Biblical Theology 101: Goldsworthy’s Kingdom Model and the Old Testament

One of the most famous architects of Biblical Theology is Australian. Graeme Goldsworthy. His Gospel and Kingdom is one of the seminal works on Biblical theology – its premise is that “God’s Kingdom” is a lens through which the Bible can be cohesively understood – he defines God’s kingdom as “God’s people, living in God’s place, under God’s Rule”… So, in say the Garden of Eden we see God’s people (Adam and Eve), living in God’s place (Eden), in direct relationship with God, and then, moving forward a few books, in Judges we see God’s people (Israel), living in God’s place (the promised land), under God’s rule (the judges) – this idea develops throughout the Old Testament, biblically culminating in Jesus, and ultimately culminating in the new creation. This “redemptive history” approach frames every passage as it relates to the ultimate end of the Bible, books are not ends in themselves, but part of the means to that ultimate end.

His book “According to Plan” charts the development of this picture through the Bible. For our OT exam we’re focusing on the Old Testament up to the end of 2 Samuel, so here are his divisions of our text under his headings (followed by a summary):

Creation by Word Genesis 1 and 2
The Fall Genesis 3
First Revelation of Redemption Genesis 4–11
Abraham Our Father Genesis 12–50
Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption Exodus 1–15
New Life: Gift and Task Exodus 16–40; Leviticus
The Temptation in the Wilderness Numbers; Deuteronomy
Into the Good Land Joshua; Judges; Ruth
God’s Rule in God’s Land 1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1–10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1–9

I think the strength of basing approaches to Biblical texts in a framework of Biblical Theology is that it is, by my reckoning, what Jesus would do (and indeed what he did), and it’s certainly what the apostles did – they were able to explain, beginning with Moses, how Jesus was the fulfillment of the Biblical narrative (cf Matthew 5:17-20). It’s not rocket science. So a good framework, or understanding of the unfolding nature of revelation, helps us read the Old Testament without getting bogged down in mechanics. To continue Vos’ body analogy – we can enjoy the fruits of anatomical research without knowing the science – we can sit in our arm chairs and appreciate athletic endeavour without analysing every aspect of the physiological make up of the athlete and his trappings, and any study of the mechanics should be undertaken with the goal of improving on field performance.

For the benefit of other Old Testament students out there – below is Goldsworthy’s summary of the key points in his structure (via here).

Creation by Word
Genesis 1 and 2
In the beginning God created everything that exists. He made Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden. God spoke to them and gave them certain tasks in the world. For food he allowed them the fruit of all the trees in the garden except one. He warned them that they would die if they ate of that one tree.

The Fall
Genesis 3
The snake persuaded Eve to disobey God and to eat the forbidden fruit. She gave some to Adam and he ate also. Then God spoke to them in judgment, and sent them out of the garden into a world that came under the same judgment.

First Revelation of Redemption
Genesis 4–11
Outside Eden, Cain and Abel were born to Adam and eve. Cain murdered Abel and Eve bore another son, Seth. Eventually the human race became so wicked that God determined to destroy every living thing with a flood. Noah and his family were saved by building a great boat at God’s command. The human race began again with Noah and his three sons with their families. Sometime after the flood a still unified human race attempted a godless act to assert its power in the building of a high tower. God thwarted these plans by scattering the people and confusing their language.

Abraham Our Father
Genesis 12–50
Sometime in the early second millennium BC God called Abraham out of Mesopotamia to Canaan. He promised to give this land to Abraham’s descendants and to bless them as his people. Abraham went, and many years later he had a son, Isaac. Isaac in rum had two sons, Esau and Jacob. The promises of God were established with Jacob and his descendants. He had twelve sons, and in time they all went to live in Egypt because of famine in Canaan.

Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption
Exodus 1–15
In time the descendants of Jacob living in Egypt multiplied to become a very large number of people. The Egyptians no longer regarded them with friendliness and made them slaves. God appointed Moses to be the one who would lead Israel out of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. When the moment came for Moses to demand the freedom of his people, the Pharaoh refused to let them go. Though Moses worked ten miracle–plagues which brought hardship, destruction, and death to the Egyptians. Finally, Pharaoh let Israel go, but then pursued them and trapped them at the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds). The God opened a way in the sea for Israel to cross on dry land, but closed the water over the Egyptian army, destroying it.

New Life: Gift and Task
Exodus 16–40; Leviticus
After their release from Egypt, Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai. There God gave them his law which they were commanded to keep. At one point Moses held a covenant renewal ceremony in which the covenant arrangement was sealed in blood. However, while Moses was away on the mountain, the people persuaded Aaron to fashion a golden calf. Thus they showed their inclination to forsake the covenant and to engage in idolatry. God also commanded the building of the tabernacle and gave all the rules of sacrificial worship by which Israel might approach him.

