Date of Award

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Philosophy and Theology)

Schools and Centres

Philosophy and Theology

First Supervisor

Associate Professor Glenn Morrison

Abstract

The thesis is intended as an analytical and critical introduction to a developing theology of Eden. It compares a range of Old Testament understandings pertaining to the imagery of the Garden of Eden, as the basis for a study of the appropriation, integration and transformation of Edenic imagery in the New Testament. It does so in the context of Christian theology which, for a variety reasons, has been generally subdued, if not ambivalent, in articulating the relationship between the imagery of Eden and the representation of the New Creation in Christ. The purpose of the thesis, then, is not just to strengthen the theological imagination, but also to re-familiarise and educate contemporary audiences as to the appearance, function, and potency of the imagery of Eden in the New Testament. In this process of analysis and reflection, Eden is revealed as a primary organising, mediating, and meaning-generating motif through which the New Testament writers gave religious and cultural value to the accommodation of human experience to the revelation of God.

In considering the metaphor of hope and renewal at the heart of the imagery of Eden, the thesis argues for the reliability of the language of faith to reveal God’s truth. It adopts a methodology of dialogical hermeneutics in recognition of the multivalent and multi-vocal aspects of Edenic imagery, characteristics that in themselves have been identified as a source of the suspicion towards Eden. This way of theological inquiry is informed by the hermeneutics of Paul Ricoeur, which acknowledges and incorporates human experience into critical and analytical procedure. It also draws on the ethical metaphysics of Emmanuel Levinas, which underlines the movement of a subject towards God’s otherness and transcendence within language, one of the fundamental functions of Eden. Informed on this basis the thesis asserts that figurative language, in this case the imagery of Eden, is deemed to be not merely ornamental to language but fundamentally formative and integrative of Christian faith and knowledge.

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