H The Kingdom as Imminent

One of the most influential of the earlier treatments of the subject has been that of W. G. Kümmel.249 Kümmel drew particular attention to 'the pressing imminence of the end' in Jesus' preaching, that is, of the final consummation, which he identified with the coming of the kingdom. The imminence of the kingdom is clear enough in the engiken, engys material and 'parables of crisis' reviewed above.250 And Kümmel throws in the parable of the unjust judge for good measure (Luke 18.2-8). Luke has presented it as an encouragement to persistent prayer But Kümmel draws particular attention to the end of the parable —

247. Dodd, Parables 185; the parables 'were intended to enforce his appeal to men to recognize that the kingdom of God was present in all its momentous consequences, and that by their conduct in the presence of this tremendous crisis they would judge themselves as faithful or unfaithful, wise or foolish' (174).

248. Cf. Jeremias' modification of Dodd's position, summarized in Proclamation 13839.

249. Kümmel, Promise ch. 1 (particularly 54-84); also 'Eschatological Expectation in the Proclamation of Jesus', in Robinson, ed., The Future of Our Religious Past 29-48.

250. Kümmel, Promise 19-25, 54-59; 'Eschatological Expectation' 32-35.

God's vindication will not be long delayed: 'I tell you, he (God) will see thatjus-tice is done them (his elect) en tachei' (18.8a), where en tachei must mean 'quickly, What is in view so far as Luke was concerned is indicated by his final enigmatic sentence: 'Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?' (18.8b) — nothing other than the final judgment, for only then can the elect hope to be vindicated. Luke probably draws the note of finality ironically from (eis adds only the assurance that the vindica tion of those unjustly treated ('the elect')253 will be imminent.

However, for Kümmel the clinching evidence comes in three much-disputed texts — Mark 9.1; 13.30; and Matt. 10.23.254 The first of these, the only kingdom text of the three, signals a more confusing tradition history than most of what we have encountered thus far in chapter 12.

Matt. 16.28

Mark 9.1

Luke 9.27

Truly I tell you. there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

Truly I you. there are some standina here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.

But truly I tell YOU. there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom


The saying comes in the same sequence in all three Gospels, which may simply indicate the influence of Mark (the literary interdependence of the group of sayings is clear). And it does clearly indicate that some of the disciples will in some

251. Kümmel, Promise 59; 'Eschatological Expectation' 37. Since Julicher, 18.6-8 have often been taken as an addition to the parable, the product of a Christian community facing persecution (Scott, Hear Then the Parable 176-77; others in Hultgren, Parables 257 n. 26; Lüdemann, Jesus 375). But 18.6-8a reads more as a continuation of the teaching than an interpretation superimposed (Hultgren 258-59). And the observations of Jeremias as to the Aramaic idiom employed and the shock of God's mercy being illustrated by an unfeeling judge (Parables 154-55) ought to be given more weight. See further Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom 203-207.

252. 'Ironically', since 'the end' feared by fee judge is the widow giving him a black eye (hypöpiazö).

253. 'The elect' appears elsewhere in the Jesus tradition only in Mark 13.20, 22, 27 par. and Matt. 22.14; but it was a central feature of Jewish self-understanding (references in my Romans [WBC 38; Dallas: Word, 1988] 502).

254. But note Kümmel's qualification (Promise 149-51). Despite Kümmel, German scholarship usually discounts these texts as sayings of Jesus (see, e.g., Schürmann, Gottes Reich 38-41 and n. 65; Merklein, Jesu Botschaft 54-56; H. Merkel, 'Die Gottesherrschaft in der Verkündigung Jesu', in Hengel and Schwemer, eds., Königsherrschaft Gottes 119-61 [here 139-41]; Gnilka, Jesus of Nazareth 147-49; Becker, Jesus of Nazareth 121; Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus 255). Similarly Perrin, Rediscovering 199-202. Allison suspects that they are three variants of one saying, with another variant in John 8.51-52 (Jesus ofNazareth 149-50). In contrast, McKnight follows Kümmel quite closely (New Vision 128-30, 133-37).

