Saturday, September 11, 2010

Critical Assessment of Rosner's "Paul and the Law", Part 1

I will write a few posts in response to Brian Rosner's recent article in JSNT. The title of the article is “Paul and the Law: What he Does not Say” (32.4, pp. 405-19). Here's the first set up post.

Rosner notes three kinds of evidence in Paul’s letters that have a bearing on one’s view of Paul’s understanding of the relationship of the law to the Christian: what Paul says, what Paul does with the law and what Paul does not say about the law. As his starting point, Rosner refers to a quotation from Betz’ Galatians commentary, claiming that Paul never says Christians are to “keep” or “obey” the Torah. He affirms Betz’s idea that Paul carefully distinguishes between the ‘doing’ of the Torah which is not required of Christians and the ‘fulfilling’ of the Torah which is.

The article’s purpose is to use Paul’s silences as a means of ascertaining his view on a Christians relationship to the Torah. He wishes to extend Betz observation. To this end he turns his attention to Romans 2:17-29 as a test case and lists some 10 things Paul says about the Mosaic law and the Jew.


  • rely on the law (17a)
  • boast in the law (v. 23)
  • know God’s will through the law (v. 18)
  • are educated in the law (v. 18),
  • have light, knowledge and truth because of the law (vv. 19-20)
  • are to do the law (v. 25)
  • (by implication) are to observe the righteous requirements of the law (v. 26)
  • keep the law (v. 27);
  • occasionally transgress the law (vv. 23, 25, 27)
  • possess the (law as) written code (v. 27).

The article sets out to answer on simple question: “Does Paul say the same things of believers in Christ in relation to the law?” (p. 406). The bulk of the essay then takes each item in the list in turn and discusses the silence of Paul on this point with respect to Christians. At times drawing antithetical relationships between what Paul says about a Jew and what he says to a Christian (e.g. Christians rely on Christ not the law).

Rosner concludes his essay thusly, “Paul never says that Christians relate to the law in any of these ways” (p. 417). For him the only reasonable implication from this evidence is “a major shift in the way the people of God relate to the law” has happened (p. 417). “The Law of Moses”, says Rosner, “is much more of a focus for Jews than for Christians and the two groups relate to the law quite differently. The evidence of omission is fully in line with Paul’s perspective that, although Jews are under the law, believers in Christ are not” (pp. 417-18).


Tim said...

I am really looking forward to your comments. The article is in need of a counter balance.

Brian Rosner said...

"I am really looking forward to your comments."

Me too! :)

jeff miller said...

This is still a worthwhile topic. If we don't have a consensus then we are fuzzy in our understanding of Paul and the train of thought presented everywhere in the New what do think of Rosner's view thus far?