Far too often we overlook significant themes in the Bible until they are shown to us as such. It isn’t until the veil is carefully removed and the prominence of such theme is displayed as uniquely interwoven throughout the Old Testament and the New, that the once trivial understanding becomes replaced with a sense of adoration and awe. This is the kind of experience that a reader should anticipate from We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G. K. Beale.
We Become What We Worship begins with the prophet Isaiah as Beale establishes his exploration of the biblical theme of idolatry. But this book does not intend to be a comprehensive study of idolatry, rather, according to Beale, it is “primarily an attempt to trace one particular aspect of idolatry as it is sometimes developed in Scripture . . . what people revere, they resemble, either for ruins or restoration” (p.16). For Beale, this theme was first observed in the study of the commissioning of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-13), and it is here that he appropriately seeks to introduce the reader as well.
Following this initial observation in Isaiah 6, Beale backpedals his investigation and guides the reader through the Old Testament and into the New, pointing out the prominence of this aspect of idolatry along the way. One of the most interesting sections before transitioning into the New Testament, as some readers would rightly expect, is Beale’s discussion about Judaism’s view of Israel becoming like the calf that they worshiped (Ex. 32). Beale makes a parallel from an earlier chapter between the golden calf sin and that of Adam, writing, “Adam’s sin also involved becoming like part of the creation, as was the view of the calf transgression by Judaism and indeed by the Old Testament itself” (p. 159).
Turning attention to the New Testament, Beale follows the previously established theme that through the Gospels, Acts, Paul’s epistles, and the Book of Revelation. Much of the emphasis in these latter chapters is established upon the grounds of intertextuality—or the New Testament use of the Old. Beale is masterful on this playing field and his exegetical insight therein proves his observations again and again. This is most evident in his treatment of the Pauline epistles, especially that of Romans and First Corinthians.
As mentioned at the outset, far too often we tend to overlook significant biblical themes until the veil is removed. Beale has consistently presented himself as a scholar with a keen ability to observe a larger biblical picture with clarity before presenting that observation with precision and conviction. I found Beale’s exegetical insights across the board to be worth the admission of the book, but especially his insights on Isaiah 6. Still, what I appreciated the most about this book is the uncharted territory that it has sought to explore. The reader begins with a unique observation and insight and concludes with an unveiling of a scarlet thread intricately woven throughout the biblical narrative.
We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G. K. Beale is admittedly not for the academically faint of heart. This is a thick and weighty volume that is rich with informed exegesis and insight on the biblical text and an important biblical theme. Beale carefully guides the reader through the Old Testament and the New, providing a focused examination of the theme without losing sight of the peripherals. This book is unique in that it places attention on a single aspect of idolatry rather than idolatry in general, and Beale persuasively presents his case with conviction. This is a book that will alter the way you read and interact with the Scriptures, and for this reason, it comes highly recommended!
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.