How to Study the Bible and Why Biblical Theology Is Important Book Review

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Christ-Centered Biblical Theology Hermeneutical Foundations and Principles, Graeme Goldsworthy aims to provide a cohesive, coherent and synthetic approach to Biblical Theology by allowing the reader to view the whole or expanse of Christianity from its Old Testament foundations to its New Testament teachings.[footnoteRef:1] The purpose of the work, as Goldsworthy states, is to show how unified the Bible is rather than just a "mass of unconnected stories."[footnoteRef:2] Instead, Biblical Theology should highlight the Person of Jesus Christ in order to show how He is the center of the Bible, how He is prefigured and prophesied in the Old Testament and the many ways in which persons in the New Testament use the Old Testament scriptures to help illuminate the Person of Jesus Christ. [1: Graeme Goldsworthy, Christ-Centered Biblical Theology: Hermeneutical Foundations and Principles (IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 19.] [2: Ibid, 19.]

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Goldsworthy's book presents a number of issues, themes and solutions for the modern reader or student of Biblical Theology. The book raises the question of why biblical theology is neglected and points out that a main reason for this neglect is found in the fact that students often divide the Old from the New Testament as though the two were not intimately connected. Goldsworthy argues that they are.[footnoteRef:3] One of the aims of the book is to establish an approach that ordinary Christians can use to better understand the overall nature of the whole Bible. At the same time Goldsworthy aims to establish a hermeneutical procedure as well as a proper theory for contextualizing the Bible. This is all geared towards providing a pastoral application of biblical theology to enhance evangelical Christianity. [3: Ibid, 34.]

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The overall theme of the book is the "nature of Jesus as the Word of God incarnate and the relationship he bears to the Bible as the word of God written."[footnoteRef:4] For Goldsworthy, if Christ is the Word made Flesh, as the New Testament states, then He is present throughout the whole Bible and should be seen everywhere within it (in both Old and New Testament) because He is the heart and soul, center and object of Revelation. Every covenant points to Him and every prophet too. [4: Ibid, 44.]

This theme plays into the book's other major theme which is the unity of the Bible and how the supposed disconnected bits actually fit together to create a unified whole that reflects on itself and deepens the various parts when considered as a whole.

Goldsworthy also raises the various problems that students of biblical theology face, which relate to translations, languages, theories, approaches, criticisms, etc. His answer to these issues is to embrace them within the context of the overall strategy of God, Who does not desire to confuse but actually imbues Himself throughout all and is reflected even in the smallest details if one knows how to look. Thus, Goldsworthy asserts that "human language, then, can be seen as reflecting the divine language of the intra-trinitarian communication."[footnoteRef:5] However, as Goldsworthy notes, serious care and attention should be given to the original texts since these were the languages that the Holy Spirit saw fit to use when communicating to man; thus, it stands to reason that the grammatical nuances and syntax used therein should be preserved as best as possible when studying the linguistic aspects of biblical theology. [5: Ibid, 50.]

The author is coming from the perspective of evangelical Anglicanism and the biblical perspective that the wholeness of the Bible is important in understanding the details. However, he points out that even the term "evangelical" has different meanings and that for the purposes of his book he will not limit himself to a narrow definition.[footnoteRef:6] Thus, he includes in his definition of evangelical those who do not hold to a literal view all the words of Scripture, for instance, with creation as described in Genesis. This broad approach is meant to be inclusive of controversial aspects of biblical theology, such as when Scripture is definitive and when is it more stylistic. The author's main aim is to treat the Word of God similarly to the way the first evangelists did, which was to go forth and preach it -- but for the modern age which is given to all manner of literary criticism and new historicism, the author admits that a certain amount of deconstructionism must be performed before the Word of God can be adequately met. [6: Ibid, 76.]

The writer's goal is to give the reader a deeper and better understanding of the unity of Scripture and how the theme of Redemption runs through all of Scripture from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New Testament.

The writer does attain his goal/make his point by "letting the texts" speak for themselves. For example, he highlights the main themes of the Old Testament -- Creation and Fall -- while following the various narratives that illustrate aspects and prefiguring of the Christ Who is to come. At the same time he weaves together a tapestry of events from creation to the flood to Abraham and on, drawing light from other commentators so as to broaden the scope and keep the reader in mind of the bigger picture. The author also attempts to incorporate various approaches such as hermeneutics and typology, for instance, in his discussion of the way that the New Testament's narrative nature relates to its historical nature, or how the New Testament deals with the theme of Creation ("In the beginning was the Word").[footnoteRef:7] He defers to Robinson and Herbert and discusses their views and approaches with an academic flourish. [7: Ibid, 152.]

The strengths of the author's argument lie in his ability to weave so many threads together at once while keeping in mind the overall aim. Thus, the author is able to highlight various ideas, such as reoccurring themes, while also referring to other commentators and raising issues of interpretation and literary theory. The weakness of the author's argument lies in his tendency to devote too much attention to the theoretical aspects of biblical theology rather than simply allowing the Bible to speak for itself as it seems that he really wants it to do. The temptation to stoop to an academic or scholarly audience takes away from the "common man" approach that he asserts at the beginning of the book.

There are several reviews of this book available online. One review by Stephen Wellum, Professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, praises Goldsworthy's book for its "two-fold" approach to biblical theology. The two-fold approach that Wellum notes is found in the "big picture" approach that Goldsworthy takes as well as in the honoring of his own mentor Robinson by including discussions of his teacher's views. For Wellum this is a highlight and major achievement of the work.[footnoteRef:8] [8: Stephen Wellum, "Book Review: Christ-Centered Biblical Theology: Hermeneutical Foundations and Principles, by Graeme Goldsworthy," 9 Marks. 13 Nov 2012.]

Another review by Justin Cloute notes that Goldsworthy's book is praise-worthy for its emphasis on the unity of Scripture. Cloute however criticizes the book for relying in part on historical criticism too much especially in the area concerning the Pentateuch. [footnoteRef:9] To me this was a relevant point and one that I would raise as well. In using historical criticism for instance, I felt that Goldsworthy undercut his own momentum and sidetracked from his goal of giving ultimate credence to the Bible as an authoritative document. Historical criticism on the other hand tends to negate certain assumptions or beliefs about the Bible by situating in a strictly historical context and disregarding certain theological factors and elements which the believing Christian accepts as part of faith and belief. Goldsworthy here may have a noble aim but by trying to be too inclusive he undermines his own effort. [9: Justin Cloute, "Review: Christ-Centered Theology," Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Continuing Education Institute. 2012.]

Fulton Sheen has written his own Life of Christ which acts as a work of biblical theology too in that it achieves the same stated aims as Goldsworthy's book -- but it does so without accepting any claims or theories or approaches that undercut the concept of the Bible as an authentic, true, and inspired document. And in terms of content, style and approach, Sheen's book is much more enthralling, readable, assertive, and convincing, even as it manages to weave in the many themes that Goldsworthy weaves in. True, it is primarily focused on Christ in the New Testament but it is laden with references to the Old Testament so that the reader understands how the two are united and walks away with a firm grasp on how unified the two books of Scripture really are. Nonetheless, Goldsworthy's book is still a fine example of how to intertwine various themes with the intention of highlighting the unity and "big picture" nature of the Bible.

This book would be useful for the pastor because it gives him both a scholarly basis for… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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