The Kingdom of God is Entos Hymōn: Part 2, "Within You"

Again, by far the most common interpretation of entos hymōn in Luke 17.21 is "in your midst" or "among you," with the reference being to Jesus' own presence before his audience.

And yet, there's a different, somewhat controversial, reading that goes back to the King James Version:

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Many modern translations recognize "within you" in a footnote as an alternative translation to entos hymōn. And "within you" is a very defensible translation, as entos in the Greek most often means "within" rather than "among." This is why David Bentley Hart, in his translation, translates Luke 17.21 as "The Kingdom of God is within you." Hart defends his translation in a footnote:
[I]t is occasionally argued that this phrase [entos hymōn] would be better translated  "among you" or "in your midst," especially by those who instinctively prefer social to mystical construals of Jesus's teaching; but this is surely wrong. Entos really does properly mean "within" or "inside of," not "among," and Luke, in both his Gospel and the book of Acts, when meaning to say "among" or "amid," always uses either the phrase...[en meso] or just [en], followed by a dative plural; and his phrase for "in your midst" is [en meso hymōn] as in [Luke] 22:27...He uses entos only here, with a distinct and special import.
I am not a scholar of Biblical or Classical Greek, so I can't wade into these waters. But Hart is correct that, when you see scholars opt for "among you" over "within you," they tend to justify this choice by arguing that surely Jesus would not have proclaimed a radical interiorization of the kingdom of God. The horror!

Well, it does seem to be a horror given American individualism and its effect upon evangelical Christianity, how Christianity has become a "heart issue," salvation a purely private, individualized experience with no social or political implications. The pathologies of this sort of theology have been well documented, how "personal salvation" has been radically decoupled from a social vision of the kingdom of God.

And yet, this is a modern, contemporary worry, so we should be careful in rejecting a good and proper translation of Jesus just because it makes us uncomfortable 2,000 years after the fact. So, let's ask: Could Jesus have been speaking of an interiorization of the kingdom of God in Luke 17.21?

I most definitely think he could have been. Specifically, I think a strong argument could be made that a key aspect of Jesus' kingdom proclamation is that God's reign would fundamentally concern itself with a reign and rule within our hearts. Call this the "heart theology" of Jesus.

One of the key texts of this heart theology comes from Ezekiel 36, God speaking to the exiles of Israel:
“For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God."
The restoration of the kingdom of God will involve removing Israel's "heart of stone"--their stubborn, recalcitrant hearts that led them into rebellion and exile--and replacing it with "a new heart," a "heart of flesh." This tender heart would be responsive to God, enabled by the Spirit, allowing Israel follow God's statutes and carefully observe his ordinances. 

In fulfilling this prophecy, we'd expect that Jesus would say something about this new heart. And he does in many, many places. This heart theology is a huge player in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, where Jesus describes both murder and adultery as being issues of the heart. In Mark 7, Jesus declares that "all foods are clean" because food "doesn't go into the heart." What makes a person unclean, says Jesus, is what "comes out of people's hearts." 

But we're looking at the gospel of Luke, so we should look for this heart theology in Luke as well. And we also find it in Luke. Here's the heart theology in the Parable of the Sower:
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. The seed along the path are those who have heard and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the seed on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy. Having no root, these believe for a while and fall away in a time of testing. As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. But the seed in the good ground—these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, produce fruit." (Luke 8.11-15)
Basically, the entire Parable of the Sower is about Jesus' heart theology, how the kingdom of God comes to reign in those who receive the word "with an honest and good heart."

Paralleling the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, we also see this heart theology show up in Luke's Sermon on the Plain:
“A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. (Luke 6.43-45)
Like the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Plain is, pretty much from start to finish, a comprehensive articulation of Jesus' heart theology. 

All of this fits perfectly with the prophecy of Ezekiel, that the kingdom of God would manifest itself in a reign of the heart, in stony and stubborn hearts becoming the soft, receptive "good soil," hearts tender and responsive to the word of God.

All this to say, I think it's perfectly reasonable and consistent to think that in Luke 17.21 Jesus does mean to say, "the kingdom of God is within you." The kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God in our hearts. 

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