Reading: New Creation in Paul’s Letters – Chapter 2, New Creation in the Old Testament

Beginning with Isaiah, Jackson aims to show that when speaking of a “new heavens and a new earth” the ancient prophet was using a merism which entailed not just a New Creation, but so too a new covenant, a theme which would come into a fuller use with later prophets. This helps to connect Paul’s dualist cosmological and anthropological views to the Old Testament, at least for the author. Jackson notes that Paul, when speaking of the New Creation, is specifically using Isaianic thought.

Showing a certain conservative streak, Jackson acknowledges the scholarship which divides Isaiah into three previous works but insists that the book be taken as a literary united. This is not uncommon, even among more liberal scholars who note that such a neat division of Isaiah is defeated because the present work is replete with crossovers of shared thoughts, allowing that one final redactor, while may have been assembling different source material, nevertheless produced a final, edited, version of Isaiah which is not so easily separated. But, beyond the needs and deliberations of scholars, Jackson is correct that the early readers, including Paul, saw the work as a unified book and would thus have interpreted as such. Further, he is correct that the theme which connects humanity and creation is, even if it is emphasized in one section of the work more than a previous section, one which connects the whole of Isaiah. It is also this theme which Jackson chooses to investigate further as he believes it is related to Paul’s theologizing.

Of interest is Jackson’s description of the ‘new thing.’ YHWH is telling the exiles in Babylon to forget the Exodus story and instead, wait for the new liberation. This is also the meaning behind the ‘former things’, in that it is not speaking about the old world, but the old world system which was established by YHWH’s deliverance of Israel. All of this is playing into a conversation which the author is yet to have, and that of what the old Creation actually was. Was it the actual creation of the universe, or God’s intrusion on the world? That aside, Jackson’s point is that the New Creation is not a moment of eschatological end and start, but something related to deliverance which accomplishes new things while ending the sins of idolatry of the old world system. This idolatry takes center stage for several subsections, in which Jackson attempts to show that the New Creation is God’s deliverance of Israel out of exile and a re-establishment of a God-centered dispensation. I would also add that in reading Jackson, it is difficult to argue for creatio ex nihilo as YHWH is bringing about the New Creation from the material of the Old. Creation, then, becomes the track of history.

Granted, in one subsection, Jackson is apparently arguing for a more cosmogloical understanding of the New Creation, although noting that the possibility that it was locally focused, and that whatever the eventual understanding it would not have made much difference to Paul. Jackson’s only focus for the new creation is that it, in Isaiah at least, maintains “a strong connection between God’s people and God’s world. (30)” While it may not be important in the overall thesis, Jackson, I believe, misses the underlying Temple Theology of Creation in Genesis, which no doubt was intermingling with the New Creation theology in Isaiah. If we take Jerusalem, and perhaps even Israel, as the (location of) God’s Temple, then with the old Creation being a Temple Theology, the New Creation could very well be cosmologically based and locally, or rather, nationally based in that the national YHWH Temple would have served as the nexus of the cosmos between God and God’s world thus disallowing a dualist explanation of the New Creation. It is not an either/or type of interpretation, but one in which a proper Temple Theology is needed.

Beyond the obvious disagreements, Jackson shows that a deep connection between sin and the effects on the world exist. He argues, forcefully, that Israel’s sin has so upset the created order that something new, and something bigger than the Exodus is needed. This is what God is going to do in the New Creation. Further, he is correct to destroy our modern ideas of the separation of Church and State, which has in many ways infected the way in which we read Scripture (31).

Looking forward to chapter 3…

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