The Kingdom of God in the Jewish Apocryphal Literature Part 1 -- By: George E. Ladd

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 109:433 (Jan 1952)
Article: The Kingdom of God in the Jewish Apocryphal Literature Part 1
Author: George E. Ladd

The Kingdom of God in the Jewish Apocryphal Literature
Part 1

George E. Ladd


It is important for the thoughtful student of New Testament eschatology to possess an accurate understanding of Jewish eschatological expectations in New Testament times. There are several reasons for this. Scholars have often maintained that Jesus was influenced by and shared the views of His contemporaries. Epoch-making in modern Biblical criticism has been the work of Albert Schweitzer, the famous missionary-theologian, who elaborated the view already espoused by Johannis Weiss,1 that Jesus expected the world immediately to come to an end by apocalyptic intrusion of God for the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth.2 This conclusion was achieved by “the thorough-going application of Jewish eschatology to the interpretation of the teaching and work of Jesus.”3 Schweitzer inaugurated a new epoch in the study of Gospel eschatology, as a survey of criticism since his day clearly shows.4 Conservative Bible students in America have paid little attention to this movement in liberal criticism; but it is part of the theological life of the world in which we live and has made a strong impact upon modern theological thought. It cannot be ignored.

It is obvious that no student can criticize Schweitzer’s position without a good grasp of Jewish eschatology.

Schweitzer’s viewpoint postulates a human Jesus, a man of His times, who was utterly deluded by vain apocalyptic expectations. This is why many conservative students who accept the New Testament teaching that Jesus was God incarnate have largely ignored his position. However, the fact remains that Jesus came to Jews of the first century and of necessity had to relate His teaching to their thinking. Sound pedagogy must begin with the thinking of those who are taught, and Jesus was the Master Teacher. What did the “kingdom of God” mean in the ears of a first century Jew? What thoughts were aroused in his mind by the phrase “Son of Man”? Why did the Jews reject the Messiah? How did Christ’s kingdom differ from the one they expected? From our vantage point, we interpret these phases in the light of the full New Testament revelation; it is obvious that a Jew of 30 A.D. could not do so. The appreciation of our Lord’s self-revelation and of the response of the Jews to Him is greatly enhanced by an understanding of the mind of first century Judaism, especially with reference to eschatological and Messianic expectations.


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