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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Sunday, 8 March 2009

A Quick Thought on Spatial Metaphors for Heaven

We are used to thinking of 'heaven' (i.e., God's space) as 'up'. That is certainly an important spatial metaphor used in the Bible and the tradition.

I am interested in work by various biblical scholars that has shown that the temple in ancient Israel was seen as a microcosm of the created order. The temple, so biblical scholars tell us, was creation-in-miniature. In this model the central part of the temple - the most holy place - represented the heavenly realms.

What is interesting is that the spatial image here is not of the heavens 'above' but as the heavens 'within' - the spiritual depth dimensions of creation. The hearts of the world.

I'm not suggesting that heaven is 'within' rather than 'above'. I'm suggesting that both metaphors are helpful and the presence of both warns us not to take the language over-literally.

The image of heaven as 'the depth dimensions of creation' is an interesting and suggestive way of thinking of the heavenly realms.

3 comments:

Andrew Perriman said...

Robin, I'm intrigued. Could you be a bit more specific - how does this idea appear in the Old Testament? who are these biblical scholars?

Robin Parry said...

Andrew

The quickest way to answer that question (and I'm afraid that I do only have time to be quick) is to point to chapter 2 of Greg Beale's book "The Temple and the Church's Mission". The chapter itself has a lot of helpful material on the theme of 'temple and cosmos' but you will see that he is interescting with a bunch of the other scholars that I had in mind.

Robin Parry said...

i meant 'interacting' not 'intersecting'