Joel 2, Steve Mason, and Paul’s “The Gospel”

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Post Reply
robert j
Posts: 855
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:01 pm

Joel 2, Steve Mason, and Paul’s “The Gospel”

Post by robert j »

In another thread, a link was posted to 2 chapters from Steve Mason's 2009 book, Josephus, Judea, and Christian Origins. I’ve moved this to a new thread because the issue I’m addressing is off-topic there. ... Detractors

I think chapter 9 in the link provides a very good discussion of the use of the terms associated with gospel (εὐαγγέλιον) --- prior to Paul, by Paul, and by subsequent Christian writers. But I would note that as Mason proceeds with his discussion into various other aspects and interpretations of Paul, there are many points on which I would disagree. But I just want to focus on one comment from Mason here (the italics are Mason’s) ---

Namely, in the first Christian generation (roughly 30-65 CE), it was indeed Paul who came up with the term εὐαγγέλιον. Wherever he got it from --- and that seems impossible to determine --- he understood it as a proprietary and quasi-technical term of his peculiar mission, outlook, and patronage circles. (page 284-285)

Of course Mason is not claiming that Paul coined the term himself, but rather he goes on to describe how Paul apparently came up with a unique form of the term and made it proprietary (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, "the gospel" or "the announcement of good news", a noun in the singular, neuter with the article). I agree with Mason here except for throwing-up his hands and giving-up so easily on how Paul may have come to embrace the concept of an announcement of good news as a centerpiece of his system. I think there is at least one possible source in Joel, and a few other usages in the LXX might also be seen as relevant.

Chapter 2 of Joel is all too often overlooked as an important source of material for Paul to have mined. In light of Paul’s selective, creative, and generative use of the Jewish scriptures, there are several very reasonable points of contact.

In Joel here, both the announcement by trumpets with the coming of the Lord, and the coming wrath, are prominent (certainly Joel 2 is chock-a-block with portends of wrath throughout) ---

Trumpet with a trumpet in Zion; make proclamation on my holy mountain. And let all the inhabitants of the land be confounded, for the day of the Lord has come, because it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of cloud and mist. (Joel 2:1-2, LXX)

And to wait for His Son from heaven … Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

… For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)

And again with the trumpet in Joel ---

Trumpet with the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; proclaim a service; gather the people. Sanctify an assembly (ἐκκλησίαν) … (Joel 2:15-16)

That is just what Paul did. He gathered groups of followers and called each group an assembly of God (ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ).

And this vein of rich material for Paul to mine ---

I will give portents in the heaven and on earth, blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord. And it will be all whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be one rescuing as the Lord said, and one announcing good news (ευαγγελιζόμενος) of which the Lord was called upon. (Joel 2:30-32, LXX --- Joel 3:3-5 in some versions)

Certainly in Paul’s letters the centerpiece of his announcement of good news was calling upon his Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Did Paul see in this passage a plan --- a plan that he himself could step into and put into action?

The “one rescuing” (the "us" and "we" here refer to Paul and his junior-partners) ---

… that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself ... having put into us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ … (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

The “one announcing good news” ---

Clearly from his letters, Paul saw himself as the one announcing good news. The verb used here in Joel for announcing good news (Strong’s 2097) is the very same verb Paul used more than 16 times in is letters for his preaching about his Jesus Christ.

The Lord certainly “was called upon” ---

There is a popular verse in Romans drawn nearly verbatim directly from this passage in Joel ---

For whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)

If the passage did help to shape Paul’s plans, it wouldn’t necessarily make him a true believer --- just a man with a plan. Paul did put a plan into action, with mixed success.

But I think with the several points of contact, there should be little doubt that Paul drew on portions of this chapter in Joel.

robert j
Last edited by robert j on Wed Sep 08, 2021 8:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
Posts: 861
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:51 pm

Re: Joel 2, Steve Mason, and Paul’s “The Gospel”

Post by davidmartin »

i think that you are onto something here that is very convincing. What's interesting is how he derived something new from this material for preaching his own particular 'proprietary' message. It might have been more obvious if he'd compared himself to a new Moses, perhaps he does but it seems the other way, that he avoids that comparison. He also appears to avoid comparing himself to wisdom's call from Proverbs despite plenty of opportunity to do it (the Odes certainly does identify preaching with wisdom's call explicitly).

Does the term 'gospel' appear in Luke, I can't see it (as per another thread this got highlighted re: 'the announcement' - It's remarkable a gospel associated with Paul appears to lack this term while the other 3 have it what the heck is going on here?
Post Reply