August 5: Romans 10:4 (continued)

Romans 10:4

In the previous daily note, I discussed the immediate context of verses 1-3 (cf. also the article on Rom 9-11); today it remains to examine verse 4 in detail.

“For (the) Anointed {Christ} (is the) te/lo$ of (the) Law unto justice/righteousness for every (one) th(at is) trusting.”

Let us look at each element of this verse:

te/lo$ (“end”)—this word, which I left untranslated above, is in the first (emphatic) position; it has the fundamental meaning “completion, finish”, more commonly translated simply as “end”. The problem with rendering it as “end” is that this can be understood at least two ways: (1) as a termination, or (temporally) as the limit of a term, and (2) as a goal or purpose. Before discussing how Paul intends it to be understood in context here, I will proceed with the remainder of the verse.

ga\r (“for”)—this is a coordinating particle, connecting with what has come before (vv. 1-3) and serving to explain it.

no/mou (“of the Law”)—Paul normally uses no/mo$ (“law”) in reference to the Old Testament Law (Torah), though occasionally, particularly in Romans, he uses it in the wider sense of the “Law of God”; here, however, he specifically means the Old Testament Law.

Xristo/$ (“[the] Anointed”)—the regular shorthand title for Jesus (Christ), serving virtually as a proper name already in early Christian usage. A verb has to be supplied in English—”Christ (is) the end of the Law”—to fill out the predication. For the sense in which Christ is “the end of the Law”, see below.

ei)$ dikaiosu/nhn (“unto justice/righteousness”)—the preposition here (ei)$, “into/unto”) indicates purpose or end result; in English, it is typically translated “for justice/righteousness”. The noun dikaiosu/nh, used frequently by Paul in Romans, along with the verb dikaio/w, the adjective di/kaio$ and the related noun dikai/wma, indicates fundamentally the “just-ness” and “right-ness” of God, which is expressed both in the Law, and, more importantly, manifest in the person and work of Christ. For more on the meaning and translation of the dik-/dikaio- word-group, see the article on Justification and throughout the series on Paul’s View of the Law (in Galatians and Romans).

panti/ (“for all/every [one]”)—Paul often gives special significance to pa=$ (“all, every”), as a key word for the universal scope of the Gospel message—it is for all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. The dative case here could be rendered “for all” or “to all”.

tw=| pisteu/onti (“the [one] trusting”)—the participle (of the verb pisteu/w, “trust”) is a regular way for Paul to refer to believers in Christ. In Romans and Galatians, Paul regularly contrasts trust (pi/sti$) in Christ with observance of the Torah (no/mo$, “the Law”, or “works [e&rga] of the Law”). While the full force and significance of this contrast is largely lost today, it is vital to an understanding of Paul’s thought, especially in Galatians and Romans. For more on this, see below.

Two essential interpretive questions remain to be addressed:

    1. What does Paul mean by te/lo$ (“end”) in this verse?
    2. What exactly does it mean to say that Christ is the “end of the Law”?

1. As indicated above, there are two main possibilities for te/lo$ here:

    • as a termination—emphasizing that the Law has ceased to be in force and is no longer binding
    • as a goal or purpose—emphasizing that the Law ultimately points and leads to Christ, whether or not one considers the Law in any way to be still in force

These, of course, are hardly incompatible, since, to use Paul’s regular metaphor of the race, upon reaching the goal, the race comes to an end. However, there are several factors which do need to be considered:

    • In 1 Cor 1:8; 10:12; 15:24, and (probably) also 1 Thess 2:16, Paul uses it in the sense of termination, of a cessation for the current Age; while in Rom 6:21-22; 2 Cor 11:15 and Phil 3:19, it similarly relates to a person’s fate at the end of the Age. In 2 Cor 1:13, the expression e%w$ te/lou$ (“until completion”) probably means “completely, fully”. Overall, he does not seem to use te/lo$ in the sense of an end goal or purpose.
    • In the only instances where he may refer to te/lo$ as a goal or purpose—2 Cor 3:13 and (possibly) 1 Thess 2:16—Paul uses the preposition ei)$ (ei)$ to\ te/lo$, “unto the end/completion [of]”). Here in Rom 10:4, ei)$ (indicating purpose or end result) is used with dikaiosu/nh (“justice/righteousness”). There is a similar context between 2 Cor 3:13 and Rom 10:4, as both passages deal with the Law in relation to Christ (cf. below).
    • The immediate context of Rom 9:30-33 suggests the metaphor of a race (“pursuing [after]”)—Gentiles take hold (of the prize) through faith in Christ, while many Israelites fail to reach the goal as they should. In this respect, te/lo$ would likely refer to the goal (justice/righteousness), though, as indicated above, it might also mean the termination of the race.

When we consider the other metaphors and illustrations Paul uses, especially those in Galatians 3-4 and Romans 6-7, we see that he repeatedly expresses the idea that, with Christ, the period governed by the Law comes to an end. Believers are no longer under the authority of the Torah, bound to observe it (Rom 6:14); in this regard, the “end” (te/lo$), in Paul’s way of thinking, is also understood in terms of death—in Christ, believers die (and are dead) to the Law (Gal 2:19; Rom 7:4-6, etc), so it no longer has any binding force over us. However, he also expresses elsewhere something of the idea that the Law points the way and leads to Christ (cf. below).

