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.

Acts 5:12 – Solomon’s Portico

In Acts 3:11 and 5:13 Luke reports Peter regularly taught at Solomon’s Portico. The word στοά (stoa) is often translated “colonnade,” columned- porch, usually enclosed on one side covered with a roof. According to Josephus, Solomon’s Portico was a double-columned porch on the east side of the Temple near the court of the Gentiles. It was about 23 feet wide (15 cubits) and the columns were about 40 feet tall (25 cubits). Josephus claimed they were white marble with cedar-panels for a ceiling (Antiq. 15.11.3-5, §391-420; JW 5.5.1 §184-185). Josephus may have exaggerated on the marble; Ehud Netzer suggests they were stucco over stone drums, based on columns found at Masada (Netzer, 165). In either case the Portico would have been impressive, although not as monumental as the Royal Colonnade at the southern end of the Temple Mount.

Solomon's Porch, Solomon's Portico

Most Greek temples had porches to provide shelter for people gathering to worship. Keener points out a portico would one way a city could display wealth, although often they were built through the generosity of a benefactor’s gift (1:1074). In this case, Herod the Great likely rebuilt an existing colonnade from the Hasmonean temple. People assumed the area had been a part of Solomon’s original temple, as the name indicates. But nothing of Solomon’s Temple survived the destruction of the city in 586 B.C., just as nothing remains of Solomon’s Portico today.

The Herodians spent a great deal of money on the Temple courts in order to demonstrate their wealth and power. Since Jerusalem had only one God, all funds could be spent improving the buildings around the Temple. Solomon’s Portico was therefore a beautiful public area for Jewish people to gather in sight of the Temple.

Why did Peter and the other disciples return to this location? On the one hand, it is a likely location for teachers to gather with their disciples to discuss the Scripture.  According to John 10:23 Jesus taught his disciples there, so Peter and the disciples are continuing the practice of Jesus by gathering on the Temple Mount. Perhaps that is the reason Jesus went there – it was simply a great place to find religiously inclined people!

Bibliography. Netzer, Ehud. Herod the Builder (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker 2006); Smith, Robert W. “Solomon’s Portico (Place),” ABD 6:113.

Why Does John Measure the Temple in Revelation 11:1-2?

In the first two verses of Revelation 11 John is commanded to measure the Temple of God, the altar and the people who worship there. This may seem unrelated to the rest of the chapter, but these verses serve as a transition between chapter 10 and 11. John ate a scroll representing the word of God at the end of chapter 10. This scroll is sweet but turns bitter in his mouth, a clear allusion to the call of the prophet Ezekiel at the beginning of his book (Ezek 1-3).

The end of book of Ezekiel is similar to Revelation 11:1-2. In Ezekiel 40 the prophet is taken to a high mountain from which he can observe events in Jerusalem. He meets an angel (a man with the appearance of bronze) with a measuring rod in his hands. The following chapters describe Ezekiel measuring the city and the temple area. After the measuring is complete, the glory of the Lord returns to the temple.

It is not coincidental both of these interludes between the sixth and seventh trumpet are related to Ezekiel, the first from the beginning of his ministry and the second at the conclusion. Ezekiel’s ministry was to describe the departure of the glory of the Lord from the temple at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B. C. and its return at the time of the establishment of the kingdom. Perhaps the patterning of these two sections after Ezekiel is to highlight the return of the glory of the Lord at the end of Revelation.

What does the act of measuring the Temple mean? There are parallels in the Old Testament implying both preservation (Zechariah 2:1-5) and destruction (Amos 7:7-9). In the context of Revelation 11:1-2, it appears the image describes preservation, since the outer court is not measured and is overrun by the Gentiles for 42 months. The Temple, the holy place, and the worshipers are all measured. It might sound odd to measure the worshipers, but the word (μετρέω) can mean measure, count, or mete out. David Aune suggests this is an example of the figure of speech known as zeugma, one verb with two direct objects, only one of which fits the verb.

