“The Kingdom of God” has fallen out of favor amongst modern scholars as the primary or sole theme of the Old Testament. However, Patrick still sees the Kingdom of God theme as a valid solo theme. He opens by disagreeing with the argumentation that the Kingdom theme should displaced by, or combined with, other themes simply because the exact phrase “Kingdom of God” has minimal usage within the Old Testament. Instead, Patrick argues that the idea of the Kingdom of God clearly pervades the Scriptures despite the lack of the term itself. To make his argument that the Kingdom of God should remain as the primary theme, Patrick points to the teachings of Jesus' in the NT, stating that this should raise the Kingdom theme to the level of a heuristic and that the antecedents of this heuristic can be clearly traced to the Old Testament.
To make this point, a thorough word study reveals that indeed Hebrew equivalents of the New Testament phrase “Kingdom of God” exist throughout the Jewish scriptures. However, not of all of the texts lend themselves to elevating the Kingdom theme to the level of a heuristic. Thus, Patrick selects two crucial texts (Israel petitioning Samuel for a King in 1 Samuel 8:7 and Israel's designation as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” in Exodus 19:3b-8) stating that they support the idea of the divine kingship prevalent within Jesus' expression. To avoid a totality transfer, Patrick then admits that Jesus' usage of “Kingdom of God” contains two distinct differences not found in the Old Testament, dealing namely with time and space. Jesus describes an eschatological kingdom, not a historically physical kingdom, and Jesus' kingdom is not limited to nationality, but to volition. Thus, Patrick concludes that his line of thinking establishes the Kingdom of God as a hermeneutical key to understanding and interpreting the Old Testament, and as such should be understood as its sole theme.
Personal Observations – Patrick did a thorough job of establishing the importance of the Kingdom of God motif in the Old Testament, but his arguments never established the theme as foundational. His article has the feel of a polemic and seems to lend itself to hyperbole. For one, the Kingdom of God theme in the Old Testament certainly has not fallen out of favor as Patrick states, but has been gradually seen as a complement to other themes clearly present within the Old Testament. Even when Patrick identifies this trend, as an afterthought he patronizingly refers to it as “...the pluralistic principles of the present generation” (Patrick, 68). Few would disagree with Patrick that making the presumption of a common theology underlying all the diverse Old Testament materials is valid. The situation has merely seen a shift away from the fact that the Kingdom of God theme is that theological message underlying the Old Testament. There are far too many Old Testament passages that better fit other major themes, such as the Promise and Presence theme. To insist all passages somehow fit into a Kingdom of God theme creates a proverbial Procrustean bed. The hermeneutics proposed in the paper also seemed to place the locus of interpretation with the interpreter as opposed to the original author, even stating that all the texts portray King relation with God even though “...it would be rather tendentious to argue that it [kingship] is nevertheless on every author's mind” (Patrick, 75). Patrick even presupposes that the Kingdom of God heuristic is a valid interpretational lens for all of scripture, even though Jesus never posits such a lens. The closest thing to a hermeneutical key for the Old Testament that Jesus provides is His Great Commission in Luke 24:44-49, which posits not the Kingdom of God, but Himself and His mission. Both of these Christ given interpretational lenses would better support the Promise theme of the Old Testament. This isn't to say the Kingdom Theme should be excluded, but it should be seen alongside the other major themes presented exegetically by the original works themselves. In this way, a complimentary understanding of the kingdom emerges as part of God's means to fulfilling His promise and manifesting His presence. Overall, Patrick's paper made fine arguments for the inclusion of the Kingdom of God theme in understanding the Old Testament, but it did little in compelling the use of that theme to the exclusion of all others.
Brett Yardley: Warrior for Christ. Devoted Husband. Proud Father. Martial Artist. Hopeful Philosopher & Theologian. Aspiring Teacher & Writer.