Today we turn to Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on John. He discusses John 18:36 in the sixth lectio on ch. 18. His comments are rather lengthy, and so a follow-up post with the rest will be required.
Hic ponitur responsio Christi, et primo removet suspicionis de regno suo falsitatem; secundo astruit veritatem, ibi dixit itaque ei Pilatus: ergo rex es tu? Circa primum duo facit. Primo excludit falsam suspicionem; secundo adhibet signi probationem, ibi si ex hoc mundo esset regnum meum, ministri mei utique decertarent, ut non traderer Iudaeis. Falsam suspicionem removet, dicens regnum meum non est de hoc mundo. Quod male intelligentes Manichaei, dicebant esse duos deos et duo regna; scilicet Deum bonum, qui habet regnum suum in regione lucis; et Deum malum, qui habet regnum suum in regione tenebrarum; et hanc dicebant esse hunc mundum, quia omnia corporalia dicebant esse tenebras. Et secundum hoc sensus est: regnum meum non est de hoc mundo, quasi dicat: dominus pater, qui bonus est, et ego non habemus regnum in regione tenebrarum. Sed contra hoc est quod dicitur in Ps. XLVI, 8: quoniam rex omnis terrae Deus. Et iterum: omnia quaecumque voluit dominus fecit in caelo et in terra. Et ideo dicendum, quod hoc dixit Christus propter Pilatum, qui credebat Christum affectare regnum terrenum, quo corporaliter, sicut et homines terreni, regnaret; et per hoc esset morte plectendus, quod illicitum affectaverit regnum. Sciendum est autem, quod regnum quandoque dicitur ille populus qui regnat, 1 quandoque ipsa regia potestas. Primo ergo modo accipiendo regnum exponit Augustinus, et dicit regnum meum, idest fideles mei, Apoc. V, 10:fecisti nos Deo nostro regnum, non est de hoc mundo. Non dicit: non est in hoc mundo; supra XVII, 11: et hi in mundo sunt, sed non est de hoc mundo, per affectum et imitationem, ereptus quidem per gratiae electionem. Sic enim nos Deus eruit de potestate tenebrarum, et transtulit in regnum caritatis suae. Chrysostomus autem exponit accipiendo regnum secundo modo, et dicit:regnum meum, idest potestas mea et auctoritas qua rex sum, non est de hoc mundo idest, non habet originem ex causis mundanis et electione hominum, sed aliunde, scilicet ab ipso patre. Dan. VII, 14: potestas eius, potestas aeterna quae non auferetur, et regnum eius quod non corrumpetur.
Here is given Christ’s answer [to the question Pilate posed in the previous verse]. And he first removes the falsehood of suspicion about his own kingdom. Second, he adds the truth in regard to Pilate’s words: “Therefore Pilate said to him, ‘Are you a king?'” With respect to the first he does two things. First, he excludes false suspicion; second, he gives the proof of a sign, where he says: “If my kingdom were from [ex] this world, my servants [ministri] would surely fight in order that I not be handed over to the Jews.” He removes false suspicion, saying, “My kingdom is not from [de] this world.” The Manichaeans, understanding this badly, used to say that there were two gods and two kingdoms: namely, the good God who has his kingdom in the region of light, and the evil God who has his kingdom in the region darkness. And they used to say that this world was the latter, because they said that all bodily things were darkness. According to this interpretation, the meaning is, “My kingdom is not from this world,” as if he should say, “The Lord, the Father, who is good, and I do not have a kingdom in the region of darkness. But what is said in Psalm 46:8 [47:7] is opposed to this: “For God is king of all the earth.” And again: “The Lord has done whatever he has wished in heaven and on earth.” And for that reason we must say that Christ said this on account of Pilate, who was believing that Christ was aspiring to an earthly kingdom, where he might reign in a bodily way as men of the earth also do, and that he ought to be punished with death for the following reason, [namely] because he aspired to an unlawful kingdom. Moreover, we must also know that sometimes the word “kingdom” is used of the people that reigns, sometimes of the royal power itself. Augustine therefore explains “kingdom” by employing it in the first way, and says, “‘My kingdom,’ that is, believers in me, 2 (Rev. 5:10: “You have made us a kingdom for our God”) is not from this world.'” 3 He does not say, “it is not in this world” ([compare what Jesus says] above in 17:11: “And these are in the world”), but “it is not from this world,” by affection and imitation–delivered, 4 indeed, by the election of grace. For thus he has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his love. Chrysostom, however, explains “kingdom” by employing it in the second way, and says: “‘My kingdom,’ that is, my power and authority by which I am king, ‘is not from this world,’ that is, it does not take its origin from worldly causes and the election of men, but from elsewhere, namely, from the Father himself. Dan. 7:14: “His power is an eternal power that will not be taken away, and his kingdom [is one] that will not be destroyed.” 5
1. There is a bad way of talking about “two kingdoms,” viz., the Manichaean way.
2. Aquinas makes the distinction between reigning in a bodily (or worldly/earthly) way and its implied opposite, reigning in a heavenly way. Yet God remains king of all the earth.
3. The word “kingdom” has more than one meaning. It can be used of the people that reigns (that is, believers), rescued out of the world “by the election of grace”; so Augustine. Nevertheless, the kingdom is still in the world. Once again, the hinc/hic distinction: the kingdom is in the world, because believers are in the world.
4. Or “kingdom” can be used of royal authority, the power by which Christ is king; so Chrysostom, who has already been discussed here. In the latter, the question of origin is to the fore. Christ’s kingdom is not worldly because its origin and authority come from elsewhere.