What you cannot do to a covenant would necessarily apply to the commandments. The commandments are just the instructions from an amalgamation of covenants. You can also have the same commandments in multiple covenants i.e. the law of pouring out blood for slaughter is in the Gen 9 covenant and the Sinai covenant of Leviticus 17.
27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. . . . 13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. (Romans 3:1-4:13)
Romans 3:31 says positively that they “establish” https://studybible.info/strongs/G2476 the law (Sinai covenant) this is viewed as being opposed to καταργέω and “establish” is in this tense (note “law” is singular):
Based on Romans 3:31 and Galatians 3:17 it is hard to make the argument that Sinai can be λύω or καταργέω. Galatians 3:17 also says that a covenant cannot be made void G208 so to καταργέω the promise. This I think indicates that G208 has a similar meaning to καταργέω.
Romans 3:31 seems to be talking about properly interpreting the law . . . that is to say, they do not throw down Sinai but they establish it by proper interpretation since an improper interpretation would make it broken down. This idiom of interpretation only works if it is in parallel with the actual state of the law. If the law is broken down or in the process of being broken down Paul’s statements don’t make sense. The fact that it is used in this interpretive idiom can be evidenced by observing the parallels here: https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G208 Matthew 15:6 and Mark 7:13 use G208 as an idiom for properly interpreting or practicing and Galatians 3:17 uses G208 in parallel with καταργέω
Most of the time Paul uses covenants as analogies for soteriologies. See here:
However, I think in Hebrews Paul uses covenants as analogies for the priesthoods and ministries of those covenants. He uses kal-vahomer to argue that the new priesthood is greater than the old just like the new covenant is greater than the old. In fact, the new covenant priesthood is so much greater than the old priesthood that it is as if the old priesthood was “faulty” and “weak” because they could not perfect Israel. However, Paul does not mean this literally since he elsewhere states that the Levitical priesthood was never designed to take away sin:
1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin?
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!
The first problematic chapter is 7:
11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the levitical priesthood—for the people received the law under this priesthood—what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek, rather than one according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 Now the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
15 It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, 16 one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is attested of him,
“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
18 There is, on the one hand, the abrogation of an earlier commandment because it was weak and ineffectual 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God.
(Hebrews 7:11-18 emphasis mine)
Notice the subject is the priesthood and the fact that the Levitical priesthood could not accomplish what Christ could. There is no indication of a change of rules that humans are supposed to follow rather a transposition of priesthoods. In verse 12 “change” means “transpose” and is used that way in Hebrews 11:5 to speak of Enoch being “transposed” into heaven: https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G3346
This same idea is stated more explicitly here:
23 Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
So the law was not changed from one thing to another but rather moved in practice from earth to heaven.
for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Following this new translation then in verse 18 Paul is speaking only in terms of the transgression of the laws of the Levitical priesthood. Those laws were transgressed either because the priesthood was made of imperfect humans unlike Christ or–more likely–the priesthood’s temple was destroyed and made them unable to carry out the laws. If the later, then this was because Israel was not perfected and God allowed the enemies of Israel to destroy the Temple. Observe the context which is all about the priesthood. If we translate Hebrews 9:26 and Hebrews 7:16-22 with the same meaning that the Greek has in 1 Samuel 24:11 then we end up with the following:
for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age [as an offering for] sin by the sacrifice of himself.
16 one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is attested of him,“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” 18 There is, on the one hand, the [transgression] of an earlier commandment because it was weak and ineffectual 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God. 20 This was confirmed with an oath; for others who became priests took their office without an oath, 21 but this one became a priest with an oath, because of the one who said to him,
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever’”—
22 accordingly Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant.
(Hebrews 7:16-22 emphasis mine with the translation changed to the Hebrew meaning of “abrogation” in verse 18)
This is one of the quirks of Hebrew where “transgression” can mean “offering for transgression” which makes the “offering” literally become the “transgression” being consumed on the alter.
Finally, we see that the reason the priesthood in verse 18 was weak was because of the ministry of the Levitical priesthood that was not designed to take away sin unlike the new covenant ministry. Paul does not mean this literally though because he is aware that the Levitical priesthood was never designed to take away sin—just to point to Christ and bring the knowledge of sin. Observe the parallels here:
(for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God.
1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins.
This understanding will help us with the most problematic chapter 8:
1 Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They offer worship in a sanctuarythat is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But Jesus has now obtained a more excellentministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. 7 For if that first [covenant] had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.
8 God finds fault with them when he says:
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 9 not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. 10 This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of “[a] new [covenant],” he has made the first [one] obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.
(Hebrews 8:1-13 emphasis mine)
I have put in brackets where the word “covenant” is supplied in the NRSV. In verse 13 most Christians interpret the covenant as a whole as growing old and disappearing. However we must look at this in light of the subject of the previous verses:
6 But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. 7 For if that first [covenant] had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.
8 God finds fault with them when he says:
(Hebrews 8:6-8 emphasis mine)
1. The new covenant is said to be better only to the degree that Jesus is a more excellent minister, this implies that the law/instruction remains the same for humans who aren’t priests.
2. God finds fault with a plural entity: the Levitical priesthood and Israel, not a singular covenant.
4. Verse 7 has parallels implying it is about the priesthood:
For if that first [covenant] had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one (Hebrews 8:7)
Now if perfection had been attainable through the levitical priesthood—for the people received the law under this priesthood—what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek, rather than one according to the order of Aaron?
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,
So moving on to verse 13:
In speaking of “[a] new [covenant],” he has made the first [one] obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear [i.e. be destroyed].
(Hebrews 8:13 NRSV with my changes in brackets)
The focus of the “fault” is on the priesthood and the ministry of that covenant which just was not designed to take away sin: it only brought knowledge of that sin and was used to point to the one that makes an offering for sin. However, you could even say that inserting/supplying “covenant” is correct because of Paul’s use of the “law” analogy to refer to the priesthood and ministry (as we see elsewhere e.g. Hebrews 7:17-19). However, “covenant” could even be literally supplied correctly if Paul is using the idea of “covenant” in the broader sense of the rules and administration of those rules under the priesthood. This would be in contrast to 2 Corinthians 3 where he makes a distinction between the ministry and the covenant:
In speaking of “new,” he has made the first obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon be destroyed.
(Hebrews 8:13 NRSV with my changes)
So it is entirely consistent with Torah to say literally that the “covenant” will be destroyed in the broader sense that it will become obsolete because the ministry that is part of it will be destroyed and is already in the process of being made obsolete by the Holy Spirit. Once the law is written on the heart by the Holy Spirit and is obeyed the curses incurred by Israel at Sinai become obsolete by their lack of a sinful target. However, Paul is probably just using the idea of “covenant” as an analogy for the priesthood. Either way I think he is using the idea of “covenant” in Jeremiah to explain the destruction of the Temple and the eventual destruction of the priesthood’s ministry. (there is some evidence that the sacrifices continued after the temple was destroyed) What is interesting is that Paul never supplies the word “covenant” why not? We shall see later.
Hebrews implies this destruction elsewhere:
8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing. 9 This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,
To shore up the fact that Hebrews 8:13 is indeed focusing on the priesthood and not the covenant rules you can observe the parallel in Hebrews 10:9 where it implies God is in the process of “taking up” the old sacrifices to replace it with the new ministration (probably the Holy Spirit). However, notice that when Paul talks about the “sacrifice” of Christ on the cross he uses the past tense perfect “sanctified” in contrast to him progressively “taking up” the priesthood in Hebrews 10:9 or the old covenant ministration progressively becoming obsolete in Hebrews 8:13. This is because the law takes time to be written on Israel’s heart in contrast to the discrete death of Christ on the cross.
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He [takes up] the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
(Hebrews 10:8-10 NRSV with my modification in verse 9)
Why does Paul leave out the word “covenant” in Hebrews 8:13? The entire context is about the priesthood but as an extra percaution Paul I think leaves out the word “covenant” because he doesn’t want you to think that the “covenant” in the more specific sense of God’s rules at Sinai will be done away with. God’s Sinai covenant is fine and its Levitical priesthood acted as the shadow to point to the greater priesthood of Christ. The Levitical priesthood can only be said to be “faulty” in that it did not accomplish what the new covenant priesthood will. Paul is using the covenants as analogies for the priesthoods: in a sense the new priesthood is so great that it is as if the Levitical priesthood was faulty. (kal-vahomer!)
Finally, Paul says it is becoming obsolete. This is at variance with those who insist this is related to the discrete work of Christ on the cross or in his resurrection:
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,”
Rather, what Christ did on the cross was only the beginning of a process of the ministry of the Holy Spirit writing the law on our hearts which is better than the human priests who cannot actually take away sin:
And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins.
The first covenant only becomes obsolete in the sense of its ministry because of the work of Christ through the holy spirit to write the law on Israel’s heart makes pointing to that work obsolete. However, that process was started by the discrete event of Christ going to heaven to send the Holy Spirit:
For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.
” 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,”
17 he also adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
The last problematic chapter is 10:
1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He [takes up] the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
(Hebrews 10:1-10 NRSV with my modifications)
In verse 10 I’ve changed the word “abolishes” since it can also mean “take up” like how Pharaoh’s daughter “took [Moses] up” in Acts 7:21 https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/337/start/60 so it could mean that God took up the ministry of the covenant into heaven with a heavenly priesthood or it could mean that the ministry of the earthly priesthood is destroyed in order that the second ministry is established: to explain the destruction of the Temple.
Paul well knows that the Levitical priesthood will be reestablished in Ezekiel 44-48. Also Zechariah 14 talks of the festivals being reestablished at Jerusalem (so presumably the priesthood and the Temple is again in action) This is just Paul’s way of reassuring people in a time where it looked like the world had ended for Jews. The Temple was destroyed and the sacrifices ceased (or were soon going to) and people were wondering if they could still carry on. Paul tells them that this could have been completely expected and that it really isn’t a big deal after all since what the Temple pointed to was the true Temple in the heavens. I hope you are also reassured.
I think we see throughout this that the focus is on the priesthood being changed and that the “law” is just used as an analogy for it’s ministry and priesthood. The old covenant could only be said to become obsolete in the sense that the ministry of it (death) is no longer needed to bring awareness of sin with the new covenant perfecting people. Paul leaves no room in the context to say he is speaking of anything but the priesthood and even goes so far as to leave the word “covenant” out when making his analogy–yet people still misunderstand him.
The new covenant is said to be better only to the degree that Jesus is a more excellent minister, this implies that the law/instructions remains the same for humans.
Paul uses covenants as analogies for priesthoods just like he uses covenants as analogies for soteriologies or ministries in his other works.
God finds fault with a plural entity: the priesthood or Israel, not a singular covenant.
Paul knows that the Levitical priesthood was never designed to take away sin. If he calls it “faulty” it is only because of the failings of that priesthood or more likely because it is so inferior to the new priesthood that it is “faulty” by comparison.
Paul is reassuring people. He does this by saying that the Temple could be expected to be destroyed since Christ had just come to inaugurate the new covenant and that when the old priesthood ceases to operate completely we will have an even better priesthood so take heart!
Let start with some context. When the elders said to Paul “Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law” (Acts 21:24) What this says (if you read the context) is the following:
1 Paul was not telling Jews to forsake the mosaic law
2 He was showing he was not doing this by his personal example of following the law
3 Paul himself observes and guards the law
It can be inferred from this that Paul thought the law was still valuable at least for Jews. What we have Paul say in 2 Corinthians 3 cannot contradict that. In addition Paul says that “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” (Romans 2:25) “we uphold the law” (Romans 3:31) “having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth” (Romans 2:20) “I delight in the law of God” (Rom 7:22) Paul connects sinning with being lawless and needing forgiveness: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7) To say the law is no longer relevant or truthful or defines what sin is at the time of Paul’s writing is to make Paul contradict himself.
Paul also says a covenant cannot be annulled and he often uses “law” as synonymous with “Sinai law” as he does in the following:
15 Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. 17 My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20 Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22 But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal 3:15-22)
However many people state that Paul declared an “end to the law.” This is a misconception that Jason Staples corrects in a comment on his blog referencing Romans 10:4. His response will give us context for interpreting 2 Corinthians 3:
Good question. This is a very difficult and controversial verse, as the word telos can mean a range of things, including “goal,” “end,” “culmination,” “climax,” etc.
I think the verse is best translated “For Christ is the culmination of the law for righteousness in everyone who trusts.”
What Paul’s referring to here is that Christ’s death and subsequent sending of the spirit has enabled righteousness in those who put their trust in Jesus, facilitating the righteousness the prophets had promised God would grant to Israel (e.g., Jeremiah 31:31–34, Ezek 36:24, Deut 30:1–10). That’s why he proceeds to explain that Jesus is the “one who does these things” and thereby lived by them—the resurrection is the proof that Jesus is the righteous one of the Torah, and it’s why he then quotes Deut 30 to explain that those who believed Israel needed to be sufficiently righteous to bring the messiah had things backwards—it’s not that Israel’s righteousness would bring the messiah, it’s that the messiah came to make Israel righteous.
Paul often uses the idea that the law brings death and knowledge of sin which allows Israel to accept grace and life under the new covenant. Paul seems to apply this idea to individuals in these passages using crucifixion as analogous with death and life in the new covenant as analogous with Israel’s and our righteousness/justification by faith. Essentially our failure to keep the law (similar to Israel) makes aware of our need for grace and allows us to be humble and accept it–we have faith in God and his grace and practice the law in thankfulness for being saved, rather than rely on the law itself:
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; (Gal 2:19)
21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22 But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longersubject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal 3:21-26)
For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. (Romans 4:15)
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)
12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. 20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:12-23)
4 In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. 7 What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived 10 and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. (Romans 7:4-12)
Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we?
I think David Guzik said it well on enduringword.com:
a. Epistles of commendation: Such letters were common and necessary in the early church. A false prophet or apostle could travel from city to city and easily say, “Paul sent me, so you should support me.” To help guard against problems like this, letters of recommendation were often sent with Christians as they traveled.
2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; 3 and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
3 . . . you are a letter of Christ: Letters of commendation are good but we having living commendations: you! (kal-vahomer)
5 Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God: We do not rely on ourselves for commendation just as we do not rely on ourselves to keep the letter of law (Sinai) to save us. We rely on Christ for commendation just as we rely on Christ to make Israel able to keep the law. Paul is using this an analogy to “works of the law” (an Essene teaching of purity and that keeping certain works distinguishes and saves you) compared with a soteriology of grace: the law simply makes you aware that you need to be saved so that you do works out of thankfulness to God for his grace.
