From Adam and Israel to the Church: A Biblical Theology of the People of God.
A Denver Journal Review by Denver Seminary Professor Dr. David L. Mathewson
Gladd, Benjamin L. From Adam and Israel to the Church: A Biblical Theology of the People of God. Essential Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. $22.00. Paperback ix-182 pp. ISBN978-0-8308-5543-8.
This volume is the first in a new series on biblical-theological themes published by IVP Academic and edited by Benjamin L. Gladd, the author of this current volume and Associate Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary. The series is devoted to studying biblical theological themes across the grand redemptive-historical story line of Scripture, and is intended as an accessible introduction for a wide audience. This present volume analyzes the theme of the people of God. Gladd’s approach draws on the method of Gregory K. Beale (A New Testament Biblical Theology) which examines themes from the standpoint of their redemptive-historical development following the theological story line of the OT and NT. Thus, the themes are traced from their appearance in the Genesis narrative (Chaps. 1-3) through the rest of the OT, then in the NT in light of their fulfillment in the person of Christ, his people, and finally in the New Creation (Revelation 21-22). While the focus is on the theme of the People of God, such an analysis that exams a theme across the redemptive-historical story line of the Bible necessarily will extend to touch on other biblical-theological themes, so the reader is treated to discussion of themes such as Covenant, Christology, Creation/New Creation, Temple, and Redemption. Gladd’s study is partly a challenge to more traditional dispensational approaches to the question of the People of God which postulate two separate peoples, Israel and the Church, with two separate purposes and destinies. Instead, Gladd demonstrates the continuity of the People of God as a single people from Adam, to Israel to the church, and ultimately to the consummated people of the New Creation. Gladd argues that the theme of People of God finds its unity across Scripture in the image of God (Gen 1:26-28) as reflected in the threefold function of humanity as kings, priests, and prophets. Gladd argues that Adam and Eve as created in God’s image were to function in this threefold capacity in the original creation. As kings, they were to represent God’s rule throughout all creation; as priests, they were to mediate God’s presence to all creation, and guard the garden of Eden/Temple from evil; as prophets, they were to embody and communicate God’s truth to their offspring. I think that the case for Adam and Eve as prophets was not as strong as kings and priests. Gladd adopts a very broad view of prophets, as those who embody and communicate God’s truth. Sin, then, marred, but did not obliterate the image. The nation Israel, then, was called to accomplish what Adam and Eve failed to do – to reflect God’s image by functioning as kings, priests, and prophets. Yet Israel fared no better than Adam and Eve.
With the NT, Gladd demonstrates that the image of God and the three functions of king, priest, and prophet find their fulfillment first of all in Jesus Christ. He is the king, priest, and prophet and accomplishes what Adam and Israel failed to do. Thus, the theme of People of God does not just run from Adam to Israel to the Church (as the sub-title of the book suggests), but is funneled through Christ who brings these three functions to fulfillment. By extension, the church as God’s people fulfills them by belonging to Christ. The Church consisting of Jew and Gentile now through Christ fulfills God’s intention for his people to function as kings, priests, and prophets, what Adam and Israel failed to do. The author might have strengthened his case for the function of the church as prophets by developing in more detail Revelation 11, where the church (symbolized by the two witnesses) are clearly given the commission to prophesy (11:3). Gladd demonstrates that this fulfillment has a “not yet” dimension, as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s people as kings, priests, and prophets, is found in the consummated People of God in the New Creation of Revelation 21-22. A final chapter explores some of the implications of the biblical-theological theme of People of God in terms of what it means for God’s people to fulfill their roles as kings, priests, and prophets. One important implication is that there is one people of God throughout redemptive history, not two (Israel and the Church), as in classical Dispensationalism.
All in all, this book has successfully demonstrated the continuity of the redemptive-historical development of an important biblical-theological theme. It has also effectively modeled the biblical-theological method in reading the canonical biblical texts. Along the way one finds interesting and helpful exegetical insights: E.g., the reference to the church ‘multiplying’ in Acts (see 6:7) may be an allusion to Adam’s commission to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28); Paul’s concern for the church to show the heavenly powers (demonic beings) God’s wisdom in Eph 3:10 reflects the OT understanding of the role the angels play in separating the nations, representing disunity (Deut 32:8). Now the church as a unified people consisting of Jew and Gentile proclaim that God has acted through Christ to restore unity to the nations. This book will serve as a clear and penetrating examination of an important theological theme for biblical readers and students of any level.
David L. Mathewson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of New Testament