1) Concerning Jesus.
You write, "But Jesus completely redefined what he meant by the term
'kingdom' with respect to God."
Given the 'constraints of occasional communication' under which Jesus
worked, I don't think he could have used the term 'malkut', or whatever the
Aramaic is, if it had been defined [italics!] as Empire--oppressive exercise
of brute power--for the general run of Galileans, and been in need of being
"completely redefined" to match Jesus' message.
Instead, it must have had a wide enough semantic field, with Empire at one
extreme and better things at the other--perhaps suggested to the people by
the later idealized image of David--the further you get from him, the better
he gets-- and by familiar scriptures such as Ps. 72.
This way it was possible--though not always easy--for him to make it clear
what it meant for him. And part of what it meant when he affirmed it as a
present reality, under ongoing Roman hegemony, was that it did not include
the politically effective exercise of divine power against the
oppressor/exploiter! His Good News was a soberly realistic Good News, that
may have disappointed many.
[The JS, on p.40 of THE FIVE GOSPELS, introduces, "God's imperial rule" --as
language "which Jesus probably used"--without any explanation or
justification of the 'imperial'. Maybe it is justified elsewhere?]
2) For apocalyptic in general, and Revelation in particular, the Empire end
of the semantic field would have been ok, given that here God's (imaginary,
compensatory) role is to exercise power to satisfy the hunger and thirst for
vengeance of his persecuted people. That's one of the things about having
God 'on your side'--if its the right God!--you can imagine really savage,
3) But what about Mark? Where did he stand? Nearer to Revelation or nearer
to Jesus? If you translate, 'Empire of God' that puts him and his
readers/hearers nearer to Revelation.
Brian McCarthy, Madison WI
PS. This is going rather far afield, but when I see the difficulty people
have in explaining why Jesus was executed by the Romans--Paula Fredriksen
does better than most when she argues that they knew he was no danger but
saw that the people were getting excited and felt they needed to be given a
sharp warning--I think of the "bandits" who were crucified with him,
according to the gospels (especially of Mk 15:7 with its intriguing definite
articles--"the bandits...the insurrection." What insurrection?)
And the hypothesis suggests itself: Perhaps they were not very bright
hot-heads who had been among Jesus' 'occasional hearers' and who had heard
what they wanted to hear, and had incriminated him under interrogation?