Having mapped out the Jewish debates about the relationship between divine sovereignty and human agency in Paul’s Jewish world, we are now in a position to compare some of his language to what we have seen so that we might draw some conclusions about his thinking on these questions. Having spent the last couple of years focused on this particular set of questions, I am convinced now more than ever that Paul’s thinking is closest to the strong emphasis on divine providence that we have observed, particularly in the Dead Scrolls, but also in Sirach 33. We can see this in a number of themes that Paul shares in common with these sources, but we will focus here on his clearest expressions of predestination in order to highlight the striking similarities between his language and that of other Jews who described election in terms of the predestination of individuals for covenant membership and final salvation.
THE ABSENCE OF FREEWILL AFFIRMATIONS
Before discussing the positive parallels between Paul and the sources, it is important to note one difference with some of them. In a previous post, I noted examples of explicit affirmations of freewill in Sirach, Wisdom, and Psalms of Solomon. However, one looks in vain for anything comparable in Paul. Instead, there are a number of passages that reveal what scholars have identified as an “anthropological pessimism” which seems to minimize human freedom in Paul’s thinking. Thus, in Romans 8:7–8, Paul says that those who are “in the flesh,” and therefore lack God’s empowering Spirit, are unable to obey God’s law or do what pleases him. In Ephesians 2:1–10, God’s people were formerly “dead in trespasses and sins” (v. 1) and under the domain of the “the spirit that is now at work on the sons of disobedience” (v. 2). This necessitates a work on God’s part that amounts to a new creation (v. 10; cf., Rom 6:3–4; 2 Cor 4:6; 5:17; Titus 3:5), for such cannot be effected by lifeless human beings. Scholars, such as Jason Maston (Divine and Human Agency in Second Temple Judaism and Paul: A Comparative Study [WUNT 297; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010]), have noted that Paul shares much of this negative anthropological language in common with the Thanksgiving Hymns of the DSS. It was this negative estimation of humanity that led the Essene community (as attested in the DSS) to posit an explicit dual predestination, without which they could not explain their own existence. Fundamentally, therefore, Paul’s strong and explicit anthropological pessimism places him in company with those Jews who explained covenant membership and salvation in terms of individual predestination, even before we consider the passages that address the subject directly. We can confirm this by considering the most explicit mention of human will in Paul. In Romans 9:15, after rehearsing God’s choices in election and exclusion in biblical history, Paul deduces the theological conclusion that “it [election] does not depend on human will or exertion, but on the God who does mercy” (my translation). Categorically, therefore, Paul is at odds with those Jewish authors mentioned above who affirm the importance of human volition in election and salvation, choosing instead to hold up divine free will as the standard (v. 18).
PREDESTINARIAN PASSAGES IN PAUL
This brings us to the positive statements in Paul’s letters that seem to affirm the kind of predestination we observed in Sirach 33 and the DSS. Although there are other texts and themes that we might discuss, I have focused here on the clearest instances in Paul’s letters that display remarkable overlap with Jewish predestinarian sources. I will list and briefly explain the four clearest texts in order of the value I believe they have in explaining Paul’s theology of predestinarian election.
1 Thessalonians 5:9
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (ESV)
This verse comes at the end of a letter that Paul wrote to a church that was troubled with matters of eschatology. Based on the two Thessalonian letters, it seems that some in this church had come to believe in an over realized eschatology and were concerned that those who died prior to Christ’s return would not be able to participate in the resurrection. After explaining that at “the day of the Lord” Christ would resurrect all of his people, both dead and alive (4:13–18), Paul concludes the letter by reminding the audience that the hope of this coming day should be a cause for joy, not fear (5:1–11). God’s people, armed with the knowledge that Jesus will return to vindicate his people by raising them from the dead, are to continue to encourage and edify each other as they patiently wait (5:6–11). In 5:9 Paul introduces the theological grounds (ὅτι, “for”) that he wants his audience to stand on as they await the Lord’s return. Because God has not destined (ἔθετο) his people to experience wrath when the Lord returns, they need not live in fear in this age. Instead, he has positively appointed for them to receive salvation.