6 . . . To be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life: The ministration of the law would bring death on its own since Israel broke Sinai just like a works of the law soteriology. However, Christ enables us to achieve the blessings of Sinai–life–by enabling Israel to keep the law by writing it on our hearts through the holy spirit (a down-payment of the coming fullness of the promises of Abraham)–a soteriology of grace. In fact, in the dead sea scrolls the “new covenant” refers to “the exact interpretation of the law” of the law. ( see: https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592104.001.0001/acprof-9780199592104-chapter-4 )
To quote from the book:
The oldest reference to the new covenant (CD 6:19) occurs in a document that is essentially a list of precepts (CD 6:19) occurs in a document that is essentially a list of precepts (CD 6:11-7:4) followed by a hortatory epilogue (CD 7:4-8:3). The way in which a number of the precepts are formulated indicates that their function was to server a reminders of points in a more detailed body of legal material, namely, the laws contained in CD 9-16. Thus, for example, the admonition ‘Keep the sabbath day according to its exact rules’ (CD 6:18) is meaningless without the precise legislation of CD 10:14-11-18. This legislation mentions two other covenants, the ‘covenant of Abraham’ (CD 12:11) and the ‘covenant which Moses concluded with Israel’ (CD 15:8-9). The relationship between these two covenants need not detain us here; it has been discussed thoroughly by R. F. Collins. What is important is the relationship between the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant.
The context of the allusion to the Mosaic covenant furnishes a partial answer:
Likewise is the ruling during the whole epoch of wickedness with regard to everyone who turns from his corrupt way. On the day that he speaks to the overseer of the Many, they shall muster him with the oath of the covenant which Moses concluded with Israel, namely, the covenant to return to the Law of Moses with all his heart and all his soul. (CD 15:6-10)
page 55 Keys to Second Corinthians Jerome Murphy-O’Connor https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592104.001.0001/acprof-9780199592104)
It is evidently a question of the reception of a new member into the Essene community, an interpretation that is confirmed by the renntetion of the central element in the recption ceremony at Qumran:
When they join the community, let whoever comes to the council of the community enter into the covenant of God in the presence of all the volunteers, and let him undertake by oath of the obligation to be converted to the Law of Moses according to all of his commands with all his heart and all his soul (1QS 5:7-9)
. . .
In essence the new covenant was but a renewal of the Mosaic covenant revitalized by the exploitation of its virtualities (cf. CD 5:8-11).
The intimate connection of the Essene new covenant with the law is confirmed by the other reference in the later stratum of CD:
All who entered the new covenant in the land of Damascus and who returned, and who acted treacherously and departed from the well of living water, shall not be reckoned in the council of the people and shall not be written in their records from the time the Teacher is gathered in until the arrival of the Messiah from Aaron and from Israel. (CD 19:33-5)
The shall receive the same judgment as their companions who turned back with the men scoffing, for they spoke heresy against the ordinance of righteousness and rejected the covenant and bond which they affirmed in the land of Damascus, that is, the new covenant. (CD 20:11-12)
(page 56 Keys to Second Corinthians Jerome Murphy-O’Connor https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592104.001.0001/acprof-9780199592104)
It should be noted however that the “The new covenant in CD is not thought of as the fulfillment of prophecy of Jer 31:31, and it is doubtful that it had any eschatological connotation in pre-Qumran usage.” (pg 55 ibid)
This makes sense since the new covenant will teach all men the law through Christ and write it on their heart so that they will not even need to teach each other. It has to be teaching more than just the words of the law if they are not teaching each other–since just knowing the words they would still need to interpret and teach the exact interpretation of those words.
Here we start seeing that it is talking about the “ministry” of the new and old covenants and not the covenants themselves:
7 Now if the ministry of death, [chiseled] (just means “impressed”) in letters on stone [tablets], came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, 8 how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! 10 Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; 11 for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory! (2 Cor 3 NRSV with my modifications)
7 . . . came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside: I thought for a while that “came in glory” (in verse 7) and “came through glory” (in verse 11) might be making a distinction. Maybe one is talking about the covenant and the other is talking about the ministry of the covenant. However, I think that would be too confusing even for Paul. I think the subject is the ministry of the covenants throughout 2 Corinthians 3:3-13.
The fact is that the “ministration” (διακονία) of the old covenant is the subject here, not the covenant itself and this is referring to the same thing that is spoken of in 2 Cor 3:7-10 since Paul does vary his prepositions to express the same relation and it would be at variance with the context. Even Christian commentators have agreed with this, such as Meyer’s N.T. Commentary which also says that this cannot refer to the “mosaic religion in general”
τὸ καταργούμενον] that which is in the act of passing away. This the reader was to apply to the διακονία of Moses spoken of in 2 Corinthians 3:7-10, in so far, namely, as this ministry is in the course of its abolition through the preaching of the gospel by means of the διακονία τῆς δικαιοσύνης. . . .
διὰ δόξης] sc.ἐστι. διά expresses the situation, condition, and so is a circumlocution for the adjective. Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phileb. p. 192; Bernhardy, p. 235; Fritzsche, ad Rom. I. p. 138. ἐν δόξῃ (2 Corinthians 3:7) is not different in sense; but the supposition of Estius, Billroth, Olshausen, Osiander, Neander, Hofmann, that διά indicates only what is transient, and ἐν what is abiding, is mere fancy. Paul is fond of varying the prepositions in designating the same relation. Comp. Romans 3:30; Romans 5:10; Romans 15:2; Galatians 2:16; Philemon 1:5. Comp. also Kühner, II, p. 319.
 Not to the Mosaic religion in general, which ceases through Christ (Theodoret, Theophylact, and many others, including Emmerling and Flatt),—which is quite at variance with the context. See vv. 7–10.
Interestingly the form of the word indicates the glory of Moses face is in the process of being set aside which means it’s not literally talking about Moses’s face but rather the ministry of death. Once Sinai brings death and makes Israel aware of it’s sin, Israel can then accept grace and humbly repent allowing the law to be written their hearts.
8 how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory: If the ministry of death was awesome the ministry of the new covenant will be even better because it redeems from death. Kal va-homer!
Note that it contrasts the ministry of death with the ministry of the Spirit. Thayer’s in fact defines the word “ministry” as:
1) service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others 2) of those who by the command of God proclaim and promote religion among men 2a) of the office of Moses 2b) of the office of the apostles and its administration . . .
The Spirit writes the law on our hearts but it is not the law itself. The ministry of death is the ministry of Sinai but is not Sinai itself. Sinai brings death because of transgression, yet it is not death itself: so the separation between the covenant and the ministry spoken of here is of two degrees: death not being Sinai, and the ministry not being death itself. Later Paul in fact parallels himself with Moses a minister of a covenant:
12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. (2 Cor 3:13)
So why does it refer to the “the ministry of death, [impressed] in letters on stone?” It might be referring to the giving of the law by mediators at mount Sinai of which Moses was one:
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20 Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. (Galatians 3:19-20)
2 For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, (Hebrews 2:2-3)
You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.” (Acts 7:53)
However, the word “chiseled” could be translated “impressed” (as the ABP) and the word “tablets” is supplied, so I think this language is not even referring to the giving of the law at Sinai but talking about the symbols used for the work of the ministry of Sinai as opposed to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in other places. The word “letters” has already been used by Paul in 2 Cor 3 to speak of the ministry of Sinai https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G1121 and it uses the same language to contrast the “stone” with the “Spirit” in Ezekiel:
19 I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Even if it is really talking about the covenant and not the ministry we are left with the fact that Paul is using ministry of death as a symbol. If this is a symbol then Paul could be using the ministry of death as a symbol for the covenant’s effects or for works of law like he does in other places in Galatians and Romans. However, I have taken the ministry view since it is repeated consistently throughout 2 Corinthians 3:3,7,8,9a,9b, 2 Corinthians 4:1,2 and Corinthians 5:18 and Paul seems to be drawing attention to this qualifier to avoid talking about the covenants themselves.
9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory!: The ministry of Sinai came in glory and it brought death, how much more glorious is the ministry of the new covenant that will bring life? Again this could be an analogy for comparing a soteriology of works of law to faith/grace which Paul does in his other writings. Notice, that the glory of that ministry is in the process of being “set aside” that is associated with the ministry of Sinai not the covenant of Sinai itself. It is set aside by the natural reason that Israel no longer needs to experience the curses of Sinai if they have been perfected under the new covenant and are following the law–instead they will achieve the blessings of Sinai–life–through the promises of Abraham and through the Moabite covenant. I talk about this in more detail here:
11 for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!: The glory of Moses’s face faded after he talked with God and his ministry (the ministry of the old covenant) will be set aside but in the new covenant everyone will have direct access to God through the holy spirit and the glory of the new covenant will never fade because that ministry is forever!
According to Galatians 3 and Romans 7 the old covenant curses must still apply–otherwise why do we need to be saved from it? In addition, we will see why the old covenant cannot be set aside because of Matthew’s statements and by what is implied by Paul in Ephesian 2 and Colossians 2. The fact is what is being “set aside” here is not the old covenant.
We will see the journey of Israel being used as an analogy for the journey individuals as we move on in 2 Cor 3. However, the analogies used here are more subtle than they are in Romans and Galatians:
12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside.
We do not hide the glory of the ministry of the law like Moses did but preach the correct understanding of the law boldly! This is because the ministry of the new covenant brings us closer to God unlike the ministry of the old covenant which only had the letter and not the spirit. The ministry of the new covenant allows us to come more boldly to God and have confidence in our understanding of the law because of the holy spirit writing it on our hearts.
14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
Only Christ through the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the new covenant allows you to break the barrier between the law and your heart (what the NRSV more accurately translates as “mind”) which is the hardness of our hearts so we can receive the law in our hearts.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:1-18)
Christ allows us to keep the law and have freedom from the Curses of Sinai. The new covenant through the holy spirit makes us more into an image of Christ who fulfilled the law.
Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4
1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
We do not water down the gospel by saying (as some of Paul’s opponents have said) that works of the law are necessary along with Christ for salvation. To put your trust in keeping the law well enough or certain works of the law (like circumcision) well enough is to veil the gospel and make Christ useless.
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The gospel can also be misunderstood just like the law and this will cause people to perish.
5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
This is a quote from Isaiah 9:2 in the context of the Millennial kingdom and the return of the lost tribes (both things that Christ started the process for with his sending of the holy spirit) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+9 the NKJV notes also include Malachi 4:2, Luke 1:78 and 2 Peter 1:19 which I think have similar messianic themes. Meyer’s N.T. Commentary also includes Isaiah 60:1
 Ewald, following the reading λάμψει, supposes an allusion to Isaiah 60:1, Job 12:22, or to some lost passage.
There are some parallels to observe with Isaiah 60 and Paul’s mission to Israel and the lost tribes here:
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
This same word for “clay jars” is used in Jeremiah 19:1,19:11,19:14. This is right after chapter 18 which speaks of the Israel as clay being shaped by a potter and evil being intended for Israel in the form of exile from the land and loss of nationhood:
6 Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.
Jeremiah 19 speaks of the breaking of these vessels, hence the exile of Israel and hence the lost tribes:
10 Then you shall break the jug in the sight of those who go with you, 11 and shall say to them: Thus says the Lord of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended. In Topheth they shall bury until there is no more room to bury. 12 Thus will I do to this place, says the Lord, and to its inhabitants, making this city like Topheth. 13 And the houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah shall be defiled like the place of Topheth—all the houses upon whose roofs offerings have been made to the whole host of heaven, and libations have been poured out to other gods. (Jeremiah 19:10-13)
Likewise the same word for clay jars in 2 Corinthians 4:6 is used in Isaiah 30:14 and in Isaiah chapter 29 it speaks also of Israel as clay vessels:
13 The Lord said: Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote; 14 so I will again do amazing things with this people, shocking and amazing. The wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.
15 Ha! You who hide a plan too deep for the Lord, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay? Shall the thing made say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of the one who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:13-16)
Likewise Isaiah 30 speaks of the breaking of these vessels:
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: Because you reject this word, and put your trust in oppression and deceit, and rely on them; 13 therefore this iniquity shall become for you like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant; 14 its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a sherd is found for taking fire from the hearth, or dipping water out of the cistern.
Similar language is used to refer to Israel in Hosea as vessels of wrath (Israel who was exiled) and vessels of mercy (Judah who stayed in the land) Paul uses this language also in Romans 9 to refer to the same thing.
What I think Paul is doing in 2 Cor 4:6-7 is talking about the light of Christ in the new covenant that would have been hidden in Israel if the lost tribes had not been exiled and suffered. It is only by the suffering and exile of the lost tribes that the clay vessels are broken and the light of Christ is revealed to all the nations:
6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
(2 Corinthians 4:6-7)
For more information on these symbols see:
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak,
It continues on talking about the suffering of Israel and the lost tribes. “I believe, and so I spoke” is a quote from Psalm 116:10 and Psalm 116 is about the millennial kingdom where all peoples will worship God:
It is a question of the praise of the Lord by all peoples. The second verse expresses the reason for the first verse: the goodness of the Lord has been experienced in the past, and his faithfulness will last forever. If we take into consideration the whole book of psalms, we see that this psalm comes to sum up and conclude all the psalms of the hallel, and even all the preceding psalms since Psalm 107, for they invite Israel and all nations to praise ‘Eternal.
Psalm 116:10 specifically refers to speaking of the deliverance from death that was received in verse 8-9:
8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. 9 I walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 10 I kept my faith, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; (Psalm 116:8-10)
Moving on in 2 Corinthians 3:14-15:
14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
The Resurrection of Israel in the millennial kingdom will be extended to more and more people from other nations with the deliverance from the ministry of death.
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:1-18)
This present life is temporary and is a forshadowing of life with God since we are saved through the new covenant enabling Israel to keep the law and by having the law written on our hearts.
Paul compares Moab to Sinai in Romans 10 and the Abrahamic Covenant to Sinai in Galatians 3–as an analogy for faith and works of law. In 2 Corinthians 3 I believe he is comparing Sinai (specifically its curses) to the new covenant an analogy of works of law verses faith .
What is Set Aside?
Ephesians 2:15 uses the same language for “set aside” as in 2 Corinthians 3:7, 2 Corinthians 3:11, and 2 Corinthians 3:13. Ephesians cannot be referring to the law being “set aside” because it has a parallel in Colossians 2:14 which specifically talks about human philosophy and elemental spirits not law. Therefore the language of “set aside” must refer to something human there and I believe it does refer to that in 2 Cor 3 too: salvation by works of the law.
If the law is καταργήσας [in Eph 2:14] then it is no longer in effect at all–it is not just surpressed. This is because the “law of commands and ordinances” is referred to as the “hostility between us” and it says that he has “broken down” or “loosed” the hostility between us:
“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace” (Eph 2:14-15)
This is the same word used in Matthew 5:19, 6:19
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (matthew 16:19)
It can’t use the same word to describe what has been done to the law that it uses to say in Matthew 5:19 will never be done to the law. Therefore, in Ephesians 2:14-15 it can’t be referring to the law and if you look at the parallel in Colossians 2 this is evident since it refers to proto-gnostic human teachings:
Paul described the heresy in Colossae as a “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world” (Col. 2:8 cf. Col. 2:4, 18). Gnostics believed that they alone had wisdom (sophia) and knowledge (gnōsis). Paul stated, however, that true wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Col. 2:3).
