Monday, December 27, 2004

This is That: An Examination of Peter's Use of Joel from the Perspective of Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics


In the view of canonical-compositional hermeneutics, the use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament represents the literal meaning of the Old Testament, a meaning intended by the Old Testament authors.[1] If this is the case, Joel intended his prophecy in Joel 2:28-32[2] to include the events of the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2.[3] This paper will explore the possibility that the use of Joel by Peter as reported by Luke in Acts 2:16-21 is more than sensus plenior,[4] double reference,[5] or midrashic application.[6] It will seek to answer this question: Did Peter read Joel as Joel intended to be read, or did Peter read meaning into Joel that Joel never intended? This will be a primary step in examining the possible significance of canonical-compositional hermeneutics for renewal theology.


Canonical-compositional hermeneutics view the final shape of the Tanak as intentional, informative, and part of the process of inspiration. In contrast to historical criticism, canonical-compositional hermeneutics do not rely on the events behind the text to determine meaning; meaning is found in the text itself.[7]

John H. Sailhamer, a leading proponent of compositional hermeneutics, urges the “return to the notion that the literal meaning of the OT may . . . be linked to the messianic hope of the pre-Christian, Israelite prophets.”[8]

“By paying careful attention to the compositional strategies of the biblical books themselves, we believe in them can be found many essential clues to the meaning intended by their authors—clues that point beyond their immediate historical referent to a future, messianic age. By looking at the works of the scriptural authors, rather than at the events that lie behind their accounts of them, we can find appropriate textual clues to the meaning of these biblical books. Those clues . . . point to an essentially messianic and eschatological focus of the biblical texts. In other words, the literal meaning of the Scripture . . . may, in fact, be the spiritual sense . . . intended by the author, namely, the messianic sense picked up in the NT books.”[9]

Although there is no consensus as to the definition of canonical criticism,[10] scholars working in this field agree that “the context of the final canon is more important than the original author.”[11] Canonical criticism includes four common emphases: (1) Since the church has received the Bible as authoritative in its present form, the focus should be on that canonical form rather than on a search for the sources behind the text; (2) the text must be studied holistically to determine how it functions in its final form; (3) the theological concerns of the final editor(s) must be explored; and (4) in later texts, the canon provides clues in the use of earlier biblical texts.[12]

Brevard Childs asserts that “the lengthy process of the development of the literature leading up to the final stage of canonization involved a profoundly hermeneutical activity on the part of the tradents.”[13] Those who were involved in the preservation of literary tradition shaped the text in such a way that the shape influences interpretation.[14]

The question for canonical-compositional hermeneutics in this paper has to do with the extent of correlation between Joel and Acts. Is Joel, in a sense, “Acts in advance”? Or is Acts a partial fulfillment of Joel? Or does Peter quote Joel merely to point out that the events of Pentecost, like the events foretold by Joel, included an outpouring of the Holy Spirit?


Apart from a canonical-compositional approach, the significance of Luke’s reference to Peter’s quote from Joel’s prophecy in Acts 2:16-21 tends to be explained in two widely differing ways. Some scholars interpret the text in a way that minimizes correlation between Joel and Acts; others interpret it in such a way as to maximize correlation.


Correlation between Joel and Acts is radically minimized by the dispensational hermeneutic of C. I. Scofield. In its comments on Joel 2:28, the New Scofield Reference Bible disassociates Joel’s prophecy from any fulfillment on the Day of Pentecost:

“Peter did not state that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. The details of Joel 2:30-32 (cp. Acts 2:19-20) were not realized at that time. Peter quoted Joel’s prediction as an illustration of what was taking place in his day, and as a guarantee that God would yet completely fulfill all that Joel had prophesied. The time of that fulfillment is stated here (“afterward,” cp. Hos. 3:5), i.e. in the latter days when Israel turns to the Lord.”[15]

Another example of extreme minimalism is offered by Charles Lee Feinberg in his comments on Joel 2:28-32. In Feinberg’s view, Joel “cannot be fulfilled until Israel is returned to their own land.”[16] Although Feinberg acknowledges Peter’s reference to Joel, he asserts that

“that fact alone does not constitute a fulfillment. In the first place, the customary formula for a fulfilled prophecy is entirely lacking in Acts 2:16.[17] And even more telling is the fact that much of Joel’s prophecy, even as quoted in Acts 2:19-20, was not fulfilled at that time. We cannot take the position that only a portion of the prophecy was meant to be fulfilled at all, because this would work havoc with Bible prophecy. . . . The best position to take is that Peter used Joel’s prophecy as an illustration of what was transpiring in his day and not as a fulfillment of this prediction.”[18]

More recently, Graham S. Ogden similarly minimizes the connection between Joel and Acts.

“In Acts 2:16-18, Peter at Pentecost quotes Joel 2:28-29, giving the impression that what Joel had in mind was specifically the Pentecost event. We can see that Joel himself spoke to his contemporaries who were in need of comfort during a national crisis. Further, his vision was restricted to an event in Judah. He does not envisage this event embracing Gentiles; Peter does (Acts 2:39). From several points of view it is clear that Joel’s original intention and what the early Church understood it to be are not identical. Therefore, to say that the latter “fulfils” the former, in the sense that it is the direct result of a word spoken earlier by Joel, is inappropriate.”[19]

Is there, then, a meaningful connection between Joel and Acts? Ogden limits the connection to the essential nature of the events: “Peter publicly proclaims thereby that the God who was active in Joel’s day was similarly active in his own time . . . .”[20]

Robert B. Chisholm, Jr. comments that although Peter’s words in Acts 2:16 “may seem to indicate that he considered Joel’s prophecy as being completely fulfilled on that occasion . . . it is apparent that the events of that day . . . do not fully correspond to those predicted by Joel.”[21] Chisholm sees the early chapters of Acts as offering the kingdom of God to Israel again. Peter did not at that time understand “God’s program for the Gentiles in the present age,” and he apparently “believed that the kingdom was then being offered to Israel and that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit signaled the coming of the Millennium.”[22] Instead, “the complete fulfillment of the prophecy . . . was delayed because of Jewish unbelief . . . .”[23]