2. As already indicated, there are two related ways that Christ can be understood as “the end of the Law”:

    • With the coming of Christ—and, in particular, with his sacrificial death and resurrection—the period of the Old Testament Law (Torah) is terminated.
    • The justice/righteousness of God as expressed in the Law points toward the justice/righteousness that is manifest in the person and work of Christ; these are not in conflict, but the latter supersedes the former entirely, so that the old covenant is replaced by the new and the old covenant is no longer in force.

Throughout Galatians and Romans (esp. in Gal 3-4 and Rom 6-7), Paul has emphasized (and clearly taught) the first of these views; however, the second view is, in many ways, complementary to the first, and seems to be closer to Paul’s emphasis in Romans 10:1-4. This is to be seen in the language used earlier in 9:31:

“but Israel, pursing (the) Law of justice/righteousness, did not reach/arrive (first) unto (this) Law”

Here, the goal of the “race” is the “Law of justice/righteousness” (no/mo$ dikaiosu/nh$), best understood as “the Law of God” (cf. Rom 7:22, 25; 1 Cor 9:21), as expressed in the Torah. Israel did not reach this goal, or, at least did not reach it first—i.e., many Gentiles reached it, grabbing hold of the prize, ahead of them. Since Paul has also expressed clearly that Jesus Christ is the embodiment and manifestation of God’s justice/righteousness (Rom 3:21ff, etc), it is natural and appropriate to refer to Christ himself as the true goal of Israel’s pursuit. Paul’s sorrow stems from the fact that many of his fellow Israelites and Jews have failed to recognize or acknowledge this, as he movingly and powerfully describes here in Romans 9-11. A similar line of argument and discussion is found in 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; the illustrative, contrasting juxtaposition he employs is forceful and striking:

The Old Covenant

  • Ministered by Moses
  • Attended by a temporary glory (that comes to an end)
  • Governed by the written word (gra/mma), i.e. Scripture/Torah
  • Written on tablets of stone
  • Ultimately leads to death
  • For those who read/hear it, there is a covering over the mind and heart
  • It has ceased to be in effect, with the coming of Christ

The New Covenant

    • Ministered by missionaries and apostles of Christ
    • Attended by an eternal glory that will not go away
    • Governed by the Spirit (pneu=ma), i.e. the (Holy) Spirit of God
    • Written on the heart
    • Leads to (eternal) life
    • Through the Gospel and trust in Christ, the covering is removed
    • It is lasting and eternal

Note especially Paul’s repeated use of the verb katarge/w in vv. 7, 11, 13-14; this verb has the basic meaning “make (something) cease working”, i.e. render it ineffective, inactive—in a technical (legal) sense, it means “invalidate, nullify, make void,” etc. In 2 Cor 3:7-14, it is used four times, each in the present passive (“is [being] made inactive”):

    • In verse 7, it refers specifically to the glory over Moses’ face, cf. Exod 34:29-35
    • In verse 11, the reference seems to be the entire ministration of the Covenant
    • Verse 13 refers to the temporary status of the Covenant (and its glory)—its fate/end is to be made inactive
    • In verse 14, the emphasis is on the old Covenant being made inactive in Christ

We can see how this passage blends together both meanings of te/lo$ indicated above: (a) the Law is terminated and ceases to be in effect, and (b) it ceases to be in effect “in Christ” (e)n Xristw=|), i.e. God’s work in Christ as the ultimate purpose and goal of the Law. Interestingly, from what Paul says elsewhere in Romans and Galatians, the immediate purpose of the Law has to do with the manifestation of sin, in particular, the enslaving power of sin at work over human beings in the world and “in the flesh”; but the ultimate purpose is that God should show mercy and favor over human beings through the person and work of Christ, rescuing and freeing them from the power of sin and death. In the process, according to Paul’s remarkable teaching, we are also freed from the Law—in this sense, Christ truly is the finish, completion and end of the Law.

The Law and Sin in Romans 7:7-25

The famous passage in Romans 7:7-25 has been discussed countless times by commentators and theologians over the years, and it is not remotely possible even to begin surveying this scholarship—nor all the relevant aspects of interpretation—within one relatively short article. My purpose here is threefold:

    1. To offer my view on the essential context of the passage—namely, the force and significance of Paul’s use of the first person (“I”)
    2. To present an exegetical outline, in the hopes of illustrating, clearly and simply, how Paul understands the relationship between the Law and Sin in the context of the passage.
    3. To give a summary distillation on “Paul’s View of the Law”, in terms of this particular passage.

The “I” of Romans 7:7-25

Paul casts this section in the first person, using “I, my”, etc throughout. This has given rise to considerable debate among interpreters over the centuries, and especially in more recent times. Is the use of the first person autobiographical (describing Paul’s own experience), or is a rhetorical and literary device? Most critical commentators today assume the latter, and, in this, they are almost certainly correct; even so, the question would still remain—who precisely is Paul representing in this section? There are several possibilities:

    • Human beings generally, prior to the coming of Christ
    • Israelites/Jews specifically, prior to the coming of Christ (or prior to faith in Christ)
    • Human beings (believers) prior to coming to faith in Christ
    • Believers generally in their struggle with the flesh and sin

A comparison with Romans 5:12-21 suggests that Paul in 7:7-12 is drawing upon the condition of human beings up until the time the Law (Torah) was introduced. Both passages provide colorful interpretations of the situation described in the Genesis 3 narrative, with Sin as the main actor; note, for example, the way sin “deceives”—e)capata/w in v. 11, compared with a)pata/w in Gen 3:13 [LXX]. Paul personalizes the narrative, giving a dimension of psychological realism and drama to it. The introduction of the Law (Torah) in vv. 9ff might suggest that Israelites and Jews specifically are in focus; however, by verse 22 it becomes clear that a somewhat wider view of the Law is meant—one which embraces all human beings (Jews and Gentiles alike). I take Rom 7:7-25 as parallel with 5:12-21—in the earlier passage, Paul is describing the presence and work of Sin in the world (e)n ko/smw|, v. 13); while in 7:7ff, it is the presence and work of Sin in the flesh (e)n th=| sarki/, v. 18). This focus within the human being makes Paul’s personalizing approach (“in me” e)n e)moi/, “in my flesh” e)n th=| sarki/ mou) both appropriate and effective.

