Why the Apostles Rarely Mention the Kingdom

Why the Apostles Rarely Mention the Kingdom

You may have noticed that “kingdom” language is frequent in the Gospels and in Jesus’ teaching particularly, but that it almost disappears in the rest of the NT. After examining every instance of βασιλεία in the NT, I compiled the following data.

βασιλεία in the NT

“Kingdom” (βασιλεία) occurs 162 times in the NT. Of these, 135 refer to the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven or kingdom of Christ). Of these 135 instances, 103 appear in the Synoptics. The kingdom of God appears five times in John (thoughin only two different contexts), eight times in Acts, fourteen times in Paul, once each in Hebrews, James, and 2 Peter, and two times in Revelation.1

Most of the other 27 instances of βασιλεία refer to worldly kingdoms and Satan’s kingdom:

  • Worldly kingdoms are referred to in Matt 4:8 (par. Mark 3:24 [2x]; Luke 4:5); 12:25 (par. Luke 11:17); 24:7 (2x) (par. Mark 13:8 [2x]; Luke 21:10 [2x]); Mark 6:23; Luke 19:12; Heb 11:33; Rev 17:12, 17.
  • Satan’s kingdom is referred to in Matt 12:26 (par. Luke 11:18); Rev 16:10.
  • The Jewish people refer to David’s “coming kingdom” in Mark 11:10.
  • Luke 19:12, 15 refer to a nobleman going to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, but the parable refers symbolically to the Kingdom of God, so it might properly count as two more references to that kingdom, bringing the total to 137 in the NT.
  • Hebrews 1:8 cites Ps 45:6–7, which refers to the ancient Davidic kingdom.
  • Revelation 1:6; 5:10 are unique in that they are the only place in the NT where God’s people are referred to as a kingdom. But these verses are alluding to Exod 19:6, where Israel is called a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” so the reference is not so much to God’s people as a literal kingdom, but to the saints as the restored and transformed Israel. First Peter 2:5 also alludes to Exod 19:6, but omits the term “kingdom” (the LXX of Exod 19:6 actually uses the adjective βασίλειον (“royal”) to modify the noun ἱεράτευμα (priesthood).
  • Revelation 17:18 uses βασιλεία in the most abstract manner referring to Babylon’s “authority” over the kings of the earth.
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The Concept of the KOG

Of the 32 references to the kingdom of God outside the Synoptics, I am struck by how uncommon this concept is. In John, it occurs in only two pericopes, twice in the conversation with Nicodemus and three times in the same verse when Jesus speaks to Pilate about his kingdom being not of this world. Acts has a decent number of references and even presents Paul as teaching about the kingdom for years to the Ephesians and the Romans, but this higher frequency should be expected from Luke.

Really odd is the entire omission of the term “kingdom” from the Johannine epistles, 1 Peter, and Jude. The letter that we consider Paul’s theological magnum opus, Romans (albeit, an occasional letter), mentions the kingdom only once (14:17). In other places, Paul refers to the kingdom simply in ethical contexts (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:5; 1 Thess 2:12; 2 Thess 1:5).

Analysis

This sparsity of kingdom language outside the Synoptics suggests a few things to me:

  1. Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom was assumed by the apostles. They do not spend any time defining the kingdom or further explaining what Jesus meant. Rather, they assume their audience knows what the kingdom is.
  2. The apostles knew they were living in the kingdom and needed to hammer out the ethical implications of such living. Unfortunately, Christians often de-contextualize the NT’s hortatory material. Theologians often emphasize the indicative-imperative to counteract this atomistic reading, but perhaps what we should do instead is to emphasize our existence in the kingdom and ensure believers understand what Jesus taught about the kingdom. This simply broadens the “indicative” beyond the cross to include the New Creation’s breaking into this old age.
  3. Biblical theology is more needed than ever. Systematic theology focuses on soteriology, Christology, and the like. Systematic theology can be atomistic and subjective by treating only the themes that the theologian cares about, and by divorcing atemporal truths from redemptive history. Pauline fanatics quickly forget about the kingdom and emphasize the indicative-imperative, while Jesus devotees preach the kingdom without being able to articulate well the implications of it. Biblical theology ensures that we read the entire Bible together without separating corpora from each other.

What about you? What conclusions would you draw from the data of the use of “kingdom” language in the NT?


Todd Scacewater (PhD in Hermeneutics) is a pastor and Research Fellow in Christian social ethics.

