The ultimate Galatians: laying down the Law (1)

The following excerpts are from Ben Witherington, “Excursus:  Laying Down the Law,” in Grace in Galatia (Eerdmans, 1998).  I think they are of the utmost significance.

For Paul, the encounter on Damascus Road led to a drastic re-evaluation of the Mosaic Law.

By what rule or standard will the Christian community live and be shaped?  Paul’s answer:  cruciform and Christological … it is to follow his example and the pattern of Christ and walk in and by the Spirit.  It is, in short, to follow the Law of Christ which is not identical with the Law of Moses.

Paul does not think the Law is against God’s promises, he just does not think that Law-keeping is the means through which those promises come to fulfillment. . . .  The effect and the purpose and intent of the Law are not one and the same.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians is neither antinomian nor an attack on legalism per se.  It is a historical argument on salvation, recognizing what time it is, and what covenant God’s people are (and are not) now under.

Some Scriptural continuity should not be confused, however, with what we may anachronistically call “ecclesial” continuity between “Israel” then and now.  Paul’s view is that the way to obtain the benefits of the promise to Abraham is through Abraham’s true and ultimate seed Christ, not through continuing to keep the Mosaic Law.  It is Jew and Gentile united in Christ (emph mine  -bc) that are viewed by Paul as the people of God.  In short, Paul is arguing that the people of God were narrowed down to the elect one, Christ, the [S]eed—after which those who are “in the [S]eed” … are “in” the people of God.

More to come in two days, in the final post on Galatians.  This entire series, which includes text-based and devotional posts as well, may be accessed through this link.

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22 thoughts on “The ultimate Galatians: laying down the Law (1)

  1. Mishayah 03/05/2013 / 6:42 pm

    HI There
    You had said ‘Paul does not think the Law is against God’s promises, he just does not think that Law-keeping is the means through which those promises come to fulfillment.’
    I think Paul is greatly deceived in that statement, Because in order to have the fulfillment of say, the Feast of Unleavened Bread happen within you, it is necessary to actually do the Feast. The feasts are major prophetic promises that can only be fulfilled if one does them. No amount of faith without action will set the process in motion for fulfillment. If we only see the Son as the recipient of the Feasts promises then we have missed the majority of God would accomplish in our lives via obedience to His Word. The feast of Pentecost for example is the marriage feast, but if folks shun the feast because they think it has already been fulfilled and therefore no longer necessary, then they will miss out on what is promised via that feast. Each feast has for each follower a powerful fulfillment, but again if folks think no promise can be made manifest via doing the Law then they will remain far less than they could be.

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    • Brian Casey 03/05/2013 / 9:38 pm

      Greetings, and thanks for your comment. I don’t believe we’re acquainted; I’m going to guess, based on your e-mail name and your comment that subverts Paul’s apostolic teaching, that you may be Jewish and not Christian. If so, you would naturally not be looking for fulfillment in anything Christian. (This does not change the world order — it either is, or it isn’t, what Paul said to the Galatians!)

      Note, please that these are Ben Witherington’s comments (not mine, although I have quoted them in a strongly supportive vein).

      One thrust in the text of Galatians is clear: that the promises of God are *no longer* to be fulfilled in keeping the Torah and its outgrowths. If you don’t want to accept Paul’s Christian teaching, that’s Paul and Jesus you’re arguing with, not me. 🙂 As far as fulfilling experiences, I would agree that, for instance, knowing and possibly participating in a Haggadah/Passover meal can help us understand greater significance of Jesus’ Last Supper and Christian observance of communion today. I have things to learn about other feasts and their fulfillments in Christ, but that in no way means I would need to observe the Old-Covenant feasts in a Jewish manner. “Doing the Law” is actually precisely what Paul was combatting among the Galatians; Christians can not, *must* not think that keeping the Old Law is the chosen means of faith expression anymore. I encourage you to read the post from two days ago in which I detailed some negatives and positives that show up in Galatians. And there is one more post coming, consisting mostly of more quotations from exegetical scholar Ben Witherington.

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    • Mishayah 03/05/2013 / 10:37 pm

      Hi There Brian
      True I am not a Christian, but neither am I jewish, it is quite curious though that Christians follow whole heartedly after Paul, when Yahshua commanded His followers to do the Torah. So regardless of what Paul taught, one would think that Christians would follow the teachings of the one whom they call savior and Messiah, that Christians would have as their very first loyalty the Messiah rather than a man who never knew him as did the 12. Who by the way were zealous for the Torah. But it would seem from Christians teachings that the 12 were in fact deceived and teaching deception. In that they did and kept Torah. Which Paul said was the power of sin. Doesn’t make sense does it? That the 12 are given 12 thrones and yet they taught the Torah contrary to Paul’s teachings that the Torah was dead.
      But I do understand that Christians will never depart from Paul in spite of fact that according to Paul the teachings of Yahshua the Messiah are null and void. And that the word of Paul is exalted above and beyond the Word of God.

