The book of Exodus tells a thrilling story, and is naturally the inspiration for numerous adaptations and allusions within literature (Daniel Deronda, Superman). However, the stirring narrative of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and ascent to Sinai to meet God takes a sharp right-turn into plodding blueprints for the tabernacle, its utensils, and the priestly garments. It’s like watching Frodo heroically ascend to the peak of Mount Doom only to then receive a 3-hour lecture from Treebeard. At least, that is how we often consider the latter half of Exodus. In reality, it’s far from an anticlimactic letdown, and the problem is not the text but ourselves. As I am discovering through teaching Leviticus, when one delves into the difficult material in Scripture, it is always rewarding. Or as one scholar puts it: if it’s weird, it’s important. In The Temple and Tabernacle, J. Daniel Hays has helped bridge this gap by providing a study of Israel’s tabernacle and temples that is approachable and concise.
The Temple and the Tabernacle
Hays works through the storyline of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation to trace God’s dwelling places with humanity. Alluding to Mark 13:1, Hays wants to “move beyond the ‘stones’ to grasp the eternal theological truths being revealed to us about God”.
Chapter 1 begins with an introductory overview of the book as well as the tabernacle and temples. From there, chapter 2 presents the idea that Eden was the first temple. Chapter 3 explains the construction of the ark and the tabernacle. Chapter 4 then turns to Solomon’s temple. Chapter 5 covers issues such as the cherubim and the Lord’s departure from the temple in the exile and promised return in the prophets. Chapter 6 describes the second temple, as recorded in the latter Old Testament as well as historical accounts and inter-canonical texts. Chapter 7 then explores the theological development of the temple in the New Testament in light of Christ’s identification as God’s temple, and the church’s description as the temple of God. Chapter 8 concludes the book.
One may feel that this territory has been well-covered before by others. While it is true that some like Beale and Walton have said much about the temple, Hays’ work has a unique role. Compared to a work like Beale’s monolithic The Temple and the Church’s Mission, Hays’ The Temple and Tabernacle is more introductory, big-picture, concise, and slick. That is not the diet version of Beale’s work; far from it. They both serve different purposes. Though not radically different in content, this is much more comprehensive in its description of the tabernacle and temples.
An exceptional feature of The Temple and Tabernacle is the abundance of illustrations and archaeological photography; these are alone worthy of the price of the book and are a huge help towards understanding.
Throughout the book, Hays provides detailed but readable description of the tabernacle/temple’s architecture and furnishings. He also aptly summarizes the inter-canonical history for the second temple. Most chapters succinctly develop theological relevance as well. A few things are worthy of note, however.
First, I wished Hays had developed more space to the temple intertextuality found in Revelation 21-22 indicating all the temple hopes in the OT find their fulfillment here. Second, Hays intriguingly argues for a negative interpretation of Solomon’s temple-building process. For Hays, Solomon’s spiritual decline begins earlier than is commonly believed. His argument is compelling at points, but to my eyes he takes up far too much space in the book and this distracts from his overall goal. Virtually every element of Solomon’s temple is read as revealing poor motives on his part. It seems to me this is not the place to make such a sustained argument. Hays could have simply abbreviated his best arguments with a note pointing to a fuller development elsewhere.
The Temple and Tabernacle is an architectural and theological survey of Israel’s the tabernacle and temples that is informed by the latest archaeology and scholarship. While all will enjoy using this as a resource for archaeological, theological and and archaeological information on the temple, it is particularly suited as an introduction. If one wanted a clear and comprehensive introduction to the purpose, architecture and theological development of the tabernacle/temples across Scripture, this is the first book I would recommend.
As I read a pre-publication edition of this book, some details, such as page numbers, are likely to change. In particular, all the images were not placed within the body of the book, so I am unable to comment on their placement and how this affects the flow of the book.
Many thanks to Baker Academic for providing a review copy through Netgalley.
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How does one even begin to review a book so profoundly impacting and paradigm-shifting? Perhaps with a personal anecdote? I used to lean towards skepticism when it comes to the supernatural. This is hardly healthy for a Christian. It’s not that I disbelieved God’s providence, Jesus’ miracles, the resurrection, or even the enduring nature of the Spirit’s gifts; rather, I had an unreasonable inclination to find “natural” explanations for “supernatural” experience claims. What was the cure? First, marrying a woman gifted in more observably supernatural ways. Second, study of the Bible: the unseen realm is just unavoidably there in Scripture. It is in this latter area that Michael Heiser’s work, especially The Unseen Realm, has been so important.
