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His Bible expositions were adorned by familiar illustrations taken from everyday life. Deceptively simple in appearance, they concealed a vast erudition and deep understanding of Scripture.
David Gooding, who has passed away at the age of 94, was Emeritus Professor of the Greek Old Testament at Queen's University, Belfast, and a member of the Royal Irish Academy.
He published academic studies on the Septuagint and Old Testament narratives, as well as expositions of Luke, John 13-17, Acts, Hebrews, and the use of the Old Testament in the New, among many other books.
During the 1980s and 1990s he had a particular interest in the countries of the former Soviet Union and along with his close friend John Lennox participated in the writing of articles defending and promoting Christianity in those countries.
A charming and winsome man with a fine sense of humour, his Bible expositions were adorned by familiar illustrations taken from everyday life, deceptively simple in appearance, but which concealed a vast erudition and deep understanding of Scripture. If Dr. Gooding found it helpful to explain the Greek or Hebrew of a particular text, he would invite his listeners to “take a nap”, until he finished if they wished, and never made a show of his knowledge.
“The simple, considered as the character of the beautiful, is a result”, wrote Hegel. “One does not arrive at it until after having passed through multiple intermediate forms. It is necessary to have triumphed in multiplicity, in variety, in confusion. Simplicity consists, then, in hiding, in erasing in this victory all previous preparations and scaffolds, so that free beauty seems to emerge unhindered, like a stream of water. It happens in this as in the ways of a well-educated man, who in everything he does and says shows himself simple, free and natural, qualities which he seems to possess by a gift of nature and which are, however, the fruit of a perfect education”. I cannot think of a more apt description.
I enjoyed the privilege of his friendship in Cambridge, Northern Ireland, and Madrid, and the impact of his conversation and fellowship indelibly marked my own approach to Scripture, and my understanding of the gospel.
On one occasion, after talking in the living room of his home in Belfast, we adjourned at three o'clock in the morning, and I retired to bed tired out, my head bursting with new ideas to think about. The next day at breakfast, my host had the freshness and sense of humour that always characterized him. To my amazement, and chagrin, his sister told me, "He's so disciplined that if he goes to bed with a task pending that he hasn't been able to finish, he'll make up the time by working late into the night”. A sense of responsibility was paramount in everything he did.
Dr Gooding was a scholar at Trinity College in Cambridge, where he graduated with a First in Classics, and obtained his doctorate with a thesis on the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy.
I met him through John Lennox, who was studying for a Ph.D. in Mathematics at Emmanuel College at the time. Together they invited me to attend Bible study sessions in a remote part of the Northern Irish coast in the late 1960s, accompanied by a Czech exile and a former Spanish priest.
Throughout those week-long sessions, I understood for the first time a principle that has since then informed my own understanding of Scripture, the way in which the Old Testament in its entirety points to Christ, and that any exposition of OT texts that does not ultimately lead to the gospel of Jesus is of limited value. That discovery opened my mind and caused my heart to “burn within me”, as happened with the disciples who walked with the Lord along the Emmaus road (see Luke 24).
Over the years, the lessons learned in those early days have helped me along life’s way, and I will always remember David Gooding, friend and mentor, with gratitude and affection.
Stuart Park, MA. Ph.D. Valladolid, Spain.