Thursday, December 13, 2012

If Gentiles are "Without the Law" (Rom. 2) Then Why Are They Subject to "The Curse of the Law"?

I read something interesting today.  Check it out:


"If nomos denotes the Mosaic law of Sinai, it by definition concerns the Jews, but not the Gentiles.  No wonder, then, that Paul often makes a clear distinction between the Jews 'under the law' and the Gentiles who are without the law [Rom 2:12; 1 Cor. 9:20; 1 Cor. 7:17]....Bearing this in mind, some statements of Paul in Gal 3 come as a surprise.  He says in 3.13-14:  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, in order that Abraham's blessing might in Christ come upon the Gentiles, in order that we would receive the promised Spirit.  At the first glance it seems natural to think that 'we' in v. 13 refers to Paul and other Jewish Christians--it is only they that had been under the Torah before becoming Christians.  Several reasons, however, speak against this explanation.  In v. 14b the 'we' must in any case refer also to the Galatian Gentile Christians; the mention of the Spirit ties with v. 2-5.  Now it would be strange, if the pronoun tacitly changed its reference in v. 14  There is no indication of any contrast between the 'us' of v. 13 and the 'Gentiles' of v. 14; unlike 2.14ff.  Paul does not deal with the difference between Jews and Gentiles at all in this passage.  And how could the redemption of the Jews from the curse of the law bring the blessing to the Gentiles?  The context does not speak of the removal of the wall between the two races;  Paul is explicating the liberty of the Galatians, which is connected with the crucifixion.  V. 13 ties with the opening verse (v. 1) of the passage.
Strange as it may appear, the conclusion is hard to avoid that even the Gentiles were, in Paul's mind when dictating this passage, under the curse of the law.  This is in tension with Paul's assumption in 1 Cor 9:21 or Rom 2.12, or even Gal 2.14.  Still, our conclusion is reinforced by the next passages in Gal.
The alteration of the pronouns in 3.23 ff. shows that in that passage, too, the first person plural includes the Galatians.  In v. 23-25 Paul speaks of 'us' being under the law, which is pictured as prison guard and tutor.  From the point of view of the subject-matter one would again think that he has the Jewish Christians in mind...Having said, 'We are no longer under the tutor', he goes on:  'For you are all children of God.'  This time, too, the tacit assumption is that even Gentiles had been tutored by the law....
Apparently without noticing it, Paul is thus operating with a double concept of 'law'.  The context suggests that he is talking about the Sinaitic Torah, four hundred years later than Abraham, all the time.  And yet the 'curse of the law' must, in view of the verses adduced, have a wider reference.  One cannot avoid noticing 'a strange oscillation of the concept of law in Paul'--an oscillation between the notion of a historical and particularist Torah and that of a general universal force." pg. 18 of Paul and the Law by Heikki Raisanen

1 comment:

  1. I think though it is clear the curse of the Law existed for Adam, before we understand the Mosaic Law. Thus I do believe all man will be responsible for their wrongs no matter what. On the other hand, I believe gentiles who are not in covenant with God, are not responsible to the fullness of the covenant, while gentiles who are in covenant are thus fully responsible. You cannot make someone responsible to a covenant they never agreed to join.

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