There are two interesting parallels we can observe here. First, in 1 Thessalonians 5:5, Paul says that his audience are “children of light” and “not…of the darkness.” Read along with v. 9, this sounds remarkably like the Treatise on the Two Spirits from the Community Rule (1QS 3–4), where God is said to have assigned his covenant people the “spirit of light” and those who are destined to experience wrath, “the spirit of darkness.” Coupling this light/darkness dualism with Paul’s language of divine appointment to wrath or salvation makes perfect sense if Paul shares the perspective reflected in the Treatise on the Two Spirits. Second, we find a direct verbal parallel in the Thanksgiving Hymns. In 1QH 15.37–38, the hymnist gives thanks to God because he has “not cast my lot in the fraudulent assembly, nor have You set my portion in the council of the pretenders. But you call me to Your mercies, to [Your] forgiveness [You have brought me,] and in the abundance of Your compassion…” The context of thanksgiving is likewise important in 1 Thessalonians. Paul begins the letter by thanking God for his election of the people, which was evidenced by the effectiveness of his gospel ministry there (1:2–5). Moreover, the Greek that Paul uses to speak of God having not appointed his audience for wrath is nearly a perfect translation of the Hebrew the hymnist uses — “You have not set my portion…” (לא שמתה הוקי). The hymn goes on to describe how this appointment results in his receiving insight and being established for salvation through the covenant community, just as Paul knows that God has chosen the believers in Thessalonica because his preaching was received by faith. Paul’s language of election and appointment to wrath or salvation makes good sense when read in light of the similar language used in the DSS.
2 Thessalonians 2:11–13
“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but has pleasure in unrighteousness. But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification of the spirit and belief in the truth.”
This translation is essentially my modification of the ESV based on my decisions regarding some exegetical problems in the text. I will have to be content to provide a very brief explanation of this complex text, which cannot possibly do justice to all that could occupy us here.
This passage comes on the heels of the most detailed explanation of the events leading up to the Lord’s return in Paul’s writings (and Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians is debated). According to the previous chapter, when Jesus returns he will destroy Satan and those who have followed him. However, 2 Thessalonians 2:11–12 says that they “believe what is false” because God causes them to, so that they may be condemned. The language of “a strong delusion” from God that leads to their rejection of the truth sounds similar to the “spirit of falsehood” described in the Treatise on the Two Spirits. This connection finds additional support when we look carefully at the Greek Paul uses in v. 13, which can be translated woodenly as “by the sanctification of the spirit” (ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος). Since Paul uses a verbal noun—“sanctification”—the genitive “of the spirit” that follows could either be subjective, referring to the Holy Spirit’s sanctification of the believer, or objective, referring to the human spirit that is sanctified. Both readings would have parallels in Paul and would place heavy emphasis on God’s agency in salvation. However, in this context where we have a contrast between those who receive a strong delusion that results in one believing falsehood and those chosen for salvation, I believe the objective reading makes better sense. If so, we have Paul using language parallel to the “spirit of truth” described in the Treatise on the Two Spirits.
Even without this conceptual parallel in the Treatise on the Two Spirits we would still have a clear affirmation of individual election unto salvation. Paul presents humanity at the Lord’s return in clearly dualistic terms, with both groups created as the result of God’s activity. There is a textual critical issue in v. 13 that impacts the meaning of the verse. It is very difficult to determine whether Paul originally wrote that God chose his people “as first fruits” or “from the beginning.” The evidence in the manuscripts themselves is essentially a stalemate. Most commentators, however, have pointed to parallel Pauline passages to show that Paul regularly uses pre-temporal indicators when discussing election (e.g., Rom 8:29; Eph 1:4), which inclines them to take “from the beginning” as original. The reading “from the beginning” obviously fits well with the predestinarian theology I am suggesting Paul intends to communicate here. Additional support for this is Paul’s use of the verb αἱρέω (“to choose”), meaning “to take” or “to pick out,” instead of the usual verb for election. This verb is arguably more vivid in expressing the subject’s deliberation and the effectiveness of his choosing. This makes the attempt of some scholars to reduce Paul’s election theology here to merely a corporate concept untenable. Moreover, Paul expresses clearly that God’s choice results in the salvation of the one chosen (εἰς σωτηρίαν), as we saw in 1 Thessalonians 5:9. They are not chosen because they are saved by choosing freely to join the covenant community, as in the corporate election scheme. The grammar employed here suggests instead that their being chosen precedes their salvation and ultimately results in it. Thus, I was shocked when reading Thornhill’s treatment on this passage that he spends much time dealing with the textual critical problem while ignoring that Paul explicitly says God’s election is for the salvation of those chosen. This is remarkable because he makes the bald claim in the book that Paul never couches election in terms of individual predestination to salvation. This verse alone, without the benefit of the exegesis provided here, does not prove Thornhill wrong; but it was an oversight not to interact with syntactical significance of the prepositional phrase εἰς σωτηρίαν. As it stands, I believe there is much in this passage to show that Paul affirmed the kind of predestination attested in Essene sources I surveyed in my last two blog entries.
