreover, it seems that McKnight at times rejects any substitutionary or vicarious understanding of the atonement and proposes variations of the moral influence theory. There is no room in McKnight’s presentation of the atonement for satisfying the divine wrath whereas the Bible clearly speaks of Christ’s atonement as the vindication of the righteousness of God in justifying the ungodly by faith (Rom 3:25-26). Therefore Jesus bears the curse, which was due to our sin, so that we can be justified and the righteousness of God can be vindicated. In penal substitution, God the Son bears the penalty for our sins on the cross. The Scripture speaks of the Son as the object of the Father’s wrath on the cross (Isa 53:5; Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34; Rom 6:23; 2 Cor 5:21).

McKnight’s suggestions that recapitulation is the most comprehensive picture of the atonement as Christ succeeded where Adam failed, undoing the wrong that Adam did and, because of his union with humanity, leads humankind on to eternal life, could easily lead to universalism.

Overall, McKnight’s overarching emphasis on community and relationships, offers a much needed corrective to individualistic notions of atonement. In addition, the stress on practice, although not as well defined, is a welcome reminder that atonement is not just about life after death but about how we live here and now.

Rev. Dr. Sherif L. Gendy