When I was in seminary I distinctly remember something my professor said. It was an off-hand comment (aren’t they always the ones we remember?), but one I’ve been able to verify over the years. It was a class on the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), and a student sitting at the back of the class raised his hand to ask a question. It was a little unusual, because he built his question from the text of a book not on the syllabus. The question was forgettable, but my teacher’s comment stuck. “Is that a Graeme Goldsworthy book? Read everything he writes.” As a first-year student still wet behind the ears, that exhortation sunk in and is still lodge somewhere in my brain. And after reading several Goldsworthy books, and leading study groups through them as well, I can attest to the wisdom of that recommendation.
Certainly not his most well-known (that would be Gospel and Kingdom which is the first of three books compiled in The Goldsworthy Trilogy), but probably his most influential book is the author’s introductory Biblical Theology. According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (ATP), is the next step to understanding the Bible as God’s revelation after the simpler Bible Overview by Steve Levy. ATP is a book that attempts to find unity in the massive diversity of material found in the Bible. It succeeds by organizing the main plot of the Bible around the theme of the kingdom of God. Goldsworthy argues that every other biblical theme—whether major or minor—rightly fits into the overarching theme of Kingdom. That means macro-subjects like covenant, temple, creation, Israel, sacrifice, and sin are all connected through the lens of God’s kingdom. The kingdom theme itself can be helpfully summarized as God’s people, living in God’s place, under God’s rule. (I think this saying came from Goldsworthy, but I haven’t been able to locate a reference.) The organizing principle of kingdom makes Goldsworthy’s account of the Bible’s story significantly different than most other arrangements of biblical theology in one respect. Whereas the high point for many is Moses and the Law—thus contrasting Law (OT) and Gospel (NT)—Goldsworthy argues that David’s kingdom is the apex of the OT. This has the effect of subsuming the theme of covenant underneath the kingdom theme, and therefore he reads the Bible as one unified story about the kingdom of God rather than two competing stories about the Mosaic covenant vs. the New covenant. Such a difference is important because it moves the covenant theology discussion forward and away from the sticking point of the Mosaic law in relation to Christ’s salvation where theologians often get entangled in heated debate. A kingdom-centered story provides some relief from this tired controversy that sometimes feels mired in minutiae at a theological Maginot Line. Continue reading