Joel 2:28-32 in NT, part 4

(continued from part 3)

Section 3: echoes of Joel in Romans 10

That Paul quotes from Joel in 10:13 is no surprise to anyone. The words of Joel form a lynchpin in Paul’s overall argument regarding the universality of salvation. Not many commentators have explored the more subtle influences of Joel 2:28-32 on Paul’s argument in Romans 10. The echo begins softly in 10:4 where Paul uses the phrase “everyone who believes”. Admittedly this is not the exactly the same as “everyone who calls”, but the same universal focus is apparent. Moreover, Paul goes on to explain how one will express this belief in 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Compare with Joel’s statement in 2:32a, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” In addition, while the quote in v. 11 is from Isaiah 28:16 (“Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame”), it may have been Paul’s ruminations on Joel 2 that brought the Isaiah passage to mind. Joel 2:26-27 states, “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” Moo acknowledges in a footnote, “Paul might also have been influenced in the choice of this text by the verses immediately preceding it (vv. 26-27), which speak of the day when God’s people would not be ‘put to shame. [56]” However, Moo is suggesting that Paul chose Joel 2:32 because the verses surrounding it connected to his quotation of Isaiah 28:16. This seems backwards when one considers the number of conceptual echoes of Joel 2 in Romans 10.

Also, Paul’s phrase “there is no distinction” could serve as an apt summary of Joel’s promise of the outpouring of the spirit on all flesh regardless of class, gender or age, but now the category of race has been abolished as well so that there is “neither Jew nor Gentile”. Following this, Paul promises that the Lord is “bestowing his riches on all who call on him”, a wonderful interpretation of Joel 2:28-32 where upon close examination it is seen that the Spirit will not be poured out on all people or even all Jews without qualification. In fact, it will be poured out on those who call on the name of the Lord.

The echoes of Joel 2 are clear even before one reaches the explicit quotation in10:13 where one reads, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’.” For Paul this clearly means Gentile as well as Jew, and in this he seems to depart from Joel and even Peter’s original intended meaning (though not Luke’s). Is this indeed the case? Wolff believes so, “For Paul (Rom 10:13), Joel 3:5a is important documentation that no distinction obtains any longer between Jews and Greeks. He has thereby given a universal interpretation to the ‘everyone’ (pas) of G, which render ‘all’ (col) in 3:5. Joel no more intended that than he had known the name of Jesus.[57]”

Osborne also, “While in Joel ‘all’ refers to all Israel, here it refers to all people, Jew and Gentile alike. So salvation (as in vv. 1, 9, 10) refers to universal salvation available to anyone who calls on the name of the Lord.[58]” So according to Wolff and Osborne, Paul goes beyond Joel’s intended meaning. Hubbard adds, “The pivotal clause of Joel 2:32, ‘all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered’, not only serves as a key text for Peter’s invitation to the diaspora Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2:21) but also anchors Paul’s argument about the centrality of faith, no law, in the reception of salvation (Rom 10:13).[59]”

One shouldn’t object too strenuously to such interpretations; however, a more refined argument would avoid unnecessary confusion. It is more accurate to say that Joel and Peter understood their promises referring to Israel and that Paul understands them as referring to the newly constituted Israel. Allen is right on the mark when he writes,

“It was Paul’s task to be pioneer in the theological rationalization of that hybrid entity, the Christian Church; and this was one of his prime concerns in his letter to the Romans. His exposition of Joel 2:32 in Rom. 10 depends heavily on his earlier argument in Rom. 4. This is evident from his appeal to faith in 10:11, which, although explicitly referring back to Isa. 28:16, is inextricably linked with the doctrine of justification in his complex theology (Rom. 10:3-6, 10). Underlying the concept of faith in Rom. 10 is the analysis of the implications of Gen. 15:6, a basic text for the doctrine of Rom. 4. There he argued the legitimacy of regarding Abraham as ‘father’ of a spiritual community of believing Gentiles and Jews. For the apostle the concept of God’s people received in Christ a wider meaning that that latent in the OT. ‘All flesh’ for him is still Israel, but a great Israel. Unbelieving Jews and Gentiles stand outside the community, which comprises the new people of God.[60]”

As Allen goes on to point out, this wider interpretation of Joel 2:32 (really, 2:28-32) flows not only from Paul’s work in Romans 4, but also leads up to what he will say in Romans 11, namely that the Gentiles have been grafted into the ‘olive tree’ of Israel.


This paper has been an attempt to show that the New Testament dealt faithfully with the promises of Joel 2:28-32 even while interpreting them freshly in light of new redemptive historical developments. Going back to the text of Joel it has been shown that Joel would likely have understood the complex of promises as coming in multiple stages, for the outpouring of the Spirit would come after the restoration of loss from the locust. This outpouring would result in fresh prophetic activity. It is unlikely that Joel believed this prophetic activity would be taken up on the same day or even near the same day as God’s action to bring history to a close. Thus, when Peter declares ‘this is that’, he means that the outpouring of the Spirit is the sign the ‘last days’ had begun and that Joel’s promises were beginning to be fulfilled. The promise of the ‘democratization of the Spirit’ was being fulfilled, but other portions of the promise would be fulfilled in the more distant future.

Moreover, when Joel used the term ‘all flesh’, he meant all the faithful remnant of Israel – those who would call upon the Lord and identify solely with Him. This too is what Peter meant, though for Peter the faithful remnant was those who called on Jesus as Lord. Essentially, this is Paul’s understanding, though Paul extends the promise of salvation to the Gentiles as well. This is because, for Paul, those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ are the true sons and daughters of Abraham. They are the true Israel. So for Paul the promise of salvation and the Spirit is still for the faithful remnant of Israel, though it is Israel reconstituted in Christ.


56 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 660.

57 Wolff, Joel and Amos, 70.

58 Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 273.

59 Hubbard, Joel and Amos, 73. See also Everett F. Harrison, Commentary on Romans, The Expositors Bible Commentary New Testament, electronic edition, release 10.1.98 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998).

60 Allen, Joel, 104-105

2 thoughts on “Joel 2:28-32 in NT, part 4

  1. I read the whole paper this afternoon–I’d give you an “A”! 🙂

    I should have come to more sessions of the hermeneutics ACG. I find your explanations plausible, but I also wonder how human intent mixes with divine intent (“God is not concerned about oxen, is He?”).

  2. Thanks Mark. If I had had more time and space, that would have been something I would have liked to deal with more. It was supposed to be an exegetical exercise, not a theological one. There is so much to consider there and I am more in awe of the Bible and the God of the Bible as I consider these intersections of divine and human. Thanks for actually taking the time to read it.

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