way experience the kingdom before they die.255 By sequencing it as he does, Mark may well have intended his audiences to interpret that experience as the experience of the three inner core disciples (Peter, James, and John) in witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9.2-10 pars.).256 That interpretation, however, is hardly plausible, since Mark himself reports that the transfiguration followed only six days later, but it may point to a certain degree of puzzlement on Mark's part regarding the prediction.257

What gives more cause for pause is that the key part of the saying for our purposes (the kingdom) appears to be so unstable. Of course, the variation is easily explained as the kind of variation which we could expect to find in the performance of oral tradition. But that is just the point: our findings thus far have suggested that the greater the variation, the less important the variable material was deemed to be within the traditioning groups and churches. Or should we be content to conclude simply that Jesus was remembered here as saying something about the kingdom as future? In which case, Kiimmel's argument reemerges with some force: Jesus expected a public manifestation of God's kingdom within the lifetime of his disciples.258

The second of Kiimmel's texts does not speak of the kingdom, but comes

255. Dodd argued that the perfect tense, elelythuian ('has come'), refers to the awakening of the disciples to the fact that the kingdom had already come in his ministry (Parables 5354); similarly some members of the Jesus Seminar think that the saying referred to the kingdom's (visible) arrival in Jesus' exorcisms (Funk, Five Gospels 81). But the perfect tense denotes rather completed arrival and ongoing presence, equivalent to 'until they see God's rule established in power' (Kümmel, Promise 26-27; Gundry, Mark 469).

256. The interpretation goes back to Clement of Alexandria. See, e.g., the brief review in Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom 187-88.

257. Chilton argues that the Aramaic form of speech x will not happen until j'is used to insist that both parts of the statement are valid, but combines the point with the claim that 'those who will not taste death' refers to people who never die (like Enoch and Elijah), leading to the thesis that the following story of the Transfiguration 'is a visionary representation of Jesus' promise' (Pure Kingdom 62-65); but it is unclear whether he thinks that the saying implies that some of Jesus' companions will never die. A more plausible interpretation would have been to link the prediction to the report of Pentecost, understood as an empowering display of God's rule by Luke (Acts 1.3-8); but no NT writer actually makes such a link. See further Gundry, Mark 467-69, and the helpful review of opinions in Davies and Allison, Matthew 2.677-81.

258. Kümmel, Promise 25-29; 'seeing' and 'coming in power' point 'too obviously to a publicly visible and tangible manifestation of the Reign of God to allow for evading the conclusion that this promise refers to the eschatological appearing of that Reign' ('Eschatological Expectation' 40-41); similarly Pesch, Markusevangelium 66-67; Fitzmyer, Luke 790. But most remain somewhat nonplussed by the saying. E.g., Meier (Marginal Jew 2.343-44) and Lüdemann (Jesus 59-60) think the more obvious setting for the emergence of the saying was after the first deaths within the first-generation churches.

in close association with the engys passage already reviewed (Mark 13.28-29): 'Truly I you, this generation will have by no means passed away before all these things happen' (13.30 pars.). In the context of Mark's Gospel 'these things' can only refer to the days of final tribulation, cosmic turbulence, the coming of the Son of Man and the final ingathering of the elect (13.19-27), which Mark seems to relate to the (anticipated) fall of Jerusalem (13.14-18). And, as Kümmel justifiably argues, 'it is beyond dispute he genea haute [this generation] can only mean the contemporaries of Jesus'. The implication is again clear that Jesus expected a final catastrophe within the lifetime of his own generation. And even if the present context of 13.30 (and 13.30 itself) is the result of much reworking of tradition,280 the readiness of the tradents of the Mark 13 traditions to attribute such a note of imminent expectation to Jesus presumably indicates their own and their community's conviction that the note was consistent with the longer established elements of the Jesus tradition.

