One of the greatest theological controversies in the last century concerns the meaning of the terms “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of heaven.” Because scholars have not given adequate attention to the fact that these are completely Hebraic terms, confusion has arisen concerning the period of time to which the Kingdom refers, who takes part in it and the exact nature of the Kingdom. Examining relevant Gospel passages in their Hebraic context will clarify what Jesus meant when he spoke of the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of heaven.”
The dragnet or seine is the oldest type of fishing net, and its use was once the most important fishing method on the Sea of Galilee. In the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud it is called HE·rem, and in Greek sagene, from which the word “seine” is derived. Sources such as Egyptian tomb paintings dating from the third millennium B.C.E. suggest that this fishing method was widely used in ancient times throughout the countries of the East.
Like other sages of his time, Jesus demanded his disciples’ total commitment. They were to put the “kingdom of Heaven” (Jesus’ band of full-time disciples) before all else. They were to “hate,” that is, put second, father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and themselves, as well (Luke 14:26). Following Jesus to learn Torah from him was to take precedence over every other endeavor.
The commandment “Be fruitful and multiply” has always been strongly emphasized in Judaism, both today and in the first century. It is therefore surprising that Jesus, who in every other way observed the commandments, did not marry—at least the New Testament gives no indication that he had a wife or children.