Tag Archives: Graeme Goldsworthy

,

Old Testament 102: Goldsworthy on the “Fear of the Lord”

The dedication of the Temple was a high point in Israel’s history, with it came a mood change in Israel.

“When Israel recognises the significance of the temple as the place where reconciliation and restoration to God can occur, it will be a people that fears God and enjoys the blessings of the covenant (1 Kings 8:38-40). This great benefit ill become known among the nations. Strangers will come to the temple and acknowledge God. Solomon prays that God will hear them from heaven and answer graciously so that all the nations of the earth may know his name and fear him (1 Kings 8:41-43). The coming of Sheba was the first sign of this prayer being answered.

The Fear of the Lord is not terror (it uses a different Hebrew word), it has a note of reverent awe.

In the period from Exodus to Solomon the “fear of the Lord” emphasises faithfulness to the covenant. Some examples include Exodus 14:31, and Deuteronomy 4:10.

“This fear of the Lord was to be expressed in their diligence to observe the laws of God in faithful response to his saving acts (Deuteronomy 6:2, 10:12, 10:20-21).

The “fear of the Lord” appears many times in Proverbs, and throughout the wisdom literature. But is it covenantal?

These were Israelites and although salvation history is not a theme of their writings, they were not unbelieving philosophers professing a humanistic alternative to the covenant faith. They were men of God who reached out beyond the specific content of God’s revelation and engaged in the search for knowledge and understanding of the world in the light of revelation.”

Goldsworthy suggests the phrase is a central idea to the book of Proverbs – it sums up the prologue (1:7), and is scattered throughout the book.

“The evidence, in my opinion, is that the absolute necessity of God’s revelation for right understanding of the world was constantly recognised.”

Two different Hebrew words for “beginning” are used in Proverbs 9:10, and Psalm 111:10. The one used in the Psalm can also mean “chief goal”… if this translation is adopted:

… it means that the fear of the Lord is both the presupposition of foundation, and the goal of wisdom.”

“We conclude that both the wisdom use of the ‘fear of the Lord’ and traditions concerning Solomon as temple builder and sage, point to an important connection between the Israelite concept of wisdom and the covenant of faith. This accounts for the truly distinct features of Israel’s wisdom which, while it shared many of the characteristics of the wisdom of the ancient middle eastern world, never lost sight of the revelation of the one true God…”

,

Old Testament 102: Goldsworthy on Wisdom and Solomon

“The Biblical evidence supports the view that Solomon, despite his failings, was a key figure in the development of wisdom in Israel”

1. Solomon’s wisdom had common ground with foreign wisdom, but was superior to it.
2. Solomon was capable of making shrewd judgments.
3. He was concerned with understanding the natural world.
4. The material glory of the kingdom was related to wisdom.
5. The temple was the means by which Israel could rightly make sense of the universe – because it pointed to the activity of God in seeking restoration.
6. The focal point of wisdom was the “fear of the Lord” which meant faith in the redeeming acts of God.

“Even pagans will have the wisdom to see that it is the height of folly to forsake a God who has proved his greatness in the way he has led and saved his people.”

Goldsworthy says 1 Kings 4:20-21 is an obvious reference to the promises made to Abraham so that their fulfilment is identified with Solomon’s reign.

In 1 Kings 4:29-34 Solomon’s wisdom is compared with that of all the wise men of the nations surrounding Israel, including Egypt.

Representatives from these nations recognised Solomon’s wisdom, and they flocked to hear it.

1 Kings 4:32-33 notes Solomon’s interest in nature (the way the world works) – which may explain the type of wisdom representatives from other nations were coming to hear.

,

Old Testament 102: Goldsworthy on the place and space of Old Testament Wisdom

Wisdom literature gives some advice on guidance and decision making. Goldsworthy argues that wisdom literature can be related to Israel’s covenant faith. And that it points to the coming of Christ. Goldsworthy advocates a presuppositional approach to wisdom about the world. To be truly wise, first one must presuppose God. And because we presume God, we assume the Bible is the basis for true wisdom, then we also need to realise that the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in Jesus, so any consideration of the function of an Old Testament book must begin Christologically.