This post was originally published on his blog Exegetical Tools as Sparcity of Kingdom Language Among the Apostles on February 21 2017.


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  1. John 3:3, 5; 18:36; Acts 1:3, 6; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31; Rom 14:17; 1 Cor 4:20; 6:9-10; 15:24, 50; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:5; Col 1:13; 4:11; 1 Thess 2:12; 2 Thess 1:5; 2 Tim 4:1, 18; Heb 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Pet 1:11; Rev 1:9; 12:10.
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toddscacewater

Todd Scacewater (PhD) is a pastor, father, soccer coach, coffee roaster, and founder of http://exegeticaltools.com where he helps pastors and students regain, retain, and improve their biblical languages.

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37 comments
  • Thank you for taking the time to collect and summarise this information so succinctly. I especially appreciate the practical and pastoral implications of your ‘analysis’ section.

    A clarifying question: Are you suggesting that Biblical Theology is superior to Systematics in that it takes into account the sweep of redemptive history, or are you rather calling for a parity between the two disciplines? Or have I missed the point entirely?

    Appreciate your thoughts. Liam

    • Liam, a delayed reply that I hope you see: Systematics and biblical theology are both necessary and are complimentary. I don’t quite agree with Vos that the same material is used to draw a circle (systematics) or a line (BT), since I believe the evidence is interpreted quite differently and not just laid out differently. I only mean that BT should come before ST, in my opinion, and that when we go to formulate concepts for systematics such as “kingdom” we should not only focus on where the concept or word shows up (the Gospels), but also on where the concept will be assumed (Paul and the rest). Only a BT perspective would lead us to consider that.

  • It is the center of the circle of all the christian teachings.
    May be the center of a big circle is very small compared to the hole area of the circle itself, but, in spite of that, it has the most importance.
    these things are not able to be measured by meters, but by its meanings, may be a just single word has bigger effects more than many explaining words, like the few words of an important theory, which are more important than the long explanations. We need both the theory and the explanations, but we must give everything its real value.

  • A couple of things strike me in this submission. One is that the basic research submitted may warrant a suggestion as posted, but is begging if a conclusion about the kingdom should result. If the apostles were not so decisive, should we assume that they were certain that they were in the kingdom? (How about the question in Acts 1:6, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”) Secondly, the conclusion of the meaning of systematic theology versus biblical theology here seems thin for the purposes of this submission. It seems that this briefing is for a conversation starter.

    • About the question in Acts 1:6, it was before the day of the Holy Spirit upon them, but after it they were not speaking at all about the kingdom of Israel, but rather the kingdom of heaven.
      That day has the effect of the beginning of the church, because it changed everything, even the minds.

      • My brief note was to highlight the futurity of the kingdom. The research submitted recognizes an “assumption” of what the kingdom meant to the apostles and that they “were” living in the kingdom. Acts 1:3, 6 enables us to see the importance of kingdom teaching and its possible futurity to Israel. The initial submission appears to equate in some way the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of Christ. Are the apostles aware of the kingdom to Israel? And it what way is that kingdom related to the kingdom of God? I am unclear about the reference to Pentecost and how that would remove any question about the kingdom to Israel.

        • Many thanks for continuing that useful discussion.
          About the view of the Apostles before the Pentecost, it is actually represented by all what they said in the four gospels until what they said in Act 1: 6, but after the Pentecost their way of thinking was changed completely, in the same chapter and what follows they preach the Israeli people not by the freedom of the Romans nor starting their own kingdom, but they were preaching them by the freedom from sin, and it means the kingdom of God/Christ/Heaven.
          As a general idea, I think that all what was in their new minds was to go the heaven with Jesus Christ, like Stephanus while dying, and like what Saint Paul said about his desire to go to heaven to be with Christ.
          I think that we say the same, and also think in the same way, but may be my English is not good enough.
          Thank you again.

  • As an example of the short and very important theory or rule, compared with longer explanations (and also important because it is written by the guide of God also, but in the second degree of importance if compared with the short theory):- the theory of virginity, as Our Lord said in: Math 19: 11 -12, compared with the longer explanations like in 1Cor 7: 25 -40

  • Signed up for this 8 hours ago, and have still not received this free book from LOGOS “Rendering the Word in Theological Hermeneutics: Mapping Divine and Human Agency – Mark Alan Bowald. Apparently it is free for everyone else, but not for me……..