Rom 7:7-12 is cast in the past tense, 7:13-25 primarily in the present. This would seem to indicate that in vv. 13ff Paul is describing the current situation of human beings (“under the Law” and “under Sin”): (a) prior to the coming of Christ, and/or (b) prior to faith in Christ. However, there are several details in the text—especially in vv. 13-25—which could be taken as applying specifically to believers in Christ, i.e., of the struggle believers face with regard to the flesh and sin even after coming to faith. Here are the most notable:

  • Verse 9e)gw\ de\ e&zwn xwri\$ no/mou pote/ (“I was living apart from the Law then”). Elsewhere, Paul uses the expression “separate/apart from the Law” (xwri\$ no/mou) referring to faith and the work of God in Christ (Rom 3:21, 28; 4:6, etc), so one might think that the Christian condition is meant here as well. However, almost certainly, Paul is simply indicating the human situation prior to the introduction of the Law, with no/mo$ used in the strict sense of the Old Testament/Jewish Torah. The verb za/w (“live, have life, be alive”) is meant in the ordinary, conventional sense of human life and existence, and not of “life in Christ” or “eternal life”.
  • Verse 9h( a(marti/a a)ne/zhsen (“sin came up to life”). The verb a)naza/w could be understood as “be alive, come to life again“; this might mean, in a Christian context, that sin died once (through Christ) and then came to life again (for believers). Probably, however, the force of the particle a)na here is simply “up”—i.e., that sin sprang up to life through the command of the Law.
  • Verse 17nuni\ de\ ou)ke/ti e)gw\ katerga/zomai au)to\ (“now [it is] no longer I working/accomplishing it…”). Within the context of vv. 13-25, this could certainly be taken in the sense that a person (i.e., a believer) does not truly will to commit sin, and that it is the sin dwelling/remaining in the flesh which can act against a person’s will.
  • Verse 22kata\ to\n e&sw a&nqrwpo/n (“…according to the inner man”). Elsewhere, Paul uses this language in relation to the inward (spiritual) renewal of believers (2 Cor 4:16), and the same expression “the inner man” is used in Eph 3:16. It is sometimes assumed that the expression refers to something only possessed by Christians, but this is far from certain. Paul also refers to a renewing of the mind (nou=$) in Rom 12:2 (cf. also Eph 4:23), an aspect of human nature presumably possessed by believers and nonbelievers alike. His idea of the “inner man” in the context of Rom 7:7-25 probably relates more to the human mind and conscience generally.
  • Verse 25—Curiously, after Paul’s declaration of thanksgiving in v. 25a, introducing God’s work through Christ which rescues human beings from the “body of death” (v. 24), he restates the situation of the human condition, from the prior verses, in v. 25b. This could be taken to mean that the conflict so described applies specifically to believers, even after coming to faith in Christ.

Perhaps the strongest association of the conflict in Rom 7:7-25 with believers comes from the parallel in Gal 5:17, where Paul briefly describes a dynamic similar to that in Rom 7:13-25. Clearly, in Gal 5:16-25, Paul is addressing believers who are in the Spirit, and yet he speaks of a conflict with the flesh in terms very much like those in Rom 7. But it is just here that we find the greatest difference between the two passages—in Rom 7:7-25 the person struggles against the flesh, but also against the Law and Sin, whereas in Gal 5 only the flesh is involved. According to Paul’s teaching, believers in Christ are freed from bondage to the Law and sin; but he never claims a similar freedom from the flesh—Christians must continue to struggle against the flesh, dying to its influence every day, through identification with Christ’s own death, and through the guiding work and power of the Spirit.

An exegetical outline of Romans 7:7-25

In this section, Paul especially addresses the relationship between the Law and Sin. He does this first by way of an important rhetorical question in v. 7a: “What then shall we declare? (Is) the Law sin?“—to this, he gives a decisive answer, mh\ ge/noito, “may it not come to be (so) [i.e. by no means, God forbid]!” But, if the Law is not identical with sin, how are we to understand the close relationship between the Law and sin, such as he describes throughout Galatians and here in Romans, to the point of using “under the Law” and “under sin” as nearly synonymous expressions? This is what he attempts to explain and expound in vv. 7ff. I divide the passage into three sections, or scenes, each of which describes a distinctive situation involving human beings (represented by Paul in the first person) in relation to the Law:

