G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd
Reviewed by: Andrew Canavan
The Story Retold: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament, by G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. IVP Academic, 2020. Hardcover, 560 pages, $41.99 (Amazon). Reviewed by OP pastor Andrew Canavan.
Of making many New Testament introductions, authors G. K. Beale and Benjamin Gladd readily acknowledge, there is (seemingly) no end. True as that may be, Beale and Gladd’s entry into this well-populated field is a refreshing and needed resource for redemptive-historically-minded pastors, teachers, and students of the Scriptures. Traditional introductions deal with key questions about each New Testament book (authorship, occasion, textual history, theological themes). Others explain the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultural backgrounds of the New Testament. Beale and Gladd, however, aim for their introduction to “make sense of the New Testament in light of the Old Testament” (xi). In other words, their goal is to show how the Old and New Testaments fit together to tell (or retell) one story of redemption. Many will recognize that this approach aligns with the Westminster Confession’s firm belief that “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself” (1.9). As valuable as other introductions are, Beale and Gladd’s biblical-theological introduction fills a notable void—especially for New Testament introductions aimed specifically at students.
This hefty book (which is intended as a textbook), opens with a concise overview of Old Testament redemptive history. The authors contend that the pattern set in Genesis 1–3—creation as a cosmic sanctuary for God, human beings as kings and priests faithfully representing God, and the tragic Fall and God’s subsequent promise of redemption—is the pattern for the whole Old Testament. In fact, it is the pattern for all of redemptive history until its perfect fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This chapter is a gem of redemptive-historical interpretation. Another unique addition is a chapter on the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament: quotes, allusions, and concepts. Anyone familiar with Beale and Gladd will know their deep expertise in this topic. The distillation in this book makes it a useful introduction to an important area of biblical studies. Beale and Gladd thus rest their approach on the conviction that the Old Testament and New Testament are organically connected as the progressive revelation of God and the single history of redemption. From there, the authors survey each New Testament book, with traditional elements of a New Testament introduction (authorship, date, purpose, outline) followed by a short explanation of important biblical-theological themes in each book. They then comment more extensively on those themes as they appear in the New Testament book under consideration. This makes The Story Retold an ideal resource for preparing sermons, Bible studies, and simply for understanding God’s Word better. If readers have ever wondered what such terms as “inaugurated eschatology” and “two-stage fulfillment” mean and what makes them significant, this book is a wonderful place to start.
One slight quibble is in order, however: while the lavish illustrations are often useful, readers who are especially sensitive to artistic depictions of Jesus may find one or two (out of hundreds) less than helpful. In no way should that detract from Beale and Gladd’s achievement in this very useful volume. The Story Retold should receive a warm welcome by Christians everywhere, perhaps especially by those who appreciate the rich tradition of Reformed biblical theology—including Geerhardus Vos, Meredith Kline, and others—in which it stands.
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