G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim, God Dwells Among Us: A Biblical Theology of the Temple

Beale, G. K. and Mitchell Kim. God Dwells Among Us: A Biblical Theology of the Temple. ESBT. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2022. xv+176 pp. Pb. $24.00   Link to IVP Academic  

This new volume in IVP Academic’s Essential Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by Benjamin Gladd summarizes Beale’s NSBT volume, The Temple and the Church’s Mission (IVP Academic, 2004). Kim distills the substance and basic thesis of The Temple and the Church’s Mission. What is missing in the new volume? The original book covered the whole canon, with additional material from ancient Near Eastern temple imagery and Second Temple literature. In keeping with the goals of this series, the book limits the extensive argumentation found the previous volume, although footnotes often point to relevant pages in The Temple and the Church’s Mission.

Beale and Kim, Biblical Theology Mitchell Kim (PhD, Wheaton College) is senior pastor of Wellspring Alliance Church in the Chicago suburbs. He developed a seven-week sermon series based on the original book, which he then turned into seminars given at various conferences. The result is a more pastoral book, as is befitting the tone ESBT series.

The bulk of this book traces Beale’s original argument that the Garden of Eden was a temple. God commissioned Adam as a priest to expand that temple to fill the entire world. Sin disrupted this commission, resulting in Adam’s exile from the garden. This is the typological template for the rest of the Bible. For example, “the Tabernacle is Eden remixed” (p. 38) and the temple extends the Tabernacle. The Holy of Holies represents the presence of God, the Holy Place represents the visible heavens and the presence of God with his people, and the outer court represents the presence of God in the midst of an impure people. Beale and Kim draw parallels between the creation of the world and the construction of the sanctuary (p. 41). Like Adam, Israel failed in their role and went into exile. The prophets described the return from exile as a quote “restoration of Eden” (p. 52), citing Isaiah 51 for example.

The ultimate restoration of the temple is in the person and work of Jesus Christ in the gospels. Beginning with John 2:13-17, Beale and Kim argue Jesus saw himself as a replacement for the temple which would be destroyed (crucifixion) and rebuilt (resurrection). Jesus uses temple language drawn from Psalm 118: 22- 23: Jesus is the Temple cornerstone. Beale and Kim see the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) as creation/temple imagery as well. They draw attention to parallels in Daniel 7:13-14: the Ancient of Days gives his authority to the son of man to rule all people, nations, and languages and his kingdom will never be destroyed.

The life of the church embodies the theme of Jesus as temple. “The church is the true temple of God” (p. 84). Beale and Kim point out there are many passages in the New Testament that describe the church as a temple (although one could point to another set of texts which describe the church as a body). For Beale and Kim, these passages show how the Old Testament prophecies of a restored temple begin to be fulfilled in the church. “The temple is not simply a metaphor for the church, but the church commenced as an actual temple at Pentecost (Acts 2)” (p. 85). But they are careful to point out that Old Testament prophecies of a future temple are fulfilled in the church. Christians are the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy of an end time temple. They argue Ezekiel 37:26-27 does not prophesy a literal architectural temple in the future, but the end time presence of God with his people. Pentecost is the inauguration of a rebuilt temple in the church which anticipates the building of a final spiritual temple at the end of the age as a fulfillment of Old Testament temple prophecies. “Since the eschatological temple has been inaugurated, we should not look forward to a return of an imperfect stage of the physical temple’s existence” (141). Beale and Kim understand Old Testament prophecies of an apparently future architectural temple in terms of predictions of a non-architectural structure.

For some readers, this sounds like allegorizing Old Testament prophecy. However, Beale and Kim state: “this approach does not employ allegorical methods of interpretation or uncontrolled reading of symbols” (143). The control is the temple metaphor from Genesis. This temple imagery read typologically throughout the canon of scripture. But this is the issue: where does legitimate biblical typology end and “controlled allegorizing” begin? What if Genesis 1-3 does not present Eden as a Temple or Adam as a commissioned priest? Daniel Block has recently questioned the popular view that the author of Genesis intentionally used temple imagery for the Garden of Eden (Covenant, Baker Academic 2021, pp. 27-28). Certainly, the tabernacle and temple used creation imagery, but did the author of Genesis use temple imagery? For Block, the cosmos is a royal world (kingdom?) and God deputized Adam as an administrator to govern God’s royal creation. Block (and many others) uses covenant as a way of unifying the canon rather than temple imagery.

