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?


7 Answers 7


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).


  • I feel it is a bit misleading to say "the word is only used twice in the New Testament", perhaps suggesting an ambiguity. But, the word is seen a lot in Greek literature. Of particular interest is Strabo, Geography - as his usage is very illustrative. For searching through Greek Literature at perseus.uchicago.edu, or at perseus.tufts.edu, the lemmas are : ta)nto/s e)nto/s a(/ntos e)nto\\s] tou)nto/s ou(nto/s e)/ntos e)nto\s] For more, see Logeion definition May 4, 2017 at 23:34
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    I didn't think it was ambiguous since I did make sure to mention it was 'a typical word in Greek'.
    – user2910
    May 4, 2017 at 23:47
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    It would be good to clarify that the "you" here is plural. If Jesus is surrounded by Pharisees, then "within" such a group can easily point to inside the perimeter of the group. Since English "you" is ambigous, it would be more clear and accurate to translate "among you" than "within you". Dec 26, 2020 at 13:36

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.


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".


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/…
    – user862
    Nov 29, 2013 at 6:07
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    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. Nov 29, 2013 at 6:23
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    @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, 2013 at 0:06
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    @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, 2013 at 0:10
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    @Jas3.1: I'll come back to this after some contemplation. Thank you for the questions.
    – user862
    Nov 30, 2013 at 0:12

Short Answer: "inside", not "among".

Disclaimer: I have no formal training in the biblical languages.

BDAG does not supply a gloss of "among" suggesting that if Luke 21 reads "among" it is reading it as a Hebraism (and he supplies a list of many that take it that way):

ἐντός adv. of place (Hom.+; ins, pap, LXX, JosAs 2:4; EpArist, Philo, Joseph., Just., D 2, 6) in our lit. functions only as prep. w. gen.

① pert. to a specific area inside someth., inside, within, within the limits of (Lucian, Dial. Mort. 14, 5; JosAs 2:4 ἐ. τοῦ θαλάμου; Jos., Bell. 3, 175 τ. πόλεως ἐντός; 7, 26; Just., D. 2, 6 ὀλίγου … ἐ. χρόνου) τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου within the sanctuary IEph 5:2; ITr 7:2. ἐάν τις τούτων ἐ. ᾖ if anyone is in their company (i.e. the comp. of faith, hope, and love) Pol 3:3.—In ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν Lk 17:21 (cp. Ox 654, 16=GTh 3=JBL 65, ’46, 177; also s. WSchubart, ZNW 20, 1921, 215–23), ἐ. ὑμῶν is probably patterned after ἐν σοί (=[God] is among you) Is 45:14, but with Lk preferring ἐντός in the sense among you, in your midst, either now or suddenly in the near future (cp. X., Hell. 2, 3, 19 ἐ. τούτων, An. 1, 10, 3 ἐ. αὐτῶν [on the relevance of the second X. passage, s. Field, Notes 71 and s. Roberts below]; POxy 2342, 8 [102 A.D.], of a woman who keeps a supply of wine ἐντὸ αὑτῆ ‘under her own control’; Ps 87:6 Sym.; cp. Jos., Ant. 6, 315; Arrian, Anab. 5, 22, 4 ἐ. αὐτῶν=in their midst; so NRSV text, and s. Noack and Bretscher below). The sense within you, in your hearts has linguistic support in Ps 38:4; 102:1; 108:22, all ἐντός μου; s. also Jos., Ant. 5, 107, but **Lk generally avoids ref. to God’s reign as a psychological p 341 reality. The passage has invited much debate: AWabnitz, RTQR 18, 1909, 221ff; 289ff; 456ff; CBruston, ibid. 346ff; BEaston, AJT 16, 1912, 275–83; KProost, TT 48, 1914, 246ff; JHéring, Le royaume de Dieu et sa venue ’37; PAllen, ET 50, ’39, 233–35; ASledd, ibid. 235–37; WKümmel, Verheissung u. Erfüllung ’45, 17ff; BNoack, D. Gottesreich bei Lk (17:20–24) ’48; CRoberts, HTR 41, ’48, 1–8, citing PRossGeorg III, 1, 9: ἵνα ἐντός μου αὐτὸ εὕρω; HCadbury, Christian Century 67, ’50, 172f (within your possession or reach; cp. Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 4, 35), cp. Pol 3:3 above and JGriffiths, ET 63, ’51/52, 30f; HRiesenfeld, Nuntius 2, ’49, 11f; AWikgren, ibid. 4, ’50, 27f; PBretscher, CTM 15, ’44, 730–66; 22, ’51, 895–907. W. stress on the moral implications, RFrick, Beih. ZNW 6, 1928, 6–8, s. ARüstow, ZNW 51, ’60, 197–224; JZmijewski, D. Eschatologiereden d. LkEv, ’72, 361–97.**

② pert. to what is inside an area, content τὸ ἐ. τοῦ ποτηρίου the inside of the cup=what is in the cup (cp. τὰ ἐ. τοῦ οἴκου 1 Macc 4:48, also schol. on Nicander, Alexiph. 479 τὰ ἐντός=the inside; Is 16:11) Mt 23:26.—DELG s.v. ἐν. M-M.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., pp. 340–341). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The normal usage would be to use en mesos for "among". BDAG notes that the argument for Luke using entos to mean "within" says that Luke characteristically avoids abstraction:

...Lk generally avoids ref. to God’s reign as a psychological reality

What I find more compelling is what I take to be somewhat parallel in Paul's rare discussion of the kingdom of God:

[Rom 14:17 NASB] (17) for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

If I'm understanding Paul correctly he's saying that the kingdom is not given to the saints so they can eat and drink as they please but so that they can and will live in righteousness, peace and joy in the power of God's holy breath.

