For the following reasons. First, Dr. Thomas Schreiner is one of my favorite scholars. I read through his prestigious commentary on Romans, and developed a deep appreciation for his scholarly writing voice, and well as the sheer width of his focus. Second, Biblical Theologies are a favorite area of study for me—at least for the last year. It is often entrenched in complexity, so Graeme Goldsworthy’s definition will serve the purpose of this blog post well: Biblical Theology is “the study of how every text in the Bible relates to every other text in the Bible” (Christ-Centered Biblical Theology, 40). To boil it down further, it’s the unifying storyline of Scripture, which I address more in this blog post. Third, the name alone is awesome: The King in His Beauty. This just makes me want to pick it up and swim in glorious truth!
Now that I’m done with this hefty book (700+ pages), I’ve provided a not-brief summary of what it’s about, some reasons for reading it, potential drawbacks, and a few concluding remarks. Let’s go for a swim!
The King in His Beauty is foremost a Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Biblical Theology (BT) may sound confusing if you’ve never heard the term before, because we sometimes use the word “biblical” when referring to something correct or orthodox; so it may sound like we are talking about a theology that is orthodox. But that’s not what we are talking about (although it assumes the theology is correct!). BT is an area of study, dealing primarily with the story of Scripture, a search for the “center” to that story, and the process of how God reveals that story. Think of it as a view of the Bible from 30,000 feet: you are taking it all in at once.
Schreiner’s intent with writing a BT is simple: to focus on a prominent Biblical theme as it is unfolding so that the average, non-academic reader can understand and enjoy. As Schreiner moves through Scripture, he does so in segments which I’ve found very helpful in following both his train of thought, and the storyline of Scripture. The segments are as follows:
As Schreiner moves through these segments of Scripture, he shows them all anchored in the prominent theme of the Kingdom of God, or as he refers to it, The King in His Beauty. He argues that the Kingdom of God, defined as the rule of God spanning the cosmos, including human beings, by means of covenant, and expressed in judgment, “thematically captures the message of Scripture” (xiii-xv).
The book was not written for scholars, but is scholarly (the footnotes are a feast!). So as he teases out the theme of God’s Kingdom in the Bible, he stays out-of-the-way, yet within close distance to the events as they happen, speaking with a depth of clarity and simplicity even in such seemingly abstract books as Amos or the Psalms. It is this simple clarity on complex topics that makes Schreiner magical. Here are a few other delicacies in the book…
The first thing that caught my eye with Schreiner is his hesitation to claim that his methodology is the only one worthy of consideration—although, this would be forgivable given his extensive research in the field of BT. Yet his humility also comes with a firm conviction from years of research.
I love that Schreiner breaks the Bible into sections which is how he arranged his own table of contents. As a result, you know exactly where Schreiner is taking you in this dash through the Scriptures.
A great amount of attention is given to the divisions of Scripture as well as the storyline of Scripture. The story shows the unity of the Bible, but the divisions show you the process of the story’s revelation—think of it as the structure of the story. Schreiner explains these carefully, especially the covenants as they are revealed in history, an important element in understanding BT.
Schreiner knows how to get an idea stuck in your head. He does this particularly well in the summaries at the end of every section. In addition to this, he inserts “interludes” to recapitulate sections and divisions of Scripture. This makes for a clearly developed thesis running through the entire book, which is constantly dripped down into the readers mind as the book progresses. The King in His Beauty even progresses in the same way as the Bible does! Brilliant.
There aren’t many, but here are a few things I wouldn’t mind changing.
The King in His Beauty has some similarities to the recent book by James Hamilton, The Glory of God in Salvation Through Judgment. Both of them, though not explicitly mentioned in their titles, are largely about the Kingdom of God (Schreiner emphasizes the King, while Hamilton emphasizes the King’s rule). I understand that there is overlap of topics and themes in the realm of BT, so this isn’t a significant obstacle to an otherwise wonderful book. And even though a few similarities in themes exist between Schreiner’s book and James Hamilton’s, there are also noticeable differences that set them apart. For example, Schreiner seems to focus more on the King Himself, than on the King’s rule. I love this! The centrality of Christ in this tome is what illuminates it most brightly.
