First, in my undergraduate studies I found that the word "mystery" in the New Testament had major implications for biblical interpretation. The only problem, I found, was that almost every treatment of that word was superficial or unhelpful. Most scholars acknowledged the dependence of Paul and Jesus on the book of Daniel chapter 2. Yet no one really teased out the ramifications of what it really meant beyond the phrase, "A mystery in the Bible was something that was previously unknown but was now fully understood."
Thankfully, that is remedied now in the work Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery. Beale and Gladd set to work to not only provide an in depth study of the word "mystery" but to connect it with the larger scope of redemptive history. They go through every occurrence of the word and show what "mystery" really means.
After a brief introduction, the authors begin in the book of Daniel. From there they move to the use of mystery in early Judaism, the book of Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy and Revelation. They then look at locations where "mystery" is not explicitly used but the idea is nevertheless apparent. Finally, they look at the connection of mystery in Christianity and any possible connection it might have with pagan mystery religions.
So what are some big takeaways from the book? Here are a few big ideas that I hope will inspire you to read the book.
- The New Testament provides fuller understanding and clarification of ideas that were already found in the Old Testament. Hence the idea "hidden but now revealed."
- Jesus, Paul and John were not using fanciful exegesis when interpreting the text. They were merely clarifying what was not previous explicit.
- The term mystery largely centers around Christ's death and resurrection, eschatology and the Gentiles becoming a part of Israel.
Normally, I find Beale's work dense and difficult to read. I found this work, however, to be easier. I don't know if I am just getting used to reading him but the prose seemed to flow smoother. The chapters were not overwhelming largely. I wouldn't call this an easy read, but the material that Beale normally packs in each chapter concerning extrabiblical literature was moved to excurses at the end. It was a much faster read than I expected.
I can't really recommend this work enough to pastors and professors. It is, in my mind, essential reading. Not only is it a work I will likely condense, distill and teach my students, but it is a work that I will consult again and again as I work through the New Testament. It is well, well worth the price of admission.
*Thanks to IVP Academic for providing me a free review copy in exchange for a fair review.*