Positive and Negative Aspects of the World in the NT

Bo Reicke*


Westminster Theological Journal 49.2 (Fall 1987): 351-369.
[Reproduced by permission]

* [The present issue was about to go to press when news arrived of Professor Reicke's death. During a visit to Philadelphia at the end of 1985, Professor Reicke spent an evening with the Westminster faculty and submitted this article to WTJ. His sweeping survey of the biblical doctrine of creation, appropriately, ends with a reference to "Christ, who lets the faithful approach the tree of life in the new creation." - WTJ Ed.]

Biblical theology embraces positive and negative aspects of the world. On the one hand the universe is regarded as perfect and dependent on a magnificent Creator, on the other as deficient and exposed to his severe judgment, although possibilities of conversion and salvation are still offered.

Whereas modern science is concerned with causality, regularity, and even necessity, the biblical perspective represents axiology insofar as the polarity of good and evil is the starting point according to the OT, and its termination in Jesus Christ is the consummation according to the NT.[1] Our purpose is to illustrate the NT's submission of cosmology to Christology.


The ideological background of the NT conceptions on the universe is found in the OT and post-exilic Judaism. However, there is a difference insofar as the OT and Judaism developed ideas about this world that were either positive or negative and could even appear to be contradictory, whereas the NT


represents an organic view because the perspective is focused on Christ.

(1) In the Old Testament a positive view of the creation is discovered in the first Genesis account, which illustrates the separation of the ocean and the earth followed by the appearance of light and life, corresponding to experiences made in the Middle East after the winter rains (Gen 1:1-2:4a). God is said to have qualified this prehistorical creation as good (1:4 etc.) and permitted man to enjoy its fruits (1:28-29). By the Psalmists of the CT, the creation was also regarded as good insofar as the God of the Patriarchs and the Covenant was praised for having created the world and made Israel its center (e.g. Ps 24:1-9; 33:1-22; 105:1-45). Similar ideas were represented by the Prophets (e.g. Isa 40:9-31).

A negative element, however, is found in Gen 2:4b-3:24, which relates man's exile from the divine garden where the tree of life was in the center. This story illustrates the fertilization of a dry steppe by water like in fall after the dry season (2:4b-25), and man's inclination to autonomy which drove him out from the garden thus created for him, so that he lost eternal life and was set to labor in a world of death and pain (3:1-24).

Later revolts against the divine order, including violence and terror, are described in the story of Noah and the flood (6:1-9:29). Here the result was a compromise between the perfection that God had established in his original creation, and the corruption that he found in the human world. Seeing that all flesh is weak, God decided to reduce human power by limiting man's lifetime (6:3). He let the cosmic ocean destroy all living beings except the righteous man Noah with his family and the animals collected by him (6:17-19). Then a separation of the ocean and the earth, also reminiscent of what happens in the Middle East after the winter rains, permitted the present aeon to emerge (8:13). Ever since, nature is sustained by God's gracious covenant (6:18; 8:22; 9:8-17), and this is so in spite of the notorious weakness and passions of human flesh (6:3; 8:21).

Accordingly there are three Genesis narratives to illustrate the ontological principles of man's world, and their


descriptions of the creation represent a tension between optimism and pessimism.[2]

(2) It was partly for this reason that Judaism, after its return from the exile in Babylon, developed several divergent views on the creation. Since the Jews then came into contact with Persian and later with Hellenistic conceptions about the universe, they expanded their views on space and time. The result was that a great distance was seen between God and the world, and there was an inclination to fill out the vacuum by intermediaries like angels or demons and the idea of a cosmic wisdom. Several of these postexilic traditions have influenced the NT's world-view, although the inherited divergence between optimism and pessimism was replaced by an essential convergence because Christ functions as the center of creation and history.

A few examples may illustrate the different attitudes of intertestamental literature toward the universe.[3] The positive view found in the first narrative of Genesis and in some hymns of the Psalter has been preserved in a beautiful way by Sirach in his praise of God's eternal wisdom (Sir 24:1-47). A characteristic difference in relation to older Hebrew traditions, however, is that God's wisdom is supposed to act in the creation and in the covenant on behalf of the Creator but also independently of him. It emanated from the mouth of God when he founded the world, and then penetrated the heaven, the earth, and the abyss, presented itself to all nations (24:4-11), and found a special dwelling-place in Jerusalem (24:12-16) from where it desires to spread its branches, odor, and honey (24:17-31), letting knowledge of the law of Moses stream out like the four rivers of Paradise (24:32-47). The rich imagery of this encomium sophiae has colored words of Jesus quoted in the Gospels (e.g. Matt 11:28, "come to me"), and the leading function of Wisdom at the creation of the


universe finds a counterpart in the preexistence of the Logos (John 1:1-3).

