Posts Tagged ‘Kingdom of God’

 While reading 1 Corinthians 6, I started wondering about a few things. This is the result – keep in mind that I’ve only grabbed resources I had handy.

The phrase ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (“the kingdom of (the) God”) – both nouns with the article – occurs 64 times in the New Testament, according to the NA27 text. Only 5 of these instances occur outside of the Gospels and Acts (Rom 14:17; 1 Cor 4:20; Col 4:11; 2 Thess 1:5; Rev 12:10). In John, the expression occurs only in 3:3 and 3:5.

1 Thess 2:12 reads very close to the synoptic expression (if one may call it that): ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ καλοῦντος ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ βασιλείαν καὶ δόξαν (“worthy of (the) God who has called you into (the) his kingdom and glory”). In this instance “God” was substituted by the pronoun.

In 1 Cor 6:9-10, “kingdom of God” forms an inclusio for those who will not inherit it: θεοῦ βασιλείαν … βασιλείαν θεοῦ. This forms an AB – BA pattern (i.e. a chiasm). One could almost think of this pattern as a textual metaphor for the gates of the kingdom – however, that would be more in line with the synoptic way of thinking. In 1 Cor 15:50, Paul also speaks of inheritance, adding no article to the expression (βασιλείαν θεοῦ), as also in Gal 5:21. On the sight of it, Paul prefers not to place definite articles before the two nouns.

In Ephesians 5, the expression is changed to ἔχει κληρονομίαν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ (“has an inheritance in the kingdom of (the) Christ and God”). The last part of the verse has some notable text-critical problems. Papyrus 46 reads τοῦ θεοῦ (as does 1245 2147; also Tertullian (220), according to Ehrman (Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 1993, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 269). This can easily be explained as harmonization to the synoptics. F, G and one Bohairic manucript reads τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ Χριστοῦ, so does Ambrosiaster (366-384). Metzger (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 1975, London: UBS) is of the opinion that this too could be due to influence from the Gospels. If anything, the original reading could have been only τοῦ Χριστοῦ (in 2 Tim 4:1, Heb 1:8 and Rev 1:9, too, it is Christ’s kingdom), changed by a scribe to conform to the synoptics (P46, τοῦ θεοῦ). The NA27 reading could then possibly be a conflation between these two. However, the more natural way to conflate these readings would probably be in the order “kingdom of God and Christ”, not the other way around. Although this reading does occur (the original reading of 1739, the Ethiopian tradition, and Theodoret read Χριστοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ), there would be no point in switching the two around (see also Ehrman, p.269). Therefore, the NA27 reading is most probably correct, as it best explains the others. (Note: both Metzger and Tischendorf give some more readings, which is obviously secondary.)

FOOTNOTES: In general, there are four “traditions” of speaking of the kingdom of God.

1) The Gospels talk either of entering the kingdom of God, or of the nearness of the kingdom of God. (Also Rev 12:10?)

2) Mark and Luke sometimes explains the nature of the kingdom of God, e.g. Mark 4:11,26,30; 10:14,15; Luke 8:10; 13:18,20; 18:16 (but see 18:17!)

3) Acts (and sometimes Luke, e.g. 4:43; 8:1; 9:2,11,60; 16:16) generally talks about preaching the kingdom of God. (Except for Acts 14:22).

4) Paul talks about inheriting the kingdom of God. (But see also 1 Cor 15:24!) This tradition, slightly modified, is also visible in Ephesians (5:5) and James (2:5); see also Matt 21:43, Luke 6:20.

I might advance the (very preliminary) hypothesis that by the time of the writing of the Gospels, the phrase ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ has become a fixed expression, while this is not so in the time of Paul. Whatever the case may be, “(the) kingdom of (the) God” is part and parcel of the Christian tradition, for sure.


1) I did not check all of these readings text-critically – this needs to be done before any definite conclusions can be reached. It would be interesting to see if there are tendencies in certain manuscripts to change the articles or readings, e.g. to conform to the synoptic tradition.

2) One needs to check the expression in the LXX, which I have not done. Does the phrase occur in a technical sense in the LXX, or perhaps in the Hebrew texts (e.g. MT or Qumran)?

3) Differences in the synoptic tradition should be checked against findings on Q.

4) The four “traditions” that I’ve identified need to be refined and some more categories added!

5) I’m not sure if there are any recent works on the Kingdom of God which concerns itself mainly with the textual level. Is there anything out there?


This post is part of a synchroblog on the theme of The Kingdom of God. You may see other posts on this theme at:

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