How Themelios Got Its Name and Purpose

Editors’ note: 

This excerpt is from Themelios 44.1. The new April 2019 issue has 210 pages of editorials, articles, and book reviews. It is freely available in three formats: (1) PDF, (2) web version, and (3) Logos Bible Software.

Frequently my computer or “smart” phone autocorrects Themelios to Themeless. The latter would make a rather unfortunate name for an international journal of theology! In this editorial, I will reflect on the journal’s name, its history, and my hopes for its future contribution. We certainly wouldn’t want Themelios to become “theme-less.”

1. The Journal’s Name

The journal’s name transliterates the Greek term θεμέλιος, which is typically rendered “foundation” in its fifteen NT occurrences. θεμέλιος refers to the foundation on which a building rests. Jesus highlights the utter folly of constructing a house with no foundation (Luke 6:49)—a warning to those who would hear his words and not heed them. Likewise, he urges would-be disciples to count the cost lest their lives resemble an abandoned construction project with a foundation but no tower on it (Luke 14:27–30). Paul stresses that the church is “God’s building” established on the secure foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:9–11). The apostle identifies Jewish and Gentile believers together as “members of the household of God, built on the foundation [ἐπὶ τῷ θεμελίῳ] of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:19–21).

2. The Journal’s History

The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students first published the journal Themelios in October 1962. The initial volume featured articles by Howard Marshall, Donald Guthrie, Leon Morris, Francis Schaeffer, and others, as well as a fine exposition of Ephesians 2:20 by the Irish missionary theologian R. J. McKelvey. McKelvey reasons that Isaiah 28:16 lies behind the NT authors’ figurative references to Christ as the “cornerstone” and “foundation” laid in Zion. As the cornerstone (ἀκρογωνιαῖος), Christ not only supports the superstructure of God’s house but also serves to unify it as it is built (συναρμολογέω in Eph 2:21). McKelvey argues that the difficult phrase “the foundation of the apostles and prophets” refers to the twelve apostles and the OT prophets as the foundation on whom membership in the church rests for Gentile and Jewish believers alike.