Reading Joshua

Reading Joshua

Author John Goldingay
Publisher Grove £3.95
Format pbk
ISBN 9781788272414

John Goldingay, an eminent Old Testament scholar, has produced a succinct, highly readable summary of the rather neglected book of Joshua. It is really a trailer for his forthcoming major commentary, but is immensely valuable in its own right, for it provides discussion points on many Old Testament controversies, especially the apparently gratuitous violence and genocides during the Israelite invasion of Canaan (Joshua chapters 6, 8, 11). Such passages frequently concern modern readers who find it difficult to reconcile these actions of Israel, under Joshua, with the God of love, especially when the texts suggest God approved, or even commanded, such violence. Goldingay argues strongly that the violence was probably exaggerated, but his main point is that God engaged ‘in a world that worked violently.’ Joshua led the people in the context of his age, and modern Christians live in a different context. While liberals may take a less relaxed view of this apparent justification of Joshua and violence, Goldingay’s brilliantly conceived analysis deserves close attention. The debate will no doubt continue.


Old Testament Ethics


The Tomb Guardians

The Tomb Guardians

Author Paul Griffiths
Publisher Henningham Family Press £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781916218611

This is a short book though not a quick read. Subtitled ‘a novel’, it records two conversations that coil around each other, each moving the other on. One is a dialogue between a modern lecturer in art history and his friend, on the subject of four Renaissance paintings of four soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb. The second is the conversation between three of the soldiers about the absence of the fourth and the conundrum of the empty tomb. (Today, three of the paintings are in Munich, the fourth in York.) It is hard to overstate just how skilfully these two exchanges are combined, with each section progressing seamlessly from where the last fragment has left off. This is obviously not a theological textbook, and it may not help you preach a better sermon. It mixes theology and psychology with art history and weaves them into a reflection on absence, faith and how people attempt to wriggle out of an uncomfortable situation. A witty, thought-provoking read – I would love to see it on stage.




Fearful Times; Living Faith

Fearful Times;
Living Faith

Author Robert Boak Slocum & Martyn Percy (eds.)
Publisher Wipf & Stock £21.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781666731552

We acknowledge that we are ‘free to worship him without fear’ (Benedictus). Would it were always true. In these essays 21 church leaders record how they and others coped in fearful times and found a living faith. Our times are still fearful especially for the poor, the deprived and the racially despised; sadly this may remain so. The reflections, written between Summer 2020 and Spring 2021, offer hope and comfort. The topics covered include Covid and health, racism and white supremacy; climate change and the environment; being human, community and the common good; love, grief and hope. I found taking two or three essays at a time was digestible. The most rewarding had a simple story line, often personal, as with Guli Francis-Dehqani’s contribution. Percy’s essay on ‘Good Grief’ is particularly helpful: ‘grief can be good. It prunes and pares us back to our core.’ And ‘death is just nature’s way of slowing us down.’ Good food. If necessary, persuade a library to buy this.


Theological essays


Tumbling into Light

Tumbling into Light

Author Richard Bauckham
Publisher Canterbury Press £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN I9781786224361

What an inspiring collection of poems from an outstanding Christian theologian! There is something here for all poetry lovers – as the chronological year unfolds; as the Christian year moves from Advent to Pentecost; as the world of nature pours forth praise, yet reveals constant threat; and as the pandemic and climate change bring us close to recent reality. There are fresh insights into well-known Bible stories and a desire to bring us closer to God. Each poem is an entity, yet part of the chosen topic into which it falls, enhancing its integrity, sensitivity and providing a degree of mystery. Every topic bursts with passion into the next and I was often left reeling from concluding phrases which challenge our former expectations and experiences. These poems are not for the faint-hearted or those not wishing to be drawn into deep emotion; but maybe, like me, you will emerge from this collection a slightly different person with a wisdom that has touched your soul, or in the words of Bauckham himself: ‘Just so the light of God/falls on/our tumbling world.’

Reviewed by BETTY TAYLOR





Author Paula Gooder
Publisher Hodder £16.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9781444792065

What happened to Lydia of Philippi, the dealer in purple cloth, whose heart was opened when she heard the preaching of St Paul (Acts 16.14)? We hear little more from Acts, and Lydia is not mentioned in Paul’s subsequent letter to the Philippians. But she comes alive in this imaginative and compelling story from Paula Gooder – a worthy follow up to her earlier book on Phoebe (Hodder, 2018) the deacon who delivered the letter to the Romans. The present work follows a similar pattern, comprising two distinct sections. First, it provides a fictional but entirely realistic account of Lydia’s life. She is shown to be a notable Christian woman of forceful character, as she negotiates the religious tensions of the first century Roman empire within a city which is essentially pagan. Within the narrative, we meet other biblical characters: Euodia and Syntyche (Phil.4:2), two women once divided in their faith, but now ‘of the same mind in the Lord’. We meet the ailing Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-27), who delivered Paul’s letter to the Christian community; and Clement (Phil. 4:3) who in the story is imaginatively identified as Paul’s former jailer (Acts 16:27-30). With another large but pleasing leap of imagination, Gooder creates the charming Ruth, now a young Christian woman, but formerly the nameless slave girl with a ‘spirit of divination [which] brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling’ (Acts 16:16) until she was exorcised by Paul. All this makes an edifying and intriguing story which helps the general reader to understand the nature of the small, often fragile, first-century Christian communities that Paul founded on his missionary journeys. The second part of the book is essentially commentary and factual background. The critical reader will quickly learn that the apparent ‘fiction’ of the narrative is actually based on deep and scholarly knowledge of first-century traditions and biblical analysis. This is fine, helpful material for those preaching on Acts 16 or Philippians. Readers will also notice that Dr Gooder carefully weaves into her narrative the kind of thorny issues that still beset the church in the 21st century: the need for reconciliation, the difficult nature of forgiveness, poor communications and festering misunderstandings – it was, apparently, ever thus. This excellent read is highly recommended.


New Testament


Essential information required for your profile. Click okay to complete.