Prior to A.D. 70, many Jews believed the temple area of Jerusalem would never fall to an enemy. During the Jewish War, zealots retreated into the Temple thinking they would be preserved because they were in the temple. Instead, 6000 died when the Romans destroyed the temple. Second Baruch 6:3-9 records a legend that an angel took all of the temple objects just before the fall of the city and buried them until the end times.

Second Baruch 6:3-9 And behold, suddenly a strong spirit lifted me and carried me above the wall of Jerusalem. 4 And I saw, and behold, there were standing four angels at the four corners of the city, each of them with a burning torch in his hands. 5 And another angel came down from heaven and said to them, “Hold your torches and do not light them before I say it to you. 6 Because I was sent first to speak a word to the earth and then to deposit in it what the Lord, the Most High, has commanded me.” 7And I saw that he descended in the Holy of Holies and that he took from there the veil, the holy ephod, the mercy seat, the two tables, the holy raiment of the priests, the altar of incense, the forty-eight precious stones with which the priests were clothed, and all the holy vessels of the tabernacle. 8And he said to the earth with a loud voice: Earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the mighty God, and receive the things which I commit to you, and guard them until the last times, so that you may restore them when you are ordered, so that strangers may not get possession of them. 9For the time has arrived when Jerusalem will also be delivered up for a time, until the moment that it will be said that it will be restored forever. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up. (OTP 1:622–623)

Why 42 months? This is the thrice repeated number that is associated with the time of the tribulation. 42 months of 30 days each = 1260 days, and 42 months are exactly 3 and a half years (a time, times and half a time.) That the Gentiles are allowed to overrun the outer court for 42 months is an indication Jerusalem will not be a city of peace.


Core Beliefs of Second Temple Judaism: Gentiles and the Temple

The prohibition of Gentiles in the main court of the temple during the first century is well known. Paul refers to a “dividing wall” of hostility between Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians 2:15, probably an allusion to the warning to Gentiles in the Temple courts that crossing into the Court of the Men would result in their death. Paul is accused of breaking this Law by sneaking a Gentile into the Temple courts (a false charge, but it nearly cost Paul his life).

Inscription from the Second Temple warning Gentiles from entering any closer to the Temple (Istanbul Museum)

But in the Torah a Gentile was permitted to bring a sacrifice in the same way any Israelite does, presumably right to the altar of the Tabernacle (Num 15:14-16).

By the third century B.C., however, Jews began to prohibit Gentiles from entering the Temple enclosure.  Antiochus III made a decree to this effect (Antiq. 12.145f) and even Herod the Great respected this when he was rebuilding the temple.  Priests were trained in masonry so that they could work on the sacred areas rather than the Gentile masons Herod used elsewhere (Antiq. 15.390).

What was the basis of the exclusion of Gentiles? The practice of exclusion seems linked to the results of the Maccabean Revolt.  After so much effort was expending in driving the Gentiles out of the Temple and re-dedicating it to the Lord, it would seem impure to allow any Gentile back into the holy places of the temple courts.  In 1 Maccabees 14:29-36 Simon Maccabees was praised for purifying the temple from Gentile impurity.

1 Mac 14:36–37 In his days things prospered in his hands, so that the Gentiles were put out of the country, as were also those in the city of David in Jerusalem, who had built themselves a citadel from which they used to sally forth and defile the environs of the sanctuary, doing great damage to its purity. 37 He settled Jews in it and fortified it for the safety of the country and of the city, and built the walls of Jerusalem higher.

One factor bearing on this issue is the long standing Jewish belief that purity laws did not apply to Gentiles even when they lived in Israelite territory. The “sojourner laws” in Deut 5:14 define these Gentiles as resident aliens and require only a few general commands for them while they are living within the nation of Israel.