Wisdom is not intelligence, it belongs to all who believe the gospel. It’s not so much an intellectual approach to life, as it is a way of living life. It differs us from the animals.

We must begin [studying wisdom in the Bible] with Christ because it is through him that we become Christians and are motivated to study the Old Testament as Christian Scripture.

He suggests the question to ask of the Old Testament Wisdom is how it comes to help us understand Christ. And then we need to ask how the Wisdom Literature is fulfilled in Christ.

In Luke 11:31 Jesus makes an explicit comparison between himself and Solomon:

31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here.”

Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 is another point of contrast – the Old Testament wisdom was very similar to the wisdom of the world, the gospel of Christ crucifed on the other hand, is folly to the wisdom of the world.

Worldly wisdom has a place. We use it every day.  When we approach questions of how to live our lives, we often turn to worldly wisdom without a thought about where it fits with God’s wisdom (appropriately) – we don’t ask if the correct approach to repairing a computer comes from God (nor should we take actions in those areas that contradict Godly wisdom – but you get the point).

“If Christians showed as much talent and shrewdness in the pursuit of the world for Christ as unbelievers show in the pursuit of riches, who could gauge what effect that would have?”

“Every culture collects the wisdom of its people, much of which will be found in the form of concise proverbial sayings.”

The wisdom literature from Babylon and Egypt has close similarities to the Biblical works.”

“At this point we can at least recognise that there is some common ground shared by the wisdom of pagans and that of God’s people”…

Stephen (Acts 7:22) suggests Moses was educated in Egypt’s wisdom.

By the time Moses went to school in Egypt there was already a long history of wisdom.

On Ma’at

“Ma’at represented an order that was to be seen particularly in the stability of the Egyptian state… There is no real parallel in Hebrew wisdom to Ma’at other than similarities to the idea of order. These similarities between Hebrew and Egyptian wisdom suggest that the common factor is the quest for the understanding of the order of the universe. Hebrew wisdom was distinct in that it was shaped by the Israelite experience of covenant and redemption.”

Goldsworthy suggests Biblical accounts of Solomon, and the non-Israelite bits in Proverbs suggest a connection between Israelite and ANE wisdom.

“The evidence available to us of the intellectual achievements of the people in the old civilizations of the Middle East shows us that wisdom was sought after and written down very early in recorded history. There is little doubt that wisdom sayings of some kind would have been part of the emerging culture of Israel’s ancestors.”

“Wisdom’s apparent lack  of concern for Israel’s history, covenant and law is one of its distinctive features. Perhaps we can work back from the wisdom books to look for clues to the origins of wisdom in Israel. The wisdom literature itself is lacking in the kind of historical references which would give such clues. The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes contain only the briefest indications of the traditional patronage of Solomon.1

Four kinds of evidence which contribute to our understanding of wisdom in Israel:

First – the scattered wisdom sayings found in various parts of the narrative literature of the Old Testament (some of these are clues to a pre-literary stage which probably existed before there were any schools of wisdom or written wisdom) – for example sayings about mighty hunters (Genesis 10), and “it became a saying” in 1 Samuel 10. In this case the word “saying” is the Hebrew word later used for Proverb.

Second – the wisdom books themselves.

Third – knowledge of the wisdom literature form the ANE – “the forms and functions of this wisdom suggest parallels to Israelite wisdom, but the differences are more obvious.”

Fourth – the possible wisdom influences on other books of the Old Testament, the idea that other books were compiled by wisdom schools, written by wise men, or influenced by wisdom thoughts.

“If we could be sure of the identification of wisdom influences [on the Old Testament], they would provide some valuable evidence of the place of wisdom in the main stream of Israelite thought. We would see how the wisdom ideas, which in the main wisdom books appear in almost complete isolation from expressions of the covenant faith, have been brought into organic relationship with that covenant faith.”

