The Story Retold
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The Story Retold

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament

G. K. Beale, Benjamin L. Gladd

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eBook - ePub

The Story Retold

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament

G. K. Beale, Benjamin L. Gladd

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Christian Book Award® programBiblical Foundations Book Awards FinalistNew Testament introductions fall into two categories: those that emphasize the history behind the text through discussions of authorship, dating, and audience, and those that explore the content of the text itself. Few introductions weave the Old Testament into their discussions, and fewer still rely on the grand narrative of the Old Testament.But the New Testament was not written within a vacuum. Rather, it stands in continuity with the Old Testament. Israel's story is the church's story.In The Story Retold, G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd explore each New Testament book in light of the broad history of redemption, emphasizing the biblical-theological themes of each New Testament book. Their distinctive approach encourages readers to read the New Testament in light of the Old, not as a new story but as a story retold.

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IVP Academic
Biblical Studies

The Story Line of the Bible

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible presents a single, grand narrative that reveals who we are, who God is, and his goal for all creation. It is a rich story that puts God on display for all to see and marvel. This is a story that narrates God’s gracious and merciful dealings with humanity, including remarkable suspense, intrigue, and twists and turns.1
Genesis 1–3 forms the core of the story and contains the basic elements of the script. Here we discover God’s ultimate intention for all creation and how he plans on achieving that aim. As we make our way through Genesis 1–3, we will glean three interrelated points: (1) God creates the heavens and the earth to be his cosmic sanctuary, where he sovereignly rules and dwells. All creation is designed to house the glory of God. (2) God creates Adam and Eve as kings to rule on his behalf and as priests to serve and mediate his glory. Humanity is created to remain wholly dependent on God and represent him faithfully on the earth. (3) In an attempt to be independent of God, the original couple succumbs to the serpent’s temptation. But, despite the fall, God promises to overcome evil and establish a perfect dwelling place for his glory and kingdom.
The grand story line of the Bible entails the general pattern of creation, fall, and redemption. Delving deeper into this cycle, the pattern begins with creation and the divine commission for humanity to rule over the earth and worship the Lord. Humanity then sins and disobeys. As a result, God’s people are exiled from his presence in Eden. Beginning with Adam and Eve, the pattern repeats itself throughout the Old Testament. Each pattern picks up steam, and more characters emerge into the spotlight. What began in Eden with the first couple is repeated with an entire nation in the Promised Land. With more characters come more subplots, intrigue, suspense, and redemption. Although the story becomes more complex, the general pattern remains the same. The expectation is that one day, at the very end of history, the cycle will end and humanity will enjoy God’s full presence in the new creation.


