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Adopted into God's family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Paperback – 15 Sep 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: IVP (15 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184474146X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844741465
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 840,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From the Publisher

The New Studies in Biblical Theology offer creative
expositions of key issues in understanding the Bible.

This book is a thorough new study of a key aspect of the New Testament
theology of salvation.

From the Back Cover

` ... you received the Spirit of adoption' (Romans 8:15)

The relationship between God and his people is understood in various ways
by the biblical writers, and it is arguably the apostle Paul who uses the
richest vocabulary.

Unique to Paul's writings is the term huiothesia, the process or act of
being `adopted as son(s)'. It occurs five times in three of his letters,
where it functions as a key theological metaphor.

Trevor Burke argues that huiothesia has been misunderstood, misrepresented,
or neglected through scholarly preoccupation with its cultural background.
He redresses the balance in this comprehensive study, which discusses
metaphor theory; explores the background to huiothesia; considers the roles
of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; examines the moral implications of
adoption, and its relationship with honour; and concludes with the
consequences for Christian believers as they live in the tension between
the `now' and the `not yet' of their adoption into God's new family.

`Not only the importance of God's family, but also the enormous privilege
of belonging to it, are powerfully underscored by Paul's understanding of
what it means to be the adopted sons of God. With such themes in view, a
wide array of pastoral implications soon springs to light. In other words,
this volume not only probes a neglected theme - it also edifies' (D. A.

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Format: Paperback
This review was originally posted at My Digital Seminary

Regeneration. Justification. Sanctification. Glorification. These are all at least recognizable terms even for the theologically-unconcerned Christian. But how often do we think of adoption? Trevor J. Burke recognized that adoption is greatly neglected despite its profusion in Paul’s writings, and Adopted into God’s Family is his attempt to set things right.

Burke wisely begins by defining terms and surveying the territory. When adoption hasn’t been neglected, it has been misunderstood: often as synonymous with justification or regeneration. However, “Adoption describes aspects not found in any other of the above soteriological terms Paul uses…if adoption is important and distinct enough…[it] should occupy a more vital role in our theological reflection and understanding” (p28).

After discussing metaphor (ch 2), Burke surveys the potential background(s) that informed Paul’s doctrine of adoption; whether the Old Testament, Grecian law or Roman law (ch 3). Burke concludes that Paul viewed adoption primarily through the lens of Roman law with the OT playing a secondary role. Granted, the OT itself never says that Israel was adopted by God but considering Rom 9:4, it is surprising that Burke didn’t assign the OT more influence in Paul’s doctrine of adoption.

Next, since each member of the Trinity has a unique role in adoption, and rich chapters of exegesis are devoted to each (ch 4, 5, 6).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A crux of Pauline theology 15 Dec. 2006
By Commentary Surveyor - Published on
Format: Paperback
Having recently experienced a "long day's journey into night" in my own spiritual life, I know firsthand what it means to have temporarily experienced the seeming loss of God's presence and care and then to have found it again. In this process, I rediscovered the reality of God's relationship with me.

Trevor Burke's treatise on the subjective sense in which "sons" of God resonates with the personal experience of the believer in his/her relationship to God magnificently captures the concrete essence on what it means to be adopted into God's family; a condition that is far more relational than positional and characteristic of what it means to embrace a redefined understanding of what constitutes a family.

For anyone who perceives God to be an ephemeral presence, this book is a true wakeup call to what it means to be in sympathetic relationship with Christ and to all those who call on God as heavenly father who makes all things right.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Judging a Book by the Expectations Found on the Cover 12 July 2008
By Vincent A. Lupe - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What is most important in a book like this is the content that is inside, although I must share my thankfulness to the seller for granting me to have the book in mint condition. I give my thanks to Trevor J. Burke for his composition of a thoroughly detailed, truly theological perspective on the love of God the Father for undeserving sinners.

I must note that, before I had intended on purchasing this book, I had been struggling with legalism (the idea that, somehow or another, it is my duty to keep God's love for me by keeping his commandments, else I would perish in hell). Thanks be to God himself for sending his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for exactly that which I had thought was my duty to keep: God's law! But, no! No human being can keep God's law (James 2:8-11)! So, God, out of his love, sent his Son to deliver sinners from his wrath and from slavery under the law (1 John 4:9,10)!

This book is being a major blessing for me. Just to see - for example - that God the Father brought the Israelites out of Egypt - because of his love for them as his own children - and despite of their disobedience to him, is just amazing. And, did you know that when, in Exodus 4:22, the LORD says, "Thus, Israel is my firstborn son," he is actually pointing (by the word "firstborn") to another son (in that Israel was a nation, with the Israelites as sons and daughters of God, God is actually pointing to another nation of believers: non-Jewish sinners - Gentiles like you and me)? Oh the truth that God the Father determined before he created the universe that he would save a people to himself and adopt them into his family, with him as their loving Father (Ephesians 1:4-6)! It is glorious! How could we be so inclined to try to keep his law as a means of our being justified before him when he determined before the creation of the universe that his law would only serve to show us that we are sinners deserving of his wrath so that we may be bought by the blood of his Son out of slavery to the law and into his family and into his loving care and affection! This - and for many other reasons - is why I am being blessed by this book.

