Review: The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments
(Baker 2013, $44.99), Thomas R. Schreiner
Review by Josh Hayes
Some say that genius is making the complex seem simple. If this is so, then calling New Testament scholar and Southern Seminary professor Thomas R. Schreiner a genius may not be an overstatement. Whether in writing, the classroom or the pulpit, Schreiner displays an uncanny ability to explain a subject with accuracy, accessibility and honesty – no matter the level of difficulty or complexity – providing satisfying resolutions and conclusions that leave his students amazed and simultaneously pondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?” In short, Schreiner has staked a reputation on being simply profound yet profoundly simple.
Schreiner’s latest book, The King in His Beauty, is just that in its presentation of the Bible’s storyline of a God who seeks to restore humanity to proper relationship with himself by making good on his promises.
Schreiner takes a book-by-book approach to the Bible, with 34 chapters divided into nine parts that demarcate various groupings among the canon. Acknowledging that there exists a variety of ways one might trace the central storyline or theme of the Bible, Schreiner puts forth the “kingdom of God” as a unifying category that can hold together the diversity of Scripture’s 66 books.
“The intent is to focus on the storyline as it unfolds. The theme pursued must be flexible enough to comprehend several different interlocking themes in Scripture so that it summarizes the fundamental message of the Bible,” he writes.
“I intend to argue in this book that the ‘kingdom of God,’ if that term is defined with sufficient flexibility, fits well as a central theme of the entire Bible.
According to Schreiner, the kingdom of God entails three components: the rule of God as king; human beings as those made in God’s image to live under his rule; and the universe as the realm in which God’s rule abides. Thus, the kingdom of God consists of God’s creatures living in his world under his rule, looking upon his beauty and reflecting it. Schreiner expounds for readers how the “kingdom” theme holds even for books where it might be less obvious, such as the wisdom literature.
Furthermore, one of the most distinguishing marks of Schreiner’s The King in His Beauty is the author’s unhesitant treatment of Old Testament texts from a Christian perspective — that is, he is unafraid to draw connections between various persons, events, rituals, patterns and other details in Old Testament passages and their fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Some evangelical scholars no doubt approach the Old Testament similarly in view of typological structures and patterns, but Schreiner does so in a more fluid and seamless, rather than a compartmentalized, fashion.
Potential readers should not let the size of the 736-page volume intimidate them; size should not be confused with difficulty. This text is not primarily written for scholars but for pastors, laypeople and college and seminary students. Written in Schreiner’s usual lucid, straightforward and pastoral voice, The King in His Beauty requires of readers little else than a broad knowledge of the English Bible.
A thing of beauty in itself, The King in His Beauty accentuates the glory of the triune God and the grandeur of his plan to consummate all things in Christ as its author, like a well-trained scribe, brings out of Scripture’s treasure things both new and old (Matt 13:52). Reading this book is sure to make one more excited about reading the Bible.