Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Paul and the Calling

Larry Hurtado, NT scholar, recently blogged about the importance of studying some older literature regarding the apostle Paul (see: Larry Hurtado's blog post ).  He recommended Johannes Munk's "Paul and the Salvation of Mankind".  

I found the book on Amazon.com for a dollar, and just received it.  I wanted to share an interesting concept in the first chapter: The Calling.

In discussing Paul's calling, Munck noted that Paul saw his calling in light of the callings of ancient prophets.  In Galatians 1:15-16, Paul stated:
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood

He was called from his mother's womb even as prophets of old.  In Jeremiah 1:5-6 the Lord tells Jeremiah:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Isaiah proclaimed to the isles of the sea:
Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

Samson explained to Delilah:
There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb

Clearly, Paul had received the same calling as these ancient prophets, and he understood it to be so.  Paul also understood that these prophets were sent "unto the nations", the "isles of the sea", or in other words, unto the Gentiles.  Even Samson was sent to deliver his message to the Philistine people.

Much of Isaiah's message was directed toward Egypt, Babylon and Assyria, while Jeremiah's call was for Israel to deliver itself humbly to Bablyon and not turn to Egypt.

Munck notes:
Paul thought that about those texts and the story of Jeremiah's call.  Paul thought that those texts from the prophets expressed his own call....As we saw, he (Paul) was unprepared for it, and it was inescapable; but these features also characterize the calling of the Old Testament prophets.  They have no previous history--the prophet and the call appear at the same time, and that is the starting point of everything that happens....what distinguishes these calls (of the old prophets) from that of Paul is that with the latter the call is not to one who is an adherent and probably a blank page, but to an opponent who is a terrible enemy of Christ and his Church.

Paul differed from the calls of the other apostles (also called to preach to the nations in Matthew 28:16-20) and the ancient apostles.  They all were adherents who were blank pages.  Samuel was a child. Amos was a shepherd.  Peter was a fisherman.  The story begins with both the call and the person-prophet.

As I read these concepts, it helped me see the unity between Old and New Testaments.  It also helped me see similar callings in the Book of Mormon. Alma the younger was out destroying the Church, when an angel compelled him to repent or be destroyed.  Even as with Paul, the calling came with the prophet.

More on the lines of the ancient prophets, we find Joseph Smith.  At 14 years of age, he was literally a blank page compared to the many ministers who lived in the area of Palmyra in 1820.  The call was completely unexpected, but it came with the prophet.  Like Jeremiah who was called to produce a book from God, so did Joseph Smith.

As I find more interesting points in Munck's book regarding Paul and his teachings, I'll share them here.

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