Concerning the rather negative aspect of human existence resulting from the second narrative of Genesis, there is reason to recall Solomon's resignation in Ecclesiastes where the emphasis is on the vanity of everything (Eccl 1:2 etc.). Just as Adam was sentenced to live in a barren world and to labor without any blessing, so the secularized cosmos of Ecclesiastes is also dominated by a merciless necessity which makes all efforts of man senseless (1:3). Paul touched upon this perspective when he indicated that Adam has submitted the creation to vanity (Rom 8:20).

The third Genesis narrative in question, which describes the punishment of the antediluvial generation, has especially inspired Jewish apocalypticism of the postexilic period. Attention was paid to the introduction of the drama which ascribes the sins of the world to fallen angels (Gen 6:1-7). The First Book of Enoch, next to Daniel the most important of Jewish apocalypses, elaborated this topic in order to explain the activity of evil angels or demons in the whole of creation, and particularly in paganism (1 Enoch 6:1; 36:4; 60:1-69:29). Quite drastic pictures of the heaven, the stars, the earth, and the abyss were thus developed. Like in other intertestamental documents, the point was the divine combat against the destructive powers in the world led by Belial or the Devil, a dualism which implies a permanent drama in nature and society. Since modern civilization is devastating nature, and since destructive powers are very active in modern society, the dramatic perspective of Enoch is not old-fashioned today.

A further development of dualism within postexilic Jewish apocalypticism is represented by the Qumran belief in two adverse spirits created by God from the beginning, and which are called the spirits of light and darkness or the spirits of truth and lie (IQS 3:17-26).[4] The members of the Qumran group regarded themselves as the sons of light (IQM 1:1 etc.), and the rest of the world as imprisioned in darkness


(IQS 3:21; IQM 1:1-2) so that a negative view of mankind and society was dominating.

This pessimistic dualism, characteristic of the attitude to the creation in the environment of Jesus, was also connected with the political situation. Israel had not forgotten its afflictions under Antiochus and the Syrians (Dan 7:8 et al.), and ever since the occupation under Pompey the pious hoped to get rid of the Romans (e.g. Pss. Sol. 17:1-45). The patriotic disappointment thus increased the pessimistic view of the present aeon.

In the NT some influences of the dualism found in apocalyptic Judaism may also be observed, although the nationalistic aspect is of no significance here. A topic characteristic of 1 Enoch, namely the struggle of the righteous against the evil spirits under the leadership of the Devil or Belial, has been sublimated in Christ's successful battle against the Devil or Beelzebul and the demons. This took place when Jesus was tempted in the desert (Matt 4:11 with par); when he cured the sick (Matt 12:25-30 with par); when he died for the world John 12:31); and when he rose from death (Rom 8:38; Eph 1:21; 1 Pet 3:22). In the Book of Revelation the triumph of Christ over the evil spirits has found glorious expressions (Rev 1:18 etc.). As to the Qumran distinction between the spirits of light and darkness or truth and lie, there are striking analogies in NT passages where the same two spheres of existence are referred to (e.g. John 1:5; 8:44; 12:35-36; Eph 5:8).


However, according to the New Testament the attitude of Jesus and the apostles to the creation was essentially different from that of their Jewish environment.[5] The pessimistic


dualism which dominated Jewish thought in the last pre-Christian and the first Christian centuries made the actual world appear remote from the principles of God's creation and covenant. An intense longing for salvation from all evil powers was a natural consequence of this pessimistic feeling. The kingdom proclaimed by Jesus and the community established by him were understood to bring the expected salvation from evil and prepare the fulfilment of God's creation and covenant in eternity. As illustrated for instance by the hymns called Magnificat, Benedictus, Nunc dimittis (Luke 1:46-55, 68-79; 2:29-32), the pessimism that had colored the dualistic conceptions of creation and history in Judaism was replaced in the early church by an optimism implying enthusiastic confession of God's majesty and monarchy.

Under different aspects Jesus Christ appears in the NT as the Lord of the creation.[6] This is already evident from his designation as the Lord: ho kurios. It is not fair to ascribe the use of this name in NT writings to Hellenistic syncretism in Antioch or some other place of Christian contacts with paganism, as was suggested by W. Bousset in 1913.[7] The source was biblical, for the background was the name of Yahweh that was pronounced "" "my lord" and therefore rendered as kurios in the Greek Bible (LXX, confirmed by Jos. Ant. 13.68 and other passages).[8] By the disciples of Jesus the title of kurios was applied to him, partly with regard to his earthly ministry (Matt 7:22 with par; 22:41-45 with par; 1 Cor 7:1, 12; 9:14; 11:23; 1 Thess 4:15) but especially with regard to his triumph over death John 20:28; Rom 1:4 etc.), and this was meant to interpret his divine majesty and universal lordship. Other designations of similar importance were the expressions Son of God (Mark 1:1 et al.) and Son of Man (2:10


et al.), by which Jesus was defined as God's and Man's representative in the creation. Even independently of such christological titles the NT has concentrated the creative activity of God on the Son, so that Jesus Christ gives the creation a value and meaning in spite of all evil.

