In early October, the Hembree boys and I had the opportunity to commemorate the Protestant Reformation 500 Conference at Wycliffe College in the heart of downtown, Toronto. Chocked full of Reformation scholars, each presentation respectively and diligently underscored contextual juxtaposition between the contemporary, or better, modernized sense of Church theology and Protestant tradition to its intellectual forefathers: the sixteenth century scholarship of John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, Huldrych Zwingli, William Tyndale, Erasmus of Rotterdam, among others. Unlike today, in 1517 Europe the Church and State were married, for better or for worse. The Catholic Church had its hand in every back pocket and its face in every bedroom, so the level of impact that the Reformation had on the social, political and economic scale, and especially that of Christian missiology, was colossal. Now with the Gospel in every hand and household, propagation was personal and easily accessible. For those who, perhaps, have never been acquainted with the term missiology, it is a branch of practical theology that explicitly deals with a wide variety of evangelism from interpersonal to mass forms of communication. In laymen, it is known as the Great Commission; in scholarship, its core concept is referred to as the Missio Dei (“Mission of God”), where the sole purpose, mandate and duty for each missionary is to spread the Gospel: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) as well as “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). As simple as this may sound, its scope is so pervasive that people often get their knots tied up on how to do it right, specifically in relation to God’s Will in the Old Testament. And, like most Reformation scholars, temptation to isolate the Epistles in place of the Gospel and favour theology over the historical narrative is readily available.
Now, with respect to each speaker – their integrity I dare not put to question – there was one blanket statement addressed, in particular, that really snagged my line. Each presentation drew from the same Reformed determination that there was no basis, evidence or any amount of precedent in the Old Testament to support, let alone theologically substantiate, missiology found in the New Testament. That is to say, the Old Testament is totally absent of missionaries and our missiological duty. This – apparently – causes tremendous difficulties in the intellectual community. How are we to effectively justify our purpose, mandate and mission present in the New Testament with no Old Testament representation (specifically the Law)? I will address that question in a moment. First, the presupposition that there is no missiological basis in the Old.
IS THERE ANY BASIS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT FOR MISSIONARY WORK?
After listening to each speaker finish his or her presentation, question and answer naturally followed suit. Instinctually, the obvious thought came to mind: “What about Jonah?” The answer to which was less than satisfactory. Like a fish out of water, it was quickly dismissed as irrelevant, “Well, I would hardly consider reluctance, pettiness and casting judgment on people as missionary work” followed by “I am not well versed in the Old Testament, can we stick to the New” (all dialogue is paraphrased, of course). It was overly presumptuous of me to have assumed that the academics at large had considered Jonah already. Frankly, it was such a blatantly obvious example of Old Testament missions that I was taken back by the very idea that Jonah was not even worth discussing. Jonah was commanded by God to travel to a foreign nation and preach a message against it as a means for repentance (Jonah 4:1-2). I will concede that there may not be a practical difference if Jonah is or is not a viable missionary. Indeed, it is equally clear that Jonah is far from the ideal candidate of what we would consider a “missionary” today. Plainly, he was a prejudice, xenophobic, self-righteous bigot – and despite all that, God wanted him (and no one else) to preach at Nineveh, the prominent city and symbol of Assyrian power. In all irony to the scholars at hand, Martin Luther, for all of his strengths, was no saint either – he was an anti-semitic, anti-cleric, intemperate, over-indulgent son of a gun. And most poignantly, both men stubbornly decided, at one point or another, who should have the right to hear the Word of God: For Jonah, the Assyrians should not; for Luther, the Jews should not. And, from an earthly standpoint, if I were forced to pick sides, Jonah actually had a moral reason to be ‘damned angry’ (Jonah 4:9) with the amoral conduct oozing out of Assyria, whereas the Jews contemporary to Luther gave no such horrific violations. Sometimes God calls people right for the task, not necessarily those right by our standards or even, at times, with Him (2 Chronicles 36:22-23) – even if that means they have scales for skin. I think it is fair to say that neither Jonah or Luther are the ideal moral icons to model yourself after for evangelism as opposed to, say, the Apostle Paul. So, it ought to be said, it is not Jonah’s character or his theological sensitivity I intend to highlight – it is the overarching narrative itself and the intent of the Author that bares witness to the pragmatic theological insight we see in the New Testament. The thematic implications and contextual ramifications in relation to the Missio Dei, whether you consider the story of Jonah to be historical fact or fiction, have a clear proto-missiological precedent as a pre-Christ form of missions.
