Christian America and the Kingdom of God (Chapter 2)

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In Chapter 2, the author examines what it means to be the kingdom of God according to the Hebrew bible, but using the mission of Christ as the starting point. He makes the point,

Americans can claim their country as a Christian nation if they wish, but to make that argument stick, they must somehow make it square with the Bible.

From there, he goes on to examine the parallel visions of Israel as a biblical kingdom of God, noting Israel was never meant to exist as a kingdom, and became one only after a rebellion against God. He draws the distinction between Israel of the Hexateuch and that which developed after the Kingdom and through the prophetic writings against the backdrop of wars and waywardness by Israel. In doing so, he focuses on God’s repetitive focus on justice as His measurement of Israel’s obedience. For Hughes, a biblical kingdom of God is one which focuses justice (to the poor) and governed by peace and goodwill to all. (p32)

In his examination of the Witness of the Hebrew Bible, he notes the two visions of Israel – a warrior, vengeful and the other, a peacemaker. He calls attention to the fact that when Christ announced His mission (Luke 4.16-21), he omitted the phrase ‘vengeance of God’ from His quotation of Isaiah 61.1-2. This is a key point in his argument that the kingdom/rule of God/heaven which Christ established was one which developed in later prophetic writings.

To drive home the point, he shows that Christ fulfilled (incarnated as Crossan concluded p37) not passages from the warring manifesto of Israel’s history, but those passages related to a kingdom of peace and justice.

The  author does not hesitate to use biblical passages – without the added baggage of historical criticism or long winded commentaries. Further, he reveals his influences of John Dominic Crossan, Walter Brueggemann (who has lent his endorsement), and Gordon Brubacher.

Hughes concludes the chapter by pointing to the Maccabean period which began to see Israel’s mission not just to Israel – justice wasn’t merely for Israelites – but a new mission in which Israel was the light to the world.

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