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Do We Need the New Testament?: Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself Paperback – May 15, 2015
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"[Goldingay's] tome is a breath of fresh air. It is well-written, thoughtful, and thought-provoking and should be required reading for those preaching and teaching. I once met a pastor who made what he thought was a laudatory comment: 'I never preach from the Old Testament since I want to bring people to Jesus.' Goldingay's book is the necessary prescription for this theological life-threatening illness." (Joseph B. Modica, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Vol. 59, No. 4)
"Goldingay offers a solid case against the theological inferiority of the OT. Do We Need the New Testament? is a welcome corrective for those insisting that the OT does not speak to Christians today. The book would be a great addition to the library of seminary students, pastors, and informed lay people." (Justin Langford, Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament, 5.1 (2016))
"Do We Need the New Testament? offers a much-needed corrective to the tendency to neglect or devalue the OT found in much of the contemporary church. The book would be of great value to any theological student, pastor, or interested layperson who desires to explore the rich theological, spiritual, and ethical resources that the OT has to offer the church or who seeks to gain a better grasp of the relationship between the Testaments. Readers can expect to have their assumptions challenged, their minds informed, and their passion for the OT (re)ignited by Goldingay's insightful and engaging discussion, which pairs penetrating analysis with a fervent love for Israel's Scriptures." (Brittany Kim, Themelios, April 2016)
"Bible readers who want to think through the relationship between the two testaments and its implications, and who would welcome help from an insightful and outspoken debate partner, should read and ponder this book." (Kenneth A. Cherney Jr., Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Spring 2016)
"With its scholarly tone, this title should be recommended to laypeople, students, and pastors who are familiar with Greek, Hebrew, and Latin and have a knowledge of biblical and secular history." (John Berstein, CBA Retailers + Resources, June 2015)
"All in all, this book is a delightful, stimulating, and challenging read. . . . Goldingay helps to explain how to interpret and understand the Old Testament's abiding theological witness to our triune God." (Austin Britton, New Horizons, April 2016)
"A fresh, accessible and at times provocative explanation of the enduring relevance of the Old ('First') Testament for Christians. It will challenge readers to embrace the first seventy percent of the canon as truly Christian Scripture." (Mark J. Boda, professor of Old Testament, McMaster Divinity College, professor, faculty of Theology, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada)
"John Goldingay is incapable of being uninteresting. I smiled approvingly at many passages in this book and grimaced at a few others, all the while deeply grateful for such a passionate dismantling of pernicious but widely held myths about the Old Testament's theological inferiority. If Goldingay does not quite come to grips with what makes the New Testament new, he nevertheless brilliantly illustrates how the Old Testament is already good news on its own." (Stephen B. Chapman, associate professor of Old Testament, Duke University)
"The early church's problem with the Old Testament was completely different to ours. Their problem was not how to make sense of the Old Testament given the coming of Jesus, but the reverse: Given that the Old Testament is God's revelation, how do we make sense of Jesus? With this unusual question, Do We Need the New Testament?, Goldingay turns our modern thinking on its head and exposes the weaknesses in the way contemporary Christians understand the Old Testament―and the New. With thought-provoking ideas on every page, this book will help readers look at the Old and New Testaments in new and exciting ways." (Nathan MacDonald, lecturer in Hebrew Bible and fellow of St. John's College, University of Cambridge)
"Reflecting on new perspectives on the life of Jesus, issues of Psalm 137, the role of church and state and their ethics, and the hermeneutics of theological interpretation, the reader will enjoy the questioning and provocative mind of John Goldingay as he takes up his laptop to challenge much of today's conventional Christian wisdom." (Richard S. Hess, Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Denver Seminary)
About the Author
John Goldingay (PhD, University of Nottingham; DD, Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth) is David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He was previously principal and a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at St Johns Theological College in Nottingham, England. His books include An Introduction to the Old Testament, The Theology of the Book of Isaiah, Key Questions about Interpretation, Do We Need the New Testament? and commentaries on Psalms, Isaiah, and Daniel. He has also authored the three-volume Old Testament Theology and the seventeen-volume Old Testament For Everyone series. Goldingay also serves in pastoral ministry as an associate pastor at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Pasadena. He holds membership in the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for Old Testament Study, and serves on the Task Force on Biblical Interpretation in the Anglican Communion and the editorial board for the Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies.
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He argues that the NT tells us nothing new about God or the proper way to relate to him. We need it not for new revelation, but because it brings the First Testament story to is surprising, yet consistent conclusion. In Christ, God does more, but nothing really new: he’s always been absorbing his people’s rebellion and carrying their sin. The new thing about Jesus isn’t what he tells us about God, but the fact that he embodies it and, in his life, death and resurrection, ushers in the next stage of salvation history. It’s not even that true transformation is finally possible in under the New Covenant. Many OT saints were transformed at least as much as any NT Christian. One key change, however, is “God’s missional strategy”: instead of Israel drawing the nations in, Spirit-empowered, Christians take the good news out to the nations, so people can die with confident hope for resurrection (which they did not have before Christ).
Goldingay also dampens our optimism and eagerness to “build the kingdom,” reminding us that we, like FT heroes, are sinful, stubborn and powerless to achieve justice; our efforts are fragile and utterly dependent on God. But to say these efforts are “not destined to be successful” may go too far. It seems if we maintain a posture of dependence, God’s power can be made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). The fact that we don’t see the Kingdom in all its fullness doesn’t mean we don’t see it at all. But knowing that one day we will assures us that our current, imperfect “labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58)!
