Re: ENTOS in Luke 17:21

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Thu Oct 09 1997 - 16:05:29 EDT

John Reece wrote,

<I find it helpful to look at another approach to ascertaining the sense
<of the word in Luke 17:21; that is, to check contexts in which the
<Author of Luke-Acts used Greek words translated by the versions into
<English as "in the midst" or "among", so as to see what word or words
<the author most likely would have used in Luke 17:21, if indeed he had
<meant to express such a meaning. In Acts 2:22, we find this translation:
<"Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and
<wonders and signs which God performed through him in your midst." The
<final phrase in the quote is EN MESO hUMON. It seems to me that that is
<the phrase that would have been used in Luke 17:21 if the author had in
<mind a sense corresponding to "in the midst" or "among".

Jonathan robie wrote,

<1. The idea of the kingdom being within each of us also occurs in phrases
<like hO ESW ANQRWPOS "the inner person" and hO EN TW KRUPTWi ANQRWPOS "the
<hidden person".

Dear list-members,

All the posts in this thread has contributed valuable thoughts. I will also
like to give some comments. As a matter of fact, words functioning as
prepositions/adverbs in all three biblical languages are ambiguous, so
Larry`s comments that we must find all the possible meanings of ENTOS and
then let the context decide, is really the only feasible way. Because an
event could be described in many ways, I don`t find John`s argument above
convincing. We must look at what actually is written, not at what could
have been written.

When we make a semantic analysis of a clause, it is important to keep in
mind that whether the subject,object and the noun of an adverbial are
singular/ plural, count nouns/ non-count nouns and abstract/concrete may be
crucial for the understanding. Our clause expresses a state which is simple
to handle, but the problem is the adverb ENTOS.

In Ps 38:4; 102:1, 108:22 and Is 16:11 ENTOS means "within" and this is
also the natural meaning of Hebrew noun qereb. However, in Song of Songs
3:10 ENTOS has the meaning "in the midst of", which also is the natural
meaning of the Hebrew noun tokh. The fact that two Hebrew nouns with
different meanings are translated by ENTOS shows that the word may have
both the meaning "within" and "in the midst of". All the examples above
from the LXX have singular nouns in the adverbial phrase. The example from
Song of Songs 3:10 is quite similar to Matt 23:26 TO ENTOS TOU POTHRIOU KAI
THS PAROYIDOS "the inside of the cup and of the dish". While ENTOS in the
Pss and Is refers to something inside the MATERIAL (body) of which the
thing is made, ENTOS in Song and Matt refers to something outside the
material but in the midst of the thing made by the material (in the midst
of the bed and inside the cup/dish).

In Luke 17:21 the pronoun of the adverbial phrase is plural. We cannot say
that if ENTOS had referred to the inner part (heart) of each body, Luke
would have expressed himself differently. But having learned that ENTOS
can mean both "within" and "in the midst of", I think we can say that with
a plural pronoun "in the midst of" is the more likely meaning. What is of
greater importance, however, is the nature of BASIALEIA TOU QEOU, is it
abstyract or "concrete". I appreciate Larry`s cautiousness, but this
question has a direct bearring on the meaning of the Greek text, so I would
give some comments.

The -ut ending of the Hebrew malkhut,"reign, kingdom" (and Aramaic malkhu)
signals that the word is abstract. Basically it signifies that God reigns.
However, this does not argue in favour of malkhut/BASILEIA is an abstract
state in the hearts of men. To the contrary, both the Hebrew/Aramaic and
Greek words have TANGIBLE expressions when they are used in relation to
mankind. In the OT,particularly the book of Daniel shows that
malkhut/malkhu is not an abstract state (cf 2:44). I am not aware of a
single example either in the OT or in the NT which clearly says that
BASILEIA QEOU is such a state and that it comes INTO the hearts of men, but
rather that men enter/will enter into the kingdom of God or that they are
affected by the kingdom (cf Luke 18:24). I therefore find Jonathanęs words
above unconvincing. Evidence that "the kingdom of God" is a state in the
heart of Christians can only include passages with these very words, or
passages with closely related synonyms such as "the kingdom of heaven".

In Luke 12:20 we find tangible evidence for the (abstract) reign of God
when the king Jesus Christ expelled demons. We find I similar thought in
Luke 17:21. The king again used the "finger" of God. The Pharisees did not
recognize this even though the king, the foremost representative of God`s
reign was in their midst.
(I recommend G.R. Beasley-Murray,1986, "Jesus and the Kingdom of God" pp
97-102). While "within" cannot be ruled out, itęs position is weak as long
as no passage is quoted which clearly says that the kingdom is within men.
Thus, as I see it, "in your midst" has a much stronger backing.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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