Posted by: William | March 22, 2008

Adopted into God’s Family

It took me a pretty long time, but I finally finished Adopted into God’s Family, from the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, written by Trevor Burke. This is my second book from this series, the first being Slave of Christ by Murray Harris.


In Adopted into God’s Family Burke explores the Pauline metaphor of Adoption found in Ephesians, Galatians and Romans. He concludes that the adoption metaphor was likely based on the Roman legal adoption by the paterfamilias of men primarily for the sake of family honor. Burke does a thorough job of expanding the metaphor from all different parts of scripture as well other historical and cultural contexts.


So far both books have been painful to read; literature that I really have to kind of trudge through. The majority of the reason being that there are various, basically, style and organization things that make it daunting to truck through. The two big ones are, one, the font seems to be slightly smaller than usual and two, the chapters are relatively long for the topic. Most of the classic literature that I read has an archaic style of breaking up content that, I think, is much better and keeps information rolling as well as well organized in my brain.


In lots of classic literature chapters will sometimes be 40 – 50 pages long (at least in modern reprints), but will be broken up every two or three pages by numbered headings, subheadings and sub-subheadings. In this series of books, it seems that the trend is more toward long winded chapters and just a few subheadings spread throughout the chapter. This kind of organization means that if you want to read, you need to be committed to a good 15 – 20 minutes of reading, otherwise you’ll lose your place next time. No reading these babies on the john. I know that’s nitpicky and probably just the way the genre works, but it’s a pain the butt for me.


Once I got passed the personal grievances, Adopted into God’s Family was awesome. Of course, incidentally, it took me the entire book to get over those personal grievances. The point is though that the content of the book is so rich and the exploration of theology is so thorough and robust that while reading, it will be painful and daunting, but once done will offer a beautiful new perspective on scripture that really brings the metaphors to life. This I have found true with both installments of this series that I have read.


When reading scripture, we have a pseudo-understanding of what Paul means when he says we’ve been adopted. However, after reading this book, the metaphor carries far more weight and his words become much more meaningful.


Adopted is definitely a scholarly book. If you’re going to read it, and benefit from it, you’re going to need to commit to it, even if the going gets tough. If you finish, you’ll almost certainly be enriched. For this reason, I don’t recommend this book or series for casual readers. I suspect that pastors, lay people and bible students will have a lot to gain from this study.


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