Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Sacred Doctrine The Two Kingdoms

My Kingdom Is Not of This World (6)

This is Part 2 of Aquinas’ exegesis of the phrase “My kingdom is not of this world” in his sixth lectio on John 18. (Part 1 can be found here.)


Hic adhibet signa evidentia ad probandum quod regnum eius non est de hoc mundo, et primo ponit signum; secundo concludit intentum, ibi nunc autem regnum meum non est hinc. Circa primum sciendum est, quod qui habet regnum terrenum, sive iuste sive violenter, oportet quod habeat socios et ministros, per quos in potestate fulciatur. Cuius ratio est, quia non est potens per seipsum, sed per ministros suos. II Reg. III, 1: facta est longa concertatio inter domum Saul et inter domum David: David proficiscens et semper seipso robustior, domus autem Saul decrescens quotidie. Sed rex supernus, quia potens est per seipsum, servis suis potentiam tribuit; ideo non indiget ad regnum suum ministris. Et ideo dicit, quod regnum suum non est de hoc mundo: quia si ex hoc mundo esset regnum meum, ministri utique mei decertarent, ut non traderer Iudaeis. Unde et Petrus volens decertare pro Christo, non advertebat se de hoc mundo non esse: supra eodem. Habebat tamen dominus alios ministros, scilicet Angelos, qui potuissent eum eripere de manibus Iudaeorum; sed dominus eripi noluit. Matth. XXVI, v. 53: an non possum rogare patrem meum, et exhibebit mihi plusquam duodecim legiones Angelorum? Nunc autem regnum meum non est hinc. Scilicet, quia non quaerit tales ministros, concludit quod regnum suum non est hinc, idest, non habet principium de hoc mundo; est tamen hic, quia ubique est:attingit enim a fine usque ad finem fortiter, et disponit omnia suaviter: Sap. VIII, 1; Ps. II, v. 8: postula a me, et dabo tibi gentes hereditatem tuam, et possessionem tuam terminos terrae; Dan. VII, 14: dedit potestatem et honorem et regnum; et omnes populi, tribus et linguae servient ei.


Here he adds signs that make manifest proof that his kingdom is not from this world; and first he sets out the sign; second, he draws out his intention, where he says, “But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” With respect to the first, we must know that he who has an earthly kingdom, whether justly or by violence, ought to have associates and ministers in order that he might be kept in power by them. The reason for this is that he is not powerful by himself, but by his ministers. 2 Kings (2 Samuel) 3:1: “There came about a long dispute between the house of Saul and the house of David; David was growing ever stronger, but the house of Saul was growing weaker every day.” But the heavenly king, because he is powerful by himself, bestows power on his servants. And for that reason he says that his kingdom is not from this world: [namely,] because “If my kingdom were from this world, my ministers would surely fight, in order that I not be handed over to the Jews.” Whence also Peter, wishing to fight for Christ, was not attending to the fact that he1 was not from this world (the same point as above). Nevertheless, the Lord did have other ministers–namely, the angels, who would have been able to rescue him from the hands of the Jews; but the Lord did not wish to be rescued. Matt. 26:53: “Can I not ask my father, and he will give to me more than twelve legions of angels?” “But as it is my kingdom is not from here”–namely, because he does not seek such ministers, he concludes that “his kingdom is not from here,” that is, it does not take its beginning [principium]2 from this world. Nevertheless it is here, because it is everywhere: “For [Wisdom] reaches strongly from one end of the world to the other, and arranges all things sweetly” (Wis. 8:1); Ps. 2:8: “Ask of me, and I will give to you the nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession; Dan. 7:14: “He gave [to him] power and honor and a kingdom; and all peoples, tribes, and tongues will serve him.”3


  1. Aquinas again notes the difference in manner and mode between earthly and heavenly kingdoms. Earthly kings rely on associates and ministers (socii and ministri) to retain their power. Christ stands in need of no such defenders. Rather, he bestows power on his servants (servi). His ministers are angels, but even they will not rescue him because that is not the Lord’s will. This is very similar to a point made by Konrad Pellikan.

  2. Aquinas again makes the point about origin: Jesus means that his kingdom does not have its origin in this world. Its principium–its beginning, origin, foundation, or first principle–is elsewhere.

  3. Nevertheless, it is still here–yet again, the distinction between hinc and hic. It must be, because Christ’s kingdom is universal: it is here, because it is everywhere.  To prove that this is so, Aquinas makes use of Wisdom 8, Psalm 2, and Daniel 7 (also used in the previous passage).


  1. Grammatically, the reference is to Peter. If Thomas meant “Christ,” one would normally expect eum. If that is right, then Peter is “not from this world” for the same reason the kingdom is not: he is born again from above.
  2. Or “have its origin.”
  3. The translation is my own. Another can be found here.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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