Ethics and New Creation
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV)
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (HarperOne, 1996), page 20:
The apocalyptic scope of 2 Corinthians 5 was obscured by older translations that rendered the crucial phrase in verse 17 as “he is a new creation” (RSV) or — worse yet — “he is a new creature” (KJV). Such translations seriously distort Paul’s meaning by making it appear that he is describing only the personal transformation of the individual through conversion experience. The sentence in Greek, however, lacks both subject and verb; a very literal translation might treat the words “new creation” as an exclamatory interjection: “If anyone is in Christ — new creation!”
The NRSV has rectified matters by rendering the passage, “If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation.” Paul is not merely talking about an individual’s subjective experience of renewal through conversion; rather, for Paul, “creation” refers to the whole create order (Rom. 8:18–25). He is proclaiming the apocalyptic message that through the cross God has nullified the kosmos of sin and death and brought a new kosmos into being. That is why Paul can describe himself and his readers as those “on whom the ends of the ages has met” (1 Cor. 10:11). The old age is passing away (cf. 1 Cor. 7:31b), the new age has appeared in Christ, and the church stands at the juncture between them.