This will be illustrated here by examples from (1) the Gospels, (2) the Epistles, and (3) Revelation. Among the Greek words related to the subject are ktisis "creation, " ktisma "creature, " and "" "to create, " of which there are 38 occurrences in the NT, 22 within the Pauline epistles.[9] Furthermore there are the expressions kosmos "world,"[10] ho "" houtos "this aeon,"[11] and panta "all things."[12]

(1) According to all the four Gospels, Jesus was born as the Son of God (Matt 2:15; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:32; John 1:14), and this was confirmed at his baptism (Matt 3:17 with par). He was able to call the Creator his Father and himself the Son (Matt 11:25-27; John 2:16 et al.), and in addition referred to himself as the Son of Man (Matt 8:21 et al.) to emphasize his mission to mankind (cf. John 1:14; Phil 2:7).

Predominantly the Synoptic Gospels deal with the earthly ministry of this Son of Man and present him under human aspects, but they do also indicate his authority and sovereignty over the creation. This will be illustrated by passages of Mat-


thew to which there are mostly parallels in Mark or Luke or in both, although the latter Gospels are not mentioned in the subsequent quotations.

According to Matthew (with parallels) Christ's ministry began in the desert of Judea with the successful rejection of the Devil's worldly power (Matt 4:1-11). Jesus continued this victory in Galilee by proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven (4:17); by calling fishermen to be his disciples and to secure people for the Kingdom like collecting fish in a net (4:19); and by healing each sort of illness and combating the evil spirits which had destroyed the health of those sick (4:23-24 et al.). When accused of driving out the demons with the aid of Beelzebul, Jesus emphasized that on the contrary he was fighting against the evil power on behalf of God and that his success proved the defeat of the Devil and the presence of the Kingdom (12:24-30). During his last Passover in Jerusalem he was attacked by official representatives of his own people, yet remained victorious in the discussion (21:23-22:46), and the condemnation and crucifixion resulted in his resurrection (28:6). These events actualize the dualistic view of the world refer-red to above, but pessimism has been replaced by optimism since the sovereignty and victory of Christ and his Kingdom are the point. Matthew has therefore concluded his narrative in a pertinent way by quoting a proclamation of Jesus after death that all power in heaven and on earth have been given to him (Matt 28:18). This means that Christ's triumph over death had confirmed his omnipotence in God's creation.

Even independently of the dualistic framework, the Synoptic Gospels demonstrate the intimate connection of the Son with God's creation. This is already the case in the Sermon on the Mount.[13] Jesus here strengthens his commandment of love by referring his audience to the sun and the rain which God offers to all men (Matt 5:45), and enforces his admonition to confidence in God's care by reminding his disciples of the birds in the sky and the flowers on the ground (6:25-32). His fundamental concern was to lead his flock to the Kingdom


of Heaven (6:10, 34). The preaching of Jesus also made people aware of his divine authority (7:29). His stilling of the storm (8:26) and walking over the sea (14:25) proved his control of the elements, and in the first case the people asked themselves how great this man Jesus might be (8:27), in the second case the disciples were led to adore him as the Son of God ( 14:33). Jesus also demonstrated his divine privilege to forgive sins (9:6). He sought contacts with social outsiders like the publicans, sat at banquets together with them, pointed out their need of mercy and care, and rejected fasting in the joyful aeon inaugurated by him (9:9-17). As a single tradition Matthew has also quoted a proclamation of Jesus that his Father had committed everything to him (11:27). In accordance with parallel synoptic traditions Matthew has then presented the Son of Man as the Lord of the Sabbath (12:8) the day when the original creation was accomplished (Gen 2:2). By feeding great multitudes after blessing the food and thanking God for it, Jesus gave further evidence for his function in God's creation (Matt 14:19; 15:36). He rejected kosher rules and declared that all human plants not grown by his Father will be rooted out (15:11, 13). Against the Pharisees who asked him about divorce, Jesus mentioned the original union of husband and wife (Gen 1:27), thus placing the order of creation above the order of the law (Matt 19:3-9/Mark 10:2-12). With reference to the high priests he showed in a parable that since the present tenants of God's vineyard intend to kill the Son, the Creator will give his plantation to other tenants (Matt 21:43 with par). Giving bread and wine as substantial food and drink to his disciples, Jesus finally established his covenant with them (26:26-28 with par.).

All these Matthean and in most cases generally synoptic passages illustrate Christ's intimate connection with God's creation and make his divine authority over it as well as his merciful care for it obvious. The pictures speak for themselves like in a film, and their message is transparent without any commentary.

