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We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry Paperback – October 8, 2008

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We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry + The Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology) + A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 341 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 083082877X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830828777
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This profoundly insightful study of idolatry brings into the spotlight a topic of exceptional significance. Illuminating a wide range of biblical passages, Professor Beale skillfully elucidates the life-defining and transforming nature of worship, both true and false. Everyone who reads this book will be deeply challenged to reflect afresh upon the way in which what we revere shapes not only our present lives but also our future destinies." (T. Desmond Alexander, Union Theological College, Belfast)

"Nothing else comes even close to this authoritative analysis of the destroying power of idolatry and its comparison to the renewing power of true worship of the one real God. Beale's relentlessly thorough coverage of the biblical material, using a purposely maximalist approach, gives the reader a close look at every possible reference to relevant passages, no matter how obscure or tangential, so that no stone is left unturned in demonstrating how idolatry--ancient or modern--ruins people's lives. Any biblical preacher or teacher would benefit from this book." (Douglas Stuart, professor of Old Testament, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

"This stimulating and in-depth study on idolatry is vintage Greg Beale. Beale argues that we become like the idols we worship, and he makes his case through a careful intertextual study of the Scriptures. Insights abound as Beale unfolds the biblical text. We are reminded afresh that idolatry is the root sin, and that it is so heinous because it robs God of the glory and praise and honor that he alone deserves." (Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

"This is an original, brilliant and most satisfying treatment of a theme central to biblical understanding, but often misunderstood or ignored in the modern church. This book requires careful study but it repays far more than it requires." (David F. Wells, Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

"We Become What We Worship is biblical theology at its best, weaving together Old and New Testament texts into a unified message. Beale's work is original yet traditional, profound yet simple, exegetical yet 'hyperexegetical,' sometimes provocative yet always profitable, for the scholar yet for every serious Christian. His message that we resemble what we revere, either for ruin or for restoration, is convincing and convicting." (Bruce Waltke, professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary)

"This thoughtful examination of a surprisingly significant biblical theme will richly reward all who read it. . . . It offers that rare combination of careful, insightful exegesis and perceptive application from which not only biblical scholars but all Christians can benefit." (Frank Thielman, Presbyterian Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School)

About the Author

G. K. Beale (PhD, University of Cambridge) holds the J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testament and is professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. His books include The Book of Revelation (New International Greek Testament Commentary), 1-2 Thessalonians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series), The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New, John's Use of the Old Testament in Revelation, The Temple and the Church's Mission and We Become What We Worship.

More About the Author

G. K. Beale is professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. In recent years he has served as President and as a member of the executive committee of the Evangelical Theological Society. He has written several books and articles on biblical studies and was the editor of Right Doctrine from Wrong Texts?

Customer Reviews

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Every Christian needs a thorough understanding of idolatry to minister to themselves and others.
K. T. Milliken
In general the Old Testament deals with ancient Near Eastern idolatry and the New Testament confronts it in metaphorical ways (though not always).
A. Omelianchuk
Many readers may not have the stamina to persevere through the rigorous exegesis that forms the heart of this book.
Trevin Wax

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Trevin Wax on December 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
In We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (IVP Academic, 2008), author G.K. Beale teases out the implications of a truth he first discovered during an extensive study of the commissioning of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6). Beale believes that one of the central aspects of Isaiah 6 is that "what you revere you resemble, either for ruin or restoration." His book is an attempt to show how this teaching is woven into the fabric of Scripture. We Become What We Worship illuminates this teaching by presenting a biblical theology of idolatry.

We Become What We Worship relies heavily on intertextuality - a method of Bible study that combines grammatical-historical exegesis with canonical-contextual exegesis. Beale uses this methodology in order to persuasively demonstrate that the concept of idolaters becoming like their idols is one that appears throughout the Bible.

The most helpful section of this book is the chapter on Isaiah 6. Pastors and teachers will find Beale's exegetical insights to be of enormous value. Next time I preach or teach on Isaiah 6, I will definitely consult this book again! Beale masterfully showcases the biblical allusions in the text, nuances that shed light on the passage's context and meaning.

Another important insight I gleaned from Beale's work concerns the Golden Calf narrative in Exodus. Beale shows how this pivotal event in Israel's history is alluded to in many Old and New Testament passages.

Many readers may not have the stamina to persevere through the rigorous exegesis that forms the heart of this book. We Become What We Worship is definitely geared to the academy and not the layperson. But I highly recommend that pastors consult this book whenever they are preparing to preach on one of the texts that Beale exposits. We Become What We Worship is a terrific resource that shines light on many passages of Scripture.
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73 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Shane Lems VINE VOICE on January 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The major premise of Beale's book is that we become what we worship, either for ruin or restoration. This thesis is generally solid, since Psalm 115.8 spells it out clearly. For this reason, the book is worth reading. In depth, it explores that concept elsewhere in Scripture.

Beale's methodology is somewhat surprising. One would guess, knowing Beale's great emphasis on the NT interpreting the OT, he would start with a few NT texts on idolatry and use them to interpret OT ones and other NT ones as well. However, he uses Isaiah 6.9-13 as not only the source of his thesis, but also as the lens by which he interprets other OT and NT texts. This is troublesome first, because almost no scholar says Isaiah 6.9-13 has idolatry specifically in mind, much less that it shows an idolater becomes like an idol.

It is troublesome second, because he bases his thesis on the allusions to Isaiah 6 in earlier and later Scripture, using his interpretation of Isaiah 6 as the lens for other texts. This does make for some great - really great - biblical theological insights, but elsewhere the reader has to pause to wonder if the biblical author really was talking about idolatry and becoming like idols in a certain text (i.e. the seven letters in Revelation 2-3). In Beale's defense, Isaiah 6 is alluded to in earlier and later texts; the problem is with the lens and possibility of allusions.

Of course this is a methodological and hermeneutical issue; Beale does talk about this extensively in his intro. He says he is a maximalist when it comes to finding intertextual allusions. In my opinion, he is a super-confident maximalist while probably the better option is to be a cautious maximalist to prevent the interpreter from finding allusions that the author did not mean to make.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A. Omelianchuk on April 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
G.K. Beale has written a book on one of the most fascinating subjects to be found in biblical studies. The title of his latest exegetical treatise is We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, and it is one of the most interesting-and poorly written-books I have ever read.

I am not going to mince words. This book was in no way a pleasure to read. Turgid and scholastic from its beginning it drags on for 310 pages containing some of the most tortured and inaccessible prose one will ever encounter. How on earth the publisher allowed the author to compose this overly-technical piece of scholarship is beyond me. True, it is produced by the academic division of IVP, but I fail to see why or how a book like this is required to meet such rigorous standards. Obviously, Beale is an academic who unfortunately does not seem to publish much for the benefit of the popular reader. After reading this book, I am not even sure if he even tried to conceive of a popular reader (can he?) who would otherwise be very interested in the subject matter at hand.

With that out of the way, I only have good things to say about this book! One of the most powerful themes in Scripture is one of the least understood. In the words of Beale, "We resemble what we revere for our ruin or restoration." This is the thesis of not only Beale, but, as he shows with great meticulous detail, also Isaiah as well. Isaiah's vision of God presents the framework from which Beale constructs his case. In chapter 6, particularly verses 9-13, Isaiah testifies to his mission that he is to go preach a message of judgment to idolatrous Israel and make the hearts of people calloused, their ears dull and their eyes closed, so they will not turn and repent (this following centuries of pleading for repentance).
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