I suggest that you purchase and read this book. It is long, very detailed, and requires hours of reading, but you will be blessed by the book. I guarantee it. Whether you know God the Father and his Son in a personal relationship, or whether God the Father has brought you by his grace to an interest in who he is and what he is like and is drawing you to himself - as he so faithfully does to all those who come to know him and receive eternal life, this book will be a blessing to you. Take a chance, and take the time, to purchase and read it.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Extremely scholarly, but worth it. 16 May 2008
By William Petruzzo - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Indepth, Scholarly, and Pastoral 25 Jan. 2007
By M. Aubrey - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Trevor Burke's book is a welcome addition to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series.

One of his essential premises is that the theme of adoption in Paul's letters has been historically misunderstood. Burke's goal is to help provide a balanced view of this theological theme and its implications for life.

His exegesis is stimulating and Trinitarian in focus, something which he clearly shows is directly from the text of scripture. All three Persons of the Trinity are in view considering the context of the five passages mentioning adotpion (though the Spirit occurs in four of the five).

Burke reveals an impressive grasp of Greek and the cultural situation of the times. And his vast knowledge of secondary literature surrounding the five passages in question is quite clear from the dialogue with contemporaries and also the footnotes and bibliography.

Finally to end with the beginning of the book, Burke's preface is excellent, providing an interesting glimpse into his own life and the impact that the concepts of adoption and sonship have had in his own life.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Well Argued Thesis 16 Oct. 2010
By Russ White - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Adoption is only used in a small number of places in the New Testament, and then only in the writings of Paul. To compound the problem, there are few major treatments of the topic, although it seems to be a major underlying concept in Paul's understanding of the believer's relationship to God. This leaves the door open to a good deal of speculation about the origin and meaning of the concept of adoption within Paul's writings. To make matters worse, there are few in depth treatments of the topic of adoption.

Trevor Burke steps into this gap of information with a well thought out, and well written, treatise on Paul's use of the adoption metaphor. He begins with an examination of the adoption metaphor, providing a survey of thinking in this area. Here Dr. Burke argues that previous commentators have attempted to narrow the idea of adoption too much, considering it only within strictly limited legal grounds.

In the second section, Dr. Burke deals with a broad based view of the meaning of adoption as a metaphor within Paul's writings. He defines the concept of metaphor in great detail, and then provides the literary and social contexts of adoption. The author shows that adoption is not only one metaphor of salvation, but that it is the organizing, or underpinning, metaphor of salvation within Paul's writings.

In the third section, the author discusses the origin or social context of Paul's use of adoption. Greek, Roman, and Jewish law all three provide for different concepts of adoption; which one was Paul referring to when he used adoption as a metaphor for salvation? While this question might not appear to be all that important on the surface, the answer can radically impact our understanding of Paul's view of salvation. Was adoption primarily a function of providing children for a childless couple? Was adoption primarily oriented towards adult children or children before the age at which they could make a choice about accepting or rejecting adoption? Was the choice to adopt made in full view of the community, or in secret? Did the adopter fully know the prospective child, or was the choice made regardless of the merits of the child in question? The position taken by Dr. Burke is that we force a decision into the text that Paul didn't intend; that Roman and Jewish adoption are both in view, and that both fit, in different ways, the metaphor Paul is relying on.

In the fourth section, Dr. Burke considers the the relation of adoption to the meaning of God's family. Here he steps lightly into the space of predestination, though he doesn't try and force adoption into the mold of proving absolute predestination without any consideration of the attitudes or thoughts of the adopted child. Here he deals extensively with Roman law, bringing out an understanding of the process of Roman adoption that informs issues in salvation.

The fifth section discusses the differences between the Sonship of Christ and the adoption of believers, focusing on Romans 1:3-4. The sixth section discusses the relationship between adoption and the Holy Spirit. The seventh section provides a very interesting analysis of the concept of honor within the rule of adoption; the son was expected to uphold his adopted father's honor, much as Christians are expected to uphold the honor of God. This wasn't a matter of the father laying down strict sets of rules for the adopted child to follow, but rather a matter of the adopted son accepting and living by the norms and pattern of his adopted parents. This would normally include religious belief, membership in various societies, standing in a community, and etc..

Adoption considered against the idea of "now," and "not yet," is the focus of the eighth section. This section felt like it was written as possible support for a position of progressive dispensationalism; while it was well written, it wasn't as useful as the rest of the book. After the summary, the author includes an appendix on adoptions in the Tanakh, offered as support of the author's contention that Jewish adoption was not strongly defined enough to really provide a complete background to Paul's use of the metaphor. This appendix feels a bit "tacked on," and only does a half-hearted job of proving the thesis Dr. Burke puts forward.

Adopted into God's Family is well worth reading for the more technically minded Christian or reader who wants to explore the use and meaning of adoption by Paul. Recommended.
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