Schreiner writes to show the “majesty and beauty” of the Biblical storyline while keeping a distance from “technical work for scholars” (x). While the substance of what he writes about is enough to cause one’s heart to soar, the technical language sometimes affects that experience. For example, I would have loved to see more over-the-top adjectives in his descriptions, since his stated desire is to show the majesty and beauty of Scripture (although this may be a faux pas in the academic world, I’m not sure). This is not to detract from Schreiner’s writing style or wording—he is a great writer, and he makes the concepts he is championing absolutely clear—rather, it seems a gargantuan piece to bite off: writing as a scholar, with scholarly material, but for the average person. At times, I wish he wasn’t trying to write to so broad and finicky an audience, as his understanding of BT is captivating. I say, write like a scholar—because you are a fine one, sir.
Thomas Schreiner needs very little introduction in Biblical studies. The King in His Beauty exemplifies his ability to take deep, complex truths and explain them in a way that the average person can understand, all without the ever-present danger of dumbing everything down. Reading this book immediately brings the reader before the person and work of Jesus Christ as presented through the entire sweep of the Bible’s storyline. All the while, Schreiner shows how Scripture interacts with various details of God’s story, such as the fascinating emphasis on King David and the promises associated with him. Schreiner’s navigation through the Christian Bible is wonderful, simple, and clear. Partly, because he doesn’t waste time interacting with critical thought (not the book’s intent), although the footnotes alone will keep you embroiled in book purchasing.
The King in His Beauty is not a book you grab off the shelf to skim through while sipping your morning tea—it’s for serious students of the Bible. Specifically, non-academics who want to enrich their understanding of the Bible’s unity, see the Kingdom of God unfolding in Scripture (even books that do not mention “kingdom” explicitly), or want a starting place for enjoying Biblical Theology. Yet, it is so clearly and simply written, that it can also serve the average person as they move through a one-year Bible reading program, for example.
Make no mistake, the church is better off for having Thomas Schreiner, his broad scope of theology, and his love for the Bride of Christ. All of which is made more evident in his latest book on the true Protagonist of the Bible.
Find the book on Amazon here: The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments.
We have gone through the Bible over the years as a church, with different reading plans that all had as their main purpose a desire to expose the Christian to the whole counsel of God in one year. Each of these has been so enriching!
What we want to do this year is to focus, not on the entire Biblical canon, but on the entire New Testament, as well as the Psalms and Proverbs. We’ve chosen a reading plan, called Project 345+, which accomplishes this in an exceptional way:
You’ll notice that the way this plan navigates through the New Testament is by moving through one of the Gospels (John), before branching off into the Acts of the Apostles and Romans. After a round of that…it does another Gospel (Luke), followed by a few more epistles, and the pattern continues, so that a steady diet of the New Testament is processed throughout the year. In this way, you’re getting the full realm of the New Testament throughout the year.
What I am looking forward to most in 2013, is the chance, not simply for exposure, but for marination and maturation. Going through the New Testament will allow us to take our time, and even go back and study portions of Scripture that we read.
As a church, we want to slow down during 2013, and enjoy Jesus through His Word!
Below, you’ll find a link that will provide for you all the resources necessary for starting this years reading! If you are on twitter, the official hashtag is #1YearBible. Feel free to post, give spiritual insights, ask questions, or just browse other people’s tweets.
Enjoy Jesus! http://www.realitysb.com/one-year-bible/
It’s easy to romanticize the Bible as a giant reference tool full of verses to make us feel better about ourselves. Or as God’s answer book, loaded with sound-bytes for everything that triggers our curiosity, including where to apply for our dream job. Even worse, God’s little love note to us…I digress.
My understanding of the Bible changed when I realized that it was not written about me, but God. Rather than looking for a divine psychologist to fix my problems, my gaze realigned onto a transcendent Other, as my universe began to revolve around the glories of who God is. After this, the Bible made my heart come alive. Years later, I still have to keep two things ever before me…
Every word you read in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, the Psalms, the Chronicles, and even the apocalyptic literature, all fits warmly under these two headings: you are either reading Law, or you are reading Gospel. A Law-demanding life is hopeless without the power of the Gospel, yet the good news of the Gospel is nonsensical without the Law. Simply put, the Scriptures are truncated unless both Law and Gospel are in it together.
The Law first pointed to the Ten Commandments (called the moral law), and was later expanded to include the entire Torah–which included a total of 613 commands. Jesus summarized the Law of God with these two,
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. (Matthew 22:37-40, HCSB)
We (Christians) sometimes make a couple of mistakes when we think of the Law. First, it’s a temptation to think of the Law as an anachronism relegated to the world of the “Old Testament.” Yes, there are many imperatives in the Old Testament, but there are also many imperatives in the New Testament. We should think of the Law as all of God’s commandments in Scripture. The second mistake we make is to denigrate the Law as legalism, per se, which is non-binding on believers from the New Testament. But Paul said, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good” (Rom. 7:12, HCSB).