  • Rom 7:7-12Scene 1: Introduction of the Law (Torah) over humankind
    • V. 7a—Rhetorical Question: “Is the Law sin?” (may it not be!)
    • Vv. 7b-8—Answer/Explanation (main proposition): the Law brings about knowledge/awareness of sin (cf. Rom 3:20)
      • The command (v. 7b)—example from the Decalogue (Ex 20:17): “Do not set (your) heart upon…”
      • Sin “uses” the command (v. 8) to work/produce instances of “setting the heart upon” illicit/prohibited things
    • Vv. 8b-9—Expository transition:
      • apart from the Law (xwri\$ no/mou) sin is dead (nekra/), v. 8b
      • apart from the Law (xwri\$ no/mou) I was living (e&zwn), v. 9
    • Vv. 9-11—Rhetorical Illustration/Identification (e)gw de\, “but I…”):
      • Sin (already present) comes up to life (in the human being) with the command (v. 9)
      • The command leads to death, not life (v. 10)
      • Sin acts (deceptively) through the command, to kill (v. 11)
    • V. 12—Expository transition (statement regarding the Law):
      • The command is holy, just and good…(how then, does it lead to sin and death?)
  • Rom 7:13-20Scene 2: Humankind under the Law (of God)
    • V. 13a—Rhetorical Question: “Did the thing that is good come to be death for me?” (may it not be!)
    • Vv. 13b—Answer/Explanation (secondary proposition): the Law makes sin to “shine forth”, i.e., become apparent/manifest
      • Action: The Law works/produces death through the command
      • Purpose: So that Sin would come to be (seen for what it is)—i.e. completely sinful
        —Manifestation of the power of Sin: flesh is in bondage to it (v. 14)
    • Vv. 14-20—Rhetorical Illustration/Identification (e)gw de\, “but I…”):
      Contrast/conflict: The Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly—Spirit vs. Flesh (cf. Gal 5:16-25)
      • I work (“under sin”):
        —lacking true knowledge: “I do not know” (v. 15)
        —the will is trapped between: the Law (good, v. 16) and sin in the flesh (evil, b. 17)
        —the will is weakened by sinful flesh (v. 18)
        —the person does the opposite of the will (v. 19)
      • It is the power of sin working in me (v. 20)
  • Rom 7:21-25Scene 3 (Illustration): Humanity subject to the Law (of God) and the Law (of Sin)
    • V. 21—Statement of two contradictory laws (Rhetorical Illustration/Identification: “I find… in me”)
    • V. 22—The Law of God: in the “inner man”
    • V. 23—The Law of Sin: in the (outer) members (i.e., bodily parts, the “flesh”)
    • V. 24—Rhetorical Question: “who will rescue me from this body of death?”
      —and the Answer (implied), v. 25a: “…God through Jesus Christ our Lord”
    • V. 25b—Concluding summary statement (of the two contradictory laws):
      • me\n (on the one hand): “with the mind I am a slave to the Law of God”
      • de\ (on the other hand): “with the flesh (I am a slave) to the Law of Sin”

Paul’s View of the Law in Romans 7:7-25

As the above outline should make clear, Romans 7:7-25 is a dense network of arguments and illustrations, images and symbols, drawing upon nearly everything that Paul has said thus far in Romans about the Law (and Sin). It is the power of his personalized (first person) presentation that makes his exposition so memorable. As the history of exegesis and interpretation amply shows, believers (i.e. those hearing and reading Romans) were likewise able to identify themselves with the “I” in the passage—which was doubtless Paul’s aim and intent in using such a literary device. But what do these verses say specifically regarding Paul’s view of the Law? To begin with, there are two fundamental beliefs or propositions which he expresses throughout the passage:

    1. The Law (Torah) itself is not sinful, nor to be identified with sin (v. 7)—rather, it is holy, just and good (v. 12), and is spiritual (v. 14), reflecting the will of God (the Law of God, in the wider sense).
    2. Though he does not state it specifically here until verse 14, by comparison with the rest of Romans (and Galatians), it is clear that, in his view, human beings were in slavery and bondage to Sin (“under sin”) even before the introduction of the Torah.

With these two ideas in mind, it is possible to summarize some key points related to the overall exposition in vv. 7-25:

  • The main purpose of the Law is twofold: (1) to bring about knowledge and awareness of sin (v. 7, cf. also 3:20), and (2) to make sin itself appear in its true (sinful) nature (v. 13). These are two sides of the same coin—one emphasizes human perception and experience, the other emphasizes the power and presence of sin itself. How does this happen?
  • Revelation of sin comes through the command (e)ntolh/) of God as expressed in the Torah—particularly, as Paul illustrates here (vv. 7-8), through the fundamental ethical-moral commands, which would tend to be shared by most non-Israelite/Jewish peoples as well. Until there is a specific injunction or prohibition which is to be obeyed or followed, sin is “dead”—that is, it possesses no conceptual or experiential reality for human beings. With the introduction of the command, sin literally “comes up to life” (v. 9).
  • Sin holds power over human beings (their flesh), but it does not lead to death until the command is violated (cf. Gen 3:3, 11, 22). As in the Genesis narrative, death is to be understood in the normal sense of physical death, and not as some kind of “spiritual death”—it is the body that dies or is dead as a result of sin (Rom 8:10f).
  • There are several aspects to Paul’s view of death that come as the result of sin: (1) as a future fate and judgment, (2) as a condition or judgment realized already in the present, and (3) as an active power (along with Sin) at work in the world (and the flesh).
  • Sin enslaves human beings externally in the surrounding world (Rom 5:12ff), but also, more notably, internally in the “flesh”. The power of sin dwells and works in the flesh, specifically the body and its parts.
  • The human will is conflicted and torn between the power of sin in the flesh and the mind or “conscience” which recognizes the command (the Law of God).
  • The “Law of God” is a wider concept than the Torah, as it relates to the “inner man”, the human mind and/or conscience. As such, it applies even to Gentiles who do not have the Torah (cf. Rom 2:12-16, 26-28). In this regard, Paul refers principally to the fundamental ethical/moral aspects of the Law; he never attempts to make a similar connection with the ritual/ceremonial aspects of the Law.

