Over the past decade or so John Goldingay has produced an astonishing quantity of quality studies on what he calls the First Testament. His two erudite and elegant volumes in the International critical Commentary on Second Isaiah are reason enough to wonder. But they were preceded by the large monograph The Message of Isaiah 40-56, which is the best thing around for getting to the heart of this majestic document of renewed hope and persistent faith.
Three volumes of commentary on the Psalms constitute a further gift to the church, and these I've used regularly over the past few years. Years ago one of Goldingay's first books was a paperback study of the Psalms 42-51, Songs from a Strange Land. Those of us who used it hoped he would eventually write a full scale commentary. The three volumes in the Baker Wisdom Commentary series are comprehensive in exegesis without being overwhelming, the theology of the each psalm is explored and opened up for the church's response of praise, thanksgiving, confession or lament.
Then there is the trilogy on Old Testament Theology, a total of 2,500 pages of some of the most stimulating and discursive theological exegesis I've read. And discursive doesn't mean unstructured, or wandering - it means bringing a range of disciplines together in the task of interpreting the gospel, the faith and the life of Israel. He concedes that his approach overlaps with J W McClendon's threefold division of ethics, doctrine and witness, and like McClendon he insists that it is the life Israel is called to live, and its faithfulness in pursuing it, that gives credibility to Israel's gospel and substance to its faith. Likewise it is ethics, lived practice that most fully expresses the Gospel of Jesus. Not that doctrine and confessional proclamation are unimportant, but they depend upon transformative living through obedient appropriation of what God has declared in Jesus Christ.
Goldingay holds in close connectedness the First and Second Testaments. And his treatment of Torah gives no concession to the the extreme of reductionism that devalues and dismisses the biblical witness to Torah as the instruction for human life before God. But neither does he entertain any idealising or absolutising of Torah as overarching law whose requirements are mere demands without enabling grace. In Goldingay's approach there is a conscientious and respectful handling of the witness, faith and ethics of Israel. The result is one of the most usable and enlightening overviews of Old Testament Theology available.
Over the years I've worked through several of the big names, some of them double volumes, and learned much in the process. But Goldingay writes out of profound scholarship, alert to the post-modern challenges faced by faith traditions embedded in meta-narratives now open to question, sympathetic to the original bearers of the witness of the First Testament, yet committed to understanding the place of the Old Testament in Christian living and in the church's proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The three volumes expound life in community as it is lived towards God, embraces the neighbour and calls to personal integrity. And Goldingay writes well, out of personal conviction, generous to other views, lucid and engaged, and above all as someone who loves the text too much to force it into any distorting conformity with theological assumptions imported from elsewhere.
John Goldingay sits alongside several others whose work on the Old Testament I find illuminating, refreshingly unpredictable, and written by scholars respectful of both text and reader - Walter Brueggemann, Kathleen O'Connor, Terence Fretheim, William P Brown, Clinton McCann come to mind. Amongst the servants of God within the church, for whom the church should reserve a Sunday to celebrate and give thanks, are those biblical scholars who think and pray, consider and weigh, write and publish, providing the nourishment of soul and the fruit of scholarship for the nurture of the faith and the health of the church. John Goldingay is one such scholar.