The Old Testament Story – Part 3

Beale nominates Genesis 1–3 for the honor of defining and establishing the whole Old Testament story. He pencils, “My thesis in this respect is that Gen. 1–3 lays out the basic themes for the rest of the OT, which, as we will see, are essentially eschatological themes” (29).

In order to verify that Gen 3 forecasts the OT the Story, Beale proffers four items to the jury:

1. a sketch of the thought in Gen. 1–3;

2. allusions o Gen. 1–3 elsewhere in the OT and how they develop that initial narrative;

3. observation of the themes from Gen. 1–3 elsewhere in the OT and how they develop that initial narrative;

4. the relation of the Adamic storyline derived from the above analysis to past proposals of the “center” of the OT. (30)

ADAM’S COMMISSION

In Genesis 1:26–28, Adam’s commission clothes Beale’s argument, while the image of God powers it—being blessed, fructifying, filling, subduing and ruling the earth. Being created in God’s image meant that Adam ruled on behalf of God as king, while he served in the garden as a priest (Gen 2:15; Beale, 30–33). Thus, for Beale, Adam is the first priest-king.

As priest-king, God designed Adam for escalated blessing, which included (1) ruling over the serpent, (2) to mirror God’s glory as king (w/ Ps 8 and Isa 45:18), and (3) a super eating of the tree of life (33–39).

If Eden was God’s temple and Adam was called to guard, then Adam messed up big by letting a lying Satan filled snake to slither in. And Beale agrees;  Adam miffed “because he did not guard the garden, allowing entrance to a foul snake that brought sin, chaos, and disorder into the sanctuary and into the Adam and Eve’s lives” (46). Well, that’s inconvenient.

At this point in Beale’s argument, he shows how this commission repeats throughout history to Adam, Noah, Abraham and his descendants (46–52). Given the world spiraled into a depths of a sin and curse, one might expect a few differences in how the commission works. And so Beale explains this new blessing involves a renewed humanity (blessed by Abraham’s seed) and the power of God to succeed (52–56). The final word on this matter is this: “We can speak of Gen. 1:28 as the first “Great Commission,” which was repeatedly applied to humanity” (57).

REPEATED COSMIC JUDGEMENT AND NEW CREATION EPISODES OF THE OT

We learned that Adam’s commission is the Bible’s framework and now Beale explains how that works after the fall. I’ll step out of the way and let the man speak: “Essential to the storyline so far formulated is the kingdom of a new creation. The pattern of judgment in the form of (1) cosmic chaos followed by (2) new creation, (3) commission of kingship for divine glory, (4) sinful fall, and (5) exile is one that composes the major events of redemptive history” (58). So the Bible repeats this pattern in its cycles of inaugurated eschatology. Everything between Genesis 1–3 and Revelation 21 spirals in this pattern as biblical history jostles to consummation.

The Goal of this cycle restoration, as described in Revelation 21. Beale is confident to say, “the two bookends of Gen. 1–3 and Rev. 21 interpret everything between them.” (59)

In the long and theological way of describe things, Beale scratches out this definition of OT history: “The Old Testament is the story of God, who progressively reestablishes his new-creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit though promise, covenant, and redemption, resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this kingdom and judgment (defeat or exile) for the unfaithful, unto his glory.” (62)

THE REPEATED NEW-CREATIONAL EXPECTATION OF AN ADAMIC KING THROUGHOUT THE OLD TESTAMENT

So Adam received a commission, the story of the Bible turns about and about in its laundry machine-like cycle, and now we learn from Beale of an expected king. One like Adam no less. I would direct one to read Beale’s argument, since its somewhat long. But he concludes, “The main strands of the biblical story traced above in the OT books are those of Israel (and its king) being commissioned to fulfill the Adamic commission to reign over a renewed earth but repeatedly failing to do so” (85).

CONCLUSIONS

Just a note. I skipped over the last point about how Beale’s proposals compare to other approaches, since it didn’t seem helpful for this series. As a reminder here the four pillars of Beale’s argument (3 of 4 summed up above):

1. a sketch of the thought in Gen. 1–3;

2. allusions o Gen. 1–3 elsewhere in the OT and how they develop that initial narrative;

3. observation of the themes from Gen. 1–3 elsewhere in the OT and how they develop that initial narrative;

4. the relation of the Adamic storyline derived from the above analysis to past proposals of the “center” of the OT. (30)

Let me try to synthesize Beale’s version of the OT story, so that our noggins have something to remember:

1. Genesis 1–3 is important; Adam’s commission is the framework of the entire

2. Revelation 21 is the goal of the Adamic commission.

3. Everything that happens in between (Gen 3–Rev 20; our present time included!) is a repeated cycle of judgment and restoration, that drives the faithful to spread God’s kingdom. If this last point misrepresents Beale, I invite you to read his own definition quoted above.

Next time we’ll talk about how we are in the tribulation right now. O boy!

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