Book Note: John E. Goldingay's The Theology of the Book of Isaiah

John E. Goldingay, The Theology of the Book of Isaiah (Downers Grove: IVP, 2014).

A few months ago I received a copy of John Goldingay's The Theology of the Book of Isaiah in the mail courtesy of IVP. It is not a long book at 149pp., but it is rich. I read through it several pages at a time, here and there, almost devotionally in a sense, but that is not to say it wasn't stimulating academically. Golingay is a first class scholar and this short book reflects that. Each page shows a close acquaintance with the Book of Isaiah.

The book is divided into two parts (see the "Table of Contents" listed below). The first part is exegetical, breaking Isaiah down into five chunks: 1-12; 13-27; 28-39; 40-55; and 56-66. The second part is thematic. Goldingay unpacks Isaiah's theology of things such as revelation, the nations and empires, divine sovereignty, and the Day of YHWH.

In one sense the "theology" of Isaiah may hint at a Christian reading of the text, and it is that, but not as you might think. Goldingay is committed to letting the Book present its own agenda. This is most notable when he discusses the Day of YHWH (see chapter 18). He allows Isaiah's temporal Day of YHWH to have its own voice without subsuming it to eschatological ideas about the Day of YHWH. That isn't to say that Goldingay's presentation ignores how Isaiah contributes to Christian thought, but it is in that order: Isaiah's thought --> speaking to Christian thought not Christian thought --> reshaping Isaiah's thought. Similarly, Golingay doesn't stretch allusions to David beyond what Isaiah suggests (this isn't to deny Christians the right to connect David to Jesus in ways greater than Isaiah could have, but merely that this is the nature of the book: it is "Isaiah's theology" not the use of Isaiah's theology, see chapter 17).

Personally, my favorite section may have been on Isaiah's understanding of the nations (see primarily chapters 13-16). Isaiah depicts God as sovereign over all the nations, even using Assyria and Babylon for God's own purpose. This doesn't always sit well with modern readers, but we should let it challenge our default deistic assumptions about God's engagement with the world.

This book is a perfect companion for reading alongside Isaiah and I'd venture to say it would make a very good guide for a small groups approach to reading Isaiah allowing the group to work through sections of Isaiah then returning to get a "big picture" of Isaiah's theology. I'm happy to see that just around the time I was finishing reading this book my friends over at Bible Study and the Christian Life decided to give away a copy. If you're interested in trying to win it go here.

Table of Contents


Part One: The Theologies in Isaiah
1. Isaiah 1-12
2. Isaiah 13-27
3. Isaiah 28-39
4. Isaiah 40-55
5. Isaiah 56-66

Part Two: The Theology That Emerges from Isaiah
6. Revelation
7. The God of Israel as the Holy One, Yahweh Armies
8. Holy as Upright and Merciful
9. Israel and Judah
10. Jerusalem and Zion Critiqued and Threatened
11. Jerusalem and Zion Chastised and Restored
12. The Remains
13. The Nations
14. The Empires and Their Kings
15. Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
16. Divine Planning and Human Planning
17. David
18. Yahweh’s Day
Subject Index
Scripture Index

This book was received in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of IVP.

For older biblioblog entries on related topics see:

- IVP Books
- Book Reviews
- The Book of Isaiah
- John Goldingay