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Jesus’ Teaching About the Kingdom of God

I have explained how the idea of resurrection arose within early Judaism, and now I want to talk about the idea of afterlife in the teachings of Jesus.  To begin with, I need to stress that when Jesus talked about the coming kingdom of God – the core of his apocalyptic message – he was *not* referring to what happens to a person’s soul after she or he dies.

Here is how I explain Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom in my first-ever trade book for a popular audience, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium


The very first thing that Jesus is recorded to have said in our very earliest surviving source involves an apocalyptic pronouncement of the coming Kingdom of God.  In Mark’s Gospel, after being baptized by John and tempted by Satan in the wilderness, in neither of which is he recorded as having said anything, Jesus comes into Galilee with an urgent message:

The time is filled up and the Kingdom of God is almost here; repent and believe in the good news!  (Mark 1:15)

I take this to be an adequate summary of what Jesus himself actually preached.  The saying about “time being filled up” is an apocalyptic image.  Recall that for apocalypticists there were two ages of history – the present evil age that was running along its predetermined course and the glorious age to come in which God would establish his sovereignty once and for all.  For Jesus, the time of this age was all but complete; the bottom of the sand clock was nearly filled.  This age was near its end and the new Kingdom was almost here.  People needed to prepare by turning to God and accepting this good news.

Later Christians, of course, took this very term “good news” and …

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An Introduction to the Gospel of John
Paul on Trial for the Resurrection



  1. Avatar
    jbskq5  September 27, 2017

    When I was taking Bible courses at my fundamentalist Christian university, the professors there agreed with this interpretation, but they taught that this “kingdom” was in fact indicative of the age of the church. It’s a concept so deeply rooted in my mind (I always liked the idea that God was concerned with things on this earth rather than rooting for the apocalypse) that I have trouble disengaging from that interpretation. Could you provide your thoughts on this “loophole” as I see it?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      I would say that is a theological interpretation that is trying to explain how Jesus’ words can be “true” even though things didn’t happen as he predicted. As a historian I am more interested in what he actually would have been saying to people in his own context.

  2. Avatar
    godspell  September 27, 2017

    Alfred Lord Dunsany wrote a novel called The King of Elfland’s Daughter, in which the Anglo-Irish fantasy author tried to reconcile the differing parts of himself–the part that loved Ireland and the Irish, and the part that loved England and the English. The part that was Christian, and the part that loved the ancient pagan myths of his homeland. The Anglo-Irish often show this split identity, particularly those who artistic sensibilities.

    The story is about a land divided between the sunny prosaic world of men, and the mist-shrouded realm of the elves (yes, it sounds very twee, but he was a good writer, I swear). The young prince of the mortal realm falls in love with the daughter of the Elf King, and she comes to live with him in his world, but her ways are very different, and she is an alien there, rejected and alone. But to end the marriage is impossible–she has a child with the prince. They come from different worlds, and those worlds are incompatible, but neither can be happy without the other.

    Seeing her misery, the King of Elfland casts a spell that somehow melds the two realms together, extending Elfland into the mortal human world, until, as Dunsany puts it, “They were no longer the fields we know.”

    Jesus’ vision is perhaps not unlike this (and of course Dunsany read his bible, like a good Protestant, might well have picked up on this). He sees that we yearn for heaven, while clinging to earth. So God, his Elf King, will cast a spell that unites the two worlds, mingling them together, ending the contradiction. There will no longer be heaven and earth. There will no longer be living and dead. There will no longer be slave and free, Jew and gentile, Roman and barbarian. All contradictions resolved. HIS contradictions resolved.

    It’s a beautiful fantasy. And it has done good in the world, I think. And that’s a good book Dunsany wrote. But these are still the fields we know.

  3. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  September 27, 2017

    It’s interesting that Jesus states his twelve disciples as having their own thrones to judge the tribes of Israel. If the disciples believed themselves to be *the* judges for the Kingdom of God, I’m wondering if Paul knew that too since he referred to them as The Twelve; a title of special endorsement. He knew he didn’t fit into that picture of special favor, so it’s no wonder he was at odds with them.

    I’m also wondering if there was some jealousy involved with these titles (“The Rock,” “James the Just,” “Sons of Thunder”) because Paul spent a lot of his time stressing the importance of equality, something that he himself was fighting for.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      Yeah, good point.

