Archive Authors Civic Polity E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene The Two Kingdoms

“My Kingdom Is Not of This World” (2)

This is the second in a series on the history of the exegesis of John 18:36 (“My kingdom is not of this world”). (Part 1 here.)

Today’s selection comes from Wolfgang Musculus’ Commentarii In Evangelivm Ioannis: In Tres Heptadas Digesti. Yesterday I said that Hemmingsen’s commentary was massive. I was wrong. Musculus gives an entirely new meaning to the word “massive.” His commentary makes Hemmingsen’s look like an epitome.

In this work, Musculus first gives a series of interpretive and paraphrastic glosses on the meaning of the text. He then appends a second section of observationes. I’ve included his comments on the words Regnum meum non est ex hoc mundo from each section. He says more that is of relevance with respect to the two kingdoms in his comments on the surrounding verses, but what I’ve included is already quite lengthy, and so I’ve left it there. I will follow with a few remarks: observationes on his observationes, as it were.


Ne se prorsus regem populi Israelis negaret, et ut calumniae Iudaeorum occurreret, qua ipsum tanquam Caesareae Maiestatis reum, et rebellem accusaverant, et Pilato fucum facere tentabant, de regno suo, quale non sit, exposuit, dicens: Regnum meum non est ex hoc mundo, etc. Qausi dicat: Regni mei qualitas ea non est, ut Caesari tuo officiat. Regnum ille mundanum habet, nec aliud affectat. Regnum vero meum mundanum non est. Quapropter non est, ut tibi Iudaeorum improbitate imponi sinas. Deinde addit rationem: Si ex hoc mundo, inquit, esset regnum meum, ministri mei utique decertarent, ne traderer Iudaeis. Quasi dicat: Res ipsa, sicut vides, declarat, non esse me terrenum aliquem regem, mundani regni potentia suffultum. Alioqui longe alio essem satellitum apparatu, et aliter instructis copijs circumvallatus, ne quid in me possent Iudaei. Nunc vero cum neminem habeam nisi paucos discipulos, quid aliud ipsa rerum mearum facies clamat, quam regnum meum non esse mundanum, sicut inimici mei calumniantur?


Duplex est regni Christi consideratio. 1. Una quale non sit, altera quale sit. Observandum hic est, quod Pilato sic respondet, ut primum calumniam adversariorum diluat, exponendo de regno, quod tale non sit, qualia sunt regna huius mundi. Huc pertinet quod dicit, Regnum meum non est de hoc mundo. Docemur hoc exemplo, ut et nos sinistram suspicionem de doctrina nostra, quam illi adversarij suscitant, coram magistratibus huius seculi diluamus, declarantes illis non esse eam talem, qualem reprobi et inimici veritatis fingunt. Non mox qualis sit cuivis exponi potest, et si exponatur etiam, non statim a quovis intelligitur, quia a non quolibet affectatur. Satis sit ergo crassioribus et stupidioribus significare, non esse doctrinam evangelij seditiosam, nec patrocinari illis, qui publicam pacem interturbare, et obedientem magistratui debitam infringere student.

  1. Deinde, quod regnum Christi concernit, observandum est quod non dicit, Non est regnum meum in hoc mundo: sed, Non est regnum meum ex hoc mundo. Quicquid ex mundo est, mundanum est, non quicquid in mundo est. Regnum Christi ex mundo quidem non est, ideoque mundanum non est, quia nec ex potentia, nec sapientia, nec gloria mundi huius constat: in mundo tamen est, quia electi qui cives illius sunt, in quorum cordibus regnat, in mundo sunt, donec in carne hac vivunt. Quamvis impius sit hic mundus, regnat tamen in illo Christus, etiam in medio inimicorum: Psal. 110. (Commentarii In Evangelivm Ioannis: In Tres Heptadas Digesti, pp. 726-7)


