Friday, May 23, 2008

Paul and the Law

During the recent essay rush (which explains the recent lack of activity on VdT), I was grappling with the question of Galatia. What was the problem there? What was Paul writing against? I won't expand on this now - reflections on all this semesters modules will appear after the exams in June - but of great help was the excellent book by Frank Thielman, Paul and the Law - a Contextual Approach. Trying to find a coherent path between Lutheran views of the OT law on the one hand and the NPP on the other is a difficult task, but Thielman achieves it. Here are some of the points on which I concur with Thielman:

  • 'works of the law' in Galatians, and generally, refers to all of the stipulations of Torah.
  • the Mosaic Covenant is no longer in force.
  • the law of that Covenant still has a function for believers as a redemptive-historical account that is re-interpreted in Christ (Blomberg has a helpful section on this in Jesus and the Gospels); the phrase 'the law of Christ' is relevant here.
  • Paul did combat legalism, but the Mosaic system is not inherently legalistic, neither was Second Temple Judaism universally legalistic.
And here's what Tom Schreiner said about it:

Having recently completed my own book on Paul's theology of law and having read Frank Thielman's important dissertation From Plight to Solution: A Jewish Framework for Understanding Paul's View of the Law in Galatians and Romans (1989), I was eager to read his newest work and was not disappointed since it is a splendid book.