  • Thank you this word-use analysis. Your observations seem sound, and I greatly appreciate them. I might nuance a thing or two, such as expanding the possible referent in Heb. 1:8 to include a revised, post-crucifixion and -resurrection concept of kingdom.

    I made a similar study in 2003 and then revised it while writing on aspects of Kingdom two years ago. I am increasingly seeing that kingdom is a pervasive concept for NT interpretation—and for Christian living in any era. I might go as far as to suggest that, when taken in tandem, (1) kingdom and (2) discipleship ideas pretty much envelop it all for Christian believers.

    My word-study work, which includes a display of all the words “in context.” may be found here: https://subjectsofthekingdomblog.wordpress.com/basileia-in-nt/. My grouping was different in that I did not group the synoptics together. Instead, I have “Jewish” literature (Matthew, 2Pet, and Hebrews), then Petrine, Pauline, Luke-Acts, and finally Johannine. Perhaps, my grouping could be as significant for analysis as taking the synoptics over against everything else. I had no predetermined purpose in grouping the way I did, but with mine—which takes each gospel in a separate literature group—I observe that Luke-Acts appears as the second-largest repository (behind Matthew-Hebrews-James). Paul’s connection with Luke might be noted here; we might then hypothesize that these major text-areas all duly emphasize kingdom:

    1 – early oral tradition about the Messiah Jesus—including “kingdom” references and concepts—that came to be written in Mark and Matthew (and Luke)
    2 – Luke-Acts—manifesting a sense of “kingdom” at work during a formative “early church” period of roughly 40 years

    As for Paul—and I wouldn’t necessarily assert this as significant—I observe that 9 of the 15 verses occur in the earlier letters Gal, 1 & 2 Thess, 1 Cor, and Rom. Perhaps the assumptions of kingdom need more articulate well established until the later 50s and 60s. Combining Pauline and Lukan references for analysis intrigues me.

    In addition, I would say that, when analyzing “kingdom,” the literary structure of certain documents (namely, Matthew and Mark) should be taken into account. In other words, frequency of word use shows something, but the specific placement of βασιλεία within the structure of a document can be integral in determining emphasis and meaning.

    I would like to correspond with you about possibly including your post as an appendix in my next book. I will probably also link to it on my site.

  • One of my sentences in the previous, extended comment needed proofreading.. In the third paragraph from the end, it should read as follows:

    >>Perhaps the assumptions of kingdom needed more articulation in the later 50s and 60s.

  • The Theocratic Kingdom, by George N. H. Peters thoroughly addresses all of the issues brought up here and much more. Unfortunately, Logos markets this 1860s work as Dispensational, which probably scares off many who would benefit from it. Also unfortunately, Peters is apparently seldom read and people continue to take up this topic as if they are breaking new ground. It’s hard for me to believe that those who attempt to make definitive statements on the Kingdom of God ignore this work. His three volumes are not a quick read and perhaps he is ignored in favor of shallower works, but even a perusal of his table of contents would benefit someone desiring to broach the topic. In my mind, any modern writers that address the subject of the Kingdom of God, Heaven, Christ, without responding to the arguments that Peters sets forth, have probably failed in their endeavor. Just a few of my thoughts for what it’s worth.

    • I appreciate knowing of the Peters work and suspect you are at least partially correct as to why the work has been (recently, at least) ignored. I have a sizable bibliography of works on this topic and have paged through a hundred more books and have never come across this one — or any reference to it. I have just put it on my shopping list. Another work that should not go unread for any serious pursuer of Kingdom is John Bright’s The Kingdom of God. A student of noted historian William Foxwell Albright, Bright treats Kingdom thoroughly and astutely through the periods of believing history.

      As for my own work, I have not been under any impression that I’ve been breaking new ground. I do have some evidence, including this Peters work and other works of the 19th and early 20th centuries, that some really well-plowed ground has been covered by sand and silt for decades, though!

      • I don’t know whether you were replying to Larry or me. At any rate, thanks for sharing this information. I have looked into purchasing the Peters book, but after having a brief look at the Youtube presentations you’ve referenced, I’m not as likely myself to acquire the book.

        I do appreciate that Randy White (presumably echoing Peters) says at the outset that he is not denying the spiritual aspects of the kingdom. However, the material here strikes me as set in a “niche,” and justifiably so. In this video — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pblMTnf7K9U — between 20 and 22 minutes, I find a rather unscholarly approach, a rather stilted view of historical context, and, more demonstrably, a decided lack of awareness of literary context and textual/linguistic features such as the semantic range of basileia.