In the Johannine Gospel the importance of Christ for the creation is mentioned at the very beginning and then em-


phasized in the entire narrative.[14] The prologue starts with an intentional recollection of the first words of the Bible: "In the beginning" (Gen 1:1; John 1:1). On the basis of this quotation the Logos which has existed from the beginning was to be understood by the readers as that Word of God from which vital light has emanated (Gen 1:3; John 1:4). In the homiletic perspective of baptized Christian believers, for whom the evangelist included references to belief and sonship John 1:12-13), this Logos was also to be understood as the gospel. For the point is that what is now preached in the church as the Word of God was also the first-fruit of creation. Thus the meaning of the first verses is: In the beginning already it was this Word of the Church that issued from the mouth of God (1:1), producing life and light as eternal prototypes of baptismal experiences (1:4). Since the subject of the gospel is none but Jesus Christ (1:14), the eternal Logos which implies life and light was supposed to be identified with him. This is confirmed by several references to well-known aspects of salvation history: to the coming of the eternal light into the world (1:5, 9); to John the Baptist as his witness (1:6); to Christ's rejection by members of his own people (1:11); and to his life and work among the disciples (1:14).

It was in a certain analogy to what Sirach had permitted Wisdom to say about its emanation from the mouth of God before creation (Sir 24:4-5) that John ascribed this preexistence to Christ as the original Word of God (John 1:1). And like what a Qumran text had said about the universal importance of God's providence in creation and history (IQS 11:11), so the Johannine prologue stated about the Logos which is Christ: "Everything came up through him" (John 1:3).

The main parts of the Fourth Gospel contain numerous allusions to the same preexistence of the only-begotten Son, to his unity with the Father, and to his activity for the salvation of this world. It is only possible to quote a few examples here. John the Baptist welcomed Jesus as the eternal mediator of God's grace, truth, and knowledge (1:15-18). The disciples


of Jesus will see the heaven open and the angels gather around the Son of Man (1:51). His miracles are called signs in the sense of legitimations (2:11 etc.) because they demonstrate his sovereignty over the creation. Jesus himself called his Sabbath miracle at the Bethesda pool a continuation of his Father's creative work (5:17), and one has to notice the implication that just as God accomplished the creation of the world on the seventh day, so Jesus prepares its restoration on the same day. The food which the Son of Man distributes brings about eternal life (6:27). Obedience to his Logos leads to victory over death (8:51), and Abraham had already been looking forward to this (8:56). The resurrection of Lazarus proved that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, which means that he is the mediator of a resurrection to eternal life (11:25).

Such passages of the Fourth Gospel make its conception of creation appear monistic in so far as everything is concentrated on Jesus Christ. Yet the Johannine idea of the cosmos does also imply duality. A certain analogy to the Qumran dualism is found in the assumption of two spheres of existence, mainly characterized as light and darkness (John 1:5 et al.), partly as truth (1:14 et al.) and lie (8:44). Nevertheless it was essentially for practical reasons and independently of external analogies that John's attitude to this world became dialectic.[15] The true light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot suppress it, but the cosmos does not acknowledge this light (1:5, 10). It was because of his love to the world that God sacrificed his only-begotten Son, in order to let him save the world from destruction to eternal life (3:16-17). The believers in Samaria realized that Jesus is the saviour of the world (4:42). Yet there is general opposition to Jesus and his gospel in the world (3:19 etc.). In his farewell speech Jesus treated at considerable length the hatred which the cosmos had practiced against him and would display against his disciples (15:18-16:33). On the other hand Jesus concluded his speech with the words: "But have confidence: I have vanquished the cosmos" (16:33). In a solemn prayer he finally asked the heavenly Father to sanctify the disciples when


preaching the truth of the Word in the same cosmos to which Jesus had been sent by his Father (17:17-19). His last desire was to bring all people in the cosmos to realize that God has sent him because he loved them like he loved the Son even before the foundation of the world (17:23-24). This gives the positive aspect of the duality found in the creation a distinct preponderance.[16]

(2) concerning the Epistles of the NT, the dialectic situation of the created world and its consummation in Christ is particularly to be studied in the Pauline documents. In addition the Epistle to the Hebrews is of special importance with regard to the present topic.

The reflections of Paul on the universe[17] are directly connected with those Greek terms which characterize the NT vocabulary as mentioned above, that is, ktisis "creation," kosmos "world," "" "aeon," pan "everything," and related words. For it should be observed that Paul, in a consistent way, has used the relevant expressions alternatively to indicate either the creation, the failure, or the salvation of the world. In each case his choice of the word depended on the direction in which his ideas moved, whether he thought of the universe from a positive or negative point of view.[18]

Paul thus used ktisis in a positive sense with reference to God's revelation in his creation (Rom 1:20), and to Christ's importance as the first-born of all creation and even as the one through whom everything was created (Col 1:15-16).[19] This sublimity and holiness of the original creation is thought to be actualized in the Christians when they are called a new creation (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:10; Col 4:24)[20] To worship the creation beyond God is a sin (Rom 1:25), but


the creation itself waits for salvation (8:19-23 ),[21] and the gospel shall be spread to all creation (Col 1:23).