    • Avatar
      Tempo1936  September 29, 2017

      Some fundamentalist would say that Jesus is Instructing the disciples to take the gospel to all Jews throughout Israel. This was their honor and privilege.

  4. Avatar
    Benevolent  September 27, 2017

    I totally understand what you’re getting at and i find it all compelling in my continued search for understanding….but, if i’m being honest and critical, the passages below also refer to this kingdom as if it’s a mystery – as if it’s not what people think it is. If i’m to *over-read* what Jesus is saying here i might conclude that he’s actually aware of the Apocalyptic messages of his time. If i’m *over-reading* it and really putting in my own interpretation based on the rest of the Bible, i could say that Jesus knows that people will think he’s an Apocalyptic preacher and is constantly stressing (in later Gospels, but even here) that the kingdom (contrary to everyone’s expectations) is not what people thought it was.

    Mar 4:11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,

    Mar 4:30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?

    Mar 4:26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.

    But yes, “…the kingdom of God is within you” doesn’t appear anywhere else except Luke… That lone example, though, doesn’t critically hold up to every other example in Mark which corroborates the kingdom of God being “within” (or, as you put it, “symbolically”). If you really wanted to, you could very easily read every last saying of Jesus regarding the Kingdom in Mark as symbolic/within…very easily…every last one. In fact, in more cases than not there really is no other way you could read it. This should be very evident, right?

    In fairness, you do say that much of his sayings could be taken symbolically…but that some passages don’t seem symbolic – such as ruling in the kingdom, eating and drinking, etc. But why not? Is this passage to be taken literally?

    Mar 10:37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” [this sounds literal, right?]
    Mar 10:38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. [Theory: Jesus is saying that they think the kingdom will come on this earth like all the other Apocalypticists] Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” [This doesn’t sound so literal, as they thought it was, right?]
    Mar 10:39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized,
    Mar 10:40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

    The latter part of the passage is kind of odd if you’re expecting there to be a kingdom only for those who repent. Jesus does not tell them if they will rule with him in whatever this kingdom is…but he’s very direct that they will do this cup-drinking and be baptised. Before Jesus is crucified/suffers he mentions having to drink a cup, but it seems self-evident that the cup is not a cup.

  5. Avatar
    ddorner  September 27, 2017

    So, was baptism in preparation for entering the coming physical Kingdom Of God rather than Heaven? Obviously today, being baptized to go to Heaven is essential to a lot of Christian beliefs. It would be rather ironic if that’s not what Jesus was talking about.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      John the Baptist’s baptism was for the coming kingdom; Jesus himself probably did not practice baptism — when his followers after his death did, the rite took on a different signfiicance.

      • Avatar
        jhague  September 29, 2017

        Why do you think that Jesus did not practice baptism when it is considered historical that he was baptized by John?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 1, 2017

          My sense is that most people who are baptized don’t themselves baptize others.

          • Avatar
            jhague  October 2, 2017

            Out of curiosity, why do you think that? It seems that if someone thought that baptism was important enough for himself to be baptized, then he would want those he teaches to do the same.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 2, 2017

            Well — why don’t *you* baptize people? It just isn’t something you do.

          • Avatar
            jhague  October 3, 2017

            I baptized my son back in the day! lol
            I was thinking more from the idea that Jesus somewhat took over for John after John’s death. John baptized so it seems to make sense that Jesus would expect his followers to be baptized and that he would even do some of the baptisms.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 4, 2017

            Well, it’s possible.

      • Robert
        Robert  September 29, 2017

        “… Jesus himself probably did not practice baptism …”

        Isn’t it pretty amazing that Jesus followers would have taken up the practice of baptism if Jesus himself (nor his followers) did not practice baptism during his earthly ministry? Jesus must have at the very least endorsed the ongoing practice of something like John’s baptism by his followers during his historical ministry. Hard to imagine his endorsing some kind of continuing baptism without him also practicing it in some fashion.

        • Bart
          Bart  October 1, 2017

          Yes, he may have endorsed the practice. It’s an interesting issue why the rite became so central to the Christian movement: but it’s usually thought that if Jesus was baptized, his followers were to be as well.

  6. Avatar
    Wilusa  September 27, 2017

    Of course, there’s no way to *prove* Jesus actually said *any* of the things attributed to him! But the sayings themselves certainly do refer to a “real” Kingdom, believed in by the authors of the Gospels.

