Accordance Bible has recently released Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Baker Academic, 2011) via their software platform. As many of you may know, G.K. Beale is a (the?) premier evangelical theologian and scholar whose scholarship transcends sectarian boundaries. Those of us who already have his previous work will know his dedication to the Scriptures. I will focus this reviews on two areas. I will briefly review the book itself and then focus on its value on the Accordance platform.
A New Testament Biblical Theology is just that. Beale, a “biblical theologian” focuses on a canonical approach to Scripture, thus setting the New Testament as a fulfillment of the Old Testament. Unlike many, Beale does not data mine the Old Testament for preconceived presuppositions about the validity of Jesus but rather sees the Old Testament as part of the continuing story of how God works to bring about the New Creation, which happens in the New Testament. Indeed, Beale sees a stronger unity between the two portions of Scripture than our words “Old” and “New” should allow. Here, he stands with the great theologians of the past and against those who suppose Christians need only the New Testament…only the Gospels…only the words in red.
The book is divided into 10 parts, with 28 chapters between them. He begins by setting the course for biblical theology, moving into what it means to have a “already but not yet” eschatological view, arriving then to begin to tackle the tough topics of sin, salvation, and the new life in the Spirit. His final parts deal with the Church, the Church and Israel, and the individual within the corporate body of the Church. Throughout the entire book, the unity of the Text shines forth without issues plaguing most biblical theologies. There is no forceful fitting of problem texts, only a great code of interconnected circles that would make Frye proud. It will be tough for some — mainliners in particular — given the heavy use of Scripture and the high view of it; however, Christians should take note of Beale’s work and seek to use it.
I want to, only because it seems to be the only topic covered in most churches these days, examine Beale’s chapter 26, “Christian Living as the Beginning of Transformed New-Creational Life: The Role of the Law and Marriage.” Beale begins by dismantling the “tripartite classification of the law” (i.e., ceremonial, civil, and moral) as authentic to the Law itself. Rather, as he allows, it is helpful (“generally”) but not something inherent in the Text itself. He then tackles the notion of how the Law transferred to the Church, explaining the three philosophical viewpoints. In his view, only those aspects of the Law not fulfilled in Christ (i.e., the ceremonial) carried over, meaning that the moral codes are still intact. This is not surprising given Beale’s connection to the Westminster Confession (something he cites numerous times throughout the work). This is important as he uses this (based on biblical theology) to argue for marriage as defined by the Law, i.e., man and woman — although Beale does not broach the topic of SSM but argues for a view of marriage based on the moral codes. This doesn’t mean that marriage is not transformed, only that it is not made something completely separated from the Law — it is transformed by taking on new aspects.
It is true that marriage is for the purposes of fulfillment in love (physically, spiritually, and emotionally), for propagation, and for sanctification. When problems arise in the marriage relationship, husbands and wives need to remember that there is an ultimate redemptive-historical purpose for marriage that transcends their own human relationship.
This view of “sanctification” as an act of marriage, I believe, is important in understanding the monogamy of marriage. This, of course, is not the place to discuss this. Let me simply point out that Beale, while being Reformed, can be approached by Wesleyans and others who have a sound understanding of sanctification.
In total, Beale is a biblical theologian in every sense possible. While many will disagree with him, his thought process is consistent and based squarely in the Reformation principles of biblical exegesis.
Having A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New on Accordance creates an interconnected environment. Not only are the verses and passages hyperlinked (which, unless you have Scripture memorized, you will need so that you aren’t wasting time looking them up), but throughout the book you will find hyperlinks to various outside works and (something that helps me) hyperlinks between abbreviations and what they stand for. This is something lacking on other electronic editions. Also, without hours wasted on indexing, upon installation I am able to immediately search the book for various words — English, Greek, Hebrew, and transliterated words (among other search features).
I have included several pictures (and comments) from my MacBook Pro version:
As you can see, the Accordance platform offers you a way to use the book easily and as part of your overall library. You can make notes as well as copy and paste selections (with citation) to aid in your research. Rather than reading the book, you get to explore it, test it, and employ it with just a few mouse clicks.
There is a certain nostalgia for the printed book, but when I need to use a book — for research, for study, for help — I turn to electronic editions. What is helpful is when I can use a software platform without the downtime of installing, indexing, and then finding the best way to search it. I have that with Accordance. The fact that I have one of the best books on biblical theology, only adds to my satisfaction levels.
Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New is a masterpiece of biblical theology, folding in the historic confessions, sound evangelical scholarship, and a rich tradition of Reformed theology. I can read it, use it, and use it in my studies with Accordance.