Genesis 1–2 portrays God creating an all-encompassing cosmic temple wherein he sovereignly rules. Genesis 1:14 contains an early hint of the creation of a cosmic temple: “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night.’” The word lights in the creation narrative is peculiar, as the same term is applied to the lampstand in Israel’s tabernacle: “the lampstand that is for light with its accessories, lamps and oil for the light” (Ex 35:14; cf. 39:37; Num 4:9). The lights within the cosmos, therefore, function as cultic luminaries that shine throughout God’s cosmic temple, just as the lights on the lampstand illuminate the Holy Place of Israel’s temple. Even the seven lights on the lampstand in the temple symbolize the seven lights of the visible sky (sun, moon, and five planets).2 Several scholars have even compared the construction of Israel’s mobile tabernacle to the creation of the cosmos, concluding that God is indeed fashioning a cosmic temple in Genesis 1–2 (Gen 1:31; cf. Ex 39:43; Gen 2:1; cf. Ex 39:32; Gen 2:2-3; cf. Ex 40:33; Gen 2:3; cf. Ex 39:43).3 Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the cosmos is compared to Israel’s temple: “He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever” (Ps 78:69; cf. Is 66: 1-2; 1 Chron 28:2).
When God finished creating the cosmos, he “rested” from the creative process, but this resting is unlike our modern conception of rest. God’s resting after six days entails his climactic enthronement as King over the cosmos (Gen 2:2; cf. 2 Chron 6:41; Is 66:1) since “it is connected to taking control in his role as sovereign ruler over the cosmos.”4
Why does God graciously construct a cosmic temple? He desires to rule and reign over the created order, but he also wants to dwell intimately with it. The world is designed to house the veritable glory of God. Despite God’s intimate communion with the first couple in Eden, his full presence dwells in the invisible heavens with the angels. Even before the fall, God and humanity remained separated—God in heaven and Adam and Eve on the earth. By creating a cosmic temple, God reveals that he intends on dwelling with humanity in all his fullness. Heaven and earth are to be joined together at the very end of history. Though perfectly created, the cosmic temple remains incomplete in Genesis 1–2. Sin can infest the original creation. The cosmos, then, must be altered to house the glory of God.
Eden as a temple. Another insightful detail we glean from Genesis 1–2 is the depiction of Eden as a sanctuary resting on a mountain. Although God dwells in his fullness in the invisible heavens, he dwells partially with Adam and Eve in the garden. The casual mention of God “walking” in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8) highlights his presence in the temple. In Leviticus, the Lord promises that he will “walk” among the Israelites and be their God (Lev 26:12). In Deuteronomy, the Lord commands the Israelites to keep their camp holy because he “walks” in the midst of their camp (Deut 23:14 NASB). In a similar manner, the Lord is “walking” in Eden because Eden itself is a sanctuary.
The book of Ezekiel even calls Eden a temple, referring to it as “the garden of God. . . the holy mount of God” containing “sanctuaries” (Ezek 28:13-14, 16, 18). Ezekiel also describes a person resembling Adam in Eden wearing bejeweled clothing like a priest: “You were in Eden, the garden of God. . .. Your settings and mountings were made of gold” (Ezek 28:13). This individual’s sin profanes the sanctuaries and causes him to be cast out: “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth” (Ezek 28:17).
Genesis 2:10-14 provides the reader with several seemingly incidental details about bodies of water: “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon. . .. The name of the second river is the Gihon. . .. The name of the third river is the Tigris. . .. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” The river flowing out of Eden indicates the abundant life flowing from the presence of God. It gives life to the many trees growing on its banks, including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life (Gen 2:10, 17; 3:24). This water flows out of Eden to water the garden before flowing outward to give life to the rest of the earth (Gen 2:10-14). Similarly in later depictions of the temple, a river flows with trees of life on its banks. In Ezekiel 47, a river flows from below the threshold of the temple with trees on the bank of both sides. The waters of this river make seawater fresh (Ezek 47:8), give life to creatures (Ezek 47:9), and cause leaves of healing to blossom on the trees of its banks (Ezek 47:12). In Revelation, a river flows in the new Jerusalem, with “the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2). This river of life abounding with God’s presence flows from the inmost place of God’s presence (“from the throne of God and of the Lamb”) outward into the nations. In the Israelite temple, God’s holiness is graciously manifest in the holy of holies and spreads outward to the Holy Place and then the outer court, where all Israel assembles for worship symbolizing the whole world. In Eden, the river flows from God’s presence into the garden and then the rest of the earth (Gen 2:10-14).
figure 1.1. garden of eden
We can discern gradations of holiness as the presence of God increases from the innermost place of Eden / holy of holies outward to the earth and the lands. Just as the Holy Place contained the lampstand shaped like the tree of life and held the bread of the presence to sustain the priests, so the Garden of Eden was the place of the tree of life (Gen 2:8-9) and sustains Adam’s existence (Gen 2:16). Just as the outer court of Israel’s second temple provided a place for the nations to come, so the land and seas are outside the garden, where the nations of Cush and Assyria dwell (Gen 2:13-14). Of course, these lands were not yet populated. Notice in the illustration how Eden is the Holies of Holies, the garden is the Holy Place, and the outer world is the outer court.
Why is it important that we understand Eden as a sanctuary created for God’s glory? This insight reveals two important points: God ultimately wants to dwell with the created order in all his fullness, and Adam and Eve play a critical role in accomplishing that goal.
figure 1.2. eden as the innermost sanctuary


After God created his cosmic temple, he began to enter into the cosmos, rule over it, and dwell with humanity. On day six, he created Adam and Eve at the pinnacle of creation to rule on his behalf. God’s full presence remains in the invisible heaven, yet he comes down to Eden to dwell with Adam and Eve. This is similar to God dwelling in heaven yet residing in the holy of holies of the temple. God’s aim is for the first couple to spread this glorious presence over the entire earth so that it may be transformed into the new heavens and earth. Once the earth is permanently transformed, God’s presence will descend and fully dwell with mankind.
When God creates Adam and Eve in his image, they bec...