In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The New Testament and Creation Care

  • Introduction
  • Online Resources
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies on Creation and the New Testament
  • The Bible and Ecology: Hermeneutical Considerations
  • Dominion, Stewardship, or Creation Care? The Human Role in Creation
  • Creation, Eschatology, and Hope
  • Heaven and Earth in Matthew
  • The Healing of Creation in Mark
  • The Voice of the Earth in Luke and Acts
  • Temple and Creation in the Johannine Tradition
  • The Fate of Creation in Hebrews and 2 Peter
  • The Fate of Earth and Heaven in Revelation
  • Food and Water in Creation Care
  • Humankind in Relation with Animals

Biblical Studies The New Testament and Creation Care
by
Stanley P. Saunders
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0317

Introduction

Generations of readers have assumed that the New Testament materials are concerned primarily with human salvation, usually understood as escape from earth to heaven, accompanied in some scenarios by the destruction of the earth. This version of the “end” of the biblical story provides no foundation for a meaningful Christian response to the widespread environmental crises we face today. Awareness of the anthropocentric cast of Christian worldviews and growing recognition of the severity of the crises has demanded new approaches to the New Testament. The scholarly discussion of the New Testament and the care of creation is a relatively new area of research, still in its adolescence, but three decades of concerted research is now affirming that the New Testament is far more deeply grounded in the soil of the biblical story of creation than we once imagined. Discussion of the Bible and the environment has thus far been led by the work of two collaboratives, the Earth Bible Project under the leadership of Norman C. Habel in Australia, and the interdisciplinary research group funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK grant at the University of Exeter (“the Exeter Group”), led by David G. Horrell. The Earth Bible project has been the more prolific and often the more daring in drawing upon approaches from feminist and postcolonial criticism. At the same time, a growing number of scholars are making attempts to reconstruct the outlines of a biblical narrative, running from Genesis to Revelation, that links the end or resolution of the story (eschatology) more clearly with its beginning (protology). A meaningful resolution of the biblical story must address such issues as the meaning and proper exercise of “dominion,” as well as divine and human roles in the reconciliation of earth and heaven. After surveying overviews and reviews of the literature on hermeneutical issues and eschatology, entries will follow the canonical order of the New Testament documents, then touch on recent studies of food and water and the relations between humans and animals.

Online Resources

The following resources, available both in print and online, provide helpful introductions to ecology in relation to the array of theological and ethical disciplines (Berry 2014) and theological assessments of key contemporary issues (Fergusson 2007). The essays in Marlow and Harris 2022 survey issues related primarily to ecological readings of the biblical texts themselves. Wenell 2014 focusses on the “land” both in biblical contexts and contemporary political and ecological contexts.

  • Berry, Shannon. “Ecology.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Ethics. Vol. 1: ABO-LYI. Edited by Robert L. Brawley, 195–200. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acref:obso/9780199829910.001.0001

    Describes the growth of interest in ecology in both theology and biblical studies, including discussions of the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, the Cosmic Christ, ecology and liberation, ecofeminism, and ecology and community.

  • Fergusson, David. “Creation.” In The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology. Edited by John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Iain Torrance, 72–90. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199245765.003.0005

    Introduces the doctrine of creation in scripture and the Christian tradition, including creation out of nothing, animals, and the environment.

  • Marlow, Hillary, and Mark Harris, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Bible and Ecology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190606732.001.0001

    An outstanding collection of thirty essays that cover the historical, hermeneutical, and cultural roots of recent study of the Bible and ecology, biblical studies including essays on the Synoptic Gospels, John, Paul, and Revelation, and an array of diverse thematic and contemporary studies, including treatments of the Imago Dei and the nature of dominion, “stewardship,” the sea, cities and sustainability, wildlife conservation, Jewish perspectives on ecotheology, Evangelical approaches to creation care, and climate skepticism.

  • Wenell, Karen J. “Land.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Ethics. Vol. 1: ABO-LYI. Edited by Robert L. Brawley, 500–507. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acref:obso/9780199829910.001.0001

    A helpful survey of “the land” in both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament contexts, including discussion of land rights and land tenure, “the land” in Christian Zionism, and sabbath and Jubilee in relation to contemporary ecological concerns.

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