A pre-gnostic or syncretistic heresy was also being taught in the church at Ephesus. Paul addressed aspects of this heresy in his letters to Timothy. Timothy was caring for the church at Ephesus at that time.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:8-22)
So to sum up 2 Corinthians 3 I believe it is talking about an understanding of the law. Just as a true understanding of the law can be veiled and misunderstood so can a true understanding of the gospel and hence salvation. Observe the following:
2 Cor 3 is referring to the ministry of the covenants and not the covenants themselves.
. “NOT OF THE LETTER but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” The letter without the work of the spirit will bring death since we cannot keep the law without the holy spirit writing it on our hearts.
“the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone” refers to the curses of Sinai (Sinai had blessings too)
Paul uses the Sinai covenant as an analogy to compare a soteriology based on works of law (since that understanding would lead to death since Israel broke the Sinai covenant and needed redemption from it’s curses) to a soteriology based on faith (since Christ would enable Israel to be righteous under the Sinai covenant through the holy spirit writing the law on our hearts) I talk about some of these ideas here: https://hebrewroots.intentionalcommunities.world/2018/11/04/the-two-covenants-of-galatians-4/
“the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside” Notice it is the glory that is “set aside” not the old covenant itself since through the work of the holy spirit Israel will attain the blessings of the old covenant.
As we have already discussed the language of “set aside” is used in Ephesians and Colossians to talk about human teachings being set aside.
For a kal va-homer argument to work the thing you are comparing needs to be good already. I can’t say that my living room is well-lit because “my basement has no lights how much brighter is my living room?” The argument is meaningless. Maybe my living room is brighter than my basement but it doesn’t mean my living room well-lit because there is literally no light in my basement. For the new covenant to be great the old covenant has to be good at least and not something that is just set aside.
All verses are in Young’s Literal Translation unless otherwise noted.
The first parallel is for the purpose of showing that sometimes the word “nations” (gentiles) was used to refer to the lost tribes of Israel from the northern kingdom also called “Ephraim:”
For I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, of this secret — that ye may not be wise in your own conceits — that hardness in part to Israel hath happened till the fulness of the nations may come in; (Romans 11:25)
19 And his father refuseth, and saith, `I have known, my son, I have known; he also becometh a people, and he also is great, and yet, his young brother is greater than he, and his seed is the fulness of the nations;’ (Genesis 48:19)
Paul Parallels, apostle to the Gentiles or to the lost tribes of Israel? Read these verses and the context around them:
12 having also a wall great and high, having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve messengers, and names written thereon, which are [those] of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel, . . . 24 and the nations of the saved in its light shall walk, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it, (Rev 21:12-24)
15 And the Lord said unto him, `Be going on, because a choice vessel to Me is this one, to bear My name before nations and kings — the sons also of Israel; 16 for I will shew him how many things it behoveth him for My name to suffer.’ (Acts 9:15-16) (referring to Paul)
3 And come have nations to thy light, And kings to the brightness of thy rising. 4 Lift up round about thine eyes and see, All of them have been gathered, they have come to thee, Thy sons [referring to Israel] from afar do come, And thy daughters on the side are supported. (Isaiah 60:3-4)
7 Thus said Jehovah, Redeemer of Israel, His Holy One, To the despised in soul, To the abominated of a nation, To the servant of rulers: `Kings see, and have risen, princes, and worship, For the sake of Jehovah, who is faithful, The Holy of Israel, and He chooseth thee.’ . . . 22 Thus said the Lord Jehovah: `Lo, I lift up unto nations My hand, And unto peoples I raise up Mine ensign, And they have brought thy sons in the bosom, And thy daughters on the shoulder are carried. 23 And kings have been thy nursing fathers, And their princesses thy nursing mothers; Face to the earth — they bow down to thee, And the dust of thy feet they lick up, And thou hast known that I [am] Jehovah, That those expecting Me are not ashamed. (Isaiah 49:7-23)
10 and God saith to him, Thy name [is] Jacob: thy name is no more called Jacob, but Israel is thy name;’ and He calleth his name Israel. 11 And God saith to him,I [am] God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply, a nation and an assembly of nations is from thee, and kings from thy loins go out; (Gen 35:10-11)
15 And God saith unto Abraham, `Sarai thy wife — thou dost not call her name Sarai, for Sarah [is] her name; 16 and I have blessed her, and have also given to thee a son from her; and I have blessed her, and she hath become nations — kings of peoples are from her.’ (Genesis 17:15-16)
Essentially, Paul was chosen by God, so we already know that he was qualified to be a leader–but assuming some elders were not going to be miraculously chosen–Paul gives requirements for the selection of Elders that would ensure that they were decent leaders. I couldn’t reconcile the language in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 with the position that elders weren’t required to be married and have children especially in 1 Timothy where it states “4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);” Maybe there were some cultural considerations taken into account with these requirements. We agreed on this conclusion but for various different reasons.
We decided to revisit the issue this bible study and invited another group with different perspectives, one of whom joined us and in addition we had another with a similar perspective contrary to the conclusion we came to previously. We discussed the requirements for Elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The main points of disagreement were:
1 Were these
requirements conditional upon the person being married and having
children? Essentially could the actual meaning be: “if they are
married then they must be the husband of one wife” and “if he has
children he must rule
his own house well, having his
children in submission with all reverence”?
2 What Paul meant by
“husband of one wife”
3 Did Paul mean this
in a universal sense or in a local sense i.e. for the churches under
his control at that time
1: The first part of
the discussion was whether Paul could mean something in a conditional
sense without the use of “if”. We weren’t able to find other
places where Paul does this like he would have to in 1 Timothy 3 and
Titus 1 but some maintained that this was conditional since it would
be absurd to think that Paul would have excluded many capable people
from leadership possibly just because their wife died or they were
sterile and didn’t adopt children etc . . .
The idea I brought up was that it wouldn’t have been absurd for Paul to require elders to be married and have children since it was required of the Sanhedrin (whom Paul previously worked closely with in Acts 7:54-58) citing Maimonides: “3 We should not appoint to a Sanhedrin a man of very old age or one who does not possess male physical attributes, for they possess the trait of cruelty, nor a man who is childless, so that the judges should be merciful.” http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1172725/jewish/Sanhedri
Also Paul was a
Pharisee and Pharisees although not required to be married were
greatly encouraged because of the commandment to be fruitful and
multiply (getting this from David Bivin “New Light on the Difficult
Words of Jesus: Insights from His Jewish Context”)
Jews teach, a priest should be neither unmarried nor childless, lest
he be unmerciful [Bengel]. So in the synagogue, “no one shall
offer up prayer in public, unless he be married” [in Colbo, ch.
65; Vitringa, Synagogue and Temple].”
However, it was also
pointed out that the requirements in the oral law were something that
Jesus often condemned even though we do have some decrees written in
the early church like in Acts 15 (and sent out to the churches Acts
16) that are comparable to the oral law in that they weren’t
directly from scripture (even though they were based on scripture)
Also if we take it like this 1 Timothy 3:12 would also mean deacons
had to be married.
The idea was also
brought up that if we are going to take these elder requirements of
marriage and children as conditional without the presence of “if”
we might as well start taking other parts of the verses as having
additional considerations, maybe “husband of one wife” meant that
he was only the husband of one in the past even if he is now a
widower, or that the he had to have children at some point. This
might be a more conservative way to read it and yet still resolve the
exclusion of these people without explanation that comes with these
requirement of “husband of one wife” was discussed. Since the
marriage covenant is annulled upon death (Romans 7) you have the
possible issue of someone not being able to continue to be an elder
after their wife dies (which seems a bit unfair) unless they remarry
and then are they the husband of “one wife?” (I think yes because
they are no longer married to their previous wife) Some commentators
take this as an idiom for “faithful to his wife”
(see Barnes Notes on The Bible) I think this in context would
prohibit people from serial marrying and divorcing as was common
practice (maybe because polygyny had been outlawed already) I think
the following verses imply serial marriage was a problem:
Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18
We had differing opinions on whether this was referring to a
universal requirement for elders. Some evidence from the word usage
may be used to connect this to elders in the old testament. Although,
if you look at the usage it seems to also be a generic term for
people who were in charge of things.
Numbers 31:14 in LXX
seems to connect elders in Ex 18 to Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1 since it
uses the same word as in the NT and says they were commanders “ of
thousands and commanders of hundreds”
Paul says this is a
“word” (logos) and he starts out these requirements by saying
“true is the word” or “This is a faithful saying” in 1
Timothy 3:1 and it seems to be used for both universal and localized
If Paul’s words are to be taken as universal for all πρεσβύτερος or ἐπίσκοπος we have to reconcile the fact that these words are also used in a generic sense for people in authority or in the case of πρεσβύτερος someone who is old. If it is universal for the type of eldership in Ex 18 then we still have to deal with the fact that he adds to those requirements. If we take Paul’s word as being for the type of eldership in Ex 18 and those in higher positions (like apostles) we have to reconcile the fact that Paul wasn’t married and Deborah was a woman.
There are several ways to do this. If these statements about elders were an ideal (and not as the indicative present active mood would suggest) since this must be interpreted in context of the
Bible as a whole; Deborah would have been an exception in extenuating
circumstances. Paul could have been an exception as well.
If these statements
about elders are requirements then maybe they are local to the
churches he speaks of or to the cultural context.
The issue of Junia
was brought up. Junia might be a female apostle mentioned in Romans
16:7 This was the view taken by the Greek fathers including
Chrysostom. However there is some debate about this:
Wallace and Burer
freely admit they are in minority on this position: “The vast bulk
of translations and commentators today regard this line as indicating
that Andronicus and Junia were apostles, though not in the most
technical sense of that word.”
references to scholars arguing in the affirmative:
In addition to Junia
one wonders if Joab’s and the people’s behavior at Abel Beth
Maacah in 2 Samuel 20:16-26 indicated that the wise woman had a
position of authority. In a similar way the wise woman of Tekoa is
listened to by the king himself in 2 Samuel 14:4-16, was “wise
woman” an official title?
Some evidence for
Deborah being an exception was brought up. In some translations of
the Seputagint she states that she arose after the leadership of the
men failed: “The mighty men in Israel failed, they failed until
Debbora arose, until she arose a mother in Israel”
However this is not
the only translation of the LXX. Others simply say “the ones
dwelling in Israel” http://studybible.info/interlinear/judges%205:7
and although the word for “one’s dwelling” (κατοικούντες)
is in the masculine plural, to take this as just “males dwelling”
does not work. Similar to how in english the masculine can also be
generic e.g. “mankind” and “you guys,” this is how this form
in Greek can be used. For instance when it says “But
the ones dwelling in Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath became to them for
tribute” it includes the female inhabitants:
Likewise: “All who
dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been
written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the
Lamb who has been slain.” includes women:
For codex B I’ve come to the same conclusion: http://biblehub.com/greek/dunatoi_1415.htm however for A I can’t figure out what φραζων means. However,it seems to just designate a spokesperson without gender since it is an “indeclinable proper noun” (doesn’t have gender) and doesn’t have a masculine context: http://studybible.info/compare/Judges%205:7 In keeping with the idea of the masculine generic it seems it is translated “spokesman” or “spokesperson”, “A spokesman was lacking in Israel; he was lacking . . .” for more information see:
differences between the Codices may be because the poetic and unusual
Hebrew the song of Deborah uses. For instance in Codex B ἀναστῇ
is in the subjunctive mood, which might be translated as “in order
for her to arise” but it isn’t in the same mood in Codex A. This
is just my best ideas as to what these things mean.
In addition the
context is that Barak would not obey what God told him to do, so it
is possible Deborah is just insulting him because of this.
Isaiah 3:12 was also
brought up and it was either interpreted as implying women shouldn’t
rule to being figurative or simply idiomatic in that cultural context
since it also says “[Israel’s] oppressors are children” hence
it may be saying Israel would be ruled over by weak or effeminate
Deborah seems to have similar authority to Moses, if you compare Judges 4:5 and Exodus 18:13 the people came before her for judgement. Also both are called prophets Judges 4:4, Numbers 12:6-8. We didn’t deal with the broader context of female leadership some of which is talked about in articles such as these with very different conclusions: https://www.opc.org/qa.html?question_id=155 http://christianthinktank.com/femalex.html
In the OPC statement
they are using the Hebrew word in Ruth 1:1 (also appearing in Judges
4:4) to say Deborah was only a civil authority, they state: “It
was not a position of religious authority; the priests and Levites
were the preachers and worship leaders during that time.”
can look at the word usage and it’s definition here. God is called
“judge of the earth” in Gen 18:25 so I think this goes
beyond a “civil”
note it is used to refer to the elders Moses set up in Exodus 18 via
Deu 1:16 where the word is used. You aren’t going to find it used for
elders in the new testament simply because it’s a Hebrew word.
In additions to
these connections between old testament and new testament authority
the 12 Apostles may have been appointed to be like the 12 princes of
Israel that you see in the old testament, compare: Matthew 19:28 and
Luke 22:30, to quote:
“God had promised
David that his “house” (i.e., dynasty) would be everlasting, yet
it appeared to have vanished along with the twelve tribes over which
he ruled. The prophets reassured the people that this situation would
not last forever. David’s family tree might appear to be cut down,
but God would raise up “… a shoot from the stump of Jesse”
(Isaiah 11:1). Micah prophesied that he was to be born in Bethlehem
and “when she who is to give birth has borne … the rest of his
brethren shall return to the children of Israel.” There would be a
Davidic kingdom that would gather in the twelve tribes of Israel
scattered throughout the world.
Jesus is the Messiah
king, the true son of David, who after his birth in Bethlehem of the
Blessed Virgin, “rebuilds the fallen tent of David” (Acts 15:16)
and like a Good Shepherd gathers those who are lost back to himself.
Just as King David ruled with twelve princes, Jesus chose twelve
Apostles. But Christ’s kingdom is more than David’s earthly
kingdom. It’s not based on heredity or tied to one geographic
location; it’s based on grace. The Apostles are to teach, sanctify
and govern all the people of God, regardless of their race. Like the
twelve princes, the Apostles held offices which after their death
were occupied by successors (bishops) who continued their ministry.
As such, the fact
that there were twelve Apostles is very significant and certainly not
arbitrary. They are the ones who, in the age to come, will sit on
twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28,
Luke 22:30). Twelve, in the Bible, means more than a dozen.”
