Beginning with Goldsworthy

One of the theological concepts I’ve found most helpful over the years has been “biblical theology”. Biblical theology is “the study of what the Bible teaches as the Bible teaches it”, with a focus on “the big picture of the unity of the Bible”, relating the whole of the Scriptures to Christ.

Luke 24 is a key chapter for understanding the thinking that lies behind biblical theology, in particular verse 27:

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

and verses 44-47 (verses 46 and 47 are probably the nearest thing I have to a “life verse”):

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

One of the great benefits of biblical theology is that it helps prevent moralising interpretations of Scripture, and helps us understand “where we are” when reading passages that might otherwise be difficult to comprehend, particularly in the Old Testament. Above all, it provides us with the tools to apply the principle that “Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, is the heart and centre of the Scripture and therefore the key to its true meaning” (Explanation of the Small Catechism [PDF], q.4).

One of the most popular modern exponents of biblical theology is the Australian writer Graeme Goldsworthy, who is the subject of an interesting interview with a US blogger (from which the definition of biblical theology quoted in the opening paragraph to this post is taken). Do read the whole thing, but there were a couple of highlights I wanted to share here.

In his first response, Goldsworthy argues that “we cannot go on from the gospel, only with the gospel”. We should not confuse the gospel – the proclamation of the “life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth” – with other things such as our need for the gospel or the effects of receiving (or not receiving) the gospel. Goldsworthy write:

Thus, contrary to some inexact Christian pious talk, we cannot live the gospel. We can, and must, seek to live consistently with it, but only Jesus lived, and died, the gospel.

Goldsworthy cites the two passages from Luke 24 quoted above as an “excellent starting point in establishing our hermeneutics of the Bible”, providing evidence that:

the first question we put to a text is not “What does this say to or about us?,” but “How does this text testify to Jesus?”

The interview includes details of Goldsworthy’s various books, all of which are well worth reading. I’ll certainly be looking out for his new one, Gospel-centred Hermeneutics.

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4 Responses to Beginning with Goldsworthy

  1. spicedparrot says:

    Its great to see a Confessional Lutheran appreciating Biblical Theology. I was worried than when I left the reformed world that it wouldn’t be a focus anymore. Oddly enough, it seems to me that confessional Lutheran hermeneutics should apply the same principles of Biblical Theology – but pietism is always sneaking in there.

    Anyway, if you like Goldsworthy and want something a little more mind-bending there is lots of good stuff online by Geehardus Vos. He’s not Lutheran, but his hermeneutic was both Lutheran and biblical.

  2. Rick Ritchie says:

    I just wrote a review of Goldsworthy’s book for an upcoming issue of Modern Reformation. I mostly raved and explained how best to use the book in a class.

    An imaginative effort I’ve sometimes made is to try to imagine what it would be like to have only an earlier version of the Bible as your Bible. What would you know from it? How would you be inclined to read it? How would you answer questions we have explicit New Testament answers for if you asked them of a smaller text?

  3. Pingback: alastair.adversaria » Lenten Guest Post - Day 13 - Won and distributed, “for us”

  4. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » Blog Archive » Thus it is written…

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