It is fair to assume that the people represented by Paul’s “I” in Rom 7:7-25 primarily represent believers prior to coming to faith in Christ. At any rate, they should be distinguished from the situation in Rom 1:21ff—there, human beings have fallen into idolatry and immorality, and God gives them over to even greater wickedness; here, by contrast, human beings are struggling with their conscience, wishing to live in an upright manner according to the Law of God, but unable to accomplish this because of the power of sin and the weakness of the flesh. One should consider the situation in Rom 7:7-25 as that of the “righteous” (Jew and Gentile alike), in the conventional/traditional religious and ethical sense, who wish to be faithful to the Law and to do good—but even they are enslaved by the power of sin. The Law reveals and makes manifest the reality of this bondage; the only hope of rescue from it comes through the work of God in Christ (v. 25).

July 17: Galatians 3:23-25

Today’s note is the last of three dealing with Galatians 3:19-25; the first discussed vv. 19-20, and the second, vv. 21-22. The third and concluding note today will examine vv. 23-25. Here again is the outline for this section:

    • Vv. 19-20: Statement of two-fold purpose [of the Law]:
      (1) for “transgressions”, and
      (2) to serve as a “mediator”
    • Vv. 21-25: More detailed explanation:
      (1) to enclose all things “under sin” (vv. 21-22)
      (2) to function as a paidagogos (vv. 23-25)

In verses 23-25 Paul builds upon the second purpose of the Law: to serve as a mediator. This is defined specifically by use of the image/metaphor of a paidagwgo/$ (paidagœgós), which will be discussed below.

Verse 23—This is effectively a restatement of verse 22:

V. 22: “The Writing [i.e. Written Law] enclosed all things under sin [u(po\ a(marti/an]…”
V. 23:  “…we were watched [i.e. kept/guarded] under the Law [u(po\ no/mon], being enclosed…”

The parallel between Law and sin (“under Law / under sin”) is as clear as it is striking. Many commentators (and, indeed, many Christians) are uncomfortable with this equation, and will often seek to qualify or ameliorate Paul’s actual language. Bear in mind the (rhetorical) question Paul asks in verse 21 (cf. also Rom 7:7; Gal 2:17)—he was well aware of the difficulty (and potential scandal) involved in his line of argument, and treats the matter carefully; even so, he must have realized it would be offensive to Jews (and Jewish Christians). It is the relation of the Law to sin that is perhaps the most extraordinary (and original) aspect of Paul’s teaching; I have addressed it, to some extent, in the earlier notes, but a more complete treatment must wait until discussion of the relevant passages in Romans.

There can be no softening of the expression in verse 23—the combination of the verbs froure/w (“watch, guard”) and sugklei/w (“close together, enclose”) very much indicates imprisonment. As mentioned in the prior note, this is the opposite, negative sense of the Torah as a fence around Israel. This also ties together the expressions “under Law” and “under sin” with the concept of slavery, to which Paul will turn in 4:1-11. Note how carefully he centers and qualifies this period of imprisonment:

    • “But before trust/faith’s coming”
      (pro\ tou= de\ e)lqei=n th\n pi/stin)
      • “we were watched/guarded under Law”
        (u(po\ no/mon e)frourou/meqa)
      • “being closed together [i.e. enclosed]”
    • “unto [i.e. until] (the) impending trust/faith being uncovered”
      (ei)$ th\n me/llousan pi/stin a)pokalufqh=nai)

The use of the prepositions pro/ (“before”) and ei)$ (“unto”) in a temporal sense, means that Paul is establishing a definite time-frame—that is, the period before (prior to) the Gospel and trust/faith in Christ. Specifically, he refers to the situation of believers in Christ, prior to their coming to faith. This period is described much more extensively in Romans; here, Paul touches on it only briefly, but clearly.

Verse 24—The idea of being watched/guarded here is expressed by the figure of a paidagwgo/$ (paidagogos), literally, “child-leader”, one who leads a child (from which comes the English “pedagogue, pedagogy”). It is sometimes rendered as “teacher” or “tutor”, but, though the word could carry this basic sense, it is rather inaccurate and misleading here. The translation “guardian” is better, but still somewhat misleading in context; “guide” is more accurate, though it requires an understanding of the ancient (social) context underlying the word. The paidagogos, in well-to-do families, was a household slave or servant who would accompany the child to and from school, protecting the child, carrying the books, etc., giving instruction in proper manners, and so forth. For a standard classical description, see Plato Lysis 208 C-D. As a character-type or metaphor, the paidagogos had both negative and positive aspects; but, on the whole, in Greco-Roman literature (and theater), it served as a negative stereotype—a rough and uncouth figure, marked by the disciplinary rod he carried. A more positive association can be found in Greek philosophy (e.g. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 3.12.8 [1119b 13]); for a specific connection with the law, cf. Plato, Laws 5.730 B, 7.808E-810C. More commonly, paidei/a (“training of a child”), in the general sense of education/instruction, is related to cultivation of virtue in Greco-Roman (and Hellenistic-Jewish) philosophy; for references in Philo, and other related citations above, cf. Betz, Galatians, pp. 177-8.