The minimalist view of the connection between Joel and Acts focuses on the idea that Joel is about events that concern Israel primarily, if not exclusively, and that these events are tied to an as yet unfulfilled restoration of Israel to the Promised Land. The strongest connection to be made is that Joel’s prophecy serves as an example of the kind of event that happened at Pentecost.[24]


In contrast to the minimalist view, some scholars hold that the Pentecost event is, to a lesser or greater degree, an actual fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. Though he approaches the subject from a dispensational point of view, Thomas J. Finley writes, “Perhaps Pentecost can be called the time of the first fruits. It was the inauguration of the age of the Spirit. Joel’s prophecy can apply throughout the ‘last days.’ There is no inherent reason to restrict his statement about the gift of the Spirit to one particular occasion.”[25]

Ronald B. Allen suggests that “[b]iblical prophecy may be pictured as having a conical shape extending from the Old Testament occasion on the left, to the fully-opened bell with the kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth on the right. All along the way there may be fulfillment. It is all a part of the same prophecy.”[26] From this perspective, Allen sees similarities and dissimilarities between Joel’s prophecy and the Pentecost event. There are five similarities: (1) The principal issue in both texts is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the people of God; (2) in both Joel 2 and Acts 2 the outpouring of the Spirit is associated with spiritual gifts of unusual forms of speech; (3) the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was associated with heavenly phenomena and paraphysical signs; (4) Pentecost was a time of tremendous evangelism; and (5) both Joel and Acts 2 share the common geographical center of Jerusalem.[27] There are three dissimilarities: (1) The special wonders and omens of which Joel prophesied were only minimally realized; (2) the egalitarianism of Joel 2 is only partially realized in Acts 2 and following; and (3) a major difference exists between the expectation of Joel 2 and the realization of Acts 2. This has to do with the concept of the time of the end and the Day of Yahweh. Since these days are yet ahead, Joel’s prophecy is not yet completely fulfilled.[28]

Allen is able to see Pentecost as “one of the great fulfillments” of Joel, with other fulfillments occurring with each outpouring of the Spirit in Acts and with the ultimate fulfillment still pending.[29]

In David Allan Hubbard’s view, “Peter sketches the sweep of the ‘those days’ which Joel saw coming and finds their fulfilment [sic] in the outpouring of the Spirit which constituted the church and demonstrated its unique qualities as God’s people.”[30]

F. F. Bruce comments that “Peter’s quotation of [Joel’s] prophecy means that these days, the days of the fulfilment [sic] of God’s purpose, have arrived.”[31] No longer must Christ’s followers search and inquire as to what person or time the prophetic Spirit pointed to, as did the Hebrew prophets[32]; instead, “they know: the person is Jesus; the time is now. The ‘last days’ began with Christ’s appearance on earth and will be consummated by his reappearance . . . . Hence the assurance with which Peter could quote the prophet’s words and declare ‘This is it.’”[33]

In the view of C. K. Barrett, “The Pentecostal event is the fulfilment [sic] of prophecy.”[34]

“That the events he describes were the fulfillment of Scripture is a central part of Luke’s understanding of them. . . . The quotation from Joel . . . is important for Luke’s understanding of eschatology: God has begun, but not completed, the work of fulfilment [sic]; Christians are living in the last days, but the last day has not yet come.”[35]

F. Scott Spencer sees Peter’s reference to Joel as having significance for the entire Acts story:

“Peter cites a prophecy of Joel about the outpouring of the Spirit as the key to understanding the day’s strange events: Joel’s announcement has just been fulfilled. . . . the Joel citation serves a programmatic function within Acts: what Joel announced sets the agenda for the entire Acts journey. Jesus’ Sabbath reading from Isaiah—focusing, like Joel, on the Spirit’s activity—served a similar function in Luke’s Gospel.”[36]

I. Howard Marshall points out that Peter’s quote from Joel is not limited to Acts 2:17-21; a reference to Joel 2:32 is found in Acts 2:39: “What was happening was to be seen as the fulfillment [sic] of a prophecy by Joel . . . Joel 2:28-32. A further phrase from the same passage is to be found in verse 39 . . . .”[37] But Marshall observes, “It is hard to know in what way Joel envisaged the fulfilment [sic] of his oracle.”[38] This is at the heart of the question for canonical-compositional hermeneutics. The issue of authorial intent is fundamental to the evangelical quest to interpret Scripture literally. Some evangelical scholars dismiss a canonical approach to hermeneutics because it seems to them to override authorial intent.[39] But if authorial intent and canonical intent are the same, as suggested by Sailhamer, the objection vanishes.

Typical of those who see fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy as beginning but not being completed on Pentecost is R. C. H. Lenski: “Peter must quote Joel’s prophecy in full because the second part of it states how long the Spirit, poured out at Pentecost, will continue his work in the world, and because the last line opens the door of salvation to everyone who, in repentance and faith, calls on the Lord.”[40]

Daniel J. Treier rejects the typical dispensational view that Peter used Joel 2 merely as an analogy or rhetorical device, the covenantal view that the Pentecost event completely fulfilled Joel’s prophecy, and the multiple-fulfillment approach that sees only the first two verses of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-29) as having been fulfilled to an initial degree on Pentecost with the greater fulfillment yet to come and the next two verses as awaiting fulfillment at the time of the end.[41] Instead, Treier opts for what he calls “a multiple-lens approach.” Distinguishing the “lens of Joel,” the “lens of Peter,” and the “lens of Luke,” Treier suggests that “Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, used a structure that is foreign to us but nevertheless valid: an advance typology. The eschatological portents qualify as a valid type if we accept their prediction as a guarantee of their historicity and certainty.”[42] In Treier’s view, Joel and Peter may have understood “all flesh” to refer to Israel only, but Luke understood the term to include Gentiles.

