Christian Eschatology and Social Thought: A Historical Essay on the Social Implications of Some Selected Aspects in Christian Eschatology to A.D. 1500

By Ray C. Petry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
The Response of Temporal Society to the Eternal Kingdom

1. In the Thought of Jesus

THERE CAN BE LITTLE DOUBT THAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD COMES FIRST in all of Jesus' teachings. It is the preoccupation of his whole existence. This assumption is not based upon any arbitrary collection of recorded statements. It is possible only because it alone fits into the range and character of his whole being1 In spite of controverted passages, one may derive clear expressions of Jesus' feeling about the kingdom2 It was, first of all, thought of as the ultimate of all societies. To what precise degree he thought of this community as having already been inaugurated is not wholly clear. He evidently believed that it was already in existence to the extent that the Father had even now surrounded himself with some of his creatures who would reign with him forever. At some undisclosed time, known only to God, still other beings would be joined to him in keeping with the consummation which he had planned from the beginning of the world.

Jesus did not concern himself primarily with the numerical extent

____________________
1
K. Müller, Kirchengeschichte ( 3rd ed., Tübingen, 1938), 1, 59-67; S. J. Case, Jesus, A New Biography ( Chicago, 1927), pp. 419-41; H. Lietzmann, The Beginnings of the Christian Church ( London, 1937); Hügel, Eternal Life, pp. 62-66; Luke 12:22-31; Matt. 6:25-33; Matt. 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62.
2
Critical guidance in texts and interpretation is available in H. Lietzmann's Handbuch zum Neuen Testament with E. Klostermann, Das Matthausevangelium ( 2nd ed., Tübingen, 1927), and his (with H. Gressmann) Das Lukasevangelium ( Tübingen, 1919); also D. W. Bauer, Das Johannesevangelium ( Tübingen, 1925). Always useful for parallel Greek Texts is A. Huck, H. Lietzmann, and F. L. Cross, A Synopsis of the First Three Gospels ( Tübingen, 1936). Particularly helpful for running commentary on parallel texts is The Mission and Message of Jesus: An Exposition of the Gospels in the Light of Modern Research by H. D. A. Major, T. W. Manson, and C. J. Wright ( London, 1937), especially Book II, "The Sayings of Jesus", pp. 301-639, by T. W. Manson . See also Manson's The Teaching of Jesus ( Cambridge, 1945), especially chapters VIII and IX. Throwing continuing light upon the whole is W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, notably Chap. X. Cf. J. Héring, Le royaume de Dieu et sa venue: étude sur l'esperance de Jésus et de l'Apotre Paul ( Paris, 1937).

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