Paul presents two connected statements utilizing the paidagogos image, the first being here in v. 24:

“So then [w%ste] the Law has come to be our ‘childhood guide’ [paidagwgo/$] unto [i.e. until] (the) Anointed {Christ}, (so) that [i%na] we should be made/declared just out of trust [e)k pi/stew$]…”

The prepositional phrase (using ei)$ in a temporal sense), is parallel to that in v. 23:

    • “unto/until [ei)$] (the) impending trust/faith being uncovered” (v. 23)
    • “unto/until [ei)$] (the) Anointed (One)…”

This clearly (and precisely) sets the term of imprisonment/guardianship until the coming of Christ, at which point it ends. What is so striking in Paul’s explanation, as noted above and previously, is how the negative purpose of the Law—to imprison/enslave under sin—ultimately has the positive effect of making righteousness (and, we would say, salvation) depend entirely upon trust/faith in Christ. For similar instances of a i%na/purpose-clause in Galatians, cf. Gal 2:16, 19; 3:14, 22; 4:5; for the use of the particle w%ste to begin a sentence or clause, cf. Gal 2:13; 3:9; 4:7, 16, and frequently in 1-2 Corinthians.

Verse 25—This is the second statement/clause:

“…but the trust having come, we are not yet [i.e. no longer] under a ‘childhood guide’ [paidagwgo/$]”

Being “under a paidagogos” [u(po\ paidagwgo/n] has to be understood as synonymous with “under the Law” [u(po\ no/mon, cf. above]. Thus, we have here one of several clear (and decisive) statements by Paul in Galatians to the effect that believers are no longer under the Law (i.e. bound to observe the Torah). It may be useful to list other occurrences of the negative particle ou)ke/ti (“not yet, not any more, no longer”) in the Pauline letters: Romans 6:9 (twice); 7:17, 20; 11:6 (twice); 14:15; 2 Corinthians 1:23; 5:16; Gal 2:20; 3:18; 4:7; Philemon 16; Ephesians 2:19. I would argue that in many of these instances, Paul uses the particle as a way to define a specific (religious) identity and the circumstances that surround it (“if this, then no longer that…”); this is certainly the case in Galatians, Gal 2:20; 3:18; 4:7 and here in 3:25.

The paidagogos image also has the advantage of connecting the term (or period) of imprisonment/guardianship with that of a child. The whole idea underlying this example in vv. 24-25 is that a “child guide” (paidagogos) is only required as long as the child was under age; upon the child reaching adulthood (puberty), this guide is no longer needed. Also, while it is by no means so obvious to us today, in the ancient Greco-Roman context of Paul’s audience, it would have been understood that the paidagogos was a household servant or slave. It is these two specific associations—(1) the child reaching maturity, and (2) the period of childhood as a kind of slavery—which Paul will draw upon in the next argument of Galatians, ch. 4:1-11.

References marked “Betz, Galatians” are to: Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians, in the Hermeneia series (Fortress Press [1979]).

July 16: Galatians 3:21-22

Today’s note is the second of three dealing with Galatians 3:19-25; the first discussed vv. 19-20, and today I will be looking at vv. 21-22. A reminder of the outline for this section is useful:

    • Vv. 19-20: Statement of two-fold purpose [of the Law]:
      (1) for “transgressions”, and
      (2) to serve as a “mediator”
    • Vv. 21-25: More detailed explanation:
      (1) to enclose all things “under sin” (vv. 21-22)
      (2) to function as a paidagogos (vv. 23-25)

In verses 19-20, Paul provides a two-fold answer to the question in v. 19a: “(for) what (purpose) then (is) the Law?” Verses 21-22 give a more detailed explanation of the first purpose—it was given/added “on behalf of transgressions” (v. 19b). The Greek word para/basi$ (“a step [or stepping] beyond”) can be understood either in the specific sense of stepping beyond (i.e. transgressing) the Law, or simply in terms of sin/sinfulness. Defining the “Law” more broadly (as the “Law of God”, i.e. His will/command) would allow us to include both aspects, and it is likely that Paul does have both in mind. A comparison with his treatment of the subject in Romans suggests that the Law serves to make manifest and increase (or add to) the already existing sinfulness of humankind. That God would fundamentally intend the Torah to increase sinfulness is a troubling idea for Christians, and Paul recognized the difficulty of it, and that it could be easily misunderstood. This, almost certainly, is why he begins in verse 21 with a second rhetorical question (somewhat parallel to that in v. 19a):

“Then (is) the Law against [kata\] the promises [tw=n e)paggeliw=n] [of God]?”

Throughout Galatians, Paul has effectively contrasted the Law with the promise (cf. especially vv. 15-18), so this might very well be a natural question. He asks a similar (and even more pointed) question in Romans 7:7: “What then…(is) the Law sin?” (note also Gal 2:17). To each of these, Paul responds emphatically, “may it not come to be (so) [mh\ ge/noito]!” The forcefulness may be rendered in English as “(God/Heaven) forbid that it should be so!”—in other words, “certainly not!” Such a definite, pious response is understandable; but, if the Law itself is not sinful or against God, then what exactly is Paul trying to say? The explanation in v. 21b flows into v. 22, and must be taken together as a single sentence. The clauses form two distinct (and contrasting) statements:

    • V. 21b: “For if (a) Law, having the power to make (things) live, was given,
      • (then) justice/righteousness would really be out of [i.e. from] (the) Law”
    • V. 22: “but (instead) the Writing closed together all (thing)s under sin,
      • (so) that the promise [e)paggeli/a] should be given out of trust of Yeshua (the) Anointed
        to the ones trusting.”