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    • Brian Casey 03/06/2013 / 9:19 am

      Thanks for caring about how your comment was received. That shows character, especially when combined with the face that you have not been belligerent about differing opinions. I’m not sure where you got the idea that Christians follow Paul and not Jesus. I certainly don’t make that distinction. I consider myself a seriously committed Christian (although I fall far short of what I want to be) and am interested in origins of the Christian faith. By “origins,” I mean the early years, not the so-called “church fathers.” (The Roman takeover is as divergent as it is legendary.) True, Paul wrote a few things that are difficult to harmonize with Peter or even with Jesus. But, the deeper one goes into study of Paul, the more things tend to come clear.

      I’m curious as to why a non-Christian would bother to read and comment on something like the material I’d written. Not to annoy you, but there must be a vestige of Christian-faith-interest in you. 🙂

      I’m working on a blogpost that summarizes some of the timetable between Jesus’ crucifixion and the earliest letters of Saul/Paul. You might find it significant when it comes out, but to spare you the “need” of checking in until it does, I’ll give you a foretaste:

      – The Acts document of Luke firmly fixes two dates: – A.D. 29 (15th year of reign of Tiberius): initial prophesying of John the Immerser (and thus the earliest time for beginning of Jesus’ teaching and miraculous work — thus leading to the more traditional date, 33, for Jesus’ crucifixion – A.D. 50: Pauls arrival in Corinth – Given the arithmetic presented in Galatians, Paul may be seen to have been converted as early as late 33 and as late as 37. The earlier date is more likely: if you went with 37, you would have Paul returning to Jerusalem (2nd return) in the same year as her arrived in Corinth. The authenticity of Galatians, by the way, hasn’t really been disputed by anyone of scholarly significance, whereas 2 Thess and Ephesians, for instance, have some level of doubt as to whether Paul wrote them.

      Basically, it is illogical to assume Paul to have “created something out of thin air,” as some liberal theologians claim, when he was enlisted and working for Jesus’ cause within a very short number of months/years. There were still eyewitnesses who would have discredited Saul/Paul and shown him to be fraud. In point of fact, that did not happen; Paul, whether you want to call him an apostle in the official sense or not, was a “sent” or “commissioned” one (along with others such as Barnabas, Silas, Timothy).

      Three final questions/points for your consideration:

      1. What do you do with the fact that Peter attested to Paul’s writings? 2. The fact that Peter and others (even Paul, in at least one documented case), “kept Torah” has little to do with what they wrote about and would have envisioned for the future, had they foreseen that we would still be waiting, two millennia later, for the *parousia*. Early on, Christians constituted a sect of Judaism, and the Jewish traditions might well have been kept as *cultural* traditions, but not as sanctifying or sacramental ones. That Peter did this is fine. The problem came in when people tried to say Jewish custom MUST be kept in order to be of Christ. Jesus’ kingdom was/is not of this world, and the Jewish kingdom was very much of this world. 3. You and I may have similar modes of operation: challenge of the status quo. I want to say to you that I reject much of institutional Christian religion — for instance, the Roman Catholic hierarchy and catechetical teachings really tick me off. “Christian,” for me, means “of Christ” and is not a political or institutional designation.

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    • Mishayah 03/06/2013 / 11:41 am

      Hi Brian

      I have read blogs where the author states in no uncertain terms that unless Yahshua lines up with Paul, then ignore His words. Such as ‘forgive and you shall be forgiven.’ Stating that forgiving is a work and therefore not applicable as then receiving forgiveness would be a wage.
      As to 2Pet as you had said concerning other books attributed to Paul being contested by scholars so is 2Pet also contested.
      But why reject Paul? He fulfills Deu 13 to the T. Gal 4 is a work of slander. To accuse God of inflicting a ‘Yoke of Bondage’ upon His bride/Israel is at best slander. To accuse the Covenant of Sinai of being bondage is the height of arrogance. The Covenant of Sinai is the Ten Commandments. Which Yahshua commanded us to do. Is following the Son of God also bondage?
      So again the Pauline doctrine of ‘where there is no Law there is no sin.’ is straight out of the serpents mouth. Hath God said ‘Keep the Commandments and live?’ To whom was given the word of eternal life? Yahshua or Paul? If it was Yahshua then it would behoove all to follow Him and do as He has taught and He taught His disciple to do the Law. In no uncertain and confusing terms. With Paul he says one thing and does another. He claims that his Lie caused the truth of God to abound. And yet he forbids his followers to do the same. Truth has never been increased thru a lie. That’s like saying if you turn off the light, light will abound. Nonsense! Paul also if you are circumcised then you are obligated to do the whole law, therefore do not circumcise and yet Paul performed circumcision upon some of his followers.
      So there is no requirement to follow Paul, Paul did not have the credentials of an Apostle. He did not meet the criteria. So for Paul to appoint himself an apostle is yet still another lie.