The core of the Great Commission and the Gospel aligns, first and foremost, as a matter of Salvation (the doctrine is called soteriology) and it begins in the Old and continues in the New with one key component: Repentance – followed by behavioural and verbal affirmation of belief. Both the apostle Peter and Paul make this claim as clear as water in the Book of Acts, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38-39) (See also Acts 3:19; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). Jonah (meaning “dove” implicates prophetic soteriological symbolism from the former Noah’s dove that carried a ‘message of salvation’ as an olive branch and the latter imagery of the Holy Spirit), a prophet called by God, was commanded “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” (Jonah 3:2) We all know how the story goes: Jonah flees in anger, is swallowed by a fish, utters a sincere prayer in its belly “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9), is vomited on dry land and then goes to Nineveh to preach what God instructed. Upon hearing the Word of God through Jonah, all the citizens of Nineveh begin to repent and so, in mercy, God withholds judgment and the people are saved (arguably). Jonah attempted to flee to Tarshish (located in modern day Spain) initially because by going to the opposite end of the earth, so to speak, Jonah was hoping God would simply destroy Assyria. He knew God would show ‘grace and mercy in lovingkindness’ on the Assyrians if he preached His message, and the Assyrians posed a massive threat to Israel.
The story of Jonah records a proto-missional example of God’s love for the gentiles, “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4:11) and it foreshadows what we now call the Mission Dei before the New Testament apostles realized the heart of the Great Commission, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Acts 11:18) Having only a mere branch of repentance, Jonah did not carry the fruit of the New Testament – Jesus Christ – the means by which salvation comes. And yet, that did not stop Jesus Christ from stressing these words: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” (Matthew 12:39-41) It is no coincidence that Christ compares His crucifixion, death and resurrection (the act of conquering sin), to the prophet Jonah being “in the belly of the great fish”, who then after goes out into the world and preaches the Gospel; a precursor to the Great Commission. What is even more fascinating is that the one’s who had repented in Nineveh will, more or less, be a part of the final judgment of Israel. I think it is safe to say, at the very least, the Book of Jonah substantiates a proto-missiological basis for God’s plan of salvation in the Old Testament (and that the generation of Israel at the time was quite possibly aware of it. What does that mean for us?).
WHY IS THIS RELEVANT?
The Missio Dei is about God’s greater purpose for mankind as a whole, and the story of Jonah demonstrates a glimpse of what this mission meant to God early on. The Book of Jonah impresses a footprint for salvation through repentance and obedience for all of humanity and lays understated groundwork for New Testament missiology, that principle being: despite your sentiments and opinion for other people, God loves them and they too need to hear the Word of God – they need the Gospel! And that is precisely what we see happen in the Book of Acts and its fruits of labour in the Epistles. Jonah the person however begins and ends the story as a great example of what not to do. – Ha! In turn, it demonstrates whom missionaries ought to imitate: Jesus Christ, the Imago Dei.
I suppose the greater issue at large here is that by saying there is no basis for missions in the Old Testament is actually like saying that the New Testament is independent of the Old, or that theology is impartial to history, or that the Epistles are distinct from the Gospel. Even if, point in fact, one of the key mandates of the Missio Dei is initially employed through the congregation of Israel, that is to make all people priests: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6) and later further exercised through the Great Commission: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10) As the Apostle Paul too acknowledged before Israel existed, “…[F]oreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8; See also, Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). God’s mission always intended to include all people in the line of priesthood. Also, please consider that God’s ‘nation of priests’ features the entire congregation of Israel as a complementary whole and does not exclude earthly professions such as farmers, shepherds, traders and so forth (after all, Adam was a gardener!), meaning the Levites were just the predominate keepers of it, specifically the Law, and all were called to be members of the holy priesthood. If spoken colloquially: by studying your Bible, praying daily, or perhaps even reading this article, you are proactively perpetuating that mandate! It is a liberty we owe dearly to the Reformation.
IS THERE ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF PROTO-MISSIONS?
