IVP, 2003, 2006, 2009. (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)
Now that the third and final volume of John Goldingay’s tremendous work is now available, one can properly assess just what he has left us with. The short answer is this: it is simply a magisterial effort. It is a first class work which will be irreplaceable for many years to come.
It is simply amazing for a variety of reasons, not least of which is its massive length. The three volumes comprise over 2,500 pages (2743 pages to be exact). Bear in mind that in the decade he took to pen this, he also produced a number of other important works, including his equally impressive 3-volume commentary on the Psalms, which totals over 2200 pages! Talk about prolific.
This OT theology is simply superb. Goldingay is just utterly steeped in the Old Testament, and has done a superlative job of elucidating its themes, its theology, its vision, its grandeur, and its contents. Almost every aspect of OT studies is entered into here, and he is always up to the task.
The first volume focuses on “Israel’s Gospel”. It examines the OT narratives from creation to the first coming of Christ. The second volume deals with “Israel’s Faith”. This concentrates on the Prophets, the Wisdom writings, and the Psalms. Volume three centres on “Israel’s Life”. It examines the ethical, spiritual and worshipping life of Israel.
Goldingay is of course a Christian but he argues that we must consider the OT on its own terms. He rightly notes that “the Old Testament’s insights must be seen in light of those of the New, but only as long as we immediately add that it is just as essential to see the New Testament’s insights in light of those of the Old.”
Or as he says further on, “It is inappropriate to describe the New Testament as the ‘authoritative interpretation’ of the Old without adding that the Old Testament is the authoritative interpretation of the New.”
Indeed, he reminds us of the vital importance of the OT: “only when people have learned to take the Old Testament really seriously can they be entrusted with the story of Jesus.” We fail to properly understand the NT gospel unless we have a firm grasp of the OT.
Goldingay is more than qualified to tackle this job. He has been for many years Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, and is one of the world’s leading evangelical OT scholars. He has penned numerous important works on OT topics, and this trilogy is in many ways his magnum opus, capping off a distinguished career.
Of course other helpful OT theologies written from an evangelical/conservative viewpoint have appeared over recent times. One thinks of John Sailhamer’s Introduction to Old Testament Theology (1996); Paul House’s Old Testament Theology (1998); and Bruce Waltke’s An Old Testament Theology (2007), for example.
But this is by far the most comprehensive, the most detailed and the most incisive work going. Anyone wanting to master the OT needs this superb set. Mind you, I find myself disagreeing with the author on a regular basis. For example, he is quite open to freewill theism, and thus his take on such areas as divine omniscience and impassibility will not please everyone.
But he certainly gets one thinking, and he is always careful to tentatively – and respectfully – push what might be considered controversial topics. Unlike some other OT scholars who can indeed be guilty of pushing agendas, such as Walter Brueggemann, Goldingay is always fair and judicious in his comments and discussions.
His many decades of careful scholarship and theological awareness, combined with a more than capable writing style, make this work a pleasure to read and a joy to contemplate. If you get only one Old Testament theology, get this three volume work.