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Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation) by Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner. Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation). Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015. 560 pp. $39.99.

BTFCP_CommentaryOnHebrews_CVR_R2.inddIn the mist of a tremendous flourishing of evangelical publishing on biblical theology, for years I had longed to see a biblical theology study Bible and a commentary series from the perspective on Biblical theology. To my joy, in the last year we have seen both. The latter presented itself in the form of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (D. A. Carson ed.), and the former saw its inaugural volume on Hebrews by Dr. Thomas Schreiner (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series from B&H Academic).

Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation Series
Though there are different schools of biblical theology that define and pursue the discipline differently, the general editors of this new series (T. Desmond Alexander, Andreas J. Köstenberger, and Thomas R. Schreiner) define biblical theology as, in essence,

the theology of the Bible, that is, the theology expressed by the various biblical books on their own terms and in their own historical contexts. Biblical theology is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. What is more, biblical theology is the theology of the entire Bible, and exercise in whole-Bible theology (ix, emphases original).

While the volumes will discuss typical introductory matters and provide verse-by-verse exegetical commentary, their two primary distinctive contributions are conveyed in the series title. First is biblical theology – each volume will explore the contribution of the given book or groups of books of the Bible to the theology of Scripture as a whole and provide “thorough discussion of the most important themes of the biblical book in relation to the canon as a whole…in the context of the larger salvation-historical metanarrative of Scripture” (xi). Second is Christian proclamation, seeking to relate biblical theology to our own lives and the life of the church, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry of teaching and preaching the Word.

Commentary on Hebrews (Thomas Schreiner)
The biblical-theological emphasis of Schreiner’s volume on Hebrews shows up mainly in the introduction and conclusion. After briefly addressing typical introductory matters such as date, authorship, destination, etc. in an accessible way that does not get bogged down in technical details, Schreiner spends more than half of the introduction on biblical-theological matters. First, he situates Hebrews in its canonical context, tracing redemptive history from Genesis through the Gospels and pointing out along the way the significant types of Christ and salvation and how Hebrews speaks of their fulfillment. For example, after mentioning Leviticus 10 Schreiner notes how Hebrews focuses on the inadequacy of the sacrificial system and emphasizes the inauguration of a new and better covenant because the old was a failure. He ties the sin of the wilderness generation in Numbers to the warning Hebrews makes of the example of Israel. He notes how Hebrews picks up on the theme of rest in Joshua as a type and anticipation of a greater rest to come. From the Gospels, Schreiner notes themes such as Jesus being the new David promised by the prophets.

Second, Schreiner discusses four structures that undergird the biblical theology of Hebrews. The first is promise/fulfillment, where Schreiner points to how Hebrews proclaims certain OT predictions to have now been fulfilled. Jesus is the Davidic king promised in the OT who would establish God’s kingdom; He is a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4) in his humanity, participation in summering, and resurrection; He has sat down at the right hand of God (Ps 110:1). The second structure is the tension of inaugurated eschatology, seen in Jesus’s reign, salvation, sanctification, perfection, the warning passages, the call to faith, and rest. Third, concerning typology, Schreiner helpfully emphasizes that the correspondences were intended by God and not merely used by Him as illustrations, and that typology is characterized by escalation. In Christ we have a better prophet, a better priest, a better king, a better covenant, a better land, and better promises. The final structure noted by Schreiner is spatial orientation (i.e. the relationship between heaven and earth); while some scholars treat this topic within typology, Schreiner separates it because of Hebrews’s distinctive emphasis on the subject. Whereas key themes that give structure to the letter are investigated as structures of thought, the conclusion provides additional biblical-theological insight by dealing with some of the central themes (e.g. God, Jesus, the New Covenant, etc.) in their own right.

I look forward to digging into Schreiner’s commentary on Hebrews and eagerly anticipate each forthcoming volume in this series. These commentaries will provide rich biblical-theological and practical insight that can’t be found in other commentaries, from some of the best evangelical scholars of our day. Find out more about the series, including the list of volumes and contributors, here.

Thanks to B&H Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon | Westminster


Bound for the Promised Land: The land promise in God’s redemptive plan (Oren Martin)

Oren R. Martin. Bound for the Promised Land: The land promise in God’s redemptive plan. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 208 pp. $25.00.

Bound for the Promised LandBound for the Promised Land, the latest volume in IVP Academic’s New Studies in Biblical Theology series under the editorship of D. A. Carson, is a substantial revision of Dr. Oren Martin’s doctoral dissertation completed in 2013 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary under Dr. Bruce Ware. The aim of the study is “to demonstrate that the land promised to Abraham advances the place of kingdom that was lost in Eden and serves as a type throughout Israel’s history that anticipates the even greater land – prepared for all God’s people throughout history – that will come as a result of the person and work of Christ. In other words, the land and its blessings find their fulfillment in the new heaven and new earth won by Christ” (17).

Martin begins in Chapter 2 with providing a biblical-theological framework for understanding the land promise in redemptive history. In this framework, kingdom is key; “fundamental to the story line of Scripture is the notion that God, the Creator and King of the cosmos, has a people who live under his reign” (31). Chapters 3-6 examine the unfolding of the land promise across the Old Testament. Chapter 3 focuses on Genesis and argues first of all that the first 11 chapters are more than just a prologue to the story of Abraham and Israel, but is instead “crucial for the development of a biblical theology, for Abram is God’s response to a problem that emerges from Adam” (61). Secondly, Martin demonstrates through Genesis 12-50 that the land promise is both conditional and unconditional, both national and international, and both temporal and eternal. Chapter 4 traces the theme of land throughout Exodus and Deuteronomy and highlights the anticipation of the people of Israel for acquiring the Promised Land. By the end of the Pentateuch, God’s people are poised to enter. Chapter 5 examines the partial fulfillment of the land promise from Joshua – Kings. In Chapter 6, Martin investigates the loss of land through exile and the eschatological hope of the Prophets.