      We are required to hear and do the teachings of Yahshua, James says in James 1:18-21 that it is the inborn or implanted Word of Truth we are to hear and obey and that it is this same inborn Word that is able to save our souls.
      No one ever perished in following Yahshua or his 12, multitudes have and will perish thru Paul.
      But Brian if Christians follow after Yahshua as you say then they too would be zealous of the Law as were the disciples of the 12.

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    • Brian Casey 03/06/2013 / 12:21 pm

      Thank you again for your consideration. You seem very absolute in your reading of situationally time-bound scriptures. When one sees the Jewish Law in its time-bound and theocracy-bound place, there remains no issue with agreeing both with Moses, Jesus, Paul, and all the others. Neither is anything disrespectful of God the Father. Moses’ Law was good for its time and for its subjects. God is not rigid in establishing one thing forever; He is God, and His plan included patriarchal ways and means, Mosaic ways and means, and Jesus’ ways and means. The third category includes Paul. (I don’t follow you on the other blogs in which people have said to ignore Jesus. I think the whole avoid-anything-that-seems-to-be-a-“work” thing is ill-advised. Probably stems from Calvinistic doctrine more than biblical doctrine. There are many things expected of us Christians behaviorally, and to set them all in categories of “work” or “not work” doesn’t seem helpful.)

      No one but observant Jews (who have yet to accept Jesus) have any reason to abide by Moses’ Law today. This is not to say we should murder or commit adultery or dishonor father and mother — of course not — this is only to say that the Old Law is eclipsed by, and fulfilled in, the New. Keeping the “Law of Christ” will take care of everything that remains important. Even apparently observant Jews who were following Jesus in the 30s and 40s (e.g., James and Peter) agreed that non-Jews must *not* be made to follow all Jewish laws (Acts 15). Of course you may say that Acts was Paul-tainted in that the author of Acts was at some times a mission companion of Paul.

      There is no perfect keeping of all the Jewish Law. Not anyone, not in any century. I feel quite spiritually safe and intellectually honest in following all the New-Covenant writings. This is not to say I do it perfectly. Far from it. Neither did Paul. (And his inconsistency in a few points was based on situations, not on wishy-washyness.) But God’s grace toward the faithful (pre-crucifixion, Law-keeping Jews included) covers our inability, and that amounts to freedom.

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    • Mishayah 03/06/2013 / 2:01 pm

      Hi Brian:
      In Mat 28 Yahshua commands the Apostles to teach all the nations everything that He had commanded them which included the Law of Moses. So Yahshua never considered the Mosaic Law to be a ‘temporary thing. Otherwise the Son of God was greatly mistaken in His Word and that being post resurrection. So there is no justification for saying that the cross had a thing to do with exchanging the law for anything else. The New Covenant is totally based upon the applicable Law. It really isn’t Jewish Law at all, the Jews in no way shape or form comprise the totality of the House of Israel. And the Jews during the days of Yahshua had already apostasied from Moses. Which is why it was written of the Messiah ‘He shall magnify the Law and make it glorious.’ Paul completely denigrated the law to the point that no one in Christianity would ever dare to keep it., even though it was made glorious and this is not referring to the law of messiah which was an invention of Paul.
      When Jer prophesied about the New Covenant, the Law did not change, same law only now it is within instead of without. Same law, different location. So the feasts are still part of the Law a major part of it and they will never be fulfilled if they are forsaken. Sure Yahshua fulfilled the spring feasts but have we? The Gospels do not speak in any terms of ‘vicarious substitution’ in fact just the opposite, Nor do they speak of the ‘free gift of salvation’ in fact just the opposite.’ The Pearl of Great Price is just that.’ It will cost you everything. So one needs to count the cost, are they willing to follow excessively the teachings of the Son or do they deviate on account of one man who contradicts the Son while claiming the be the ‘light to the gentiles’ which was the title given to Yahshua not Paul.’ Even as Yahshua said ‘out of the mouth of two or witnesses let every word be established.’ Paul is his own witness and therefore his testimony is invalid.