    • Avatar
      Benevolent  September 29, 2017

      There’s maybe two verses out of 20 in the book of Mark that even remotely refer to the kingdom in some kind of physical terms. The majority…in Mark…are all symbolic…if not all. I guess I always thought this was without question….Jesus speaking in parables. He’s using symbolism…he even says he does that. He sets things up to let the listener know he’s using figurative devices. The kingdom is a man sowing seed…etc. Check all the kingdom verses in Mark again. There have been posts here on the Bible as mythology. And I totally agree with those. And to take all these clearly figurative sayings of Jesus and make them literal is just not something I can wrap my head around. Even a college literature professor who has no interest or understanding of the Bible would be able to read every verse in Mark regarding the kingdom and see it as figurative. The fact that Jesus was preaching during a time with apocalyptic thought and preachers only deepens the meaning and gives irony to his parables about the kingdom that I was not aware of.

  7. Avatar
    Durkan23  September 27, 2017

    When the KOG failed to materialise in the liftime of the first followers do we have any idea of the scale of deserters of the faith? How did believers continue to justify the lack of an earthly intervention by God?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      Ah, good question. But it’s a complicated answer. I think I’ll add the question to my mailbag.

    • dschmidt01
      dschmidt01  September 29, 2017

      Super great question. I can’t wait to read the answer

  8. Lev
    Lev  September 27, 2017

    In Mark 13 Jesus predicted he / the Son of Man would return in the clouds with great power and glory:

    26 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory.

    He also predicted this would happen soon:

    30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

    Do you think Jesus’ apocalyptic predictions in Mark 13 are directly associated with his prediction about the coming Kingdom of God? If so, it seems he got his prediction over the timings all wrong, because he did not return in the lifetimes of his disciples.

    Most Christians I’ve heard teach about this get round this by claiming the Kingdom of God was inaugurated at Pentecost, whereas direct rule by Jesus himself will only occur after Judgement day when he returns. So, they claim, his disciples did witness the inauguration of the Kingdom of God at Pentecost, but we’ve yet to get to its final form. Is this teaching consistent with how the early church understood these matters?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      I don’t think there was any one view among the earliest Christians.

    • Avatar
      Benevolent  September 29, 2017

      If you’re looking at all of the verses in Mark regarding the kingdom as figurative (which is very easy), you could say that Jesus’ sayings are referring to the kingdom coming in power within or in the mind. In Mark, Jesus explicitly says the kingdom is a mystery. Why would he call a physical kingdom a mystery and then use figurative devices in all the verses about the kingdom…in Mark?

      Taking a couple verses about the kingdom in Mark that I could read as apocalyptic but ignoring all the other verses that are clearly figurative and even at one point explicitly referred to as a “mystery” would not be critical or honest. And that’s why I’m here….because so much of Christianity is neither critical or honest

  9. Avatar
    ardeare  September 27, 2017

    I’m reading your book, “Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament.” The Gospel of Peter is a Ufologists dream. A great voice (breaking of the sound barrier) came from the sky. The skies open up indicating something entering our atmosphere from above. Two men descend from the craft. They were bright, evidently due to the energy source around them or their space suits. This same energy source causes the stone to roll away. The men enter the tomb. The soldiers on watch are amazed and wake up the Centurion and elders who had fallen asleep while guarding the tomb.

    Together, they watch as the two alien beings exit the tomb, supporting a third being, Jesus. There is a cross following from behind. Obviously, the cross is an energy source and very bright. Stare at any bright light and it inevitably takes the shape of a cross if only intermittently. The heads of the two reached up into the sky must be a reference to the wormhole they used to travel from their destination. But, the one they were leading, presumably Jesus, entered a different craft which used an alternate wormhole that appeared to travel deeper into space and to a different destination. At that point, the witnesses hear a voice from an entity which asks, “Have you preached to those who are asleep?” The cross containing energy and intelligence answers, “Yes.”

    Afterwards, the skies open and a third spacecraft comes upon the scene. A being descends and enters the crypt. The next morning, Mary Magdalene and other women visit the tomb and see inside a beautiful young man who tells them that Jesus is risen and returned from where he came. The young man inside the tomb could actually be an enemy of Jesus, an intergalactic enemy, which would explain why the women fled in fear. What was he doing there? Confirming Jesus had risen and conquered death, which just gave Jesus’ kingdom a tremendous technological advantage in the eternal war.

    Disclaimer: One possible interpretation.