The expression kosmos has at least a neutral sense in Pauline references to the original creation (Rom 1:20; Eph 1:4), but otherwise the meaning of the expression is mainly negative, the emphasis being on the sinfulness or the inferiority of the world. God will judge the universe (Rom 3:6, 19; 1 Cor 6:2; 11:32), which is submitted to sin and death (Rom 5:12-14) and controlled by physical and social principles called stoicheia (Gal 4:3; Col 2:8, 20)[22] The inferiority of the material world is also evident from the vain efforts of philosophy and science to understand the nature of God, which is only revealed in Christ (1 Cor 1:20-28; 2:12; 3:19). Christians must avoid dependence upon mundane ideals and factors (Rom 12:2; 1 Cor 10:31; Gal 6:14; Eph 2:2; Col 2:20). On the contrary, the world is meant to be won for God's purposes, so that it becomes Abraham's heritage according to the promise (Rom 4:13) and is reconciled in Christ (Rom 11:15; 2 Cor 5:19).

By calling the world ho "" houto, Paul has enforced the inferiority of worldly principles and human ideas in comparison with the present and future glory of Christ and his followers (Rom 12:2; 1 Cor 1:20; 2:6, 8; 3:18; 2 Cor 4:4; Gal 1:4; Eph 1:21; 2:2; 6:12).

Paul, however, also expressed the hope that Christ will save the universe from destruction, and in this connection he preferred the words pas, pan, and panta,[23] to which may be added the expression "" "fulness."[24] Here the apostle's central point was Christ's resurrection as the fulfilment of God's words to his Son in Ps 110:1: "Sit at my right hand", which


implies the Son's principal triumph over all negative powers under the heaven and on earth (Rom 8:38; 1 Cor 15:24-28; Eph 1:20-22; 3:10, 4:10; Phil 2:10; 3:21; Col 2:10). Extending this observation backwards and forwards in time, Paul obtained two logical consequences: (a) Christ was already before creation the Lord of everything, including the energies and structures of nature called principalities (Rom 11:36a; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16-17 and esp. 18: "He is the beginning as the first-born from the dead"). (b) At the end of the world Christ will have completely subdued all powers and rulers, all dimensions, principles and moderators of existence, including mortality (Rom 8:38-39; 11:36b; 1 Cor 15:25-26, 54-55; Eph 1:10; Col 1:19-20).

Besides the resurrection of Christ as testified by eye-witnesses (1 Cor 15:4-9), evidence for his victory is found in the experience made by the followers of Christ that God has endowed them with rich gifts of grace (Rom 8:32; 1 Cor 3:3-22; 12:6; Eph 4:8). When using those different terms, Paul no doubt referred to the same world, the empirical universe which he saw under the aspects of creation, failure, and salvation. Its transition from the first to the middle stage was ascribed to man's disobedience since Adam (Rom 5:12), and its move to the final stage was connected with man's justification by Christ (5:17). In this context Paul based his thinking on the dualism which Jewish apocalypticism had developed, but gave it a christological dimension by means of his theologia crucis (1 Cor. 1:18).

Paying attention to fundamental biblical concepts, the apostle's understanding of Christ's importance for the universe can be submitted to the following considerations. Since the exile of Adam from Paradise, where everything was only good (Gen 1:4 etc.), the existence of man and the world is characterized by the polarity of good and evil (3:5). The monarchy of the good principle, however, is restored in Christ by his sacrifice. For the more the good principle renounces selfishness, the more it proves its goodness, and the cross of Christ is the absolute point where this is achieved. Jesus had explained the secret of the polarity in question when he spoke of losing or gaining one's soul (e.g. Matt 10:39). Paul referred to the victory of the good principle at Golgotha more explicitly


in his Epistle to the Philippians when he described the humiliation and crucifixion of Christ, which led to his exaltation giving him the name of kurios, and which bent the knees of all principalities in the heaven, on the earth and in the underworld (Phil 2:5-11). The importance of this triumph of Christ for mankind was especially developed in the Epistle to the Romans. Adam lost the glory or image of God, but the atonement in Christ gives the believer a new righteousness (Rom 3:3-25). Because of Adam's sin, mankind became mortal (5:12) and the universe subject to vanity (8:20), but in his intensive prayer Paul felt the longing of the creation for the freedom of the believers (8:21-23) who are independent of all polarities dominating material existence (8:35-39). Among these polarities Paul mentioned life and death, present and future time, zenith and nadir as the dimensions of existence, time and space, and in addition referred to different principalities which control the material universe (8:38-39). He wanted to prove that no oppressive factors in nature and society can impede the universal victory of God's love in Christ.[25]

In the Epistle to the Hebrews, a representative of Hellenistic Christians has admonished Hebrew Christians, probably living in Jerusalem and Judea (Heb 13:12-14), to observe the central function of Christ in creation, revelation, and salvation. His intention was to give the world a positive meaning on the basis of Christ's redemptive work.

