Goldingay is David Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He explains that “this book is a collection of answers to questions . . . about the Old Testament and the way it interacts with Christian faith and life. Most of the chapters venture on into the New Testament, though the center of gravity lies in the Old Testament. Most have been published elsewhere, though I have slightly revised them all, and some appear here either in abbreviated or in expanded form” (p. xi).
The twenty-five chapters address a variety of questions. They discuss issues related to who God is, how love and wrath relate, and whether God has surprises. One chapter answers the question What does it mean to be human? Also death and suffering are discussed as is the nature of sin. Several chapters treat the definition of the people of God, one through biblical imagery and the other through biblical narrative. Covenant, sacrifice, and circumcision are defined and explained.
In a provocative chapter Goldingay asks, “Should I Tithe Net or Gross?” He concludes that “Christians are now called to tithe their income and to direct their tithes to causes that will thus provide nourishment, education, basic health care, and health education in the two-thirds world. I suggest that this is the purpose that God wishes tithes to fulfill in the twenty-first century” (p. 169). In Goldingay’s view tithing to the church is “an essentially selfish exercise: it is the way we ensure we receive goods we desire such as people to pastor us or heating/air conditioning in church. In this sense it is not giving to God at all. If we tithe, to maintain our churches and their ministry, this should perhaps be a second tithe, following on a tithe that benefits peoples who are more needy than us” (p. 170). So rather than choosing between a tithe on net or gross income, he encourages a double tithe.
Succeeding chapters deal with the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, the mystery of prayer, the place of Israel in God’s purpose, and the fairness of election. The author discusses the scriptural doctrine of creation and the way the Old Testament views other religions. He also gives his views on same-sex relationships, cities, animal care, and the Song of Songs. He discusses what the Scriptures teach about men and women and a biblical theology of family. In the chapter “Is Leadership Biblical?” he makes the observation that “while scripture rarely describes people as leaders, it often describes someone we would call a leader as a servant of God” (p. 270). He concludes, “In the world we will continue to need leadership. But the church’s job is to be an alternative community that embodies God’s vision for the whole world” (p. 271).
This is an interesting book for several reasons. Goldingay is a respected Old Testament scholar and his depth and breadth of reading and expertise comes through in every chapter. Each chapter stands alone, and the chapters can be read in any order. The book has a conversational tone; the reader could imagine sharing a cup of coffee with the author while he explains his position. And after most chapters the reader may wish it were possible to ask additional questions for clarification and explanation.
The book is an excellent resource, a helpful introduction to these topics. Of course few readers will agree with the author on all points, but they will find the chapters engaging, enlightening, and informative.
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