Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Paul's View of the Law: Where Should the Study Begin?
When considering the question of Paul's view of the Law one is immediately confronted with a host of preliminary issues and questions. One such issue, for example, is the question of the referent of the term nomos: Does nomos refer to the Mosaic legislation, to the Mosaic Covenant, to a generic principle, to all the above and more?
One question however that is not often considered adequately in my view is the question of where such a study should begin. This question is not insignificant since where one begins has a large influence on what one concludes.
As I approach the subject I have been surprised that very few if any interpreters begin with Paul's view of the end. What I mean is few begin with a discussion of the function of the Law for end-time judgment/salvation. In Romans 2:5-16 Paul asserts the abiding function of the Law for eschatological judgment ("the doers of the Law will be justified"). If Paul maintains that the Law continues to function as the criteria for judgment at the end of the age, should that not affect one's interpretation of Paul's view of its validity in the present? Would not beginning here preclude or at the very least significantly nuance interpretations which present Paul's theology as a fundamental antithesis between works and faith?