For most Christians the Kingdom of God evokes hope in a troubled world. But how is it that Christians understand this rather poignant phrase? Are there problems with using it? Does it carry with it some unnoticed but damaging baggage? At base, the term “kingdom” connotes rule and centralized power. And while kingdoms can be peaceful (largely in idealized forms), many are not. Wary of centralized control, as the term “kingdom” connotes, modern democracies, for example, work to distribute power in the hands of many. These sessions explore the biblical expression “Kingdom of God” from two different perspectives. We will look at the ways in which Luke’s gospel employs the term and then work to discover a root meaning of the expression, which will take us to a sense of the term before it reached the Gospel of Luke.
Nina E. Livesey is Professor of Religious Studies; University of Oklahoma, College of Professional and Continuing Studies. She is a specialist in Jewish-Christian relations and Christian origins with an emphasis on Pauline studies. She has a Ph.D. from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas and is the author of Galatians and the Rhetoric of Crisis (2016), Circumcision as a Malleable Symbol (2010), and several scholarly articles both on Paul and on second-century Christianity.
Arthur J. Dewey is Professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati. A distinguished teacher, writer, translator and commentator, he is the author of Inventing the Passion: How the Death of Jesus was Remembered (2017) and co-author of The Complete Gospel Parallels (with Robert J. Miller, 2011) and The Authentic Letters of Paul (with Roy W. Hoover, Lane C. McGaughy, and Daryl D. Schmidt, 2010).
Initial Questions and Basic Assumptions
Nina begins the session by explaining what we mean when we say that the expression “Kingdom of God” has both positive and negative connotations and how this came to be the case. She will argue that oppositional rhetoric lies at the heart of the gospel narrative and very much conditions how the notion of Kingdom of God is understood in that literary work. Art will probe the social and economic realities that lie behind the use of the term “Kingdom of God” in the early Jesus material. He will argue for a positively construed notion of the basic expression “Kingdom of God,” as it stands in the early Jesus material.
Friday 7:30–9 pm
Detecting the Historical Jesus: The Empire Re-envisioned, Part One
Working from various key fragments from the historical Jesus material, Art will consider Jesus’ mission from within the first century context. Here, Art will explore key passages and parables that provide a root understanding of the expression “Kingdom of God.”
Saturday 9:30–10:15 am
The Rhetoric of the Kingdom in Luke: Part One
Beginning with a broad narrative outline of the Gospel of Luke, Nina will indicate how the Kingdom of God operates there as a point of contention. In this first investigation, she reviews the place of Jerusalem in the narrative of Luke and indicates the ways in which this place, itself an ancient kingdom, functions within the Gospel as both a place of opposition and as a place for a re-envisioned kingdom.
Saturday 10:30–11:10 am
The Rhetoric of the Kingdom in Luke: Part Two
In her second investigation of the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Luke, Nina will explore key passages that concern characterizations of Jesus, passages in which the term “Kingdom of God” is in play. She will indicate that in Luke’s gospel, Jesus himself and his acts are very much associated with the Kingdom of God. Yet Jesus is also in dispute with others. She will argue that indications of the Kingdom of God within the Gospel of Luke cannot be detached from the opposition that surrounds it.
Detecting the Historical Jesus: The Empire Re-envisioned, Part Two
Through an investigation of additional fragments and parables, Art will return the audience to the initial vision of the historical Jesus and his view of the Kingdom of God. In this early material Jesus himself is not the central focus of the kingdom. As independent fragments, this material does not rely on a narrative context to inform its meaning.
Saturday 11:20 am–noon
These sessions conclude with an extended conversation (Q & A) with Nina and Art in which implications of these findings will be explored further.
Saturday 1:30–2:30 pm
Saturday, 3–4 pm
Plymouth Congregational Church
Local Contact and Information
All events at:
Plymouth Congregational Church
501 W Berry St
Fort Wayne, IN 46802