To this purpose the author of Hebrews pointed out in a prologue similar to that of John's Gospel that God has permitted his revelation to culminate in a Son whom he has made the heir of everything (Heb 1:2a). He added that God had already let this Son of his create the aeons (1:2b). Since the author wrote for readers familiar with Jewish traditions, his reference to aeons in the plural was based on the common Jewish phrases "this (present) aeon" and "the coming aeon."[26] The author has also used the expression ""


"inhabited sphere" for the present world seen in a historical perspective since its creation, and for the coming world seen in an eschatological perspective until its consummation (1:6; 2:5).[27] On the whole Christ is characterized as having received power to produce everything that has taken place in the universe from its creation until now and will take place from now until its end. This coincides with the conviction that Christ is the Sovereign and High Priest of the Old and New Covenants (3:1 etc.).

In his prologue the author of Hebrews has also called Christ the reflection of God's glory and the expression of his substance (1:3a). This implies that Christ is the image of God mentioned in Gen 1:26 (cf. 2 Cor 4:4 and 6 where the image and glory of God are treated as synonyms and connected with Christ), an image which sinful mankind does not possess (in Rom 3:23 the image lost is also called "glory").

Furthermore the author of Hebrews remarked that it is the mighty word of Christ which sustains the universe (Heb 1:3b). This is comparable to the universal function of the Logos described in the prologue of the Fourth Gospel (John 1:3, 10).

On the other hand, the world is said to be perishable (Heb 1:11-12) and sinful (2:2). As the perfect image of God, however, the Son was able to purify the world from its sin (1:3c) and is therefore exalted to the right of the Majesty in the summits (1:3d). This was the consequence of Christ's unselfish suffering (2:9-10; cf. Phil 2:11), a topic which the author of Hebrews has later developed in detail (4:14-15 etc.).

In accordance with the prologue, the Epistle to the Hebrews continues to praise Christ as the Lord of creation in several ways, especially by its Christological interpretation of OT passages. Thus for instance the author has referred Ps 102:26-28 to Christ (Heb 1:10-12): "Thou, O Lord, hast founded the world at the beginning, and works of Thy hands are the heavens. They will perish…but Thou art the same and Thy years will not end." His detailed survey of salvation history in chapter 11 was introduced by this observation (11:3): "In


faith we realize that the aeons were established by the Word of God." And in his final admonition to the Hebrew readers he referred to the eternal covenant instituted by the sacrifice and victory of the great Shepherd (13:20). More explicitly than any book of the NT, the Epistle to the Hebrews has emphasized the principal function of Christ in connection with the world's creation and salvation.

(3) The last book of the Bible, the Revelation of John, is also stamped by references to creation from the first to the last chapter, though with a characteristic fluctuation between God and Christ, and with special emphasis on the sins of the world. Many quotations from or allusions to passages are found here which deal with creation in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalter (Rev 1:5-8, 13-17 etc.). In this context the first and second persons of the Trinity are often seen in parallelism with each other, and the wrath of God as well as the triumph of Christ are much in the foreground (1:7 etc.). At any rate, it has great importance for biblical theology to observe that just as the first book of the OT begins with creation, so is the last book of the NT particularly occupied with this subject and culminates in the description of a new, glorious creation (21:1-22:21).

In hymnic forms Revelation praises the Lord God as the Creator of heaven and earth (4:11; 10:6; 14:7) and the Renewer of the world (21:5). God is called the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is (Exod 3:14), was, and is coming, the "" or the Sovereign of the Universe (Rev 1:8),[28] and such doxologies are found in the whole book (1:4, 8; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5; 21:6). In a similar way Christ is also called the first and the last one in existence (1:17; 2:8), the beginning of God's creation (3:14). He is presented as the Word of God (19:13), and this corresponds to the Logos by which creation began according to the Fourth Gospel (John 1:1), though in Revelation the Logos introduces the judgment of the old world and its restoration in a new heaven and new earth (19:15; 21:1). Toward the end of the book the prophet has quoted a proclamation of Christ spoken after his triumph over


all evil powers, and under this aspect it is Jesus who is called the Alpha and the Omega (22:13).