“Were Peter and Joel wrong to assume this referred to Israel, or did Luke inappropriately read current events into the text? The latter is incorrect, for Luke by the Spirit correctly interpreted the events he experienced. The former may be partially correct. While God apparently invested these words with meaning for the Gentiles because of his redemptive program, it would have been difficult for Peter or Joel to foresee the widening scope of that program. Whatever the evils of sensus plenior, some type of similar structure must account for the divergence here between the expectations of Peter and Joel . . . and the reality of God’s expanding redemptive program.”[43]

For Treier, the fulfillment of Joel 2 in Acts does not negate “the possibility of a future fulfillment related to ethnic Israel.”[44]

Although progressive dispensationalism, covenant theology, and Treier’s multiple-lens approach see varying degrees of correlation between Joel’s prophecy and the Day of Pentecost, none of these perspectives see the Day of Pentecost as being as firmly and thoroughly rooted in Joel as would a canonical-compositional approach. It is to this that we now turn our attention.


To approach Joel from the perspective of canonical-compositional hermeneutics, we would begin first with what Sailhamer calls in-textuality. This has to do with an examination of the “cohesive nature of the strategy of the smallest literary” units.[45] Sailhamer points out that “the various parts of even the smallest literary units can be expected to belong together and to make sense as a whole. In-textuality . . . is the inner coherence of the smallest units of text.”[46] At this point, we may look for literary structures like chiasms.

Next, we move to inner-textuality, based upon the idea that the “strategies within the smallest units of text . . . make up the whole fabric of biblical narrative books.”[47] The idea here is that of “inner-linkage binding narratives into a larger whole.”[48] For example, we may look for how poetic texts are linked to narrative texts, or we may look for parallelisms and their relationship to the non-parallel texts that surround them. Specifically, we should be alert to “clues lying along the seams of . . . larger units that point to the author’s ultimate purpose.”[49]

Third, a canonical-compositional hermeneutic is concerned with inter-textuality, “the study of links between and among texts.”[50] We will be concerned with links between Joel and Deuteronomy, since Joel’s locust plague theme is apparently related to the curses connected to Israel’s disobedience to the Law of Moses. We will also examine Numbers 11; Joel’s promise of the egalitarian outpouring of the Spirit seems to be the answer to Moses’ prayer that the Lord would put his Spirit upon all of his people in order that all would be prophets.[51] As Sailhamer observes, “If . . . there is an authorially intended inter-textuality, then it stands to reason that some loss of meaning occurs when one fails to view the text in terms of it.”[52]

Finally, we are concerned with con-textuality. This has to do with “the semantic effect of a book’s relative position within the OT Canon.”[53] In this case, how is Joel connected verbally and thematically to Hosea, Amos, and the rest of the Book of the Twelve? What interpretive effect do these books have on each other?[54]


The chiastic structure of Joel indicates intentional literary and thematic design. Duane A. Garrett has presented convincing evidence that the two sections of Joel are interlocked by the following chiasms, demonstrating the unity of the book.

First Chiasm
A (chap. 1): Punishment: The locust plague
B (2:1-11): Punishment: The apocalyptic army
C (2:12-19): Transition: Repentance and (vv 18-19) introduction to Yahweh’s oracular response
B’ (2:20): Forgiveness: The Apocalyptic army destroyed
A’ (2:21-27): Forgiveness: The locust-ravaged land restored[55]

Second Chiasm
A (2:20): Judgment: The apocalyptic army destroyed
B (2:21-27): Grace: The land restored
B’ (3:1-5): Grace: The Spirit poured out
A’ (4:1-21): Judgment: The nations destroyed[56]

In Garrett’s view, the relationships between the various parts of these chiasms within each chiasm, and the relationship of the chiasms with each other indicate that “Joel sees the healing of his land as a type of a distant, greater day of salvation for all who come to Yahweh.”[57]

“Joel’s theology is intensely typological. He does not perceive any present act of Yahweh’s judgment or salvation as being unique and unrelated thematically to a later, ultimate work of Yahweh. Nor does he perceive of any future work as being without contemporary precedents. The day of Yahweh may come many times, but each one moves closer to the final consummation.”[58]

The implications of in-textuality in Joel are as follows: (1) It indicates that the book must be read as a unit rather than fragmented, as has resulted from a strictly historical-critical approach[59]; and (2) it suggests that Joel’s literary design is intentionally typological. If the locust plague of chapter 1 is a type of the invasion of a human army in 2:1-11, as Garrett makes quite clear,[60] other portions of the text may be typological as well. The restoration of the land in 2:21-27, for example, may very well be related typologically to the outpouring of the Spirit in 2:28-32.[61]


After a review of the parallel strophes within the poetic units of Joel, H. G. M. Williamson asserts that “it is hard to escape the impression that the various sections of the book are composed with conscious reference to the others in order to present a unified message. … though the prophet’s ministry doubtless began in a concrete historical situation, the book as we now have it is the product of intensive literary activity.”[62] The parallels under consideration are offered by L. C. Allen, who asserts that “the second half of the book [Joel 2:18—3:21] takes up and reverses the destruction and deprivation of the characteristic of the laments of the first half [Joel 1:2 – 2:17],” concluding that “the whole composition has been constructed as an intricate literary mosaic with remarkable skill and care.”[63]

At the very least, the parallels within Joel further demonstrate the unity of the book. Regardless of the origin and timing of possible compositional work after Joel’s original autograph, it is evident that the book as it now stands is intended to be read as a whole. The two parts of the book are related; they form a unity of one book.

