Matt 6:10, Rev. 22:20c and other matters

From: Jeffrey B. Gibson (
Date: Wed Feb 03 1999 - 22:25:12 EST

Fellow B-Greeks

For a variety of reasons, I have temporarily returned to work on
certain LP questions, and I wonder if the list will indulge me by
considering some musings on Matt. 6:10a//Lk. 11:2c, ELTHETW hH
BASILEIA SOU. For those who believe in the eschatological
orientation of the LP -- which asserts not only that a heartfelt
longing for the arrival of the future Kingdom of God stands as the
prayer's contextualizing background and serves as its
interpretative horizon; but also that the prayer is one whose very
purpose is to implore God to bring about the immediate inauguration
or arrival of that Kingdom -- this petition seems to be the
"smoking gun" which proves their case

For it can hardly be doubted, they argue, given the
import of the language of Matt. 6:10a//Lk. 11:2c, and the
parallelism of the petition with those in the Amidah and the
Kaddish which speak of the hastening of God's kingdom and which (it
is claimed) have eschatological intent, that what we have here is
a plea for God to act now to do something he was expected to do
only in the future, namely, establish decisively his sovereignty on

But I'm wondering whether the case is all that secure. I have
adduced some linguistic arguments against it, and it is on the
soundness and viability of these arguments that I'd like responses
from the list.

Argument One:

Insofar as the wording of petitions in Jewish prayers wherein God
is clearly urged to bring about the early dawning of his Kingdom
stands as any kind of evidence for what prayers with this intent
should look like or be worded, then taking Matt. 6:10a//Lk. 11:2c
as having the intent that "eschatologists" say it has seems to be
ruled out. As these Jewish prayers evince, the standard practice
when invoking God to hasten the arrival of his kingly rule was to
use the expression "cause to reign" or a form of the verb "to
reveal", not "to come". Thus if what Jesus actually intended his
disciples to pray in the Kingdom petition for was God's speeding up
the timetable for the arrival of the BASILEIA TOU THEOU, he should
have urged them to say not ELTHETO hH BASILEIA SOU but something
more along the lines of APOKALUPSATW or (EM)FANEROUTO hH BASILEIA

Argument Two:

It is a curious fact (admitted even by such staunch advocates of
the eschatological interpretation of the LP as Meier and Davies and
Allison) that "kingdom" or the expression "God's Kingdom" cannot be
found anywhere in the entire corpus of the literature of formative
Judaism (let alone that of Jewish petitionary prayers, or for that
matter that of the NT) as the subject of the verb "to come". When
this is set alongside what was observed in Argument One, do we not
have good reason to doubt that the expression ELTHETW hH
BASILEIA SOU means what the proponents of the eschatological
interpretation of the LP claim is does?

Counter Proposal:
I think there is cause to see that what the expression actually
means is "may we be made worthy of your reign by being conformed
not to our own will but to yours". Three things indicate this.

First, the petition is set by both Matthew and Luke within the
context of Jesus' larger proclamation not only that the Kingdom has
arrived but that both those who seek the Kingdom and those who
think they have it as their heritage must turn and conform
themselves to its demands if it is ever to be theirs. With this as
its immediate background, ELTHETW hH BASILEAI SOU echoes the calls
in Rabbinic literature (cf. Yoma 86b; Sanhedrin 97b) for Israel to
seek God's aid to be conformed to charity, obedience, justice, and
repentance in order to be rendered worthy of the deliverance that
was faithful Israel's inheritance (discussion of these in G.E.
Moore, Judaism Vol. 2, 350-52)

Second, there is the implication of the fact, noted by George
Caird, that in the formal and material parallel to the Kingdom
petition (Matt. 6:10a//Lk. 11:2c) found in Rev. 22:20c--namely, the
petition ERCHOU, KURIE ▀IHSOU, which, like Matt. 6:10a//Lk. 11:2c,
is a prayer consisting of a form of ERXOMAI in the imperative +
subject, and also is uttered in the context of an announcement of
the dawning of a divine visitation (cf. Rev. 22:20a,b "He who
testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Compare
Matt. 4:17; Lk. 4:16-21)--the function ERXOMAI has there is to
express the desire to be turned from disobedience and conformed to
what is called upon to "come". For according to Caird (_The
Revelation of St. John the Divine_ [London: A. & C. Black, 1966]
288), Rev, 22:20c is "... a prayer that Christ will come again to
win *in his faithful servant* the victory which is both Calvary and
Armageddon. It is the prayer which says. 'All I ask is to know
Christ and the power of his resurrection, to share his sufferings
and conform to the pattern of his death, if only I may arrive at
the resurrection of the dead (Phil. iii. 10-11). It is a prayer
that the Christian, confronted by the great ordeal, may 'endure as
one who sees the invisible' (Heb. xi. 27), and may hear above the
harsh sentence of the Roman judge the triumph song of heaven"
(emphasis mine).

This being the case, then, mutatis mutandis, what the ▀▀▀▀Ź▀
in the petition ELTHETW hH BASILEIA SOU does is to express the wish
to be made worthy of God's Kingdom and to be protected from all
that would prevent this end.

Third, there is the implication of Matthew's
expansion and explication of the petition ELHETW hH BASILEIA SOU
with the phrase "May your will be done, On earth as it is in
6:10b,c). If we assume, as I think we should, that the concern of
this explicatory phrase is God's enabling of the disciples'
obedience in the face of a desire to be otherwise [the conformity
of this phrase with the Matthean version of Jesus' prayer in
Gethsemane, where God's enabling of obedience in the face of a
desire to be otherwise is exactly what is expressed, would seem to
make the ethical interpretation of Matt. 6:10b,c certain] we have
early testimony that the objective of the petition which the phrase
explicates (ELTHETW hH BASILEIA SOU) was known to be something
other than having God decisively manifest himself ahead of the time
he intended to so do. Quite the contrary, it is to have God insure
that the will of his people is co-ordinate with and not
antithetical to God's own purposes for them.

In the light of all this, it seems more likely that rather
than its being an imploration to God to make his kingdom arrive,
Matt. 6:10a//Lk. 11:2c is a plea for divine aid for obedience and
against apostasy.

Comments please, especially on whether what I've made of Rev. 22:20
is grammatically and syntactically sound.


Jeffrey Gibson

Jeffrey B. Gibson
7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
Chicago, Illinois 60626

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