Actually there is a tendency in Revelation to place the Lord God as the Creator and Jesus Christ as the Saviour on the same level, and the attention is alternatively drawn to the Father and to the Son. This tendency depended on traditional confessions of Christ's victory over the enemies, his exaltation to heaven and invitation to sit at the right hand of God, the subject found in Ps 110:1 (referred to above with regard to Paul). What is more, however: Revelation has described Christ directly as sitting beside God on his throne (Rev 3:21). Its many references to the divine throne (38 times in 1:4-22:3) presuppose that God occupies it, but the merits of Christ as the Lamb of God are constantly included when the heavenly doxologies are quoted. Before the sublime throne of God the prophet sees the Lamb (5:6). He hears glory being offered to the One on the throne and the Lamb (5:13). Salvation is said to come from God, as he sits on his throne, and from the Lamb (7:10). The government over the cosmos is understood as being definitely assumed by the Lord and by Christ (11:15). Martyrs are seen as first-fruits offered to God and the Lamb (14:4). Saints are praised as those who keep the commandments of God and the belief in Jesus (14:12). The temple and the light of the new Jerusalem are said to be God himself and the Lamb (21:22-23). In its center the prophet discovers the throne of God and the Lamb (22:3). All these references to Christ's exaltation have to do with his importance for the creation, with regard to the old as well as to the new aeon.

In an introductory scene John sees Christ in cosmic dimensions as the sovereign of the present world (Rev 1:12-16). Christ holds seven stars in his right hand, and his face shines like the sun (1:16). Being this powerful representative of the creation, Christ sends messages to the seven churches of Asia (1:11, 2:1, 3:22). In a second context John beholds Christ as the Lamb of God who takes over a holy book, and when its seals are opened, punishments described by the OT come over the creation, here perceived as full of sin caused by mankind (5:1-6:17). Angels carrying trumpets and vials of wrath then expose all the four physical regions of the


creation-namely the heaven and the earth, the ocean and the rivers (1:6; 14:7)-to punishments also derived from the OT (8:2-9:21; 15:5-16:21). John thus regards the creation as defiled because of the sins of mankind, and this partially corresponds to Paul's words about its subjection to vanity (Rom 8:20). But in Revelation the negative aspect is stronger, because idolatry and persecution had made progress in the days of the prophet. The totalitarian society to which the church was exposed (13:1-8; 17:1-18:24) inspired John to these visions of punishments falling on the entire world of man.

Nevertheless the heavenly sceneries which John was permitted to see did also imply positive features. There are beautiful descriptions of the faithful who have been saved by the Lamb of God from the general corruption of the world (Rev 7:1-17; 14:1-5; 15:2-4; 19:1-10). And the final combat led by Christ as the Word of God (19:13) ends with his triumph over all destructive powers in the cosmos including the devil (20:10).

Finally the prophet is allowed to see the new creation and the new Jerusalem established by God after the triumph of Christ (21:1-22:21). Elements of the Genesis reports on creation return in this vision, but throughout in connection with the glory of Christ. At the revelation of Paradise Regained the prophet sees to his delight the water of life streaming out from the throne of God and the Lamb, and trees of life producing different fruits every month (22:1-2). He understands that no physical light and no polarity between night and day will exist in this metaphysical context, but that God himself will enlighten his adorers (22:5) in analogy to the intelligible light by which creation first began (Gen 1:3). This perfect life and light (cf. John 1:4) is supplied by Christ, who lets the faithful approach the tree of life in the new creation (Rev 22:14).


[1] This also implies a difference between biblical theology and ancient mythology as far as the creation is concerned. Material for the study of the mythology may be found in Joan V. OBrien and Wilfred Major, in the Beginning: Creation Myths from Ancient Mesopotamia, Israel, and Greece (AAR Aids for the Study of Religion, 11; Chico; Scholars Press, 1982).

[2] On the relationship between the creation narratives in Gen 1:1-2:4a; 2:4b-3:24, and the flood story in 6:1-9:28, though from other points of view: Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11 (BKAT 1/1; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1974) 156, 229, 273-74, 529-30.

[3] Rich material on the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Gösta Lindeskog, Studien zum neutestamentlichen Schöfungsgedanken (Uppsala Universitets Årsskrift 1952:11; Uppsala: Lundequist, 1952) 85-133; and on Philo, pp. 135-61.

[4] Hans Walter Huppenbauer, Der Mensch zwischen zwei Welten. Der Dualismus der Texte von Qumran (Zürich: Zwingli Verlag, 1959) 103-15.

[5] Lindeskog, Studien, 163-272; Otto Michel, "Schöpfung im NT," RGG 5 (1961) 1476-77; Bernhard W. Anderson, Creation, IDB 1.873-78; G. W. H. Lampe, "The New Testament Doctrine of Ktisis," SJT 17 (1964) 449-62; Robert Martin-Achard, "Welt," BHH 3. 2159-61; Diethelm Michel and Bo Reicke, "Weltbild," ibid., 2161-63; Hans Helmut Esser, "Schöpfung," Theol. Begriffslexikon zum NT 2/2. 1073-84; Joachim Guhrt, "Welt," ibid., 1381-85; John H. P. Reumann, Creation and New Creation (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1973); Gerhard Friedrich, Okologie und Bibel. Neuer Mensch und alter Kosmos (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1982).