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (ESV)
If you have had the opportunity to study the Greek used here, you will know that it is lamentable to simply quote an English translation, since the meaning of virtually every phrase has been the subject of debate. However, we will have to be content with an imperfect translation here, since I want to keep this as to-the-point as possible. Moreover, I will not be able to validate all that I say here. Those who read the previous entry where I discussed the Thanksgiving Hymns may notice that Paul’s introductory words here—“Blessed be the God and Father…”—are really a translation of the Hebrew used in the introductions of the hymns. In fact, apart from the distinctly Christian elements in this text, this entire passage would be right at home among the Thanksgiving Hymns that were discovered among the DSS, and this includes some remarkably distinct theological ideas. I believe a detailed study of the many parallels between Ephesians and the DSS provides the clearest evidence that suggests that Paul had significant theological interaction with the Essenes who believed what is reflected in the DSS.
For my purposes here, I want to pay careful attention to Paul’s language in vv. 4–5 and the emphasis throughout this praise hymn on God’s desire as the basis for what he has done in redeeming his people in Christ. Verse 4 describes God’s election has having taken place “before the foundation of the world.” This temporal phrase rules out a reductionistic corporate view that excludes predestinarian ideas. For it is God’s people (“us”) who are the objects of his choosing before creation, and not a plan or a faceless community of people who happen to join the church. Election here is not described as entering the community of the chosen, but as a gift passively received by the elect person, with God as the explicit subject who acted before the elect person even existed. The purpose of this pre-temporal election is said to be “adoption”—a covenantal category—which is effected in time through God’s predestining super intention (v. 5). The certain result of being elected and predestined is “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (v. 7) and participation in ultimate glory (e.g., v. 14). As mentioned above, Paul’s language is strikingly similar to what we read in the Thanksgiving Hymns: “You have determined before ever You created him…You alone have [creat]ed the righteous one, and from the womb You established him to give heed to Your covenant at the appointed time of grace…for an eternal salvation and everlasting peace without want” (7.27–29); “in the wisdom of Your knowledge You determined their destiny before they came into existence and according [to Your will] everything come[s to pass], and nothing happens apart from You” (9.21–22).
When Paul tells us on what basis God does all that he is credited with doing here, he tells us repeatedly that it was simply God’s desire and plan to do so—“according to the purpose of his will” (v. 5); “according to his purpose” (v. 9); “having been predestined accordingly to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (v. 11). These parallel phrases employ the exact Greek expression—κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν αὐτοῦ— we saw in Sirach 33:13. Likewise, in the Treatise on the Two Spirits, we read that God ordains all things according to “His glorious plan” (כמחשבת כבודו, 1QS 3.16). Moreover, throughout the Thanksgiving Hymns there is heavy emphasis placed on God’s sovereign foreordination according to his “good pleasure” (רצון, see esp. 9.10, 12, 17), which is translated in the Greek OT with just the same language Paul uses here. Read in this context, it seems difficult to deny that Paul described election in terms of individual predestination to salvation, as did the Essene community who authored the DSS.