        I do not at all discount the possibility that a relatively isolated student of scripture might come upon some massive truths and set them out in a tome. I’m just not sure that Peters, however sincere, is such a man who offered something eminently worthwhile to the world.

        • I was responding to Larry Heflin . I find all the emphasis on scholarly assumptions a distraction and mainly useless to rightly dividing the scriptures.

  • The reason that the kingdom is rarely referenced after the Synoptics, especially in Paul’s epistles, is because it has been placed on hold until after the Tribulation. The Church is not now, nor will it ever be, the Kingdom of God. The phrase “kingdom is heaven” was used exclusively by Matthew to refer to the physical, literal kingdom of the Messiah.

    The Acts 1:6 question is essential because the apostles expected Jesus to rule physically in Jerusalem as the Hebrew prophets had foretold. They realized that Jesus had offered his kingdom to Israel but was rejected as their Messiah (as shown in the Synoptics); thus, he cursed that generation and removed the kingdom from them.

    After his rejection, Jesus said that he would build his church/congregation, not his kingdom. Paul’s epistles teach that we are the Church, the Body of Christ, not the Kingdom or in the Kingdom. It is not “already”; it is still future.

    That’s why the Synoptics are so heavy and the rest of the NT is so light on the topic.

    • That is a rather absolutist position to take. I read it as a conversation-stopper, and that may be how you intended it. In this post, you have almost set up an either-or proposition along with the tribulation theory. However, there are additional options, and one of those is that the Kingdom was and is primarily **unseen** — and as such, neither is it summed up in a Jerusalem throne in any era or in the church per se. This is the option to which I am partial.

      • Hi Brian,

        Yes, I understand that there are many other options that people prefer to take. However, the article gave three reasons why the kingdom didn’t show up much in the early Church writings, and the writer asked how we see the data. When the context of Scripture is put together, my conclusions are different.

        I do maintain an absolute position that the promises God gave to people in the past he intends to fulfill literally, not in an *unseen) way. I read the Bible in its plain, natural sense, which leads me to conclude that the kingdom is yet future and that the apostles knew that (although they certainly didn’t know how far into the future it would be), so they focused on the Church, which Jesus is building in this age, rather than the Kingdom which he will establish later.

        • Daniel, thank you for this reply. Somewhat like you, I believe there are future aspects to the kingdom, but I defnitely . “Plain and natural” seems attractive, but it does not express a very helpful paradigm — at least not for me. Some readers insist on saying each verse “means what it says,” and they move on. I’m not suggesting that describes you, but we all must admit a large degree of interpretation as readers, no matter what our paradigm for reading. I interpret, and you interpret. We just choose different starting points, perhaps.

          The scriptures of course contain much figurative text, poetic text, and other types, so they cannot be read flatly, as though they had all been put into some sort of holy blender that made it all the same color. I suspect (based perhaps unfairly on this brief interchange) that you and I might have a different grasp of the nature of scripture. I try to take one book by itself, later perhaps comparing it to others by the same inspired author or within the same historical context. I believe context is to be considered on an individual-document level (e.g., Matthew’s context is not that of John or Paul’s letter to the Philippians). Documents are in the Bible because they are inspired, not vice versa. I think of this as a differently conservative way to view scripture. Where this comes into play with “Kingdom” is probably clear to you. I would assert that GMatthew’s “Kingdom” is first to be viewed separately from Paul’s mentions in 1Cor or Romans. We may find commonality — especially with such a dramatically pervasive word-concept — but we will do better not to mash them all together as a first impulse, I would say.
          Thanks again for your thoughts.

    • You may want to take a look at George Eldon Ladd’s book on the Kingdom of God in which he discusses the reality of the Kingdom being both ‘already and not yet’; already here but ‘not yet’ consumate. Blessings.

  • As I have said before, there are two periods or phases, one is before the Pentecost, the other is after it.
    Before that day, the apostles were been led by the general ideas of the people, almost all their were speaking about the earthy kingdom.
    But after that day, they were been led by the holy Spirit, their minds became new, their aims stopped to be about the earth a and all that upon it, they all, in all their writing and speeches, after that day, were focusing upon the heaven, and only the heaven.
    It is completely another phase.
    And all the teachings of our Lord, focus also upon the spiritual kingdom, like saying: the kingdom of God is inside or among you.