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    • Brian Casey 03/06/2013 / 5:08 pm

      Mishayah (not sure if that’s your name or not, but hello again, anyway!),

      Jesus most certainly did not tell all his followers to observe the Law of Moses forever. (It takes a very biased and erroneous reading of the gospel narratives to come up with that.) Whether you think the “Sermon on the Mount” was delivered all at once or is Matthew’s compilation of many messages, read it and try, honestly, to get the idea that Jesus is saying, “I am saying to stay with the Old Law differently.” And what of “I am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly” in John? (Or do you discount John since it was written after the synoptics and possibly influenced by non-apostolic teaching and literature?)

      I agree that discipleship is costly, and I also affirm that the grace-gift of salvation is freely given. The two create a marvelous, paradoxical mystery of the divine and are not to be pitted against one another.

      Now, I’m not always averse to the apparently unusual. Your ideas, bizarre as they are, are not off-base simply because they’re bizarre; they’re off-base because they’re off-base! As an e-acquaintance who wishes you only good things, I would suggest that you study more sane scholars than those who wish to find supposed Pauline “issues” under every rock. There are tensions within our scriptures, to be sure, but the answer to the tensions is *not* found in throwing Paul overboard and becoming an absolutist about certain other details.

      Take a step back (I’m *not* saying “relax” here — that’s just annoying to hear when you are convinced of something and are passionate about it — I don’t wish to annoy you) and look at the “forest” of the two major covenants, rather than at one type of coniferous tree. And then study the documents on their own terms, not picking up the prophets and the narratives and the letters and throwing them into a blender to see if they mix well.

      You have headed down a grossly erroneous path. I believe in God’s grace toward any sincere seeker, regardless of how wrong he or I might be, and you seem sincere, so I do not exclude you from hope in the slightest. You are just woefully wrongly informed in your insistence on Jewish feasts for Christ-followers, and I fear that in your insistence on something long past, you will be found to be deluding others as well as yourself. I plead with you to turn and accept the New Covenant, ushered in by Jesus and continued through the work of God’s Spirit, the apostles, and their progeny. As you accept it on biblical terms, you will not be buying in to religion or joining a denomination. Rather, you will turn from obvious sin, clothe yourself with the Christ through immersion, thereby identifying with Jesus’ death. (if you don’t like Romans 6 on this, study the gospel of Mark deeply and find the relationship of the emphasis on being “on the way to Jerusalem,” i.e., *on the way to die* as it relates to immersion, which book-ends the entire document. Passages in the center of Mark (chapters 8, 9, and 10 are unmistakable in this chiastic emphasis.) Confess that He is LORD, and then make every effort to be His disciple in everything, until He comes again.

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    • Mishayah 03/06/2013 / 6:09 pm

      Hi Brian
      So then you are saying if one strictly adheres to the teachings of Yahshua that they are deluded and deluding others if they do not accept Paul? Well that would include James and John and more specifically Yahshua himself. As to the feasts then that would make the day of pentecost an illegal act on the part of God, that is if the feasts were done away at the cross.
      But consider this Yahshua said of certain multitude of people who did signs wonders cast out demons prophesied ‘depart from me, you workers of lawlessness I never knew you.’
      How about this one ‘If you love Me keep my commands.’
      Do you honestly believe that the ones that love Him and keep his commands are deluded?
      It’s worthless to call him lord if we don’t do as he says. There is no salvation whatsoever in simply calling him lord and believing that he was raised from the dead.
      James says this:
      18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

      19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

      20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

      21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

      It is the Word of Truth that is able to save your soul and that only if it is obeyed. The Word of Truth is the Word of Yahshua. James never followed after Paul so Paul is not referenced here.
      So the Word of Truth says ‘hear and obey my Son’ so then if we refuse then we have not obeyed the Word of Truth and salvation is not forthcoming.

      James is consistent with ‘Hearken diligently unto My voice and obey all my Commandments.’ Deu 28

      Now Brian God never commanded anyone to become a Christian but He did say ‘This is Beloved Son hear ye Him. Hear means to listen and obey.