The Temptation in the Wilderness
Numbers; Deuteronomy
After giving the law to the Israelites at Sinai, God directed them to go in and take possession of the promised land. Fearing the inhabitants of Canaan, they refused to do so, thus showing lack of confidence in the promises of God. The whole adult generation that had come out of Egypt, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, was condemned to wander and die in the desert. Israel was forbidden to dispossess its kinsfolk, the nation of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, but was given victory over other nations that opposed it. Finally, forty years after leaving Egypt, Israel arrived in the Moabite territory on the east side of the Jordan. Here Moses prepared the people for their possession of Canaan, and commissioned Joshua as their new leader.

Into the Good Land
Joshua; Judges; Ruth
Under Joshua’s leadership the Israelites crossed the Jordan and began the task of driving out the inhabitants of Canaan. After the conquest the land was divided between the tribes, each being allotted its own region. Only the tribe of Levi was without an inheritance of land because of its special priestly relationship to God. There remained pockets of Canaanites in the land and, from time to time, these threatened Israel’s hold on their new possession. From the one–man leaderships of Moses and Joshua, the nation moved into a period of relative instability during which judges exercised some measure of control over the affairs of the people.

God’s Rule in God’s Land
1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1–10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1–9
Samuel became judge and prophet in all Israel at a time when the Philistines threatened the freedom of the nation. An earlier movement for kingship was received and the demand put to a reluctant Samuel. The first king, Saul, had a promising start to his reign but eventually showed himself unsuitable as the ruler of the covenant people. While Saul still reigned, David was anointed to succeed him. Because of Saul’s jealousy David became an outcast, but when Saul died in battle David returned and became king (about 1000 BC). Due to his success Israel became a powerful and stable nation. He established a central sanctuary at Jerusalem, and created a professional bureaucracy and permanent army. David’s son Solomon succeeded him (about 961 BC) and the prosperity of Israel continued. The building of the temple at Jerusalem was one of Solomon’s most notable achievements.


Al Bain says:

I mined pretty deeply from Dumbrell’s The Faith of Israel.

Everyone does the Goldsworthy thing. Read something else as well. Waltke or Brueggemann. Goldingay is well worth reading. So is Paul House.

Stuart Heath says:

An over-reliance on the kingdom schema really skewed my reading of the OT. I think the key question we fail to ask in Sydney is, “What’s the link between Genesis 12:1-3 and Genesis 1-3?”

My confession and critique are here:

Nathan Campbell says:

Thanks guys. I’ve got Dumbrell’s “The Faith of Israel” here, no doubt you’ve seen my subsequent post on covenantal theology. Waltke is on the agenda for today. Paul House is coming to QTC later this year.

And thanks for that critique Stu. I thought Trueman’s criticism (in the last post) was pretty on the money.

Nathan Campbell says:

Also, Scobie’s multithematic approach is more my style. I even went in that direction before I’d read him in an old post on unifying ideas that I can’t be bothered looking up to link to…

Al Bain says:

I’ve got Scobie but admit to not having been inspired by him much. Part of the problem is the layout of the book which is terrible. And no index!! ergh.

If you want a book that lays out a theme, then I found Strom’s little number the best.

But I reckon that just dealing with the text without any particular theme in mind is the best way to go. Tip your hat to a few thematic opinions in your essays so the marker knows that you are aware of them, but the OT is so full of tensions and apparent contradictions that it’s best to leave them unresolved I reckon.

Read Eichrodt too. He’s an oldie but a goodie. Not much. Just enough so that your marker knows that you’ve read widely.

But I really would look at Goldingay.

Nathan Campbell says:

I will take your recommendations, though probably not in time for tomorrow’s exam.

The question will be something along the lines of “How is Biblical Theology useful for approaching the Old Testament?”

My answer will be something along the lines of:

1. It grounds us in the notion that the Bible is a unified text not a hodge podge of disparate parts strung together because no other documents existed.

2. It puts other forms of literary criticism in their place as subsets of this view.

3. It helps us chart the development of God’s redemptive plans for creation from go to woe. Starting with creation and the fall, through the creation of his people with covenant obligations, the development of kingship, and ultimately culminating with the new creation and Jesus as king.

4. It reminds us that themes carry on, and develop through the Biblical text that are helpful for guiding our exegesis and our preaching.

None of the ideas put forward as unifying concepts for the Bible are entirely satisfying on their own, they all miss something of the complexity of the text (any simplification or summary will inherently do that), but they all play a role in shaping our interpretation. Pointing out linking themes is useful. Provided you don’t want to turn it into the only thread that holds the Bible together.

Nathan Campbell says:

5. It’s also a good corrective of fundamentalism – that pays no regard to literary context or any development of themes, but rather approaches the text as one dimensional.

Al Bain says:

I hope it goes well.