G. K. Beale in The Temple and the Church’s Mission has a section where he talks about the Qumran Scrolls and Jewish non-biblical wisdom writings. He finds all these consistent with the “all consuming nature of the later-day temple.” But I feel he overreaches when he claims that the physical expansion of the Temple under the Hasmoneans and Herod the Great implies a response to the prophecies about an expanded future temple. There were probably mixed reasons for the building projects, but it is hard for me to see them as a consistent theological statement. There was a practical reason as the crowds grew with pilgrims from the diaspora.
From that discussion he moves directly to the New Testament. He actually started the book with a discussion of Revelation 22. So the whole book is an attempt to pull together ideas that he thinks exist throughout the Bible, but reach fulfillment in the New Testament.
One of these ideas is that of the messiah as the last Adam. Remember that Beale has said that Adam’s role in the garden was that of a priest. The garden was a temple and the Jerusalem temple built by Solomon and rebuilt by the returning exiles was supposed to have a symbolic correlation to the creation and cosmos as ruled by God. So Jesus takes up the true role of Adam.
But the New Testament also speaks of Jesus as a temple. His resurrected body is a temple because, like Eden, it is the beginning of a new creation. That temple then includes those who adhere to Christ as they become incorporated into the new creation.
It is these ideas that Beale wants to explore in the remainder of the book.
Before I read that, I want to raise my concerns and questions. We will see whether the author has answers and whether he deals with my concerns in a way I find helpful.
The main concern I have is that when you start with the New Testament, you may not tend to treat the story of Israel as important in itself. As I understand it, the story of Adam and Eve and their disobedience in the Garden of Eden is not really the thing that ties the Hebrew Bible together. These stories imagine the origins of the human race. But they are just background for the main story, which involves Israel as the people of God.
Certainly Beale’s approach may help us understand Paul and other early missionaries and their understanding of how the message reaches beyond Israel. But it seems to me there is a danger forgetting that the Hebrew Bible is primarily about the election and role of Israel.
So how will Beale answer the question about the continuing role of Israel and Israel’s continuing relation to God?
Will he adopt a replacement theology where Jesus and the church take the place of Israel? Or will he find some kind of middle ground that acknowledges that, though God has acted in Jesus, God will keep Israel as his elect and special people?
It seems to me from what I have read so far that Beale has started out with this idea that Genesis 1:28 represents a universal human mission and that mission becomes focused in Jesus. The problem seems to me that most of the Bible makes provision for the special place of Israel. I have a hard time just jumping from one universal mission to another.
Another concern has to do with the contemporary political stereotype of Zionism. The idea is that there is in modern Israel an ideology of domination and conquest. Much of Beale’s interpretation of the Hebrew Bible seems to bless a world-conquering Zionism. Israel’s mission is tied up with filling and dominating the world. But Israelis usually just want to claim and protect a relatively small piece of land. They disagree about how aggressive they should be in even that effort.
We have no shortage of ideologies today that do make universal claims. But I have always interpreted the territorial claims of the Hebrew Bible as very limited. It is true that Christianity became a universal religion with a universal mission. This was usually limited, though, by Jesus’ claim that his kingdom was not of this world. However, Christian universalism definitely fed into the crusades and colonialism.
So how does Beale’s notion of an ever expanding temple/kingdom relate to the possibilities for evil in that idea?