The Kingdom of God is Within You
In Luke 17:21, the writer quotes Jesus as saying “Neither will they say, Lo here! or lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” This is a really interesting passage, because Jesus was saying this as an answer to a question proposed by a detractor (a pharisee.) In this case, Jesus is telling this man that the Kingdom of God is not “over there,” but “within you.”
Simply put, God is within each of us… the Pharisee and Christian devotee alike. This would be contradictory to the fundamentalist that have a vested interest in not “looking inside” for God – and that certainly have no view of a non Christian having God already within them…
As such, over time (quite recently) new translations of this passage appeared that retranslated it to say “amongst” and no longer “within.”
So what does this passage mean? Which is right? Does it really mean within or does it mean amongst?
The ancient Greek scrolls read as follows:
οὐδὲ ἐροῦσιν ἰδοὺ ὧδε ἤ ἐκεῖ, ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἡ βασιλ είατοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν.
The word here in question is the Greek word: εντος (Entos.)
Entos has one specific meaning – within. Linguistically it never means “amongst” or “in the midst.” The only reference for it meaning that is from theological sources, not linguistic.
If you search Biblical scholar works, they will throw “amongst” as the potential winner (or even “in the midst”)- while other scholars choose “within.” If we look at outside theological sources though, it’s very clear that this word translates to “within” or “inside.” It denotes something inside us.
The ancient greek definition can be found here:
The word exists within modern Greek as well. So if you reference a variety of Greek dictionaries you’ll get the same definition – “within.” In fact, just try Google Translate: http://translate.google.com/#el/en/%CE%B5%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%82
Google responds with the output below:
σε, εν, εντός, εις, μέσα
σε, μέσα, εντός, εις
μέσα, εντός, απομέσα
Since we take this as a preposition in this sentence it would be “within.” In some cases (as an adverb) it could mean “inside.” What we won’t see is a meaning of “amongst” or “in the midst.”
The Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon defines ἐντὸς as only having the meaning “within” or “inside.” The word as a preposition or as an adverb still retains this specific meaning of something inside something. It reads as follows:
A.within, inside, opp. ἐκτός:
I. Prep. c. gen., which mostly follows, but may precede, “τείχεοςἐ.” Il.12.380, al., cf. “Ἀρχ. Ἐφ.” 1920.33 (Boeot., V B.C.); “ἐ. Ὀλύμπου” Hes.Th.37; “στέρνωνἐ.” A.Ag. 77 (anap.); “σ᾽ἔθρεψενἐ. . . ζώνης” Id.Eu.607; ἐ. ἐμεωυτοῦin my senses, under my own control,Hdt.7.47; “ἐ. ἑωυτοῦγίνεσθαι” Id.1.119, cf.Hp. Epid.7.1; “ἐ. ὢνεἰπεῖναὑτοῦ” D.34.20; “ἐ. τῶνλογισμῶν” Plu.Alex.32; ἐ. ὑμῶνin your hearts,Ev.Luc.17.21; “τῶνμαθημάτωνἐ.” Dicaearch.1.30; “γραμμάτωνἐ.” Sor.1.3; “ἐ. εἶναιτῶνσυμβαινόντωνπαθῶν” acquainted with,Chrysipp.Stoic.3.120; ἐ. τοξεύματοςwithin shot, E.HF991, X. Cyr.1.4.23; οὐδ᾽ἐντὸςπολλοῦπλησιάζειν not within a great distance, Pl.Smp.195b, cf. Th.2.77; ἐ. ποιεῖν put within, “τῶντειχῶν” Id.7.5; “ἐ. ποιεῖσθαιτῶνἐπιτάκτων” Id.6.67; “ἐ. πλαισίουποιησάμενοι” X.An.7.8.16; of troops, ἐ. αὐτῶνwithin their own lines, ib.1.10.3: also with Verbs of motion, “τείχεοςἐ. ἰόντες” Il.12.374; “πύργωνἔπεμψενἐντός” E.Tr.12.
