This contribution reflects on cosmology in 1 John and its implication for engaging with Social Identity Complexity Theory (SICT). Following Jan G. Van der Watt, Jacobus Kok defines cosmology as,
the total dynamic mental picture (which includes any references to origin, functioning, order, nature, structural interaction and final destination) of the universe (not only the created world), including both the physical and transcendental realities as they are described in these letters.
Each occurrence of the word “cosmos” in 1 John is studied and the author draws inter alia on semantics and metaphor theory to investigate how 1 John conceived of the cosmos. The final section reflects on the implication of these findings for the complexity of social identity in 1 John.
In Rom 8,19–22 Paul emphasises the close connection between all of creation and the fate of Christ-believers, both now in their suffering, but also in their eventual redemption. After a brief discussion of Paul’s assertion, this contribution studies the Old Testament and early Jewish background of this close connection between the fate of human and non-human creation. Against this backdrop, the study suggests that the same connection between human salvation and the redemption of non-human creation also applies to Paul’s reference to the coming deliverer in Rom 11,26–27. Based on the Jewish background and the context of Romans, the salvation of all Israel also includes the delivery of non-human creation from its present state of suffering and will usher in the Messianic reign of peace. This eschatological promise for all of creation constitutes an essential element of Christian cosmology and demands that humans act responsibly toward a creation which has the promise of eschatological redemption.
The cosmology of Hebrews is inconceivable without, and certainly cannot be separated from, both Christology and eschatology. Whether it is structured in a more apocalyptical than teleological sense remains an open question. In other words, whether the author’s presentation represents more of a parallel-vertical (dualizing) worldview, than a linear-horizontal (aeonic) worldview, which arrives at a particular point in time in the eschaton, remains also unclear. It is evident, however, that the cosmology of this book is particularly strongly influenced by perception of the ontology of God and that it is being situated within the history of salvation. What is striking is the centrality of the cosmos as a cultic creation. The sanctuary is presented as a sacred space and dwelling place of God, over which Christ was called as the Son and into which Christ as High Priest sacrifices himself. The boundaries between a future theological ideal and a present reality are blurred. An apocalyptic vision has already become reality for the author. The cosmology of the Book of Hebrews presents itself more like a present realised than a futuristic eschatology.
Though it is not possible to describe Paul’s cosmology in detail, his convictions on two points seem clear: He believed that the cosmos is divided into an earthly realm and a heavenly realm and that our bodies must be transformed upon entry into the heavenly realm. This creates tension in Paul’s thinking because he is convinced that believers’ „inner person“ has already been transformed, while their bodies have not (2 Cor 4,16). According to Rom 1,18–30 this tension is felt by three different „actors“ in the salvation-historical drama who are all yearning for the bodily resurrection of believers: the non-sentient creation (figuratively), believers themselves, and the Spirit. Their yearning corresponds to God’s plan to raise believers from the dead. Believers can thus live confidently, knowing that the glory of eschatological existence in transformed bodies will more than compensate for any suffering they experience in the present.
The Apocalypse of Thomas belongs to the lesser-known Christian apocrypha. Heiser sees the function of the text as “consolation and exhortation”, for those who keep the “faith” will not experience the last events of the end and the final destruction of the earth. Heiser analyses the cosmology of the Apocalypse in the context of the cosmology of Lactantius (250–320 C.E.) and the worldview of Cosmas the Indian (Topographia christiana, c. 550 C.E.) and concludes that the Apocalypse uses a mildly biblical worldview because of its function. The apocalyptic scenarios could be experienced from any point on the flat imagined earth exactly as it is written. A spherical model, with a spherical earth in the centre, surrounded by celestial spheres, would hinder the assumption of the comprehensive simultaneous experience of earthly de-construction.
This contribution deals with the conception of the cosmos in the Apocalypse of Zephaniah. Although many of the introductory questions concerning this fragmentarily transmitted apocalypse have not been solved, this study focuses primarily on the content of the text. Five aspects of the image of the cosmos are examined in particular: How does the Apocalypse of Zephaniah describe the transition from the visible side of the cosmos to the Otherworld? What is the spatial structure of the cosmos? How does the Apocalypse depict time? What is the relationship between this world and the hereafter? At the end of the study, the focus shifts to the last chapter of the Apocalypse of Zephaniah, where the text addresses the end of the cosmos. It is finally carefully considered whether the Apocalypse of Zephaniah is perhaps the first testimony of a cosmological concept that speaks of two different acts of judgement, an individual judgement of the soul and a universal judgement of the world.
This contribution investigates how Philo’s understanding of the universe, and particularly its four basic elements as taught by the Greek philosophers, influenced his description of the God of Israel’s world in which the Moses-narrative unfolds. Given the fact that Philo was a theologian par excellence, the question can be asked whether Philo’s approach is closer to what one might call „theological cosmology“ or rather closer to „cosmological theology“? After a brief survey of Philo’s inclination to interpret Jewish history in the light of Greek cosmology, the study proceeds with his universe as symbolised by the high priest’s vestments. The τετρακτύς with its ten points of harmony is a key to Philo’s symbolism and numerology. It is concluded that Philo is not writing cosmology per se in his De Vita Mosis, but he is writing a theology that sketches the cosmic superiority and involvement of Israel’s God against the backdrop of Greek cosmology as it was influenced by Pythagoras’ geometry and numerology as well as by Plato’s philosophy. In this sense his account in the De Vita Mosis is closer to a cosmological theology. He utilises the cosmological picture of the Graeco-Hellenistic world in order to introduce and present the powerful nature and qualities of Israel’s God.