Eternity and the now: an exploration of Paul's understanding of a new creation in Gal. 6:15 and 2 Cor. 5:17.
Mahony, Michael Anthony.
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This thesis forms the first part of a programme of research whose ultimate aim is to draw upon Saint Paul’s vision of a new creation in Galatians and Second Corinthians in order to provide a new window of access into the Christian hope of eternal life for people of this secular age. Many contemporary people are deeply concerned about the Cosmos (they would not term it ‘Creation’) but have lost all conception of a Cosmos of eternal dimensions, one which includes the human species in its resurrected state. As such, this programme of research, while drawing upon academic scholarship, is ultimately addressed to the woman and the man ‘in the street’. This present thesis, albeit the first step in the broader programme, confines its scope to how a new creation would have been communicated by Paul to the communities which he addressed of the early church. After the introduction and methodological issues, the study proper opens in Chapter 2 with a summary of the theology of the apostle Paul the author of the two NT letters concerned. Paul’s personality will also be touched upon here because of the forthright way in which Paul expresses himself in these letters. Building upon recent studies by a number of biblical scholars, Chapter 2 includes a study of how the previously scholarly Pharisee Saul, would have acquired his original sense of a new creation from his Jewish background as well as from his own Christ-encountered theology. In Chapter 3 (Second Corinthians) and Chapter 4 (Galatians) interpretations of the new creation texts are undertaken within the context of the principal themes of the two letters and the particular characteristics of the two communities being addressed. What emerges from this analysis is that, in spite of widely differing views amongst biblical scholars, Paul’s understanding of new creation can be seen to manifest the three-fold characteristics of being anthropological, cosmological, and ecclesiological. This present thesis recognises this but attributes more significance to the anthropological. While eschatological considerations are often associated with the cosmological dimension, this, of course, is not exclusive, all three elements can have eschatological characteristics. Two other aspects are addressed which seem to be understated in the existing literature, namely the importance of individual and corporate identity in the communities being addressed by Paul, and the nature of the relationship between new creation and the Pauline concept of ‘being in Christ’. In addition, a concern is raised which is absent in the literature. In the interpretation process for these two elliptical Greek texts the influence of some secondary sources over and against that of the texts themselves, as reflected in the prevailing translations of these texts, is interrogated. Accordingly, in these chapters, the following questions are raised and answers proposed for them: Why is Paul able to introduce the words of a new creation, καινὴ κτίσις, without any prior explanation? What accounts for the abruptness with which these words appear? Also, the practice of including verbs into the two texts (as the vast majority of translations do in varied ways in order to express the interpretations arrived at) is (controversially) critiqued, and an alternative approach – with alternative interpretations and translations – proposed; ones which further enhance the relationship between the concepts of ‘a new creation’, and of ‘persons being in Christ’. Chapter 5 summarises the main conclusions arising from this study, and identifies areas of further research (particularly those related to the subjects of mystery, love and identity in new creation). A closing ‘Afterword’ illustrates the significance of καινὴ κτίσις for today.