The third of texts is what we might call Schweitzer's text, the text on which the latter's reconstruction of Jesus' mission largely turned281 — Matt. 10.23: 'when they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I you, you will not have completed the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes' The text is the most difficult of the three: only Matthew has it; he has attached it to a section drawn from Mark's apocalyptic discourse (Mark Matt. 10.17-22) generally regarded as the section of the 'little apocalypse' which reflects most clearly the circumstances of the later (Christian) mission; and the expectation of the Son of Man's (second) coming/return (to earth) may well also reflect a developed Son of Man Christology.283 So it is certainly possible to conceive of this saying emerging as a prophetic utterance within the earliest churches' mission,284 that is, before a Gentile mission got underway or was fully accepted among the churches of Judea and Galilee.285

On the other hand, the Gentile mission did begin very early and was evi

259. Kümmel, 'Eschatological Expectation' 38; also Promise 80-81; Davies and Allison, Matthew 19-28 367-68 concur.

280. As many conclude; see, e.g., Meier, Marginal Jew 2.344-47; Pesch argues that Mark 9.1 was the basis for 13.30 (Markusevangelium 308), whereas Beasley-Murray follows A. Vögtle in arguing that the influence was the other way round, with 13.30 closer to the Q saying Matt. 23.38/Luke 11.51 (Jesus and the Kingdom 190-93); but the difference between the latter and Mark 13.30 is too wide to provide much support for the hypothesis (Gundry, Mark 791).

282. Kümmel, Promise 81-84; 'Eschatological Expectation' 44-45.

284. Boring, Sayings 209-11; Meier, Marginal Jew2.339-41; cf. Lüdemann, Jesus 188.

285. 'The towns of Israel' might include Samaria (though note Matt. 10.5), but no diaspora settlement would be so designated.

dently accepted, however hesitantly, by the Jerusalem leadership (Gal. 2.1-10). And it must be judged doubtful whether a prophetic utterance which in effect foreclosed on the option of a Gentile mission would have been accepted or retained within the circles influenced by the Jerusalem leadership. Uncomfortable as it may be, we ought to recognize the likelihood that Jesus the Jew's perspective on mission was more circumscribed than that of the leading exponents of mission after Easter; after all, the saying is of a piece with Matt. 10.5-6, which Matthew combines with the Q summary of the disciples' mission preaching: 'The kingdom of heaven has drawn near' (Matt. 10.7/Luke 10.9). It could be argued, therefore, that Jesus was indeed remembered as uttering something to this effect (but in terms of 'the Son of Man'?) and that both sayings (Matt. 10.5-6, 23) were preserved among believing Jews, despite their increasing irrelevance in the light of developments.266 In short, the note of imminence cannot be easily escaped, but the value of the saying as a witness to Jesus' own expectation is unclear.

The other notable feature of contribution to the debate was his observation that the imminent expectation was qualified by recognition of an interval before the final consummation.267 Here we may simply note the following aspects of the material already reviewed. 'Near' does not mean already 'here'; spring is not yet summer (Mark 13.28 pars.). Thepeirasmoshas not yet engulfed the pray-er of the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6.13/Luke 11.4). A period during which Jesus' followers will be persecuted and can expect suffering is anticipated. The 'vow of abstinence' implies a time before the fast will be broken (in the kingdom) (Mark 14.25 pars.). The parable of the unjust judge envisages a period of intercession (Luke 18.7). Some will not taste death before they see the kingdom (coming), but others (presumably) will not live to see it (Mark 9.1 pars.). 'This generation' could extend over more than one decade (Mark 13.30 pars.). A time of mission is envisaged (Matt. 10.23). Jeremias also notes that the parable of the barren fig tree envisages the possibility of God lengthening the period of grace before judgment is executed: 'Let it alone this year also' (Luke 13.6-9).268

In this range of material only one text envisages a considerable interval: 'but first the gospel must be preached to all the nations' (Mark 24.14). However, this is one of the best examples of what appears to be an interpretative addition or qualification added to the tradition in the process of its being handed down.269 In particular, (1) it hangs on the distinctively Markan, that

266. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom 289-90 (with review of earlier debate 28389); Davies and Allison, Matthew 2.189-90. Meier, however, thinks that 10.5-6 'is more likely a product of some group within the first Christian generation that opposed widening the proclamation of the gospel to groups other than Jews' (Marginal Jew 3.542-44).

