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First Day, Goldingay

posted by xscot mcknight

This is the first in a monthly series on John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, volume 1: Israel’s Gospel. We’ll look at one chp per month — on the first day of the month, unless that falls on a weekend. So, today, we get it started.
My questions for the day: What role does the Old Testament/First Testament/Hebrew Bible play in your own theology and faith? What role does that sprawling history of Israel play in your own understanding of what theology is? Do you tend to synthesize its messages or do you let all those diverse themes bang up against one another in a kind of clash of ideas that are evoked by the underlying story? Do you seek for the “mind of God” behind the text — that gave rise to that text — or do you tend to see the mind of God in the unfolding of that OT story? How important is all that political governing and family history and orderly worship and international relations to how we perceive what God is doing in this world? If you are tempted to skip from Genesis 3 (fall) to Romans 3 (atonement), then you might need to think about what role the OT has in the life of the Christian.
Goldingay has four central questions in chp 1: what is theology? OT theology? OT gospel? OT story?
1. Theology seeks to give a greater whole that encompasses the sheer diversity of the OT. And this theology still speaks. Many of us omit so much of Scripture when we theologize that we are essentially saying parts have got it wrong — and Goldingay wants to avoid that. (John Goldingay [JG] is known for his robust affirmation of the delightful oddities of the OT.)
Testimony tells us you know the OT; preaching invites people to the OT; theology reflects on the OT.
2. OT theology — JG will call it First Testament soon — differs from NT faith. He gives a list worth pondering:
more interested in creation;
the world of politics and the nations;
more accepting of death and ambiguities;
lacks a theory of life after death or a stress on Messiah;
understands sinfulness differently;
stresses reverence;
we are more free to complain and doubt;
emphasizes enjoyment of everyday life and family;
values sacramental worship;
and enjoins detailed obedience to divine commands.
How about this one? Not until we are clear in OT are we to be entrusted with the New Testament.
He wants to give the OT its own say to see if (and how) it leads to Christ. Here’s one of my favorite lines: “The NT is then a series of Christian and ecclesial footnotes to the OT, and one cannot produce a theology out of footnotes” (24).
He does not focus his work in the OT as a “witness” to Christ, or how it “points to Christ” [the theme here is that it becomes such retrospectively], or on prophecy, or on its concealment that is revealed in Christ, or foreshadowing or that the law is succeeded by gospel.
3. The way the OT tells Israel’s faith is by way of story. Israel is a people with a story; the en-storied people. Here’s one of the so-called false dichotomies: “The biblical gospel is not a collection of timeless statements such as God is love. It is a narrative about things God has done” (31). The good news is that the bad news has neither the last word nor the first word.
And I liked this: the biblical story is incomplete; there are indicators of what is to happen; there are dynamic moments that propel one forward in the story; but the storyline remains. It is incomplete. Think about that some.
4. The OT story:sprawling, uneven, discursive. Three themes:
1. It takes humans seriously.
2. It portrays the specificity — individual lives — of life with God.
3. It means theology is done by narrative.
The OT narratives “represent a series of semi-independent but complementary discussions of the way God, leaders and people may handle the problem of the rebelliousness of leaders and people, with the series also interweaving reflection on what we mean by talking about God’s presence with us” (40).
Next month: God Began — Creation.



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Ted Gossard

posted April 2, 2007 at 4:19 am


This is all very good in being stimulating, Scot. I’ve wondered, for example on some of N.T. Wright’s thoughts (and others) on New Creation project, if they’re not dependent to a significant extent on Old Testament reading. Certainly Isaiah is a big part of that.
And the whole (old, now) discussion of continuity versus discontinuity between the “Testaments”, I wonder how Goldingay’s take would be on that. How would he see Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount in light of what the Old Testament might contribute to it? It would be interesting for me to see him draw that out.



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Beyond Words

posted April 2, 2007 at 7:38 am


No fair. I’m ready to dive right in and we have to wait a month!:)



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kent

posted April 2, 2007 at 7:58 am


The OT is 75% of the Bible, how do you ignore 75% of something and assume you get the whole right? Personally my favorite book in the Bible is Leviticus, it demonstrates that you have take a relationship with God serious, you gotta break a sweat. My desired practice is to read through the Bible 3 times a year. I love the stories and am consistently pained at how current Judges is. I look forward to this.



