Kingdom of God in the New Testament
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
Bunnell, Brian Wesley
This thesis addresses a central problem in the field of New Testament and Christian Origins: the early Christian syntagm βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, “kingdom of God.” It approaches the question by means of a series of case studies, namely, the idiom βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ and its use in the texts that later became part of the New Testament. The question that drives this study is, how do the texts of the New Testament use the expression? Or to put it another way, what is the function of βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in the New Testament? Thus, this work provides an exegetical analysis of each text in question, and then uses this evidence to describe how the expression functions in the New Testament as a whole. In addition, this thesis is particularly interested in determining how later kingdom of God texts (e.g., disputed Paul, Matthew, Luke, John) make uses of earlier kingdom of God texts (undisputed Paul, Sayings Gospel Q, Mark) and thus betray the way the expression functions through time. This methodological approach provides a historical and exegetical basis for drawing a number of fascinating conclusions about the syntagm that have previously been overlooked, and furthermore, avoids the interpretive missteps of previous research, which tends to reduce the value of the expression to a predetermined lexical, temporal, or theological category. The thesis begins with an overview of the study. It summarizes the modern problem of the kingdom of God in scholarly discourse to justify the need for the project. It advocates for a historical-critical approach, with a focus on linguistic and sequential methodology. The linguist method is used to analyze how the expression βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ functions at the sentence and paragraph level. The sequential method is proposed (not one of strict chronology) in order to discern the ways that the expression is used through time. Furthermore, redaction criticism is put forward as a tool for discerning the reuse of the expression. The term “New Testament” is understood to mean those books that later became the New Testament. The expression “kingdom of God language” is taken to include the syntagm βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ or something very close to it. The thesis is organized into four parts, following a sequential order of the books of the New Testament that are covered. Part I consists of an analysis of βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in the Pauline Corpus. Chapter 1 deals with how the expression functions in the letters that are undisputed, and Chapter 2 examines those texts that are disputed. A conclusion at the end of chapter 2 offers a comparison and summary. Part II lays the foundation for studying βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in the Gospels. Chapter 3 investigates βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in the Sayings Gospel Q, and Chapter 4 examines βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in Mark. Part III builds on Part II by identifying the several lexical and semantic adjustments that later authors make to the expression. Thus, chapter 5 explores these phenomena in the Gospel of Matthew, and Chapter 6 explores the same in Luke-Acts. Chapter 7 analyzes βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in the Gospel of John. Part IV considers the final text that uses βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in the New Testament, the Apocalypse of John. In sum, this study shows that in the New Testament the syntagm βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ is not reducible to a single category or to a theological cipher but is a malleable expression that functions in a variety of ways. An additional finding is the extent to which later authors felt free to change not just the function of the expression in its syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations, but also to make linguistic modifications as they felt appropriate. These findings provide several meaningful results. First, it ends those tracks of debate in kingdom of God research that are set on using a single category to explain the diverse range of material that appears in the New Testament. Second, it highlights the compositional significance of Mark and Q as a source for subsequent New Testament Gospels. Third, it draws attention to the way New Testament authors use kingdom of God language to develop their Christology. Fourth, and finally, it opens new fields of research with respect to pneumatology, Christology, and eschatology in Pauline studies.