G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. The Story Retold: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament. IVP Academic, 2020. Go here to purchase the book.
The Story Retold is an introductory textbook about the New Testament. Its authors, G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd, are candid that it is a different textbook from what is out there. They admit that it does not focus on historical context, authorship, or scholarly trends, and they recommend another textbook they have written that goes more deeply into that. The Story Retold is more biblical-theological. It attempts to show that themes in each book of the New Testament echo and continue themes that are present in the Old Testament.
Whether they successfully do that is up to the reader. Does Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith rather than works echo and continue Old Testament themes about humility before God and relying on God rather than human ability? Perhaps. But I can understand if some readers deem some of the connections to be artificial.
And, since this is a Beale book, you will see Beale themes: that God created human beings to be stewards of creation. Does the New Testament echo and value this theme as much as Beale does, or is Beale artificially making it do so, importing themes that are not explicitly there? Again, that is up to the reader.
What stands out to me is a “failure to launch” aspect of this book. The book raises intriguing questions but fails to answer them adequately. Some examples:
—-The Old Testament prophets and Paul in the New Testament (particularly Paul) have contrasting eschatological expectations. The Old Testament prophets predict that God will restore the nation of Israel and then Gentiles will worship God. Paul reverses the expectation—-Israelites will repent after Gentiles come to God (Romans 11)—-and places Gentile Christians within the nation of Israel as the equals of Jews. Okay, fine observation. But what do we do with it? Were the Old Testament prophets wrong? Was Paul misinterpreting them?
—-The Epistle to the Hebrews denies that the blood of bulls and goats can take away sins. Christ’s death was necessary for forgiveness to occur. Yet, when we read the Old Testament, God still forgives sins, and animal sacrifices appear to have atoning value. Again, fine observation. But where do we go with that? Was there a difference between Old Testament and New Testament forgiveness? What did Jesus bring that did not exist before?
—-II Peter talks about a new heavens and a new earth, drawing from the concept in the Book of Isaiah. Beale and Gladd astutely attempt to tie the theme as it appears in Isaiah with how II Peter employs it, but they do so by emphasizing realized eschatology, without really showing that II Peter has that.
I read this book after Thomas Schreiner’s book on Pauline theology. Not to pit the books against each other, but Schreiner’s book was deep, so reading The Story Retold after it was a bit of a letdown. The Story Retold is still edifying, but it was disappointing, in certain respects.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.