Did Jews of the first century consider Gentiles impure and therefore exclude them from the inner courts of the temple? There are several Second Temple texts which indicate eating with Gentiles was a serious problem for some (many? most?) Jews.  Joseph and Asenath 7:1, “Joseph never ate with the Egyptians, for this was an abomination to him”

Jubilees 22:16  And you also, my son, Jacob, remember my words, and keep the commandments of Abraham, your father. Separate yourself from the Gentiles, and do not eat with them, and do not perform deeds like theirs. And do not become associates of theirs. Because their deeds are defiled, and all their ways are contaminated, and despicable, and abominable.

Tobit 1:10–12 (NRSV) After I was carried away captive to Assyria and came as a captive to Nineveh, everyone of my kindred and my people ate the food of the Gentiles, 11 but I kept myself from eating the food of the Gentiles. 12 Because I was mindful of God with all my heart,

Judith 12:1–2 (NRSV) Then he commanded them to bring her in where his silver dinnerware was kept, and ordered them to set a table for her with some of his own delicacies, and with some of his own wine to drink. 2 But Judith said, “I cannot partake of them, or it will be an offense; but I will have enough with the things I brought with me.”

Although Gentile exclusion was not a “core belief” of Judaism in the Second Temple period, it is clear that by the first century Judaism was not a particularly open religion nor were Gentiles welcome to participate fully in worship of the God of Israel.



Bibliography: Joseph Hellerman, “Purity and Nationalism in Second Temple Literature: 1-2 Maccabees and Jubilees” JETS 46 (2003): 401-422.

Core Beliefs of Second Temple Judaism: Temple

While the synagogue was a place for prayer and study of scripture, the Temple was a place for sacrifice. Just as sacrifice of animals is always a part of religion in the ancient world, it played an important part of the practice of religion in Jerusalem.

Judaism differed from other pagan religious ceremonies in some very important ways.  For example, unlike Greco-Roman religions, there is only one place in the world where and acceptable sacrifice can be made, the Temple at Jerusalem. This was not always the case for the Jews, even as late as the reign of Hezekiah in the 8th century B.C. there were still local shrines where sacrifices to the Lord were made.  Hezekiah attempts to reform this system with limited success. In the post-exilic period there are several examples of competing temples in Egypt (at Elephantine and Leontopolis).

Jewish sacrifices were more expensive than Greco-Roman sacrifices primarily because there was a class of priests who needed to be supported by the populace. There was no professional priesthood in Greece or Rome, anyone could function as a priest (Alexander the Great and the Caesars, for example, were priests). Priests in Israel were hereditary and were prohibited from working to support themselves outside of their role as priest.  See this previous post on the wealth of the Temple.

The Temple was central to the life of the “common Jew.”  As N. T. Wright puts it, “At the heart of Jewish national life, for better or worse, stood the Temple” (N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 224).  The impression one gets from reading the more extreme views of the Essenes or Jesus’ sharp critique in the New Testament is that the Temple was viewed negatively in the first century. Despite politically ambitious High Priests and possible corruption in the first century, most Jews supported the Temple through offerings willingly given.  Diaspora Jews even supported the Temple through the half-shekel “Temple Tax,” a practice the Romans required to be continued after the revolts, although the money was diverted to Rome (War 7.218; Dio Cassius, 66.7).

Sanders warns us it is possible to have too positive of a view of the Temple based on Josephus (a priest), Philo (a pilgrim, in this case) and other early writers (Judaism, 54). There were wealthy, powerful priests and others who lived in poverty.  The critiques of the Temple by the Essenes and the Gospels may therefore be taken as a corrective to the positive material in the Jewish sources.

Yet in the New Testament the Temple is impressive to the Disciples (Matt 24:1-2) even if the current leadership is under God’s judgment and about to be replaced (Mark 12:1-12). It is still the main place for the apostolic preaching in Acts 2 and 3, although by Acts 7 Stephen is accused of attacking the Temple. Both Paul (Eph 2:19-22) and Peter (1 Peter 2:4-5) refer to believers as stones in a living Temple.