It’s May first, and the first day of the month is Golding-day — the day we examine another chapter of John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: 1. Israel’s Gospel. We are on chp 2, “God Began: Creation,” and it is a majestic and edgy and earthy description of the God of the Creation Narratives of the “First Testament.”
If the rest of this book is like this we are in store for outside-the-box thinking, thoroughly OT-ish ideas, solid and clever and fun prose, along with theological insight that will set the wheels in motion. (But, John — if you are reading this — pass on to your editor that I’d like to go on record saying that 90+ page chapters are too long.) I can’t possibly sum it all up, but here are some comments … make your own observations.
Here is what the God of the creation narratives looks like: God Began …
Big question: Before you read on, ask yourself this: When I think of the “God” of the Creation account, what do I think about? What characteristics of God do I think of? And, now we turn to Goldingay with this: Do we see the richness of what this text does say about God?
1. God thought: Some creation accounts in the Bible — Proverbs and Job — the Hebrew “hokma” is translated as Insight and that means that we have Ms. Insight in Proverbs 8. God thought before he created; Insight sets it all in motion. It gives confidence to us to know that God knows what to do.
2. God spoke: God’s speech brings things into life — the command that mysteriously generates what it says. Creation from God’s speech is also God’s faithful commitment to creation. God works out his plan in this world in interaction with the world … “God is not a micromanager.” “Our security lies not in the world’s actual story being the outworking of God’s plan … but in its unfolding within the control of an executive who will go to any lengths to see that the vision gets fulfilled — even dying for it” (60).
3. God birthed
4. God prevailed: a treat of this book is reading Genesis 1–3 over against Babylonian myths about creation and one clear theme he develops is that God prevailed over chaos in creation. Creation is also liberation from chaos. Lots of texts here, but one thinks of Psalm 93.
5. God created:Israel’s story begins with creation, not Abraham and not Moses and not David. Creation is not about “out of nothing” but on the sovereignty of what God achieves. Stability and benevolence is the point. That is, “empty void into meaningful whole” (81).
6. God built: a significant theme of OT scholars today: “God is like a lordly sheik, spreading out the heavens like a tent to live in” (84). The earth is the suspended floor — “the clouds are Yhwh’s limousine, the winds its means of propulsion, both the winds and the lightning Yhwh’s aides and officers” (85). The physical heavens are God’s actual home (85).
7. God arranged: sun, moon, stars etc put in place. In passing: “I am tempted to comment that there are only two things wrong with the idea of a creation covenant of works: It was not a covenant and it was not based on works” (93). Score one for John for giving in to the temptation. “History is not just one darned thing after another. God brought temporal order to a collection of disparate, unrelated elements, the raw material of creation, and this provides a paradigm for understanding experience” (95). And God changes his mind: “God’s word is not like the law of the Medes and Persians, which is unchangeable even when stupid. When there is a good reason, within the terms of other aspects of God’s purpose for the world, God can have a change of mind” (98).
8. God shaped: Israel’s place — “Does the world exist for Israel’s sake or does Israel exist for the world’s sake?” (101). He suggests “image of God” refers to bodiliness. Women are designed for childbearing — Song of Songs reveals the relationality of male-female. Genesis 1-2 focuses on childbearing and working together.
9. God delegated: Westminster says man’s chief end is to glorify God. Goldingay says “Genesis 1-2 imply that humanity’s chief and highest end is to work for God in the world” (110). Humans are to help hold animals back from the dog eat dog world. We are called to make peace in this world by procreation.
10. God planted.
11. God relaxed. God finished his work of creation and then hands it over to humans. Sabbath is a day when we stop and give honor to God