In the same vein, why is Moses not considered the first missionary? What differentiates the story of Jonah from, say, the story of Moses who likewise hesitantly listens to God’s Will, goes back to Egypt for the Israelites and speaks God’s message? Well, it would seem prima facie that there is no reason that he ought not to categorically fall under proto-missiology. Albeit, the circumstances of Moses’ life invite quite the melting pot of categories: prophet, scribe, poet (Psalm), warrior, shepherd, reformer, political and religious leader, and possibly, even a pseudo-missionary. The argument here is if a missionary is dependent upon the mission or if the mission is dependent upon a missionary. Respectively, for all of his achievements, Moses does not cut the mustard. Moses was not bringing an explicit message of salvation to a foreign nation; he was tasked to deliver Israel, of like belief, out of Egypt to illustrate the latter salvation. So the soteriological implications are more in the overarching symbolism of the Law and its institution than the direct message spoken by Moses. Though he was given a mission by God, Moses is not a missionary by what we constitute as missions work in the New Testament and today.
If we were to go further back down the timeline into Hebrew tradition, there are other extra biblical, apocryphal traditions and other peripheral sources, say, the Book of Jasher or Enoch, that pre-date Jesus Christ and Israel with strikingly similar instances (but not identical) to proto-missiology from which to base missionary tradition found in the New Testament. It is recorded in tradition that both Methuselah and Noah constantly spoke the words of the Lord, day after day, preaching repentance to save the people of the world from destruction as God instructed, “Speak ye, and proclaim to the sons of men, saying, Thus saith the Lord, return from your evil ways and forsake your works, and the Lord will repent of the evil that he declared to do to you, so that it shall not come to pass.” If salvation pre-Christ was possible through repentance followed by obedience, and thus includes the acknowledgement of God’s supreme authority as the Apostle Paul claimed, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21), that is being made in the image of God, then perhaps Methuselah and Noah are the first true missionaries and their former missiological failures offer incremental precedent for the latter. But alas, this is not Scripture, only tradition and speculation at best. Whether true or false, it may play its role in mutually shared belief in ancient times but does not institute a missiological precedent for the Apostles, or any missionary for that matter, to model themselves after.
Matlock Bobechko | December 8, 2017 – 3:29 PM EST
 Adams, Samuel V. The Reality of God and Historical Method: Apocalyptic Theology in Conversation with N.T. Wright, 24
 Despite the obvious fact that being a missionary does not mean vacationary, that is to say, true blue missionaries are not in it for their own sake nor do they tell God where they want to go or what they want to say or how many point rewards they want to earn on their next flight, in fact, it’s not even an option – it is the mission of God and it is the missionary’s duty to abide even if that means preaching unpleasantry. Missionary work is not solely about positivity, optimism, or bringing moments of happiness to others (though it cannot harm to do so); yes, the belief in the Good News does bring a depth to joy that surfaces as evangelical exuberance, and in my experience, cannot be achieved by, of or through any other means. But, the argument at large is that there is no Old Testament basis for missiology not the means by which missionaries approach it.
 The Reformation was a pivotal event that turned the tide of Christian theology, socially and intellectually. That being said, with all accessible benefits made by the Reformation, it is not without its faults. It is typical of Reformation scholars to pedestal theology above the historical narrative demonstrated by God. And yet by extracting the Hebraic history we neglect, and with it to some extent we reject, the overall contextual and subtextual cultural meanings and implications that allow us to understand the intent, purpose and variation of the language articulated. Five hundred years later, we still feel the affects of poor judgment from the Reformation. It seems many Evangelical Pastors and members of the Pentecostal denomination tend to disregard the history as impertinent or impotent to the whole Christian experience and, unfortunately, prioritize all things Reformation as God’s honest truth to the extent that the Holy Spirit is completely idiosyncratic. Without the clarification of the Old, there can be no certification for the New. Yes, we are in debt to the steadfast strength of the reformers, but we ought to be careful not to pedestal their judgement above all else – that being the Church over the Holy Spirit.
 Johnson, Ken. The Ancient Book of Jasher, A New Annotated Edition (also called Sepher HaYasher), 13 (Jasher 5:7). The ancient Book of Jasher is referenced in Joshua 10:13; Samuel 1:18; and 2 Timothy 3:8. The phrase translated “repent of the evil” also found in Jonah 3:10 implies that God “temporarily removed the calamity”. Interestingly, in the Book of Jasher God charges Methuselah and Noah with 120 years to deliver the message of repentance, but “the sons of men would not hearken to them, nor incline their ears to their words…” in contrast to the Book of Jonah where the Assyrians immediately repent and Nineveh is destroyed 150 years later.