“The Day of the Lord is a significant element in the first half (note especially its use as an inclusio in 2:1, 11), and this leads naturally to its development in the second part, for which the locust plague was a harbinger. Moreover, several characteristic features of Joel’s style are evident in both parts: quotations from other prophetic books are distributed equally in both, and there are a number of verbal links between the two as well, e.g., 1:14 and 3:9; 1:15, 2:1f., and 3:14; 2:1b and 2:31b; 2:10a and 3:16a; 2:10b and 3:15; 2:11a and 3:16a; 2:11b and 2:3b, etc. Progress along this line shows itself to be exegetically more fruitful, and has led to a deeper appreciation of the structure of the book as a whole.”[64]

The parallels within the book also further indicate the typological intent of the author. For example, the reference to the “Valley of Jehoshaphat” in 3:2 is apparently intended as a type of the “valley of decision” of 3:14. There is no known location of a literal and physical “Valley of Jehoshaphat,” and the name Jehoshaphat means “Yahweh judges.” Just as an English-speaker today may speak of the “valley of despair” without any reference to a geographical location, so Joel could speak of the valley of judgment by Yahweh, especially in view of his later reference to the “valley of decision.”

As Pettus points out, “The argument for unity is centered around unity in content, structure, and linguistic/stylistic considerations.”[65]


Not only is there significant and informative in-textuality and inner-textuality within the book of Joel; the vocabulary and themes of the book are linked back with the Torah, interpreting the events of Joel in terms of the Law of Moses. For example, a consequence of disobedience to the Law of Moses is to be plagued by locusts.[66] Another consequence was that the rain of the land would be changed “to powder and dust.”[67] In Joel, not only have the locusts invaded, but “the new wine is dried up” (1:10), “the vine has dried up, and . . . all the trees of the field are withered” (1:12), “the seed shrivels under the clods” (1:17), and “the water brooks are dried up” (1:20). But if Judah will repent (2:12-14), the open pastures will spring up, the trees will bear fruit, and the fig tree and vine will produce (2:22). This will be because Yahweh will “cause the rain to come down for you” (2:23), both the former and latter rain. Again, one of the curses associated with disobedience to the Law of Moses is that “you shall grope at noonday, as a blind man gropes in darkness” (Deut 28:29). In Joel, “the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness” (2:10b; see also 2:31a; 3:15).

Not only may further thematic links be seen between Joel and Deuteronomy 32, but also structural links. This is pointed out by Douglas Stuart:

“Joel 1 and 2 reflect both structurally and thematically what is found especially in Deuteronomy 32. The nonimperative verbs in Joel 1 are predominantly preterite, while the nonimperative verbs in chapter 2 are predominantly present-future. . . . Deut. 32 displays a similar shift in preferred tenses, as the song shifts largely from what has happened (vv. 1-21a) to what is coming (vv. 21b-43). When the thematic correspondences are added, the result is a high degree of comparability . . . .”[68]

Stuart offers links between Deuteronomy 32 and Joel 1-2.[69] These thematic and structural links indicate strongly that Joel was not only aware of the Deuteronomic consequences of departure from the Law of Moses and the promises of restoration upon repentance, but that he intentionally structured his book to reflect these themes. Thus, the relationship between Joel and Deuteronomy is an interpretive relationship.

It is widely recognized is that Joel’s promise of the outpouring of the Spirit (2:28-29) is the answer to Moses’ prayer in Numbers 11:29.[70] When the Spirit that was upon Moses was placed on the seventy elders, causing them to prophesy, it was a radically new pneumatological concept for the ancient Israelites.[71] When Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp rather than at the tabernacle, Joshua’s shock was palpable: “Moses my lord, forbid them!” (Num 11:28). Instead, Moses answered, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Num 11:29). This was an even more radical concept, for it anticipated a day when the Spirit would come not merely upon selected male leaders among the Israelites, but upon all of the Lord’s people without regard to gender or social standing. This is exactly the promise of Joel.

The intertextuality between Joel and the Torah is very significant, for Joel looks not only to the past; he also looks to the future. As we shall see, Joel is a link between Pentecost and the Torah.


Andrew Lee discerns five thematic connections between the Minor Prophets: (1) Numbers of passages address the restoration of Israel and the return from foreign lands; (2) there is a recurring theme of the punishment of the nations; (3) Jerusalem will become the center of worship; (4) a king will again lead the nation; and (5) there is hope for a future blessing.[72]

That there is an intended verbal link between Joel and Amos is immediately apparent when one reads directly from the end of Joel to the beginning of Amos: “The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem” (Joel 3:16a); “The Lord roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem” (Amos 1:2a). From the perspective of canonical-compositional hermeneutics, links like this at the end of one book and the beginning of the next knit the books together; they should be read not as two books, but as one.[73]

The contextual links between Joel and the rest of the Minor Prophets indicate not only that these books form a unit, but also that Joel is pivotal in this collection of books. The thematic and verbal connections among the Minor Prophets suggest not only that they should be viewed as a unit, but that when any one of them has strong connections to the New Testament, looking forward to the era of the Messiah and the Spirit, an influence is exerted on all the rest of the books to draw them toward the messianic future as well. It should be no surprise that the only Minor Prophets not quoted in the New Testament are Obadiah, Nahum, and Zephaniah. In the book of Acts alone, Peter quotes Joel, Stephen quotes Amos,[74] Paul quotes Habakkuk,[75] and James quotes Amos.[76] Peter and James are both specific in connecting the Minor Prophets with the establishment of the church.[77]