Beale and Kim add two chapters after the presentation of the main thesis. A big question some readers will have is: “why haven’t I seen this before?” First, temple cosmology is not modern cosmology. Modern thinkers are unaware of ancient Near Eastern temple symbolism. The second reason is a lack of attention to biblical unity. Many Bible readers focus on individual stories in the Old and New Testaments, but not on the overarching biblical narrative. Perhaps. But the market is flooded with “Drama of Scripture” type books and dispensationalism has been doing this kind of narrative theology at a popular level for a century. Third, there is a general lack of attention to typology in history when studying the canon of scripture. For Beale and Kim, the death and resurrection of Christ fulfills all the Old Testament temple prophecies. A judicious use of typology “brings greater awareness of the rich interconnectedness of scripture” (140).

The final chapter of the book offers a few concluding practical reflections on how the “church as temple” metaphor plays out in church life. Beginning with Romans 12:1, believers are called to be living sacrifices. Like ideal temple worship from the Old Testament, Christian mission should draw on the power of God’s word and the power of prayer.

Conclusion. God Dwells Among Us succeeds as a popular presentation of Greg Beale’s more detailed The Temple and the Church’s Mission. For readers familiar with the earlier work, there is not much new here, but many will find this an engaging introduction to typology and temple imagery as a unifying biblical theme.

 

Other reviewed commentaries in Essentials of Biblical Theology series:

NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Benjamin L. Gladd, From Adam and Israel to the Church: A Biblical Theology of the People of God

Gladd, Benjamin L. From Adam and Israel to the Church: A Biblical Theology of the People of God. ESBT 1; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2019. 182pp. Pb; $22.  Link to IVP Academic

In the introduction to this first volume of the Essential Studies in Biblical Theology, series editor Benjamin Gladd explains the need for a new series of books on Biblical Theology. The ESBT series is dedicated to the essential broad themes of the grand storyline of the Bible. The goal of the series is to explore the central biblical-theological themes of the Bible. The series is intentionally limited to ten volumes supporting and interlocking with one another to form a cohesive unit.

Gladd, From Adam to IsraelIn this inaugural volume of the series, Gladd presents a biblical theology of the people of God within the theological framework of covenant theology. Throughout the book he emphasizes a single covenant community from Genesis to Revelation. This is in contrast to dispensationalism, which makes a distinction between the church and ethnic Israel. For Gladd, there is one people of God throughout Scripture, beginning with Adam and Eve and continuing through the new creation.

The first two chapters of this volume examine creation and fall. Following Greg Beale, Gladd argues Eden was like a cosmic temple and God gave Adam and Eve specific roles when he created and commissioned them. God commissioned Adam and Eve to serve as kings, having dominion over creation and extending God’s rule beyond the garden. Second, God called Adam and Eve to serve as priests, caring for the garden. Third, they were commissioned as prophets, communicating God’s word to their children.

Adam and Eve failed in these roles and destroyed their commission when they rebelled against God in the fall. As kings, Adam and Eve ought to have guarded the garden and subdued the serpent; as priests Adam and Even ought to have rid the sanctuary of the defilement of the serpent;  as prophets, they ought to have meditated on God’s word and answered the serpent’s words with God’s word (p. 23-24). As a result, God exiles Adam and Eve from the garden. The rest of Scripture is the story of God restoring the image of God destroyed in the fall. Gladd contrasts the ungodly line of Cain with the godly line of Seth to show the restored image of God will continue (although he does not notice the flood destroyed both lines).