13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
1 On Paul’s “former conduct” in “Judaism.” It’s clear to me that he couldn’t have said that he is no longer a jew because Christianity didn’t exist yet. Also, for the following reasons:
Acts 28:17 New King James Version (NKJV) 17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans,
Acts 23:6 New King James Version (NKJV) 6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
Acts 22:3 New King James Version (NKJV) 3 “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.
Acts 25:8 New King James Version (NKJV) 8 while he answered for himself, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.”
Consider also Paul’s statement that he is a member of what is called a sect of Judaism before the Romans:
13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. (Acts 24 NKJV)
. . . Ἰουδαϊσμῷ The rendering of this word in our versions, Jewish religion, is unfortunate: it implies a definite separation between the two religions which did not then exist, for Christians were still habitual worshippers in the synagogue; and it puts this view into the mouth of Paul, who steadfastly persisted in identifying the faith of Christ with the national religion. The word Ἰουδαϊζειν denotes the adoption of Jewish habits, language, or policy (cf. Galatians 2:14). So here Ἰουδαϊσμός denotes Jewish partisanship . . .
(Expositor’s Greek Testament)
. . . the Jews’ religion] One word in the original, which does not occur elsewhere in the N. T. except in Galatians 1:14. From the use of the corresponding verb, we may regard it as referring not to the religion revealed to the Jews in the writings of Moses and the prophets, but that which was its actual development in St Paul’s day, when the word of God had been overlaid and ‘made of none effect’ by the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, and the puerile conceits of the Rabbinic expositors. . . .(Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges) https://biblehub.com/commentaries/galatians/1-13.htm
“former” modifies “conduct” not “Judaism” (G2454)
So Paul had a former behavior in “Judaism” and now he has a different behavior in “Judaism” after learning the gospel of Christ.
13–14 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.
The word “Judaism” ( jIoudai>smov~, ioudaismos) is used only here (twice, once in v. 13 and once in v. 14) in the whole Apostolic Scriptures. It is found only five times in the Lxx (2Mac 2.21; 8.1; 14.38(2x); 4Mac 4.26) and then only in the Maccabees. Y. Amir, in a study entitled “The Term Ioudaismos: A Study in Jewish-Hellenistic Self-Identification,”50 comes to the conclusion that the word means a “a sort of fenced-off area in which Jewish lives are led.”
the word this is derived from G2450 (verb form) which is only used in Ester 8:17 and Galatians 2:14 https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G2450 In Gal 2:14 it is used to denote specific Jewish practices. In Ester 8:17 it is used for “jewish-like” in “were circumcised and were jewish-like” indicating that it might mean something other than circumcision. A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE SEPTUAGINT defines it as:
Dunn thinks that the term may indicate something other than “circumcision” (=becoming a proselyte), since its only other use (the Lxx of Esther 8:17) has both the term “circumcised” as well as “made themselves Jews” (the verb ‘to circumcise” is lacking in the Hebrew). But the Lxx phrase (“and many of the Gentiles were circumcised, and became Jews, for fear of the Jews”) may well be simply a commentary on “becoming a Jew.” From the Lxx translators’ standpoint, this surely involved the ritual of the proselyte. It hardly seems possible that Paul would have so sharply denounced Peter if he was simply trying to persuade the Gentiles to take on Jewish customs. This hardly goes
contrary to the gospel. Rather, it seems to me far more likely that Peter, for what ever reasons, was attempting to sway the Gentile believers over to the viewpoint of the “party of the circumcision,” that full covenant membership was only available to Jews.
From the viewpoint of the influencers, the whole matter turned on the observance of established halachah. But for Paul, the issue was that of the gospel: “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel ….” The word translated “straightforward” by the NASB (“not acting in line,” NIV; “their conduct was not in step,” ESV) is interesting. It is ojrqopodevw, orthopodeõ, being made of two words; ortho, meaning “straight” (note our English “orthodontist”) and pous, “foot.” The obvious idea is “to walk in a straight path,” “to be on the right road.” Our modern idiom, “walk a straight line” fits the meaning well. It was not that Peter and those he was following were denying the gospel, nor attempting to undermine it directly. Rather, their approach to this whole matter was a detour from the gospel, and one that Paul feared would so sidetrack the Gentile believers as to keep them from reaching the goal
In the context of Galatians 2, G2450 may be related to a halacha or Jewish practice: 1 a false gospel or good news (how you are saved) and 2 justifying yourself by works of the law. . . This seems to fall outside of torah vs. non-torah observant, rather it is a certain take the Torah or on Judaism. (mainly the false idea that you needed to become a Jew to be saved) In this case it was false but that doesn’t mean the word G2450 implies falsity. See below:
13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew (G2450), live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Gal 2)
Note: “we are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners” is tongue-and-cheek (explained later)
Peter’s hypocrisy consisted of his having engaged in table fellowship
with the Gentiles when unobserved by the Jerusalem folk, but separating from the Gentiles when the group from James arrived, and even compelling them to submit to proselytism in order to be accepted by the party of the circumcision. The Greek has ijoudai÷zw, ioudaizõ, “to live like a Jew,” used only here in the Apostolic Scriptures. The Lxx utilizes this same verb in Esther 8:17 (the only time found in the Lxx) to translate the hapax legoumena . . . , mityahadim, “made themselves Jews.” Though the term is used only these two times in biblical literature, the meaning is clear: Peter had been swayed by the “party of the circumcision” to compel (ajnagkavzw, anagkazõ45) the Gentiles to submit to the ritual of a proselyte. Interestingly, Paul used this same word (Acts 26:11) to describe his attempts to “force” the believers in Yeshua to blaspheme in order to have a sure judgment against them https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/study-in-galatians/galatians_commentary.pdf
2 How was Peter compelling Gentiles to live as Jews? By making them undergo the proselyte ritual in order to consider them saved and hence worthy of table fellowship. Similar to how Paul was put in a situation where he was “compelled” to call on Cesar where same word is used: Acts 28:19 https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G315
3 The Revelation that Paul had was about Yeshua’s salvation for the nations. It seems like this revelation started on the road to Damascus and continued afterward:
15 But when God thought well to separate me from out of the belly of my mother, and called me by his favor, 16 to reveal his son in me, that I should announce him good news among the nations; immediately I did not confer with flesh and blood; (Gal 1 ABP)
4 A suggestion on how the New Covenant is different:
The New Covenant covenant is different in that it is God writing the law on the heart rather than man. This I think is significant. Let’s say I make an agreement with you that you will build a house with certain specifications and that I will pay you a certain amount of money. Then I propose a different agreement where the only difference is that I will build the house instead of you. That’s pretty significant, even if I don’t change the money or any of the other specifications. I think maybe the other difference is that God is able to write the law on the heart much better than man (hence why no one will need to teach another which is also different): this is possibly why it also differs in that God will write the law “on your inward parts” or “inside of you” in the New Covenant (maybe a deeper writing than just the mind)
Compare inward parts to heart (I thought this was kind of interesting)
There seems to be some significance to the writing surface and instrument used in metaphors involving writing: As a side note ￼ Jer 17:13 is used to explain what Jesus wrote in the dust: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZSG7p5DQ-M
￼ Jer 17:1 The sin of Judah is written H3789 with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; (KJV)
Jer 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written H3789 in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters. (KJV)
Deu 30:14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. (KJV)
It says in proverbs to either write God’s law on your heart or to write the instructions of whoever is writing proverbs on your heart:
￼ Pro 3:3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write H3789 them upon the table of thine heart: (KJV)
￼ Pro 7:3 Bind them upon thy fingers, write H3789 them upon the table of thine heart. (KJV)
Jer 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write H3789 it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (KJV)
It seems like God would have better instruments than us to write the law. Keil and Deilitzche in their commentary on Deut 10:6 make the observation that the writing surface will be entirely different as well:
The Lord will then circumcise their heart, and the heart of their children (see Deuteronomy 10:16), so that they will love Him with all their heart. When Israel should turn with true humility to the Lord, He would be found of them, – would lead them to true repentance, and sanctify them through the power of His grace, – would take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, a new heart and a new spirit, – so that they should truly know Him and keep His commandments (vid., Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33. and Deuteronomy 32:39.). “Because of thy life,” i.e., that thou mayest live, sc., attain to true life. The fulfilment of this promise does not take place all at once. It commenced with small beginnings at the deliverance from the Babylonian exile, and in a still higher degree at the appearance of Christ in the case of all the Israelites who received Him as their Saviour. Since then it has been carried on through all ages in the conversion of individual children of Abraham to Christ; and it will be realized in the future in a still more glorious manner in the nation at large (Romans 11:25.). The words of Moses do not relate to any particular age, but comprehend all times. For Israel has never been hardened and rejected in all its members, although the mass of the nation lives under the curse even to the present day.
5 Something interesting “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles” might be Paul being sarcastic. Hence, he is also speaking against the idea of “works of the law” in this case going through the ritual of proselyte and becoming a “Jew by nature” is not going to automatically save you are make you not a sinner.
Paul quotes (perhaps a bit “tongue-in-cheek”) the primary premise of the party of the circumcision: “we are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners.” This is not Paul’s perspective, but that of the influencers. Dunn agrees:
This language rings oddly on the lips of Paul, until we realize what hewas doing. Paul was putting himself in the shoes of a typical Jew who looked out at the rest of the world as outside the realm of God’s covenant righteousness and sinful (cf. Eph 2:12). More to the point, he was using the language of typical Jewish factionalism, which was ready to condemn those Jews who disagreed with the sect’s interpretation of what the law required as ‘sinners’— outside their sectarian understanding of the covenant, which meant, of course, from the sectarian viewpoint, outside the covenant. In fact, Paul was probably echoing the language used by the ‘individuals from James’ when they spoke against the Jewish Christians’ table-fellowship with the Gentile believers: such table-fellowship with ‘Gentile sinners’ was unacceptable.46
Thus, when Paul writes, “we are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners,” he is deliberately using the language of those who were distancing themselves from the Gentiles, encouraging them to become proselytes in order to leave the status of “sinner” and enter the circle of “Jews by birth.”
Conclusion: I think G2454 and G2450 refers to practice or halacha of Judaism. That is, Paul had abandoned his former practice in Judaism that viewed converting to Judaism (or jewish-like) as a prerequisite for salvation. To quote Tim Hegg:
There is no doubt that Paul made a clear distinction between his former life, lived under the acceptance of the prevailing Pharisaic belief that Jewish status rendered one a member of the covenant, and his current life lived in the reality of the risen Messiah. But such a distinction said nothing about the place of the divinely inspired Torah, and its central importance in the life of the believer. What it did contrast, however, was the life of faith in Messiah Yeshua and the
message of the influencers which insisted upon Jewish status as a prerequisite for covenant membership.
All verses are in the NRSV unless otherwise noted. This is a document written in response to some things about the law we were discussing at Bible study.
To understand the two covenants we must start with Paul’s introductory comments here:
Tell me, you who desire to be subject G5259 to the law, will you not listen to the law? (Galatians 4:21)
or more literally:
Tell me, ye who are willing to be under G5259 law, the law do ye not hear? (Gal 4:21 YLT)
What does “under G5259 law G3551” mean? Paul earlier compares “works of the law”–which is an Essene teaching that one could be justified by keeping certain laws–to the work of Christ. Paul argues against “works of the law” and contrasts it with faith in many different places.
There are several directions you can go with the meaning of “under law.” Gesenius connects H8478 to G5259 “under” in Greek and lists places when it can be used to designate being under to “authority” for instance “under her husband” means “under the authority of her husband”  In addition Luke 7:8 and Matthew 8:9 clearly make this connection of being “under” someone to being “under the authority of” someone. Gesenius gives Nu. 5:19 and Eze. 23:5 as examples which both have the context of punishment for the wrong-doing while “under” the husband.  However, what does it mean to be “under authority?” If we go with this meaning I would suggest it means close to “under power”  the usage in the new testament seems to fit better with “power” than plain “authority.”  After all, what good is authority if you don’t have the power to carry it out? However, the meaning of “under” seems to depend on what is metaphorically on top.  The closest I could find to being under “law” in the Greek Septuagint was in 2 Maccabees 7:36 which speaks of dying “under (God’s) covenant” i.e. ὑπὸ διαθήκην (θεοῦ). The result or consequence of dying while “under God’s covenant” is “everlasting life.”  “Under covenant” is the closest parallel to “under law” I have found, therefore, keep in mind this meaning of “under the results of the law” when we read “under law” in the following. Let’s start in Romans to see if “under results” fits. In addition, I believe you can prove that Paul did not view being obligated to follow the law as the same as being under the law. Here he claims that he is not under the law but still with the law. Hence he won’t have to face the consequences or penalty of the law but still believes he should follow the law:
20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. (1 Corinthians 9:20-21)
First some context:
6 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)
This is a quote from Habakkuk 2:4 and the context is about the Chaldeans being eventually judged for plundering Israel and other nations even though they are about to destroy the temple and attack Israel. This was brought about by Israel’s sin:
4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith. 5 Moreover, wealth is treacherous; the arrogant do not endure. They open their throats wide as Sheol; like Death they never have enough. They gather all nations for themselves, and collect all peoples as their own.