  • The comments about systematic theology are wide off the mark. It is biblical theology (as a discipline, not as in “theology that is biblical,” which all should be) that tends more towards the atomistic–“e.g., I’m doing Pauline theology, therefore I will not look at the Synoptics to inform an answer.” It is systematics that, by definition, “ensures that we read the entire Bible together without separating corpora from each other,” whereas, most often, biblical theology does not.

    Also, we systematic theologians will start taking the findings of biblical studies/biblical theology more seriously once you guys are able to reach a consensus about, well, anything. 😉

    • What an entirely different perspective you bring. As for “atomistic,” I suppose the charge could be leveled at either perspective, depending on what one considers to be the “atoms.”

      I would assert that the goal should be no means be to “read the entire Bible together without separating corpora from each other.” To do so, or even to hint at the supposed need or advisability of doing so, is to operate from within a particular viewpoint (worldview) regarding scripture. I reject that viewpoint, preferring to consider each document as it stood originally — as much as that is possible — and also to consider authorship and historical context, as appropriate. I have little interest in any text scholar’s studies being taken more seriously by a discipline appears to be built on extra-textual, historical constructs. Biblical studies, as a discipline, carries some subjectivity, to be sure (and some imagination and speculation may be valuable in any pursuit), but the worthy text scholars are guided by sound principles that hark back to the original (language and document and rhetoric and author), however indistinct the precise original may prove to be in a given case.

      I have said the above in an effort not to influence you (there appears to be little chance of our influencing one another here) so much as to present to anyone less informed that there are (at least) two ways. Wherever text scholarship and any kind of theological pursuit are found in conflict, I choose biblical studies.

  • This article caught my eye because of the topic of the “kingdom” in the Bible. If someone wants to go deep on this topic, I recommend the book “When A Jew Rules the World” by Joel Richardson. Richardson opened my eyes to the fact that Jesus was talking about a real kingdom in which He will reign from Jerusalem over the nations of the earth – a day that the prophets of the Old Covenant looked forward to with anticipation. Yes, we New Covenant believers are already experiencing some of the blessings of the “kingdom of God”, but it begins for real on the day of the Lord’s return and the resurrection of believers in Christ. The “kingdom” is exciting to think about where the redeemed will inhabit resurrected bodies and go about the eternally glorifying God, building up the ancient ruins, turning weapons of war to productive uses, exercising dominion over the world as it was meant to be originally without sin’s contamination, and fulfilling God’s dream that He will be our God and we shall be His people.

    • ——– we do not have here an enduring city:-
      + My Kingdom is not from (ek) this world. Joh 18: 36.
      + For we do not have here an enduring city, but we seek that which is to come. Heb 13:14
      + But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10

  • Larry, thanks for bringing up Peters, that was an excellent work and the above entry. I also think there are two issues here.

    Is. 9.6. Because unto us a child is born; (Is. 7.14) a son is given; who will bear all (Mt. 28.18; c.f. 1 Cor. 15.25) leadership on (Is. 22.22) His shoulders; He is called the Messenger of Great counsel and His name is Almighty God, (Is.10.21, Ps. 45.17) Eternal, Prince of Peace, (Ep. 2.14-15), 7. His government shall increase and of His peace there will be no end: it will be upon the throne of David; His Kingdom established, upheld with judgment and righteousness, from now unto the epoch and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.

    (Jer. 33.14-16; c.f. 30.1, 31.27-28, 31.38-40; Ps. 89.4; Luke 1.32-33; Ezek. 48.35; 33.17-18, c.f. 2 Sam. 7:8-16; 1 Chr. 17.4-14; Jer. 35, Jer. 36, Jer. 37)

    I think one reason the Kingdom is not mentioned much in the Epistles is due to the word imminence being misinterpreted by so many. Yes, Paul’s language to the Corinthians e.g. (1 Cor. 51-52) and (1 Thess 4.12-18) where he divulged the μυστήριον “mystery” which, in all its LXX usage and most of its NT usage, μυστήριον is better rendered, Hidden, a Secret not revealed until the age of grace.

    Paul includes himself in both examples as part of the “we” (ὑμῖν). However, while he did mean the second advent was possible while he still walked the earth, I am not persuaded in any way that Paul or anyone taught it would happen for certain within a short time. He was fully cognoscente that imminent could have meant 3 hours or 3,000 years and I believe we are told exactly why this was prevalent in the NT and the early church.

    Whenever the Lord does come to establish His Kingdom, it will be like a “thief in the night.” The key was and is to always have a mindset, complemented with actions, that one’s life is always conducted accordingly, as if His imminence could be in 5 seconds.

