Threading a Needle

Articles Leave a Comment

Over the past few years, I have reflected much on the phrases “to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” and “to inherit eternal life.” One important conclusion that I have reached from reading early rabbinic literature and Matthew, Mark, and Luke is that these are two independent concepts sharing a fuzzy area of overlap.

Toward an Unclouded Vision of His Kingdom

Articles 1 Comment

At the center of Jesus’ preaching and teaching stood the good news of the kingdom of heaven. According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spoke more about the kingdom of heaven than of himself.

Over and Under-Familiarity with Matthew 6:11

Articles Leave a Comment

Hearing something repeatedly can diminish its significance. I suspect that this is particularly true of Scripture. Overfamiliarity with a biblical passage can contribute to its misunderstanding. Sometimes it can reduce a profound saying to nothing more than a cliché.

Where Seed and Thistle Grow

Articles Leave a Comment

The interpretive approach of this essay assumes that Jesus’ frame of reference for the Parable of the Sower centered on the kingdom of heaven. Jesus emphasized repentance and grace, and their joint role as a catalyst for increasing God’s reign.

Scholars and Saints: A Critical Collaboration

Articles Leave a Comment

Most academics would question the value of attempting to identify material originating from the historical Jesus because Matthew, Mark and Luke are not historical narratives in the modern sense.

Jesus’ Yoke and Burden

Articles 6 Comments

It appears that the original context for Jesus’ “Comfort for the Heavy-Laden” saying has been lost; however, in spite of this, passages in the apocryphal book of Ben Sira may help us determine Jesus’ intent. The Ben Sira texts indicate that Jesus was speaking of the study of Torah (Written and Oral) and the rigors of first-century discipleship.

“Prophets and Kings”: The Evangelist Luke’s Curious Doublet

Articles 2 Comments

In a beautiful statement that probably referred to the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus proclaimed to his disciples, according to Luke, that “many prophets and kings” desired to see and hear what they (his disciples) are seeing and hearing. Matthew preserves the same saying, but in Matthew’s account the doublet is, “prophets and righteous persons.” The wording of Jesus’ saying in these two accounts is so similar that it appears likely that their slight differences reflect literary, or editorial, changes rather than different versions of the saying uttered by Jesus on different occasions. If so, which of these gospel accounts preserves the more original form of Jesus’ saying? Did Jesus say “prophets and kings” or “prophets and righteous persons”?

“Give unto Caesar”: Jesus, the Zealots and the Imago Dei

Articles Leave a Comment

The retorts of Hillel and Jesus exemplify innovative developments in Jewish thought during the Second Temple period, developments that were established on the biblical notion that man was created in the image of God—Imago Dei (Gen. 1:27).

Beyond an Inheritance

Articles 2 Comments

From the early centuries of the Christian era to our day, expositors of the Gospels have struggled with Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom of Heaven, particularly with their temporal dimension. Will the Kingdom of Heaven appear one day in the future when the Son of Man suddenly comes? Or, has it been germinating like a seed with much potential for growth? Perhaps as C. H. Dodd suggested, it should be described as both realized and eschatological: germinal in reference to the past (and present), but explosive in regard to its coming manifestation.

The Transparent Agenda

Articles Leave a Comment

As practitioners of Jesus’ teachings, our conduct certainly should be characterized by charity, but a helping hand with strings attached or expectations appended is not pleasant. This constitutes one of the mysterious aspects of the kingdom of heaven. It is The Transparent Agenda, a mandate to do good to all without prejudice and without expectations.

The Best Long-term Investment—Making Loans to God

Articles Leave a Comment

In our day, the 20th-century disciple of Jesus feels the challenge of his call to lay up treasure in heaven more than ever. In the face of an emerging global society drunken with consumerism and materialism, Jesus’ words shatter the silence: “You cannot serve God and mammon!”

The Nature of Jesus’ Task

Articles Leave a Comment

Christians read their Bibles through a lens of historical hindsight to illuminate certain features of Jesus’ teaching. Jews living in the first century did not have this benefit, and even one as saintly as John the Baptist struggled with aspects of Jesus’ messianic conduct.

Stewards of God’s Keys

Articles Leave a Comment

Jesus gave his disciple Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” and promised that whatever Peter “bound” and “loosed” on earth would be “bound” and “loosed” in heaven. What scriptural allusions lurk beneath these expressions and what are their implications? How does the Jewish literary background of Matthew 16:19 help us better appreciate Jesus’ words?