This is a thick and mentally challenging read, but its density is not at all due to its presentation. Barbara Harshaw’s English translation is well done. Antje Jackelén brilliantly tackles the subject of time and eternity using a multi-disciplinary approach which serves to highlight the complexity with which this topic has developed. Citing Ricoeur’s theory that time is best discussed in narrative form, she analyzes religious hymns to reveal a rich collection of expressions for time and eternity. While this collection of data allows for a multi-denominational approach, albeit limited, one might be drawn to wonder whether the addition of pictorial representations of time would have enriched her conclusion in any way.
Turning to Biblical and theological senses of time, Jackelén discovers the versatility of eschatological and Trinitarian expressions. She notes a growing tendency towards the use of eschatology by scholars to describe time, which follows naturally from her earlier focus on the difficulties of looking at time and eternity as separate subjects. She then begins to derive her relational understanding of time from some of the various Trinitarian relationships that she observes.
While a survey of scientific approaches to time might prove the greatest challenge to students of the humanities, Jackelén’s ability to make connections between theological and scientific ideas is a real strength of the book. While those coming to the work from a strict scientific background may disapprove of associating some findings of natural science with theological perspectives of reality, Jackelén is careful not to set these findings up as religious reductions. Instead, she reveals an alignment between two concepts where such an alignment is plausible. This crossing of disciplines with their varying vocabularies further reflects the fundamental complexity of the subject as a whole. At the same time, it is the use of language to hold the conversation together which bolsters her conclusion that time is most thoroughly and meaningfully understood in terms of relationship. This is due to the capacity of language to bring together or link thoughts, ideas, and concepts, and it is language that best specifies the relational nature of time as time for something or someone other.
This work is a valuable exposition of much of the contemporary literature on time. As such, its synthesis of existing scholarship and its thorough bibliography make it an essential waypoint for further research on the subjects of time and eternity. Jackelén’s willingness to explore time on numerous levels and her unstated insistence that science not be allowed to seek or forge meaning completely disconnected from a history and heritage of meaning makes this work a significant participant in the dialogue between science and religion.