Biblical and Theological Conceptions of Time

The second chapter of this study is devoted to an examination of the complex meaning inherent in "time" in biblical and theological perspectives. In the course of reflection, a reference framework will be developed for problems and questions that will then be revisited—following an excursion into the world of natural scientific models of time in chapter 3—in the concluding fourth chapter. The question of time as a relational concept, as discussed in chapter 1, will guide my research.

The results of the study of time concepts in the Bible are summarized in theses on pp. 80—81. I believe two features of the biblical conception of time are most essential. First, there is the multilayered presence of time within the context of a simultaneous absence of an antithesis between time and eternity. Second, there is the primacy of the fullness of time in terms of its content over and against the formal designation of time.

The theological considerations of time are oriented toward neither a history of theology nor a history of dogma, because, after all, one cannot speak of a dogma of time in the proper sense. Instead, the relationship of the theological concepts of God, time, eternity, and death is examined with respect to its inherent potential for relationality. My argument for a relational rather than an antithetical relationship of time to God/eternity is supported by the depiction of three different ways of distinguishing between time and eternity. Based on this analysis, I will suggest that, although a time-eternity relation can in no way establish a doctrine of the Trinity, conceptions of time marked by Trinitarian differentiation could nevertheless be most appropriate for developing a dynamic, relational model of time. These thoughts will be expanded beginning on p. 97.

Finally, these theological investigations will be completed by reflections on death as the place where, from an anthropological perspective, time and eternity collide with each other, and relationality thus experiences its deepest crisis.

"Eternity as the Other of time" constitutes the preliminary summarizing formula for this second chapter, a formula that is still open in many ways. The formula should indicate that time is to be conceived primarily as a relational concept and that a static dualism is as inappropriate as schematic subject-object relations would be.

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