The Non-political Messiah of Traditional Christianity
Traditional versions of christianity have been curiously reluctant to acknowledge the political dimension of Jesus' teaching. Commentators have labored to exclude it, employing a battery of different devices to explain it away. This process has involved nothing less than a tour de force by which the plainest biblical statements have been emptied of their obvious meaning.
These techniques have not escaped criticism from those expositors who realized that violence was being done to the sacred text. The remark of Albert Schweitzer deserves to be quoted in this context: "Many of the greatest sayings [of Jesus] are found lying in a corner like explosive shells, from which the charges have been removed . . . We have made Jesus hold another language with our time from that which he really held." the words of Jesus suffered an eclipse.
Schweitzer was persuaded that Jesus' sense of crisis and the end of the world represented the very heart of his mind and message and thar our records do not make any sense unless they are seen in this light.
1. Mark 1:14-15: "Jesus came into Galilee preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel.'"
2. Luke 12:32, "Fear not, little flock, for yor Father has resolved with delight to give you the Kingdom."
3. Matthew 6:10, "Thy Kingdom some, thy will be done on earth."
4. Matthew 25:31, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his throne of glory."
5. Robert Morgan, in Theology, November, 1979, p. 458.
6. The New Century Bible, Commentary on James, ed. E.M. Sidebottom, London: Nelson, 1967, p. 41.
7. The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, Waco, TX: Word Books, 1981, pp. 102-3, emphasis added.
8. The certainty of the Kingdom of God in Jesus' teaching is emphasized in many contemporary sources, for example in Christian Religious Education by the roman Catholic writer, Thomas Groome (Harper & Row, 1980), pp. 35-55. In footnote 16 to chapter 5, he cites a number of leading contemporary scholars who agree that the Kingdom of God dominates everything that Jesus taught.
9. Missiology, April 1980, p. 13.
10. Quoted by G.N.H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, rep. Kregel, 1952, p. 21, emphasis added.
11. In an article entitled "Preaching the Kingdom of God," the British expositor Dr. I. Howard Marshall of the University of Aberdeen says: "During the past sixteen years I can recollect only two occasions on which I have heard sermons specifically devoted to the theme of the Kingdom of God . . . I find this silence rather surprising because it is universally agreed by New Testament scholars that the central theme of the teaching of Jesus was the Kingdom of God . . . Clearly, then, one would expect the modern preacher who is trying to being the message of Jesus to his congregation would have much to say about this subject. In fact my experience has been the opposite, and I have rarely heard about it" (The Expository Times, Oct. 1977, p. 13.
12. The Kingdom of god in History, Michael Glazier, 1988, p. 9.
13. The fact of the future Kingdom promised by the prophets is well known to standard authorities on biblical theology: "A constant feature in the eschatological picture of the Old Testament is Israel's restoration to its own land . . . the question how in our day we are to interpret such prophecies is a double one. It is a question, first, of what the prophets meant. And to this question there can be but one answer -- their meaning is the literal sense of their words. They spoke of the people of Israel and of the land of Canaan and predicted the restoration of the people in their land . . . There is no question as to the meaning of the Old Testament prophecies; the question id how far this meaning is how valid" ("Eschatology," Hastings Dictionary of the bible, New York: CharlesScribner's Sons, 1911, vol. p. 737, emphasis added). the real question, however, is whether we are prepared to believe the prophets. What the prophets predicted is clear. The problem is that the churches so not believe what they wrote! (Cp. Acts 26:27, where Paul challenged Agrippa with the question: "do you believe the prophets?")
14. Translation based on the version in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament by J.C. Allen, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976.
15. Peake's Commentary on the Bible, p. 941, emphasis added.
16. New Age Encyclopedia, London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, 1925, Vol. 6, pp. 176, 177.
17. This verse is cited or alluded to in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage. It is obviously of the greatest importance for out understanding of apostolic Christianity.
18. Cp. the Century Bible, Introduction to Thessalonians (London: Caxton Publishing Co., p. 29: "It has been recently argued that the Kingdom of God was the principal topic in the teaching of Jesus, who whenever he spoke of the Kingdom of God meant that triumphant new order of the future which would be set up on his return to this world in glory with the angels." The reference is to Johannes Weiss' Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes (Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971, first pub. 1892). Weiss rightly saw that Jesus spoke always of a real kingdom of the future. He then proceeded to tell us that such teaching was irrelevant for us now!
19. Matt. 6:10, "Thy Kingdom come." Joseph of Arimathea was waiting for it (Mark 15:43).
20. Cp. The Century Bible, Introduction to Thessalonians, p. 30: "What the Jews looked for at the first coming of Christ, the Christians wer inclined to look for at the Second coming.
21. Quest of the Historical Jesus, New York: MacMillan, 1968, first pub. 1910, p. 400.
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