Johannes Weiss, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God. trans by. Richard Hiers and D. Holland; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971. 148pp.
Johannes Weiss’ book Die Predigt Jesu von Reiche Gottes (Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God) was published in 1892.  In it Weiss put forward one of the first arguments for a thoroughly eschatological nature of the kingdom. Although an eschatological view of the kingdom is taken for granted today, it was not so in Weiss’ day. Weiss’ view sharply contrasted the dominating thought about the KOG at the time. Ritschl, and most scholars of the day, understood the kingdom primarily as ethical in character. Ritschl said:
The kingdom of God consists of those who believe in Christ, inasmuch as they treat one another with love without regard to differences of sex, rank or race, thereby bringing about a fellowship of moral attitude and moral properties extending through the whole range of human life in every possible variation.
Weiss waited three years until after Ritschl’s death to publish this book, because he was the son-in-law and student of Albert Ritschl. As Dunn says, “[Ritchl’s] optimistic complacency was shattered by his own son-in-law.” who insisted that the kingdom be understood against the backdrop of interestamental Jewish apocalypses in which there was a sharp discontinuity between the present age and the age to come. For Weiss the kingdom was wholly dependent upon divine intervention. This book was a turning point from the nineteenth to the twentieth century New Testament research, although the editors note that it has strangely been neglected by British and American New Testament scholars. Albert Schweitzer came to the same eschatological conclusions as Weiss in his Skizze des Lebens Jesu (Sketch of the Life of Jesus; 1901) although he had not read either edition of Weiss’ work.
Weiss begins by emphasizing that dogmatics sometimes has a tendency to “strip concepts of their original historical character” (59), therefore he wants to reexamine the concept KOG. He informs the readers that he will not use John as a source, nor a couple of late passages in Matthew (13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50; 25:31-46), nor the phrase ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. He also discounts a few of parables, because the connection with the KOG is “loose” and in many cases the evangelists abandon that formula altogether (64).
Weiss concedes that we find there are statements about the rule of God already actualized, but he asks in what sense did Jesus speak of a present βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ? He says Matt 21:31 and 11:1 give little support to a present kingdom. For when it says tax collectors and prostitutes precede the people into the kingdom it only means they are ahead of them in that they set a good example (72). The parables used to support a present Kingdom are also not clear according to Weiss (the mustard seed and leaven). Most forcefully, Jesus said in the Lord’s prayer that his disciples were to repeat ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου. For the disciples the kingdom is not yet here (73). This same perspective is confirmed by Jesus at the Last Supper. For he says he will not drink the fruit of the vine until the KOG has come. This shows how little Jesus thought of himself as leaving the KOG behind in the group of his disciples.
Weiss explains two of the most problematic passages for a future orientation of the kingdom, Matt 12:28 and Luke 17:21, by saying Jesus was showing that by his own activity the power of Satan was being broken. Satan’s kingdom is already broken, “the rule of God is already gaining ground; but it has not yet become a historical event” (79). Weiss also rejects that Jesus was the “founder” of the KOG. Rather Jesus is the preparer; driving out the Ruler of this age. He also is the announcer; proclaiming the coming of the KOG. But when did Jesus expect the establishment of the kingdom to occur? Weiss states that Jesus at a certain time believed the coming of the kingdom closer than turned out to be the case. But slowly Jesus became convinced that the end had been postponed (86). The establishment of the kingdom could not take place until the guilt of the people had been removed (87). Therefore he seized upon the idea that his death should be the ransom for people (88).
The establishment of the kingdom would not be in secret, but visible to all (Mk 13). Only God can bring it and it does not grow gradually. According to Weiss, this world cannot assimilate the KOG, for everything must become new (Rev 21:1, 5; 2 Pt 3:10). The kingdom is ushered in by judgment, and this judgment must come prior to the establishment of the kingdom (97). Jesus’ kingdom can be described as a struggle against Satan, which includes the deliverance of the people from their enemies and oppressors (102). The preparation for the kingdom was a summons to turn away from worldliness. Weiss emphasizes a dualistic view of the world where believers do not value things of this age but look forward to a heavenly one. He urges us to take seriously the warning about riches, about the dangers of secularization and serving two masters (108). Jesus’ Kingdom is radically superworldly (114). Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus understood himself to be the “Messiah,” the King of this kingdom. However, according to Weiss, although he thought of himself of a prophet, Jesus was to become the Son of Man. He asserts that many of the Son of Man statements are simply circumlocutions for “I” or “man,” while others are Messianic.
