The Cosmological Worldview of 2 Peter, Creation ≠ World

English: Farmer Noah (Mosaic in Basilica di Sa...

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A friend was reading my recent paper arguing for creation ex deo, which cough cough to the friendly publishers who read this book and maybe would like to see it, and suggested that ex nihilo is not supported by the author of 2nd Peter. Admittedly, as scholars have argued, ex nihilo is not really prohibited by Scripture, but is not required either. So, I was reading 2nd Peter to find out what my friend was talking about. First, this verse:

and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2Pe 2:5 NAU)

Now, this image which is presented here connects to cosmology and eschatology easily enough. First, we know that God didn’t destroy the world with the flood, just you, know, covered it up with fake dinosaur bones or something. Second, we know that when God does destroy the world and will only do so once, we all go to heaven. Right?

Aρχαίου κόσμου, or ancient cosmos, seems to be something Peter focuses on. In the next chapter,

and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. (2Pe 3:4-6 NAU)

Okay, so this is how I read this part… notice that Peter has twice maintained that the world has been destroyed and notes that Creation comes after the destruction of the world. The World, or cosmic order, can be destroyed and recreated, and was not created out of nothing. Creation, then, is something different. Further, the world was formed out of water and by water, which is the image we see in Genesis 1, with water being related to chaos. Further, connecting this back to Noah’s flood, which makes several appearances in 2nd Peter, chaos once again reigned upon the earth until God once again recreated the world. Now, for those who would like to argue that Creation here is related to Adamic accounts, I note that Peter uses the word, ‘fathers’, indicating not Adam (Adam and Steve?) but instead the Patriarchs which Peter connects to Creation. The Patriarchs, are, of course, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For support that the word here points to the Patriarchs, I note that both Paul and the author of Hebrews uses it.

So, boom. Creation is an ordering of God’s plan, a dispensation or economy, where as the world is a cosmic order, neither of which point to the rock floating in space.

Discuss amongst yourselves and help me.

(and HT to a friend, whom, for fear of embarrassment to him, I will let remain nameless, but has my deepest thanks for his responses to my paper.)

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Post By Joel L. Watts (10,125 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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2 thoughts on “The Cosmological Worldview of 2 Peter, Creation ≠ World

  1. Genesis 1 begins with a sentence that summarizes the whole story that follows: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” in other words, “At the furthest time in the distant past that one can imagine, God created heaven and earth.” So the first sentence has nothing to do with HOW heaven and earth were created, as one can also see by the fact that HOW heaven and earth were created is explained later in the story.

    The Hebrew story proceeds by assuming the presence of “water” and “darkness,” without saying where they came from or how they got there. In a similar fashion the Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish assumes the presence of divine primeval waters comingling “before anything had been named/created.”

    So the “earth” in Genesis 1 is yet without form and void, just part of a primeval watery deep, and “earth/dry land” only appears in reality (rather than potential) later in the creation story, after it has been named.

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