The Biblical Cosmos: A pilgrim's guide to the weird
and wonderful world of the Bible
Robin A. Parry
Cascade Books £17
UNLIKE so much biblical research, Robin A. Parry not only gives
a scholarly picture of the biblical authors' ideas, but goes on to
show how, despite their stark differences with our own
understanding, their writings remain importantly relevant in our
Recognising that biblical books must be interpreted against
their historical context, Parry examines the Old Testament
understanding of earth including Sheol, the heavens, and the
temple, before asking "what God might be saying to us through these
ancient biblical cosmologies".
Comparison is made with other ancient Near Eastern concepts, and
what is distinctive in Hebrew thought is spelt out. Rightly, that
ever-threatening chaos poised to overwhelm the created order, then
as now, is emphasised. Parry's arguments are amply backed up by
reference to the biblical literature itself.
Of particular interest is Parry's treatment of the temple and
the biblical cosmos, the former being seen as a microcosm of the
latter, humankind replacing the cult statue in the temple.
Turning to Christ, Parry holds that "the story of the cosmos is
fundamentally interwoven with the story of Jesus - he created it
and sustains it; he rules it and is present throughout it; and he
is the one who bound its destiny to himself in his own body thereby
enabling it to share in his own new creation resurrection life".
Particular emphasis is laid on the ascension seen as completing
It is, though, the final section on the relevance of the
biblical cosmos today which deserves closest attention. Parry
believes that God wants to speak to the contemporary world through
the insights of biblical cosmology. He appeals to the classical
approach of Christian Platonism. God is the source and ground of
all that is both immanent and transcendent. He acts both within the
world and in history, in natural and historical events alike. He
sees humankind as the icon of God, mediating his rule on earth.
Parry fully recognises the importance of metaphor, and notes
that "a certain level of pious agnosticism is not inappropriate".
Particularly relevant is his plea for the recognition of cyclical
time, epitomised in the changing seasons and spelt out in the
Christian year. He concludes that we must engage with the natural
world "with a loving respect akin to that due to persons".
The delightful drawings of Parry's daughter Hannah which
illustrate the text will enchant the reader as much as the author's
use of "Jehovah" irritated this reviewer. Notwithstanding, this
masterful treatment of a complex subject deserves the widest
Canon Anthony Phillips is a former headmaster of The King's