6 Shall not everyone taunt such people and, with mocking riddles, say about them,
“Alas for you who heap up what is not your own!” How long will you load yourselves with goods taken in pledge? 7 Will not your own creditors suddenly rise, and those who make you tremble wake up? Then you will be booty for them. 8 Because you have plundered many nations, all that survive of the peoples shall plunder you— because of human bloodshed, and violence to the earth, to cities and all who live in them. (Habakkuk 2:4-8)
Tim Hegg notes:
The context of the Habakkuk text is the conclusion of the prophet’s cry of woe, in which he questions God over the use of the Chaldeans to punish the chosen people. For the prophet, this brought into question God’s justice and even His holiness (1:13f). In raising the question of how God could use such a wicked nation to punish His people, he awaits God’s answer (2:1). The Lord’s answer comes in the form of a revelation or vision that Habakkuk was to record and make known. It’s application would be for the appointed time, and those who believed in God would await its fulfillment, even though it might appear for the interim that it was not correct. The proud in heart would doubtless refuse to accept the revelation given to the prophet, but the one who had faith (and would thus accept the revelation) would live, i.e., preserve his life on the basis of acting in accordance with the revelation which God would give the prophet. Thus, “the just shall live by faith.” https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/through-romans/RomansVol1.pdf
We find important clues as to the meaning of “faith” in this quote of Habakkuk by understanding the Hebrew word ה ָמוּנֱא’ ,emunah. The first time we find the word in the Tanach, it refers to the hands of Moses held up by Aaron and Hur (Ex 17:12)—“his hands were ה ָמוּנֱא until the going down of the sun,” i.e., they were raised continually and incessantly. In every other passage where the term ה ָמוּנֱא is found, it refers to the conduct of persons or of God, sometimes categorizing such actions as attributes (“faithful,” “genuine,” “reliable,” etc.). Jepsen notes:
Thus ‘emunah is not so much an abstract quality . . . but a way of acting which grows out of inner stability, “conscientiousness.” Whereas ‘emeth [a related word meaning “truth”] is always used in relationship to something (or someone) on which (or whom) one can rely, ‘emunah seems more to emphasize one’s own inner attitude and the conduct it produces. The frequently suggested translation, “conscientiousness,” would seem to come closest to the meaning intended in many passages.26
On the basis of the meaning of ה ָמוּנֱא’ ,emunah, it seems warranted that some translations (NEB, JPS, margin of RSV and NRSV) have opted to translate Hab 2:4 along the lines of “the righteous will live on the basis of his faithfulness.” Indeed, in BDB’s Lexicon (p. 53) Hab 2:4b is translated as “a righteous man by his faithfulness liveth.” https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/through-romans/RomansVol1.pdf
Keil and Delitzsch state:
אמוּנה does not denote “an honourable character, or fidelity to conviction” (Hitzig), but (from ‘âman, to be firm, to last) firmness (Exodus 17:12); then, as an attribute of God, trustworthiness, unchangeable fidelity in the fulfilment of His promises (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 33:4; Psalm 89:34); and, as a personal attribute of man, fidelity in word and deed (Jeremiah 7:28; Jeremiah 9:2; Psalm 37:3); and, in his relation to God, firm attachment to God, an undisturbed confidence in the divine promises of grace, firma fiducia and fides, so that in ‘ĕmūnâh the primary meanings of ne’ĕmân and he’ĕmı̄n are combined. This is also apparent from the fact that Abraham is called ne’ĕmân in Nehemiah 9:8, with reference to the fact that it is affirmed of him in Genesis 15:6 that האמין בּיהוה, “he trusted, or believed, the Lord;” and still more indisputably from the passage before us, since it is impossible to mistake the reference in צדּיק בּאמוּנתו יחיה to Genesis 15:6, “he believed (he’ĕmı̄n) in Jehovah, and He reckoned it to him litsedâqâh.” It is also indisputably evident from the context that our passage treats of the relation between man and God, since the words themselves speak of a waiting (chikkâh) for the fulfilment of a promising oracle, which is to be preceded by a period of severe suffering. “What is more natural than that life or deliverance from destruction should be promised to that faith which adheres faithfully to God, holds fast by the word of promise, and confidently waits for its fulfilment in the midst of tribulation? It is not the sincerity, trustworthiness, or integrity of the righteous man, regarded as being virtues in themselves, which are in danger of being shaken and giving way in such times of tribulation, but, as we may see in the case of the prophet himself, his faith. To this, therefore, there is appended the great promise expressed in the one word יחיה” (Delitzsch). And in addition to this, ‘ĕmūnâh is opposed to the pride of the Chaldaean, to his exaltation of himself above God; and for that very reason it cannot denote integrity in itself, but simply some quality which has for its leading feature humble submission to God, that is to say, faith, or firm reliance upon God. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/habakkuk/3.htm
This type of “faith” is different than checking off a rule list. In the verses before the vision of justice was said by God to not come for a while but that it would surely come so a long-suffering trust is implied in God’s promises:
2 Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. 3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)
Paul is using this to say that the basis for justifying sinners (sinners such as Israel) was always this type of faith. Habakkuk later makes a connection to eschatology according to Keil and Delitzsch. This is possibly why Paul says he is “not ashamed” of the gospel since he knows Christ will have victory in the end:
In Habakkuk 3:12 there follows a description of the judgment upon the nations for the rescue of the people of God. Habakkuk 3:12. “In fury Thou walkest through the earth, in wrath Thou stampest down nations. Habakkuk 3:13. Thou goest out to the rescue of Thy people, to the rescue of Thine anointed one; Thou dashest in pieces the head from the house of the wicked one, laying bare the foundation even to the neck. Selah. Habakkuk 3:14. Thou piercest with his spears the head of his hordes, which storm hither to beat me to powder, whose rejoicing is, as it were, to swallow the poor in secret. Habakkuk 3:15. Thou treadest upon the sea: Thy horses, upon the heap of great waters.” The Lord, at whose coming in the terrible glory of the majesty of the Judge of the world all nature trembles and appears to fall into its primary chaotic state, marches over the earth, and stamps or tramples down the nations with His feet (compare the kindred figure of the treader of the winepress in Isaiah 63:1-6). Not all nations, however, but only those that are hostile to Him; for He has come forth to save His people and His anointed one. The perfects in Habakkuk 3:13-15 are prophetic, describing the future in spirit as having already occurred. יצא, referring to the going out of God to fight for His people, as in Judges 5:4; 2 Samuel 5:24; Isaiah 42:13, etc. ישׁע, rescue, salvation, is construed the second time with an accusative like an inf. constr. (see Ewald, 239, a). The anointed of God is not the chosen, consecrated nation (Schnur., Ros., Hitzig, Ewald, etc.); for the nation of Israel is never called the anointed one (hammâshı̄ăch) by virtue of its calling to be “a kingdom of priests” (mamlekheth kohănı̄m, Exodus 19:6), neither in Psalm 28:8 nor in Psalm 84:10; Psalm 89:39. Even in Psalm 105:15 it is not the Israelites who are called by God “my anointed” (meshı̄chai), but the patriarchs, as princes consecrated by God (Genesis 23:6). And so here also משׁיחך is the divinely-appointed king of Israel; not, however, this or that historical king – say Josiah, Jehoiakim, or even Jehoiachin – but the Davidic king absolutely, including the Messiah, in whom the sovereignty of David is raised to an eternal duration, “just as by the Chaldaean king here and in Psalm 2:1-12 we must understand the Chaldaean kings generally” (Delitzsch), wince the prophecy spreads from the judgment upon the Chaldaeans to the universal judgment upon the nations, and the Chaldaean is merely introduced as the possessor of the imperial power. The Messiah as the Son of David is distinguished from Jehovah, and as such is the object of divine help, just as in Zechariah 9:9, where He is called נושׁע in this respect, and in the royal Messianic psalms. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/habakkuk/3.htm
If we realize that this type of faith (or the belief Abraham: “he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” or the obedience of Abraham: compare Hebrews 11:8) is different than having everything checked off with regards to your observance of the law–then we can see how Yeshua can tell the rich young ruler to “keep the commandments” to inherit eternal life:
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” 21 He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18-22)
16 Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:16-21)
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-21)
Paul as well can say:
6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” (Romans 4:6-8)
This is because “keeping the commands” is not the same as doing specific works.
In Luke 18:21 “kept” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G5442
in Matthew 19:17 “kept” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G5083
in Mark 10:19 “know” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G1492
in Mark 10:20 “kept” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G5442
If you look at these words and their context this has to do with guarding and respecting/remembering. Check the following occurrences. Really, I think this is not about the laws but about honoring the lawgiver himself. You can safely ignore the word for “know” because I think Yeshua was just pointing out that the man already knew what to guard not that this was a prerequisite for guarding but I’ve posted it below for completeness sake)
To summarize: “guarding the commandments leads to eternal life because by guarding the commandments you show you honor the commander but doing any number of specific things in the law will not gain you salvation.” Paul also uses different covenants to make analogies. He compares Moab to Sinai in Romans 10 and the Abrahamic Covenant to Sinai in Galatians 3. Some Jewish tradition considers Sinai to be lacking in some ways. In addition Israel broke Sinai and so were already subject to the curses of Sinai. See the following relevant post for more information on this:
As we move on we will see that Paul uses the journey of Israel (from Sinai to the new covenant or the fulfillment of the promises of Abraham) as an analogy for our individual journey: being shown to be imperfect by the law and turning to God’s grace and in thankfulness keeping the law.
Paul continues Romans by talking about idolatry:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32)
Continuing on we have something interesting:
1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:1-11)
Paul uses Israel’s idolatry to point out that both they and the pagan nations are without excuse as Tim Hegg notes this is addressed to the Jewish part of the congregation:
The opening word of the second chapter, “Therefore,” has caused some difficulty in understanding how what Paul is now saying connects to what he has already said in chapter one. But to answer this question we must first ask ourselves to whom Paul addresses his remarks in the present text: to Gentiles who were a “cut above” in their moral outlook, or to Jews, or to a mixed group? While each of these options have been held by scholars, I would think that several factors weight the case toward Paul addressing Jews beginning in 2:1. Here are the reasons: 1) the language of v. 4 fits the history of Israel but does not fit God’s activity toward the nations. While it is true that He does show mercy to the Gentiles (such as at Ninevah), the strong language of mercy and patience in view of Israel’s often rebellion seems to underly Paul’s words here. 2) Since it seems clear that Paul has two groups in mind in 1:18-3:20, i.e., Jews and Gentiles, it seems most likely that he refers to Jews when he characterizes a group as morally superior, as he does in 2:1ff. 3) It is clear that he addresses the Jew at v. 17, but it does not seem that he begins to address someone different at this point than he has from the beginning of the chapter. Therefore, one would conclude that he addresses Jews from the beginning of the chapter. 4) It was characteristic, at least by the report of our extant literature, of some (perhaps a majority of) Pharisees that they had an attitude of superiority toward the Gentiles, so that the attitudes described in the opening verses of our chapter best describe the Jew rather than the Gentile. In light of these things, I would think it best to interpret Paul’s words in 2:1ff as addressed primarily to the Jewish congregant in the synagogue at Rome https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/through-romans/RomansVol1.pdf
Notice Paul is not speaking to people as individuals but people as part of Israel and God’s people in the greater historical context. This is thinking that seems to be prevalent in the Bible and hence Israel’s particular tribal culture. Another example of this type of corporate non-individualist thinking appears in the prayer that Daniel makes for Israel in Daniel 9. Paul then uses this to establish that everyone is guilty. However, he notes that different people will be judged in different ways:
12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18 and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19 and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21 you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God. (Romans 2:12-29)
Verse 2:27 is more literally translated as:
27 and the uncircumcision, by nature, fulfilling the law, shall judge thee who, through letter and circumcision, [art] a transgressor of law. 28 For he is not a Jew who is [so] outwardly, neither [is] circumcision that which is outward in flesh; 29 but a Jew [is] he who is [so] inwardly, and circumcision [is] of the heart, in spirit, not in letter, of which the praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:27-29 YLT)
Notice how “letter”, “flesh”, and “outward” are contrasted with “spirit”, “spiritual” and “inward.” The school of Hillel was lenient and followed the “spirit” of the law while Shammai followed the “letter” of the law and was strict. Yeshua seems to side with Hillel most of the time. Also, the school of Hillel accused Shammai of following after flesh and blood and not after spirit with regards to the kingdom of God. (more on this later) Circumcision here may refer to the group distinction rather than the physical sign. (you could be circumcised but still not be considered Jewish, this will be discussed in another article) If it does refer to physical circumcision it may be saying that he who fails to keep the requirements of the law loses the right to bear the physical sign of circumcision. (Essentially: physical circumcision has become hypocrisy.) Paul says that circumcision benefits in some way but he is not saying this is a matter of salvation. He seems to refer to it as one of identity and representation.
Another interpretation of the spirit/inward versus letter/flesh/outward is that it is analogously contrasting Sinai with the new covenant. Sinai brought curses which lead to death, and Sinai only had writing not the spirit to write the law on the heart. The holy spirit is given as an assurance of the promises of Abraham:
13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
The new covenant and Sinai are used as analogies for how to relate to the law and salvation. If you are looking at salvation through the lens of Sinai you are trying to observe “works of law” to attain it. These are outward signs such as circumcision that will let God recognize you as being different from pagans. However, God looks at the heart. If you are looking at salvation through the new covenant lens then you recognize that the law does not save you but grace. Just as Israel is saved by God’s grace through the spirit writing the law on their hearts. The law is observed as thankfulness for the salvation you have by grace through faith. This is also a difference between and inward and outward focus: the heart or the letter. Also Jeremiah says that God will write the law in the new covenant on their inward parts:
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.(Jeremiah 31:33)
1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1-2)
Here we see that the Jews have an advantage because they were raised in the oracles of God, not from the specific act of circumcision. If this refers to physical circumcision it seems to refer to them who were circumcised on the eighth day, not those who would convert and become circumcised as adults. If this refers to physical circumcision there are some questions this raises about whether circumcision was actually required by the law for adults: “So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?” might imply a negative answer but Paul later uses the same Greek word to talk about fulfilling the law through being justified by Christ:
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-5)
This leaves the meaning uncertain. Even if Paul did say something positive or negative about adult physical circumcision we would need to evaluate the context in which he said it. If Paul said something negative we must ask: could he just be referring to its irrelevance to salvation? If positive we must ask: in what sense? as a requirement that fulfills part of the law? or as a sign of being raised in the oracles of God? This is beyond the scope to get into detail I just want you to know that this question exists. I do not believe adult circumcision is required in any way but only if one wants to eat of the Passover sacrifice, see: Exodus 12:48. This is not something someone should do right away since they will be counted as native born when they do it. Rather, it is something someone should do after they have learned and gotten used to observing the Torah, so for gentiles circumcision is indeed an outward observance that does not have to do with salvation since the only circumcision command required in their case is to circumcise their children–if their father did not circumcise them then it is his fault not their’s. Let’s continue:
3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,
“So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.”
5 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved! (Romans 3:3-8)
Here Paul is saying that God is just, whether or not people, even Jews, believe in God. Commenting in more detail would be irrelevant to the topic. In the following, we see that Paul does indeed view his previous arguments as putting everyone “under (the results of) sin.”
9 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:
“There is no one who is righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.” 13 “Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of vipers is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery are in their paths, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:9-20)
Paul is not pulling out of the air: “no human being will be justified in his sight.” Paul gets this from Psalm 143:
1 Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness; answer me in your righteousness. 2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143:1-2)
Paul starts his quotations with Psalm 14 (also see the almost identical Psalm 53). Psalm 14 begins:
Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.(Psalm 14:1)
Maybe Paul is making the point that goodness only comes from God and that God can only justify man. The fool who uses the lack of God to justify his actions is an example of this. One might say: “man – God = sin”
2 The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
3 They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one. (Psalms 14:2-3)
Is it broadening the context or still talking about fools that reject God? I think the latter. Paul goes on to say that since man without God cannot do good we cannot be justified by God except by grace. Adam (as a representative of humanity) had sinned causing all to suffer for it, Israel (as priesthood to the world) had broken Sinai hence imparting the curses of not following the law to all God’s followers. What could solve this problem? Since we were unable to write the law on our own hearts God would do it for us. Compare the following:
32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write H3738 it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:32-34)
You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. (Deuteronomy 11:18)
It is true that the law was in their hearts in some sense in Deuteronomy 30:
No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart H3824 for you to observe.(Deut 30:14)
However this seems to be about a future occurrence if you look at the context:
1 When all these things have happened to you, the blessings and the curses that I have set before you, if you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, 2 and return to the Lord your God, and you and your children obey him with all your heart and with all your soul, just as I am commanding you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, gathering you again from all the peoples among whom the Lord your God has scattered you. 4 Even if you are exiled to the ends of the world, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will bring you back. 5 The Lord your God will bring you into the land that your ancestors possessed, and you will possess it; he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.