Sadly, my experience is far from unique in the Western church. Heiser himself went through a similar transformation when he read Psalm 82 with fresh eyes. In Heiser’s words, “the [Western] believing church is bending under the weight of its own rationalism, a modern worldview that would be foreign to the biblical writers” (p17). How do we solve this? Stop “[stripping] the bizarre passage of anything that makes it bizarre” (p18); rsther, “if it’s weird, it’s important” (p19). This is Heiser’s purpose in writing The Unseen Realm: to get “their supernatural worldview in your head” (p13). The Unseen Realm is a re-reading of the Biblical story with eyes open to the supernatural world.
The Unseen Realm
After two chapters that address these points, the book unfolds over 40 chapters divided into 7 parts broadly following the Biblical story. Part 2 examines concepts such as the Divine Council, the role of Eden, and the image of God. Fundamental to Heiser’s work is recognizing the real existence of other elohim – other gods – whilst maintaining the uniqueness and supremacy of Yahweh. Part 3 addresses issues such as the fall of humanity and Satan, the Genesis 6 Sons of God, and the Tower of Babel, where Yhwh’s disinherited the nations. Part 4 continues by introducing Abraham, and the Two Powers (visible and invisible Yahweh). Part 5 presents the conquest of the land as an intentional cleansing of the Nephilim, and introduces the widespread significance of Bashan/Hermon. Part 6 discusses the temple’s connection with God’s throne, the nature of prophets, and the divine misdirection in the Messianic hope. Part 7 turns to Christ and the divine conflict between Yhwh and Satan. Part 8 examines end-times issues such as the judgment of the fallen divine beings, the “foe from the north”, the battle of Armageddon and our final eternal state.
This above summary can only hint at the diverse concepts covered in this book. Needless to say, it is a dense but stimulating read. The breadth and depth of Heiser’s own study is abundantly clear. In other words, The Unseen Realm is far from a presentation of Heiser’s pet ideas and speculative doctrines. One cannot dismiss him as a idiosyncratic kook; there is just too much peer-reviewed scholarship and evidence supporting the book. In fact, much of what Heiser argues is already accepted in wide swaths of Biblical scholarship; it has simply not overcome the chasm from academia to the church. Nor is this a liberal scholarship in sheep’s clothing. Despite how “odd” this book can get at times, Heiser is surprisingly orthodox. The numerous evangelical endorsements only confirm this point.
Albeit, for a book so ambitious, some missteps are unavoidable. Heiser wants us to throw away our filters and let the Bible speak for itself. While he means well, being totally untethered from traditions and accountability is arrogant and dangerous. Rather than reject our heritage, it’s better to submit it to Scripture, and adjust accordingly. It’s ironic that Heiser is effectively replacing one filter (church tradition) for another (the supernatural worldview), and this leads to some conclusions that appear to be favoured simply because they are the most “supernatural”; or worse, “strange”. At times Heiser presents a viewpoint as being beyond critique simply because it supposedly reflects “the ancient worldview” (unlike the alternatives, which are “modern”). This is a rhetorical slight of hand that avoids argumentation: my view is right because it’s most ancient. The clearest example is his work on free-will. Heiser’s view is apparently how “an ancient Israelite would have embraced this parsing of foreknowledge, predestination, sovereignty, and free will” (p66). This wins the debate without an argument. However, to my eyes, Heiser is simply presenting Libertarian free-will dressed in ancient Israelite garb. On that note, this section was out of place and unnecessary and I think Heiser was a little out of his philosophical depth. With all that said, keep in mind that my critiques come from someone who has profited immensely from The Unseen Realm and hope (most) the ideas within find acceptance in the church.
Virtually every chapter was fascinating and provocative, though many were outright revolutionary. Among other things, I can never conceive of Psalm 82, Deuteronomy 32:8-9, stars, mountains, Eden, Bashan, and Ba’al the same. Despite the sheer abundance of ideas in The Unseen Realm, his book has far from exhausted this paradigm-shift; it has only begun it. For me, it has begun a re-reading of Scripture with more ancient and supernatural eyes. Recognizing and embracing the “weird” in Scripture has not resulted in an unfamiliarity or distance with God’s word; in fact, it has only fueled greater hunger, appreciation and excitement.