A careful examination of Peter’s Pentecost sermon indicates that he had more of Joel in mind than Joel 2:28-32. The book of Joel was foundational to his sermon; it appears not only in direct quotes, but also in verbal links and allusions. In addition, an examination of Acts 1 indicates that Luke intentionally connected the events leading up to Peter’s sermon with Joel.[78] It is significant that it was essential to be in Jerusalem to receive the Promise of the Father, baptism with the Holy Spirit.[79] Joel identified Jerusalem as the geographical location of deliverance. Deliverance would not stop there, however. Through the efforts of the disciples, it would spread over the earth. The promise given by Joel is identical with the promise given by Jesus. It was the outpouring of the Spirit.[80] Joel’s prophecy was egalitarian. Luke is careful to record that the waiting believers included not only the male, but female disciples.[81] Joel’s promise occurs in conjunction with a gathering of Jewish exiles. It includes “all nations.” Luke reports that on the Day of Pentecost, Jews were present “from every nation.”[82] One of the indications of the judgment of Yahweh in Joel was the drying up of the new wine. Upon Judah’s repentance, however, the new wine would be restored in abundance. On Pentecost, mockers judged the newly Spirit-filled believers to be “full of new wine.”[83] Although they spoke from their unbelief, Luke may use their statement to indicate a connection between Joel and the Pentecost event.[84] Peter’s quote is influenced by, but not identical to, the Septuagint (LXX).[85] Not only is it significant that he quotes such a lengthy text from Joel to explain the events of Pentecost; it is also significant that he reiterated the fact that both males and females will be involved in prophecy. He does not terminate his quote after Joel’s reference to the Spirit; Peter includes the references to wonders in the heavens, but he also inserts a reference to signs in the earth, following neither the Hebrew text nor the LXX. The fact that Peter immediately follows this quote from Joel with a declaration that Jesus was attested by God “by miracles, wonders, and signs” indicates that he connects these events in the life of Jesus with Joel’s prophecy. Rather than bifurcating Joel’s prophecy between events fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost and events yet to occur at the end of the age, Peter offers the events of Pentecost and the life of Jesus as the fulfillment of Joel.[86] In Peter’s answer to the question, “What shall we do,” there are thematic links to Joel and direct quotes from the prophet.[87] Peter’s command to repent summarizes Joel’s call to turn to God with all one’s heart, with fasting, weeping, mourning, and the rending of the heart. Peter’s promise of remission of sins captures Joel’s promise that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and that he relents from doing harm. Peter’s command to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ is his answer to Joel’s promise that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Peter’s statement that the promise of the Spirit is not only to those present, but also to their children and to all who are afar off is at least verbally linked with Joel’s multigenerational idea. And the final words of Peter’s statement, “as many as the Lord our God will call,” are virtually identical to the LXX of Joel 2:32, “among the remnant whom the Lord calls.”[88]


The in-textuality in Joel, seen in its chiasms, indicates the purposeful literary design of the book. It is a unit, one book, as is further demonstrated by its inner-textuality of parallelisms. The inter-textuality of Joel is rich in thematic and verbal links radiating back to the Torah; its con-textuality is seen in its common themes and phrases with the rest of the Minor Prophets. The presence of Joel’s ideas and words in the first two chapters of the book of Acts is notable.

Did Peter think that Joel, as a prophet, foresaw Pentecost? If we take Peter’s statement, “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel,” at face value, coming to the text without any preconceived notion that the prophecy of Joel could not yet be fulfilled, or that it could be only partially fulfilled, Peter’s statement certainly indicates that he believed Joel prophesied about the Pentecost event. There is nothing in Peter’s treatment of Joel to indicate that he intended only to use Joel as an illustration or an application; there is nothing to indicate that Peter believed that Joel’s prophecy could be bifurcated between the outpouring of the Spirit and the wonders and signs. For Peter to follow his quote from Joel by noting the miracles, wonders, and signs done by God through Jesus gives strong contextual force to the idea that Peter wanted his hearers to understand that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled in its entirety.[89]

But there is another point that gives even more strength to the idea that Peter saw Joel as anticipating Pentecost. That is Peter’s quotes from Psalm 16:8-11 to authenticate the resurrection of Christ as the subject of prophecy. Peter followed this quote with these words: “David . . . being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:29-31). To Peter, the prophet David knowingly foresaw the resurrection of Christ. David did not think he was prophesying about himself. When Peter’s references to Joel in Acts 2:16 and David in Acts 2:30-31 are placed side by side, little difference in meaning can be discerned between them. The fact that David spoke knowingly indicates that Joel did the same. There is nothing to indicate that David was more aware of the import of his prophecy than was Joel.

What is the significance of this for renewal theology? First, Joel is liberated from the restrictions placed on his prophecy by Scofieldian dispensationalism. Joel becomes a prophet for the church; his prophetic voice is not restricted to Israel and to a time yet future. Second, because of Joel’s unity with the rest of the Minor Prophets, those prophets are also liberated for the church. Third, because of Joel’s roots in the Torah, he serves as link between the church and Moses, reaching with one hand back to Moses’ prayer that all of God’s people would be prophets and with the other forward to Pentecost. Moses’ prayer is answered in the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost and on all who enjoy the Pentecostal experience. This liberates the Torah from limited relevance to the church. The Torah becomes a document that is concerned not merely with ancient history and lists of laws for people of a culture far removed from us; it vibrates with anticipation of a better day, a day when the Spirit is not just for the one, or even for the seventy, but for all.[90]

From a canonical-compositional perspective, if Joel sees repentance as resulting in the outpouring of the Spirit, so does Deuteronomy. Joel is not reading meaning into the Torah; he is reading meaning from it. Joel carries forward the eschatology of the Torah.

We have long recognized the Christological content of the first five books of the Bible. Now we must explore the pneumatological content of these books. As Jesus said, Moses wrote of him.[91] It seems apparent that Moses also wrote of the Holy Spirit.

The veil over the Old Testament is taken away in Christ, and we must remember that “the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”[92] To see Christ and the Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures liberates us to read them clearly, to enjoy the fulfillment of their messianic intent, and to receive the Promise of the Father, his Holy Spirit.

Allen, Ronald B. Bible Study Commentary: Joel. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988.

Barrett, C. K. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. Edited by J. A. Emerton, C. E. B. Cranfield, G. N. Stanton. 2 vols. vol. 1, The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994.

Blaising, Craig A. and Darrell L. Bock, ed. Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1982.

Brown, Raymond E. The Sensus Plenior of Sacred Scripture. Baltimore: St. Mary’s University, 1955.

Bruce, F. F. The Book of the Acts. Edited by Gordon D. Fee. rev. ed. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988.

