Let’s Not Forget the Older Books . . .

Tom Wright’s Paul book was just released yesterday, and I’m told that Amazon already has an “Temporarily Out of Stock” notice. Well, I have a suggestion: Let’s not forget the older books!

When I say “let’s not forget the older books” I’m not talking about those of a different generation. I’m also not specifically talking about what some might call the “great books”, although these would easily be included in this reflection. I’m more referring to the very recently old books! With the ease and speed of publication of books today both print and electronic, it is easy to consider books published within the last decade  as “old” and nearly passe. But I was reminded this morning that sometimes really good books take a while to be read. The case in point for me this morning is John Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology Volume One, which is now over a decade old (2003).

In his introduction, he has a fantastic passage about the importance of the Old Testament’s message for the church in its third millennium. I will excerpt it here in its entirety. He makes a reference to Bonhoeffer which is a bonus.

There are a number of points where the Old Testament faith differs from the New Testament Faith. It is more interest sin creation, the world of the nations and politics; it is more accepting of death and of the ambiguities of human life; it lacks a “positive” picture of life after death or a stress on the messiah; it understands human sinfulness differently; it stresses reverence for God; it sees  as a free to complain to God and to express doubt; it emphasizes enjoyment of everyday family life and food and drink; it values sacramental worship; and it enjoins detailed outward obedience to divine commands. My attitude to such difference is  in principle to see them not as points where the New Testament surpasses the Old, but as points where Christians are especially likely to have something to learn. Even where the New may surpass the Old, the church will likely especially need the Old, especially now that the world has gone on to another two millennia since the New Testament times, far longer than the period from Abraham to Christ. Over this time the church has not found it possible to live as if God had become incarnate or as if God’s son had been given for it or as if God’s reign had begun, and one can hardly maintain in the third millennium that it might be about to do so. If there is material in Scripture that starts from our stubbornness (so e.g. Mk 10:5), we still need it. Indeed, only when people have learned to take the Old Testament really seriously can they be entrusted with the story of Jesus, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer more or less argued. The church has reversed that argument and turned Christian faith into a faith that is itself truncated (21).

Oh, and Goldingay’s book is in stock!


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  • Chris Porter

    Lewis agrees with you too: “Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish
    the ordinary reader to read no modern books.

  • S Wu

    Indeed, let’s not forget the OT. Thanks, Joel, for posting this.