Due to the length of this section I will not quote this text in full. As sad as it was not to treat everything we encounter in Ephesians 1, what will have to suffice in our discussion of this passage is an absolute tragedy! In my thesis, the chapter dealing with this section took up 46 pages, and that barely scratched the surface as far as I’m concerned. For my purposes here, I want to discuss just four topics that especially highlight the predestinarian elements in Paul’s argument, which he shares in common with the Jewish sources that espouse predestinarian election: (1) Paul’s “Calling” Language; (2) The Meaning of Foreknowledge; (3) The Background to the Potter/Clay Imagery; (4) Israel’s Hardening and its Future Reversal.
Paul’s “Calling” Language
Up to this point I have not discussed the meaning of Paul’s language of the divine call. This concept becomes especially important in Romans 8:28–30, where we read,
“And we know that, for those who love God, he causes all things to work together for good, for those who are called according to [God’s] purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be confirmed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many siblings. And those whom he predestined, these he also called, and those whom he called, these he also justified, and those whom he justified, these he also glorified.” (my translation).
The predestinarian notions are obvious with Paul’s use of the verb “predestined” (προορίζω). All that Paul says God does here, he tells us he does for “those who are called according to [God’s] purpose.” In Paul’s writings, there is no distinction between being called and coming to faith. You will look in vain in Paul’s letters for an example of someone being called by God and fail to come to faith. God’s call is always effective for Paul, and therefore, he is happy simply to refer to Christians as those who are “called,” since those who are not in the faith have not been the beneficiaries of such a call. This text before us is the strongest evidence in Paul that he believes in an infallibly effective divine call. He tells us in no uncertain terms in v. 30 that all who are called are also justified by God and glorified. There is no room in Paul’s language to posit the category of someone who was called but failed to be justified and eventually glorified, which, according to this context, refers to eschatological salvation through resurrection (vv. 16–23). Earlier in Romans 4:17, God’s calling is described explicitly as his creation ex nihilo in fulfilling his promise that Sarah would bear Abraham’s heir. God’s calling, therefore, effects new creation. For Paul, God’s calling cannot be reduced to an invitation, since all those God calls he also justifies and glorifies.
This is reminiscent of the effectiveness and creative power of God’s “Word” that we saw when discussing Sirach on a previous post. In Sirach 16.28, we are told that nothing in creation disobeys God’s word, and in 42.15 we read that God creates by his word and this results in the obedience of his creatures. It is no surprise that in the Thanksgiving Hymns 15.37–38 we find the author praising God for having called him (ותקראני) resulting in his receiving mercy and forgiveness. The OT background to this notion can be found in Isaiah 43:1 and 7, where God’s creation (ברא), forming (יצר), and calling (קרא) of Israel are presented in synonymous parallel. God’s call is no simple invitation—it is his powerful word that creates his covenant people. Therefore, for Paul, as for Isaiah and the DSS, God’s calling is not a summons that the one called may or may not obey. God’s calling is his life-giving creative decree which infallibly effects what it intends, namely, the justification and glorification of those called. For these reasons, Paul can state categorically in Romans 9:6 that it is impossible for God’s word to Israel to fail, since his calling creates his people (9:24–26). By focusing on Paul’s calling language, we see that we cannot reduce his election theology to the exclusion of determinism, since God’s calling of individuals, in Paul’s thought, effects his desired result in election, which is the full salvation of those called.
The Meaning of Foreknowledge
In traditional theological debates, much hangs on how one understands God’s foreknowledge described in Romans 8:29. Those who reject the kind of divine determinism I am suggesting that Paul embraced tend to understand the verb “foreknew” (προγινώσκω) as suggesting that God took into consideration the foreseen faith of individuals before predestining them. The problem with this reading is that it makes the mention of God’s predestination and calling redundant. If they were already going to believe of their own accord, why must God create new life through his effectual call that we discussed? What is the point of God predestining what he already foresees is going to take place? Moreover, as I mentioned above, this is problematic in light Paul’s anthropological pessimism. Earlier in this very chapter Paul said that apart from the gift of God’s Spirit it is impossible for someone to please God (vv. 6–8). It is also important that Paul uses the verb “foreknew” again in reference to Israel in 11:2. There, because God has foreknown Israel, even though she is currently hardened in unbelief, God has not abandoned her, but will eventually reverse Israel’s condition of unbelief and bring them to salvation (11:26, 30–31). Therefore, foreknowledge is not what God learns when he peaks into some future that he did not create. Rather, it is God’s covenantal love set unconditionally on those whom he promises to save through his sovereign work. As most commentators recognize, “foreknew” here essentially means “fore-loved” or “chose before.”
