Thomas Schreiner: “Why I Wrote The King in His Beauty

“Why I Wrote The King in His Beauty
by Thomas R. Schreiner

We write books for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes we want to try out a new idea on the scholarly community, hoping that we have found a new insight into an old problem or perhaps believing that the scholarly consensus is dramatically wrong. Other times we write to communicate what excites us, sharing with others what we have discovered. The latter reason explains why I wrote The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. I didn’t write the book because I have a new model or theory on how to put the Bible together. Nor did I write it to try out a novel scholarly theory. In other words, the audience I had in mind was not first and foremost the academic world. I teach in a seminary and serve as a preaching pastor in the church, and what excites me is training pastors, missionaries, and ministers for the work of the ministry. So, I wrote the book with pastors, students, and interested laypersons in mind (though I hope scholars will profit from it as well). I hope readers can pick up my book and find a thorough but relatively nontechnical unfolding of the storyline of the Bible in which the contribution of each book in the Scriptures is included.

Let me say a few other things about the book. I don’t claim to have written the whole biblical theology that captures what the Bible is truly about. It is impossible to write such a book, for no biblical theology can do justice to all that the Scriptures teach. The subject matter (God) transcends any attempt to elucidate the scriptural witness. A variety of biblical theologies from different standpoints cast new and fresh light on the message of the Scriptures, and so the task of writing biblical theologies will not end until the consummation.

Another feature of the book is the emphasis on both the human and divine authors. My goal is to read the message of the OT in its historical context. At the same time, I try to read the OT as the NT authors read it. The historical voice of the biblical writer is attended to and respected, but at the same time the canonical voice of the divine author is also heeded. I don’t limit myself to what Leviticus means within the ambit of the Pentateuch but also ask what it means in light of the revelation that has come in Jesus Christ. In other words, how does the coming of Jesus reshape and reconfigure our reading of Leviticus? Such an attempt does not nullify the historical meaning of the book. In fact, I spend most of my time on the former, while also considering the contribution the book makes now that the Christ has come.

A word should be said about the title of the book. The goal of all history is to see the King in his beauty. That is our goal both individually and corporately, for there is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling than seeing God and enjoying him forever. My book traces the journey to the final goal. God is our great king and Lord. What happened to obscure our vision of and relationship with the King? And what does God do to reclaim his lordship over the world and over our lives? The story is full of twists and turns and mountains and valleys, and as we grow in our understanding of God’s purposes, we grow in our understanding of God, ourselves, and the world we inhabit.

Sacred Scripture recounts how God reclaims his lordship over the world (though in another sense he is always the Lord over the world). In some ways it is easier to tell the story by focusing on the narrative, on books like Genesis and Exodus, 1–2 Samuel, and the Gospels. But Proverbs and Song of Solomon and the Epistles contribute to the unfolding story as well, and I try to explain how they do so in the book.

In many evangelical churches and communities we focus on verses, chapters, or even books of the Bible without attending to how they fit with the entire canon, with the story that unfolds in Scripture. I hope this book will give some help to those who are trying to see the bigger picture.

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Thomas R. Schreiner (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including New Testament Theology; Magnifying God in Christ; Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ; and Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.

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