    The Kingdom was upon the Jewish nation and they rejected it. It was thus placed aside, but God will never brake His Eternal Covenant with His Elect Nation Israel, any more than He would break His covenant in the age of Grace for His Elect Gentiles. God will never un-elect His nation, or His elect, let’s remember, “gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

    One can also be an individual Elect Jew or Gentile. That has nothing to do with His Elect Nation Israel and His Covenant Promises. Without moving the discussion to one of God’s absolute Sovereignty, His mercy continues to call out a remnant of individual Jews, in this age of Grace moving to the fullness of the Gentiles.

    However, this was foreknown and predestined before the world began. To imply God would change His mind and cast away His Elect nation, to which He made covenant promises, which were always based on literal land, is to imply He did not know His Elect Nation would reject the Christ. I don’t believe Armenians even hold to such a view of Sovereignty, which is saying that God reacted to the free will of His Elect nation, had no idea what would happen and took away their land He promised to them. YET., He still offered salvation to individuals Jews (both the Jew and the Greek). I can’t make sense of that. Also, while I’m reformed please do not take my comment on Armenians as any type of insult, it was just an illustration of Sovereignty. The Elect Nation of Israel’s Salvation was also hidden.

    Romans 11:

    “25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27. “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

  • Todd, Thank you for your post, a few questions concerning your analysis (wondering if leaps were made on some points):

    1. How many of the 135 gospel occurrences are unique pericopes?
    I noticed that you paid particular attention to the number of pericopes in the epistles but not in the gospels–why was that? From your data, it seems that we would want to consider that the 103 occurrences in the synoptic gospels describe some of the same events/speeches, meaning that the gospel writers might agree on the emphasis of kingdom in recording Jesus’ word 30ish times. The analysis would then emphasize 30ish rather than 135. That is, instead of adding up the occurrences to gain a picture of emphasis, wouldn’t we want to compare the # of unique pericopes to get that data?

    2. Is the drop-off from the gospels to the epistles individual authors really that significant of a drop-off?
    Asking this question in 2 areas: First, in the area of the number of occurrences: It seemed like you were making a particular point based upon the falling off of the number significantly. How significant is the drop really when not thinking about “135” to “27” but “30ish” (i.e., unique occurrences in the gospel accounts) to “20ish” (non-gospel accounts). Do you have those exact figures too? Second, in the area of appropriate context. I considered from your data that if the drop is significant where would the places be that we should be seeing kingdom emphasis that we don’t. That is, as solutions to church problems are discussed in the epistles, where would be the “missed opportunities” to use kingdom themes. Of course, we don’t want to place ourselves above the text in this type of analysis but noticing the places it isn’t mentioned might be part of this study to understand “kingdom” better.

    3. Is a word study of one word alone sufficient to do biblical theology?
    I noticed you drew attention to biblical theology but your analysis seemed to be based on one particular word (not a word group, synonyms, or thematic phrases surrounding that word). What other words/phrases should be considered for a biblical theology of kingdom in the NT (e.g., throne, rule, judge…)? I would think that a phrase you separated out “David’s coming kingdom” would be ripe to include in Messiah’s kingdom because of the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7). Could you explain why you isolated this one word alone for the implications of your analysis?

    • These are great questions, constituting good contributions to this discussion. Obviously, Todd can speak for himself, but I’d like to share some thoughts, too. First, combining questions 1 and 2: you are probably right that it’s not nearly as significant a “drop-off” if all the gospels are taken together. Common gospel sources (i.e., Q and oral tradition) ought to come into this picture, and any differences among the synoptics would warrant text-critical and theological consideration.

      On the other hand, chronology of authorship might be considered, as well. By that I mean that if Mark is presumed to have been drafted earliest, his usage of “Kingdom” might be viewed differently from Luke’s. Let’s say Luke does not include something that Mark included. That may indicate a chronological “drop-off” (but not necessarily a background decrease in concern over Kingdom among Christ-devotees). If we assume all the synoptics roughly reached final form sometime in the late 60s, this paragraph loses significance.

      Question # 3 might be considered differently if the sphere is assumed to be biblical/textual studies instead of “biblical theology.” If this is a strictly text-based word study, it seems a sufficient approach, but if we are trying to expand to theology a la Kittel and others, we might legitimately expand the data field to include words phrases such as those you mention. It seems to me that both are important — both strict word studies in the available texts and biblical theology, that is.

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