Over the last 7 months at North Baptist Church we have been preaching through the entire Bible, trying to show the grand narrative of Scripture. Instead of cherry picking our favorite passages—and neglecting the rest of the text—we’ve been trying to show the church that the Bible is a cohesive unit describing God’s redemption plan of humanity and the cosmos. I can speak from experience about how daunting it is to cover the entire biblical storyline in a sermon series, and how grateful I am to the scholars that have produced works of biblical theology to help us see this grand narrative. Thomas Schreiner, the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary, is one such scholar, having produced some great biblical theology books, including his New Testament theology (New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ).
In The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, Schreiner has produced an accessible yet thorough whole Bible biblical theology. Schreiner walks readers through both testaments book by book, showing each book’s contribution to the redemptive history. In the Old Testament, he follows the English order of books (against the MT order); in the New Testament he pairs the Synoptics & Acts, the Johannine literature (except Revelation), the Pauline corpus, the general epistles, and finally Revelation. While I normally prefer doing biblical theology in the MT order (a la Dempster’s Dominion and Dynasty), Schreiner’s decision to follow the modern order makes the book more accessible to a wider audience.
I have always found great value in how biblical theologies illuminate narrative passages—especially in the Old Testament—by connecting each story to the grand narrative. Schreiner does a fine job of this, if at times he must only skim through passages due to space constraints. But where I found greatest value from this book was in his discussion of the Old Testament Writings. In each book, including ever single Psalm, Schreiner shows how they contribute to the unifying theme of the Bible. His thoughts on these books will help readers view the writings through a Jesus-centered lens, and will be beneficial for me as I preach and teach through those books.
Another remarkable feature of the book is the frequent summaries of the biblical text. Appearing after each large section (ex. after the Pentateuch, OT narrative, wisdom, etc.), these sections summarize the Bible up to that point. These interludes, along with the final summary at the end of the book, are some of the most concise, thorough pages of biblical theology I have ever read.
On the Kingdom
Schreiner sees the unifying theme of the Bible as the glorification of God as king and ruler. This rule and reign was demonstrated in the creation of the cosmos, but then rejected by the serpent and the man & woman (Genesis 3). The rest of the biblical narrative describes the steps God takes to destroy sin and the seed of the serpent, so that all will recognize the king at the end (Revelation 22). A better description of the final days—and the source for the book’s title—comes from Isaiah 33:17:
Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty (ESV)
I find Schreiner’s kingdom language to be compelling as a unifier of the biblical text. It places God and man in their respective places, with God as supreme ruler and man as the image-bearer and vice-regent here on earth. In the Old Testament, the Davidic kings ruled over Israel, yet they were still under the rule of Yahweh. During the exile, He guided and protected them, eventually bringing his people back to their land. In the New Testament, the nation wanted Jesus to overthrow their perceived enemy: Rome. Yet Jesus came to destroy their actual enemies: sin and death. Schreiner does a great job to draw all this out—and more—throughout the book.
While this book is a great read, it is not for everyone. Schreiner writes from a Reformed Baptist perspective, which could turn some readers away. Most won’t notice this perspective much, except when it comes to his treatment of Revelation, in which he uses words like symbolically much more than some pre-mellinnialists would prefer.
Because of how much ground he has to cover, there is a lot that Schreiner leaves out. He covers most of the narrative, and every book in the Bible, although sometimes from a 30,000 foot view. He engages almost exclusively with other canonical & biblical scholars, and seems to most frequently refer to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. If this book was one’s only resource for biblical scholarship, whole swaths of scholarship would be missing. But as a supplement, one directing the reader towards the king found in the pages of Scripture, this book finds its purpose.
While daunting in size and comprehensive in scope, Schreiner’s The King in His Beauty is an enthralling biblical theology for Christians. Most pastors and seminary students will find value in this book, helpful in Gospel-centered exegesis. Lay Sunday School teachers can use this book to help find the role of a story or book in the grand narrative. The summary sections would even be an aid for devotional reading, to help those trying to read through the Bible in a year. I know that this book will find a spot close to my desk for frequent reference and reading.
Thanks to Baker Academic (via Net Galley) for a review copy of this book.
- Title: The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments
- Author: Thomas Schreiner
- Publisher: Baker Academic (2013)
- Format: Hardcover
- Rating: 4.5/5