Tuesday, January 06, 2015


Basileia is an ancient Greek word meaning "kingdom".

basileia = kingdom. drawing by rob g

Auto-basileia is related to basileia, but quite different in resulting meaning.

I was recently introduced to the term in "The Church and the kingdom of God" by Drew G.I. Hart, an article which really resonated with me. In particular, I like the term "auto-basileia" and his explanation of it:

Simply put, the kingdom of God is anywhere King Jesus is present in any particular place. The most important thing to remember about the kingdom of God is that it's not the Church (though there is close association between the two) but it is Jesus himself. For this reason Origen famously described Jesus as “autobasileia”. Jesus embodied the reign of God all by himself! That means that wherever Jesus is present, the kingdom of God has come near!
auto-basileia = jesus. drawing by rob g

As you can tell from Drew's reference to Origen, one of the church fathers, the idea has been around for a long time... and perhaps needs to be re-introduced to our time and place.

So what does the kingdom of God look like? It looks like Jesus:

  • we serve others
  • we wash their feet
  • we embrace those at the margins of society (for Jesus, this included lepers, Samaritans, prostitutes, tax collectors and more) 
  • we feed the hungry
  • we give the thirsty something to drink
  • we invite strangers into our lives and communities
  • we clothe the naked
  • we care for the sick
  • we visit those in prison
  • we serve one another
  • we wash their feet
  • we preach a gospel that really is good news
  • we heal the sick
  • we clean out the temple (hmm...)
  • we give our lives for others

Very upside-down. Very opposite to our earthly kingdoms and aspirations. Hart goes on to discuss what this kingdom-king looks like, and how the least being first and the marginalized being at the center goes hand-in-hand with this king/kingdom Jesus.  Read the article!

Here's Pope Benedict on the subject:
Jesus himself is the Kingdom; the Kingdom is not a thing, it is not a geographical dominion like worldly kingdoms. It is a person; it is he. On this interpretation, the term "Kingdom of God" is itself a veiled Christology. By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God's presence.

Pope Benedict, in his book Jesus of Nazareth (p. 49)

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