John Goldingay ends the preface to volume 2 of his OT Theology (OT Theology: Israel’s Faith) with a zinger that I find to be so, so true: he gives credit to readers who have saved him “from some of my more outlandish statements. I hope some remain.” They do, and they come in his Introduction.
Here’s how he gets us going: “First, Christ did not come primarily to reveal something new…. Christ came to do something, not to reveal something…. So did Jesus say nothing new? … In this story First Testament faith finds its ultimate expression. But the New Testament makes less difference to that faith than people think…. And thus we can study the theology of the First Testament separately from that of the New Testament without losing too much — and certainly without losing as much as we do if we follow the church’s practice of studying the New Testament separately from the First Testament, which it allegedly regards as Scripture” (18-20).
Well, what do you think of those observations?
Whatever you think of them, here’s some points from the first 80 or so pages. [The 1st chp is about 170 pages long; where’s Dan Reid when we need him telling John to shorten his chps?] Well, after all, Goldingay might come back, “It is is about God!”
The assumption of the First Testament is that there is one God and that God’s name is YHWH. The often-made point that God is unknowable — apophatic theology and its variants — is not quite the way we find it in the Bible: this God is knowable and becomes known in what is said and what is done. Holiness in the FT [=First Testament] does not create dread so much as does God’s majesty. Majesty is the outward expression of God’s holiness.
The “eternality” of God is about God spanning history more than speculation about foreverness. God as “Creator” is more about God’s ongoing creation than just about God making things all at once long, long ago.
Monotheism is Enlightenment stuff; the FT teaches Mono-Yahwism. Yhwh alone is the deliverer and liberator. The big issue is not arithmetical — there is only one God — but “Whom are you treating as God?” (40).
Anyone who reads the FT carefully will see Yhwh’s aides and representatives and rivals, and this is one of the only books you will find that deals with this theme — doesn’t Goldingay like that which cuts across the grain? — as thoroughly, interestingly, honestly, and carefully as does Goldingay. These other deities, he says, exist but they don’t count as God. Deut 32:8-9 teaches the reality, sees these lesser deities as appointed by God, and sees them as governing other nations. [For our readers, Gerry McDermott’s book, God’s Rivals, dealt with this in the context of world religions.]
God’s gender? “The FT avoids bringing sexuality into its portrait of Yhwh. ‘He’ is neither ‘man’ nor ‘woman’ (Deut 4:6) [citing Gerstenberger]” (47).
Yhwh frequently is embodied in representatives.
Very good section on “the Satan” — the accusing angel in the divine cabinet/council. Here is what Goldingay says:
“‘The adversary’ is not a supernatural being with power over against Yhwh. His authority is strictly circumscribed. He can accuse, but he cannot judge (Zech 3). He can tempt, but he cannot overwhelm; he requires human cooperation (1 Chron 21). He can test, but only within boundaries that God allows (Job 1-2)” (55).
Then he has a lengthy and comprehensive section on Yhwh’s Lordship — over earth, over Israel, … and then comes to freedom and flexibility.