Book Review: Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy (Part 1)

This afternoon I read Graeme Goldsworthy's short book Gospel and Kingdom, and it is settled! He DEFINITELY gets "Favorite Author of the Year" Award. This is a very, very good book. My review begins below and will be posted in several parts of the next few days.

Gospel and Kingdom
Graeme Goldsworthy

In The Goldsworthy Trilogy: Gospel and Kingdom, Gospel and Wisdom, The Gospel in Revelation (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster Press, 2000).

Graeme Goldsworthy, former Lecturer in Old Testament Studies at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, has provided an immensely helpful, gospel-laden, theologically-rich, lay-friendly feast in this short book on the Old Testament. Writing from “a deep concern for the recovery of the Old Testament as part of the Christian Bible” (5), Goldsworthy masterfully demonstrates how the gospel of Christ provides the key to interpreting the three-quarters of the Bible that most Christians tend to neglect.

In his Introduction, Goldsworthy rehearses a scene that most of us have probably experienced – a young man faced with the challenge of sharing a Bible lesson to a group of children during a Sunday School Anniversary service. The big question is how to apply a familiar story from the Old Testament to his young hearers. He has recently seen someone tell the story of David and Goliath, but he was troubled with the application. “The fellow dressed up as Goliath had progressively revealed a list of childhood sins by peeling cardboard strips off his breastplate one by one, as the speaker explained the kind of ‘Goliaths’ we all have to meet. Then a strapping young David appeared on cue, and produced his arsenal – a sling labeled ‘faith’ and five stones listed as ‘obedience’, ‘service’, ‘Bible reading’, ‘prayer’, and ‘fellowship’” (8). Was this a legitimate application of the familiar story? We’ve all faced similar quandaries and, if we’ve given the least amount of reflection to it, have wrestled with such questions. “Every time we read the Bible we meet this problem of the right application of the text to us” (9). To help us navigate the choppy waters of Old Testament interpretation is the purpose of this book.

Chapter one begins with a more basic question: why read the Old Testament at all? There are multiple reasons why most people do not: on the left, there are those who view the Old Testament as sub-Christian and believing that it is merely the record of man’s natural religious evolution, have written it off as irrelevant. On the right are those who are desperately trying to reconcile a high view of Scripture with disturbing things as imprecatory Psalms, Israel’s slaughtering of enemy nations, and the imposition of the death penalty for a wide variety of crimes in the Mosaic law. Still others avoid the Old Testament because they find it “dry and uninteresting . . . wordy, cumbersome, and confusing” (12). To add the confusion are many “false trails” (13) that lead to faulty interpretation, especially the “allegorical method” of the early and medieval church (the author mentions W. Ian Thomas’s If I Perish, I Perish as a modern example). Help, however, can be found from the Protestant Reformers, whose rallying-cry of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) helped believers begin to see the value of the Old Testament and its “significance for Christians because of its organic relationship to Christ” (17).

This brief foray into history is concluded with the author’s contention that “the most compelling reason for Christians to read and study the Old Testament lies in the New Testament” (18). The New Testament, with at least 1600 direct quotations from Old - and several thousand more allusions - “presupposes a knowledge of the Old Testament.” The attitude of Christ Himself towards the Old Testament must determine our own. “The more we study the New Testament the more apparent becomes the conviction shared by Jesus, the apostles and the New Testament writers in general: namely, the Old Testament is Scripture and Scripture points to Christ” (19-20). Just how the Old Testament points to Christ is what we must learn. The New Testament itself will govern our steps as we remember that “the process of redemptive history finds its goal, its focus and fulfillment in the person and work of Christ. This is the principle underlying this book” (20).

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