For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.Romans 10:13 (KJV)
Call – For most of Christianity, we imagine ourselves verbally calling out “Jesus” to receive salvation. In fact Paul writes just three verses earlier, “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Obviously there’s a message about verbalizing the Name. But could it be something different? Are we interpreting this correctly? It just seems so easy. If I want salvation, all I need to do is call out Jesus’ name. It’s almost too easy.
There’s always a way to investigate further, but it requires digging into the original languages of the Bible and connecting the dots. First, Paul didn’t make this verse up. He’s quoting from the prophet Joel.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.Joel 2:32
It’s fantastic when the Apostles quote from the Old Testament because the Hebrew books provide us with their native language. The Hebrew language provides insight into the Hebrew, Apostolic, worldview. So now we can examine the word “call” here in Joel.
The word “call” in Hebrew is qara’ (קָרָא) which can mean “to call, call out, recite, read, cry out, proclaim.” It’s used as “call” about 528 times in the Bible, but it’s also used 38 times as “read.” In this particular occurrence from Joel, the Rabbis refer to it as “read” which drastically changes our interpretation of the text.
“whosoever reads the name of the Lord shall be delivered”
Taking this into account we can examine the Jewish commentary regarding Joel 2:32.
And Rabbi Elazar says: With regard to any house in which there are no matters of Torah heard at night, the fire of Gehenna consumes it, as it is stated: “All darkness is laid up for his treasures, a fire not fanned shall consume him; it shall go ill with a sarid in his tent” (Job 20:26). Sarid is referring to no one but a Torah scholar, as it is stated: “And among the seridim, those whom the Lord shall call” (Joel 3:5). A house that is dark at night and in which no Torah is heard will be consumed by a fire that does not require fanning with a bellows, the fire of Gehenna.Sanhedrin 92a:15
The sages clearly indicate that calling on the name of the Lord is a reference to reading Torah. This becomes quite interesting. While the Sanhedrin, or The Synod, was composed circa 450 CE in Talmudic Babylon, it is comprised of the Oral Torah which had been passed down verbally for centuries. So the Jews, including Apostle Paul, were raised with the understanding that the focus lies in reading Torah. Now because not everyone had a book in their homes, the words were often read aloud to benefit everyone around. So, in a sense, this is the “calling out” that is being referred to here. Reading silently to one’s self didn’t occur until the 17th century. Today, we think of reading as an introvert’s hobby, but before the 17th century, it was a social activity. Calling out the Word of God was done publicly and for the benefit of others, not just yourself.
So when we read Apostle Paul’s instruction to confess with the mouth, or call upon the name, it’s in relation to socially and publicly reading Scripture. As noted by the sages, the Scripture in reference here is often times considered to be the Torah. This drastically changes our interpretation doesn’t it?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to say I’m a Christian. It’s easy to say that I believe in Jesus and therefor I’m saved. But it’s much more difficult to read aloud Scripture daily. It much more difficult to study Torah and dedicate time to investigating the text. I believe the Jewish sages are onto something here. Do you really desire salvation and deliverance? Then commit yourself to the word of God. Prove yourself a disciple of Yeshua.