After a devotional preface written by his wife, G. K. Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission, starts with a problem he noticed when he wrote a commentary on the Book of Revelation.
Revelation announces a vision of the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1). And yet the vision is actually only of the holy city. That city has many features drawn from Ezekiel’s description of the future Temple in Ezekiel 40-48. So the holy city is also a temple. It contains the tree of life, which means it is also a garden like Eden. Beale calls it an “arboreal city-temple”. So the author sees a new creation, but he just describes a city with the dimensions and structure of a temple.
Beale connects this with the idea that temples in the Ancient Near East often represented a microcosm of the universe.
He says about the argument of his whole book:
My thesis is that the Old Testament tabernacle and Temples were symbolically designed to point to a cosmic eschatological reality that God’s tabernacling presence, formerly limited to the holy of holies, was extended throughout the whole earth.
Because he is going to use evidence from pagan temples and his audience of evangelicals may have problems with that, he proposes that divine revelation to God’s people came first and that other cultures adopted but distorted the temple ideal. As an alternative he offers the thought that Romans 1:19-25 allows for pagans having some sense on their own of the true God though in a “non-salvific and confused form”. Of course, other scholars would say that there was an evolution of thought and that Israel adopted and built upon pagan ideas.
The important thing here, I think, is that Beale has found a way to use the evidence from the study of the cultures near Israel. His belief that the Bible is divinely inspired does not cause him to turn away from that evidence. He acknowledges that Israel shared a common culture with other nations and that there are many features of that culture that have made their way into the Bible. Nevertheless, he affirms that the material from pagan cultures that he will use is in no way equal in authority to the Bible.
Beale is a conservative New Testament scholar. Yet he readily made use of a study by Jon Levenson, a Jewish scholar of the Hebrew Bible. This is a good sign, because I have read books from evangelical scholars that seemed to exist in a bubble. They only used the works of other evangelical scholars.
So, from reading the first couple of chapters I am encouraged that Beale, while maintaining his loyalty to a perspective that is more conservative than mine, will be able to bring insights that transcend his perspective.