I don’t remember when I first heard of Graeme Goldsworthy, but it was probably at some point during my time in Dallas. I’ve had my eye on his Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, which I guess would make a good companion to this volume. Eventually, I’ll pull the trigger, but since his Christ-Centered Biblical Theology was released earlier this year, I thought I start there instead.
First off, this is not your traditional method and principle book. It’s part exposition of biblical theological method and part tribute to a theological mentor. In essence, its Goldsworthy explaining the method he learned from one of this teachers, Donald Robinson, and how it differs from the other options on the table.
Like most books, chapter 1 sets out the preliminary issues. In this case, Goldsworthy previews what he calls the “Robinson-Hebert” schema for biblical theology and looks at why biblical theology can be sidelined. In chapter 2, he takes a look at how we even define “biblical theology” as well as the theological and hermeneutical presuppositions evangelicals bring to the table.
Chapter 3 takes us into the question of “salvation history” and how we trace the biblical storyline. Then chapter 4 shows how there is a lack of consensus among evangelicals about how to best go about this story-telling task. Goldsworthy demonstrates this by means of a survey of leading scholars who’ve attempted a biblical theology. Chapter 5 continues this survey but turns to authors who take a “multiplex” approach to the issue.
Starting in chapter 6, Goldsworthy begins making his own case for how to approach salvation history. Because the Robinson-Hebert schema is a three step approach, it will take Goldsworthy 3 chapters to unpack it all. He does this in the following way:
- Letting the Old Testament Speak: Biblical History (chapter 6)
- Letting the Old Testament Speak: Prophetic Eschatology (chapter 7)
- Letting the New Testament Speak (chapter 8)
A definite strength of the book has to be the schema Goldsworthy offers. I’m debating myself whether to let it infiltrate how I approach teaching Bible survey. He is appreciative of other methods (like that of Vos and Clowney) but his approach makes more of David/Solomon and is able to integrate the wisdom literature better.
I like that his method starts with the surface storyline in the Old Testament and then moves to how the prophets and the wisdom writers understood the significance and pushed the expectations of restoration forward. I think more Christians would benefit from this approach since it makes the prophets a pivotal stage in biblical revelation rather than a dark corner in the Old Testament.
Also, whether or not you agree with Goldsworthy’s approach, this book does a great job of setting context for the pursuit of biblical theology. He gives a great survey of the lay of the land in contemporary biblical theology in a fair, even-handed way. I think it would be fair to say that if you’re interested in understanding biblical theology in general, Goldsworthy’s book would be a great place to start.
Depending on how you look at it, the personal side of the book could its biggest downside. There is certainly far more personal digressions in this book than you’d expect. As I said earlier, it is part method and part tribute. Goldsworthy definitely owes much to Donald Robinson, and shows it throughout the book. For some readers, this may be distracting, but for others it might make a book on method a little more personable and therefore more readable. I wasn’t sure exactly what I thought of it, but it was definitely a different feel than I’m used to.
That being said, I really enjoyed working my way through this book. Now I’ve got a good plate of food for thought on how I personally do biblical theology. For someone thinking of how to fit together a curriculum for teaching Bible survey, this book provides a good structuring schema that allows you to incorporate the whole bible into the story of salvation history. I like the three part structure, and though its not explicitly triperspectival, it does seem like it would be conducive for further triperspectival analysis. Either way, if you’re interested in learning about the landscape of biblical theology from an accessible, easy to follow source, then this book is for you.
- Author: Graeme Goldsworthy
- Title: Christ-Centered Biblical Theology: Hermeneutical Foundations and Principles
- Publisher: IVP Academic (March 21, 2012)
- Paperback: 240pgs
- Reading Level: Bible School
- Audience Appeal: Bible students interested in a creative method for biblical theology