When we fail to keep the commands of God and are rightly condemned as a result, it is the Gospel that declares us justified before God, by grace, through faith in Christ alone (Rom. 5:18). Justification is more than mere forgiveness. When your debt is forgiven, you can still be left broke, though without outstanding debts. But when a person is justified, they experience a credit. In this case, we are given the wealth of Christ’s righteousness (2 Cor. 8:9)! But where did He get it from? You say, “Well, He’s God, so he was already righteous.” That’s true…in His divinity. But in the doctrine of the incarnation, something buck-wild occurs. The sinless Christ learned obedience (Heb. 5:8, ESV), lived His life as a Spirit-filled man (Mark 1:9-13), and though we failed to obey God since the time of Adam (Rom. 5:14), Christ adhered to His Father’s Law perfectly (Rom. 5:19-21). Jesus becomes the propitiation for our sins (Rom. 3:25), and the justification for sinners who are graciously enabled to turn to Him (24). Justification, then, means we end up with the righteous resume of Christ!
Everything you read in the Scriptures show one of these, because the Bible is Law and Gospel. When you read one while ignoring the other, you truncate the whole council of God’s Word, and substitute something more palpable (and impotent) in its stead. For example, if you were to only read the imperative truths of Scripture that exhorted you to some type of obedience, you would either despair, or become legalistic and self-righteous. You must read imperatives (Law) along with the indicatives (Gospel). But if you only care about Gospel passages that proclaim your true your identity in Christ to make you feel good about yourself, yet do not acclimate to that truth by responding in loving obedience, you become antinomian and relativistic. You still need the Law! You need it to give you rails by which you can respond in your loving worship to a holy God, who calls us to love him wholeheartedly, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is the whole council of Scripture–it’s everything God must say to us in this moment in history. If you are discouraged by a bland reading of Scripture, I suggest you read MORE Scripture, and you read it while looking for these two themes. You will constantly be hearing how God has purposed you, how you have failed, and how He, in His lovingkindness, has made a way.
Unless you have some type of reading plan, such as a yearly Bible reading, or a schedule, you may find yourself gravitating towards the same books of the Bible. Perhaps it’s because the passages you go back to regularly stroke your self-esteem! Or it’s because you love to beat your self up with commandments. But you need the full meal of God’s Word. Read the whole council of God. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to it. Be humbled to the dust by His transcendence. Be elated to the skies by His lavish mercy.
Our church is going through the Bible in a year starting in January. I don’t use exclamation points in my writing often, but last night at Adorn (college/young adults), I asked if anyone was going through the 1 Year Bible reading, and a couple hundred people responded! Gahhh, I can’t wait!!
There is something riveting about reading Scripture in community. I think Paul had this in mind when he exhorts to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16). I can gladly imagine so many of us digging into the Word of God, mining the depth of his thoughts, and retrieving treasure beyond comparison to speak about to one another.
Of course, the Bible is a big book, and there are some difficult areas to navigate. I say this, because if you are unaware of how or what to navigate, this journey can quickly grow tedious. We will have to keep consistent, frequent conversation with one another about the readings, including questions, dialog, insights, prophetic, etc. I want to extend the invitation to read through Scripture to any of you who do not attend Adorn, to be bound together with us by the Word of Christ instead of proximity.
Let’s start the conversation now, shall we? Below is a short outline of the Bible, Old Testament first, followed by the New Testament. These are compartments of Scripture that will help us to digest the whole…
When you see these soaring themes, what comes to mind? What do you think about? What do you struggle with? What are you excited about? What are you most looking forward to? What are you most apprehensive of? What do think about all of this? Are you excited? Just talk! I want to talk to people about the Word of God!
There are bad things that come in life, and there are good. This is one of the good things. Let’s soak it up together, and in it, encounter Jesus.
Below is a brilliant, six-minute explanation by N.T. Wright on how to read the Bible.
We can work from what we do we have: Manuscript copies (MSS)
In order to do so…
Let’s first examine the RELIABILITY…
There are four elements that can show us whether an ancient writing is reliable or not:
Let me explain each of these four…
The New Testament has manuscripts that are very old. For example…
BUT THESE ARE STILL SO FAR REMOVED FROM THE ORIGINALS?? HOW CAN THIS BE GOOD ANTIQUITY?