  10. tompicard
    tompicard  September 27, 2017

    That Jesus believed and preached a
    > Kingdom, . . . principally . . .here on earth
    doesn’t imply Jesus doesn’t believe in a afterlife realm for humans in
    > place where God is enthroned
    does it?

    doesn’t seem like it to me . . .

    granted quotes like
    >Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and ,. . .reclining at table in the kingdom of God
    could be interpreted as implying a belief in the resurrection, but it could also imply activities in an afterlife. plus of course these quotes are not theological treatise of Jesus on the existence or non-existence of an afterlife, but exhortations of his for people to change.

  11. Avatar
    Tempo1936  September 27, 2017

    Many fundamentalists believe the kingdom of God are true believers who follow the Commandments of Jesus in this life.
    This means complete submission, picking up your cross, counting the cost , don’t judge, love your neighbor as yourself, renouncing all.
    Following a lifestyle as described by Jesus in the sermon on the mount.
    You enter the kingdom when you become a true believer. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that started from a handful of believers to spreading throughout the entire world.
    Is this similar to what you were taught when you were younger?

  12. DestinationReign
    DestinationReign  September 27, 2017

    Very interesting and relevant subject matter for this time!

    You are correct. If you were to ask the typical church-going Christian what the Kingdom is, he would probably reference the destination that awaits at death. This, in spite of the fact that a focused reading of the Gospels reveals otherwise. (Again, Christianity has been blinded and bereft of a true understanding of its own Scripture. But thankfully, John 9’s “night” is coming to an end.)

    What is interesting and important to note about the coming of the Kingdom is the “cosmic template” through which it manifests itself. Notice:

    Anticipation > Delay > Fulfillment

    We also see this with:

    Christ temporarily in the world > Night when no man could work > Christ returns in power

    Analyzing from a literalistic/historical perspective, it was ANTICIPATED that Christ would establish His Kingdom 2,000 years ago. But 2,000 years later, we obviously see that did not happen. (Refer to the conversation between Christ and the disciples in Acts 1:6-8.)

    And yet again, there has been a RIDDLE behind all of this.

    When Peter stood and spoke at Pentecost, he clearly spoke in a manner of anticipating that Christ would be returning in his lifetime to establish the Kingdom. But it is beneficial to understand that the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, at the beginning of the Church Age, was merely an EARLY PREVIEW of the arrival of the Spirit of TRUTH (John 16:13) that is going to be poured out at the END of the Church Age. Christianity, with its 30,000+ denominations, has clearly never been guided by the Spirit of Truth!

    Holy Spirit at Pentecost > 2,000-year delay > Spirit of Truth

    Early preview > 2,000-year delay > True fulfillment

    Kingdom preached > Age of Christianity > Kingdom fully revealed

    The age of Christianity has actually been one giant INTERRUPTION of the revelation of the true Kingdom!

    All of this leads us back to comparing the beginnings of the Synoptic Gospels:

    Matthew > Mark > Luke

    Christ arrives to save from sin > Begins in the wilderness > Christ arrives to reign forever in His Kingdom

    This obviously is in accord with the journey of the sons of Israel:

    Freed from bondage through the Passover sacrifice > Wandered in the wilderness > Entered Promised Land

    (Christianity has existed during a “wilderness dispensation.” Christianity is Mystery Babylon. Where then does Revelation 17:3 tell us John was taken to see the whore of Babylon? The wilderness! This is more “riddle-solving.”)

    So again, the stories of the Bible are living parables that reveal the grand orchestration of the revelation of the Kingdom of God. This is regardless of how historically accurate or “literal” the stores are.

    And it is not only by comparing the beginnings of the Gospels that we see the consistency of this “template” demonstrated, but also by comparing their endings. (Mark’s ending is an entire topic unto itself.) Why does Matthew not record Jesus’ ascension? (A glaring and peculiar omission, no?) Because His original followers at the beginning of the Church Age ANTICIPATED “ascending alive,” or being glorified into the Kingdom themselves – but they did not. Notice, however, LUKE’S unique ending:

    Behold, I send out the promise of my Father on you. But wait in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)

    Luke applies to the end-time “awakeners” who will receive the long-withheld Spirit of Truth; “clothed with power from on high.”