6 Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. 7 The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on the adversaries who took advantage of you. 8 Then you shall again obey the Lord, observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, 9 and the Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10 when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 30:1-13)
This seems to be a covenant for God to make the law easy to observe in the future with Israel as a collective–not in the present. So the covenant at Moab in Deuteronomy 30 seems to be a promise of the new covenant work in Jeremiah 31. There are also several differences with the wording in Jeremiah 31:33
1 God puts the law in the heart and not man. (hence grace)
2 The law is “written” now. (possibly suggesting more permanence)
3 It adds “put My law in their minds H7130” (a totally different word than h3824 for “heart” in Deut 30:14)
4 Tim Hegg has observed that the new covenant is a nationalistic covenant with both houses of Israel. Therefore the idea of Israel being united and following the law seems to be part of what makes it new since throughout the Bible Israel and even the good kings are described as failing in various respects.
Considering points one and two we can observe some significance attributed to the writing instrument used and of the writing surface:
The sin of Judah is written H3789 with an iron pen; with a diamond point it is engraved on the tablet of their hearts, and on the horns of their altars, (Jer 17:1)
O hope of Israel! O Lord! All who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be recorded H3789 in the underworld, for they have forsaken the fountain of living water, the Lord. (Jer 17:13)
It seems like God would have better instruments than us to write the law. Keil and Delitzsch in their commentary on Deut 10:6 make the observation that the writing surface will be entirely different as well:
The Lord will then circumcise their heart, and the heart of their children (see Deuteronomy 10:16), so that they will love Him with all their heart. When Israel should turn with true humility to the Lord, He would be found of them, – would lead them to true repentance, and sanctify them through the power of His grace, – would take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, a new heart and a new spirit, – so that they should truly know Him and keep His commandments (vid., Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33. and Deuteronomy 32:39.). “Because of thy life,” i.e., that thou mayest live, sc., attain to true life. The fulfilment of this promise does not take place all at once. It commenced with small beginnings at the deliverance from the Babylonian exile, and in a still higher degree at the appearance of Christ in the case of all the Israelites who received Him as their Saviour. Since then it has been carried on through all ages in the conversion of individual children of Abraham to Christ; and it will be realized in the future in a still more glorious manner in the nation at large (Romans 11:25.). The words of Moses do not relate to any particular age, but comprehend all times. For Israel has never been hardened and rejected in all its members, although the mass of the nation lives under the curse even to the present day. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/deuteronomy/30.htm
However I think the covenant at Moab in Deuteronomy 30 is probably just referring to the same thing as Jeremiah 31 since although the wording is different the context is the same: Israel becoming a nation again, being able to observe the law, and having the law in their hearts. Knowing this may help us with the idea that in the final fulfillment of the new covenant “no man shall teach another.” Now lets read these two verses together that are positioned around Paul’s quotation:
9 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:
. . .
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:19-23)
Verse 20 is more literally translated as:
wherefore by works of law shall no flesh be declared righteous before Him, for through law is a knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20 YLT)
If “under the law” means “under the results of the law” then by charging that the whole world is “held accountable” Paul is saying that everyone is subject to the penalty of the law which is death. Here, Paul is implying that the cursings of the law given at Mount Sinai now fall on all of mankind. Essentially, the law + sin caused death, and this is part of the law “bringing knowledge of sin” which is why it states that through the law “sin might become exceedingly sinful” but this will be explained later. For now, observe how everyone is under (the results of) sin and hence “death:”
Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)
Grace and law go together because we need grace to be forgiven from transgressing the law. (sin)
21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:21-23)
Here “apart from the law” just means “apart from the deeds of the law” see below:
“Works prescribed by the law” is literally “works of the law.”
therefore do we reckon a man to be declared righteous by faith, apart from works of law. (Romans 3:28 YLT)
24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:24-34)
The statement “law of faith” makes a bit more sense if you remember that “Torah” (the Hebrew word that Paul is referring to with the Greek “nomos”) can mean “instruction.” The “instruction of faith.” As for the meaning of “circumcision,” for now, just observe, that here, it could mean “Judaism” with all the rules and traditions that they followed in addition to the Torah. If Paul is saying that the law no longer applies to us his whole argument of us needing grace is complete nonsense. We no longer have the results of the law apply to us but it still defines God’s unchanging character, see here: http://www.the-ten-commandments.org/the-ten-commandments-god.html Moving on:
1 What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3)
Paul here is contrasting the physical with spiritual and works with faith. However, these are simply two different ways of viewing your relationship with the law using the covenants of Sinai and the new covenant as analogies. If you believe in works then you are not being saved by grace. Just as Sinai kills Israel because they broke it the new covenant will bring life by allowing them to observe the law and attain the blessing of Sinai. He will also do this in Galatians 4 (we’ll see this later). We have works that show our faith but they are just a sign of our faith, works don’t save us. The physical sign of circumcision does not show the character or spirit of the person bearing it. Spirit (ruach) in Hebrew can also be translated as “wind” or “breath.” It is the same thing that animates a lifeless body with a given personality. Compare the following:
so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. G4151 (Rom 8:4)
Her spirit H4151 returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. (Luke 8:55)
8 And I beheld, and behold, upon them nerves and flesh germinated, and [2ascended 3upon 4them 1skin] above; but [2breath G4151 1there was no] in them. 9 And he said to me, Prophesy over the wind! G4151 Prophesy, O son of man, and say to the wind! G4151 Thus says the Lord the lord; From out of the four winds, G4151 come wind G4151 and breathe onto these dead, and let them live! 10 And I prophesied in so far as he gave charge to me, and [3entered 4into 5them 1the 2wind G4151], and they lived; and they stood upon their feet, [4gathering 3great 1a very 2exceedingly]. 11 And the lord spoke to me, saying, O son of man, these bones [2all 3the house 4of Israel 1are]. And they say, [4dry 3are 2bones 1Our]; [3is destroyed 2hope 1our]; we are perished. 12 On account of this prophesy and say! Thus says the Lord the lord; Behold, I shall open your tombs, and I shall lead you from out of your tombs, and I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the lord, by my opening your graves, for me to lead you from out of your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my spirit G4151 into you, and you shall live. And I will put you upon your land, and you shall know that I the lord have spoken, and I will act, says the lord. (Ezekiel 37:8-11 ABP)
I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath H7307 came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. (Eze 37:10) (H7307 can also be translated as “spirit”)
Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual G4151 and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God. (Rom 2:29)
but a Jew [is] he who is [so] inwardly, and circumcision [is] of the heart, in spirit, G4151 not in letter, of which the praise is not of men, but of God. (Rom 2:29 YLT)
as it is written, “God gave them a sluggish spirit, G4151 eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” (Rom 11:8)
so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. G4151 (Rom 8:4)
God seeks spirit and character, not physical appearance just as the new covenant makes Israel able to actively observe the law and puts the law in their hearts Sinai showed Israel the outward words of the law but did not put them inwardly on the heart so that Israel could act them out: this was Israel’s responsibility and regardless of whether they were able to write the law on their own hearts–they failed. For example, the temple and its rituals were physically impressive but Hebrews makes a list of its severe limitations which were eventually covered by Christ as our new high priest:
1 Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.
8 God finds fault with them when he says:
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 9 not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. (Hebrews 8:1-9)
Similarly, Stephen states the following:
44 “Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the wilderness, as God directed when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. 45 Our ancestors in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors. And it was there until the time of David, 46 who found favor with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says,
49 ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. (Acts 7:44-51)
Now we can compare this to these verses:
like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. (Hebrews 13:15)
Also, the context of the verses Stephen quotes in Acts 7 is from Isaiah 66 about having the right heart condition:
1 Thus says the Lord: Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is my resting place? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)
All this is to say that Paul contrasts things associated with the physical such as “works,” “letter,” and “flesh” with “faith,” “spirit,” and “writing on the heart.” The “heart” is associated with the new covenant where we will be given new hearts and the law will be written on our hearts. Let us continue with Romans 4:
4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” (Romans 4:4-8)
Notice this is not about changing the law but about covering the transgression made against it. Paul is simply pointing out that if you make your salvation conditional on any action or any physical sign (manifestation of faith) you are not believing in salvation by grace just like Sinai gave the law in words outwardly but not the inward heart to do them. Again, this is all about how we have salvation despite the law applying to us:
9 Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12 and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:9-12)
This sign of circumcision was for the faith that Abraham had not vice versa which means all people can be justified by faith whether they are circumcised or not. In Romans 4, we can easily forget the verse that comes before that chapter:
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31)
As for whether circumcision was required for gentiles converting there are several possibilities here: 1 circumcision is required for adults and the point is only that it is not a matter of salvation. 2 Circumcision was not required as an adult so it is not required for an individual to circumcise themselves except if they were going to eat the Passover sacrifice. 3 Circumcision means “Judaism” so it’s not even talking about circumcision literally. When Paul is talking about Abraham being declared righteous before he was circumcised he is saying that circumcision is just a sign, and the true circumcision is a circumcised heart. Note, there is no law commanding adults who join Israel to be circumcised (with the exception of eating the Passover sacrifice), only that you circumcise your son on the eighth day. I believe that option 2 is correct, and in this case what Paul is condemning is an outward appearance that has nothing to do with following God. Regardless of that we can say that Abraham was declared righteous because he believed, and while belief leads to obedience, the outward appearance of something is not to be confused with the heart condition, especially in the context of salvation.
13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. (Romans 4:13-15)
Again, being under sin + results of the law = punishment = death. Faith, as we have seen leads to justification which is needed to save us from condemnation. Hence, grace, as is made clear in the following:
16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23 Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. (Romans 4:16-25)
Again all that is going on here is that we are being promised redemption and we are not earning it by doing any specific works in the law:
1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. (Romans 5:1-13)
Again sin + law = penalty = death. This means we need grace. The same idea is made clear in the following:
14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:14-19)
Again, without the law still applying to us this argument is nonsense.
20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)
The law was given so that sin would become painfully apparent or obvious. Paul, now has to explain why we need to not sin even without being under (the results of) the law because this means the penalties of the law won’t fall on us:
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:1-15)
Commenting on all of this is beyond the scope here. For now let’s look at the starting and ending verses to further establish our theory of what “under the law” means:
1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! . . .
15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:1-15)
The law still applies because grace abounds when we sin. Also, why would we start to sin simply because we are not “under the law?” If “not under the law” means the entire law no longer applies then we can’t sin . . . If we are now under a “law of love” (as some argue) which has no specific rules, just “anything we consider loving” why would not being under the old law imply we might break this law of love? However, if “under the law” means “under the results of the law” and by implication “under the penalty of the law” (because of all being under sin) then we might be tempted to sin because there are no more law-related results/consequences for sin. Paul relates the reason we do not continue in sin to the fact that we serve God and not sin:
16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:16-23)
Believers even in the old testament were always intended to be under grace: Daniel 9:18; Gen. 6:8; Ex. 33:12, 17; Judges 6:17f; Jer. 31:2. However, Israel broke the covenant and the northern kingdom was divorced by God and yet Israel was promised to be restored:
She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. (Jer 3:8)
How would God restore Israel? This is what Jews expected the messiah to do. Paul uses an analogy here to explain this. Notice, the relation to Israel as a whole is easier to see if you remember that Paul is talking to people as being part of their larger groups in the greater historical context:
1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (Romans 7:1-12)
Several things to notice here: 1. It is through our death that we become free from the condemnation of the Torah, not that the Torah dies in any way because it is specifically talking about the condemnation of the law and not of it ceasing to be: “she will be called an adulteress . . . she is no adulteress” 2. The law is good. 3. The law makes us aware of our sin 4. Without the law, sin could not cause punishment 5. The letter is contrasted with the spirit which are different ways of relating to the law. This is again an analogy between Sinai and new covenant. 6. Sin taking the opportunity of the commandment killed him . . . what does that mean? I think he’s using an analogy here. Sin is clearly being talked about as bringing curses/death through punishment. However, Paul is still alive therefore his idea of being righteous on his own has to be what was killed, allowing him to accept grace. Let’s read on:
Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. (Romans 7:13)
The commandment showed sin as sin and it made it [appear] sinful beyond measure. (it made it obvious) I inserted “appear” to make it make more sense. However, if you know that “sin” can also mean “guilt” you’ll understand better how this happening:
ἁμαρτία,-ας+ N1F 186-54-94-92-119=545 Gn 15,16; 18,20; 20,9; 41,9; 42,21 guilt, sin Gn 15,16; sin-offering Lv 4,33 Cf. COX 1990, 119-130; DANIEL, S. 1966, 301-328; HARL 1986a, 62.63; HARLÉ 1988, 33; LE BOULLUEC 1989 294.297; →NIDNTT; TWNT http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf
Here, “guilt” makes sense as a translation for the last two occurrences of sin. Try this reading:
Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be [guilt], and through the commandment might become [guilty] beyond measure. (Romans 7:13)
It continues in the same vein lamenting guilt/sin:
14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25)
Again remember “law of” could mean “instruction of” and this is pretty self-explanatory and backs up the law being good. Everyone should still try to live by the law but when we fail to do this is where grace covers us. Paul continues to contrast the spirit with the flesh:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.(Romans 8:1-17)
Paul then harkens back to his quote of Habakkuk seeming to refer to the trials of Israel as a whole before it would be restored:
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)
The context of Paul’s quote of Habakkuk is promised sufferings in the near future with redemption from the Chaldeans and other nations in the end. Paul continues to encourage patient endurance and hope:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:26-36)
The last verse is a quote from Psalm 44 which promises present troubles but hopes for future redemption. It also mentions Israel being scattered among the nations and asks God to rescue them. (a possible reference to Israel being reformed)
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
Here Paul also makes the point of the irresistible nature of God’s grace that nothing physical can separate us from it, again relating it to his theme of contrasting physical and spiritual. Now, lets continue with the context in Galatians:
yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. (Gal 2:16)
The Essene MMT document argues that certain works of the law could justify you associates this with separation and purity.  (Paul was refuting this in some of his letters) This backs up one position of E.P. Sanders in his reading of 1st century Judaism in “The New Perspective on Paul” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Perspective_on_Paul He says that many Jews believed that by separating themselves from impurity and observing certain laws that they considered boundary markers of their distinctiveness among the nations would allow God to show his grace to them and save them. Those who didn’t observe these boundary markers had to be separated from. “Pharisee” means “separate.” This explains why issues of salvation and issues of separation or table fellowship are often mentioned together like they are the same thing. Here, in Galatians 2 Paul is simply making the point that law cannot justify you since we know that Christ justifies us and that is well accepted among us.
