Thursday, May 24, 2007

New or Renewed Creation

So, during conversational theology time today (normal people call it a coffee break) the following came up;

Where would you take someone (in the bible) to persuade them that this earth continues and that the new heavens and the new earth are 'renewed/transfigured/perfected/cleansed' versions of this creation rather than totally 'new'? (NB. some people think that this earth is trashed and God makes a new one, hence our discussion)

We came up with

A. Jesus' resurrection body was his 'old' one resurrected (and he is the beginning of the new creation see 2 Cor 5:17).

B. There is continuity between our bodies now and our resurrected bodies (otherwise it's not a resurrection is it?).

And that was sort of it (someone said some good stuff about AD70 too but it would take me a long time to explain it on this blog and I'm tired). Which is a poor show really.

Having thought since then I reckon I'd add a further suggestion

C. Unless this earth continues then God has sort of been thwarted in his original creaton intentions hasn't he? The one he originally made and was good has been totally ruined by sin and so he has to rubbish it and get a new one.

D. Romans 8:20-21 and the liberation of the (present) creation from bondage to decay when the sons of God are revealed in glory. It would be odd if this 'liberation' took the form of total abolition.

But really it's a poor show, especially if there are biblicists to be persuaded. So, help needed, and lots of lovely lovely texts, please post suggestions.


Daniel Newman said...

Great question to raise, Pete.

I'm no expert, but in 2 Peter 2.13, the Greek for "new" is from "kainos", which I understand means new as in new quality, rather than new in origin, which would be "neos". Perhaps someone could help us on that.

Christopher Ash points out that in Revelation 21.5, he who sits on the throne says, "Behold, I am making all things new", not "I am making all new things". I thought that was quite good!

The new covenant is still the same covenant with Abraham, although radically different and vastly greater. I wonder if that concept can be brought to bear on the issue of creation. I suspect it can, given that the redemption of creation is bound up with the redemption of people.

Pete said...

Thanks Daniel

My lexicon(s) etc. tell me that both Kainos (and the Hebrew word that kainos translates in LXX) can mean renew an existing thing rather than 'totally new', though it's meaning isn't limited to that, and there do seem to be instances where kainos means 'new thing'.

At least we know it's an option in translation.

The covenant parallel is very important. I suspect there's more mileage there.

Marc Lloyd said...

There’s some useful stuff on this in:

Douglas Moo, ‘Nature in the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, vol 49, no 3, Sept 2006 pp449-488, which is also available at:

Moo argues for a cosmic restoration or renewal not the destruction of this creation and the introduction of an entirely new creation.

He draws on Rom 8 and also argues that the “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” of Col 1:20 should be taken to include the non-human creation, though that is not especially the focus of the verse.

He argues that “Revelation 20-21 and 2 Peter 3 both indicate a radical and thoroughgoing renovation of the world as we know it. But I do not think the texts require us to believe that this world will be destroyed and replaced.” (p469)

Moo cites BDAG on aperchomai, to pass away, as capable of meaning “to discontinue as a condition or state”.

We are familiar from debates on annihilationism with the fact that language of destruction need not imply ceasing to be.

Moo also has some useful stuff on the Flood background of 2 Peter 3 and more generally some stuff about the OT hope of world wide even cosmic renewal (eg Is 40-55) and a new heavens and a new earth (Is 65:17; 66:22-24).

I wonder if some kind of argument could be made about the OT Land since even if sometimes the imagery is seen as fulfilled in Christ and his people, it can also be taken up as a hope for the world (Rom 4:13).

There could be some useful stuff in:

G. Z. Heide, ‘What Is New About the New Heaven and the New Earth? A Theology of Creation from Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3’ JETS 40 (1997)

But I must get on with some proper work.

Mort said...


Greetings from Colorado.

I would place most emphasis on Romans 8:18-22. Verse 21, "The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (ESV), makes no sense if the creation is to be annihilated rather than renewed.

I suspect the problem for most advocates of a new creation 'ex nihilo' is 2 Peter 3. But note that the "world that then existed" (v 6) was not annihilated. It is reasonable then to expect that the coming destruction by fire (v 7) will not involve annihilation either.