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Luke 17:21 (KJV) says, in relevant part, "the kingdom of God is within you." More recent translations give this much differently, for instance, as "the kingdom of God is among you" (NRSV) or "the kingdom of God is in your midst" (NIV).

I have even seen a paper (Ramelli) which states that it would be more accurate to say "the kingdom of God is inside you".

The "within" or "inside" translation seems to mean that the kingdom of God is actually something within a person, inside the body or the heart or the soul. The "among" or "in your midst" translation seems to mean something outside the person.

Is one of these translations more reliable than the others?

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My thinking is it is "within you". –  Bagpipes 12 hours ago
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The Greek word in question, εντος, means 'inside' or 'within'.

Surprisingly, despite being a typical word in Greek, is used only twice in the New Testament: here in Luke 17.21, and over in Matthew 23.26, where it refers to the 'inside' of a cup.

Translating εντος as 'within' is more accurate, but also fits the context better; in this text, Jesus argues that the kingdom of God would not be manifest outwardly (17.20-21a) but internally (17.21b).


http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=entos&la=greek#lexicon

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I upvoted Mark Edward's answer, but in the spirit of Proverbs 18:17 I though I'd present the other side of the argument for consideration.

Semantics

It is dangerous to attribute a single English definition to a Greek word. (A) Words have a semantic range, and (B) the meaning of a word is determined by the context in which it is used.

BDAG indicates ἐντος can mean either "inside" or "among", and prefers the latter for the passage in question. Even the KJV gives both readings. So no, semantics does not demand "inside" instead of "among".

Context

The primary reason the more modern versions prefer "among" (or "in your midst") is because of the context of Jesus' statement. Let's take a look:

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Now, was Jesus saying that the Kingdom of God resided in these unregenerate, antichrist vessels of wrath? Probably not. So in what sense was the kingdom of God "ἐντος" the Pharisees? In the sense that Jesus was standing there with them. He was in their midst, and so the Kingdom was in their midst.

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"To the objection that the words were said to the Pharisees, and that the kingdom was not in their hearts, it may be answered that our Lord might use “you” of humanity, even when addressing Pharisees. He never, like a merely human preacher, says “we.”" ccel.org/ccel/schaff/… –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Nov 29 '13 at 6:07
    
This argument seems to imply that Jesus is referring to Himself when speaking of the kingdom of God here. If that is so, then He would be either "here" or "there", and presumably He would also be an observable sign, at least for those who can see. For this reason alone, this argument seems rather weak. Are there other passages in which He refers to Himself as the kingdom of God? I understand Him to be "the Way" to the Kingdom, the eye of the needle through which we must pass to reach the Kingdom. –  Michael Hampton Nov 29 '13 at 6:23
    
@H3br3wHamm3r81 I appreciate the peer review. There are a couple of counter-points to consider with that argument. (1) Even if we take "you (pl.)" to refer to humanity, how was the Kingdom inside anyone at that time? (2) If we take "you (pl.)" to mean that the Kingdom was inside the disciples, then we have Jesus talking to the Pharisees, saying "you (pl.)" to refer to different people than the people He was talking to. (3) The "you" is plural. What does it look like for someone or something to be "in" a crowd? Does that mean it's inside each body of each person, or "in their midst"? –  Jas 3.1 Nov 30 '13 at 0:06
    
@H3br3wHamm3r81 But the main problem I have with interpreting "ἐντος" as "inside" is that we then have Jesus standing before the Pharisees, addressing them, and essentially saying "the Kingdom will someday be inside a different group of people" ... so we have to rewrite what He actually said to accommodate that reading. (Because He didn't say "someday" and He didn't say "someone else"; He said "is" and "you".) I think taking it as "among" requires much less alteration of the original text to make it comprehensible, if that makes sense. –  Jas 3.1 Nov 30 '13 at 0:10
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@Jas3.1: I'll come back to this after some contemplation. Thank you for the questions. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Nov 30 '13 at 0:12
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The kingdom would not be an external world system governed by men, but a kingdom governed by God through the Holy Spirit, indwelling the believer, and compelling him with new desires, and affections. The converted person becomes a citizen of the new kingdom. Their thinking is changed and their hearts desire the things of God instead of the things of the world. The work in done in them by the Holy Spirit.

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Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! We're a little different from other sites. This question is about the translation of this text, not its application. –  Daи Dec 11 '13 at 1:13
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