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Kent Eilers

posted April 2, 2007 at 8:26 am


Prof. McKnight – I am interested with one of your last comments: “It means theology is done by narrative.” I wonder if it would not be better to say , “Theology involves narrative” since there certainly are aspects to our practice of doing theology that aren’t necessarily narrative yet still valid. Without downplaying the value of narrative raised here, I love it and especially think words such as “drama” (i.e. Vanhoozer) may open new ways of thinking about the way we do theology, but I wonder if we don’t misrepresent the way in which theology occures if we narrow it only to narrative?



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Matt Wiebe

posted April 2, 2007 at 8:44 am


On a simply practical level, if the emerging church is going to take its penchant for narrative theology seriously, it needs to become much more versed in the OT than it currently seems to be.
Another interesting issue for the EC is that, as it leans towards non-violent ideas pretty strongly, is how to take the violence of God in the OT seriously.
Goldingay’s approach sounds good; trying to let the OT speak for itself rather than reading it through an NT lens (which of course still has its benefits)



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kent

posted April 2, 2007 at 9:40 am


hey there Mr. Eilers how is Scotland? This kent anderson! Kids yet?



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ChrisB

posted April 2, 2007 at 10:02 am


First let me say that I love the OT. In it we get to see so much of God’s character and just bigness. When I’m feeling bad or sorry for myself, I can turn to Job or Isaiah and lose sight of my troubles in how great God is.
With that said, I have to take exception to this statement: “The NT is then a series of Christian and ecclesial footnotes to the OT, and one cannot produce a theology out of footnotes” (24).
Huh? I will gladly admit that the NT is built upon the OT and is not properly understood without it, but a footnote?! The NT is not a footnote to the OT story; it is the climax. By itself the OT is a story of promises unkept and potential unfulfilled. Taken as a whole, though, we have the story of the Seed of the woman — His promise, the journey from Eden to Calvary, and His victory over the serpent. And now we live in the denouement as we await the completion of His journey with the redemption of creation.



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Scot McKnight

posted April 2, 2007 at 10:05 am


ChrisB,
Isn’t that comment a grabber?
Kent,
Goldingay wraps all of OT theology into that narrative shape of the OT — I think that’s the big picture. Nothing about denying propositions; just putting them into the narrative context.



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Calvin

posted April 2, 2007 at 10:09 am


I’m going to enjoy this series. I guess I’ll have to go pick up Goldingay’s OT theology. It sounds quite interesting. I have to agree with #5 that the emerging conversation needs to become more familiar with the Hebrew Bible (I generalize, obviously there are some in the conversation that are familiar with it).
I’ve spent time ministering to teens (I plan to be a full time youth pastor after seminary) and using the Hebrew Bible to teach things can be really effective. It allows students to see how God works in life, as opposed to learning a series of statements about how God works. Of course, I’m also one of those who allows the various voices of the Hebrew Bible to bump up against each other.



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Anonymous

posted April 2, 2007 at 10:34 am


Words – » Blogs in Review – 4/2/07

[...] Scot McKnight (http://www.jesuscreed.org) begins a new series on Goldingay’s book Old Testament Theology. Looks like he plans to discuss one chapter of the book a month. Should be good! [...]



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Kent Eilers

posted April 2, 2007 at 10:50 am


Prof. McKnight – Thanks for the clarification. I assumed as much but felt the question is relevant because of the tendency for pendelum swings in Christian theology. I am interested to see a theologian committed to doing theology in a consistently narrative fashion. It seems to be what Vanhoozer is exploring. I like the way that “drama” tends toward multiple participants (we see ourselves as participants in the drama).
If “Kent” (aka Kent Anderson, not to be confused with the present Kent Eilers) is out there, you can email me at keilers@woodmenvalley.org. I would love to get caught up.



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Scot McKnight

posted April 2, 2007 at 10:56 am


Kent,
One of the issues for the narrative approach — and I’m thinking about these things because of a lecture I give next Fall at the AEF Call — is that for many “theology” is mapping the mind of God “behind” the Text or “above” the Text, while the narrative approach wants to know the meaning of theology as shaped by that narrative. Not always opposites, but there is a major distinction in believing we get behind the text to a theology that was the Truth prior to the Text but which is revealed in bits and pieces in the Text and seeing the Truth in the bits and pieces as part of the narrative shape of the Bible.



