Christian Origins and the Language of the Kingdom of God


Traditionally, scholars have traced the origin of Christianity to a single source -- the kingdom of God as represented in the message of the historical Jesus. Through a rhetorical critical analysis of one of the most important texts in early Christian literature (the Beelzebul controversy), Michael L. Humphries addresses the issue of Christian origins, demonstrating how the language of the kingdom of God is best understood according to its locative or taxonomic effect where the demarcation of social and cultural boundaries contributes to the emergence of this new social foundation.

Humphries focuses on the Beelzebul controversy because the text plays a significant role in the history of New Testament scholarship; it is one of the few texts frequently regarded as a key to the interpretation of Jesus's understanding of the kingdom of God and thus a point of significant contention in the scholarly debate.

The Beelzebul controversy exists in two versions -- Q and Mark -- and thereby allows the study to engage the import of the kingdom language at the point of juxtaposition between two distinct textual representations. This makes it possible to deal directly with the issue of the disparity of texts in the synoptic tradition. Humphries suggests that these two versions of the same controversy indicate two distinct social trajectories wherein the kingdom of God comes to mean something quite different in each case but that nevertheless they demonstrate a similarity in theoretical effect where the language contributes to the emergence of relatively distinct social formations.

Humphries establishes the Q and Markan versions of the Beelzebul controversy as relatively sophisticatedcompositions that are formally identified as elaborate chreiai (a literary form used in the teaching of rhetoric at the secondary and post-secondary level of Greco-Roman education) and that offer an excellent example of the rhetorical

Additional information

Includes content by:
  • Burton L. Mack
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Carbondale, IL
Publication year:
  • 1999