267. Kümmel, Promise particularly 75-82.

268. Jeremias, Proclamation 140.

269. Taylor, Mark 507-508; Kümmel, Promise 84-86.

is, redactional word 'gospel', (2) it interrupts the flow of the (anyway later) discourse in Mark 13.9-13 (as its omission by Matthew and Luke confirms), and (3) as we shall see, Jesus did not seem to envisage a mission as such to the Gentiles.270 It certainly provides no sure basis for any view that Jesus anticipated a many-generation or century gap before the coming of the kingdom.

How the tradition just reviewed (§ 12.4h) related to the rest of the material in §12.4 is unclear. The common and consistent element, even with the qualification of some time elapse, is an expectation of an imminent event of climactic and crucial importance, the coming of God's kingdom, a crisis determinative of the future (final?) judgment.271 Despite the diversity of imagery and detail it is difficult to imagine the communities which performed this tradition not seeing it as interrelated. The range and character of the traditions indicate rather a common theme much reflected on and rehearsed in the communities which treasured the Jesus tradition.

In sum, the kingdom references reviewed thus far cover an extensive range of the kingdom tradition. We have still to examine more fully the richer Son of Man tradition, including talk of his but that is more suitably dealt with later (see below §16.4), and it is important to appreciate just how extensive the future eschatological emphasis is within the Jesus tradition, apart from the Son of Man sayings.272 Moreover, the teachings so far cited are worthy of particular attention since they were evidently seen to be important by those who performed the Jesus tradition and by the Evangelists in turn: they provided summaries of Jesus' preaching, they were linked to much cherished liturgical material, and they expressed major themes of eschatological reversal, impending judgment, and the sufferings and expected blessings of discipleship. Such traditions would have been central to the identity of the small groups of disciples from the first, and subsequently for the first churches founded in the 30s and 40s. They would have been treasured and rehearsed no doubt often in their gatherings, stirring hope of participation in the beatitude of God's future reign, stimulating repentance before the imminent judgment, stiffening resolve in the face of anticipated suffering, and encouraging prayer expectful of God.

What is striking about this material is the consistent emphasis within it on the kingdom of God as future or as yet to come or yet to impinge fully on those addressed. The imagery used varies substantially, but predominantly envisages a final intervention of God, usually with final judgment implied. To 'enter the

270. See below, §13.7; for alternative views on Mark 13.10 see chapter 13 n. 248 below.

The earlier confidence is well summarized by Schillebeeckx: 'That Jesus prophesied the imminent arrival of God's rule is beyond dispute' (Jesus 152).

272. Crossan, e.g., deals with the parables of crisis in a section headed 'the Apocalyptic Son of man' {HistoricalJesus 250-51, 253-55).

kingdom' is equivalent to 'enter life'; the alternative is to be cast out into gehenna (again implying some sort of judgment). Sometimes the expectation may have been of the final divine intervention establishing things as they ought to be on

earth, that is, of the restoration ofjustice under God's rule. But such variation is quite in character with the wider range of eschatological expectation within Second Temple Judaism summarised in §12.2. Undoubtedly the motifs were elaborated within the transmission of the Jesus tradition. But given the scope and extent of the motifs within the Jesus tradition, it is scarcely credible to conclude other than that Jesus was remembered from the first as proclaiming the kingdom as coming and as already drawn near.

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