Review: Do We Need the New Testament?

23055101John 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 TestamentThe Theology of the Book of Isaiah, and the magisterial three-volume Old Testament Theology. Goldingay is well-known for his enthusiastic approach to the Old Testament and his desire to allow the ‘first’ Testament to function as authoritative Christian Scripture.

Do We Need the New Testament?: Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself is a brief volume that seeks to turn a popular question within Christian circles on its head. Now that Jesus has come and we have the New Testament, do Christians really need the Old Testament? Goldingay points the question back at the well-intended interrogator: Do we really need the New Testament? After all, what’s new about the New Testament? And what happens when we look at the Old Testament, not as a deficient old work in need of a Christological makeover, but as a rich and splendid revelation of God’s faithfulness to Israel and the world? (back cover). It is here that Goldingay begins to dismantle contemporary misnomers concerning the deficiency of the Old Testament.

Goldingay begins with a broad chapter that uncovers many of the issues examined in more detail as the book unfolds, such as ethics, spirituality, and various aspects of theology (i.e. salvation, etc.).  Most of the chapters in the book arose as papers presented at the Society of Biblical Literature, the Society of Old Testament Study, and others (p. 10). This explains the somewhat random organization of the book, which may come as a frustration to some readers. Goldingay’s conclusion is that, “Yes, of course, we need the New Testament Scriptures, but they don’t supersede the earlier Scriptures” (p. 32). According to Goldingay, we need the Old Testament for understanding the story of God’s working purpose, for its theology, spirituality, hope, understanding of mission, salvation, and for its ethics (p. 32). Goldingay not only substantiate such statements, but he does so by guiding readers towards a newfound appreciation for the Old Testament.

There are aspects of Goldingay’s approach that will undoubtedly cause some readers distress. The book as a whole is stimulating and exciting, but some statements can appear oversimplified and even somewhat misleading at times. For example, he states that “in none of the Gospels does Jesus tell his disciples to extend the kingdom, work for the kingdom, build the kingdom, or further the kingdom” (p. 34). This is certainly a thought provoking statement. But, is it an accurate statement? I’ll let the reader decide. Other examples of similar weight could be given as well. Where I think Goldingay shines is in the continuity that he brings between the portrait of God in the Old Testament and the New. This is helpful for many reasons, but the origin of the initial questions concerning the Old Testament tend to arise on this point and Goldingay hits the nail on the head.

Do We Need the New Testament?: Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself by John Goldingay is not without its shortcomings. But, what he does well, he does really well! Goldingay is witty and sharp in his interaction with the questions at hand, and readers will appreciate his serious desire to hear from the Old Testament as Scripture. If you’re a looking for a thought-provoking book that will turn your heart and mind todays the Scriptures, and consequently towards the God to whom the Scriptures reveal, then this is a book worth reading. It comes highly recommended!

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