1 We’ll get to Solomon later, and Goldsworthy’s view (also, see the previous post).

,

Old Testament 102: Wisdom and Biblical Theology (part one)

I’m wildly speculating that one of the questions on wisdom literature in next Tuesday’s exam will be on how to fit wisdom literature into Biblical Theology. One of the “main men” of biblical theology is Australia’s very own Graeme Goldsworthy. His “Gospel and…” series has laid the foundations for the Australian approach to the issue more than any other unifying ideas. His “God’s people living in God’s place, under God’s rule” maxim is a useful way to quickly come to terms with where any particular piece of the Bible fits into the broader narrative, both in the past, and in terms of eschatology.

Gospel and Wisdom is his attempt to integrate the wisdom literature (and more broadly, the wisdom movement) into the narrative of the Bible. The wisdom literature doesn’t fit easily into such characterisation because it almost completely excludes reference to Israel’s covenant obligations (I think there’s an alternative way to do it, which I’ve outlined in my six part posting of my Wisdom Literature essay. Which I’ll summarise in a later post. But you can read it starting from here.

Summarising Gospel and Wisdom is going to take a few posts. But here’s the reconstruction Goldsworthy offers for the development (and place) of wisdom literature in Israel’s history. In 17 points. There are a lot of points in here that I think sit nicely with my idea that the wisdom literature was used as part of Israel’s covenant obligation to bless the nations… but we’ll get to that.

1.     Popular folk wisdom would have emerged at various levels of society as the expression of what people learned through their life’s experiences. It is not certain what form the earliest wisdom sayings took, but the evidence does not support the idea that longer sayings developed from the one line proverb.

2.     In the period before Israel went into Egypt, education in family groups would most likely have led to the formation of sayings used in the training of children.

3.     With the development of the organized state of Israel came the recognition of men who would give wise counsel in the matter of running the country.

4.     The sages or wise men emerged as a recognizable group. It is not clear whether these were recognised as officials of government, religion or education. It has been suggested that the scribes later came to be the guardians of wisdom.

5.     Wisdom may not have been a “single phenomenon” but rather a search for knowledge and understanding pursued in various ways.

6.     Solomon was probably a patron of Israel’s wisdom movement during its heyday.

7.     Egypt and Babylon’s wisdom no doubt influenced Israel’s – but how much is a matter of some discussion.

8.     The movement to a monarchy began form a sinful desire to be like the nations (contrasted to the Judge’s efforts to bring the nation back to YHWH, sometimes spectacularly). But was eventually demonstrated to be an appropriate pointer to the coming Messiah.

9.     David is also influential in the development of wisdom, a wise woman encourages him to act wisely with regard to Absalom, she flatters David as one who has the wisdom of an angel, the same as the ability to discern good and evil (2 Samuel 14).

10. Wise men were emerging under David (good and bad counsel from counselors seems a bit of a theme in 2 Samuel). Egypt had had people performing the same functions in the time of Moses.

11. Deuteronomy 4 has already established a relationship between wisdom and the law. “Observe them carefully for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations” – who will hear about all these decrees and say “surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people”

12. The law did not cover every contingency in life – it provided a framework within which Israel had to show its responsibility before God. Had the law covered every contingency it would have showed a very different view of man.

13. Keeping the law was wisdom, but the law was not exhaustive. Israel was given guidelines in the law by which to understand and maintain relationships with God, man, and the world. But the law was never a substitute for the pursuit of wisdom. The humanness of God’s people meant much more than doing those things specifically stated in the law. The law did not tell Israel how to develop the arts, but it did put a limit on artistic endeavour (Exodus 20:4).

14. Between Abraham and David God revealed the meaning of the covenant through redemption and law – what was begun in the Exodus was finally established under David.

15. Under David and Solomon the stage is set for the flowering of wisdom – “the tutelage of the law loses its absolute status because the kingdom means the freedom to live wisely and responsibly.”