The scenario Gladd describes is compelling, but it is not clear that it is grounded in what the text actually says. I am quite attracted to Beale’s suggestion that Genesis presents the Garden of Eden as a sanctuary and there are clear connections between Eden and the Tabernacle and Temple. In fact, Adam as a priest in the cosmic garden-temple is not a problem, even if it is not explicit in Genesis 2-3. However, I am not convinced Adam and Eve functioned as kings or prophets in Eden. I know Gladd is building a typology from Adam, to Israel and ultimately to Jesus and the church, but it seems to me that he started at the end (Jesus is prophet, priest and king) and read that typology back into Genesis. This is how typology often works.

The next two chapters argue God intended Israel to be a new Adam. Like Adam, Israel was to rule as kings and to function as priests and prophets. He develops a typology between Eden and Sinai and shows the Tabernacle was intentionally designed to reflect Eden. Israel is to rule the land promised to Abraham on God’s behalf. Exodus 19:5-6 describes Israel as a kingdom of priests, created to be holy and set apart from the nations so that God could dwell in their midst. This explains why Israel was to expel the Canaanites from the land; like the serpent in Eden, they must purge all forms of spiritual uncleanliness from the new Eden of the Promised Land (p. 43). As prophets, Israel ought to have confronted the idolatry of the nations, communicating the first two of the ten commandments.

However, Israel also experienced a fall, resulting in their exile from the land. The people cannot maintain the holiness demanded by the Law and worship the gods of the nations. For Gladd, “Israel” does not refer to ethnic Israel even in the Old Testament. It is only the righteous remnant that is “real Israel.”  Gladd says, “The remnant within the nation relates to the covenant community spiritually and participates in the covenant of grace (Gen 3:15)” (p. 54, emphasis original). Gladd cites Romans 9:6 here, “not all who are descended form Israel belong to Israel.”

Yet the prophets of the Old Testament looked forward to a restoration of Israel to their former place in the “latter days” (ch. 4). The nature of this restoration is where Gladd intentionally draws a contrast with dispensationalism. Although he is not wrong, Gladd cites the success of the dispensational Left Behind series as the cause of much confusion about Israel’s future. He tracks many of the same Scripture dispensationalists use but concludes these prophecies do not refer to a future restoration of ethnic Israel. Commenting on Romans 9-11, Gladd states “the Old Testament, as far as I can tell, never talks about the restoration of the theocratic nation of Israel” (p. 128, emphasis original). It is possible to argue many in the Second Temple period expected a restoration of a Davidic king and a re-gathering of the exiles to the land. For Gladd, the restoration of Israel in prophetic texts refers to Jesus as the true king, priest and prophet. Where Adam and Israel failed in these divinely appointed roles, Jesus will succeed.

Gladd argues in the next three chapters Jesus fulfills Israel’s destiny as the king, the priest, and the prophet. The Gospels present Jesus as the king, especially the Gospel of Mark. Gladd conflates king, messiah, and the divinity of Jesus in this section. Jesus is not a conquering Davidic king but rather the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 or the cut-off anointed one of Daniel 9. Jesus rules as the firstborn of creation (Col 1:15), connecting the rule of Jesus to Adam, the firstborn of creation.

Jesus as a priest is more difficult to demonstrate from the Gospels, so Gladd touches on the Temple “cleansing” and argues Jesus’s sacrifice is better than the Old Testament as he functions as the faithful high priest. For Gladd, Jesus ushers in a new age and God’s presence is among his people, so there is no need for a physical temple. Jesus is the true temple. The temple at the time of Jesus had become a place of rampant, so Jesus fulfills Old Testament expectation that God would do well with humanity and act as a faithful priest by purging evil from the temple. This chapter is not as dependent as the book of Hebrews as expected because Gladd’s focus is on Jesus as the end times temple. As Adam and Eve’s commission was to increase the number and fill the earth, so too does Jesus commission his disciples to fill the earth by going to the nations with the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20).

The chapter on Jesus as a prophet focuses on his conflict with the devil (overcoming the devil through God’s word) and “passing on the divine image” (1 Cor 15:42-53). 1 Corinthians 15 (or Romans 5:21-21) explicitly connects Adam and Christ; where Adam failed, Christ succeeded. Adam’s body died because of sin; Christ’s body was raised to incorruptible flesh. Just as Adam passed the image of God on to Seth, Christ will pass the image of God on to believers at the resurrection.

