Proposition #22
John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples, employed the phrases "Kingdom of heaven," "Kingdom of God," etc., in accordance with the usage of the Jews.


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PROPOSITION 22. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples, employed the phrases “Kingdom of heaven,” “Kingdom of God,” etc., in accordance with the usage of the Jews.

Obs. 1. The Prop. needs no proof, for the fact is self-evident. First is to be found the well-known expectations of the Jews based on a literal interpretation of the prophecies; next, these are summed up in the expressive phrases “Kingdom of heaven,” etc., taken, as numerous writers inform us, from Dan. 7:13, 14; finally, John, Jesus, and others take the very phraseology adopted by the Jews to designate a certain definite Kingdom, and use it without the slightest intimation or explanation of a change in its meaning; and this employment of the phrases, with a correspondent Jewish meaning attached, continued (as admitted by our opponents, e.g. Prop. 20, Obs. 3, n. 1) at least down (Acts 1:6) to the ascension of Christ.[*]

Note. Some, indeed, tell us that Christ had a different conception of it: but they give us no direct proof, but only the most remote inferences of their own. The Scripture relied upon for such a view will be examined hereafter in detail. At present it is sufficient to say, that even those addicted to the theory that Jesus gradually engrafted a new meaning, i.e. spiritual, upon the notion of the Kingdom, still frankly admit that Jesus employed the Jewish mode of expression (Neander calls them “Jewish forms,” as e.g. in “Ser. on the Mt.”). Additional proof and illustrations will be given, to save repetition, under the Props. relating to the first preaching of the Kingdom. Our argument and doctrinal position demands that the language of the Jews by which their anticipations were expressed and the language of John and Jesus should happily correspond. Explain it as we may, this certainly is the case, and thus far decidedly in our favor.

Obs. 2. Here, at the very fountain head, in the presence and under the sanction of the Master Himself, there must be no discrepancy. The fond hopes and the ardent anticipations, aroused by the speech of the prophets, are too dear to be trifled with, or to be confirmed by a mere spirit of accommodation. It would, if the Jews were in error on so fundamental a point, be simply cruel to adopt their expressive language and thus confirm them in an alleged blunder, a vital mistake.[*]

Note. With due respect and love toward the eminent men who differ from us, it can be unhesitatingly said, that an error here, and continued for several centuries in the churches established by the apostles, cannot but vitiate the entire succession. A rule in law, often quoted, holds good in this place: “Quod initio vitiosum est, tractu temporis convalescere non potest,” or the old adage is applicable: “As the fountain, so the stream.” Men tell us that the phraseology used, “the Jewish forms,” employed, was only “the husk;” let it be so, we claim it to be a God-given “husk,” amply sufficient to satisfy the longings of humanity. No! if these noble preachers of the Kingdom are to inspire unshaken confidence, we must not, with infidels, acknowledge that they believed in, and proclaimed, “Jewish error.” For, if this is done, the fountain head itself is corrupted, and all the sophistical glosses, philosophical conceits, additional senses developed, heaped upon it by way of explanation, extenuation, or apology, cannot hide from captious critics the ugly feature—one, too, so glaring and wide-reaching that no person, addicted to reflection, can pass it by without serious misgivings.

Obs. 3. When significantly pointing to the fact, that the idea of a Kingdom of God was familiar to every pious Jew, for which he longed, and prayed, and waited, and that the first preachers adopted the very language in familiar use by the Jew to signify his hope, Apologists inform us (Ecce Deus, p. 329) that “Christ came to give that conception a profounder interpretation, and a more intensely spiritual bearing,” that “the Jew had a carnal idea of a spiritual fact.” But where is the proof of this carnality and substitution? Neander, and others, in reply, tell us, that it is found in the higher spiritual conception being wrought out afterward in “the consciousness of the church.” When, where, and by what instrumentalities, was this accomplished? Was it done by Origen, or Jerome, or the Popes, or the Councils, or shall we allow the claims of Swedenborg and a host of fallible men in this direction? Admit this, and we plunge ourselves into an abyss of pretensions and demands, exalting uninspired men above those who were under the special guidance of the Spirit.[*]

Note. It is impossible, with consistency and safety, to leave the original Record, and seek for a doctrinal position is so important a matter, derived from men who lived after the apostolic period. If the notion of a Kingdom, such as was afterward developed by the Alexandrian school, is not to be found in the Gospels, in the opening of the New Test., as recent valuable works on the Life of Christ frankly confess, then surely it is not taking unwarranted liberty to reject it as unreliable, contradictory, and the mere added opinion of fallible men.