Goldingay suggests that the Spirit is not new to the NT. Pentecost was a fresh wave of power in a pattern of “divine withdrawal and divine outpouring” that has been an ongoing part of Israel’s national experience and has continued in the history of the church. If we in the West currently find ourselves in a period of withdrawal, the pattern gives us a basis for hopeful praying and expecting that God will yet pour his presence upon us in a fresh and mighty way!
“How People Have Mis(?)read Hebrews,” is the chapter that piqued my curiosity the most, and it did not disappoint. Here Goldingay argues that Hebrews’ use of the First Testament has led Christians to misunderstand FT teaching in two ways. First, we’ve have believed that all sacrifice in the FT was about the forgiveness of sin. In fact, sacrifice had many functions, and few of them have any explicit links to sin as we would define it. In cases of deliberate sin, one could not sacrifice, but only plead God’s mercy (e.g. Ps 51). So we should be careful about reading sacrificial laws through the lens of NT atonement theology and thinking the FT rituals exist merely to explain Jesus’ death. Second, reading about “models of faith” in Hebrews 11 has led us to read the FT as a storehouse of good and bad moral examples. But that’s not the point. The only true ethical model in the FT is God, not a human being. While I agree that Israel’s purpose in telling her national story goes far beyond giving moral models, it certainly may include that. Story as Torah: Reading Old Testament Narrative Ethically, for example, Gordon Wenham offers a reading of the FT in which ethical teaching works within larger narrative purposes.
The most personal and prophetic chapter of the book is “The Costly Loss of First Testament Spirituality.” The Psalms, says Goldingay, are in scripture to teach us to praise and pray. Our failure to learn from and be shaped by them has cost us greatly. He shows us how different types of Psalms can instruct our worship and prayer life. For example, protest/lament psalms and imprecatory psalms allow us to pray from a place of solidarity for brothers and sisters who are suffering or being oppressed in ways that we are not. This is a powerful, practical insight that can breathe new purpose into our praying of the Psalms.
Goldingay’s book is full of thought provoking ideas on these and other issues concerning the relationship between the testaments. Although I had trouble seeing how his chapter on Memory (ch. 7) advanced his overall thesis, the rest of the book challenged me to think from fresh angles about many questions. Sometimes Goldingay muddied waters that had seemed clear, sometimes he added insight on perennial questions, and sometimes (e.g. on the Psalms) he offered profound spiritual challenge. For all these reasons, I’m grateful for his person and his work in this book, and I highly recommend it!
Thanks to IVP for providing me with a complimentary copy of Do We Need the New Testament?: Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself for the purpose of this review!
Do We Need the New Testament?: Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself is a brief volume that seeks to turn a popular question within Christian circles on its head. Now that Jesus has come and we have the New Testament, do Christians really need the Old Testament? Goldingay points the question back at the well-intended interrogator: Do we really need the New Testament? After all, what's new about the New Testament? And what happens when we look at the Old Testament, not as a deficient old work in need of a Christological makeover, but as a rich and splendid revelation of God's faithfulness to Israel and the world? (back cover). It is here that Goldingay begins to dismantle contemporary misnomers concerning the deficiency of the Old Testament.
Goldingay begins with a broad chapter that uncovers many of the issues examined in more detail as the book unfolds, such as ethics, spirituality, and various aspects of theology (i.e. salvation, etc.). Most of the chapters in the book arose as papers presented at the Society of Biblical Literature, the Society of Old Testament Study, and others (p. 10). This explains the somewhat random organization of the book, which may come as a frustration to some readers. Goldingay’s conclusion is that, “Yes, of course, we need the New Testament Scriptures, but they don’t supersede the earlier Scriptures” (p. 32). According to Goldingay, we need the Old Testament for understanding the story of God’s working purpose, for its theology, spirituality, hope, understanding of mission, salvation, and for its ethics (p. 32). Goldingay not only substantiate such statements, but he does so by guiding readers towards a newfound appreciation for the Old Testament.
There are aspects of Goldingay’s approach that will undoubtedly cause some readers distress. The book as a whole is stimulating and exciting, but some statements can appear oversimplified and even somewhat misleading at times. For example, he states that “in none of the Gospels does Jesus tell his disciples to extend the kingdom, work for the kingdom, build the kingdom, or further the kingdom” (p. 34). This is certainly a thought provoking statement. But, is it an accurate statement? I’ll let the reader decide. Other examples of similar weight could be given as well. Where I think Goldingay shines is in the continuity that he brings between the portrait of God in the Old Testament and the New. This is helpful for many reasons, but the origin of the initial questions concerning the Old Testament tend to arise on this point and Goldingay hits the nail on the head.
Do We Need the New Testament?: Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself by John Goldingay is not without its shortcomings. But, what he does well, he does really well! Goldingay is witty and sharp in his interaction with the questions at hand, and readers will appreciate his serious desire to hear from the Old Testament as Scripture. If you’re a looking for a thought-provoking book that will turn your heart and mind todays the Scriptures, and consequently towards the God to whom the Scriptures reveal, then this is a book worth reading. It comes highly recommended!