    It is also revealing that only in Luke, Christ blesses the disciples AS He ascends into Heaven (24:51). Of course, Luke regards those who will remain alive to see the coming of the Kingdom; those who will “ascend alive” themselves. This blessing represents that appointment with destiny! (Also take note that Luke concludes with the disciples “continually in the temple” [24:53]. Compare this to what is written to Philadelphia, the most beloved Church in Revelation [3:12]. Luke is the Gospel of the highly esteemed and beloved end-time overcomers who will help to lead humanity out of darkness and into the true Kingdom.)

    All of this shows why the entire thematic structure of Luke is generally more “positive,” or uplifting, than the first two Synoptics; because Luke applies to the end of the long age of darkness and the soon-coming revelation of the true Kingdom!

    Of course, this is all far from conventional Biblical interpretation, but the question is, who exactly determines what is “conventional” Biblical interpretation?

    • Avatar
      Benevolent  September 29, 2017

      The Gnostic gospels just come right out and say it. While there may be riddles in many of the Apocryphal gospels, I find it interesting how they take the figurative sayings of Jesus in the Bible and outright say what they mean. I think you can arrive at the truths of the Apocryphal gospels (namely Thomas and Philip) without reading them but I find it interesting how they are forbidden.

      • DestinationReign
        DestinationReign  October 1, 2017

        They became forbidden for deliberate reasons centuries ago; now they are “forbidden” primarily due to the complete and utter spiritual ignorance and oblivion of mainstream Christianity’s participants. The Christian leaders of old wanted certain things kept from the masses, for fear the masses would see they have no need for those “leaders.” Now, these things are available to the masses, but they have been so conditioned by the so-called “teachers” of mainstream Christianity, they do not even consider them.

        The Gospel of Thomas, more recently unearthed, expresses the Truth of man’s own intrinsic divine essence, and the need to return to it. And the masses dismiss it, because they have been trained to do so.

        “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees [Christian theologians and teachers], hypocrites! Because you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you don’t enter in yourselves, neither do you allow those who are entering in to enter.” (Mat. 23:14)

  13. Avatar
    Carl  September 27, 2017

    Is the word\s used for the term ‘good news’ in Mark 1:15 the same as that used in Mark 14:9?

    If so (and if it is not an interpolation?) then is it not more likely that the intent of the author of Mark is to use it in the ‘gospel’ context, with the purpose of portraying that Jesus foresaw his death from the beginning? And foresaw that the story of the woman with the alabaster jar would always be told “wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world”

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      Interesting point. Yes, I think that is indeed what Mark had in mind. But I also think it is not what Jesus had in mind when he said the words now found in Mark 1:15. And I don’t think he said the words attributed to him in Mark 14:9.

  14. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  September 27, 2017

    I’ve been reading some of Vermes’s, Jesus the Jew, concerning the phrase “son of man.” If I’m understanding him correctly, he believes it’s an Aramaic phrase that Jesus most likely used when referring to himself. “Son of man” is a circumlocution for the word “I.” It’s either neutral or a way of showing humility and respect.

    He also says that any “Son of Man” phrases used eschatologically in the NT are Christian additions due to Jesus’ followers reinterpretating events soon after the resurrection and that there’s no correlation between the phrase and Enoch.

    He mentions that contemporary scholarship stating that it’s an important title have asked the wrong questions which lead to the wrong conclusions.

    What’s your take on Vermes’s view?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      He was a superb scholar. But I disagree with him on this. Jesus’ use of the Son of Man appears to reflect Daniel 7:13-14 and I think he didn’t use the term as a circumlocution for himself.

      • webo112
        webo112  September 29, 2017

        So just to clarify Professor, your saying that historical Jesus probably was referring to a Son of Man as *another* person to come etc…That (the historical) Jesus did not think himself as the Son of Man.
        And of course early Christians; after Jesus’s death, then came to believe that he was in actuality the Son of Man, all that time, due to their belief in Jesus’s reserction…correct?
        Which in turn “affected” the oral traditions of possible actual sayings of Jesus, specifically when he was being quoted talking about the Barenash/son of man….and then even more, where possibly followers were inventing sayings with this self proclaimed title.