As I said at the start, it’s difficult to try and review a book this impacting. I wish every Christian would pick up The Unseen Realm. Heiser has also released Supernatural, aimed at a wider audience, though The Unseen Realm is surprisingly approachable and easy to read. I would recommend The Unseen Realm to any interested Christian and Supernatural to those with less interest or time. My wife and I actually read the book together, and it continues to spark discussion between us. One need not agree with everything Heiser says; his goal is primarily to open the reader’s eyes to the absolute profusion of passages that speak of the unseen realm. On this front, The Unseen Realm meets and exceeds the goal. It’s time to re-read the Bible with supernaturally-awake eyes.
Many thanks to Lexham Press for providing a review copy.
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How is all of Scripture for us? Aren’t we “not under the Law”? If so, how are we to think of the moral laws in the OT that are not repeated in the New? Some argue that Christians are not under the civil and ceremonial elements of Mosaic Law but that we continue to remain under the moral commands. Though such a conclusion feels right, the problem is that Scripture does not present a threefold distinction within the Law. Given the fact, who decides which is which? In fact, what we consider moral and civil and ceremonial are all found in the same sections of Law. Rather, it appears that the Christian is not under the Mosaic Law in its totality. This is the argument of Progressive Covenantalism. But does this not result in antinomianism? Wouldn’t it mean that Christians are lawless? Stephen Wellum wants to argue that, against some critics, Progressive Covenantalists hold that “Scripture’s ethical teaching is consistent across the canon because it is grounded in God’s unchanging nature and will” (p215). Over five steps, Wellum presents a Progressive Covenantal biblical basis for ethics:
1. All Scripture is authoritative
Though Christians are not under the Law as a covenant, it remains our Scripture, and thus requires obedience. How does that work? It “requires careful application depending on our covenantal location” (p217). For example, circumcision and food laws are moral laws, but in light of Christ, do not apply to Christians in the same way as they did to OT believers.
2. The Tripartite distinction is not the answer
The tripartite division is not built on Scriptural teaching. What’s more, the entire law-covenant was temporary (Rom 10:4; Gal 3:15-4:7; Heb 7:11-12). So it no longer is directly binding on the Christian (Rom 6:14-15; Gal 4:4-5).
3. The lens of Christ and the New Covenant is the answer
Though not under the Law, it remains Scripture. We must apply it to ourselves through Christ. Following Brian Rosner’s work, Wellum argues that the Law applies to new covenant believers as prophecy, instruction and wisdom.
4. Careful unpacking of the Bible’s storyline and categories is needed
It is not as simple as finding a command and carrying it over to the NT. But what of morally aberrant behavior that is not found in the NT? Are Christians free to do anything the OT prohibits, so long as the NT does not mention it? Wellum argues that believers do not reach this conclusion if they read the Scripture as a whole. The bestiality prohibition, for example, is naturally applicable to believers today in light of God’s original creation intention for sexuality. The OT Law simply makes this conclusion obvious.
5. Some examples of #1-4 in action
Sexual ethics, personal and social ethics are all examined through this rubric. This post cannot summarize this section fully.
Wellum is clear to conclude that most Christians would reach very similar conclusions, regardless of how they are reached. Rejecting the OT as irrelevant for ethics, and claiming that sections of it remain directly binding are both missteps that PC attempts to avoid.
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Many thanks to B&H Academic for providing a review copy.
David Mitchell is a unique fellow. He is a Biblical scholar, expert in the Psalms, and an archaeo-musicologist. His important work on the Psalms, The Message of the Psalter, gave a fascinating defense of an eschatological focus to the Psalms, and is referenced in virtually every major work on the Psalter. Mitchell also recently released a stimulating work devoted to the Songs of Ascent (my review). His newest work is sure to be just as fascinating, as it is devoted to a little-known topic: the Messiah ben Joseph.
I sent over some questions about this new book to Mitchell (in bold), and here are his answers.
Please briefly explain the thesis of your book. Who is the ‘Messiah ben Joseph’?
