Isaiah for Everyone by John Goldingay
'This is writing which comforts the distressed and distresses the comfortable'
Isaiah for Everyone
By John Goldingay
ISBN No: 978-0-281-06136-5
Reviewed By: Rosa Hunt
I was given a DVD version of a recent production of Hamlet for my birthday, and I was amazed as I watched it to see how many of the phrases which have entered common English parlance come from that play. I had a similar experience when reading this commentary – it has been years since I read the book of Isaiah from beginning to end, and I was delighted to see so many of my favourite verses tumble out one after another as I worked my way through.
In his introduction, the author laments that readers will probably skip over his translation of the Book of Isaiah and go straight to what he has to say about each chapter. Any reader who does so will be missing a treat, because Goldingay’s intimate knowledge of Hebrew brings the text to life, and the newness of his expressions jolts us out of our complacency to be challenged again by God.
The book is very readable, and each section consists of a portion of the text (approximately one chapter long) which is followed by an analysis of about the same length as the preceding text. Each analysis usually starts with an anecdote from Goldingay’s personal experience, for besides being an academic he is also Priest-In-Charge of St Barnabas Episcopal Church in Pasadena.
Goldingay then sets the extract within the socio-political context of the time, as well as the broader context of the preceding chapters. This is then followed by an application to the 21st century Western Christian context – the so what? of good preaching. These applications often leave the reader feeling distinctly uncomfortable as Goldingay relentlessly emphasises God’s passion for holiness and justice, and this is just as it should be. This is writing which comforts the distressed and distresses the comfortable.
This commentary fitted neatly into my coat pocket and so was always at hand when I had a spare moment to fill – better than ‘going on my phone’! It would be suitable for those who prefer a more in-depth approach to the Bible in their personal devotions, though be warned that Goldingay will not let you remain in your study to consider an interesting translation while injustice rages outside! It would also be very helpful as an initial departure point for anyone planning to preach through a series on Isaiah.
Rosa is the minister of Salem Baptist Chapel in Tonteg, near Pontypridd, South Wales and has a particular interest in Biblical Hermeneutics