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Matthew

posted April 2, 2007 at 12:06 pm


I, too, was surprised to see the NT called “footnotes.”
For example, the NT reveals what the prophets themselves did not understand:
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Peter%201%20:10-12;&version=31;
Paul talks about the revealed mystery quite a bit. A key term in Hebrews is “better.” http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=better&version1=31&searchtype=all&spanbegin=65&spanend=65 (11:40 is a good example)
I look at the OT more as a prequel to the NT. It’s how God set the stage.
One misuse of the OT that I am very sensitive to is treating Narrative passages as propositional truth. For example, Hagar went back to Sarah (seemingly a return to domestic abuse). Therefore, abused wives should return to their abusive husbands. Says so, right in the Bible! (I am not kidding; Bill Gothard, for one, does this constantly.)



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youthguy

posted April 2, 2007 at 2:02 pm


I am a little concerned with the statement “The NT is then a series of Christian and ecclesial footnotes to the OT, and one cannot produce a theology out of footnotes” (24).
I was just thinking yesterday (Palm Sunday) that Daniel prophecied to the day that Messiah would enter into the city (John 12 the triumphal entry). If the Jews were reading their scroll’s then they would have at least recognized what was happening. I think this is tragic and should be a lesson for us all. I am reminded of a verse in 2 Peter – I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets AND the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. (2 Peter 3:2) It is the same Spirit that gave us the NT writtings by our apostles. The same Spirit that rose Christ from the dead, and the same Spirit that is in every believer.
I am interested to see a further explanation of that comment (footnotes)



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BeckyR

posted April 2, 2007 at 2:18 pm


Scot, in saying “there is a major distinction in believing we get behind the text to a theology that was the Truth prior to the Text but which is revealed in bits and pieces in the Text and seeing the Truth in the bits and pieces as part of the narrative shape of the Bible.” Could that be a way of saying the same as: taking the Bible as rules vs. principles?



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Scot McKnight

posted April 2, 2007 at 2:20 pm


BeckyR,
Not sure. What we sometimes sense is that folks believe that God had a systematic theology he wanted us to know but gave it to us in the form of the Bible — with all its genres and stories and teachings and historical unfoldings — and the goal of the interpreter is to figure out what it was that God had in mind before all this history got rolled out.



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John Frye

posted April 2, 2007 at 2:55 pm


Scot,
It seems that JG would like a theology that matches life as storied in the OT and in continuing human experience, i.e., a more haphazard, random theology than a systemized, tidy theology. I think Platonic “perfection” has distorted both the biblical God and theology. I never thought about the idea that “behind the text” there is an orderly theology and our quest is to find and express it. I like the idea of the “bits and pieces” carrying and shaping the theology. Good stuff to think about.



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Calvin

posted April 2, 2007 at 3:24 pm


Youthguy(#14), it might be a bit simplistic to say that Daniel prophesied to the day when Jesus would enter. My understanding of that is that one has to play a little bit with how long a year is (lunar vs. solar, Roman vs. ritual, etc) in order to end at that conclusion. Beyond that there are some difficult things in Daniel. I’m not sure we can fault the Jews of Jesus’ day for not knowing he was the Messiah, prophecy is a difficult thing to work with. More so because the whole point is, IMO, “repent,” as opposed to a chronological telling of future events.
Anyway, just my thoughts on it. I’m sure JG will flesh out his thoughts on the NT being a series of footnotes to the Hebrew Bible. It should prove interesting.



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Bryan Riley

posted April 2, 2007 at 3:30 pm


The OT is rich with the picture of who God is and what His purpose is. All of it is a great picture of God’s redemptive purpose through Jesus.



