In Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy, two prominent argument-themes emerge. For that sake of organization, I’ll present this review according to those two categories.
The Kingdom Pattern
The fact that God acts in the history of men and interprets his acts means that these historical events will form a pattern that relates to the purpose of God [pg. 42].
And the central pattern that spans Biblical history, for Goldsworthy, is the concept of kingdom .
For Goldsworthy, the kingdom of God involves (a) God’s people, (b) in God’s place, (c) under God’s rule [53-54]. Both the content of the central Biblical covenants and the goal of redemption history is this kingdom of God . Therefore, as an implication, under various Biblical covenants and within various eras of redemption history, different forms or stages of development of this kingdom exist on a trajectory ultimately consummating in the final realization of this kingdom in the Jesus Christ.
In each stage all the essential ingredients of the Kingdom are given expression, but each successive stage builds on the former until the full revelation of the gospel is achieved .
In Eden, the pattern of the kingdom was established. With Abraham, the kingdom was promised. In Israel’s history, the kingdom was partially revealed and foreshadowed. In the prophetic writings, the future kingdom is further foretold. In Christ, the kingdom of God is located and realized. And in Christ’s return, the kingdom of God will be consummated.
Goldsworthy is primarily concerned with helping his readers read their Old Testaments as Christian scripture. To say this different, Goldsworthy is concerned with presenting a fundamentally Christian interpretive approach (hermeneutic) to the Old Testament. He criticizes other hermeneutical approaches to the Old Testament (e.g., allegory, moralism, higher-critical approaches, and although he leaves it unnamed, he clearly criticizes and seeks to correct the hermeneutical approach of what is known as dispensationalism) for their failure to do so. In contrast, he seeks a hermeneutic based on “the principles of interpretation that are contained within the Bible itself.” .
There is an obvious gap that exists between the meaning of the Old Testament text in its original setting and its relationship to Christians today. For many, this gap translates into treating the Old Testament as something other than Christian scripture (see above). On the contrary, Goldsworthy argues that the Old Testament has relevance to the Christian because of both the Christian’s and the Old Testament’s organic relationship to Christ . Not only does the Old Testament serves as the foundation for the New , but
Everything that is a concern to the New Testament writers is part of the one redemptive history to which the Old Testament witnesses. The New Testament writers cannot separate the person and work of Christ, nor the life of the Christian community, from this sacred history which has its beginnings in the Old Testament .
Hermeneutics aims at showing the significance of the text in the light of the gospel. To interpret an Old Testament text we establish its relationship to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. In order to do this we draw upon our knowledge of the structure of revelation that biblical theology has opened out for us .
And that structure for Goldsworthy, as noted above, is the kingdom of God. Because this concept of kingdom is understood as the central organizing structure of redemptive history, Goldsworthy sees it as an interpretive bridge for relating the Old to the New Testament.
How then may we put this structure of revelation to work for us? Broadly speaking, we do this by showing with what aspect of the gospel revelation the Old Testament text has its essential unity. … Every Old Testament text relates in some way to the basic structure of the kingdom revelation and is therefore capable of being related to the New Testament at the corresponding point .
Similarly, we must read specific texts in light of the larger horizon of the entire canon.
If the unity of the Bible has any meaning at all, the real context of any Bible text is the whole Bible. Any given text is more meaningful when related not only to its immediate context, but also to the entire plan of redemption revealed in the whole Bible .
Further, he argues for the logical interpretive priority of the New Testament when he claims that the New Testament provides the Christian with his or her authoritative interpretation and understanding of the Old Testament . The Gospel defines the objective importance of Old Testament Biblical history, and therefore, serves as the Old Testament’s interpretive grid . The New Testament unpacks fulfillments of various verbal predictions, trajectories, types, and symbols realized in the person of Jesus Christ. The revelation and explanation of fulfillments in turn help us more accurately and fully understand the meaning and significance of these anticipations in the Old Testament. In other words, the New Testament and Christ serve as the interpretive key to the Old. Goldworthy repeats this theme often, as the following quotations illustrate.
Since Christ is the goal to which all revelation points he, himself, in his person and acts, is the key to the interpretation of all scripture .
Because the New Testament declares the Old Testament to be incomplete without Christ we must understand the Old Testament in light of its goal which is Christ. Jesus is indispensable to a true understanding of the Old Testament as well as the New .
The Gospel event is the reality which determines all that goes before and after it .
It is important that we understand very clearly that this fact of the Old Testament’s progression towards a fulfillment in the New is not merely an invitation to understand Jesus Christ as the end of the process. It is also a demand that the whole Bible be understood in the light of the gospel. It means that Jesus Christ is the key to the interpretation of the whole Bible .
All citations are based on Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom (Crownhill, Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2012).