As representatives of Jesus Christ in the world, the Church now functions in some like Jesus. Here Gladd extends his Christological typology to ecclesiology by arguing the church functions as kings, priests and prophets. He makes a distinction between divine authority represented by Jesus as Messiah and the apostolic community, and the general authority held by pastors, teachers, elders, deacons and every believer. The church does not have the same “divine authority” as the apostolic community because it is under the authority of Scripture. The church therefore functions like kings or priests or prophets, but not exactly like Jesus as Messiah or the apostolic (messianic) circle.

Gladd briefly touches on Romans 9-11 in his chapter on the church ruling as kings. He states this complex debate is outside of the scope of this book, but it seems to me to be more important enough to merit more than a single page. After all, if Paul thought Israel would be restored, then Gladd’s understanding of the prophecy is flawed. Gladd says he is not convinced the church has replaced Israel, nor does he think dispensationalists are correct when they argue God will keep his Old Testament promises to restore the nation of Israel physically by bringing them back to the Promised Land. Instead, he argues true Israel is composed of a remnant of Christian Gentiles and a remnant of Christian Jews (p. 129).

Finally, Gladd looks to the end of the canon by arguing the Church’s function in the New Creation. He argues the Book of Revelation presents the new creation as God’s temple, a restoration of the Edenic Temple. It is therefore not no surprise that God’s people will be priests in the new temple and function as kings in the new creation. It is certainly much more difficult to see how believers will function as a prophet in the new creation, but he suggests individuals will recall the redemptive acts of God in worship.

Conclusion. Gladd’s From Adam and Israel to the Church does indeed tell the story of the unified people of God from the Garden to the New Creation. It reflects classic Covenant Theology with its focus on a single people of God while avoiding replacement theology or an over-emphasis on covenants to unify Scripture. By using the Christological typology of king, priest and prophet, Gladd is able to unify pre-fall Eden, Israel and the Church around the work of Christ.

Other reviewed commentaries in Essentials of Biblical Theology series:

NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Walter T. Wilson, Ancient Wisdom: An Introduction to Sayings Collections

Wilson, Walter T. Ancient Wisdom: An Introduction to Sayings Collections. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2022. 321 pp. Hb; $34.99.  Link to Eerdmans

Walter Wilson is Charles Howard Candler Professor of New Testament at Emory. He previously contributed several works on gnomic (wisdom) literature, including The Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides (deGruyter, 2005), Philo of Alexandria: On Virtues (Brill, 2010), and The Sentences of Sextus (SBL, 2012; link to 54-page sample). Ancient Wisdom introduces readers to twenty-seven ancient wisdom collections from ancient Near Eastern, Jewish, Greco-Roman, Christian sources. Although students in Old Testament Wisdom courses often sample other ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature (usually Egyptian collections such as Sayings of Amenemope), few are exposed to post-biblical Jewish and Greek collections. Wilson’s book fills that gap.

Wilson Ancient WisdomAncient cultures created short sayings, maxims, and proverbs. This gnomic literature contains crafted sayings making observations about life, human experience, or present a moral stance. By way of definition, proverbs are anonymous traditions, while maxims are the product of a single author. Maxims intend to educate the reader, in contrast to epigrams (short, witty poems) which should amuse the reader. A chreia is a short self-contained narrative, usually with a climactic which maybe maxim-like.

In the introduction to the book, Wilson discusses and illustrates the various forms of wisdom literature. Often, this literature addresses the reader by an admonition. The same can be positive or negative (“do this” or “don’t do that”). Sometimes gnomic literature is simply a classification such as “silence is good.” In a section entitled “Constructions and Contexts” Wilson introduces three types of collections. First, gnomologia refers to a collection with relatively little formal or thematic organization, such as the biblical book of Proverbs or the Mishnah tractate ‘aboth. Second, Gnomic poetry (a sub-category of didactic poetry) survives only in fragments such as Pseudo-Phocylides (see also Pseudo-Phocylides on Justice and Hard Work). Third, Wisdom Instruction refers to collections topically organized (the Egyptian Sayings of Amenemope). Sometimes this category is organized as speeches or testimonials (as in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes).