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Robin Swieringa

posted April 2, 2007 at 4:30 pm


I’m going to go all the way back to YOUR question of the day: What role does the OT/First Testament/Hebrew Bible play in your faith?
I was raised in a “New Thought” home (Unity), and knew nothing about the Old Testament except the old “it has the angry God and the New Testament has the loving God” saying. About three years after being born again, I read “God: An Autobiography” (or something like that), which led me to read the Pentateuch, because the author of the autobiography seemed to me to be preoccupied with seeing God as preoccupied with sex.
Well, the Pentateuch expanded, shook, turned inside out, reconfigured, enriched and enlivened my knowledge and understanding of God. Reading those books as God’s story, I saw Him relentlessly pursuing His people with a love so strong that He would even break the “laws” of physics to woo them into the kind of relationship He had had, however briefly, with Adam and Eve before the Fall; that He would give them freedom to choose whether they would love Him back; that He would repeatedly tell them, “I love you with all My being forever. I want what’s best for you. I want you to love me with all your being and all your time. You can show me that you do love me by doing these things…Now, if you will [merely!] vow to do them, I vow that I will be with you and start blessing you as I was with and originally blessed Adam and Eve in the Garden; but if you break your vows, I will punish/discipline you this way…”; and that, no matter how many times they broke their vows (after which He would faithfully keep His vow to punish them for it, thus always showing Himself as trustworthy), He would invite them to make another love-vow and start afresh. Over and over and over and over again. At the time, I told everyone I knew, “It’s a LOVE story! He’s a relentless lover!”
So, without the Pentateuch, I would not have known that God has ALWAYS and utterly faithfully loved and pursued and forgiven and kept His word to His people. It helped me
to surrender and entrust more of my time, physical abilities, attention, and material resources to Him. Now, I’m about to receive my M.Div. (having surrendered ALL of my time, money, etc. for five years!). God willing, I will pastor a church, where I will devote myself, first, to helping people to see/know God well enough to fall in love (or fall even more deeply in love) with Him — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and, second, to helping them know how to live out their love as joyful doers of His word, rather than as people about whom Jesus, himself, said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ and not do what I say?”
Blessings to all during this amazing Holy Week!



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Glenn

posted April 2, 2007 at 7:35 pm


Scot,
I love this statement! – “If you are tempted to skip from Genesis 3 (fall) to Romans 3 (atonement), then you might need to think about what role the OT has in the life of the Christian.” God does not bypass or jettison history, but rather God works thru history and carnal people to bring about his eternal purpose and plan! To skip from Genesis 3 (fall) to Romans 3 (atonement), is to read the bible as a “gnostic” and bypass the incarnation of Israel – for it is clear in the OT that God dwells in Israel’s midst (in a corporate sense). My question is, after Romans 3 (atonement) – where is Israel’s place in God’s present and unfolding plan as He brings about the consummation? After Romans 3 does Israel continue to hold a unique place in the divine drama?



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BeckyR

posted April 3, 2007 at 2:25 am


Ok Scot, one more shot at trying to wrap my brain around the phrase : “there is a major distinction in believing we get behind the text to a theology that was the Truth prior to the Text but which is revealed in bits and pieces in the Text, and seeing the Truth in the bits and pieces as part of the narrative shape of the Bible.”
In The Rock That is Higher, L’Engle talks of the Bible as story, not meaning to decrease it’s being the word of God to us. Or at least that’s the way I hear her. One thing she said in a part I read last month was something about if we take the story and try to make it fact, we lose a lot of the more of what the story is. By saying it’s story, she isn’t meaning parables, as I hear her. I think she weaves in all the events OT and NT. But an example would be the parable of the prodigal son or the samiritan, or Daniel, or Meschach et al. That when we try to make one moral lesson out of it, or extract it to be one fact, we lose a lot more of what is in it, which is revealed as we live more years. When we take the events/stories that are the Bible and try to make a fact out of them, we lose so much more of what they are.
So, is that what you are saying?
I have always operated in such a way, and understood, when concepts can be brought down to daily living example, rubber meets the road stuff. Hard for me to hang onto it when it passes by me as epherial.
Want to try one more attempt of me being able to understand what you mean by that?



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Scot McKnight

posted April 3, 2007 at 7:00 am


BeckyR,
Yes, that’s it exactly … enter into the story and let the story do what it is supposed to do with you and to you and then you’ll get the fullness and not just a point or two.



