I am still writing about G. K. Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission.
A standard feature of prophecies of destruction in the Hebrew Bible is cosmic dissolution language. The sun and moon are darkened; the stars fall; the earth is shaken. This language gets used in the New Testament as well. G. K. Beale relates this language to his claim that the Temple represents the cosmos.
So, for instance, when the curtain in the Temple gets torn at the time of the death of Jesus, Beale goes beyond the usual interpretation. Usually interpreters say that the tearing of the curtain at the entrance of the holy of holies means that the relationship between God and man has changed and that Jesus’ death brings us more immediate access to God. Without rejecting that interpretation, Beale sees something more.
He has argued that the design of the curtain was to make it represent the heavens. It is purple with a starry design. So its tearing harks back to the cosmic dissolution language of the prophets. This is especially so when you see that the darkness falling over the earth and an earthquake are also associated with the time of Jesus’ death.
This is one passage of many where Beale sees the New Testament proclaiming the destruction of the Jewish temple in terms of the destruction of the old world and the arising of a new world. The Temple represented the old world. Jesus’ risen body is the new temple and represents the new world arising.
A particularly interesting passage that he interprets this way is the falling of the Spirit on the disciples in Acts 2–the day of Pentecost. Wind, earthquake and fire falling from heaven accompany powerful incidents in the Hebrew Bible. For instance, these things accompany the giving of the law at Sinai.
But Acts 2 points specifically to Joel where apocalyptic cosmic dissolution language is prominent (Joel 2:30-32). Beale suggests that the disciples were at the Temple. The cosmic dissolution language is not literal, but points to the historical downfall of a sinful people. So Pentecost itself is another prophecy of the end of the Temple. This is especially true when the speaking in tongues appears as the reverse of the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel. The tower represented a temple and a means of climbing to heaven. God put an end to that attempt and will put an end to the Temple in Jerusalem as well.
These are just some of the interpretations Beale made that were particularly striking to me.
His overall point seems to be that Jesus replaced the Temple. This is not as problematic as the kind of replacement theology that claims the church replaced Israel as the people of God and undid their election. The Jewish sect at the Dead Sea had also written off the Temple, at least one served by a non-Zaddokite priesthood. Today even within Judaism something has had to replace the Temple. However, I am not fully comfortable that Beale is not going to go farther.