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We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry Paperback – November 8, 2008
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"This stimulating and challenging book will make readers think." (Linden D. McLaughlin, Bibliotheca Sacra, October-December 2010)
"Beale's work--a masterful exercise in biblical theology--is compelling. The book is weighty, but accessible, and Beale's tone is irenic throughout." (Gary A. Parrett, Interpretations, July 2010)
"An excellent example of how to build a theological conviction in light of detailed work in biblical texts in their original languages." (Chris Keith, The Expository Times, February 2010)
"A good example of sound evangelical scholarship. . .A solid discussion of one aspect of idolatry in the Christian Bible." (L. S. Tiemeyer, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 33.5, 2009)
"Preachers, students, and teachers will find in this exciting book not only original ideas, but also food for thought about the relevance of intertextuality for biblical theology." (Matthieu Richelle, Themelios, 2009)
"As a heavy-weight contribution to this field of research the book is to be commended as a thoughtful, important and impressive piece of work." (Marcus Nodder, Now Reviews, May 2009)
". . .for the interested Christian lay-person, it provides a solid discussion of one aspect of idolatry in the Christian Bible." (L. S. Tiemeyer, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 33.5 2009)
"If you're studying the subject of worshipping anything that is a substitute for God, you'll surely want to obtain this volume." (The Baptist Bulletin, March/April 2009)
"Think of this book as a thorough resource to use for your sermons, a textbook on idolatry, and a voice of wisdom that is not afraid to call into question the worship of the Church. Worship leaders, pastors, and small group leaders alike will have more than enough in this resource to use for weeks on end; and with a topic talked about this much in Scripture, this is exactly what we need." (Worship Leader, March/April 2009)
"Greg Beale has turned out yet another masterpiece of biblical theology and intertextual exegesis. Beale is a master at letting Scripture interpret Scripture." (Green Baggins (greenbaggins.wordpress.com), February 2, 2009)
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.
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Demonstrating the transforming effects of idolatry in the Old Testament is natural enough, since this was Israel's besetting sin. Beale's explanations of Genesis 3, Exodus 32, Ps 106 and 115, Isaiah 6, and Hosea 4 were very compelling, and he demonstrates his theme well. The New Testament is harder since, as Beale notes, there is not a single text which explicitly supports his thesis. His exegesis then is looking at how the OT tests inform the thoughts of the NT writers, showing surprising grammatical connections between NT texts and the Septuagint renderings of the OT. Some of these seemed like a stretch (and some of them he even concedes may be a stretch) but it was interesting to see.
My first inclination was to give this a four star rating, because Beale really does pour a tremendous amount of information into the work and has surely done his work in exegesis. But I have two primary complaints about this work which drag it down.
1. The material should have been edited down to be 50-100 pages shorter than it was. I understand that exegesis is hard work, but in explaining the Old Testament texts, he exegetes how the NT applies the them. And then when he looks at the NT texts, he wants to make connections to the OT background and so he is thoroughly working through the same texts. It seemed like there was a lot of duplication. I'm OK with reading academic literature, but I found this work often to be pretty dry and repetitive. There were not a few times that I felt like just putting the book down and saying "enough."
2. His thesis, "we become what we worship, whether for restoration or ruin," was very thoroughly covered on the side that those who worship idols become like the idols. However, I was extremely disappointed that the positive side of his thesis got almost no attention. The idea that we are conformed to the image of Christ is no small theme in the New Testament, but it seemed like an afterthought in this work. If Beale had reduced his discussion of idolatry by 100 pages and dedicated those pages to the positive theme of this work (and especially showing how that theme is worked out in the OT) I think this would have been an incredible work. It's a missed opportunity.
Please don't get me wrong - this was a very solid work, and I'm glad to have read it. But I don't think I'll be passing this along to any of my friends to read, and for that, I give three stars.
Beale demonstrates that this idea about idolatry and worship permeates the Scripture. He looks primarily at Psalm 135:18 and the account of the golden calf in Exodus 32, but shows how this same idea is entwined implicitly all throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament. He does an excellent job and gives a compelling case for his assertions. He certainly has changed the way I read the Old and New Testament in light of idolatry.
Disclaimer: This book is a heavy and academic (yet thoroughly biblical) study of idolatry. As such, there is a lot of deep exegesis and heavy theological groundwork - so it is not primarily directed to laypeople and is not a light read by any means. Beale does try to give some practical application at the end of the book, but even in doing so his insights tend to be more abstract and academic, and he shows himself to be a professor at heart. So if you are willing to spend some time working through his exegesis and theology, then I'd encourage you to read Beale's work.
Most recent customer reviews
Interesting and factual concepts. I knew many of them, but had not applied the thought and research this author does.
Definitely worth reading.