      • Avatar
        Pattycake1974  October 1, 2017

        Vermes discussed why Daniel 7:13-14 is not related to Son of Man. I’m guessing he was in the minority for this view.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  September 29, 2017

      For what it’s worth, my opinion is that “Son of Man” was a term used in Jesus’ time in regard to the loose angelology of 1st century Judaism. Namely, the tradition up to that point was that certain prophets — such as Ezekiel and Daniel, in particular — saw visions of various angelic beings, some of whom took on animal features (reminiscent of the beastial angels of other Semitic cultures, cf. Assyrian Cherubim), but these prophets would single out one particular angelic being as looking entirely “human” (i.e. having no animal features), and in Hebrew one way to say “human being” is Ben-Adam (Bar-Enash in Aramaic), literally “a son of Adam” or “a son of a man”. So when apocalyptic Jews before Jesus would talk of the Son of Man coming at the eschaton, they initially meant the angelic Son of Man, or the angel who looked like a human being, who was a harbinger of the end times (Daniel speaks of the Son of Man as such a harbinger).

      What it looks like happened, to me at least, is that this Son of Man angel became conflated with the Messiah at some point between the Maccabean revolt and the 1st century, so that by the time Jesus is talking about the Son of Man coming, many Jews assumed he was talking about the Messiah. As to whether Jesus himself was conflating the Son of Man with the Messiah, I suppose that’s debatable. From what I understand, Dr. Ehrman thinks Jesus believed that the Son of Man was different from the Messiah — that Jesus thought of the Son of Man in the original sense: a human-looking angelic harbinger, separate from the Messiah who was an actual human being.

      As you can see, this gets awfully complex and difficult to unravel.

  15. Avatar
    Dwallx  September 28, 2017

    Hi Bart I didnt know where to ask this question so I picked this topic. I read somewhere that when the word god is used in the bible it refers to god and when lord is being used it is referring to jesus. Is this true?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      No, “Lord” is a common term for God in the Bible.

      • Avatar
        dankoh  October 1, 2017

        It’s also a common form of address to a king, especiallty as “my lord.”

  16. dschmidt01
    dschmidt01  September 28, 2017

    Hi Dr. Ehrman,
    You’ve said there were other Apocalyptic Prophets than Jesus. Was it typical for the prophets to surround themselves with disciples? What was different about Jesus, rather than say Brian, that his cult grew into a new religion? We’re any of the other prophets crucified? Sorry for including the Brian reference but I couldn’t resist. I do hope you’ll still answer my questions. Thanx

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      Yes, I discuss all this in my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Others did have followers and others were executed (or killed in conflict).

  17. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  September 28, 2017

    My understanding is the Greek /euangelion/ refers to an imperial proclamation, often announcing a tax holiday. (Is that where Bill O’Reilly gets the idea that Jesus came to lower our taxes?) If Jesus actually said, “Repent and believe the good news,” he didn’t say it in Greek, but Aramaic. What is the most likely Aramaic word for “good news” and what is its connotation?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      Hmmm… Good question . Maybe someone else can answer: I’m out of town without a book in sight.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  September 29, 2017

      I don’t know about the Aramaic, specifically, but “good news” is a very common expression in Hebrew. In Hebrew, one would refer to B’sorot Tovot, or good tidings. Although “good tidings” is not a totally accurate translation of the Hebrew. A better translation would be a “welcome portend,” because the word B’sorot (B’sorah in the singular) comes from the same root as the word for augur, foreshadow, bode, etc. But, more importantly, it is also the root for the Hebrew word for a “herald” (M’vaser), i.e the guy who runs ahead of a king’s procession and proclaims the king’s imminent arrival. All of these words come from the same Semitic root: בשר.

      What it appears happened is that Jesus (or, first, John the Baptist) sought to spread the announcement of the coming king, which, in their case, meant the Messiah. So by spreading the “good news,” what they originally appeared to mean was to spread the heralding of the messianic age. It’s like they were saying: “Hey, everyone, the Messiah’s herald has arrived! That means the Messiah is almost here!” Alas, however, if Jesus was the Messiah, then he did, indeed, come, but then he died, so…so much for the “good news” being a harbinger. Therefore, it was necessary for the early Christians to alter the meaning of “good news” to be not the arrival of the Messiah, but the death and resurrection of the Messiah. What was supposed to be the announcement of the grand arrival of the Messiah became a tepid, anti-climactic reinterpretation of the original pronouncement.

  18. Avatar
    Silver  September 28, 2017

    So, is the Lord’s Prayer -‘Thy kingdom come … on earth as it is in heaven’ the prime example of this apocalyptic message?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017


      • Avatar
        Benevolent  September 29, 2017

        Neither prayers attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark but only in Matthew and Luke. And the “on Earth” not accounted for in Luke. This prime argument for the apocalyptic Jesus theory is not even in the apocalyptic book.

