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Sunday, August 26, 2018

"The First Testament" by John Goldingay. A Review

The First Testament: A New TranslationThe First Testament: A New Translation by John E. Goldingay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Goldingay, professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary and accomplished scholar and writer, has compiled his own translation of the Hebrew Scriptures in a soon-to-be-released 944 page hardback, "The First Testament: A New Translation". This sturdy tome puts forth, in one place, a substantially revised version of the author's rendition of the Old Testament that he had published in the commentary series "The Old Testament for Everyone". It is a work intended for those who have a familiarity with "some standard translations but might appreciate something a bit different" (vii).

The translational work of "The First Testament" stands on its own. In other words, it's not "The Message," it's not the "Authorized Version," but it's definitely not the "New World Translation of Holy Scriptures"! It is unique, but not unorthodox. One of the most easily noticeable qualities is that Goldingay transliterates many of the place names and proper names. For example, Mosheh (Moses), Eliyyahu (Elijah), and Shelomoh (Solomon), to name a few. The author also uses the more Hebraic covenant name of God, "Yahweh," throughout. For me, having had Hebrew in seminary, this part was fun - reading the names as they are in the original text. The translation itself seems to stay generally in the ballpark of standard works, while exhibiting it's own accent. It's a volume I'll refer back to often as I'm preparing for sermon series, and which I'm already looking at as I get ready to preach through Joel in the near future.

This volume contains two extra features. In almost every biblical book there is a conveniently placed map that displays the topology of the events in a particular writing. The maps are clear, crisp and uncluttered. Their placement is helpful, and germane to the biblical book being read.

A second detail is that the volume includes introductions the author has written for each of the Old Testament books. These introductions are no more than a single page in length, succinct, observant and instructive. They're almost worth the price of the book! I didn't always find everything written in the introductions satisfying. I don't agree with the author's views of when specific writings were compiled and placed in their final form. And I found it hard to accept his claim that the recorded incidents are built off of historical events, but not necessarily describing exactly what happened. For example, as Goldingay introduces Exodus, he states, that like "Genesis, Exodus is more like a movie based on fact than either a piece of pure fiction or a pure historical narrative" (52). Nevertheless, his comments about the purpose of each book, how that biblical writing functions within the larger canon and why it is valuable to Christians, was often very insightful. In all of the introductory material, the author's main emphasis is clear: "...the stories are more about what God has been doing than about what human beings have been doing...The main point is that God is at work" (xii).

I can see "The First Testament" becoming something of a standard reference in Old Testament studies and seminaries. Even given my disagreements mentioned above, it needs to find a place on every pastor's and bible teacher's desk. And it should find room in a University's and Seminary's library. I recommend the book.

I'm grateful to IVP Academic for the copy of the book used for this review. There were no demands or stipulations made on me. No animals were hurt in the writing. And there was no loss of life or limb. All comments are freely made and freely given.

A copy may be purchased here: IVP Academic

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