2.within, i.e. on this side, “ἐ. Ἅλυοςποταμοῦ” Hdt.1.6, cf. 8.47, Th.1.16; ἡἐ. Ἱσπανία, = Lat. Hispania Citerior,Plu.Cat.Ma.10; “ἐ. τοῦΠόντου” Hdt.4.46; “ἐ. ὅρωνἩρακλείων” Pl.Ti.25c; ἐ. τῶνμέτρωντετμημένονμέταλλονwithin the bounds of the adjacent property, an encroachment, Hyp.Eux.35; “τῶνμέτρωνἐ.” D.37.36; also ἐ. τῶνπρῳρέων . . καὶτοῦαἰγιαλοῦbetween . ., Hdt.7.100.
3. of Time, within, “ἐ. οὐπολλοῦχρόνου” Antipho 5.69; “ἐ. εἴκοσινἡμερῶν” Th.4.39, cf. IG12.114.40, etc.; “ἐ. ἑξήκοντ᾽ἐτῶν” Amphis 20.2; ἐ. ἑσπέραςshort of, i.e. before, evening, X.Cyn.4.11; ἐ. ἑβδόμηςbefore the seventh of the month, Hsch.; οἱτῆςἡλικίαςἐ. γεγονότεςshort of manhood, Lys.2.50; τῆςπρεπούσηςἐ. ἡλικίαςwithin the fitting limits of age, Pl.Ti.18d.
II. Adv. within, “ἐ. ἐέργειν” Il.2.845, Od.7.88; “χώρηνἐ. ἀπέργειν” Hdt.3.116; “ἐ. ἔχειντινάς” Th.7.78; ἐ. ποιῆσαι or ποιήσασθαι,Id.5.2, 6.75: freq. with the Art., ἐκτοῦἐ., = ἔντοσθε, Id.2.76; τὰἐ. the inner parts of the body (of ἥτεφάρυγξκαὶἡγλῶσσα), ib.49, cf. Pl. Prt.334c, etc.; τοὐντός, opp. τοὔξω,S.Ichn.302; “ἐ.” in the Mediterranean,Arist.Mu.393a12.
Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940.
The George Autenrieth, A Homeric Dictionary defines ἐντὸς as meaning “within,” as well:
Georg Autenrieth. A Homeric Dictionary for Schools and Colleges. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1891.”
Elsewhere Entos is used and Translated as “within”
It’s interesting that the same modern translations (NAS, INT, NIV) translate Matthew 23:26 (which also uses the word ἐντὸς), “Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” The translators evidently do recognize that ἐντὸς does in fact mean “inside.” It’s just that they chose an alternate meaning when looking into a passage that has profound implications to theology.
In both Luke 17:21 and Matthew 23:26 ἐντὸς is being used as a preposition. The phrase structure is nearly the same. Yet in one verse the modern translations have used “among” and in the other they have used the translation of “within.”
Entos and Plural Nouns
The most common response from people translating this as “among,” state their decision is based the greek word Entos having a different meaning when paired with a plural noun. They claim that when a plural noun is used with entos, entos no longer means “within” but it becomes “among.” However, the linguistic source material for this proposition is never stated.
In looking at this, I researched etymology of this word – through a variety of words related to the Greek Entos (when referring to a plural noun) we never see the definition of “among.” Never. It always reflects the meaning “within.” Here are some examples from “A Dictionary of Entomology” (study of insects) which use the greek word entos as the source of the scientific words:
ENTOSTERNUM Noun. (Greek, entos = within + sternon = chest. PL, Entosterna.) Internal processes from Sternum. Sync Furca. See Sternum.
ENTOTERGUM Noun. (Greek, entos = within + tergum = back. PL, Entoterga.) A large, V-shaped ridge on undersrface of Notum with its apex directed forward (Snodgrass). See Tergum.
ENTOTHORAX Noun. (Greek, entos = within + thorax = breastplate. PL Ehthothoraces;) Apodemes or precess extending inward from sternal Sclerites. See Apophysis; Furca.
