Review: Biblical Theology

30010115John Goldingay is David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including An Introduction to the Old Testament, The Theology of the Book of Isaiah, the three-volume Old Testament Theology, and many more. Most recently, in Biblical Theology: The God of the Christian Scriptures, John Goldingay has uniquely navigated across canonical lines and produced a biblical theology that both encapsulates the grand narrative of the Bible while simultaneously transcending traditional theological categories.

Biblical Theology is a sizable tome, covering over 600 pages and divided into eight major sections: (1) God’s Person, (2) God’s Insight, (3) God’s Creation, (4) God’s Reign, (5) God’s Anointed, (6) God’s Children, (7) God’s Expectations, and (8) God’s Triumph. The keen reader will be able to detect the close parallel between Goldingay’s major category organization and that of classic systematic approaches to theology. That said, it is quickly visible that Goldingay has sought to venture off the beaten path to pave his own way. Those previously acquainted with Goldingay will be met with his familiar wit and lucid writing style as he reframes the conversation towards an understanding of God and the world as it effortlessly emerges from within the Christian Scriptures (p. 13).

Where I think Goldingay shines in this volume is in his willingness to allow the text of the Old and New Testament to speak for itself. Goldingay avoids trying to unnaturally harmonize tensions within the text, and instead seems to intentionally allow them to remain unresolved. I found this to be refreshing at times and frustrating at others. It is also here I presume that Goldingay is going to find himself in a familiar place with many conservative evangelicals. Among other things, this seemingly intentional ambiguity is most recognizable in Goldingay’s omission of an affirmation of penal substitutionary atonement (p. 332). It is here, and his comments on justification, that will likely generate the primary buzz within the ears of readers committed to traditional categories of Protestant Christianity (myself included)—none of which will detract from the usefulness or brilliance of this volume.

Biblical Theology: The God of the Christian Scriptures by John Goldingay is a masterpiece of excellence and a new benchmark in the arena of biblical/theological studies. Goldingay has an uncanny ability to keep his eye focused on the bigger picture of the Bible as he brilliantly unpacks a compelling portrait of the God revealed therein. While Biblical Theology is a large and somewhat intimidating book, Goldingay is accessible and easy to read. There will be some inevitable areas of disagreement along the way for many readers. That said, for most of those looking to engage with this volume, such points of disagreement are likely to be known by virtue of its author. Biblical Theology is a unique and praiseworthy work that merits the widest readership possible. If it hasn’t found its way on to your 2017 reading list yet, it should!

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