It would be difficult to summarize a general theology of wisdom literature across such a broad spectrum of cultures and eras, nevertheless Wilson includes several reoccurring themes. For example, most of this literature deals with social relationships, obligations to parents, and harmony in marriage. Remarkably, this literature often includes instruction on wealth management. Wisdom literature teaches a balance between frugality and generosity, avoiding both greed and unjust gain, and even helping the poor. This literature often includes statements on how people in different social groups should interact, such as “don’t envy the rich” or “treat your superiors properly.” Frequently, this literature deals with restraining anger and controlling one’s emotions. There are several examples of proper behavior during a banquet when one might become drunk and speak out of turn. Recall Paul’s advice about lawsuits in 1 Corinthians 6 which may have been fueled by drunken behavior at a banquet.

Each chapter is brief, providing a basic summary of the author, dates, and origin of the book. What follows summarizes the contents of the collection and literary observations.Wilson provides several examples of sayings from the collection. Each chapter concludes with a bibliography so interested readers can find modern translations of the complete collection. Chapters are arranged alphabetically rather than chronologically or by culture. Some of the collections should be familiar to biblically oriented readers, such as the canonical book of proverbs, or Wisdom of Ben Sira, which appears only in the Apocrypha. Wisdom of Solomon is not included although thi sis a important wisdom-like text from the Second Temple period.  Others are more obscure such as Ankhsheshonqy, an Egyptian papyrus dated to the first century B.C. or the Sayings of Ahiqar, a Jewish court tale which dates at least to the fifth century B.C. The oldest gnomic literature in this collection is the Sayings of Shuruppak, a Mesopotamian document which appears on tablets from the twenty-fifth century B.C. Wilson includes chapters on the Greek rhetorician Isocrates (d. 338 B.C.), the Greek dramatist Menander (d. 291) and the Stoic Epictetus (d. 135). The only distinctly Christian collection is the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, which seems to draw on both Jewish and Greek proverbial material.

Conclusion. Wilson’s Ancient Wisdom is an excellent introduction to non-biblical wisdom literature found in the ancient world. Each chapter provides sufficient background material to place the wisdom collection into a historical context and examples to illustrate the interests of the author. I think grouping the chapters into units (ancient Near East, Jewish, Greco-Roman, Christian) would improve the book, but the alphabetical arrangement does not diminish the value of the book. Although Wilson writes for a popular audience, the book includes detailed footnotes, and each chapter concludes with a bibliography, pointing interested readers to more detailed studies.

Minor question: at least twice in the introduction Wilson refers to “twenty-nine texts” (18). There are only twenty-seven and there do not appear to be chapters covering two collections. Were two chapters dropped after the introduction was written? Perhaps the Wisdom of Solomon?

 

NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

Herbert Bateman and William Varner, James: An Exegetical Guide

Bateman IV, Herbert W. and William C. Varner. James: An Exegetical Guide for Preaching and Teaching. Big Idea Greek Series. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2022. 317 pp. Hb; $33.99. Link to Kregel Academic.

This new entry in Kregel Academic’s Big Greek Idea Series joins volumes on Ephesians, Philippians, and John’s Letters. The series is designed as an exegetical guide for busy pastors, overloaded professors, and students with demanding Greek professors.  Bateman is well-known for other exegetical guides and his Jude commentary in the Evangelical Exegetical series (Lexham, 2015). William Varner is a professor of biblical studies and Greek and the Master’s Seminary and has previously published two books on the Greek text of James.

James Big Greek IdeaThe book begins with a thirty-two-page introduction explaining what the authors mean by a causal outline. Although this is like Bill Mounce’s “phrasing,” Guthrie and Duvall’s “grammatical diagram” there are significant differences. Bateman and Varner focus on visualizing subordinate and coordinate clauses to explain syntactical relationships, parallelisms and other grammatical emphases in the letter.