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tim atwater

posted April 4, 2007 at 10:38 am


Great questions and lots of v good comments…
i have a love/fear/almost-hate/like-alot/love relationship w the bible (and for once i will agree w Bob Dylan “its all one book”) even while agreeing its also lots of books and letters (and love poetry) within the one book…
the point of scripture is always God’s love… for our transformation…into the image of God restored (new creation,yes)
the point of scripture is probably not systematic theology…(unless we really think we can be systematic about Love…???)
yet… i think we’re wired to want to try to do systematics anyway…which may be part of God’s plan… as long as we don’t make too much of this one part of our make-up… (we’re wired w instincts that need lots of disciplining/discipling anyway, across the board…and thanks God, for a website that can handle long-term losers baseball on the same page w God Talk… i’m from boston so i can handle tragicomedy…)
My thesis is God is against systematic theology…
look again unto Job… whom James names a prophet…. who foreshadows Jesus probably as much as anyone else before Jesus…
Job is the classic anti-systematic theologian…Job’s friends are theologians…Job is incarnational (a quote from someone somewhere)… but there seems a lot of other excellent anti-systematic-theology all throughout the bible even from the messy faith without consistency in love of Abe, Isaac, Jake…
so the Hebrew Bible, OT, First Testament IS indeed our prerequisite (not at all meaning we have to read it first…) for beginning to understand Jesus who is Messiah-Christ-King-Savior-Lord-Friend…(lover…and much more)….
Jesus is the fulfillment of all the law, prophets, writings… is practically a credal statement…
So — what does this mean???
and in my limited vision it oft appears we who proclaim loudest sola grace etc — oft be those most intent on imposing new law, w more onerous conditions than those pharisees we love to hate (who of course were pushing AN interpretation of the law, not the law itself…)
One of the many things the OT/FT/HB does is overwhelm us…
(like the first Creation…)
when Paul talks about anybody should be able to know God is real from (looking around at) Creation… (Romans 1)
i dont think he means we should be ‘getting it’ the same way we ‘get it’ by reading a book…(tho maybe i better not discount this possibility) i think the apostle is saying ‘wow!’… ‘awesome!’…’this is way too mindblowing a piece of work to be from anybodyanything less than GOD’…
i think there is an over-under-all-around-God-current that we are supposed to try to see and hear and understand–like creation–it is profoundly ecological(Not at all meaning it can be reduced to human notions of what we’d like ecology to be — the arrogance of Big Science is the same arrogance of big church at our v worst… maybe on steroids, which are worse than corked bats because they dis creation and through creation, the Creator…)–
anyway…
from story unto story… there are patterns…
yet always (as life imitates the bible)…the element of suprise…
i fish… and i see big fish chasing small fish up onto the beach sometimes (mostly in salt waters but also landlocked salmon chasing smelt onto northern VT lakeshores)….
this is violence… i dont much like it…
but i take it into account in my fishing strategies… i toss larger streamer flies… that mimic baitfish…
(i release nearly all the fish i catch… in the interests of long-term interspecies dialogue…but i do fry a few if relatives from afar request)…
and for the fish, if they know me… they may expect 99% of the time from experience, i will say, ‘live and grow’ and release them…
but not every time…
Sometime i hope we will talk about Jewish reading methods — something that seems v appropriate as we delve into ‘the (only?) bible Jesus read’ (Yancy)–
i remember a bit about being tutored in the dialectic between reading for “plain meaning” and ‘parabolic’ and/or symbolic meanings (Rashi says all scripture is parable, neither dismissing history and fact nor insisting in all cases and not sorting it all out for us either)…
and the ancient understanding that the written word is always accompanied by the oral word (for an elegant explanation — Avivah Zornberg, The Particulars of Rapture — even just the intro will sketch it out eloquently — for a funkier spin, Reading the Book by Burton Vizotsky…)
Zornberg mentions the midrash (woven into all Jewish bibles from the gitgo) on the exodus relates that Israel must accept some form of the Noahide law (given orally after the flood to all the nations) Before they can receive The Law given by God via Moses on Mt Sinai…
and the early church apparently made a Noahide law-type -of-application with the OT/FT/HB, in rejecting the heretics who wanted to drop the OT/HB/FT — and in rejecting a literal application of the law at least not for Gentiles — and this application in practice was not necessarily simultaneous and probably a whole lot more messily than the glimpses we get in Galatians, Acts, Romans (i agree w NT Wright and others that Romans is more likely a reverse situation from Galatians, w Paul arguing for a higher view of Law by Gentile converts in Rome, contra Luther etc)
anyway… the church in Acts, and in countless 2nd, 3rd, and 4th ACTS, has continued to revise and extend our views about law, prophets, writings…
and i look forward to a lively discussion…
blessings
tim



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