Weiss comes to the conclusion that we cannot dismiss Jesus’ consciousness of the nearness of the kingdom, but that this nearness is not how theologians have generally conceived it. The kingdom is superwordly and eschatological. The dominant idea in Jesus’ proclamation is not the kingdom of ethics, but of a transcendent nature. The kingdom of God also cannot be actualized by human initiative but is entirely God’s initiative. “The only thing man can do about it is to perform the condition required by God” (132).
Weiss rightly examines to the Scriptures in response to ethical interpretations of the KOG. The amount of evidence for his thesis is not lacking, when very few were in agreement with Weiss’ argument. He gave scholarship another perspective from which to examine the kingdom texts. He emphasized Jesus’ words in the Lord’s prayer, ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου. They were called to “seek the Kingdom” (Mt 6:33; Lk 12:31) but not to inaugurate it. He also highlighted Jesus speaking about not tasting the fruit of the vine at the Last Supper until the kingdom of God comes again. He said that when the Scriptures say the KOG is ἤγγικεν it means that it is so near it stands at the door, but still not here. He is correct that there is an abundance of evidence which points towards a future kingdom. He rightly explains Matt 21:31 saying that rather than communicating a “present” kingdom, this verse says that the tax collectors and prostitutes set a good example of those who will enter the KOG.
Although it is more popular and probably right to argue an already/not yet dimension to the KOG, Weiss’ arguments should be taken into account. His arguments are a helpful reminder even for today to show that in many ways the KOG is eschatological. He also seems to have rightly understood the KOG as a realm in addition to reign (103). It was not simply the reign of God in people’s hearts, or the reign of God in some abstract sense. Rather this reign of God included a realm. And if it is a realm then in a very real sense the KOG is futuristic. Many of the statements about the KOG do not make sense if one understands it only as a reign. Jesus tells them to “seek first the KOG.” This could be metaphorical, in the sense that they are to seek the reign of God in the world, but I think it makes more sense to understand it as seeking the KOG as a place, and this place is entered through a person. Many times the Scriptures speak of “entering” the KOG. Ladd argues that entering this kingdom designates a realm of salvation which is present. So he understands it dynamically. But most naturally they are entering a place. Jesus also regularly speaks of “seeing” the KOG (Mk 9:1, 15:43; Lk 9:27). It seems to be a visible reality. Jesus says there are tables in the KOG (Lk 13:29) and people will be eating bread in the KOG (Lk 14:15). Therefore unless these are all to be taken a metaphorical, the KOG is a realm as well as a reign or rule. Although Norman Perrin does not satisfactorily describe what the kingdom is, I do think he may be on the right track to claim it is symbol with diverse meanings. One description cannot exhaust what the kingdom is, like one description cannot sufficiently define a nation.
This realm aspect corresponds with the importance of land in Israel’s history. Most naturally when early followers of Jesus heard the word “kingdom” they would have understood it as a location. It is true that Jesus came and reoriented many of their previous thoughts about how the promises to Abraham would be realized. However Jesus never explains the KOG in the Gospels, and one would expect that if he did come and radically change their understanding of the KOG one of the Gospel writers would have included this in their report. But this is not the case. The Gospel writers present the KOG without further comment, assuming that people know what it means and what it signifies.
Another emphasis that Weiss was helpful on was the ethics of the kingdom. He urged radical obedience and that people had to be inwardly transformed and themselves participate in the new creation. In the Gospels Jesus announces the kingdom and then both declares what it looks like to “be” a part of the kingdom and performs kingdom deeds.
But like many reactions, Weiss may have overacted in the sense that he did not satisfactorily explain in what sense the kingdom of God was present. Weiss spent most of his time trying to show both that there are very clear verses which point towards an eschatological kingdom and explaining away verses that speak of a present kingdom. At the beginning of his book he brushes aside a few parables which could go against his thesis. He says that most of parables are not speaking about the KOG because not all the evangelists introduce them in the same way. He also says that he does not doubt that the evangelists wanted us to interpret these parables in light of the contemporary church, but Jesus did not (72). The sense in which the KOG was present according to Weiss was a dualistic understanding of the KOG. Matthew 12:28 and Luke 17:21 meant that Satan’s kingdom was already broken. But this is where Weiss needs to be more specific. What does this communicate about the kingdom, if Satan’s kingdom is already being broken? Is it gaining ground, but not yet a historical event? Jüngel’s explanation of the presence of the kingdom has the right balance.