Note that the promise (e)paggeli/a) is parallel with justice/righteousness (dikaiosu/nh); there are actually two important, but different, sorts of parallelism at work here—

    • Synonymous: promise || justice/righteousness
    • Antithetical: the Law || trust/faith (in Jesus)

and both being familiar to anyone who has read Galatians up to this point. Paul’s use of “the Writing” (h( grafh/) as an active subject in v. 22 is interesting. Traditional-conservative (Protestant) commentators often cite it as evidence of Scripture being regarded as the very Word of God (i.e. acting like God himself); however, while Paul certainly believed something akin to this, it is hardly the point he is emphasizing here. Rather, I would say that he is using the expression to refer to the Law in the more specific, concrete sense of the Law as written (i.e. the “letter” of the Law); and it is especially the written Law which comes to be associated more directly with sin and death—see especially Paul’s discussion in 2 Corinthians 3:6ff.

The statement in v. 21b is, like many Paul makes in Galatians, largely contrary to the view of Jewish religious tradition, where the Torah is often considered as a way to life—cf. Deut 30:15-20; 32:47; Prov 3:1ff; Sirach 17:11; Baruch 3:9; 4:1; m. Aboth 2:8; 6:1ff. Paul’s statement assumes the very opposite: that the Torah which was given does not have the power to make one live (cf. Gal 2:15-21). Rather, for Paul, life-giving guidance (and power) comes (to believers) through the Spirit (identified with the promise in 3:14). This is the very contrast that is made in 2 Cor 3:6ff (cited above); and note also the interesting reference in Romans 8:2. That righteousness does not come from (observing) the Law is a basic principle for Paul, and one expressed repeatedly in Galatians.

It is in verse 22a that we find the general phrase in v. 19b defined more properly:

“given/added on behalf of transgressions” => “closed together all under sin”

The expression “under sin” (u(po\ a(marti/an) is used by Paul elsewhere (cf. Rom 3:9; 7:14; 11:32); for the idea of human beings effectively under the power of sin, see also Rom 3:12, 19f; 5:12; 8:3, etc. For Paul, this expression is clearly parallel with “under (the) Law” (u(po\ no/mon)—Gal 3:23; 4:4-5, 21; 5:18; cf. also Gal 3:10; Rom 2:12; 3:19; 6:14-15; 7:6, 14, etc. The closest statement to 3:22a is in Romans 11:32:

Gal 3:22a: “the Writing closed together [sune/kleisen] all (thing)s under sin”
Rom 11:32: “God closed together [sune/kleisen] all (people) unto/into unbelief [prop. unwillingness to be persuaded]”

There is a similar, parallel i%na-purpose clause for each passage as well:

Gal 3:22a: “(so) that the promise [e)paggeli/a] should be given… to the ones trusting”
Rom 11:32: “(so) that He might show mercy to all (people)”

 In conclusion, it may also be worth noting the way that the temporal clause (“until”, a&xri$) in v. 19a-b, becomes a purpose clause (“so that”, i%na)  in v. 22—both of these need to be understood together. Paul will return to the idea of a temporal limit to the Torah in vv. 23-25 (and again in 4:1ff).

July 15: Galatians 3:19-20

The next three daily notes will explore Galatians 3:19-25, as a supplement to the series on “The Law and the New Testament” (see “Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians, chapters 3-4 [Argument 3]”). These verses deal with the purpose of the Law (Torah), as understood by Paul. Through most of Galatians, Paul has been describing what the Law is not: our faith in Christ, our righteousness (being made/declared just by God), the blessing and promise to Abraham—all of these are entirely separate from the commands and regulations of the Torah. This might, naturally, lead one to ask: “why then did God give the Torah and require that it be observed?” It is this question which Paul addresses in Gal 3:19-25—”(For) what (purpose) then (is) the Law?” (v. 19).

Paul gives a similar form of question in 1 Cor 3:5; Rom 3:1. For the same type of fundamental question in Greek philosophy, see esp. Ps-Plato “On the Law ” (Minos 313 BC, 314 B, 316 E). For Jewish statements on the nature of the Law, and in defense of it, cf. the Epistle of Aristeas §§128-171, Philo On the Decalogue 2; on the primary (positive) role of the Torah in Judaism, cf. Josephus Against Apion 1.42; m. Aboth 1.2; 3.21; 6.1, 6, 7, 9; Aboth R. Nath. B 18. For these references, and others below, cf. Betz, Galatians, p. 162ff.

Galatians 3:19-25 may be divided as follows:

    • Vv. 19-20: Statement of two-fold purpose:
      (1) for “transgressions”, and
      (2) to serve as a “mediator”
    • Vv. 21-25: More detailed explanation:
      (1) to enclose all things “under sin” (vv. 21-22)
      (2) to function as a paidagogos (vv. 23-25)

Verses 19-20

These verses provide defining statements on the question regarding the Law, similar to those found in Greco-Roman literature and philosophy—see especially Epictetus Dissertations 2.16.28, also e.g. Plato Laws 9.880; Aristotle Politics 3.11.4 (1287a 25ff); Cicero De leg. 1.6.18. In verse 19, four principal statements (actually a twofold pair of statements) may be delineated (I am here generally following Betz, Galatians, pp. 163-164f):

    • It was set forth on behalf of transgressions… (v. 19b)
      • …until the seed should come to whom it was promised (v. 19c)
    • (It was) arranged/ordered through Messengers [i.e. Angels]… (v. 19d)
      • …in the hand of a Mediator (v. 19e)

Each of these will be examined in turn:

Verse 19btw=n paraba/sewn xa/rin prosete/qh, the terms being dealt with in reverse order:

    • prosete/qh—the compound verb prosti/qhmi basically means “set (something) toward [i.e. beside]”, often in the sense of adding/joining it to something else.
    • xa/rin—an accusative form of the noun xa/ri$ (“favor”), used as an (improper) preposition; literally, something like “in favor of”, but here, more accurately, “for the sake of, on account of, on behalf of”.
    • tw=n paraba/sewn—the noun para/basi$ is derived from parabai/nw, “step along” (that is, “step beyond”), i.e. “trespass, transgress”; here “the transgressions” is in the emphatic position.

