God’s Prophet, God’s Servant: A Study in Jeremiah and Isaiah 40–55

Written by J. Goldingay Reviewed By Walter Moberly

Some books are a delight. This is one of them.

In the first place it is eminently readable. The author foregoes footnotes and writes in an easy, non-technical style. Such a style can be deceptive in its simplicity, for the content reflects a thorough mastery of modern scholarly debate.

Secondly, it is a work of true theology. The author shows how numerous key issues to do with God and man, sin and salvation, discipleship and suffering receive profound treatment in Jeremiah and Isaiah 40–55. He is always sensitive to the meaning that the material would have had in its original context, yet he constantly shows not only how these Old Testament prophets stand as true precursors of Jesus but also how they apply to Christians today.

I found the treatment of Isaiah 40–55 particularly helpful, as Goldingay relates the ‘servant songs’ to their context and shows the development of a consistent train of thought through the chapters in a way that I have not found elsewhere. On the question of the identity of the servant he makes a complex scholarly debate amenable to a simple and satisfying solution.

One small regret is that Goldingay has not given more space to some of the critical issues that tend to loom large in a student’s first acquaintance with scholarly approaches to the Old Testament. He deals with the basic critical problems in a remarkably deft way in the introduction—but it is perhaps a little too deft for some, especially when current study of Jeremiah is distancing itself from interpreting the material in terms of Jeremiah’s own personal relationship with God. I have no doubt that Goldingay’s approach is fundamentally correct, and his interpretation will still be of value long after current fashions have passed; but a little more help with critical problems in the meantime would be appreciated. Since, however, one book cannot do everything, this is perhaps less of a criticism of this book than it is a request for another. More, please!

Walter Moberly

Durham University