[6] Joachim Jeremias, Jesus als Weltvollender (BFCT 33/4; Giltersloh: Bertelsmann, 1930) 8-12, 64-69 and passim.

[7] Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos. Geschichte des Christusgiaubens von den Anfängen des Christentums bis Irenaeus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck, 1913, 5th ed. 1965) 77-104.

[8] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, "kpsrios," Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum NT 2 (1981) 81120, col. 816: references to Jos. Ant. 20:90, 13:68, Test. Levi 18:2, Greek Enoch 10:9.

[9] Werner Foerster, "", TWNT 3 (1938) 999-1034; additional literature ibid., 10/2 (1979) 1150-52; Anderson, "Creation,"; Otto Michel, "Schöpfung"; Esser, "Schöpfung"; Gerd Petzke, "", Exeget. Wörterbuch zum NT 2 (1981) 803-8.

[10] Hermann Sasse, "kosmos," TWNT 3 (1938) 867-98; additional literature ibid. 10/2 (1979) 1147-48; Franz Mussner, Kosmos, LTK 6 (1961) 575-77; George Johnston, """ and kosmos in the NT," NTS 10 (1963-64) 352-60; Anton Vögtle, Das Neue Testament und die Zukunft des Kosmos (Kommentare und Beiträge zum Alten und Neuen Testament; Düsseldorf: Patmos, 1970); Guhrt, "Welt;" Horst Baltz, "kosmos," Exeget. Wörterbuch zum NT 2 (1981) 765-73.

[11] Str-B 4/2 (München: Beck, 1928) 799-976; Hermann Sasse, "", TWNT 1 (1933) 197-208; additional literature ibid., 10/2 (1979) 962-63; idem, "Aion," RAC (1950) 194-204; Joachim Guhrt, Zeit, Theol. Begriffslexikon zum NT 3 (1972) 1457-62; Traugott Holtz, "", Exeget. Wörterbuch zum NT 1 (1980) 105-11.

[12] Bo Reicke, "pas," TWNT 5 (1954) 885-95; additional literature ibid. 10/2 (1979) 172-223; Franz Mussner, Christus, das All und die Kirche (2d ed.; Trier: Paulinusveriag, 1969)

[13] Hans Dieter Betz, "Kosmogonie und Ethik in der Bergpredigt," ZTK 81 (1984) 139-71.

[14] N. H. Cassem, "A Grammatical and Contextual Inventory of kosmos in the Johannine Corpus, with Some Implications for a Johannine Cosmic Theology," NTS 19 (1972-73) 81-91.

[15] Wolfgang Wiefel, "Die Scheidung von Gemeinde und Welt im Johannesevangelium auf dem Hintergrund der Trennung von Kirche und Synagogue," TZ 35 (1979) 213-27.

[16] Ibid., 221-23.

[17] General outlines with regard to Paul's understanding of the creation: Lindeskog, Studien, 207-11, 220-46; Günther Baumbach, "Die Schöpfung in der Theologie des Paulus," Kairos 21 (1979) 196-205.

[18] Literature on the individual terms above in notes 9-12.

[19] Andre Feuillet, "La création de lunivers dans le Christ daprès lEpître aux Colossiens (1.16a)," NTS 12 (1965-66) 1-9; Mussner, (Christus).

[20] Peter Stuhlmacher, "Erwaögungen zum ontologischen Charakter der [kaine„ ktisi] bei Paulus," EvT 27 (1967) 1-35.

[21] Lampe, "Ktisis"; A. H. Snyman, "Style and Meaning in Romans 8:31-39," Neotestammtica 18 (1984) 94-103.

[22] Bo Reicke, "The Law and This World according to Paul: Some Thoughts Concerning Gal. 4:1-11," JBL 70 (1951) 259-76; George B. Caird, Principalities and Powers: A Study in Pauline Theology (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956) 80-96; Albert Willem Cramer, "Stoicheia tou kosmou." Interpretatie van een nieuwtestamentische term ('s-Gravenhage: Mouton, 1961); Josef Blinzier, "Lexikalisches zu dem Terminus ta stoicheia tou kosmou bei Paulus," Studiorum paulinorum Congressus internationalis Catholicus 2 (Roma, 1963) 424-43.

[23] Literature above, note 12.

[24] Pierre Benoit, "The '""' in the Epistles to the Colossians and the Ephesians," SEA 49 (1984) 136-58.

[25] Bo Reicke, "Creation, Determination, and Consummation in the View of the New Testament," Christian Theology in the Context of Scientific Revolution: Communications of the New York Symposium, July 1977 (Bruxelles: Académie Internationale des sciences religieuses, 1978) 101-10.

[26] Literature above, note 11.

[27] Horst Balz, """," Exegetisches Wöterbuch zum NT 2 (1981) 1229-33.

[28] F. Bergamelli, "Sulla storia del termine 'pantokrator' dagli inizi fino a Teofilo di Antiochia," Salesianum (1984) 439-72.