In order that he might not wholly deny that he was king of the Israelite people, and in order to meet the false report of the Jews, by which they had accused him of being guilty of high treason against Caesar and of being a rebel and were attempting to deceive Pilato, he explained what sort of kingdom his was not, saying: “My kingdom is not from this world,” etc. As if he should say: “The nature of my kingdom is not such as to obstruct your Caesar. He has a worldly kingdom, and does not aspire to another. But my kingdom is not worldly. Therefore it you should not allow yourself to by imposed upon by the dishonesty of the Jews.” Next he adds the reason: “If,” he says, “my kingdom were from this world, my servants would surely fight in order that I not be handed over to the Jews.” As if he should say: “The matter itself, as you see, makes it plain that I am not some earthly king, propped up by the power of a worldly kingdom. Otherwise I would be have a glorious retinue far different [from the one I have], and otherwise I would be blockaded by troops drawn up for battle, in order that I not be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, since I have no one except a few disciples, what else does the appearance of my affairs proclaim, than that my kingdom is not worldly, as my enemies falsely report?”


Consideration of the kingdom of Christ is twofold. 1. The one has to do with what sort of thing it is not, the other with what sort of thing it is. Here it must be observed that he responds to Pilate in such a way that he first does away with the false report of his adversaries by explaining that [his] kingdom is not of the same sort as the kingdoms of this world. Here it is of relevance that he says, “My kingdom is not from this world.” By this example we are taught that we too, before the magistrates of this age, are to do away with the injurious suspicion of our doctrine that those adversaries stir up, declaring to them that it is not of such a kind as men false and hostile to the truth imagine. What sort [of a kingdom] it is cannot be directly explained to anyone, and even if it should be explained, it is not immediately understood by anyone, because it is not aspired to by anyone. Therefore let it suffice to signify to the rather thick and stupid that the doctrine of the gospel is not seditious, nor does it afford protection to those who desire to disturb the public peace and to diminish the obedience owed to the magistrate.

  1. Next, as to what the kingdom of Christ is concerned with, it must be observed that he does not say, “My kingdom is not in this world,” but, “My kingdom is not from this world.”1 Whatever is from the world is worldly, not whatever is in the world. The kingdom of Christ is indeed not from the world; and it is not worldly for the following reason: because it does not consist in the power, nor the wisdom, nor the glory of this world. Nevertheless it is in the world, because the the elect, who are citizens of that [kingdom], in whose hearts [Christ] reigns, are in the world, as long as they live in this flesh. Although this world is impious, Christ nevertheless reigns in it, even in the midst of his enemies (Psalm 110).2


  1. Musculus is insistent that the doctrine of the gospel is not subversive of the political order. I think we need to be a little careful in getting his meaning right here: his point does not seem to be that the gospel has nothing to do with temporal concerns, the duties of the magistrate, and so on. His point is that Christ’s subjects, who more often than not are also private citizens, will not take up arms against the magistrate for the sake of defending or furthering the work of the gospel. So much is clear from the ratio he gives for Christ’s words: “Next he adds the reason: ‘If,’ he says, ‘my kingdom were from this world, my servants would surely fight in order that I not be handed over to the Jews.’ As if he should say: ‘The matter itself, as you see, makes it plain that I am not some earthly king, propped up by the power of a worldly kingdom.'” The gospel, Musculus says, cannot be made a pretext for sedition or disobedience, or for encouraging such disobedience in others.

  2. The adverb is again important (hinc vs. hic): Musculus notes that there is a difference between from and in, “hence” and “here.” Christ’s kingdom is not from this world, but it is in it–it is here. This is, almost word-for-word, what Hemmingsen says. The emphasis upon this point is a heritage, as we shall see later in the series, of Augustine.

  3. Again, as we saw in Hemmingsen, the kingdom of Christ cannot be identified with the visible or institutional church, but rather with the invisible church: it is the elect, because it is there, in the hearts of the elect, that Christ reigns immediately. For Musculus, then, the “spiritual kingdom” seems to be identified with Christ’s inner rule in the heart as a man is united to Christ by faith. It is thus that Christ can be said to rule “even in the midst of his enemies.”

  1. This is, almost word-for-word, what Hemmingsen says. The emphasis upon this point is a heritage, as we shall see later in the series, of Augustine.
  2. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.