"In the course of his admonition that no one should change his status with respect to circumcision, Paul explains that the rite is unimportant: 'Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but keeping the commandments of God [teresis entolon theou]' (7:19).
The phrase 'the commandments of God' is frequently used in the Jewish and Jewish Christian literature of Paul's time to refer to keeping the law of Moses....Matthew translates Jesus' reply to the rich young man's question about how to obtain eternal life as 'Keep the commandments' (tereson tas entolas), a clear reference to the law of Moses, as Jesus' list of commandments and summary of the first table of the law from Leviticus 19:18 demonstrate (Mt 19:17-19). Moreover, the Septuagint's translation of Ezra 9:4 uses the phrase 'commandments of God' as a synonym for the law of Moses. The phrase Paul has chosen to refer to God's commandments, therefore, is one that in his cultural context clearly referred to the Mosaic law.
If this is so, how can Paul contrast the irrelevance of circumcision with the importance of God's commands? Circumcision, is, after all, a prominent requirement within the law of Moses (Lev 12:3; compare Gen 17:10-27). Although Paul offers no explanation for his startling statement, it significantly preserves the same paradox we have seen in Paul's allusive references to the law..." pg. 101 of Paul and the Law by Thielman
Footnote 3 on pg. 264 "Peter J. Tomson believes 1 Corinthians 7:19 supplies evidence that Paul believed the Jews should keep the Mosaic law and Gentiles the Noachian code....The only principle clearly articulated in 1 Corinthians 7:19, however, is that circumcision is ultimately irrelevant to obedience to God."
What are your thoughts about Thielman's conclusion that 1 Cor. 7:19 is evidence that Paul viewed circumcision as "irrelevant to obedience to God"? Does he adequately resolve the apparent contradiction?
NOTE: Here's a quote from Gager which summarizes the so-called Pauline Paradox:
"...Paul's letters offer up totally contradictory evidence. To illustrate these contradictions, I put forward two sets of texts, drawn from his letters. I will label one set anti-Israel ["or antilaw]...the other, I will label pro-Israel ["or prolaw"].
The Anti-Israel Set
"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse" (Gal. 3.10).
"Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law" (Gal. 3.11).
"For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Gal. 6.15).
"For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3.20).
"Israel who pursued righteousness which is based on the law did not succeed in fulfilling that law" (Rom. 9.31).
"As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God, for your sake" (Rom. 11.28).
"But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day, whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their mind; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed" (2 Cor. 3.14f).
The Pro-Israel Set
"What is the advantage of the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way" (Rom. 3.1).
"Do we overthrow the law through faith? By no means. On the contrary, we uphold the law" (Rom. 3.31).
"What shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means" (Rom. 7.7).
"Thus the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good" (Rom. 7.12).
"To the Israelites belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the Temple, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ" (Rom. 9.4).
"Has [God] rejected [His] people? By no means" (Rom. 11.1).
"All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11.26).
"Is the law then against the promises of God. Certainly not!" (Gal. 3.21).
Now suddenly the problem emerges. Point by point, the two sets appear to contradict each other: Circumcision is of great value; it counts for nothing. The law is holy; it places its followers under a curse and cannot justify them before God. All Israel will be saved; they are the enemies of God and have failed to fulfill their own law." (pg. 5, Reinventing Paul by Gager)