Similarities in Wright and Ridderbos on the Kingdom of God

by caseybedell

In my studies on Psalm 2 and Messiansim within in early Judaism I noticed several similarities between Tom Wright’s and Herman Ridderbos’ understanding of the kingdom of God. Both recognize that within the literature of the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism, that while Messianism is one piece of the pie when it comes to Israelite hope, it is the kingdom of God that is the pie crust.

For Wright, Messianism features as just one aspect of the much wider and far reaching hope that God would vindicate his people, reverse the current state of affairs and become in reality what they believed he was by faith, namely the king of the universe.[1] Most famous of Wright’s articulations of the kingdom of God is the idea that the new covenant is the end of exile and the dawn of the new age.[2] As well, Wright understands that when historically and theologically considered, the kingdom of God “is a slogan whose basic meaning is the hope that Israel’s god [sic] is going to rule Israel (and the whole world), and that Caesar, or Herod, or anyone else of their ilk, is not.  It means that Torah will be fulfilled at last, that the Temple will be rebuilt and the Land cleansed.”[3]

Whether one agrees with Wright’s continued exile motif or not, no one can doubt that Wright’s conception of the kingdom of God on being about “How God Became King” is central to the bibles overall message.

For example, the Psalms are replete with Divine kingship, which refers either to his kingship over his creation or kingship over his people (Ps. 5, 10, 24, 29, 44, 47, 68, 74, 84, 89, 95, 98, 145, 149) The kingly rule of God always stood behind the Davidic king, as there was ultimately no king but God.  The king of Israel was to image God to the people.

Onto Ridderbos, who says, the “idea of the coming kingdom is pre-eminently the idea of the kingly self-assertion of God, of his coming to the world in order to reveal his royal majesty, power and right… [T]his absolutely theocentric idea of the kingdom of heaven should always be borne in mind, if we want to have a correct insight into the general purport of Jesus’ preaching.”[4]

Again Ridderbos says, “It is not in the first place the heathen who are called to repent, but it is Israel.  It is the glory of God, not the pre-eminence of the people, which is placed in the center both at the beginning and during the progress of the preaching of the kingdom.”[5]

Now getting into their differences, which are many, is a whole other subject. One which any responsible reader is sure to see.  But the similarites are worth pondering, especially for the fighting type.

[1] New Testament and the People of God, 300.

[2] Ibid., 301.

[3] Ibid., 302.

[4] Coming of the Kingdom, 19.

[5] Ibid., 20.