We have to understand ‘futurist’ not in the sense of delay as distance, but in the sense of a future standing in the present; If the divine sovereignty “projects into the present” as the powerfully operative finger of God, it moves into the present. Indeed, Jüngel states that the future “stands” in the present. In that case the future has become presence-with-future. This is what the text actually implies of the kingdom.
The KOG has become present with a future in the life of Jesus. But we must start with the future of the kingdom, and then move to how and in what way it is present. Pannenberg speaks in similar language when he says, “Our starting point then is the Kingdom of God understood as the eschatological future brought by God himself. Only in the light of this future can we understand man and his history.”
Weiss spends some time discussing Jesus’ relationship to the KOG rejecting that he is the founder and asserting that he is the preparer and the announcer of the KOG. Weiss seems to shy away from describing Jesus as the founder or establisher of the kingdom because it would not fit with his view of the kingdom being futuristic. He does raise an interesting correlation to the Baptist being a preparer of the kingdom and having the same message of Jesus, and therefore they should both be considered preparatory (82). But if Jesus is the ruler of the KOG then when he comes, the KOG comes with him, and this is different than the Baptist. The nature of their proclamation is different because of the nature of their being. Beasley nicely summarizes Jesus’ relationship to the KOG.
Jesus is the Champion of the Kingdom of God (Mk 3:27), the Initiator of the Kingdom (Mt 11:12), the Instrument of the Kingdom (Mt 12:28), the Representative of the Kingdom (Lk 17:20-21), the Mediator of the Kingdom (Mk 2:18), the Bearer of the Kingdom (Mt 11:5), the Revealer of the Kingdom (Mt 13:16-17).
If Jesus is the ruler of the KOG then did his “realm” come with him? Some would argue it did in the Church, but others would say this realm is purely eschatological. I personally am undecided on this point. If it is eschatological though, it makes sense that so few of his disciples understood who he was, because the realm of the KOG was to be delayed. He first had to pay for the guilt of his people.
Weiss rejects that we do anything to usher in the KOG. It does not grow gradually, but rather comes solely on the initiative of God and comes without any warning of visible signs. Therefore for Weiss, the kingdom is not an assignment but a gift. We cannot build, establish, or advance the KOG. George Eldon Ladd agreed and said
The kingdom can draw near to men (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; etc.); it can come (Matt. 6:10; Luke 17:20; etc.), arrive (Matt. 12:28), appear (Luke 19:11), be active (Matt. 11:12). God can give the kingdom to men (Matt. 21:43; Luke 12:32), but men do not give the kingdom to one another. Further, God can take the Kingdom away from men (Matt. 21:43), but men do not take it away from one another, although they can prevent others from entering it. Men can enter the kingdom (Matt. 5:20; 7:21; Mark 9:47; 10:23; etc.), but they are never said to erect it or to build it. Men can receive the kingdom (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17), inherit it (Matt. 25:34), and possess it (Matt. 5:4), but they are never said to establish it. Men can reject the kingdom, i.e., refuse to receive it (Luke 10:11) or enter it (Matt. 23:13), but they cannot destroy it. They can look for it (Luke 23:51), pray for its coming (Matt. 6:10), and seek it (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:31), but they cannot bring it. Men may be in the kingdom (Matt. 5:19; 8:11; Luke 13:29; etc.), but we are not told that the kingdom grows. Men can do things for the sake of the kingdom (Matt. 19:12; Luke 18:29), but they are not said to act upon the kingdom itself. Men can preach the kingdom (Matt. 10:7; Luke 10:9), but only God can give it to men (Luke 12:32).
Although I applaud the rigorous look at how the Scriptures use the phrase, I wonder if this view accounts for Jesus’ and our relationship to the KOG as his stewards and representatives. If Christ is our representative, and we are his image bearers and stewards, we are to imitate him in proclaiming release from a foreign kingdom. This proclamation must also be accompanied by acts of release from the power of the ruler of the air. In addition, it is hard to argue that there is not growth in the parables on the KOG. Especially when Mark says they bear fruit, “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mk 4:20). This view of growth does go against Weiss, Schweitzer, and Dodd who think that the gradual growth interpretation is off. Rather for Schweitzer “the immediateness is the note of Jesus’ parables.” The concept of development is not at all brought into prominence, but the exposition is rather about two conditions placed side by side so that one is compelled to raise the question, how can the final stage proceed from the initial stage? This lead Schweitzer to interpret the parables as ”the same God who through is mysterious power in nature brings the harvest to pass will also bring to pass the Kingdom of God.”
