Volume 44 - Issue 2

The Soteriological Use of Call in Paul and Luke

by Ian Hussey

This crisp, accessible book fills an important gap in the literature by considering the use of καλέωand its cognates as a salvation metaphor by Paul and Luke. Dr Hussey teaches at Malyon College, Brisbane, and has served as a Baptist pastor. His interests in New Testament and pastoral ministry have clearly drawn him to this topic, on which he earlier published an article (“The Soteriological Use of ‘Call’ in the New Testament: An Undervalued Category?” BTB 46 [2016]: 133–43).

Hussey approaches the topic as one who seeks to understand the process of Christian conversion in the early churches. His introduction sets the scene by sketching scholarly debates about the relationships of Paul and Jesus, and especially Paul and Luke, notably in relation to soteriology. Paul and Luke are frequently set off against each other by scholars working in this area, and Hussey gives succinct summaries of important contributions to this discussion. He then turns to the καλέω word group and sketches the range of uses and translations of these lexemes, before outlining the focus and shape of the remainder of this book. Notably, he works with the Pauline corpus other than the Pastorals, arguing that the other disputed Paulines are widely agreed to reflect Paul’s theology, even if not from his hand. (Curiously, he treats Philippians as a disputed Pauline [p. 84], which it is not generally considered to be).

The first of the core chapters studies Old Testament use of “call” language and themes in the life of Israel, notably that God calls Israel into existence, that Israel’s call is the result of God’s choice (election), and that Israel’s call is expressed in the form of covenant—a covenant which has a characteristic meal. This meal points beyond itself to the messianic banquet to come when God saves his people.

This is followed by a study of the overall soteriologies of Paul and Luke. Hussey of necessity paints with a broad brush—the whole chapter is just 24 pages—but is judicious in the themes he identifies. For Paul, he sums up in three key propositions:

  1. Righteousness by faith is a metaphor of salvation, not an all-encompassing term;
  2. Covenant deserves a more central place in Pauline soteriology;
  3. Righteousness is related to covenant rather than imputation. (p. 36)

He provides a very helpful list of 38 metaphors of salvation used by Paul to demonstrate the range of Paul’s understanding (pp. 37–38). The influence of the “new perspective” is clear in his use of Sanders, Dunn and Wright—although not uncritically—in seeing covenant as a key category in Pauline soteriology.

When Hussey turns to Luke, he identifies salvation as lying at the heart of Luke’s soteriology. This is not simply tautology: Luke uses the Greek word group for “save” extensively. After summarising previous scholarship very succinctly, he proposes that salvation relates to the kingdom of God, and the biblical covenants (especially in Luke’s eucharistic words)—the latter is expressed clearly in Acts 3:25; 7:8, 44—the believing community stands in continuity with the people of Abraham. The study of Paul and Luke leads Hussey to claim that a key point of convergence between Luke and Paul is the use of “covenant language in soteriological ways” (p. 59).

In studying Paul’s soteriological use of call, Hussey provides a verse-by-verse discussion of key passages: Gal 1:6, 15; 5:8, 13; 1 Thess 2:11–12; 4:7; 5:24; 2 Thess 1:11; 2:14; 1 Cor 1:2, 9, 26; 7:15–24; Rom 1:6–7; 4:16–17; 8:28–20; 9:7, 10–13, 22–26; 11:28–29; Eph 1:18; 4:1, 4; Col 3:15; Phil 3:13–14. He claims he is working with “a generally agreed chronological order” (p. 60), which surprised me a little—although I agree that Galatians is early, this is a minority position in scholarship. The comments on the passages are not detailed exegetical conversations with other scholars—rather, he tends to cite those with whom he agrees, and his sources are not always the most in-depth commentaries (and I found little in German cited, for instance). That said, the discussion is clear, lucid and engaging, and shows the wide range of things to which believers are said to be called (summary, p. 86).

Hussey’s discussion of Luke focuses on only six passages where he perceives a soteriological use of call language: Luke 5:32; 14:12–14, 15–24; Acts 2:21, 39; 15:17. As with Paul, he works through the passages presenting his understanding with support from scholars with whom he agrees (including some, it must be said, rather lightweight sources). I was somewhat surprised not to see Jacob Jervell among his conversation partners here. His summary at the end of the chapter is very clear and helpful, and broadly on the right track, even if some of the arguments along the way seem to me to be stretching the evidence.

The conclusion draws the threads together in a very useful table comparing Pauline and Lukan uses of καλέω language (p. 111). Notably, both use call language in connection with election, covenant, the kingdom of God, God’s eternal purpose to save gentiles, sanctification and repentance, present and future experience, the supersession of ethnicity and socioeconomic status in belonging to Christ, and the formation of Christian community. There are differences too: Luke lacks the Pauline indicative claims about sanctification and vocation, but this (Hussey considers) relates to the different authors’ intents. Thus the καλέω word group should not always be translated in two different ways, “invite” and “call,” since the two English words convey rather different ideas. A closing short section draws implication for the Christian life, connecting with Os Guinness’s good work on vocation.

The presentation of the book is not as good as I’m accustomed to expect in these days of computer typesetting (not least from this publisher). A number of Greek words are wrongly accented (either no accent or too many), or what should be nominative forms have the iota subscript which signals the dative case. A few footnoted references lack page number(s). A few sentences seem to lack a word.

Overall, this book does a good job at what it’s trying to do: provide an overview of call language in relation to salvation in Paul and Luke—and that is no small achievement in just over 120 pages. Those who want to see the detailed exegetical debate and to consider alternative views will need to look elsewhere. There is certainly at least one PhD thesis to be written in this area: who will do this for us?

Steve Walton

Steve Walton
St Mary’s University, Twickenham
London, UK

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