Wednesday, February 07, 2007 

Brief Thoughts Concerning the "Kingdom of God"

One of the few nearly unanimous points of agreement among NT scholars is that a central (if not the central) theme of the synoptic Gospels is the "kingdom of God" (or Mt.'s equivalent phrase "kingdom of heaven"). Furthermore, though there are many diverse and often times opposing historical reconstructions of Jesus (e.g., compare Albert Schweitzer's fully apocalyptic Jesus with Dominic Crossan's egalitarian promoting Cynic peasant) most scholars in this field agree that the "kingdom of God" was an integral component of the historical Jesus' mission. But the agreement often ends there with any further elucidation of the "kingdom of God" diverging widely. The discussion tends to get weighed down by scholarly baggage over whether or not the kingdom should be defined in a purely spiritual or physical sense (or both) and if the kingdom should be understood as principally imminent or present or somehow both. The disagreement on this matter is enhanced further by the fact that the phrase itself is rarely found in the Hebrew Bible, Deutero-canonical, Qumranic, and Pseudepigraphal literature. There is then little to no background information with which to inform scholars of the possible connotations that the phrase "kingdom of God" might carry. And so disagreements understandably arise.

But for many evangelical Christians, especially those of a verbal plenary inspiration stripe, the matter is easily settled and it goes something like this: Jesus was sent by God (indeed, was God in the flesh) to fulfill the prophecies of the OT which included the coming of God's kingdom; Jesus fulfilled these prophecies of the kingdom by inaugurating its coming principally via his death and resurrection; the ekklesia or Church which his apostles founded is in some sense the incarnation or manifestation of this inaugurated kingdom of God; and this kingdom will be fully realized or concretized at Jesus' Parousia. Thus the "kingdom of God" has two stages: fulfillment and consummation. Jesus at his first coming ushered in the former stage and will usher in the consummate stage at his second coming.

I at one time subscribed to this viewpoint known as "inaugurated eschatology". But the more and more I've come to study and analyze the Hebrew Bible, especially concerning its restoration of Israel motifs, the more and more that I'm beginning to see this interpretation as apologetic nonsense. The uncomfortable fact that many of the eschatological kingdom characteristics normally associated with its arrival such as the general resurrection of the dead, a Messianic rule, the restoration of Israel, etc. did not occur at Jesus' coming has forced Christians into this semantic word game by neatly dividing up the kingdom into 'fulfillment'and 'consummation' stages.

I will have more to say on this in the next post.

Monday, February 05, 2007 

Bible Quiz

This was rather easy. Hat-tip to Tyler Williams.

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
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