Our next selection comes from the In Quatuor Evangelistas, Matthaeum, Marcum, Lucam et Iohannem, item in Acta Apostolorum Comentarij of the Swiss Reformed theologian, humanist, and Christian Hebraist Konrad Pellikan (1478-1556).
As previously, the text will be followed by a translation and a few remarks.
Haec quoniam Pilatus simpliciter sciscitabatur ut liberaret innocentem, Iesus illi per aenigma dignatus est resopndere, doens aliud regni genus esse, de quo prphetae fuissent loquuti, longe sublimius hoc regno mundano, quod humanis legibus humanis praesidijs constaret, quod nihil posset nisi in corpora, sed esse regnum coeleste, quod mundi regnum non affectaret, sed contemneret, non laederet, sed proveheret in melius. Regnum, inquit, meum non est huius generis, cuius est regnum Caesareum. Hoc terrenum est, meum vero coeleste. Nihil igitur affecto, quod affectatum laedere possit Caesaris maiestatem. Si meum regnum esset huius mundi, n on haec in me mundus impune faceret: nimirum haberem et ipse more caeterorum regum armatum satellitum, haberem laterones ac stipatores, haberem instructas copias. Haec praesidia decertarent armis pro me, ne Iudaeis hoc quod moliuntur in me impune liceret. Nunc paucos habeo discipulos, et eos imbelles ac tenues, ipse inermis et imbellis, videlicet alijs nitens praesidijs, eo quod meum regnum non sit terrenum. Ministri Christi angeli sunt, regnum Christi in spiritu est, per tempus istius vitae dum dominatur in cordibus fidelium per verbum suum: sicque egit et agit regem Christus. Ubi veritas innotescit, et locum invenit apud mortales, regnum Christi videtur. Quod si Christus voluisset advenire ut imperator, non defuissent coelestes angelici milites, quorum unus suffecisset contra omnes Iudaeos. Non est regnum Christi situm in exterioribus, et in ullo dominatus terreno vel potentatu, item neque in cibo et potu vel externiis ceremonijs, sed in veritate.1 (In Quatuor…Commentarij, p. 153)
Since Pilate was simply questioning [Jesus] about these things in order to free an innocent man, Jesus deigned to respond to him through a mystery [per aenigma], teaching that it was another type of kingdom about which the prophets had spoken, far more lofty than the worldly kingdom, which stood fast by human laws, human defenses; but that it was [rather] a heavenly kingdom, which did not aspire to the kingdom of the world, but scorned it; which did not harm it, but raised it to something better. “My kingdom,” he says, “does not belong to the type to which Caesar’s kingdom belongs. This one is earthly, but mine is heavenly. I therefore aspire to nothing that, once it has been aspired to, would be able to harm the majesty of Caesar. If my kingdom were of this world,2 the world would not do these things against me with impunity: I myself too would surely have an armed retinue, I would have bodyguards and attendants, I would have troops in formation. These defenses would fight with arms for me, in order that the Jews not be permitted [to do] with impunity what they are attempting against me. As it is, I have a few disciples, and them unwarlike and insignificant, I myself [am] unarmed and unwarlike, clearly relying on other defenses, because my kingdom is not earthly.” The servants of Christ are angels, the kingdom of Christ is in the Spirit, while through the time of this life he rules in the hearts of believers through his own word. And in such a way Christ has acted and continues to act as king. Where the truth becomes known and finds a place among mortal men, the kingdom of Christ is seen. But if Christ had wished to come as an emperor, angelic soldiers3 of heaven would not have been lacking, one of whom would have sufficed against all the Jews. The kingdom of Christ is not situated in externals and in any earthly dominion or rule; likewise it is neither in food and drink nor in external ceremonies, but in the truth.4
- As Musculus does, Pellikan also contrasts two kingdoms with one another, the “worldly” and the “heavenly.” Once again, the primary distinction between them is that Christ’s kingdom has none of the military trappings of earthly kingdoms: it is not defended by force of arms. If it were so, Christ would have been surrounded and protected by his own sort of Praetorian Guard. But Christ did not wish to “come as an emperor.” What would have been the purpose of such military might? To keep Christ from being arrested and crucified: to prevent Christ from being treated unjustly by the authorities.
- Christ, on the other hand, relied on “other defenses.” These other defenses are of a spiritual kind, for his kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. Thus his servants (ministri) are angels and the kingdom is “in the Spirit.” What does this mean for the present time between the two Advents? As we have seen previously, it means that Christ–and Christ alone–exercises rule and dominion in the hearts of his people. That is, the kingdom is identified with the inner reality of the regenerated heart, where Christ holds sway immediately “through his own word.”
The foregoing does not render the kingdom invisible, but rather tells us how it becomes manifest. One trusts in Christ and comes under his rule “in the Spirit,” and thus comes to know the truth; where this happens, “the kingdom of Christ is seen.” It is not the case–to put it differently–that the kingdom is entirely invisible, but the way in which it is rendered such is unlike that of any earthly kingdom–say, through institutional structure or official hierarchy, in which the king, for instance, by way of the “royal metaphor” can in a sense typify and manifest the entire body politic. In Christ’s kingdom, Christ alone can do this, and at the present he does it invisibly in the hearts of the faithful by his word. Pellikan does not make the hinc/hic distinction we have previously observed in so many words, but the substance is there in this passage.
For Pellikan, then, the kingdom cannot be identified with externals of any kind. Externals, for him, are in their essence connected with “earthly dominion or rule,” or, to put it another way, with earthliness and the things that belong to this world. Thus his use of Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Pellikan applies the meaning of this verse to “external ceremonies,”5 and contrasts all such earthly things (eating, drinking, ceremonies) with “the truth,” which holds sway over the believer in the inner forum of the heart or conscience.
- Parts of this passage are found essentially word for word in Bullinger (to be treated later), and there are close parallels with other commentators as well. I have not yet endeavored to determine who is copying whom, or whether they all have a common source from which they all borrow.
- Or “belonged to this world.”
- “Hosts” in the older idiom. I translate as “soldiers” to remind the reader that the term is a military one.
- The translation is my own.
- Cf. this post on Calvin.