A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Daniel Scheiderer
About the Author
George Eldon Ladd (PhD, Harvard) was professor of New Testament exegesis at Fuller Theological Seminary and the author or editor of numerous books, including The Blessed Hope, The New Testament and Criticism, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, The Gospel of the Kingdom, and A Theology of the New Testament.
Ladd’s central thesis is “that before the eschatological appearing of God’s Kingdom at the end of the age, God’s Kingdom has become dynamically active among men in Jesus’ person and mission” (139, also restated throughout). He begins by stating the nature of the question as it stood in his time, looking at the various recent scholars and their different proposals. From here he looks at the OT and intertestamental period to consider the way that the Kingdom, and particularly the eschatological consummation of history, was thought of prior to the NT. He then moves to the teaching of John the Baptist and Jesus to explore the way their teaching concurred and departed from the apoclyptists and each other.
This historical survey gives way to a conceptual and textual survey that supports his thesis, explaining that the major emphasis of the Gospels is that the Kingdom is the rule of God in the person of Jesus Christ now and it anticipates a final consummation. Closing out the book, Ladd looks at the consummation and the book’s (i.e. Jesus’ eschatology) contribution to our broader theology.
Table of Contents
Part I: Introduction
1 The Debate Over Eschatology
Part II: The Promise of the Kingdom
2 The Old Testament Promise
3 The Apocalyptic Interpretation of the Promise
Part III: The Fulfillment of the Promise
4 Fulfillment without Consummation
5 The Kingdom: Reign or Realm?
6 The Kingdom Present as Dynamic Power
7 The Kingdom Present as the Divine Activity
8 The Kingdom Present as the New Age of Salvation
9 The Mystery of the Kingdom
10 Jesus, Israel, and His Disciples
11 The Kingdom and the Church
12 The Ethics of the Kingdom
Part IV: The Consummation of the Promise
13 The Consummation of the Kingdom
Part V: Conclusion
14 The Abiding Values for Theology
PART I: INTRODUCTION
Chapter 1: The Debate over Eschatology
In order to set the stage for the topic addressed in the remainder of the book, it is necessary to understand the current discussion. Our topic of discussion is of immense importance because it addresses the very relationship between Christ’s message (past) and the church’s propagation (present) and preparation based on that message (future). What is “the Kingdom” and when is it? To these tightly related questions, three broad scholarly answers have been provided.
First is what is called Consistent Eschatology. This group of scholarship exists mostly on the Continent and in America. Following Schweitzer and Johannes Weiss, men such as Wilhelm Michaelis, Maurice Goguel, Charles Guiguebert, Martin Werner, Martin Dibelius, and Rudolf Bultmann on the Continent, Ernest F. Scott and R.H. Fuller in America, have all espoused Consistent Theology in one form or another. Consistent Theology says that the Kingdom is primarily what is coming, a final situation following a series of events. Thus, Christ spoke of the kingdom in apocalyptic language about the imminent. Some have discussed the impact of this teaching on followers (Michaelis) or distinguished eschatology from apocalyptic (Goguel), but all agree regarding the primary referent in the Kingdom language. The Kingdom, whether actual in Jesus’ teaching or imposed and adjusted later by the church, is the conviction that a new order is coming.
Second are proposals of exclusively or essentially spiritual, noneschatological interpretations of the Kingdom. These challengers to the Consistent Eschatology proposal, mostly located in England and America, include Lewis Muirhead, Ernest von Dobschutz, T. W. Manson, C. J. Cadoux, F. C. Grant, H. B. Sharman, A. T. Olmstead, Leroy Waterman, John Wick Bowman, and C. H. Dodd. The noneschatological interpretation identifies the Kingdom with the rule of God in the world, particularly in the human soul. As God’s will is embraced and enacted in the lives of individuals, so too is the Kingdom made present in the world. At this point, we may again include Bultmann, as well as circle back to F. C. Grant and T. W. Manson, who emphasize the exestitential reality of the Kingdom. While Bultmann would view the coming events in Jesus’ teaching, they are merely incidental to the true, existential meaning of his Kingdom teaching. In this sense then, the Kingdom has ultimately come with the arrival of Jesus, and the ultimate purpose behind apocalyptic language is to serve as a husk in which the kernel (the message), is delivered.
Third, between the two extremes lies a contingent of scholars who believe in a synthesis of futurity and the noneschatological. The first four to write in this vein, Gerhard Gloege, H. D. Wendland, Rudolf Otto, and Joachim Jeremias, all argued within a short period of five years (1929-1934) that the Kingdom has come and is coming. Reflecting Otto’s influence, T. W. Manson also shifted to this position, along with Jean Héring, W. G. Kümmel, A. N. Wilder, A. M. Hunter, Ernst Percy, Herman Ridderbos, and Norman Perrin. These argue that something was begun by Christ, a new order overthrown by the incarnation, will arrive at ultimate fulfillment in an eschatological consummation. Like the future harvest is present in the sown field, so the consummated Kingdom is present in the world now. The Kingdom is christological and soteriological, begun by Christ in his person and works; it is present and promised.
The survey of these three movements produce four conclusions.
- First, Schweitzer’s Consistent Eschatology must be modified to incorporate the present nature of the Kingdom in some way.
- Second, we must address the imminence of the Kingdom in the Lord’s teaching that does not result in accusing him of delusion.
- Third, we must work out definitions and distinctions between eschatology and apocalyptic (prophecy), and their usage by the Lord.
- Finally, we must develop a definition of the Kingdom in order to assess questions of its temporal location.
PART II: THE PROMISE OF THE KINGDOM
Chapter 2: The Old Testament Promise
Jesus began his preaching with the simple proclamation that the Kingdom was at hand with an underlying assumption that his audience would know the definition of the Kingdom. For readers seeking to understand what the Kingdom is, we must look at the OT and the apocryphal literature to gain a sense of the content with which Jesus’ hearers would have filled the definition.
First, the OT speaks of “kingship” in two ways. It is both the office of the ruler and the realm over which the ruler rules. To be king is to have the authority and power of a king over a particular realm. The dynamic rulership of God is over both the earth as a whole and the people of Israel specifically. His rule is. . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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The Presence of the Future: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism