Book Write-Up: From Adam and Israel to the Church

Benjamin L. Gladd. From Adam and Israel to the Church: A Biblical Theology of the People of God. IVP Academic, 2019. See here to purchase the book.

Benjamin L. Gladd is associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary.

Essentially, this book is about the mission of God’s people from Adam, through Israel and the church, to the eschaton. God’s people function as a light to others of who God is, as subordinate stewards and rulers of the cosmos, and as priests to God who worship God and steward the divine presence. Gladd differentiates himself from dispensationalism in that he believes that the church, in a sense, continues the people of God in the Old Testament (Old Testament Israel), but his focus is not on dispensationalism in this book. Gladd states that he expands upon the contribution of G.K. Beale.

This book is most impressive in the questions that it addresses. What was the function of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, and did it relate to Adam and Eve’s priestly function? In what sense was God present in the Old Testament sanctuary, while also being in heaven? In what sense did Christ inaugurate the end times at his first coming? What does Paul mean when he calls the risen Christ a spirit in I Corinthians 15? Who or what exactly will Christians rule in the new heavens and the new earth?

Some of Gladd’s answers (Old Testament sanctuary, first advent) are satisfactory. Some (risen Christ as spirit) miss the mark. The answer on what Christians will rule is a noble attempt and may be on to something but generates some “but what about”s (i.e., in the Old Testament, not only animals but also people seem to be ruled in God’s earthly paradise: who are those people?). The answer on the Tree of Knowledge is profound but purely speculative: it was to give Adam and Eve discernment in ruling the Garden, Gladd argues, but how would they gain that from the Tree without eating it, which was forbidden to them?

Gladd’s discussion of how believers are priests was poignant to me because it overlapped with things I have been thinking about in my own personal reading of Scripture. In the Old Testament, God’s presence had to be carefully managed, for it could be deadly to those who were impure. Gladd says that God’s presence is even greater for Christians, and that Christians, as priests, should be vigilant in being spiritually pure. I wonder how God’s presence is greater for Christians, however: Christians usually need not fear God striking them dead for some mis-step. God’s presence seemed to be more palpable for Old Testament Israel. Gladd tries to address this question but fails to do so as clearly or substantially as he could have.

I disagree somewhat with Gladd’s argument about the restoration of Israel. Gladd does not seem to foresee an eschatological restoration of the physical nation of Israel, for he states that this was not predicted in the Old Testament. What the Old Testament predicted was the restoration of a remnant, not the entire nation with its institutions. Glass is trying to argue that the church is Israel, but his argument, as it stands, does not work. The Old Testament depicts the restoration of Israel and its institutions to her land: monarchy, priesthood, Temple, possession of land, dispossession of enemies. God will build this nation on a remnant—-those who are left after his judgment—-but God is still restoring the nation itself.

This book is still charming and edifying, in its own way.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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