________. Commentary on the Book of Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977.

Childs, Brevard. Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

Driver, S. R. The Books of Joel and Amos with Introduction and Notes. Edited by A. F. Kirkpatrick. 1st ed., Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1898. Reprint, 1898.

English, E. Schuyler, ed. The New Scofield Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1967.

Feinberg, Charles Lee. The Major Messages of the Minor Prophets. New York: American Board of Missions to the Jews, 1948.

Finley, Thomas J. Joel, Obadiah and Micah, Everyman’s Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1996.

Garrett, Duane A. “The Structure of Joel.” JETS 28 (1985): 289-97.

Hartill, J. Edwin. Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1947.

Hubbard, David A., ed. Hosea-Jonah. vol. 31, Word Biblical Commentary. Waco: Word Books, 1987.

________. Joel and Amos: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1989.

Lee, Andrew Yueking. “The Canonical Unity of the Scroll of the Minor Prophets.” Ph.D., Baylor University, 1985.

Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles. Minneapolis: Augsburg. Reprint, 1961.

Lubeck, Ray. “An Introduction to Canonical Criticism.” Evangelical Theological Society Papers. Portland, OR: Theological Research Exchange Network, 1995.

Marshall, I. Howard. The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary. 1st American ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980.

Ogden, Graham S. and Richard R. Deutsch. A Promise of Hope—a Call to Obedience: A Commentary on the Books of Joel and Malachi. Edited by George A. F. Knight, Frederick Carlson Holmgren, International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987.

Pettus, David D. “A Canonical-Critical Study of Selected Traditions in the Book of Joel.” Ph.D., Baylor University, 1992.

Radmacher, Earl D. and Robert D. Preus, ed. Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.

Sailhamer, John H. “Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15.” WTJ 63 (2001): 87-96

________. Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

Spencer, F. Scott. Acts. Edited by John Jarick, Readings. A New Biblical Commentary. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1997.

Stuart, Douglas. Hosea-Joel. Word Biblical Commentary. Edited by David A. Hubbard. vol. 31 Waco: Word Books, 1987.

Tate, Randolph. Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991.

Treier, Daniel J. “The Fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32: A Multiple-Lens Approach.” JETS 40 (1997): 13-26.

Tucker, Gene M., ed. Canon and Community: A Guide to Canonical Criticism. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984.

Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck, ed. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament. 2 vols. vol. 1 Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Copyright © 2004 by Daniel L. Segraves
[1] An example of this may be seen in John H. Sailhamer, “Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15,” WTJ 63 (2001):87-96. Sailhamer suggests, “[T]he sensus literalis (historicus) of Hos 11:1 is precisely that of Matthew’s gospel. Hos 11:1 speaks of the future, not the past. . . . The messianic sense that Matthew saw in the words of Hos 11:1, ‘out of Egypt I have called my son,’ was already there in the book of Hosea. Matthew did not invent it” (88-89).
[2] In the Hebrew text, this is Joel 3:1-5.
[3] To say “Joel intended” does not mean that Joel, as the original author of the book, necessarily understood his prophecy to foretell the events of Pentecost; it means that the book of Joel, in its final composition and canonical placement in the Tanak, foretells the Pentecost event. From the perspective of canonical-compositional hermeneutics, “author” includes not only those who wrote the autographs, but also those involved in the final composition of the text.
[4] Raymond E. Brown’s definition of sensus plenior is widely recognized. Sensus plenior is “that additional, deeper meaning, intended by God but not clearly intended by the human author, which is seen to exist in the words of a Biblical text (or group of texts, or even a whole book) when they are studied in the light of further revelation or development in the understanding of revelation” (Raymond E. Brown, The Sensus Plenior of Sacred Scripture [Baltimore: St. Mary’s University, 1955], 92. Cited by Andy Woods, “The Use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15.” Online:
/articles/11/11-contents.htm#sdfootnote33sym. Accessed August 16, 2004.
[5] Double reference is the idea that “a passage applying primarily to a person or event near at hand, is used by [the Holy Spirit] at a later time as applying to the Person of Christ, or the affairs of His kingdom” (J. Edwin Hartill, Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1947], 105).
[6] W. Randolph Tate points out that “[u]nderlying the midrashic exegesis of scripture are two crucial presuppositions: (1) The scriptures were given by God and are consequently relevant for all subsequent generations; and (2) each part of the scriptures (sentences, phrases, words, even single letters) has an autonomy independent of the whole. These two presuppositions then have an interesting corollary: Since the scriptures were given by an infinite God, a particular passage in part or whole may have an infinite number of applications” (W. Randolph Tate, Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991], 119-120).
[7] A thorough explication of canonical-compositional hermeneutics’ focus on text rather than event and canon rather than criticism is offered by John H. Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 36-114.
[8] Ibid., 154.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Canonical criticism is essentially the same hermeneutical approach as canonical-compositional hermeneutics.
[11] Ray Lubeck, “An Introduction to Canonical Criticism,” Evangelical Theological Society Papers 1995 (Portland, OR: Theological Research Exchange Network), 3.
[12] Ibid., 1-2.
[13] Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992; reprint 1993), 70.
[14] The material in footnotes 8, 9, 11, 12 was also included in the author’s paper “The Use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament: An Introduction to Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics,” presented to Dr. Graham Twelftree in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the course RTCH 751 Interpreting Scripture, offered by Regent University in the curriculum for the Ph.D. in Renewal Studies. It is included here because this paper’s topic requires a brief introduction to canonical-compositional hermeneutics.
[15] E. Schuyler English, ed., The New Scofield Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1967), 1045.
[16] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Major Messages of the Minor Prophets (New York: American Board of Missions to the Jews, 1948), 29.
[17] In response to Feinberg, Walter Kaiser remarks, “The truth of the matter is that there is no single [fulfillment] formula used consistently in Acts or elsewhere in the NT for that matter.” Cited by Thomas J. Finley, Joel, Obadiah and Micah, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1996), 60.
[18] Feinberg, The Major Messages of the Minor Prophets, 29.
[19] Graham S. Ogden and Richard R. Deutsch, A Promise of Hope—a Call to Obedience: A Commentary on the Books of Joel and Malachi (ed. George A. F. Knight and Frederick Carlson Holmgren; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987), 38.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, 2 vols. vol. 1 (ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1421.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid. In response, Thomas J. Finley points out that “more allowance needs to be made for the fact that Pentecost represents the inception of the church. Thus, something more foundational must have happened than simply an offer which was ‘delayed because of Jewish unbelief’” (Finley, 1996 ).
[24] As dispensationalism continues to develop (the term “Progressive Dispensationalism” is often used to describe recent developments in dispensationalism that soften Scofield’s view that the church is not seen in the Old Testament), dispensational theologians are rethinking the relationship between Old Testament prophecies and the use of these prophecies in the New Testament. For example, Kenneth L. Barker states “that several passages that other dispensationalists relegate solely to the future received a literal fulfillment in the New Testament period or are receiving such fulfillment in the continuing church age—in addition to a final, complete fulfillment in the future in the case of some of those passages. Classic examples would be the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17-21 and of Amos 9:11-12 in Acts 15:16-17—without denying a final, future stage to complete the fulfillment with respect to Israel . . . . That is to say, these propositions are not either-or but both-and” (Kenneth L. Barker, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church [ed. Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992], 323).
[25] Thomas J. Finley, Joel, Obadiah and Micah (Chicago: Moody, 1996), 61.
[26] Ronald B. Allen, Bible Study Commentary: Joel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 95.
[27] Ibid., 93.
[28] Ibid., 94-95.
[29] Ibid., 95. Allen’s view is similar to that of S. R. Driver and A. B. Davidson, from the late nineteenth century: “It would be incorrect . . . to regard a particular occasion as exhausting the fulfilment [sic] of the prophecy. Joel’s words . . . look rather to that fuller illumination to be enjoyed in general by God’s people in the future, which is to be a characteristic of the Christian Church throughout the ages; they are ‘not a prediction of the event of Pentecost, but of the new order of things of which Pentecost was the first great example’” (S. R. Driver, The Books of Joel and Amos with Introduction and Notes, 1st ed., Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges [ed. A. F. Kirkpatrick; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1898; reprint, 1898], 67).
[30] David Allan Hubbard, Joel and Amos: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 73.
[31] F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, rev. ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (ed. Gordon D. Fee; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988), 61.
[32] Bruce references 1 Pet. 1:10-11, 20.
[33] Ibid. Emphasis in original.
[34] C. K. Barrett, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, 2 vols., vol. 1, The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (ed. J. A. Emerton, C. B. Cranfield, and G. N. Stanton; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994), 135.
[35] Ibid.
[36] F. Scott Spencer, Acts, Readings. A New Biblical Commentary (ed. John Jarick; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1997), 32.
[37] I. Howard Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary, 1st American ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980), 73.
[38] Ibid., 74.
[39] See, e.g., Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.’s response to Elliott Johnson in Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible (ed. Earl D. Radmacher and Robert D. Preus; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 441-46.