Other critiques could be raised of Weiss. Weiss, like Schweitzer, thought that Jesus expected the KOG to come in his lifetime. But the verse that he adduces to support supports this view does have another explanation. In Mark 9:1 Jesus says “some who are standing here will not taste death until they see the KOG after it has come with power.” But this statement in all the Gospels comes before the transfiguration. By putting this phrase before the transfiguration, Jesus is saying they will get a prolpetic vision of what the KOG will be like in the transfiguration. In addition there is a very clear statement in Luke 19:11 where Jesus tells a parable because “they supposed that the KOG was to appear immediately.” Weiss also has some odd views of the Son of Man statements, but it seems that he simply wants to explain how Jesus was going to come again and fulfill the eschatological role of Daniel 7, which supports his eschatological interpretation.
Some of my biases have been evident in this review. I think it is important that before we begin talking of the temporal nature of the KOG, we need to start with descriptions. It is hard looking at the Scriptures to deny that the KOG is the “reign” of God, without having a “realm” aspect. Once a definition is established, movement towards an analysis of the temporal nature of the kingdom can be undertaken. But the temporal nature of the KOG is where many studies major. The Scriptures do speak about the “when” of the kingdom, but only 12 of the 52 references to the KOG in the Gospels explicitly speak of its temporality. The emphasis is on who can enter, and how to describe it. Therefore although the temporality of the KOG how has dominated the debate, I suppose it is time to get past the future/present discussion and move it in a different direction.
 I am reviewing the first edition. There was a second edition in 1900. It was the judgment of the editors that the first edition presents Weiss’ thesis more clearly. In the second edition Weiss adds background material with respect to the Old Testament and Jewish concepts of the Kingdom. In a few instances Weiss modified his interpretation from the first edition.
 Wilhem Hermann and Adolf von Harnack understood it to mean the rule of God in the hearts of men.
 James Dunn, Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 49. Dunn was referring more to the second edition in this comment.
 Weiss, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, 2.
 Wendell Willis has a concise summary in six statements of Weiss’ description of Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God. (1) It is radically transcendent and supramundane. (2) It is radically future and in no way present. (3) Jesus was not the founder or the inaugurator of this kingdom, but waited for God to bring it. (4) The kingdom is in no way identified with Jesus’ circle of disciples. (5) The kingdom does not come gradually by growth, or development. (6) The ethics that the kingdom sponsors are negative and world-denying. Wendell Willis, “The Discovery of the Eschatological Kingdom: Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer,” in The Kingdom of God in 20th-Century Interpretation (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 4.
 Another way to put this is a domain as well as a dominion. G.E. Ladd has an entire chapter arguing against this view. G.E. Ladd, The Presence of the Future (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 122–148. The originator of this argument though seems to have been Dalman. Gustaf Dalman, The Words of Jesus (trans by. D.M. Kay; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902).
 Ladd cites Gerhard Gloege (1928) as the first to explicitly reject the “static” or “local” aspect of the KOG. Ladd, The Presence of the Future, 24.
 Pennington argues similarly in his doctoral dissertation on Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew. He says the idea is more spatial than scholars usually admit. Jonathan Pennington, Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007).
 Ladd, The Presence of the Future, 196.
 Norman Perrin, Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom: Symbol and Metaphor in New Testament Interpretation (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976).
 G.R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 80.
 Wolfhart Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969), 84.
 G.R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God, 145-6.
 Ladd, The Presence of the Future, 193 .
 Albert Schweitzer, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God (trans by. Walter Lowrie; Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1985), 61.
 Ibid., 63.
 The following 12 verses in the Gospels I labeled as having primarily a temporal notion. Some of these are cross-references as well. Noticeably, most of the references come from Luke. Mt 12:28; Mk 1:15; 9:1; Lk 9:27; 10:9; 10:11; 11:20; 17:20-21; 19:11; 21:31; 22:18.