Proper Translation of “among”
Further, I had the phrase “the kingdom of God is among [in your midst] you,” translated to Greek via an online translation service, and it given to me as:
το βασίλειο του Θεού είναι ανάμεσά σας
The word entos (εντος) is not in the translation. Instead the words ανάμεσά σας are used to mean “in your midst”/”among.”
The Greek/English translation site Sensagent has translated the phrase “the kingdom of god is among you” without hte use of Entos: Βασίλειο του Θεού είναι ανάμεσά σας
I looked into the supplied alternate translations and again – the word Entos is not used.
The resources at wordreference.com were very useful for this research. The word “among” (as well as midst) translates into Greek in a variety of ways, such as:
στην παρέα μας
None of the translations offers εντός (Entos) as an appropriate choice.
Conclusion on the Greek Translation of Entos
Wordreference.com has a very useful page for the word within: http://www.wordreference.com/engr/within
It gives examples of it’s use in Greek. One such example they offer (that is similar in structure to the Biblical passage Luke 17:21) is the phrase:
“The project is due within three days” which is comparable to “The kingdom of God is within you.”
Two potential translations came up… One uses the word entos, the other the word: μέσα (which also means within.)
|Η εργασία πρέπει να παραδοθεί μέσα σε τρεις μέρες.|
|Η εργασία πρέπει να παραδοθεί εντός τριών ημερών.|
In the spirit of the detractors they would translate that greek to be: “The project is due among [in the midst of] three days.” The proper translation though would be, “The project is due within three days.”
Another example is provided on that site for the phrase, “You will find lots of interesting things within the box.” Again, the Greek word εντός (entos) is used as it is specifying something “on the inside.”
I don’t see the evidence for this to reflect the word “amongst” nor “in the midst” – but rather the Greek would indicate it means “within.” The Greek here is very specific and does not seem to give credence to the change made in the newer gospels. Yet if you were to Google this very phrase “the kingdom of God/heaven is within you,” you would find thousands of websites touting this notion of the Greek word entos taking on a different meaning of “among” or “in the midst” – a meaning that isn’t based on any Greek/English dictionary or language scheme.
To Sum It Up
- The word entos used in this passage, in original Greek, translates on it’s own as “within”
- The word entos is used to build English words, and is always used to describe something “within” or “inside” – even when constructing words that are plural nouns
- The word entos when paired with a plural noun DOES NOT change the meaning of the phrase – it still retains the meaning “within”
- The words “among,” “amongst,” “in the midst,” never translate to Greek as “entos.” Instead they use the words ανάμεσά σας
If you prefer the Aramaic we still get to the same concept of “inside.” According to this document http://syrcom.cua.edu/Hugoye/Vol12No2/HV12N2Ramelli.pdf the Aramaic for this word would mean “inside.”
Harmony of Experience
In my own personal experience, I have felt the presence of God throughout the different religions I was part of. When I was a Christian, I felt God in the church. I felt the same presence of God when I was a Buddhist, Hindu, student of Sufism and participating in the variety of spiritual groups and organizations.
In looking at the teachings of the East, we see that the search for God is inward. The gnostic Christians also sought God inwardly (the search for gnosis.) Mystics and spiritualists of many paths have all come to the same inward search as their conclusion to the source and presence of God.
This harmony of the world proves to me that what Jesus was meaning was that “God is within us.”
I don’t care for language debates, especially over spiritual texts. I think though, in this case it’s clear that the translations that detract from searching within for God, are spreading a doctrine that isn’t in line with what Jesus is attributed to saying.
At the very least, every translation should concede that the most likely interpretation is “within” and not amongst. That’s in the least. To be fair, we shouldn’t even consider anything other than the translation of “within you.”
Remember, Jesus is attributed to saying this response to someone who asked a question – and that person who asked the question that produced this answer, was a Pharisee. A detractor. It would therefore mean that the Kingdom of Heaven is within everyone – detractor and believer a like… and said kingdom existed before the sacrifice upon the cross… so therefore, it is an inward search to find God, not a external devotion to Jesus that brings one to the Kingdom of God.
It would completely change the doctrinal concepts. Which is the most likely motivation (in my opinion) to why the modern translations have adopted language more fitting to a fundamental frame of mind.