Thursday, December 13, 2018

Origin of “The Great Commission”

Ever wonder who coined the term “The Great Commission” in reference to Matthew 28:18-20? Reading a piece in the Themelios journal, I noticed this account of the origin of the term:
“In all the commentaries I had used...none addressed the question...Who coined the term ‘The Great Commission’?...It turns out this passage got its summary label from a Dutch missionary Justinian von Welz (1621-88), but it was Hudson Taylor, nearly 200 years later, who popularized the use of ‘The Great Commission’. So, it seems like Welz or some other Post-Reformation missionary probably coined the term ‘The Great Commission’ and since that time, the passage has been the theme for countless mission talks and conferences...What I realized both from my exegetical work, and somewhat confirmed by this historical find, was that for the first 1600 years of the greatest exponential mission-driven expansion of the life of church, this passage was read and understood as the trinitarian foundation of ecclesiology, not as fanfare for missiology. The disciples, as the apostolic authority of the soon-to-be-empowered-Church, are called together in order to be drawn into, to be called into, the on-going mission of the triune God.”
From “The Last Word: The Great Commission: Ecclesiology,” by Robbie F. Castleman, Themelios, Vol 32, No 3, April 2007, p. 68

[Castleman mentions finding “this bit of history” in a book about the history of world missions, which belonged to a colleague of hers at John Brown University. She does not mention the name of the book. According to the Gospel Fellowship Association piece on von Welz, he was “the son of Austrian nobility…born in 1621 into a Lutheran family…migrated to Lutheran Germany. His school days were spent in the Netherlands.” Castleman may have called him “a Dutch missionary” because of his time spent in the Netherlands, coupled with where he went as a missionary, Dutch Guiana in South America.]

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