Time in the Bible

The Bible certainly does not provide a theory of time, but in the Bible, time is narrated, for the things that the Bible describes take place "in, with, and under" the experience of time. It will become evident that such an experience of time is influenced by its particular cultural context. I will examine the biblical findings with respect to the concepts of linear and cyclical time. Furthermore, I will also attempt to render the individual semantic fields, as well as the overarching concepts—primarily that of eschatology— fruitful for the question of a theology of time.

Time and eternity are not often explicit topics in theological literature about the Old and New Testaments, as can easily be confirmed by looking at the subject index of relevant books and the terms appearing in dictionaries and lexicons. The two terms are frequently not dealt with as such, but instead, references are made to key words such as eschatology, eternal or everlasting life, and apocalypticism1 This in itself indicates that the working out of a comprehensive biblical theory of time cannot be an appropriate task for this section. The section will instead discuss various features of the biblical attitude toward time. I will first turn to the Hebrew Scriptures. The division into "Time in the Old Testament" and "Time in the New Testament" is made for practical purposes. I do not wish to give the impression that it is possible to develop one specific Old Testament or New Testament conception of time. To the extent that one can speak at all about conceptions of time, one must also stress that these understandings can differ considerably from each other, depending upon the specific biblical passage and individual traditions.

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