Kingdom of heaven (Gospel of Matthew)

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Kingdom of heaven (Greek: βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) is a phrase used in the Gospel of Matthew. It is generally seen as equivalent to the phrase "kingdom of God" (Greek: βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ) in the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke. Thought to be the main content of Jesus's preaching in the Gospel of Matthew, the "kingdom of heaven" described "a process, a course of events, whereby God begins to govern or to act as king or Lord, an action, therefore, by which God manifests his being-God in the world of men."[1]

Compared with "kingdom of God"[edit]

Howard Clarke notes that Matthew 3:2 is the first of twenty-nine references to the "kingdom of heaven" in the Gospel of Matthew.[2] The gospels of Luke and Mark tend to prefer the term "kingdom of God." That Matthew uses the word "heaven" is often seen as a reflection of the sensibilities of the Jewish audience this gospel was directed to, and thus tried to avoid the word "God." Most scholars feel the two phrases are theologically identical.

Robert Foster rejects this view. He finds the standard explanation hard to believe as Matthew uses the word "God" many other times and even uses the phrase "kingdom of God" four times. Foster argues that, to Matthew, the two concepts were different. For Foster, the word "heaven" had an important role in Matthew's theology and links the phrase especially to "Father in heaven," which Matthew frequently uses to refer to God. Foster argues that the "kingdom of God" represents the earthly domain that Jesus' opponents such as Pharisees thought they resided in, while the "kingdom of heaven" represents the truer spiritual domain of Jesus and his disciples.[3]

End times[edit]

Scholars believe that when it was originally written this phrase was intended to be eschatological with the kingdom of heaven referring to the end times. When the last judgment failed to occur Christian scholars gradually redefined the term to refer to a spiritual state within, or worked to justify a much delayed end time. This passage presents a difficulty in this later endeavour as the phrase translated as "at hand" or "is near" both refer to an imminent event. Albright and Mann suggest better translation would state that the kingdom is "fast approaching."[4] R. T. France sees it as even more immediate suggesting that the phrase should be read as referring to "a state of affairs that is already beginning and demands immediate action."[5]

In the New Testament the throne of God is talked about in several forms: Heaven as the throne of God, the throne of David, the throne of Glory, the throne of Grace and many more.[6] The New Testament continues Jewish identification of heaven itself as the "throne of God,"[7] but also locates the throne of God as "in heaven" and having a second subordinate seat at the Right Hand of God for the Session of Christ.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Schillebeeckx, Edward (1983) [1974]. Jesus: An Experiment in Christology. London: Fount Paperbacks. pp. 140–141. ISBN 0-00-626586-3.
  2. ^ Clarke, Howard W. The Gospel of Matthew and its Readers: A Historical Introduction to the First Gospel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.
  3. ^ Foster, Robert (October 2002). "Why on Earth Use 'Kingdom of Heaven'?: Matthew's Terminology Revisited". New Testament Studies. 48 (04). doi:10.1017/S0028688502000292. ISSN 0028-6885.
  4. ^ Albright, W.F. and C.S. Mann. "Matthew." The Anchor Bible Series. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1971.
  5. ^ France, R. T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
  6. ^ Kittel, Gerhard (1966). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 3. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 164–66. ISBN 0-8028-2245-2.
  7. ^ William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew: Chapters 11-28 p340 Matthew 23:22 "And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it."
  8. ^ Philip Edgecumbe Hughes A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews p401 1988 "The theme of Christ's heavenly session, announced here by the statement he sat down at the right hand of God, .. Hebrews 8:1 "we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven")"