Well, to give you and idea of how good this is, let’s compare the antiquity of the New Testament to the antiquity of some other ancient classical literature:
‘If someone were to claim that we can’t have confidence in the original content of the Gospels because the existing manuscripts are far too removed from the autographs, then that person would also have to cast doubt upon our knowledge of almost all ancient history and literature.’ 
Let’s look at the second element…
There are 5,700 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament alone! If you count all the translations, there roughly 25,000 total!! So when Textual Critics (The scholars who research this kind of thing) are comparing copies to get an idea of what the original said, they aren’t just dealing with a handful to go with. They have thousands!
Compare this to some other Greek writings:
Let’s look at the third element…
The method being used in all of this is the science of textual criticism. The scholars involved in this science seek to recover what the original document actually said, with the greatest accuracy possible. And it’s not a guessing game…
‘Though there is certainly a measure of subjectivity in text criticism, it is by far the most objective discipline in New Testament studies. If you were to take two different teams of text critics and ask them to work independently on a critical edition of the Greek New Testament, they would agree more than 99 percent of the time’  – Mark D. Roberts
Let’s look at the last element…
The truth is, there are a lot of variants (differences) to work with.
Some scholars have lost trust in the New Testament because of the amount of variants:
‘What can we say about the total number of variants known today? Scholars differ significantly in their estimates- some say there 200,000 variants known, some say 300,000, some say 400,000 or more! We do not know for sure because, despite impressive developments in computer technology, no one has yet been able to count them all. Perhaps, as I indicated earlier, it is best simply to leave the matter in comparative terms. There are more variations among manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.” – Bart Ehrman 
But most conservative New Testament scholars are not shaken by this at all.
And neither should we be. Here are some reasons why…
1) THERE ARE A LOT OF VARIANTS BECAUSE THERE ARE A LOT OF MANUSCRIPT COPIES!
Listen to F.F. Bruce on this subject: ‘if the great number of MSS increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is not so large as might be feared; it is in truth remarkably small.’
For example, I found five manuscript copies of this sentence in my backyard:
They seem to differ in several areas. In fact, if you only found the last manuscript (#5), you would think it was referring to four different people! But with five copies, we are then able to compare them to each other and accurately conclude that the original did indeed say: Jesus Christ Loves Joseph Smith.
Now… imagine the accuracy you would have with 5,700 Greek copies! (and many, many more translations).
2) MOST OF THESE VARIANTS ARE INSIGNIFICANT.
One liberal textual critic remarks about the quantity of variants:
‘Most of these differences are completely immaterial and insignificant. A good portion of them simply show us that scribes in antiquity could spell no better than most people can do today’
3) THE VARIANTS THAT ARE SIGNIFICANT DO NOT CHANGE DOCTRINE:
Take some of the most famous variants, for example…
Most of these passages were not found in the earliest and best manuscripts that we have available to us. But even then, these aren’t verses that give us our founding doctrines of the faith. It’s not like we look to these verse to articulate the doctrine of justification, you know?
In addition to that, they can often be supported by other Scriptural references, and in some cases (e.g., John 7:53-8:11), are simply later insertions of true historical events.
4) WE KNOW WHERE THESE VARIANTS ARE.
It’s not like there are a bunch of unidentified variants floating around the Bible that we can’t find. They are carefully noted and documented in the margins of your own study Bible.
5) THE BIBLE HAS BEEN PRESERVED.
Those significant variants only make up less than 1% of the Bible. That means that the Bible you have in your hands is 99.5% accurate in what it says! And the other half of a percentage does not even change any doctrine that Christianity adheres to at all.
If you want a quick read on this subject, one of the best books I’ve read is by Mark D. Roberts, entitled, Can We Trust the New Testament Gospels?
1~ Metzger, Bruce M., and Bart D Ehrman. The Text of the New Testament. 55.
2~ Metzger, Bruce M., and Bart D Ehrman. The Text of the New Testament. 62.
3~ Price, Randall. Searching for the Original Bible.
4~ Roberts, Mark D. Can We Trust the New Testament Gospels? 30-31.
5~ Roberts, Mark D. Can We Trust the New Testament Gospels?31.
6~ Metzger, Bruce M., and Bart D. Ehrman. The Text of the New Testament. 51.
7~ Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus. 89-90.
8~ Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus. 10-11.