The imminent Kingdom of God was the topic Jesus taught about more than any other. Matthew’s gospel calls it the ‘Kingdom of Heaven‘ but that’s because he was following the Jewish custom of avoiding mentioning the sacred name of Jehovah (God.) It’s the same thing. The Scholar’s Version translation from the Jesus Seminar which I am using calls it ‘God’s domain’ and ‘God’s imperial rule.’
Lines 3 and 4 of the Zingcreed Manifesto on which this blog is based, state
3/ We believe Jesus’s teachings are still relevant today and that when we apply them in our daily lives we bring the “Kingdom of God” into being, however fleetingly;
4/ We believe this ”Kingdom of God” on earth is open to all, whether believers or not, and that it may resemble a utopian democratic republic where no-one has power over anyone else.
(That was written a year and a half ago. I think I would go further today and [in the words of a book reviewer on Amazon called R. N. Sanders] call the Kingdom of God “Jesus’s alternative social vision. It is a counterworld of unfailing justice, full inclusion, authentic freedom, incredible love, astounding forgiveness, sheer grace and unending peace.” I like that and I shall probably rewrite the Zingcreed Manifesto to include it.)
As explained in the earlier Post “Jesus’s 5200 authentic words” on which this Post is based, the gospels have been whittled down by the American academics who constitute the Jesus Seminar to 18% of their original length. Their selection is a concentrated, purified version of the original: a residual gold nugget. The rest, much of which we know and love, is dross and was made up by the early Christians who had the best of intentions. If you want to draw aside a veil and catch a glimpse of the ‘historical Jesus’ that scholars have been searching for for centuries, then this is probably as close as you’re going to get this century. Check out Geza Vermes (i) and Gerd Ludemann (ii) for alternative one-man versions. They don’t differ greatly from the Seminar.
21% of Jesus’s accurately recorded words (1080 out of 5236) were about the Kingdom according to the Seminar’s database (iii). For what modern religious writers like Crossan and Sanders and Vermes make of it all (because, it must be said, Jesus is not clear) check out the Zingcreed Post called “The Kingdom of God: A kingdom of nuisances and nobodies” where I attempt to summarise what current thought is. This has nothing to with evangelical fantasies of fire, angels, trumpets, graves opening and divine judgement. That obsolete fundamentalist nonsense passed its sell-by date long ago and should have been consigned to the dustbin of history by now.
So here is category 2 of the authentic words of Jesus in the order in which they appear in Funk (iii). Some quotes are from the ‘fifth’ gospel of Thomas. Topic: the kingdom, or God’s domain. Jesus’s 15 statements are:-
- “Let the children come up to me, don’t try to stop them. After all, God’s domain belongs to people like that. I swear to you, whoever doesn’t accept God’s imperial rule the way a child would, certainly won’t ever set foot in god’s domain!” (Mk 10:13-15)
- (Heaven’s imperial rule) “is like a mustard seed. It’s the smallest of all seeds, but when it falls on prepared soil, it produces a large plant, which becomes a shelter for birds of the sky.” (Thom 20:1-4)
- “What does God’s imperial rule remind me of? It is like leaven that a woman took and concealed in 50 pounds of flour until it was all leavened.” (Lk 13:20-21)
- “The Father’s imperial rule is like a woman who was carrying a jar full of meal. While she was walking along a distant road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal spilled behind her along the road. She didn’t know it; she hadn’t noticed a problem. When she reached her house, she put the jar down and discovered that it was empty.” (Thom 97:1-4)
- “Heaven’s imperial rule is like a proprietor who went out the first thing in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers for a silver coin a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
And coming around 9 a.m., he saw others loitering in the marketplace, and he said to them, “You go into the vineyard too, and I’ll pay you whatever is fair.” So they went.
Around noon he went out again, and at 3 p.m. he repeated the process. Around 5 p.m. he went out and found others loitering about and says to them, “Why did you stand around here idle the whole day?”
They reply, “Because no one hired us.”
He tells them, “You go into the vineyard as well.”
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard tells the foreman: “Call the workers and pay them their wages starting with those hired last and ending with those hired first.”
Those hired at 5 p.m. came up and received a silver coin each. Those hired first approached, thinking they would receive more. But they also got a silver coin apiece. They took it and began to grumble against the proprietor: “These guys hired last only worked an hour but you have made them equal to us who did most of the work during the heat of the day.”
