The Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God

By McDaniel, Chip | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 2006 | Go to article overview

The Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God


McDaniel, Chip, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God. By G. K. Beale. New Studies in Biblical Theology 17. Leicester/Downers Grove: Apollos/ Intervarsity, 2004, 458 pp., $29.00 paper.

With his characteristic exegetical and bibliographical thoroughness, G. K. Beale traces a theology of the temple through Scripture, buttressing his observations with evidence from ANE texts and temple structures, Jewish writers, and the Church Fathers. The author's command of the subject is evidenced by his 55 pages of indexes for bibliographical, scriptural, and non-biblical texts.

Beale's most enduring point is that Christ himself (whose physical body is the temple and who is the cornerstone of the Church) and the NT Church begin the fulfillment of the OT prophecies concerning a future temple, a fulfillment that will continue throughout eternity as God dwells with his people. Beale sets this story of the anticipated and fulfilled temple within the larger framework of the presence of God theme begun at creation. For Beale the description of Eden and its environs, the creation and work of man, the blessing/commission of the patriarchs and Israel, the theophany at Sinai, and the structure of temples in the ANE and Israel all point to a theology of the expansion of the worship/praise of God throughout creation, a theology that employs temple terminology. Beale's argument is based on shared vocabulary and parallelisms between these accounts. For example, Eden, Sinai, and the tabernacle and temple all exhibit a tri-partite structure and manifest God's presence. The entrance to Eden and the entrance to Israel's worship sites are oriented eastward. Adam, Noah, and Abraham perform quasi-priestly functions. The tabernacle and temple are decorated with gardenlike iconography.

The OT relates the failure of man to extend the witness of God worldwide, thus establishing the need for a structure not made by human hands-Christ and then the Church as the spiritual dwelling place of God, witnessing to all the world of God's glory. The Church anticipates the new heaven and earth in which the entire cosmos will be God's dwelling.

Beale's strongest arguments are based on his extensive and detailed observations of the use of OT quotations and allusions in the NT. This is Beale at his best. He traces every use of the NT temple theme, showing not only that Christ and the Church are so described, but that the descriptions grow out of the temple and related kingdom promises of the OT (cf. Beale's extensive treatment of Isaiah 66, Ezekiel 40-48, and Daniel 2). Those who anticipate a renewed physical presence of a Jewish temple must interact with these intertextual arguments. It will not be enough to say that the OT is obviously looking to a physical, Jerusalem-based temple. …

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