Dunn on Pitting the Imminent and Future Kingdom of God Against Each Other

In James Dunn’s helpful collection of essays in Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels he says this regarding scholarship pitting the imminent and future kingdom of God sayings in the Synoptics against each other,

In New Testament scholarship there has been a huge and long-lasting debate as to which of these two strands is the more ‘original’, although it has been a good deal quietened by the realisation that some of the Dead Sea Scrolls reflect a similar tension between an eschatological hope already fulfilled and a hope still maintained for imminent consumption. The debate within New Testament scholarship demonstrates more clearly than most others the futility of making conclusions regarding ‘the historical Jesus’ depend on individual verses and the conclusion that can be inferred from them. The fact is that both strands are well rooted in and run through the Synoptic tradition. Both are characteristic of the Synoptic Jesus. How dare we exegetes and expositors insist on squeezing such diverse traditions into a single mould and on squeezing out what does not fit our own ideas of consistency and good sense. It is much more responsible for historians and exegetes to recognise that this double characteristic of the Jesus tradition is best explained as a double characteristic of Jesus’ own teaching and mission. The overall two-sided impact of Jesus remains clear, even if it remains unclear how the two side were held together by Jesus and his first disciples.1


  1. James Dunn in Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels “Fact or Fiction? How Reliable are the Gospels?” p. 16 ↩︎