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

“My Kingdom Is Not of This World” (4)

Today we get into our DeLorean and step further back in time for the fourth part in our series for a patristic witness. John Chrysostom’s comments from his 83rd Homily on the Gospel of John follow.


My Kingdom is not of this world.

He leads upwards Pilate who was not a very wicked man, nor after their fashion, and desires to show that He is not a mere man, but God and the Son of God. And what says He?

If My Kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.

He undoes that which Pilate for a while had feared, namely, the suspicion of seizing kingly power. Is then His kingdom not of this world also? Certainly it is. How then says He it ‘is not’? Not because He does not rule here, but because He has his empire from above, and because it is not human, but far greater than this and more splendid. If then it be greater, how was He made captive by the other? By consenting, and giving Himself up. But He does not at present reveal this, but what says He? If I had been of this world, ‘My servants would fight, that I should not be delivered.’ Here He shows the weakness of kingship among us, that its strength lies in servants; but that which is above is sufficient for itself, needing nothing. From this the heretics taking occasion say, that He is different from the Creator. What then, when it says, He came to His own? John 1:11 What, when Himself says, They are not of this world, as I am not of this world? John 17:14 So also He says that His kingdom is not from hence, not depriving the world of His providence and superintendence, but showing, as I said, that His power was not human or perishable.


1. Chrysostom takes rather a soft approach to Pilate.

2. Unlike the other commentators we have looked at so far, Chrysostom also thinks there is an acceptable way of saying that Christ’s kingdom is “of” or “from” this world–which is to say, it is not completely severed from Christ’s rule. Christ does rule here, but his “empire” is not from here. This would seem rather to vitiate his desire to want to maintain the preposition ἐκ, but his basic point is clear enough: “My kingdom is not of this world” does not mean “My kingdom is outside of this world” (a possible meaning of ἐκ), but “My kingdom does not have this world as its point of origin.” Here we have the hinc/hic distinction we’ve seen several times already.

3. Moreover, Christ’s kingdom is not “of” this world because it is divine and greater than earthly kingdoms.

4. (3) is proved by the fact that Christ’s kingdom does not need earthly means for its rule to be expanded. Chrysostom makes the significant point that earthly kingdoms are only as strong as that kingdom’s servants, whereas the heavenly kingdom stands in need of nothing. Other commentators we have looked at have noted that the kingdom of Christ is not defended by force of arms, but they have not, I think, remarked as Chrysostom does that to do so is a sign of weakness even while it is a projection of strength. Christ does not need to “seize” kingly power, because he already has it. Pilate’s concerns were of the wrong order, because he did not realize that he did not have to do with a “mere man,” but with the God-Man, who superintends whatsoever comes to pass. As the Psalmist says, “These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.”

By E.J. Hutchinson

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