The wind is invisible but you know it is there when you see the leaves move. So it is with everyone born of the wind:

[Jhn 3:3, 5-8 ASV] (3) Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. ... (5) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. (8) The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

[Luk 11:20-22 ASV] (20) But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. (21) When the strong man fully armed guardeth his own court, his goods are in peace: (22) but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him his whole armor wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

In a way, the kingdom of God is reduced to a verb. What you see with observation of the kingdom of God is the saints and their behavior in the power of the divine breath and in the teaching of the apostles.

There is another aspect of the kingdom involving togetherness, separation from sin, seeing face to face, etc. that we see referred to here:

[1Co 13:12 ASV] (12) For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.


BDAG states that the semantic range of εντος includes 'in', 'in the midst of', 'among', and gives references from LXX and extra-biblical sources that demonstrate the variety of meaning.

Thus (as other answers have noted), whether it should be rendered "The Kingdom of God is in you" or "The Kingdom of God is in your midst" cannot be determined solely by the semantic range of εντος.

BDAG suggests "in your midst" or "among you" as the most suitable translation and states:

Luke generally avoids reference to God’s reign as a psychological reality.

In fact, the Bible as a whole does not primarily refer to the Kingdom of God as merely a pyschological reality, but the rule of God, not as an internal experience, but as an external reality (Daniel 2:44).

Also as noted by many, it would be strange for Jesus to tell the Pharisees who were hostile to the true Kingdom of God that it was "in them."

However, "The kingdom of God is in your midst" as a reference to Jesus himself being in their midst is also a bit strange. I thus propose the following interpretation that emends the traditional punctuation.

It must be remembered that the original manuscripts had no punctuation. The following translation makes absolutely no change to the text itself, only to the punctuation. The change is subtle but extremely significant:

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There! For look! The kingdom of God is in your midst!'"

The crucial change is where the final quotation marks are placed. This punctuation makes it clear that Jesus was not telling the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God is in their midst (nor in them), but is saying that when the Kingdom comes, people will not be saying: "Look! The Kingdom of God is in your midst!" This punctuation puts this statement in the mouth of the false-messiahs (see Matt 24:23).

This rendering is supported by the parallel ιδου (Look!) which is often somewhat obscured by translating the same word two different ways. For example, the NET Bible translates the first ιδου as 'look', but the second ιδου as 'indeed'. Other translations have 'look' then 'behold'.

So my conclusion is that while "in your midst" is superior to "in you" in view of the nature of the Kingdom of God, Jesus did not mean the Kingdom of God was in the Pharisees, nor did he mean it was in their midst, but that when the Kingdom of God comes, people will not be saying: "Look! The Kingdom of God is in your midst", because it is not coming in ways that can be observed.

  • Interesting Perspective. Any source to cite? And do we have traditional Support for this interpretation ? May 13 at 7:00
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    Thank you for your question! This punctuation was proposed by Michael Brunec in a series of articles entitled Sermo Eschatologicus published by the periodical Verbum Domini in 1952 and 1953. I haven’t encountered it elsewhere, but would be curious to know if anyone else has. May 14 at 11:47

Is the Kingdom of God “within” you or “among” you?

Luke 17:20-21 (NASB)

20 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 [a]signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."

" You" (ὑμῶν = of you) You will notice from verse 20 that Jesus audience were the Pharisees, who questioned Jesus , so it could hardly be that the kingdom of God was within them, the men which crucified Jesus. The Pharisees were hypocrites, Jesus said to them:

Matthew 23:13 (NASB)

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven [a]from [b]people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."


There is no scriptural proof that the kingdom of God is in the hearts of people, Jesus taught his followers to pray: ‘Your kingdom come.Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.(Matthew 6:10) For the kingship, God anointed Jesus, hence it could be said the kingdom was "among them" or in "their mist."

Luke 22:29-30 (NASB)

29 "And just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

Daniel 2:44 (NASB)

The Divine Kingdom

44" In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be [a]left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever."


The key issue seems to be whether the "you" refers to individuals or to the Pharisees collectively.

If it refers to individuals, then the idea of the Kingdom being something that exists inside each of us would be appropriate.


  • The Greek "ὑμῶν" (hymōn) is second person plural, indicating the entire group of Pharisees, not an individual.
  • The Pharisees were not exactly prime examples of people that had already been accepted into God's kingdom.
  • Jesus prefixed "the Kingdom of God" with "Behold", indicating that he was referring to something they could physically see.
  • The original Greek has the "is" at the end of the sentence, so it could even be translated as "Behold the Kingdom of God, within/among you it is."

Jesus was physically inside the group of Pharisees, so when he said "behold, the kingdom of God is within/among you", it would seem appropriate to think that he was referring to himself, who as King, represented the Kingdom itself. (Cf. De Gaulle's "Je suis la France".)


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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