Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Is the Kingdom of God within You?

How shall we render ἐντὸς ὑμῶν in Lk. 17:21? The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates the phrase: “The kingdom of God is among you.” Some translations (though not generally modern ones) have rendered the phrase “within you” (e.g., KJV, NKJV). “The kingdom of God is within you.”

Initially you might not think the question important enough to ask. But the question is important because how one answers this question shapes, to one degree or another, how one understands the nature of the kingdom of God. In the past taking the passage as “the kingdom of God is within you” was sometimes all-determining for how the kingdom of God was understood. It was sometimes thought of as an entirely or dominantly internal reality. 

But is this correct? Is the kingdom of God in Lk. 17:21 an internal reality experienced by those who embrace the Lord Jesus in saving faith? Or is it an external reality in some sense? “The kingdom of God is in your midst” (ESV).

Writing in 1903, Geerhardus Vos says this about rendering Lk. 17:21:
“In your midst” deserves the preference for two reasons: first, because it suits best the purpose of the question of the Pharisees, which was as to the time of the coming of the kingdom, not as to its sphere, and because of the unbelieving Pharisees it could scarcely be said that the kingdom was “within” them. Our Lord means to teach the enquirers that, instead of a future thing to be fixed by apocalyptic speculation, the coming of the kingdom is a present thing, present in the very midst of those who are curious about the day and the hour of its sometime appearance.[1]
I think Vos got it right over a hundred years ago, mainly by doing contextual exegesis. For reasons similar to those adduced by Vos, no doubt, modern translations almost invariably go with a translation such as "in your midst" or "among you." And so, at least in this passage, the kingdom of God is an external reality, not internal. How was this so? Well, the King was among them. The promised Davidic king, the Lord Jesus, King of God's everlasting promised kingdom, had come. And his presence inaugurated the coming of the kingdom of God.

[1] Geerhardus Vos, The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church (New York: American Tract Society, 1903), 52–53.

No comments:

Post a Comment