Adopted into God's Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor (New Studies in Biblical Theology)
Adopted into God's Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor (New Studies in Biblical Theology)

Adopted into God's Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor (New Studies in Biblical Theology)

by Trevor J. Burke

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Pages 233
Publisher IVP Academic
Published 2006
ISBN-13 9780830826230

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 Christianbelievers 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 pastoralimplications soon springs to light. In other words, this volume not only probes a neglected theme it also edifies." D. A. Carson

Features and Benefits
  • Next in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series.
  • Explores what it means to be "adopted as sons" into God's family.


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Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2006. Pp. 233. Paper. $22.00. ISBN 0830826238. Mary L. Coloe Australian Catholic University Melbourne, Australia Trevor Burke’s study offers a particularly rich presentation of the metaphor of adoption followed by a careful exegesis of a number of key passages where this term is employed. Burke sets out to show the distinctive contribution of the metaphor of adoption within Paul’s theological and soteriological scheme. While other metaphors such as justification, redemption, and propitiation are the most commonly discussed metaphors under the rubric of salvation, the adoption metaphor adds a particularly subjective or experiential insight that should not be overlooked. The metaphor provides a glimpse into the way the communities understood themselves. Burke proposes that the metaphor of adoption provides a framework for speaking of the significance of the Christ-event, the ethical response required of Christians, and the eschatological tension of the “now” and “not yet.” Burke situates the background for the metaphor within the Roman social system rather than the Old Testament. While Israel can be called “God’s son,” the term for adoption huiothesia is not found in the LXX. Similarly, the Greek legal system does not offer such a radical transfer from one family into another that Paul envisages when he uses the language of huiothesia. [Full Review]