Paul the Apostle, His Life, Letters and Thought—Part Forty Three


Sanders says in Romans Paul realized he made a mistake in Galatians by saying that circumcision came 430 years after Abraham who was righteous by faith, but Gen. 17. 9-14 commanded Abraham to be circumcised too. [This is not correct. Paul is right that Abraham was given right standing through trusting God in Gen. 12ff. before God commanded him to be circumcised. Furthermore, Paul does not say in Gal. that the command to circumcise came 430 years later, he says the Mosaic law which made circumcision and entrance ritual came 430 years later. There is a big difference. In Abraham’s case, circumcision is not the entrance into right relationship with God, it is ex post facto, and as Rom. 4 argues Abraham’s circumcision was the mere seal of his previous right standing.]

p. 628— In both Gal. 3. And Rom 4 it is affirmed that Gentiles who have faith in Christ are heirs to Abraham’s promises. The conclusion is what matters, Paul uses two different arguments to get there in Gal. and Romans. In Romans he simply says that like Abraham, Gentiles could become righteous by faith without circumcision.

If righteousness can be achieved by human effort then boasting is appropriate, but if it is obtained through faith in Christ, then it is excluded.

p. 629—

works of law— 3.20,28
the law 2.12,13,14,15 (works of the law), 17,18,20,23,25,26,27,31; 4.13,14,15,16.

This is always the Jewish law except in 2.14-15 where he refers to the law given by nature. Otherwise it is the law given by God according to the OT.

pp. 630-31— Paul’s negative remarks about works of the Law do not have to do with the ten commandments which he always favors. The works of the Law he opposes are those commandments which are essential to being Jewish, distinguishing Jews from Gentiles (circumcision, food laws, days, topics that come up in Gal. Rom. and Phil.). [The problem with this analysis is that it is a half truth. Yes, Paul doesn’t want these distinctive markers imposed on Gentiles. But that is not all. he doesn’t want Gentiles to submit to circumcision because that entails keeping the whole Mosaic covenant! The issue is which covenant is one under, and just because the new covenant renews some of the laws of the old one, doesn’t mean Paul thinks its o.k. for Gentiles to submit to the old covenant. No he doesn’t. It’s obsolete.]

p. 632– Sanders notes that Paul in Rom. 5 does not complete the sentence ‘Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, so death spread to all because all sinned…’ 5.12 He says the sentence should have concluded ‘therefore all are saved by Christ’. [But Paul does not say this because it is not his view…. Hence the incomplete sentence. The parallelism between Adam and Christ is not perfect. See Barrett From First Adam to Last. Paul does not say why Adam’s sin caused everyone else to sin, but death exercises dominion over all due to both Adam’s and everyone’s sin]. Sanders doesn’t conjecture why Paul thinks Adam’s sin effected everyone.

He notes the oddity that the noun faith occurs in 5.1 but not again until Rom. 9, and the verb to faith does not occur in Rom. 5 occurs once in Rom. 6 and not again until Rom. 9. He calls this a mere terminological curiosity.

p. 633— The idea of Sin as an enslaving power that causes bondage and takes dominion over people is in 6.6,14,17,20. Sanders says the personification would be clearer if we just substituted the word Satan we become slaves to Satan, under his dominion etc. “Sin becomes a power that can actually compete with God for control of his creation” [well, not quite, it is Satan himself, believed to be a real person, who is called the god of this world].

p. 634– Despite the assurance that Christians have escaped the power of sin by dying with Christ Paul keeps warning Christians not to yield to sin. [This ignores that Paul is saying that the bondage to sin is broken, not that sin ceased to be a temptation for believers, hence the need for warnings]. Dying with Christ is the solution to bondage see 6.3-4. “Rom. 6.3-4 adds baptism as either the means of this mystical death with Christ, or as representing it.” [The latter]. Some ancients did indeed believe that the ritual itself works regardless of the mental state or receptivity of the person it is performed for (e.g. opening of mouth ceremony in Egypt performed even on the dead, or Lev. 1.4ff where the sacrifice atones if you participate properly laying hands on the head of the burnt offering, with no word about interior or mental state. Did Paul think baptism worked this way, ex opera operato— it works by the work?

p. 635—On the other hand, Jews like Philo of Paul’s day did believe in spiritual and mental preparation before sacrificing (see Spec. Laws. 1.234-38,264-66).

p. 636—“I believe that there were virtually no Jews in Paul’s world who did not know that inner purification should accompany purification of the body or that only those who have clean hands and a pure heart should ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in his holy place (Ps. 23.3-4).

p. 637— He critiques Schweitzer for his lack of knowledge of early Judaism including not knowing Philo. He only knew the more apocalyptic stuff like 4 Ezra, it would appear. Sanders rightly argues that Paul like most Jews would take it as self-evident that the ritual act of baptism was not effective in and of itself, but required mental and spiritual preparation and commitment. Rom. 6.7 says literally whoever has died is righteoused from sin. Tyndale has ‘isi justified from sin. It means they are no longer under the bondage of sin and 6.18 says clearly ‘freed from sin’.

p. 638— Sanders argues as he did before in PPJ, that this is all transfer terminology— righteoused, freed, reconciled, sanctified do not mean different things they all mean transferred and changed from one condition or status to another. [It needs to be made clearer that Paul is talking not merely about a status change but a real inward change. It’s not merely a matter of consider yourself this, either. It’s a matter of real transformation— new creation]

p. 639— faith in Christ and dying with Christ sound different, one referring to spiritual orientation, one to union with Christ and Paul meant both, but in function they are the same— see Phil. 3.9-10 the righteousness that comes from God based on faith means knowing Christ and sharing in his sufferings and becoming like him in his death. Where sin is an enslaving power, mere repentance is not enough “Regretting that one is enslaved does not break the power of Sin….People need a savior who can overcome the power of sin, not simply their own contrition.”

p. 641— Romans 7 is about the Jewish law and the argument moves from saying the Law is ineffective to saying the Law is one of the enslaving powers that is opposed in Christ. Paul had a black and white mentality— if salvation was thru faith in Christ then it was not through the law and the election of Israel. Paul was not irrational but if you simply pile all his law statements together and try to blend it together into a systematic discussion without regard to context, then some bits contradict others. Paul is wrestling with a hard problem not constructing a systematic theology. “Paul was not alone in being unable perfectly to reconcile the exclusive election of Israel and the giving of the divine law with universal salvation based on faith in Christ. It cannot be done.”

p. 642— This is what produced Marcion’s radical solution. Eventually Christians settled into a compromise of accepting some commandments and elements from the OT and even changing some of them (Sunday is not the Jewish Sabbath) and ignoring other bits. “In short, a few aspects of what is called the Old Testament were incorporated into various forms of Christianity. Because of the partial acceptance of some of the Old Testament, the conflict between the two dispensations became invisible to most Christians.” Some early attempts that justified the rejection of the Jewish law can be seen in Epistle of Barnabas where we are told that some parts of the Law were given to punish the Jews who were forced to obey them. Obviously these laws didn’t apply to Christians. Paul could not agree with this. The Law was a unity and he had to think about it as a whole. He could not say these laws were given by God and those were not.

p. 643— But when he came to the practical matter of the Law and Gentiles he had a free hand. The first dispensation was not given to Gentiles. They should not accept it, but some commandments i.e. the love commandment, everyone ought to observe, they ought to follow the humanistic ethical parts. The circumcision party’s solution is that like Jewish Christians, Gentiles should belong to both dispensations and should keep the Law. No says Paul. Faith in Christ is THE means of salvation.