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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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OBSERVATION.—This word occurs only once in the NT, viz. Luke 17:20 ‘The kingdom of God cometh not with observation’ (μετὰ παρατηρήσεως). The verbal form (παρατηρέω) is used: (a) for watching carefully, especially in a bad sense, as a spy or with the object of finding fault (e.g. Luke 20:20); (b) for keeping a religious ordinance (Galatians 4:10). This second sense is impossible in the place where the substantive occurs; nor can the malignant sense of (a) be here suggested. The meaning seems to be that the Kingdom will come in such a way that even the close watchers may not discover its approach. The reason given for this assertion is that ‘the kingdom of God is within [(ἐντός) or “among” (so Syr [Note: yr Syriac.] sin)] you’ (Luke 17:21). Whichever meaning we give to the preposition, a spiritual and therefore invisible presence is indicated. This statement appears to be contradicted by Luke 17:24, where ‘the Son of Man in his day’ is compared to ‘lightning when it lighteneth out of the one part under the heaven’ and ‘shineth unto the other part under the heaven.’

Four explanations of the apparent contradiction have been proposed: (1) that the earlier verse refers to the Pharisees, who are blind to the signs of the new age, and the later to the disciples, who will have their eyes opened to see it (cf. 2 Kings 6:17); (2) that the coming of the Kingdom is a different event from the Parousia of Christ, ‘the Son of Man in his day’; (3) that there is no contradiction between the two passages; because while, on the one hand, there will be nothing for the watcher to discern as indicative of the drawing near of the great event, this being sudden as a flash of lightning, when it has come it will be universally apparent; (4) that the reference to the lightning manifestation is an apocalyptic element from a foreign source that has been inserted, with other similar elements, among the genuine teachings of Jesus. Against (1) is (a) the lack of any discrimination between two classes of hearers, and (b) the breadth of the lightning-like manifestation, which does not indicate a secret revelation for the few, but what all the world can see. Against (2) is the fact that elsewhere the coming of the Kingdom and the coming of Christ are regarded as the same event (e.g. cf. Matthew 16:28 with Mark 9:1). Against (3) is the indication of signs, such as, ‘Now learn a parable of the fig-tree,’ etc. (Matthew 24:32, Mark 13:28, cf. Luke 21:29). Explanation (4) is to cut the knot, and against it is the fact that not this passage only but many other equally inconvenient passages would have to be removed by an arbitrary process. Thus all four proposed explanations are beset with difficulties.

H. Holtzmann points out that παρατήρησις should be understood in an active sense; it is not to be regarded as a conceivable attribute of the Kingdom, but as associated with the bringing about of the Kingdom. Accordingly, perhaps, we should reconcile the sayings thus: Sharp, critical watching will not bring it. They who busy themselves with this unsympathetic action will neither hasten its coming nor perceive the first signs of its appearance. In its beginning it is already present (ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστίν). Yet those who practise παρατήρησις do not perceive this. Nevertheless, the complete revelation of the Christ in His Kingdom will be universally manifest.

Literature.—Wendt, Teaching of Jesus, i. 366; ExpT [Note: xpT Expository Times.] vi. [1895] 358; H. E. Manning, Sermons (1844), 172; J. H. Newman, Plain Ser. ii. 107; R. C. Trench, Ser. New and Old, 196.

W. F. Adeney.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Observation'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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