Paul And John The Baptist: An Odd Couple? -- By: J. Ramsey Michaels

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 42:2 (NA 1991)
Article: Paul And John The Baptist: An Odd Couple?
Author: J. Ramsey Michaels


Paul And John The Baptist:
An Odd Couple?

J. Ramsey Michaels

Sometimes in the world of scholarship a mere title can be as thought-provoking as the book or article it represents. David P. Moessner, for example, titled his 1988 article ‘Paul in Acts: Preacher of Eschatological Repentance to Israel.’1 It occurred to me that this sounded more like John the Baptist than Paul as usually understood, and I wondered if perhaps Moessner might be drawing some comparisons between Paul’s ministry and John’s. This turned out not to be the case. The article had to do with parallels between Paul’s pronouncements of judgment in the Book of Acts and those of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. Yet the notion of Paul as ‘Preacher of Eschatological Repentance to Israel’ set me thinking about Paul and John the Baptist. What could the two possibly have to do with each other? Culturally they lived in rather different worlds. Chronologically they were separated by the ministry of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and the coming of the Spirit. Paul never quotes or even mentions John in his letters. If Paul is relatively silent about the pre-resurrection ministry and sayings of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. only 1 Cor. 7:10-11, 9:14, 11:23-26, and possibly 1 Thes. 4:15), he is totally silent about the ministry and sayings of Jesus’ predecessor.

This conclusion is based on Paul’s letters, and everyone agrees that Paul’s own writings are by far our best source for a knowledge of the Apostle’s thought. Yet they are not quite our only source. Paul has many lines in the Book of Acts, including a number of speeches of varying length to varied audiences (e.g. Acts 13:16-41; 14:15-17; 17:22-31; 20:18-35; 22:3-21; 24:10-21; 26:2-23). It is commonly assumed that when we refer to these speeches attributed to Paul in Acts, we are actually speaking of ‘Luke’ (whoever he may have been) and his perspective, not of Paul himself. Many scholars assume this because they view the

speeches in Acts in their entirety as Luke’s free compositions after the manner of Thucydides. Others speak vaguely of Luke’s ‘sources’, yet are relu...

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