Messiah ben Joseph is the dying Galilean messiah of rabbinic Judaism. He is mentioned in the Targums and the Talmud and in many other places in rabbinic literature. The big question is: When did this figure originate? If, as many maintain, he originated during the Christian period, then we face the unlikely scenario that the rabbis, having rejected one slain Galilean messiah, then created another in his image. But there is great opposition to the idea that he originated in pre-Christian times, for obvious reasons. My position is that he did indeed originate in pre-Christian times, that he originates, in fact, in Genesis 49.24 and Deuteronomy 33.17, and can be traced through the prophets, the Psalms, and numerous intertestamental texts.
How did you first run across this topic and what drove you to 25 years of study?
I first met Messiah ben Joseph some twenty-five years ago, when researching the book that would become The Message of the Psalter. Puzzling over the references to Joseph amidst the Psalms, I came upon Sa‘adya Gaon’s account of how Messiah ben Joseph would appear in the last days and die before Messiah ben David came. I had never heard of Messiah ben Joseph, but I felt that he might be the answer to my puzzle. Yet, on exploring the subject, I found every voice united in dating Messiah ben Joseph to the Christian period. But the more I looked, the more I saw a match between the messianism of the Psalms and the messianic timetable of Sa‘adya and the other midrashim, and so I doubted the assurances of the many.
As for why I kept at it for 25 years:
- The subject fascinated me and I couldn’t let it go
- It has been vital, for me at least, to fully understanding the roots of Christian messianism
- It has much to say to the Jews too
- I could have perhaps done it quicker, but I was busy with other projects and I think the long reflection time was good.
Your site boasts this as the “first full-length monograph” on the Messiah ben Joseph. I expect I’m not alone when I say that I had not even heard of it before. Why do you think it has not received proper attention in academic and popular circles?
As you will see from the book, Messiah ben Joseph has always been a controversial subject. The rabbis always preferred to keep the subject on a strictly need-to-know basis. This was not only to keep it out of the hands of Christian apologists, but because the issue of the figure’s origins (as noted above) was deeply problematical.
What do you hope the book will contribute to academia? What do you hope it will mean to your Jewish and Christian readers?
I hope it will help Jews see the biblical roots of Christian messianism. I also hope it will help Christians see that there is no radical break between ancient Israelite messianic expectation and the dying son of God in the New Testament. I think it should be read by every Christian and every Jew who wishes to understand better our great mutual hope in the coming of the Messiah.
What projects are you working on next?
Can’t say for sure. Right now I’m writing an article on Messiah for the Society of Old Testament Studies Wiki. I am planning a 20th anniversary update of my Message of the Psalter. But now I’m wondering if I should write something else in between. Also, having published two large books in two years, I’m wanting to catch my breath.
Be sure to check out Mitchell’s book. Visit David Mitchell’s website for more information on his books, links to academic articles, and music.
The battle between Covenant Theology (CT) and Dispensational Theology (DT) is notoriously intense and shows no signs of calming down. Over time, however, the emergence of mediating positions has blurred the sharp distinction. On such “via media” is dubbed Progressive Covenantalism, first articulated in Kingdom Through Covenant (KTC). This new book, Progressive Covenantalism, is considered “a continuation of KTC” (p4) by consisting of essays collected from like-minded scholars that address issues “underdeveloped and not discussed” (p4) in KTC.
What is Progressive Covenantalism (PC)? It is progressive in seeking to “underscore the unfolding nature of God’s revelation over time”, and is covenantal by emphasizing that “God’s plan unfolds through the covenants and that all of the covenants find their fulfillment, telos, and terminus in Christ” (p2). Progressive Covenantalism unfolds logically over ten chapters, arranged in relationship to the CT/DT binary.
In chapter 1, Jason DeRouchie holds that by tracing the development of Abraham’s seed across the two testaments, particularly in Isaianic passages, one must reject both CT’s and DT’s views of new covenant ecclesiology and hold a more nuanced and biblical ecclesiology.
A key question in the debate is the relationship between Israel and the church, and in chapter 2 Brent Parker enters the ring by arguing that both positions are incorrect. For Parker, CT incorrectly blurs the distinction between the two, while DT pulls them apart. Where CT may present the relationship as = and DT as ≠, PC sees a relationship of typological development from Israel to Christ to church.
Chapter 3 finds Jason Meyer contrasting PC with DT and CT in the various understandings of the Mosaic law and its role for the Christian.