        • Bart
          Bart  October 1, 2017

          You’d be amazed at the things I have had to leave out of my books to keep them tight.

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            Michael Toon  October 5, 2017

            In reference to your book Jesus: The Apocalyptic Prophet, can you expound on a few things in the Readers’s Mail bag that you couldn’t include in the book—things that were part of his apocalyptic message?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 6, 2017

            Interesting idea. I didn’t deal much with lots of the parables, for example. One could write a big book just on them. In fact, many scholars have done so!

          • Avatar
            Michael Toon  October 6, 2017

            I understand and thanks, Bart!

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    RVBlake  September 28, 2017

    I have the impression that Jesus was talking about only Jews in his New Kingdom, from his statement about the Prophets and his apostles ruling over the 12 tribes. Am I mistaken? His belief in the near future of this Kingdom seems connected with his statement to the apostles about some of them not dying before His return.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      Yes, I agree.

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        Wilusa  September 29, 2017

        You agreed with another poster’s saying, “I have the impression that Jesus was talking about only Jews in his New Kingdom, from his statement about the Prophets and his apostles ruling over the 12 tribes.”

        So you think Jesus *didn’t* expect the Kingdom to include non-Jews? When you’ve said elsewhere that Jews who anticipated such a Kingdom *had* come to believe it would include all the world’s peoples? (If I understood you correctly…)

        Or did you mean Jesus was only *talking*, at that point, about the Jews who’d be in the Kingdom, but assumed other peoples would be there as well?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 1, 2017

          Some of Jesus’ sayings indicate that others will come in while some Jews are left out. But my view is that Jesus took this message only to Jews, not to gentiles.

  20. Avatar
    Eskil  September 28, 2017

    Are you planning to say anything about Jewish and early Christian beliefs in beforelife in your book about afterlife? Or maybe in its sequel The History of Beforelife? 😉

    • Bart
      Bart  September 29, 2017

      It was a rare belief in Christianity; I”m not sure if or where it could be found in Judaism — certainly not in classical Hebrew writings.

      • Avatar
        Eskil  September 29, 2017

        With early Christianity I’m referring to Valentinianism and Origen:

        Theodotus: “But it is not only the washing that is liberating, but the knowledge of/who we were, and what we have become, where we were or where we were placed, whither we hasten, from what we are redeemed, what birth is and what rebirth.” (Excerpta ex Theodoto)


        Origen: “we are of opinion that, seeing the soul, as we have frequently said, is immortal and eternal, it is possible that, in the many and endless periods of duration in the immeasurable and different worlds, it may descend from the highest good to the lowest evil, or be restored from the lowest evil to the highest good.”   (De Principiis III)

        Origen: “this result must be understood as being brought about, not suddenly, but slowly and gradually, seeing that the process of amendment and correction will take place imperceptibly in the individual instances during the lapse of countless and unmeasured ages, some outstripping others, and tending by a swifter course towards perfection, while others again follow close at hand, and some again a long way behind; and thus, through the numerous and uncounted orders of progressive beings”


        With Judaism I referring to sources saying that…

        “the traditional Jewish belief [is] that every Jewish soul in history was present at Sinai and agreed to the covenant with G-d”


        I don’t believe such a Jewish belief has any grounds in the old testament but I don’t think Jews have sola scriptura doctrine requiring such either.

        But wound’t these kinds of beliefs proof that eternal punishment in Hell was not unanimously accepted doctrine. Some believers expected a second or third chance or a gradual advancement to perfection?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 1, 2017

          That’s right: eternal punishment was not a view held by everyone.

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            Eskil  October 2, 2017

            Do you have any explanation for why church kept on copying Origen doctrine (writings) about beforelife for all these years until the internet age and what made them to suppress Theodotus doctrine about the same during the early ears?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 3, 2017

            Well, they weren’t copied a *lot*. Most of his writings are not preserved in Greek, for example, but only in Latin translation. And many are lost. Why those who did copy them copied them is an interesting question. They continued to find his views valuable I suppose. Theodotus (the adopionist you mean?) was quite clearly a “heretic.”

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        dankoh  October 1, 2017

        I am not aware of any belief in “beforelife” in the traditional Jewish sources, but there may be some mystical (kabbalistic) speculations, and probably some homiletics among, say, the Hassidim.

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