The introduction includes a discussion of James’ style and vocabulary. They observe James has a more literary style than other books in the New Testament. Since they accept the traditional view that James is Jesus’s brother, the literary style implies the use of amanuensis. There are several interesting rhetorical features in James, including various kinds of wordplay. The most important element of style is the hortatory character of the letter. James heavily uses imperatives; there are nearly sixty commands and only 109 verses. There is a chart on page 46 comparing this use of imperatives to all other books in the New Testament. The introduction includes A three-page chart of all fifty-three hapax legomena in James (words used only once in the New Testament), including the lexical form, a gloss, and the page number in BDAG.

Bateman and Varner break James into eight sections. Each unit begins with a quote big Greek idea” which ironically is in English. They provide a structural overview for the section and an outline breaking the section into sub-units. The commentary then progresses through each of these subunits, focusing on the syntax and semantics of the Greek text. Since Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, is a popular seminary textbook, they use his semantic categories using in-text citations.

Scattered throughout the commentary are several sidebars, entitled “Nuggets.” There are several major categories: grammatical, syntactical, semantical, lexical, feel logical, and text-critical. These categories are often combined. For example, a Grammatical Nugget appears in James 3:11, “what is the significance of the particle μήτι?” sometimes the semantic and lexical categories overlap, many in both categories have to do with the proper translation of a particular word, such as the meaning of δοῦλος in James 1:1. Theological Nuggets deal with issues such as “What is meant by ‘save our souls’?” in James 1:21. But the focus of a Theological Nugget is still the Greet texts, such as “What is the message conveyed through the infinitive clause” in James 4:2? The answer is based on the syntax and semantics of the Greek text.

There are a few less-common categories: structural, interpretive issues, figures of speech, historical, literary, quotation, and background. For example, in the context of James 5:12, “Did James every quote Jesus?” Answer: there are eight firm allusions to Jesus in James.

Conclusion. James: An Exegetical Guide for Preaching and Teaching will be useful for a pastor who is supplementing reading in a commentary on James (an over-worked seminary student doing Greek homework). Since this is the goal of the volume, do not expect a full commentary. This is an exegetical guide and does not have additional preaching and teaching helps found in Kregel’s Kerux series, for example. Few pastors have the time to read their text in the Greek Bible to prepare for a sermon, so an exegetical guide like this book will help them with some of the more difficult aspects of James’s Greek.

 

NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

 

 

 

 

Tremper Longman, Revelation through Old Testament Eyes

Longman, III, Tremper. Revelation through Old Testament Eyes. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Academic, 2022. 351 pp. Pb. $29.99   Link to Kregel Academic  

This new volume in Kregel’s Through Old Testament Eyes is the first written by an Old Testament scholar. Longman is well-known in Old Testament circles for his excellent commentaries on wisdom literature. He wrote the NIVAC commentary on Daniel (Zondervan, 1999) and How to Read Daniel (IVP Academic, 2020). This new commentary on Revelation in Kregel’s “Through Old Testament Eyes” is a basic commentary on the English text, with a special emphasis on using the Old Testament to illuminate aspects a New Testament book.

Longman - Revelation Through Old Testament EyesIn the brief introduction to the Book of Revelation, he suggests the principal theme of the book is that, despite present trouble, God is in control, and he will have the final victory. He suggests that the wedding of political power and Christian faith does not lead to the strengthening of the church, but rather to its weakening. In fact, Revelation says “do not give up the faith or fall into lockstep with culture” (19).

Regarding authorship, date, and genre, Longman leans towards the traditional view that Revelation was written late in the first century, but he does not think there is enough evidence to decide which John wrote Revelation. But for Longman, authorship does not matter for interpreting the book. Unlike many commentaries on Revelation, the introduction has no interest in millennial positions or the usual discussion of preterist versus futurist interpretation. The driving concern throughout the commentary is “how is this text related to the Old Testament?” Or, “how does the Old Testament help understand this verse?”