We find some interesting and informative parallels to this way of speaking about God’s foreknowledge in the DSS that support this reading of Paul. At the end of the Treatise on the Two Spirits, God’s foreknowledge is the same as his deciding the fate of humanity at creation (1QS 4.25–26). In the Thanksgiving Hymns, we read, “[For apart from You no]thing is done, and without Your will nothing is known” (1QH 9.10). Here, God’s knowledge logically follows from his works as creator. The future is a reflection of God’s prior knowledge. God does not learn when he peers down the corridors of time, since the future takes the shape it does because of his prior creative activity. God’s knowledge is an aspect of his creative power. The view espoused by Paul is clearly in line with that presented in the DSS, which is different from what we saw in Jubilees, wherein, God chose Abraham and his sons because he foresaw that they would obey. This latter notion is completely foreign to Paul, and, as we will see, is flatly contradicted by Paul’s affirmations in Romans 9 and 11.
The Background to the Potter/Clay Imagery
Following Paul’s use of the case of Pharaoh’s hardening (Rom 9:14–18, narrated in Exod 4–14), Paul acknowledges the offense that his affirmation of absolute divine freedom would cause for some (v. 19). In response, he employs the metaphor of a potter’s freedom to do as he wills with clay (vv. 20–24). This is a metaphor which is used in diverse ways by Jewish authors. For this reason, some interpreters have asserted without validation that the background to Paul’s use of the imagery is Jeremiah 18. In that text, Jeremiah is encouraging the people of Judah to repent before they are taken away into exile. Although they deserve the covenant curse of exile, if they repent, God can repurpose them, in the same way a potter can start over with a piece of clay and mold it into something different. This example illustrates that the potter metaphor need not speak of divine determinism. However, observing this use of the imagery falls short of demonstrating that this is what Paul means by the image in Romans 9. In fact, this use of the potter/clay metaphor is completely out of place in Romans 9, and therefore, it is doubtful that Paul was alluding to this text.
As it turns out, Paul does not quote Jeremiah 18, but Isaiah 29:16 and 45:9. These texts use this “forming” imagery to make the point that the potter’s purpose cannot be scrutinized by the thing he creates. This fits far better with Paul’s use of the metaphor, which should be our default interpretation since these are the OT passages he is making reference too. We find some important parallels to Paul’s use of this metaphor in the DSS and Sirach 33. In 1QS 11.21–22 we read:
Who can Your glory measure? Who, indeed, is man among Your glorious works? As what can he, born of a woman, be reckoned before You? Kneaded from dust, his body is but the bread of worms; he is so much spit, mere nipped-off clay—and for clay his longing. Shall clay contest, the vessel plumb counsel?
Additionally, in the Thanksgiving Hymns there are several references to God “forming” his people’s destinies, using the same Hebrew verb (יצר) found in Isaiah 29:16 and 45:9 (1QH 7.35; 9.10, 17; 11.24–25; 19.6; 20.27–37), which evokes this same potter/clay imagery we find here in Paul. Perhaps the clearest parallel to Paul’s argument among the Thanksgiving Hymns can be seen in 1QH 20.30–34, where the author is clearly making the same point that Paul is, following Isaiah, that the thing molded cannot question the one who made it:
And what shall the dust answer […and what] shall it understand…? And how shall it stand its ground before the one who rebukes it…? For You are righteous and there is not to compare with You. So what then is the one who returns to its dust?