[T]he promise of restoration goes far beyond what was previously experienced and is described in astonishing realities, for it includes not only the nation of Israel but also the nations, and not only the boundaries of the promised land but also the entire earth. The universality stressed in the latter prophets revives the consciousness of the worldwide significance of the Abrahamic promises.

(Martin 96)


Book Review – With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology (Jim Hamilton)

James M. Hamilton Jr. With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014. 272 pp. $25.00.

DanielHaving published both an introductory biblical theology (What is Biblical Theology?) as well as a full-scale whole-bible biblical theology (God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment), it’s not much of a surprise to see a volume from Dr. Jim Hamilton in IVP Academic’s excellent New Studies in Biblical Theology series. In With the Clouds of Heaven, Dr. Hamilton provides an evangelical and canonical biblical theology of the book of Daniel that seeks “to understand and explain Daniel’s interpretive perspective…to understand both how Daniel has engaged earlier Scripture to present his message and how later Scripture engaged Daniel to exposit what he wrote” (27).

This volume begins in Chapter 1 with preliminaries. Here Hamilton defines biblical theology as “the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors” (21), explores the issue of how we access the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors (a literary and intertextual exercise that assumes that later biblical authors correctly interpreted earlier ones), looks at the relationship between this definition of biblical theology and authorial intent and the implications on salvation historical and thematic studies, and briefly considers the difference between this approach to biblical theology and others. Because this approach to biblical theology is based on certain assumptions about the canon of Scripture, the rest of chapter 1 provides an overview of the canonical framework with which Hamilton works. The heart of this section is a defense of the traditional early date of Daniel. Here Hamilton provides a sketch of the historical evidence as well as theological reasons for an early date. I found the latter particularly gripping because of how common it has been for evangelicals to capitulate to later dates, often thinking it an insignificant/secondary matter. Hamilton convincingly demonstrates that the issue has massive theological and ethical implications:

The author of Daniel encouraged people to be faithful to Yahweh even unto death (e.g. Dan. 11:32-35). The book of Daniel inspires faithfulness to Yahweh because it teaches that God and his kingdom matter more than the preservation of one’s own life. Undergirding this is the fact that Yahweh can deliver people from death (Dan. 3, 6) and predict the future (Dan. 11), including the future resurrection and reward of the faithful. If some Maccabean-era author is making fraudulent claims, if these are fictional deliverances and not future predictions but recitals of what has already happened presented as though being predicted by Daniel, then there is no real proof that Yahweh can either deliver from death or predict the future. This means that there is no proof that he is any better than the false gods who can neither reveal the future nor deliver their worshippers, which is exactly what the book of Daniel claims Yahweh can do, especially by means of the revelations in Daniel 2 and 7-12 and the deliverances in Daniel 3 and 6. (Hamilton 32)


A late date for Daniel requires some later author setting out to deceive his audience, creating in them the impression that things he knew had already taken place were actually being predicted. His purpose in creating this impression was to give himself the moral standing with his audience necessary for him to call them to suffer and die for the cause he advocated – when he knew all along that his claims were false. (Hamilton 37)


Book Review – Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery (G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd)


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.

HiddenThe 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!

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

Book Review: A Theology of Matthew: Jesus Revealed As Deliverer, King, and Incarnate Creator (Charles Quarles)

Charles L. Quarles. A Theology of Matthew: Jesus Revealed As Deliverer, King, and Incarnate Creator (Explorations in Biblical Theology). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2013. 240 pp. $17.99.

theology of matthewI believe passionately that the church needs the academy; that lay Christians without Bible college or seminary education also need to think deeply about their faith, digging deeper into the meaning of biblical texts rather than jumping immediately into what it means “to them,” reading theological books rather than just books on “Christian living.” But good/appropriate resources can be hard to find; sometimes when you look for books that aren’t fluff, what you find are overly technical books that are great for the nerds and academics, but difficult and dry for the rest.

The Explorations in Biblical Theology series from P&R seeks to fill this gap, offering believers substantial biblical and theological content at a popular-level of readability and accessibility. The series (which is not yet complete) includes two types of books, those that treat a biblical theme (e.g. the Holy Spirit, justification) and those that treat the theology of a book of the Bible. Each book seeks to be Reformed in orientation and treats its topic (whether theme or biblical book) from the perspective of biblical theology.”Explorations in Biblical Theology is committed to being warm and winsome, with a focus to applying God’s truth to life” (x).


Book Review: What Is Biblical Theology? (Jim Hamilton)

James M. Hamilton Jr. What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. 128 pp. $12.99

wibtThis book is an accessible, readable, engaging, and pastoral “guide to the Bible’s story, symbolism, and patterns.” It is not just a great book for those interested in (biblical) theology, but a stellar book for any Christian who wants to read the Bible better. This is not an academic book written for the scholars and “wannabe-scholars,” even though “theology” is in the title. This is for the “average joe” sitting in the pew. I highly recommend this book to any Christian wanting to read the Bible better and understand more of the Bible’s big picture, as well as any Christian looking for an introduction to biblical theology. See my full review over at The Brave Reviews.