There is debate among eminent New Testament scholars about what the phrase “the Kingdom of God” actually means. Sociology’s mission, however, is to understand what people believe and think, and who the people are with those beliefs (Marcel Mauss). This article therefore analyses Paul’s letters written in Corinth and to the church in Corinth, drawing on recent historical and archaeological research by Laura Nasrallah and Samuel Vollenweider in order to understand the term in a particular historical context. Specifically we investigate whether the term refers to a time after death or after the “second coming of the Lord (parousia)” (Interpretation A); whether it refers to a new world order, the domain of love, which has already arrived (Interpretation B); or whether both meanings are possible: the domain of love/ Kingdom of God may be realized on earth after the crucifixion for members of the church who believe that Jesus is Lord and who follow a new ethic, and the Kingdom will also be present for eternity after the Lord returns (Interpretation C). Paul concludes by writing in Aramaic a double entendre: “Marana tha” “Our Lord, come”, or Maran atha “Our Lord has come”. Paul preached a new ethic of idealistic love of God and neighbor brought about through dedicating one’s life to agape, the selfless love of God towards creation that results in brotherly and sisterly lovei. On rare occasions the people called saints demonstrate that supreme selflessness. We conclude that for Paul, God’s Kingdom is both imminent and has already arrived, through loveii. To paraphrase Murphy O’Connor and G.K.Chesterton, Christianity has not failed; it has just not yet been seriously tried often and persistently enough, apart from the efforts of those rare people called saints.
|Keywords:||Sociology of Religion, Kingdom of God; Agape; Early Corinth, Christian Ethics, J.Murphy-O’Connor, L.Nasrallah|
Australian National University, Australia