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Stephen J. Lennox


Song of Songs

John Goldingay's Old Testament theology.

Reading John Goldingay on the Old Testament is like listening to a lover talk about his beloved. The first two volumes of his projected trilogy on the theology of the Old Testament (or, as Goldingay prefers, First Testament) are filled with thoughtful interpretation and a sense of deep admiration for the text. Volume 1 (2003) dealt with Israel's Gospel, the good news about "God's relationship with the world and with Israel." The second volume, Israel's Faith, describes what Israel believed (or should have believed), drawing particularly from the Prophets, Psalms, and Wisdom literature. The final installment will focus on Israel's "lifestyle."

Goldingay explained his methodology in volume 1, but he begins the second volume by clarifying his approach to two contentious issues: whether to emphasize the text's unity or diversity, and how to relate the Old Testament to the New. Earlier Old Testament theologies singled out a unifying theme (e.g., Eichrodt's emphasis on covenant), but Goldingay does not support this approach. He makes less of the Old Testament's diversity than Brueggemann or Gerstenberger, but he wants the First Testament to speak for itself, diversity and all. "We cannot identify a single faith articulation in the text, but we might be able to construct one out of its diversity, even if we find ourselves leaving some ambiguities and antinomies, and even if we still grant that the end result needs to recognize once more that we see only the outskirts of God's ways." As to the relation between the Old and New Testaments, Goldingay strives for a biblical theology—that is, one that takes both testaments into account. He does so, however, by attending primarily to the Old Testament text, then adding "occasional New Testament footnotes" and ending each chapter "with a reflection on what happens when First Testament faith is set in the context of New Testament faith." Even when he's discussing methodology, we can hear his passion for the Old Testament.

The lengthy ...

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