G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014. 393 pp. $27.00.
The past few months have seen the release of several books co-authored by G. K. Beale, who needs no introduction – 1) An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek: Analysis of Prepositions, Adverbs, Particles, Relative Pronouns, and Conjunctions; 2) God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth; and 3) the volume presently under review, Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery. I want to read everything Beale writes, but out of these three I was most excited about Hidden But Now Revealed because of the presence of “biblical theology” in the title.
Co-written with Dr. Benjamin Gladd, who wrote his doctoral dissertation under Beale at Wheaton on the use of mystery in Daniel and Second Temple Judaism, Hidden But Now Revealed explores the biblical conception of mystery, a term found in conjunction with key doctrines such as eschatology, soteriology, relationship between Jew and Gentile, etc. in the New Testament. The authors’ goal for this book is that “the church would gain a greater appreciation for the concept of mystery and the intersection of the Old and New Testament. The gospel itself contains both ‘old’ and ‘new’ elements that stand in continuity and discontinuity with the Old Testament” (8). In this study, mystery is defined generally as “the revelation of God’s partially hidden wisdom, particularly as it concerns events occurring in the ‘latter days'” (20).
Hidden But Now Revealed begins with a look at the use of mystery in the book of Daniel, where “Revelation of a mystery can be defined roughly as God fully disclosing wisdom about end-time events that were mostly hitherto unknown” (43). The second chapter continues providing background into the New Testament’s use of mystery by analyzing the use of mystery in early Judaism, looking at a few key texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Targums. Like in the book of Daniel, mystery in Second Temple Judaism is eschatological and characterized by an initial hidden revelation followed by a fuller interpretation.
Having illumined the background of the use of mystery in the book of Daniel and early Judaism, Beale and Gladd devote the next eight chapters to an examination of every one of the twenty-eight occurrences of the word mystery in the New Testament. For each occurrence, the immediate NT context and the wider OT/Jewish context are both examined, concluding with an analysis of how the NT occurrence stands in both continuity and discontinuity with the OT and early Judaism.
Recognizing that studying a biblical theme isn’t as simple as just doing a word study, the penultimate chapter looks a few key NT topics that fit within the category of revealed mystery without using the term mystery – the staggered nature of the resurrection, the christological understanding of the Old Testament, Jesus as the temple, inaugurated eschatology, and the gospel itself. Finally, the last chapter compares and contrasts biblical mystery with pagan mystery religions and demonstrates that they do not have much in common and that the NT concept of mystery should be understood from the background of the OT, not pagan mystery religions.
Finally, the appendix provides a condensed version of a forthcoming paper by Beale entitled The Cognitive Peripheral Vision of Biblical Authors. Because hermeneutical presuppositions shaped this study and because it has implications on our understanding of the NT’s use of the OT, the essay is a helpful read. It argues that “Old Testament writers knew more about the topic of their speech act than only the explicit meaning they expressed about that topic. If so, there was an explicit intention and an implicit wider understanding related to that intention. It is sometimes this implicit wider intention that the New Testament authors develop instead of the Old Testament author’s explicit or direct meaning” (341).
Hidden But Now Revealed provides a robust study of an important biblical concept that’s connected to many key New Testament doctrines. It’s accessible to the serious layperson, but detailed footnotes and plentiful excursuses also provide much to think about for pastors, students, and scholars. An exegetical and biblical-theological study, this book fills a lack in the literature on the biblical concept of mystery. All with interest in biblical theology, NT use of OT, or the biblical concept of mystery would greatly enjoy this book.
Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!