In response he said to one of them, “Look, pal, did I wrong you? You did agree with me for a silver coin, didn’t you? Take your wage and get out! I intend to treat the one hired last the same way I treat you. Is there some law forbidding me to do as I please with my own money? Or is you eye filled with envy because I am generous?” ” (Mt 20:1-15)
- “But if by God’s finger I drive out demons, then for you God’s imperial rule has arrived.” (Lk 11:20)
- “This is why Heaven’s imperial rule should be compared to a secular ruler who decides to settle accounts with his slaves. When the process began, this debtor was brought to him who owed him ten million dollars. Since he couldn’t pay it back, the ruler ordered him sold along with his wife and children and everything he had, so he could recover his money.
At this prospect, the slave fell down and groveled before him: ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll repay every cent.’ Because he was compassionate, the master of that slave let him go and cancelled the debt.
As soon as he got out, that same fellow collared one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred dollars, and grabbed him by the neck and demanded: ‘Pay back what you owe!’
His fellow slave fell down and begged him: ‘Be patient with me and I’ll pay you back.’
But he wasn’t interested; instead. he went out and threw him in prison until he paid the debt.
When his fellow slaves realised what had happened, they were terribly distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had taken place.
At that point, his master summoned him: ‘You wicked slave,’ he says to him, ‘I cancelled your entire debt because you begged me. Wasn’t it only fair for you to treat your fellow slave with the same consideration as I treated you?’ And the master was so angry he handed him over to those in charge of punishment until he paid back everything he owed.” (Mt 18:23-34)
- “Heaven’s imperial rule is like treasure hidden in a field: when someone finds it, that person covers it up again, and out of sheer joy goes and sells every last possession and buys that field.” (Mt 13:44)
- “The father’s imperial rule is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and then found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself.” (Thom 76:1-2)
- “God’s imperial rule is like this: Suppose someone sows seed on the ground, and goes to bed and gets up day after day, and the seed sprouts and matures, although the sower is unaware of it. The earth produces fruit on its own, first a shoot, then a head, then mature grain on the head. But when the grain ripens, all of a sudden that farmer sends for the sickle, because it’s harvest time.” (Mk 4:26-29)
- “The Father’s imperial rule is like a person who wanted to kill someone powerful. While still at home he drew his sword and thrust it into the wall to find out whether his hand would go in. Then he killed the powerful one.” (Thom 98:1-3)
- (The father’s imperial rule) “will not come by watching for it. it will not be said ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘Look, over there!’ rather, the Father’s imperial rule is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.” (Thom 113:1-4)
- “You won’t be able to observe the coming of God’s imperial rule. People are not going to be able to say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘Over there!’ On the contrary, God’s imperial rule is right there in your presence.”
Jesus prayed, “Father, impose your imperial rule.”
- “I swear to you, it is very difficult for the rich to enter heaven’s domain. And again I tell you, it’s easier for a camel to squeeze through a needle’d eye than for a wealthy person to get into God’s domain.” (Mk 19:23-24)
- “There are castrated men who were born that way, and there are castrated men who were castrated by others, and there are castrated men who castrated themselves because of heaven’s imperial rule.” (Mt 19:12)
(i) Vermes, Geza “The authentic gospel of Jesus” Penguin (2003)
(ii) Ludemann, Gerd “Jesus after 2000 years. What he really said and did.” SCM Press (2000)
(iii) Funk, R.W. and the Jesus Seminar “The gospel of Jesus according to the Jesus Seminar” Polebridge Press (1999)
(iv) Funk, R.W., Hoover, R.W. and the Jesus Seminar “The five gospels. What did Jesus really say?” HarperCollins (1993)
(1) the 14 authentic parables
(2) this one
(4) 19 authentic instructions to followers
(5) the 17 authentic pearls of wisdom (aphorisms)
(6) healing words
(7) Talks to the disciples
(8) the 3 biblical quotations
(9) authentic words of prayer
(10) 20 words about himself
The doubts of Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar
Temporary Autonomous Zones and the kingdom of God
The kingdom of God: a kingdom of nuisances and nobodies
[285 linked & indexed, t&c]