[40] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis: Augsburg; reprint, 1961), 76.
[41] Daniel J. Treier, “The Fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32: A Multiple-Lens Approach,” JETS 40 (1997): 13-14.
[42] Ibid., 21.
[43] Ibid., 25.
[44] Ibid.
[45] John H. Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 207.
[46] Ibid.
[47] Ibid., 209.
[48] Ibid.
[49] Ibid., 210.
[50] Ibid., 212. This may be somewhat the same idea as Sanders’ assertion that the “true shape of the Bible as canon consists of its unrecorded hermeneutics which lie between the lines of most of its literature” (James A. Sanders, Canon and Community: A Guide to Canonical Criticism, Guides to Biblical Scholarship, Old Testament Series, ed. Gene M. Tucker [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984], 46).
[51] Although it is outside the scope of this paper, we could consider the links noted by H. W. Wolff: “three main tradition complexes which have influenced the language of Joel. They are the Day of Yahweh prophecies (Zeph. 1-2; Isa. 13; Ezek. 30; Obad., and Mal. 3), the prophetic oracles against the nations (Jer. 46, 49-51; Ezek. 29-32, 35), and the prophecies concerning the enemy from the North (Jer. 4-6; Ezek. 38-39).” H. W. Wolff, Joel and Amos, Hermeneia (trans. Waldemar Janzen, et al.; ed. Frank Moore Cross, et al.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 11. Cited by David D. Pettus, “A Canonical-Critical Study of Selected Traditions in the Book of Joel” (Ph.D., Baylor University, 1992), 8, n. 20.
[52] Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology, 213.
[53] Ibid.
[54] Canonical-compositional hermeneutics approach the interpretive task from the perspective of the Tanak order of the books, viewing Jesus’ references to the Tanak order as informative. (See Luke 11:51; 24:27, 44-45.)
[55] Duane A. Garrett, “The Structure of Joel,” JETS 28 (1985): 295.
[56] Ibid. Garrett is following the chapter and verse numbering system of the Hebrew text.
[57] Ibid.
[58] Ibid., 297.
[59] H. G. M. Williamson points out that this challenge is “on the basis that the Day of the Lord in the first part was contemporary with the prophet, but future in the second part.” In addition, it has been “argued that the apocalyptic sections were added to an original oracle about a locust plague in 1:1—2:17, though 1:15; 2:1b-2a, 11b also have to be attributed to the later writer.” It has also been suggested that “1:1—2:27 contains a record of Joel’s oral preaching, ch. 3 a supplement to guarantee the eschatological interpretation of the Day of the Lord, and 2:28-32 a later, sectarian addition to apply the promises to a narrower group within Israel.” See H. G. M. Williamson, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4 vols., vol. 2 (ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1982), 1079.
[60] See Garrett, The Structure of Joel, 289-294.
[61] Hebrew 3:1-5. “The image of pouring (referring to a liquid) makes an interesting connection to the promise of rain in 2:23 (see Isa. 44:3)” (Finley, Joel, Obadiah and Micah, 54).
[62] Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1079.
[63] Ibid.
[64] Ibid.
[65] David D. Pettus, “A Canonical-Critical Study of Selected Traditions in the Book of Joel,” 35.
[66] Deut 28:38, 39, 42. Compare with Joel 1.
[67] Deut 28:24.
[68] Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, vol. 31, Word Biblical Commentary (ed. David A. Hubbard; Waco: Word Books, 1987), 228.
[69] Ibid.
[70] See, e.g., Barrett, The Acts of the Apostles, 24; Barton, Joel and Obadiah, 95; Feinberg, The Major Messages, 28; Lee, The Canonical Unity of the Scroll of the Minor Prophets, 64.
[71] See Num 11:16-26.
[72] See Andrew Yueking Lee, “The Canonical Unity of the Scroll of the Minor Prophets” (Ph.D., Baylor University, 1985), 217-18.
[73] This phenomenon is often seen in the Psalter.
[74] Acts 7:42-43; Amos 5:25-27.
[75] Acts 13:41; Hab 1:5.
[76] Acts 15:16-17; Amos 9:11-12.
[77] The following texts from the Minor Prophets are quoted in the New Testament: Hos 2:1, 3 in Rom 9:25-28; Hos 6:6 in Matt 9:13; 12:7; Hos 10:8 in Luke 23:30; Rev 6:16; Hos 11:1 in Matt 2:15; Hos 13:14 in 1 Cor 15:55; Joel 2:28-31 in Acts 2:17-21; Rom 10:13; Amos 5:25-27 in Acts 7:42-43; Amos 9:11-12 in Acts 15:16-17; Jonah 2:1 in Matt 12:40; Mic 5:1 in Matt 2:6; Mic 7:6 in Matt 10:35-36; Hab 1:5 in Acts 13:41; Hab 2:3-4 in Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Hag 2:6, 21 in Heb 12:26; Zech 8:16 in Eph 4:25; Zech 9:9 in John 12:15; Zech 11:12-13 in Matt 27:9-10; Zech 12:10 in John 19:37; Zech 13:7 in Matt 26:31; Mark 14:27; Mal 1:2-3 in Rom 9:131; Mal 3:1 in Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27; Mal 3:23-24 in Matt 17:10-11.
[78] Compare Joel 2:32 with Acts 1:4, 8.
[79] Acts 1:5.
[80] Compare Joel 2:28 with Acts 1:5, 8.
[81] Compare Joel 2:28 with Acts 1:13, 14.
[82] Joel 3:1-2 with Acts 2:5-11.
[83] Compare Joel 1:5, 10; 2:24; 3:18 with Acts 2:13.
[84] When the chief priests and Pharisees sought to destroy Jesus, Caiaphas, the high priest, said, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:49-50). Although Caiaphas did not believe on Jesus, John wrote, “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad” (John 11:51-52). It is within the ability of Scripture to present unbelievers as speaking divinely ordained words.
[85] Compare Joel 2:28-32 with Acts 2:16-22.
[86] As F. F. Bruce points out, “It was little more than seven weeks since the people in Jerusalem had indeed seen the sun turned into darkness, during the early afternoon of the day of our Lord’s crucifixion. And on the same afternoon the paschal full moon may well have appeared blood-red in the sky as a consequence of that preternatural gloom. These were to be understood as tokens of the advent of the day of the Lord, ‘that great and notable day,” a day of judgment, to be sure, but more immediately the day of God’s salvation to all who invoked His name” (F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977], 69). A careful comparison of Joel 2:30-31; 3:14-16 with Matt 27:45-54 suggests that the events surrounding the death of Jesus could very well be a major fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. Although nothing is said in Matt 27:45-54 about blood, fire, and vapor of smoke, it is recognized by many scholars that these can be references not only to natural disasters but also to warfare. (See Graham S. Ogden, A Promise of Hope—A Call to Obedience, 38; John Barton, Joel and Obadiah, 98; David Allan Hubbard, Joel and Amos, 71; S. R. Drive, Joel and Amos, 66.) Jesus had warned that the age would be characterized by war (Matt 24:6-7). It may be, however, that in Peter’s mind and for his purposes on the Day of Pentecost, the reference to fire can be connected with the tongues as of fire that rested upon the believers (Acts 2:3); the reference to blood could connect in the minds of the disciples with the crucifixion of Jesus, who had asked them to drink from a cup representing his blood (Matt 26:27-28). Another clue suggesting that Peter may have had the events of the crucifixion in mind is the messianic theme of Psalm 18. Paul invests Psalm 18 with messianic meaning. (See Rom 15:8-9; Ps 18:49.) Comparison of Psalm 18:7-11 with Matthew 27:45, 51 shows close verbal linkage. Both texts refer to the shaking of the earth, quaking of the foundations of the hills (rocks splitting), and darkness. In this context, Psalm 18:8 reads, “Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it.” This is symbolic language and we might dismiss any connection with the crucifixion of Christ except for the fact that Paul specifically reads Psalm 18 as a messianic text.
[87] Compare Joel 1:3; 2:12-13, 32 with Acts 2:38-39
[88] LXX: proskeklētai hous kyrios (whom the Lord has called); Acts: proskalesētai kyrios ho theos hēmōn (the Lord our God shall call).
[89] This is not to suggest that there are no continuing fulfillments. Each outpouring of the Spirit is in some way a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
[90] Paul understands Deut 11:32 to be about the church. The way he quotes the verse is significant: “But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: ‘I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation” (Rom 10:19). By asking, “Did Israel not know,” Paul attributes prophetic knowledge to Moses. The church was not yet “a nation,” but Moses knew such a nation would come into existence.
[91] John 5:46; Luke 24:44.
[92] 2 Cor 3:14-17.

Copyright © 2004 by Daniel L. Segraves