However, the passage which contains an argument most like Paul’s is Sirach 33.7–15, which we treated on in a previous post. In fact, it has been argued cogently by several scholars that Paul is dependent on Sirach 33 at this point in Romans 9. Like Paul, Sirach 33 describes human beings as vessels that God has formed “as he pleases” and according to “whatever he decides” (v. 13). Some are blessed by being brought into the covenant and others are cursed (v. 12), both as God sees fit. In this text, as in Romans 9, the author attributes these choices to the freedom and right of God as creator to do what he desires with his creation. Paul tells us in Romans 9:22–23 that this was God’s intention so that he could make known the full range of his attributes, including his “power,” “wrath,” and “mercy.” This is precisely the conclusion the author of the Thanksgiving Hymns draws following in perhaps the most overtly predestinarian passage in our sources:
…You have prepared them in order to execute great judgements among them before Your creatures that they might be a sign […] eternal, so that all might know Your glory and great power. (1QH 7.32–33)
While it may not be palatable to some, the view of Paul, following other Jews with deterministic theology, was that God is free to create people with fates as he sees fit. Some he creates to endure judgment and others he creates to experience his mercy and receive glory. God’s revelation is the greatest good, therefore, according to Paul, God is justified in doing as he desires with his creation. While it may be natural for humans to be offended, Paul and some of his contemporaries believed that human beings are like clay vessels attempting to scrutinize the potter. The emphasis on absolute determinism cannot be overlooked here without vitiating Paul’s intention in this magisterial passage.
Israel’s Hardening and its Future Reversal
Finally, we will consider briefly what Paul says about Israel’s hardening and future salvation in Romans 11. To begin with, Paul tells us that God has not reneged on his promise to Israel, since “at present there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ λεῖμα κατ᾽ ἐκλογήν χάριτος γέγονεν, v. 5, my translation). That is, God has remained faithful to the promises made to Israel by preserving a number of Israelites, as he had done with the seven thousand in the days of Elijah (v. 4). In vv. 7–10, we read that those Israelites who have not been preserved as part of the remnant were “hardened”—as Pharoah was in ch. 9—and given “a spirit of stupor” as their eyes were “darkened,” which reminds one of the “spirit of darkness” in the Treatise on the Two Spirits. Moreover, Paul goes on to say that “God has consigned all to disobedience” (συνέκεισεν γὰρ ὁ θεὸς τοὺς πάντας εἰς ἀπείθειαν) in order to one day reverse their condition (v. 32). That is, Israel’s current state of unbelief is the result of God’s design, so that the Gentiles would be brought into his covenant dealings in this age—“a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (v. 25). However, since “God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable” (v. 29), at a time determined by God, their current condition will be reversed, so that their disobedience will be transformed into obedience and salvation. For Paul, Israel’s salvation awaits God’s sovereign intervention, which unmistakably implies God’s determination of the salvation of those individual Jews who in this age have been hardened and consigned to disobedience. Paul does not try to justify these truths. Instead, he praises God for his surpassing wisdom and the truth that all things have their telos in him and for his glory:
Oh, the depth of the riches, wisdom, and knowledge of God! His judgments are unfathomable and his ways inscrutable! “For who has known the Lord’s mind, or who has been his advisor?” “Or who has given to him so that he would be repaid?” For from him, through him, and to him are all things! To him be glory for ever! Amen! (vv. 33–36, my translation)
CONCLUSION TO THE SERIES
In this series, we have seen that Judaism in the Second Temple period was not monolithic on the subjects of election, predestination, and human volition. As Josephus tells us, some emphasized human freedom in such a way that God’s determinism is reduced. Others, as Sirach 33 and the Dead Sea Scrolls testify, understood that whatever takes place in time is ultimately the result of God’s decree in advance. By examining this language, we saw that this included the election of individuals and their being predetermined to become members of the covenant community, and thereby, to receive ultimate salvation. By comparing the language these sources use to Paul’s language in the passages with the strongest election and predestinarian language, I believe I have shown that Paul evidently favored this Essene outlook on election. The clearest parallels to Paul’s language in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, 2 Thessalonians 2:11–13, Ephesians 1:3–14, and Romans 8:28–11:36 are found in these Essene texts. At some points the correspondence is quite remarkable, making it difficult to avoid the conclusion, based on a nuanced historical reading, that Paul did believe election includes the divine predestination of individuals to membership in the new covenant in Christ and eschatological salvation.