Ardel Caneday in Chapter 4 attempts to undermine the division of covenants into either being entirely unconditional or conditional. Such a simplistic distinction does not hold; instead, covenant fidelity is always required from both parties, and recognizing this reinforces Christ’s faithfulness.
A particular relationship between circumcision and baptism undergirds CT’s case for infant baptism, but in chapter 5 John Meade comes to another conclusion by tracing the development of circumcision and heart circumcision across the testaments with fresh historical work.
In chapter 6, Tom Schreiner lays out the purpose of Sabbath and its transformation in light of fulfillment by Christ, concluding that Sabbath observance is not required in the New Covenant.
Chris Cowan in chapter 7 defends the regeneration of all New Covenant believers by responding to CT’s insistence that the warning passages reveal a mixed covenant body of believers and unbelievers.
Important for CT is the tripartite division of the law (moral, civil, ceremonial) and that believers are under at least the moral elements of the Mosaic law. In chapter 8, Stephen Wellum rejects the tripartite division while upholding that the entire Bible is the believers’ ethical standard.
In chapter 9, Richard Lucas challenges dispensational use of Romans 11 that argue for a restoration and particular role for national Israel in the millennium. Whether one holds to a future mass salvation of Jews in Rom 11, DT overloads the passage with expectations of national restoration not found in the text.
Closing off the book with chapter 10, Oren Martin places the Abrahamic land promise in the larger Biblical narrative of Eden to new creation, revealing that the land promise is broadened and fulfilled in the new creation.
Overall, the chapters in Progressive Covenantalism are provocative and move the discussion forward. In particular, DeRouchie, Caneday, Meade, and Wellum all present fresh and rigorous thought in their respective topics. Although less constructive, Schreiner, Martin, Parker and Lucas’ chapters all provide helpful responses to key distinctives of DT and CT. Parker’s chapter was thankfully a far superior presentation of PC’s view on the Israel/church relationship than seen in the recent four-views book on Israel and the church; that said, I found DeRouchie’s chapter more stimulating, exegetically driven and compelling than Parker’s. In fact, DeRouchie’s was possibly the best chapter in the book.
However, there were a few shortfalls. Meyer’s chapter was a little aimless compared to his work on the Law elsewhere. Also, while Chris Cowan’s chapter was a strong presentation of the “means of perseverance” view of warning passages, it was largely a re-presentation of Schreiner and Caneday’s work elsewhere.
If one does not hold to PC, the issues in these chapters are still important. Even if for this reason alone, Progressive Covenantalism deserves to be read. It presents a comprehensive, theological, and exegetical approach to answering these difficult questions. In doing so, Progressive Covenantalism establishes itself as a valid and fresh contender among the old dogs and deserves a place at the table. I eagerly await future development and critiques of the system. The fresh insights and arguments from Progressive Covenantalism will require responses and hopefully provoke fresh work from both CT and DT.
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Many thanks to B&H Academic for providing a review copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
Leviticus appears to be arranged in a chiastic order (see here). That is, it is arranged in a mirror-image. This is best understood visually.
Notice that the first and final chapters match. These both describe rituals, whether sacrifices and offerings (Lev 1-7) or festivals (Lev 23-25). The next chapters, moving inwards, are also parallel: they both address the ordination of the priesthood (Lev 8-10) and the moral requirements of the priests (Lev 21-22). Moving inwards we find, ceremonial purity (Lev 11-15) and moral purity (Lev 17-20). This brings us to the final and central unit, the day of atonement, which finds no parallel within the book. This means that it is the centre of Leviticus itself. In fact, the Day of Atonement is the centre of the Torah, given that Leviticus is the central book (another chiastic structure).
My wife drew this amazing promo picture for the class I am teaching at CCB. She built it around the chiastic structure. The wheat and birds match the food on the right, showing the Ritual section. The anointing oil and blood of the ram match the bald and disqualified priest on the right in the Priesthood section. The grasshopper and fish match the unequal scales on the right in the Purity section. Then finally in the centre we have the Day of Atonement. Amazing, right?
This results in a seven-fold structure (a number that occurs frequently within the book) that is easy to memorize. For such a complicated book, we need all the help we can get!
Randy (over at Bible Study with Randy) and I just put up an episode about chiasms on Beyond Reading the Bible.