Largely In Agreement
Thanks, Joel, for the substantive engagement of my chapter on the law of Christ in Paul! I enjoyed your response – I suppose, in part, because we find ourselves largely to be in agreement with one another, both broadly on the importance of understanding important aspects of Paul’s language within kingship/messianic discourse and, more specifically, with respect to Paul’s depiction of Christ as a royal figure who obeys, instructs, and as the incarnation of Torah (oriented around Lev. 19:18) establishes “the Torah of the Messiah.” I think this helps makes sense, as you note, of the phrase the “the law of Christ” (in Gal. 6:2 and 1 Cor. 9:22) as well as Paul’s argument in Romans 13:8 – 15:13; you’ve presented my argument clearly and accurately so I won’t belabor my argument.
Let me, then, respond to your helpful questions.
Israel’s Scriptures and in Greco-Roman kingship ideology
First, you suggest that further examination of Second Temple traditions would confirm and improve my argument, so why I did not spend more time with these texts in this chapter? I take this as a valid question. As you note, I do spend a lot of space arguing that Israel’s Scriptures present a coherent and unified depiction of the king as one who obeys and embodies God’s Torah (Deut. 17:14-20; Josh. 1:1-9; 2 Kgs. 22-23; Pss. 1-2, 18-19, 118-119). And while I will spend some time on the depiction of the Davidic king in Psalms of Solomon as one who establishes himself in righteousness in my fifth chapter, you are right that I could have fruitfully brought this text (and others!) into play here as well. The same goes for the rabbis. I only wish I would have had access to Christine E. Hayes’ What’s Divine about Divine Law? (Princeton, 2105) when writing this chapter a few years back (see especially her Part III, “The Rabbinic Construction of Divine Law”).
But this leads you to make an interesting point, Joel. You suggest that while my emphasis on Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman texts is illuminating, deepens the study, and shows how Hellenized Judaism had become, that “a focus on Davidic traditions alone would be all one needs to come up with the same conclusions Josh draws” [I guess I don’t have to give a page number since this is a blog??]. I think this may point to a difference – albeit probably minor – between the two of us. I argue that Paul’s belief that “Jesus of Nazareth is Israel’s Messiah…enables Paul to draw upon and rework both the cultural scripts of the good king as seen in Israel’s Scriptures and in Greco-Roman kingship ideology” (p. 281). In other words, Paul undoubtedly believes Jesus to be Israel’s Messiah and this is a crucial part of my argument (e.g., the use of Christos language, Rom. 1:3-14 and 15:7-13, 2 Tim. 2:8, use of Davidic Psalms, etc.). [I could have always fruitfully explored your helpful work on “Davidic Messiahship in Galatians,” in JSP&L!).But this means that, for Paul, Christ is the singular king of Jew and Gentile, and thereby, the foundation is set for Paul to engage and contextualize multiple kingship discourses with respect to Christ the King. On the one hand, I don’t think this indicates a radical difference between our views. You’ll see that in every chapter I give detailed attention to the Davidic motifs, scripts, and scriptural language, but I also think Paul adapts and reworks other kingship ideologies [plural] to portray Christ as the good king. I give some methodological justification for this on pages 1-16, so I won’t go into that here.
Paul’s positive relationship to the heritage of Israel and the Torah
Your second question concerns whether my language of Christ completing the Torah (with respect to Gal. 5:14 and 6:2) indicates an inappropriate measure of discontinuity between Christ and Torah in such a way that would eradicate the necessity of Jewish-Christian observance of the specific commandments of Torah. This question is deserving of an essay in itself, and I recently completed a 30-page essay on this in a forthcoming response to a group of Pauline scholars who are largely working within the Paul within Judaism approach with respect to Paul’s interlocutor in Romans 1 – 4 (ed. Matthew Thiessen and Rafael Rodriguez; Fortress, 2016). So let me state my response as simply and as clearly as I can. First, I think, as do most, Paul’s audience in Galatians (and Romans too) is non-Jewish. It seems clear to me that Paul expects Jewish believers to relate to the Torah differently than non-Jewish believers. Second, I agree with you that Paul does not argue that the Torah and its specific commands have been eradicated with the coming of Christ. There is no justification, in my view, for arguing that Paul sees the Torah as optional now for Jewish Christians. This view seems to be exactly what Luke’s Paul rejects in Acts 21 – 28. However, and thirdly, the Torah does not mean what it once did, nor does it carry the same freight, as it did (even for Jewish-Christians) before the coming of the Messiah. Trying to do justice to this aspect of Paul’s language in Galatians is probably what pushes me (and many others) to use language of discontinuity here. In other words, the authority of the Torah (for both Jewish/circumcised and Gentile/non-circumcised) resides now, not primarily in Torah, but in Christ. Both the Jewish Christian and Gentile Christian now fulfill the Torah in the same way – by virtue of their participation in Israel’s Messiah (Gal. 2:20; 5:6) they reenact “the same pattern of Christ’s fulfillment of Torah in his self-giving love for others” (p. 67). So, has “the Torah’s theo-culture for Israel…expired” in such a way that it is now made “obsolete and abrogated”? No, it has not. But does it retain the authority and significance that it once did? No, it does not. I think something similar is going on in Matthew’s Gospel with respect to Jesus’ relationship to Torah and “the better righteousness” (especially in Matt. 5-7 and 11:25 – 12:1-14), but that would really take us far afield.
I think my interpretation of Paul on this point – and showing that the phrase “the law of Christ” is not haphazard or ironic! – may have some potential to further show Paul’s positive relationship to the heritage of Israel and the Torah (as opposed to some views which can barely tolerate statements regarding the goodness and validity of Torah and circumcision (Rom. 3:1, 31; 7:7, 12; 9:3-5).
Thanks again, Joel. It’s always a pleasure to find one’s views clearly and accurately represented. And I’m enjoying the opportunity to re-think, clarify, and respond to implications of my argument.