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KEY FEATURES

In order to understand the exegetical and theological conclusions of a scholar, it is helpful to know his methodology. In this section, the key features of the hermeneutical framework of Goldingay will be explored. These features were provided by Goldingay himself in his article “Old Testament Theology and the Canon.”[1]

In other words, this section enumerates and explains Goldingay’s expressed methodology. These features, in and of themselves, are rather neutral in nature and can be adopted by conservatives and liberals alike. In the next section of this essay, four features of Goldingay’s hermeneutics—only one of which he has developed in his writing—that are clearly antithetical to the evangelical position will be taken up.

Focus on the Form of the Canon

The first key feature of Goldingay’s hermeneutical framework, which is of central importance to his interpretive methodology, is his emphasis upon the canon. As Goldingay points out, because the Old Testament is part of the canon there is a sense in which all Old Testament interpretation is related to the canon.[2] Yet, there is another sense in which Goldingay is, as he himself recognizes, greatly indebted to the canonical approach of Brevard Childs.[3]

Childs’ canonical approach “focuses its attention on the final form of the text itself.”[4] For Childs and his followers, then,  “to take the canonical shape of these texts seriously is to seek to do justice to a literature which Israel transmitted as a record of God’s revelation to his people along with Israel’s response.”[5] Thus, Childs’ primary focus is on the canon of Scripture that has been handed down by the Church throughout the ages. Childs is interested less in the history of its composition—or even the history of Israel as it is depicted within the pages of the Old Testament—than with what the text says within the context of the canon.

Goldingay follows in line with Childs’ approach, and he plainly states his support for Childs’ methods. He writes, “Childs is surely right that we should do Old Testament theology on the basis of the books’ canonical form rather than on the basis of historical and redaction-critical hypotheses about their origins, such as the tradition that Genesis was written by Moses or the hypothesis that it was written by a committee in the Second Temple period.”[6]

This conviction certainly leads into the next key feature of Goldingay’s hermeneutic, namely the topic of history, but more can be said here. Part and parcel to Goldingay’s interpretation of Scripture is that interpretation is to be done in the context of the canon. This is the foundation upon which all other features of his hermeneutic are lain. He believes that, “[m]ore important than the shaping of individual books or their order is the rhetorical form of the canon.”[7] The canon provides both the content and the context of interpretation. Because of its self-inflicted separation from the history of composition, and even the history of the events portrayed within its pages, the canon becomes immune to any attacks on the basis of historicity or even creed. It is the matter of history that must now be taken up.

[1] John Goldingay, “Old Testament Theology and the Canon” TynBul 59 (2008): 1–28, republished as John Goldingay, “In What Way Does Old Testament Theology Relate to the Canon?” in Key Questions about Biblical Interpretation: Old Testament Answers (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011): 254–273.

[2] Goldingay, Key Questions, 254.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Philadelphia: Fortress, 2011), 73.

[5] Ibid.

 [6] Goldingay, Key Questions, 255.

 [7] Ibid., 256.

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