Let me illustrate this with several examples. As might be expected, he suggests interpreters read Revelation in the light of the book of Daniel rather than Revelation into Daniel. Commenting on Revelation 11: 2-3, he asks if the 42 months are a literal time period. For Longman, Daniel 7-8 refers to a three-and-a-half-year period which was symbolic of the time when the sanctuary would be desecrated. Longman is, therefore, hesitant to take the time literally in Revelation. Rather than a three-and-a-half-year period, the message of Revelation 11 is that evil has a limit, the desecration of the temple will not last forever.

Some imagery in Revelation may allude to Greco-Roman culture rather than the Old Testament. Discussing God’s throne in Revelation 4, he draws attention to a series of Old Testament passages (1 Kings 22:14; Isa 6, Ezek 1:26). But following Ian Paul and David Aune, John models the throne room on the Roman Empire. In Revelation, only God who is deserving of worship, not the emperor or the empire.

The body of the commentary is based on the English text and rarely refers to the Greek text. Occasional references to secondary literature are cited in endnotes. The commentary is clear and concise. Longman avoids the parallelomania that often plagues Revelation commentaries. Rather than explain every detail of the text, Longman’s focus is squarely on Old Testament or ancient near eastern backgrounds. For example, commenting on the serpent in Revelation 12, he refers to the broader ancient Near Eastern background from Ugaritic literature. In the Baal myth, the sea represented the forces of chaos and evil which needed to be pacified for creation to happen. The Old Testament uses rivers and seas as symbols for chaos and evil, so it is no surprise the serpent spews water like a river.

There are several types of sidebars throughout the commentary. “What the Structure Mean?” appears at the beginning of a new unit, offering a summary and overview of the chapter. Many chapters include a “Through the Old Testament Eyes” sidebar. These focus on the Old Testament in more detail that the regular commentary. For example, commenting on Revelation 7:9, “every nation, tribe, people, and language,” Longman connects this to Abraham, to whom God promised “all people on earth would be blessed through him” (Gen 12:3). Longman points out the phrase “nation, tribe, people, and language” is not the same, but reminiscent of a phrase found in Genesis 10, the theological origins of various languages before the tower of Babel story in Genesis 11.

In the context of the seven bowls of God’s wrath in chapter 15, Longman suggests that the plagues on Egypt influenced these bowls of God’s wrath. He therefore surveys the plagues and compares them to Revelation 16. He concludes, “just as the Egyptian plagues overtook a recalcitrant leader, pharaoh, who represented a Kingdom that exploited God’s people, so the plagues described by Revelation come on those who resist God and persecute his people” (229). And like the Egyptian plagues, those who experience the wrath of God do not repent, but only further resist God.

Sidebars entitled “Going deeper” are an application based on the text. For example, commenting on wealth in Revelation 18, Longman suggests the seductive power of wealth is a common biblical theme. The Bible is not anti-money, but it is against the strong desire to accumulate wealth. Commenting on idolatry and adultery in Revelation 17, he connects the Whore of Babylon to the Old Testament, primarily Hosea, Ezekiel 16, 23, but also to Ephesians 5: 21-33 (the church as a pure, spotless bride). Commenting on the judgments in revelation 16, he makes a slight nod to Christian responsibility to care for the environment rather than a “let it all burn” attitude.

Because of the goals of this commentary series, there are several things missing one usually finds in Revelation commentaries. First, there is little interest in the Greco-Roman background for interpreting Revelation and nothing on the imperial cult in Asia Minor, either in his discussion of the seven churches or Revelation 13 and 17. Second, although theological comments appear throughout the book, this is not a theological commentary. Unlike John Thomas and Frank Macchia Two Horizons commentary (Eerdmans 2016), Longman does not include theological reflections on Revelation.

Conclusion. Longman achieves his goal in Revelation: Through Old Testament Eyes to shed light on Revelation based on the Old Testament. This commentary will serve pastors and teachers well as they study this difficult book of the New Testament.

 

Other volumes in this series:

NB: Thanks to Kregel Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.