Obs. 4. In view of this alleged change in the meaning of the Kingdom, the Liberalists, etc. (as e.g. Johnson’s Orient. Religs., p. 794), assert, that Christ proclaimed a Kingdom to come, but “of the institutional meaning of the approaching change, and of the special ways in which his own name would be exalted therein, his record gives no sign that he had the least presentiment.” This indicates unfamiliarity with the covenants and the prophecies, the Jewish faith and that of the New Test., for (1) it was not necessary to enter into any explanation concerning the nature of the Kingdom, it being something that was well understood, as seen by the adoption of Jewish language, etc.; (2) it is utterly unfair to pass by the Scripture given by Jesus illustrative of the reasons why the Kingdom was not then realized as anticipated by the Jews and disciples; and (3) it is uncandid to ignore the express declarations (which will be presented in their place hereafter) of a postponement of the Kingdom believed in until the allotted times of the Gentiles had expired, because of Christ’s rejection by the nation.[*]

Note. The usual method of dealing with Johnson’s objection is to urge that the time for developing the true idea of the Kingdom had not yet arrived, and, therefore, but little is said respecting it, because the Jews and even the apostles themselves were (Acts 1:6) unprepared for it. Thus e.g. Schlegel (Phil. of His., Lec. 10) fully admits the views of the Jews concerning the Kingdom and apologizes for their opinions by saying: that the portrait of the Deliverer was drawn by the prophets “in such vivid colors in those ancient prophecies, that the description might, in many passages at least, be easily mistaken for one of an earthly monarch;” and adds, that the Jews were the more excusable since “all the followers of our Saviour and His most trusty disciples, were at first under the same delusion,” etc., and finally explains these discrepancies by taking refuge in some generalities, especially that of “a higher spiritual signification” being ultimately attained. But what force has such reasoning with the unbeliever, which places the Divine Teacher, His forerunner, the disciples, and believing Jews in a most unenviable position—one opposed to all our notions of propriety and honor? Let the reader keep in view, as additional reasons are presented in the progress of our argument, the utter inability of the prevailing view to reconcile this early belief and usage of language with its modern transformations and substitutions.

Obs. 5. The student is directed to a proof that this subject affords in behalf of the early origin of the Gospels. In looking at the opening of the New Test., the subject-matter of the Kingdom, how it was introduced and retained its “Jewish forms,” it shows how unfounded is the view of Edelman, etc., that the New Test. was written in the time of Constantine, or that of more recent writers who make the Gospels proceed from the Alexandrian school, or to be an offshoot of the latter part of the second, or the production of the third century. The Alexandrian school could not possibly, with their ideas of the Kingdom, have originated the Gospels, and this is true of all the later periods assigned.[*]

Note. Thus e.g. the later origin of the Gospels is sufficiently disproven by the exclusive preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Jewish nation (Comp. Prop. 54). Such an idea of exclusiveness could not, in the nature of the case, have originated at so late a period as that assigned by Strauss, Baur, etc., it being opposed to the actual condition of things then existing. Sentences confining the preaching of the Kingdom only to the Jewish nation, ascribing salvation to the Jews, etc., could not have been concocted at the times assigned: it is opposed to the habits and mode of thinking already introduced. Unbelievers themselves acknowledge this, as e.g. the Duke of Somerset (Ch. Theol. and Mod. Skep., ch. 4), who refers to “a Jewish kingdom under a national Sovereign,” as clearly taught, and then gives us some reasoning, based on this fact, in favor of the early production of the Gospels. (1) He tells us that the first generations of Christians had in many respects “the distinctive features of Judaism,” especially in their notion of the Kingdom. (2) That in “a subsequent generation” “the whole character of Christianity was already changed.” (3) Hence, “this chronological testimony appears to refute the theories which ascribe the Gospels to a later period.”