17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.(Gal 2:17-18)
Galatians 2:17-18 is a reductio ad absurdum to the position of “works of the law” that “if seeking to be declared righteous in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners” is saying that if we have Christ but we still need works of the law then Christ has misled us and caused us to sin.
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:19-21)
Here “through the law I died to the law” means that the law kills our idea of being self-righteous and of saving ourselves. Once we die to self, we can accept a savior outside of ourselves and paradoxically live more in line with the law which is part of the work of grace as Titus 2:11-14 explains:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)
The word for “iniquity” is literally “lawlessness”
who did give himself for us, that he might ransom us from all lawlessness, and might purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; (Titus 2:14 YLT)
In addition, this may be because we are no longer being righteous in a self serving way. Without knowledge of sin we cannot humble ourselves and repent which is reflected in several old testament references describing what behavior God’s people will have to have if they are to be forgiven. (this will be alluded to later) This idea is developed in Galatians 3:
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” 12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” (Gal 3:10-12)
Here Paul relates the law to the cursings added at Sinai so we see “the law” in the general sense of “the first five books” or “God’s instructions” is not applicable here; rather it is a specific part of the instructions which started at the Sinai covenant. I’ll explain, there are many parts of the first five books which give instructions to God’s people and give unconditional promises like in the Abrahamic covenants in Gen 15,17 and 22. However, here “the law” seems to reflect curses and blessings, life and death, which started at Sinai:
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: I am the Lord your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not follow their statutes. 4 My ordinances you shall observe and my statutes you shall keep, following them: I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live: I am the Lord. (Lev 18: 1-5)
11 I gave them my statutes and showed them my ordinances, by whose observance everyone shall live. 12 Moreover I gave them my sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, so that they might know that I the Lord sanctify them. (Ezekiel 20:11-12)
God promised the inheritance to Abraham with no strings attached but the law at Sinai came with blessings and cursings and was conditional on them following the law. Let’s see if this theory holds up:
16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. 17 My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise. (Gal 3:16-18)
Here we see “law” is used in a specific context for that which was given at Sinai after Abraham “four hundred and thirty years later” he’s clearly distinguishing this from the other parts of the old covenant such as the Abrahamic covenants: “cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ” He’s not saying they are separate, those covenants/instructions all apply to us but Paul is using law specifically to refer to the blessings and cursings in this context starting at Sinai.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20 Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. (Gal 3:19-20)
Here clearly it says the law was given because of transgression. We see this in several ways, 1 it was given with a penal system to punish transgression, 2 it was given with a priesthood to atone for transgression. However, is this what Paul means?
21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22 But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, (Gal 3:21-25)
Here we see the third purpose relating to transgression for which the law was given: to make people aware of their transgression. Without humility and acknowledgment of sin, we cannot come to Christ and accept grace. Once you leave a tutor and go to university the tutor’s more elementary teachings should still hold (otherwise you went to a bad tutor). No longer being under the tutor means no longer being under the law. This means you know you are not righteous (since the law taught you that) and therefore you are no longer trying to justify yourself by doing the law which means the law is no longer needed to teach you that you need grace through its punishments: you already know you deserve punishment. This is shown clearly through the history of the curses that God brought on Israel. Israel can’t claim they are righteous on their own after breaking the law and being put through its curses. Hence being “under (the results of) the law” while being “under sin” means being “under the results of sin” and hence “under the penalty of the law.”
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:26-29)
Paul relates Christ to the unconditional promises to Abraham as distinguished from the covenants starting at Sinai. Does this mean the Sinai covenant is no longer valid for us? No, if it isn’t valid for us then it makes Paul’s whole argument absolute nonsense: we don’t need Christ to save us from a penalty of a law that is no longer valid. To further establish this distinction lets jump ahead and look at what Paul says later:
22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. 23 One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. 24 Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.(Galatians 4:22-25)
Why is being “under (the results of) the law” related to Mount Sinai? Because that is where the curses and hence death started to be piled up and while being “under (the results of) sin” those curses will fall us:
14 But if you will not obey me, and do not observe all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and abhor my ordinances, so that you will not observe all my commandments, and you break my covenant, 16 I in turn will do this to you: I will bring terror on you; consumption and fever that waste the eyes and cause life to pine away. You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down by your enemies; your foes shall rule over you, and you shall flee though no one pursues you. 18 And if in spite of this you will not obey me, I will continue to punish you sevenfold for your sins. 19 I will break your proud glory, and I will make your sky like iron and your earth like copper. 20 Your strength shall be spent to no purpose: your land shall not yield its produce, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit. 21 If you continue hostile to me, and will not obey me, I will continue to plague you sevenfold for your sins. 22 I will let loose wild animals against you, and they shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock; they shall make you few in number, and your roads shall be deserted. 23 If in spite of these punishments you have not turned back to me, but continue hostile to me, 24 then I too will continue hostile to you: I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 I will bring the sword against you, executing vengeance for the covenant; and if you withdraw within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into enemy hands. 26 When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven, and they shall dole out your bread by weight; and though you eat, you shall not be satisfied.
27 But if, despite this, you disobey me, and continue hostile to me, 28 I will continue hostile to you in fury; I in turn will punish you myself sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars; I will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols. I will abhor you. 31 I will lay your cities waste, will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing odors. 32 I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who come to settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And you I will scatter among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword against you; your land shall be a desolation, and your cities a waste.
34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its sabbath years. 35 As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it. 36 And as for those of you who survive, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; the sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall though no one pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though no one pursues; and you shall have no power to stand against your enemies. 38 You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall devour you. 39 And those of you who survive shall languish in the land of your enemies because of their iniquities; also they shall languish because of the iniquities of their ancestors.
40 But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me and, moreover, that they continued hostile to me— 41 so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land shall be deserted by them, and enjoy its sabbath years by lying desolate without them, while they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they dared to spurn my ordinances, and they abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God; 45 but I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the Lord.
46 These are the statutes and ordinances and laws that the Lord established between himself and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses. (Lev 26:14-46)
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. (Galatians 4:4-5)
Christ is said to be born “under (the results of) the law” because he was born into a world where the cursing from mount Sinai could still be applied to God’s people.
Knowing this we can continue reading Galatians 4:
1 My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; 2 but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. 3 So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. (Gal 4:1-5)
“Elements of this world” is interesting. He’s contrasting being redeemed from under the law with being in bondage to the “elements of this world.”
The root of the word G4747 for “elements” is G4748 and is in the Septuagint:
στοιχέω+ V 0-0-0-1-0=1 Eccl 11,6 to prosper, to go on to sprout Cf. HORSLEY 1982, 97; →NIDNTT; TWNT
This is clearly not referring to the law of God as the same word is used to describe the traditions of men in the same book. Here’s the usage in the new testament (there is none in the Septuagint version of the Tanakh )
But now, having known God, but rather having been known by God, how do you return again unto the weak and poor elements, G4747 in which again, as at the beginning [2to serve 1you want]? (Gal 4:9 ABP)
8 Take heed lest [2anyone 4you 1there shall be 3robbing] through the fondness of intellectual pursuits and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements G4747 of the world, and not according to Christ! (Colossians 2:8 ABP)
If then you died with the Christ from the elements G4747 of the world, why as living in the world do you subject yourselves to decrees? (Col 2:20 ABP)
For though you ought to be teachers because of the time, again [2need 1you have] of one to teach you what are the elements G4747 of the beginning of the oracles of God; and you have become [2need 1having] of milk, and not of solid nourishment. (Hebrews 5:12)
But shall come the day of the Lord as a thief in the night, in which the heavens by a loud noise shall pass away, and the elements G4747 being destroyed by fire shall be loosed; and the earth and the [2in 3it 1works] shall be incinerated. (2 Peter 3:10 ABP)
expecting and hastening the arrival of the day of God, by which the heavens being set on fire shall be loosed, and the elements G4747 being destroyed by fire shall melt away? (2 Peter 3:12 ABP)
“World” or “kosmos” (G2889) is the other word and is also used for “ornaments:”
κόσμος,-ου+ N2M 5-2-17-5-43=72 Gn 2,1; Ex 33,5.6; Dt 4,19; 17,3 world, universe Prv 17,6a; world, earth 2 Mc 3,12; world, mankind Wis 2,24; ornament, decoration Ex 33,5; honour, delight Prv 28,17a *Gn 2,1 ὁ κόσμος ornamentation-◊צבה or-צבי for MT ◊צבא host, army, see also Dt 4,19, 17,3, Is 24,21, 40,26, Sir 50,19; *2 Sm 1,24 μετὰ κόσμου ὑμῶν with your ornaments-עם־עדיכן for MT עם־עדנים with luxury, with ornaments Cf. DOGNIEZ 1992, 138; HARL 1986a, 98; SCHMITT 1974, 152; →MM; NIDNTT; TWNT http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf
Paul says we are crucified to the world through Christ. This other word also can’t be talking about some divine law:
14 But for me may it not be to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom to me the world has been crucified, and I to the world G2889.(Gal 6:12 ABP)
And [6were completed 1the 2heaven 3and 4the 5earth], and all the cosmos of them. (Genesis 2:1)
5 And the lord said to the sons of Israel, You are a people hard-necked; see that [2do not 5calamity 4another 1I 3bring] upon you! and should completely consume you. Now then remove [2apparels 1your glorious], and the ornament! and I will show to you what I will do to you. 6 And [4removed 1the 2sons 3of Israel] their ornamentation, and the attire at the mountain of Horeb. (Exodus 33:5-6 ABP)
It continues in the same fashion:
6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. 9 Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? 10 You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. 11 I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted. (Gal 4:6-11)
Commenting on verses 12-20 is beyond the scope here so we will skip ahead. Here we start out with the verse that caused us to ask the question “what does under the law mean?” in the first place:
21 Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. 23 One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. 24 Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. (Gal 4:21-25)
Notice that Paul is using symbolism here and the majority of translations here use “allegory” or “illustration.” If Paul is suddenly going to tell us that we don’t need to follow the law–here is not the place to do it, it would too easily be misunderstood as figurative. Let’s get into the allegory: the reason the Jerusalem at that time was in bondage was because they weren’t accepting the grace of Christ and they were trying to justify themselves through “works of the law.” Doing this makes the curses of the law fall on you. God instead wanted Israel to “acknowledge their iniquity as it says in Jeremiah 3:13-15:
But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. (Gal 4:26)
The reason the Jerusalem above is free is that by acknowledging their iniquity God will redeem Israel from the curses of breaking the covenant. The law is the thing that “brings knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20) and again we see that grace and law go together. To explain more fully, let’s continue:
27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children, burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than the children of the one who is married.” (Gal 4:27)
Here we see a picture of Israel being restored being quoted from Isaiah 54:
7 For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.
9 This is like the days of Noah to me: Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. 10 For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:7-10)
Things to notice here: 1 God will keep this covenant of peace with them no matter what. 2 God keeping this covenant is based on mercy not on anything that they did 3 It is a promise like God made not to destroy the earth with water any longer so it was certainly not based on anything humanity did. When God made that promise there was no time for humanity to do anything after the flood to prove that it wouldn’t be corrupted again.
40 But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me and, moreover, that they continued hostile to me— 41 so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land shall be deserted by them, and enjoy its sabbath years by lying desolate without them, while they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they dared to spurn my ordinances, and they abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God; 45 but I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the Lord. (Lev 26:40-45)
12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:
Return, faithless Israel, says the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, says the Lord; I will not be angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your guilt, that you have rebelled against the Lord your God, and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree, and have not obeyed my voice, says the Lord. 14 Return, O faithless children, says the Lord, for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. (Jeremiah 3:12-14)
As mentioned earlier, if they humble themselves and accept their guilt God will not bring death (i.e. the curses for breaking the covenant at mount Sinai) Again, notice Sinai is not the only covenant in the line of covenants with God’s people. There are the covenants with Abraham’s descendants is Gen 15, 17 and 22 and the covenant at Moab apart from the one at Horeb (Sinai) in Deuteronomy 29. However, Paul picks Sinai when talking about being under the penalty of the law and Sinai was the place where the penalties were laid out including the judicial penal system and the laws of the priesthood and the tabernacle for atoning for sin. (“the law was added because of transgression”) Paul continues:
28 Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. 29 But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. (Gal 4:28-29)
“even so it is now” clearly states that this is contrasting the ones persecuting “the way” with those of “the way” (part of this would later become known as Christianity) Paul actually participated in this persecution. You can confirm this by seeing the usage of the word in Galatians:
You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting G1377 the church of God and was trying to destroy it.(Gal 1:13 NRSV)
they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting G1377 us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Gal 1:23 NRSV)
But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted G1377 the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. (Gal 4:29 YLT)
But my friends, why am I still being persecuted G1377 if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. (Gal 5:11 NRSV)
It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted G1377 for the cross of Christ. (Gal 6:22 NRSV)
If Paul is saying that we no longer should keep the law he is doing a terrible job of it since the early Church was made up of a mixture of those who totally kept the law and those that didn’t (as evidenced by Acts 15) In addition since Christ almost always sided with Hillel the analogy of spirit and letter also fits here. Paul is instead continuing to contrast the physical with the spiritual as he did with circumcision earlier:
Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? (Gal 3:3)
This part is interesting:
30 But what does the scripture say? “Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.” 31 So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. (Gal 4:30-31)
Here some people jump to the conclusion that since we are not “of” the bondwoman we no longer should keep the rules at Sinai. There are a few things to remember here: 1 he started off with the context of those who wish to be “under the law” and this is caused by using “works of the law” to justify yourself (we have already discussed this) 2 This is allegorical. 3 This can’t be only about the old and new covenant because of how he says the people of the bondwomen are persecuting the people that are free even now. In addition, Paul is not just contrasting the new covenant and the old covenant because the freewoman is symbolic of the promises given to Abraham which are older than Sinai.
However, it is possible that Paul is making some allusion to the new and old covenant here. Here’s why I think this: 1 The old covenant brought curses and the people who are of “works of the law” are “under the law” and therefore subject to its curses. 2 The promises given to Abraham are the precursors to Messiah who is the mediator of the new covenant. 3 The new covenant is about being restored and perfected by having the law written on our hearts (something that was not accomplished in the old covenant) and Christ followed the spirit of the law not the letter (he almost always sided with the house of Hillel) Also compare the following (YLT)
2 Corinthians 3:3 3 manifested that ye are a letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in the tablets of stone, but in fleshy tablets of the heart,
Ezekiel 36:26 26 And I have given to you a new heart, And a new spirit I give in your midst, And I have turned aside the heart of stone out of your flesh, And I have given to you a heart of flesh.
Jeremiah 31:33 33 For this [is] the covenant that I make, With the house of Israel, after those days, An affirmation of Jehovah, I have given My law in their inward part, And on their heart I do write it, And I have been to them for God, And they are to me for a people.
Hebrews 8:10 10 because this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord, giving My laws into their mind, and upon their hearts I will write them, and I will be to them for a God, and they shall be to Me for a people;
5 Finally, the Zealot’s (of Shammai) were referred to as following after flesh and blood by the Hillelites:
Flusser discussed the political aspect of the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, arguing that originally “the Kingdom of Heaven” was an anti-Zealot slogan. At the end of the Second Temple period there were various groups of militant Jewish nationalists who advocated armed revolt against the Roman Empire. These insurgent groups believed that national liberation could be achieved through violent means. They believed that their armed struggle would provoke divine intervention on Israel’s behalf and the eschatological events of the final redemption would be set in motion as a result of their terrorist activities. It seems likely that at least one stream of militant Jewish nationalism emerged from the School of Shammai. This militant Jewish nationalist ideology was countered by the Hillelite stream of Pharisaic Judaism with the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. According to Hillelite ideology, violent militant insurgence can only replace the Roman Empire with a kingdom of flesh and blood:
Rabbi Hananiah, prefect of the priests, says: He who takes to heart the words of the Torah is relieved of many preoccupations—preoccupations with hunger, foolish preoccupations, unchaste preoccupations, preoccupations with the evil impulse, preoccupations with an evil wife, idle preoccupations, and preoccupations with the yoke of flesh and blood…. But he who does not take to heart the words of the Torah is given over to many preoccupations—preoccupations with hunger, foolish preoccupations, unchaste preoccupations, preoccupations with the evil impulse, preoccupations with an evil wife, idle preoccupations, and preoccupations with the yoke of flesh and blood…. He used to say: Do not look at me because I am dark and the sun has tanned me [my mother’s sons were angry with me (Song 1:6)]—these are the assemblies of Judah who broke off the yoke of the Holy One, blessed be he, and caused a king of flesh and blood to reign over them. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 20 [ed. Schechter, 70-72]) . . . Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai says, “From the time murderers increased, the calf’s neck rite was annulled, because the calf’s neck rite is not applicable except in cases of doubt, but now murderers increased in the open. From the time adulterers increased, they stopped the ordeal of the bitter waters, because the ordeal of the bitter waters is not applicable except in cases of doubt, but now those who see [their lovers] in the open are many. From the time the lovers of pleasure increased, wrath came to the world and the glory of the Torah was annulled. From the time whisperers increased in the Sanhedrin, deeds were perverted, the judges were cursed, and the Shekhinahceased from Israel. From the time respecters of persons increased, You must not show partiality in judgment…you must not respect persons [Deut. 1:17] was annulled and they cast off the yoke of Heaven and caused a yoke of flesh and blood to reign over them. (t. Sot. 14:1[1-4])
In this saying Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai criticizes those who set up a yoke of flesh and blood and who cast off the yoke of Heaven. The terminology is similar to that of Hananiah the prefect of the priests. Does “murderers” who kill “in the open” refer to terrorist groups like the Sicarii? Does “whisperers…in the Sanhedrin” refer to the chief priests, and in particular those of the House of Hanan (cf. t. Men. 13:21; b. Pes. 57a)? If so, then Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai criticized both the militant Jewish nationalists on one extreme and the high priests who colluded with the Romans on the other. If so, Jesus was not unique in his rejection of violent insurgence and condemnation of the corrupt priesthood. https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/13546/
However, the explanation that Paul is only contrasting the new and the old covenant is completely impoverished as we have already seen. Rather if Paul is alluding to the old and new covenants he is only mixing it in with his main subject material. The last section we will look at backs this up again:
1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. 4 You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. (Gal 5:1-6)
This allegory is introduced as a response to those who wish to be “under the law” and ends with something about those who want to be justified by law: the context is clear. Here Paul is not making any comments about what we should or shouldn’t do physically but rather what we should or shouldn’t justify ourselves by. This is a mistake people often make when reading Paul’s writings, context is key. However, the language here is slightly confusing. It can’t be that just by becoming physically circumcised that Christ profits you nothing since a change in your physical appearance can never cut you off from Christ. Paul also circumcised Timothy because of the Jews so it couldn’t be that Paul was cutting Timothy off from Christ by circumcising him. This issue may be helped by some historical context that Tim Hegg presents in his commentary on Acts 15:
The prevailing belief of the Judaisms in Paul’s day was that only Jews had a place in the world-to-come since God had made the covenant of blessing with Israel and no other nation.
All Israel have a place in the world-to-come. [[m.Sanhedrin 10:1.]
This central theological axiom shows that from the perspective of the Rabbis, a Gentile could secure a place in the world-to-come only by becoming a Jew. This, the Rabbis taught, was possible through becoming a proselyte, a ritual based entirely upon their rules but without any foundation in the Torah itself. In fact, the added phrase “according to the custom of Moses”629 in the opening verse of Acts 15 may point to the fact that the disagreement taking place between Paul and Barnabas and the others was not over what the written Torah prescribed for Gentiles but whether or not the additional teachings of the Sages were binding upon them. Thus when men from Judea taught that “unless you are circumcised (undergo the ritual of a proselyte) according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved,” they were simply applying the standard theology of their day. This is what the Council was dealing with: Did all Israel have a place in the world-to-come? Did Gentiles therefore need to submit to the man-made ritual of the proselyte so that, in accordance with the prevailing theology, they too could secure eternal life, that is, be saved? Nowhere in God’s word is there a ceremony outlined for a Gentile to become a proselyte. . .
The issue was one of status. What status qualified a person to be assured of a place in the world-to-come—ethnicity or faith? What was essential for salvation: the status of Jewishness or the status of being “in Messiah?” Paul and the other apostles at the Jerusalem Council unanimously agreed that one’s ethnic status had no bearing whatsoever on one’s salvation. The crux was faith not ethnicity.
In conclusion, this has all been to show the context of what Paul is talking about in Galatians 4 with the two covenants. He is responding to those who wish to be justified by works of the law or want to be under the law. The two covenants in Galatians don’t seem to be directly related to the “old” and “new” covenants because Paul uses part of the old covenant (the older part before Sinai) in arguing for us being the children of promise. Rather Paul seems to be contrasting two parts of the old covenant and saying (to oversimplify things) that the blessings of it will save us from curses of it eventually. The new covenant rather is about the law eventually being written on our hearts by God since we were unable to do so. There is however a relation here: the writing of the law by God in the new covenant is accomplished by the work of Christ (through the holy spirit) as a mediator of the new covenant and Christ was predicted by the promises given to Abraham. In any case to say that the judgments of the law are done away with makes Paul’s argument nonsensical; rather, Christ needed to come to save us from the results of those judgments.
Compare the following:
For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.(Hebrews 9:15)
13 For we write you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end— 14 as you have already understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast. 15 Since I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a double favor; 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always “Yes.” 20 For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. 21 But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, 22 by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment. (2 Corinthians 1:13-22)
 “The topic of the work is reflected in the phrase tohorat haqodesh, “the purity of the holy.” Stated simply: “Do not allow the holy to be profaned by what is impure.”
The issues include bringing Gentile corn into the Temple, the presentation of Gentile offerings, and the cooking of sacrificial meat in unfit (impure) vessels. Other rulings concern cleansing of lepers, admitting the blind and the deaf into the Temple; and permitting intermarriage with Ammonite and Moabite converts, long forbidden to enter the congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3). Other issues involve the transmission of impurity by a flow of water (musaq), the intermixture of wool and linen (sha‘atnez), plowing with diverse animals (qilayyim) and perhaps the climax of the discussion: the intermarriage of priests with the common people.
Most of the rulings espoused by the author of MMT are based directly upon Biblical law (for example, the prohibition against plowing with unlike animals in Deuteronomy 22:10). A few others are interpretations or amplifications of Mosaic prescriptions (for example, bans on Gentile offerings and dogs in the Temple). The list clearly reflects a conservative reaction against a relaxation of Torah precepts.” http://www.sabbathreformation.com/article-paul-works-of-the-law-and-mmt-118800746.html
1) Paul’s έργων νόμου “works of the law,” Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal. 2:16 [trs]; 3:2, 5 10) is likely a translation of מעשי התורה, found in all of ancient Hebrew literature only at 4QMMT C 27 (4Q398 14-17 ii 3). . . .
2) 4QMMT C 27 also echoes the languages of Gal. 3:6b where Paul quotes Gen 15:6 and argues that righteousness is reckoned on the bases of faith. The Qumran writer posits righteousness on the bases of works of the law. (pg. 1)
In addition it appears highly likely that Paul was reacting to a position that was espoused in 4QMMT by the Qumran covenanters, namely, that a person was reckoned righteous by keeping “works of the law. “
“Prep. below, beneath, under (ὑπό) . . . Of a woman it is said, she commits whoredom, adultery, under her husband, Nu. 5:19; Eze. 23:5, i.e. she commits whoredom who ought to obey the authority of her husband.”
 8 For I also am a man set under G5259 authority, G1849 with soldiers under G5259 me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” (Luke 7:8 New Revised Standard Version)
9 For I also am a man under G5259 authority, G1849 with soldiers under G5259 me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” (Matthew 8:9 New Revised Standard Version)
 Under husband’s authority: 19 Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, “If no man has lain with you, if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings the curse. (Numbers 5:19 NRSV)
19 `And the priest hath caused her to swear, and hath said unto the woman, If no man hath lain with thee, and if thou hast not turned aside [to] uncleanness under thy husband, be free from these bitter waters which cause the curse;(Num 5:19 YLT)
19 And [3shall adjure 4her 1the 2priest], and he shall say to the woman, If no one has gone to bed with you, if you have not violated to be defiled being under [2husband 1your own], be innocent from [2by the 3water 4of rebuke 1this accursing]! (Num 5:19 ABP)
Gesenius’s usage in Ezekiel 23 may relate to “consequences” or “power” from doing something while “under” an authority
5 And go a-whoring doth Aholah under Me, And she doteth on her lovers, On the neighbouring Assyrians, (Ezekiel 23:5 YLT)
5 And Aholah fornicated from me, and doted upon her lovers, upon the Assyrians being next to her; (Ezekiel 23:5 ABP)
5 Oholah played the whore while she was mine; she lusted after her lovers the Assyrians, warriors . . . 9 Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the Assyrians, for whom she lusted. (Ezekiel 23:5-9 NRSV)
Compare the following usages of “under” with alternate translations, it seems the meaning of “under” is related to what is metaphorically on top:
2 And the fear of you and trembling will be upon all the wild beasts of the earth, upon all the winged creatures of the heaven, and upon all the things moving upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea. Under your hands I have given them to you. (Gen 9:2 ABP)
2 The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. (Gen 9:2 NRSV)
. . . to the future, that we may maintain the government in undisturbed peace for all men, adopting [needful] changes, and ever judging those cases which come under [our] notice, with truly equitable decision. . . . (Esther 8:13 Brenton Translation of the Septuagint)
. . . In the future we will take care to render our kingdom quiet and peaceable for all, by changing our methods and always judging what comes before our eyes with more equitable consideration. . . (Esther 8:13 NRSVACE)
And the Lord will give us strength, and lighten our eyes, and we shall live under the shadow of Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, and under the shadow of Balthasar his son, and we shall serve them many days, and find favour in their sight. (Baruch 1:12 Brenton Septuagint Translation)
The Lord will give us strength, and light to our eyes; we shall live under the protection of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and under the protection of his son Belshazzar, and we shall serve them for many days and find favour in their sight. (Bar 1:12 NRSVACE)
2 Maccabees 7:36:
36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. (2 Maccabees 7:36 NRSVACE)
For our brethren, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God’s covenant of everlasting life: but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride. (2 Maccabees 7:36 Brenton Septuagint Translation)
3 And he spared his people, and all the ones being sanctified by your hands; these [2under 3you 1are]; and he received of his words (Deuteronomy 33:3 ABP)
3 Indeed, O favorite among peoples, all his holy ones were in your charge; they marched at your heels, accepted direction from you. (Deuteronomy 33:3 NRSV)
3 Also He [is] loving the peoples; All His holy ones [are] in thy hand, And they — they sat down at thy foot, [Each] He lifteth up at thy words. (Deuteronomy 33:3 YLT)
6 But he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. (Esther 3:6 NRSV)
6 And he took counsel to remove all [2under 3the 5of Artaxerxes 4kingdom 1the Jews]. (Esther 3:6 ABP)
6 and it is contemptible in his eyes to put forth a hand on Mordecai by himself, for they have declared to him the people of Mordecai, and Haman seeketh to destroy all the Jews who [are] in all the kingdom of Ahasuerus — the people of Mordecai. (Esther 3:6 YLT)
6 and took counsel to destroy utterly all the Jews who were under the rule of Artaxerxes. (Esther 3:6 Brenton)
 hypó, hoop-o’; G5259 example usage in the Septuagint:
For our brethren, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God’s covenant of everlasting life: but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride. (2 Maccabees 7:36 Brenton Septuagint Translation)
36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. (2 Maccabees 7:36 NRSV)
ὑπό+ P 61-42-43-140-212=498 Gn 9,2; 16,9; 18,4.8; 19,8 [τινος]: by (with a pass. verbal form indicating the agent) Gn 26,29; from Ps 73(74),22; under, in (indicating reason) Jb 30,4; under Jb 8,16
[τι, τινα]: under (with verb of motion) 1 Mc 6,46; under (place) Gn 18,8; under, at the foot of Ex 24,4; under (in geogr. sense) Dt 3,17; beyond Ex 3,1; about (time) Jos 5,2; little before Jon 4,10; in the course of, during 3 Mc 7,12; under (as subordination) 1 Ezr 3,1; under, in the hand of 2 Mc 3,6; under (reason) Ex 23,5 ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν under heaven, on earth Ex 17,14; ὑπὸ τὴν ὄψιν under (our) notice Est 8,12i; ὑπὸ χεῖρας in (your) hands Gn 9,2; ὑπὸ τὴν σκιάν in the shadow Bar 1,12; ὑπὸ διαθήκην (θεοῦ) under (God’s) covenant 2 Mc 7,36; ὑπὸ φόρον under tribute 1 Mc 8,2; ὑπὸ καιρόν within the space of one day 2 Mc 7,20; ὑφ’ ἕν at one stroke Wis 12,9 Cf. DORIVAL 1994, 56; JOHANNESSOHN 1910 1-82; 1926 174-184; →NIDNTT