16. Wisdom grew from Israel’s beginnings, but during the formative period of salvation history it was not prominent in the life of Israel.

17. “God wants his people to live not  by a lot of rules and regulations, but responsibly and in a manner which harmonises with his kingly rule.”

Gold from Goldy: On atheism and wisdom

I’m reading Gospel and Wisdom, which I really should have read when I was writing my wisdom essay in the middle of semester, but I forgot. I really did. It was on my bookshelf. And then I ran out of words. He has this to say about atheism. I like it (I’ll be posting a lengthy interaction with the book for the benefit of my Old Testament comrades shortly). He nicely articulates a few of the arguments I like to use against atheism, and makes a few arguments that a few other Christians (Answers in Genesis) fail to take into account on questions of atheistic morality.

“What modern technological man does in a highly complex fashion is at heart no different from what man has always done. He has observed his world and tried to classify his experience as a way of getting to the underlying order of things.”

“Atheistic humanity is thus capable of using the faculties given by an unacknowledged creator, and of continuing to exercise the cultural mandate, albeit in a corrupted way. Society establishes ethical frameworks in order to limit threats to social well-being that come from within.”

“The Christian rejects this assumption of a universe which is shut up against the God of the Bible. He accepts rather, that God is self-sufficient, personal, and in complete control. While the atheist system is a closed system of cause and effect, the Christian view is a universe in which cause and effect are established by God and open to his sovereign intervention.”

“By putting man at the centre, the humanist claims to give him his proper dignity. But this assumption of the pre-eminence of man is a radically dehumanising one since he is not perceived as imaging God. The humanist sees man’s leadership in the world as the result of evolutionary accident. The Bible describes it as God-given dominion over the rest of creation.

“While the Christian accepts his responsibility to search for knowledge he knows that human effort, discovery and reasoning cannot provide a comprehensive understanding of the universe. Empirical knowledge, that which is gained by investigating the world with our senses, cannot include God or the meaning which he gives to the created order.”

,

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.


,

Unifying unifying ideas

Izaac has been reflecting on life at Moore College – and I’m happy to see that stuff first year Moore College students are taught in the early weeks of their course is similarly formative to the stuff we’re taught in the early weeks of our course at QTC.

It would be really nice if the Bible could be summed up with one unifying idea that every passage drives towards. I think it’s something like “you need God”… other people have more nuanced interpretations of that. There are classic systems for understanding every passage of the Bible – a lens through which people come to terms with every passage they approach.

Here’s Izaac’s helpful diagram.

Let the reader understand.

Here are some of the big ideas that “famous” preachers are famous for:
John Piper: Joy.
Mark Driscoll: Missional contextualisation (and sex, lots of it).
Tim Keller: Idolatry.
Graeme Goldsworthy: God’s people, God’s place, God’s rule.
Phil Campbell: Deuteronomy 30.
Matthias Media: The answer to your every question is Jesus – and we’ll even skip the actual answer to your question and get to Jesus straight away in order to sell books that are the right size for people to read.
NT Wright: Who knows, but it makes people angry (possibly “the people of God”).

Share any more in the comments…

The nice thing about these ideas is that they all capture the essence of something true and good. And something big, but just that little bit elusive. Like an animal you try to spot in the wild – like bigfoot or the Sydney panther – that comes close to being caught but escapes just when you think you’ve got it… Thinking through how each passage we’re exegeting fits into these schemas is useful when it comes to applying them, and to pointing people to Jesus. All have their place.

The problem comes when we push one barrow as the “big” idea driving every part of the Bible. These ideas suffer because they’re never quite big enough. I’m going to plant myself into the “The Bible has more than one big idea that ultimately help us to live our lives as God’s people, joyfully, forsaking idols while pursuing righteousness by the spirit so that people will know that they need Jesus”… I’m not sure that I can fit Driscoll’s second big idea in there… Is this rocket science? It feels like one of those posts you write that is really obvious to everybody reading it.