What is the force of xa/rin (“on behalf/account of”)?—i.e. is the Law in response to (existing) transgressions, or is it for the purpose of bringing about transgressions? Though Paul does not state it as such here, “transgression” probably relates to the Law/will of God generally, rather than the Torah specifically. As indicated, there are two ways of understanding this phrase:

    • The Law was given for the purpose of curbing/punishing transgressions and protecting against them; this accords with the traditional Jewish view of the Torah as a fence/guard against sin and impurity.
    • Paul, however, uses the “fence” idea in a very different way, referring to the Law as enclosing human beings in sin (v. 22), in the sense of enslavement. As such, the Law effectively adds to the sinfulness of humankind (which Paul expounds in Romans [3:19-20ff; 5:20; 7:7ff; 11:32]).

There is an interesting parallel (including use of the verb prosti/qhmi) in Philo, On Joseph §31, where he speaks of the specific laws of cities being added to the (already existing) law of nature; similarly, Paul seems to view the Torah commands as increasing and making more manifest the (already existing) sinfulness of humans.

Verse 19c—”until [a&xri$] (the time in) which the seed should come, upon whom the message has been given”. There are two main points to this phrase:

    1. It establishes a clear (temporal) limit to the Torah—cf. Gal 3:23-25; 4:1-5; also Rom 10:4.
    2. It emphasizes again (Jesus as) the promised seed, v. 16; the verb e)pagge/llw, “give/announce a message upon (someone/something)”, is usually rendered as “promise, give a promise”, and often in the sense of a promise [e)paggeli/a] given by God.

There are, subsequently, two interpretive (related) points of contrast or conflict:

    1. Contrast with the traditional Jewish view of the eternal nature and validity of the Torah—e.g., Sirach 24:9; Wisdom 18:4; 2/4 Esdras 9:37; 1 Enoch 99:2; Assumption of Moses 1:11ff; Josephus, Against Apion 2.38; Philo, Life of Moses II.14; cf. also Matthew 5:17-19.
    2. Contrast between faith/promise and (works of) the Law—Paul’s familiar theme in Galatians.

Verse 19d—”ordered/arranged through Messengers”. The verb diata/ssw means “arrange (or set in order) throughout”, and is often used in a legal sense—within the New Testament, cf. 1 Cor 7:17; 9:14; 11:34; 16:1; Titus 1:5; Acts 7:44. On the idea that heavenly Messengers (“angels”) mediated the revelation of the Torah, see Acts 7:53 (and v. 38); Heb 2:2. This seems to be a natural product of associating the older divine Theophany (Exod 19:9ff) with Angels in Jewish tradition—Ps 102:20; 103:4 LXX; Jubilees 2:2ff; 1 Enoch 60:1ff; cf. Josephus Antiquities 15.136, and, in early Christianity, Hermas Similitudes 8:3:3. In some anti-Jewish and “Gnostic” (Marcionite, etc) literature, these become fallen angels or demons, e.g. in Barnabas 9:4; Ps-Tertullian Against Heresies 3, and Epiphanius Panarion 28.1-2 (on Cerinthus). There was, at times, a similar Jewish caution against ascribing to Angels/Powers what is due to God alone (e.g., Philo On the Decalogue §61). Paul appears to move between these two aspects of mediatorship—positive and negative—in his argument here, with an emphasis on angelic/human mediation as being in contrast with direct revelation from God (cf. Gal 1:1, 12; 2:1, etc).

Verse 19e—”in (the) hand of a mediator”, a mesi/th$ being one who is (or stands) in the middle, between two persons or parties. The Torah was delivered into the hand of a mediator (i.e. Moses) to give/announce to the people. We are accustomed to think of a mediator in the positive sense, especially when referring to the mediating/atoning work of Christ (cf. the Moses/Jesus parallels in Acts 3:22-23 [citing Deut 18:15-19] and 7:35-50). However, here the sense is rather more negative, the mediation of the Torah moving further away from God—to divine/heavenly messengers (angels), and then to a human being. This also sets the stage for specific argument regarding the nature of a mediator, in verse 20.

Verse 20—”and a mediator is not of one [e(no\$]”. We have here a clever bit of wordplay:

    • Basic definition: “A mediator is not of one (only)”
    • Transformed into: “A mediator is not of one (i.e. God)”

This transformation occurs by way of the concluding phrase: “but God is one [ei!$]”—this equation (one = God) may be substituted into the prior phrase => “a mediator is not of God”. In other words, Paul is establishing a clear contrast between an angelic/human mediator and God. This implies and reinforces the limited and ‘inferior’ nature of the Torah, compared with the direct revelation of God (in Christ); for a similar contrast, see Isa 63:9. On Jesus as the mediator of a new (and better) covenant, cf. Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24, and note also 1 Tim 2:5. The oneness of God is also important for Paul, and is a theme that is emphasized at numerous points throughout Galatians: there is only one Gospel (Gal 1:6-7; 2:5), one promised seed (Gal 3:16), parallel to the one Spirit (Gal 3:14; 5:22). Furthermore, the entire argument of Gal 3:15-29 climaxes with a powerful statement of the union/unity of believers in Christ (3:27-28).

References marked “Betz, Galatians” are to: Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians, in the Hermeneia series (Fortress Press [1979]).