Hello, Dubians! I hope your semester is going well. Last year I wrote a blog called The Simple Things in which I offered practical advice about applying the book of Acts to our daily lives. I hope you enjoyed that series, and I hope you are willing to come on another journey with me!
This semester’s blog is going to be a little different. As CCW dives into conversations about the Kingdom of God, my approach is going to be more academic and theological. I’m really interested in understanding what the 1st century Jew/Christian would have heard when Jesus said things like, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” (Matt 4:17). What did this kingdom look like to them? This requires several leaps in time and language, and I hope you’ll stay with me! I promise to remain approachable and applicable, even when I get excited about a single word’s historical context, and I promise to always explain why this matters. If at anytime, you ask “so what?” at the end of a post, I haven’t done my job.
To start, let me explain the title of this series: Autobasileia. (Pronounced “ah-toe-vah-seal-yah”)
When Derrick proposed this project to me, I knew I first needed a working definition of “the kingdom of God.” It’s one of those phrases we (or I at least) like to throw around: “Wow! She’s doing so much for the kingdom!” you might hear me say. What does that really mean? Where is this kingdom? What is our role in it?
As I began to research, I stumbled on the word “autobasileia” as a name for Christ. Coined in the 2nd century by respected theologian Origen of Alexandria, it is a Greek word that implies intense but clear insights into the Kingdom of God, Jesus’ teaching, and Christ Himself.
In Greek, “auto” can be translated loosely as “self” or “in person.” “Basileia” definitively means “kingdom.” By placing the prefix “auto-” before a noun (like “kingdom,” “basileia”), it gives the identity of the noun to itself; it personifies it. Therefore, by crowning Jesus “Autobasileia,” Origen taught that Jesus is the fullest embodiment of the kingdom. He Himself is the kingdom.
It is why the gospel of John, the latest gospel, barely mentions “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of heaven.” Instead John uses a series of “I AM” statements (e.g. “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” “I AM the bread of life, etc.). This re-enforces Jesus’ practice of using biblical allusions and converging them on Himself. In this case, He alludes to the divine name “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14), which would have and did have radical implications to the Jews at His feet or at His table. This is also why, while Jesus’ main teaching was the kingdom of heaven, Paul’s main teaching was Jesus, because they are the same story.
That means that the kingdom is for you not against you; it satisfies hunger, soothes grief, forgives transgressions, and sets the captives free.
So what does the kingdom of God look like? It looks like Jesus.