Hidden But Now Revealed, G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014.
Summary: A study of the word mystery in scripture, particularly considering its use in the Old Testament book of Daniel, and how nearly all New Testament usages connect back to this book, and show the once hidden but now revealed realities surrounding the person of Christ, his kingdom, and the inclusion of the Gentiles.
“Mystery” means quite a number of different things, and often, when we read passages in the Bible that refer in some way to mystery, we read those into the text. In other instances, it is the practice to read into the New Testament usage of mystery the uses of this term in the pagan religions of surrounding cultures.
Beale and Gladd in this book understand mystery as something that was once hidden but had now been revealed, or will be revealed. What they do in this book is study all the instances where the word occurs in scripture, primarily in Daniel in the Old Testament, some in inter-testamental Judaism, and in the canonical New Testament books of Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Revelation. They devote a chapter to each of these, exegeting the text, and in the case of the New Testament books, showing the echoes or connections back to Daniel in almost every use–often in parallels in word usage and meaning, as well as in the elaboration or fuller development of that meaning. Each chapter includes conclusions that summarize the biblical theology of mystery in that book. Many of the chapters also have excurses on special issues related to the text of a particular book.
The final chapters consider the theme of mystery in the New Testament even where the word does not occur, the contrast between the esoteric character of pagan mystery religions and the open character of the biblical proclamation of the mysteries revealed in Christ. A conclusion then ties together the theology of mystery found throughout scripture, showing how so much was revealed in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection and cosmic rule of the Son of God. There is the mystery of the already-not yet kingdom and the inclusion of the Gentiles. Most of all is the mystery of the cruciform work of Christ, how the victory of Christ and salvation and the conquest of Satan occurred through the death of Jesus.
One of the bonuses of this book was the concluding appendix on “The Cognitive Peripheral Vision of the Biblical Authors.” Have you ever noticed how some of the passages cited as prophecies of Christ, seem to mean something very different in their Old Testament context? It seems that the New Testament authors interpret these to mean something very different from what they meant in their original context. Beale and Gladd argue that this reflects a type of “peripheral vision.” The contextual meaning in the Old Testament is the equivalent of the focal point in one’s vision. They would contend, and show evidence from different shadings of meaning within the same Old Testament books, that authors may mean and comprehend more than their explicit intention in a particular passage, such that the appropriation of these passages by New Testament writers falls within their “cognitive peripheral vision.” I’m not sure I buy it yet, but it is an intriguing idea to explore further.
Overall, I thought this was an example of doing biblical theology at its best from a conviction that one may trace both continuity and discontinuity between the testaments but can look for coherence in the whole. They work from exegesis, to summary of the theology of mystery in each book of scripture, to a synthesis of the theology of mystery found in scripture as a whole. Their close, careful study requires the reader’s full attention, but if followed leaves one with a new sense of the wonder of what has been revealed in the coming of Christ, as well as the glories we may yet anticipate.