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    • Brian Casey 03/06/2013 / 6:22 pm

      I’d appreciate it if you didn’t put words in my mouth that I did not write or say. In fact, I have said that I see that it is quite possible, and quite within God’s will, to adhere both to Jesus and Paul. (*Jesus* is LORD, not Paul, but Paul was part of the spread of the saving news of Jesus, and his letters are key in understanding the early Christian scene. I am, then, NOT saying any such thing as you’ve said in your first sentence/question. Consciously, I reject no teaching of Jesus and reject no teaching of Paul. Where there are apparent conflicts and where my understanding is flawed, I will still try to grow. You see major conflicts between the two (Jesus and Paul) that are simply not there

      Keeping Jesus’ commands is OF COURSE important in following Jesus. Keeping all apostolic doctrine is important, as well. There are minor points of tension, as I have said more than once, but the idea that it’s not possible to follow Jesus and follow Paul or Peter or John or whoever is incorrect.

      I have no idea what you mean by the Pentecost being illegal thing. Pentecost was Pentecost, and there was still a Jewish center in Jerusalem in 33 A.D., and God used that time to help in the overall transition. (That might not be all that well put, but it gets the point across.)

      “Become a Christian” may mean something different to you than it means to me. He most certainly wants us to become *of Christ.* (He has *no* interest, I’m convinced, in our buying in to centuries of liturgical tradition and apostasy that began as early as the first century prior to the year 50.) Being “of Christ” and following Jesus/Joshua/Yeshua/Yahshua has nothing to do with being a Jew or following customs initiated in the time of the Jewish theocracy.

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    • Mishayah 03/06/2013 / 7:11 pm

      Hi Brian:
      So then one thing I did not answer previously is that you said Yahshua did not command anyone to keep the Law forever. So in spite of the fact that it’s called the everlasting covenant you’re saying that that is not correct. In Mat 23:2-3 Yahshua did command his followers to do the Law of Moses, but you’re saying that he really didn’t mean it? All that Yahshua taught was the Law of God including the sermon on the mount. I sure sure that you are aware that the Law in Hebrew is CAlled Torah and it simply means the instructions of life. Very unfortunate that it was labeled law in the english translations. But if you allow the Bible to define certain terms such as law then you begin to see a different picture of it.
      For example Pro 6:23 For the Commandment is the lamp and the Torah/Law is the Light and the reproofs of instruction are the way of life.
      So here we have the Law is the Light.
      Then look at Psa 119:142 ‘Thy Law is the Truth’

      So using the verifiable Word to define the law we see that it is The Light, it is the Truth.

      So here is major problem with Paul’s take on it, He says it’s the power of sin, now define it. Paul says the light and the truth are the power of sin. Or Romans 7 you are now delivered from the Law, again You are now delivered from the light, you are delivered from the truth.

      Either the Torah is the Truth or it isn’t. Either Yahshua is the Truth or He isn’t, either the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth or He isn’t. If one is delivered from the law then one is delivered from all the truth without exception.
      Brian there is no dispensation on the Truth there never has been. It is not a temporary thing as is commonly taught. Either the Covenant of Truth is everlasting or it isn’t.

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    • Brian Casey 03/06/2013 / 7:38 pm

      I would say that the Torah was not truth with a capital “T” (just as the New Covenant writings are not to be worshipped, either: they point, rather, decidedly to the Object of our worship). The Torah was God’s Law *for Israel.* That in no way discredits it; it merely puts it in its proper perspective.

      Sometimes in scripture, just as in other literature, hyperbole is employed in order to make a point or to be poetic. A description of something as “eternal” or “everlasting” does not necessarily mean it will not be superseded. Understanding forms of communication and literary devices helps here.

      You appear to have misunderstood Matt. 23:2-3 and in its literary context and in its chronological time frame. Jesus was speaking to Jews, prior to the crucifixion, and speaking of the Pharisaic burdens. See also 11:28-30 in this sphere — near the literary center of this gospel, Matthew quotes Jesus as inviting Jews to come to Him in order to have a yoke removed from their necks.

      The English word “law” is of little consequence in itself. As for the translation of Gk. *nomos* in the NC writings, I’ve never heard it questioned before. Do you have reason to believe *nomos *was a poor substitute for the Hebrew word at the time the Septuagint was scribed? Again, using a poetic Psalm to “define” Law is inappropriate. If you think “Law” in Psalm 119 defines “Law” in Exodus or Jeremiah (not to mention Galatians), you would seem to have one of the most restrictive views of verbal inerrancy I have encountered. To affirm with the Psalmist that “God’s Law lights one’s pathway,” etc., in no way precludes one from understanding the Torah to have been eclipsed in a later time.

      Living for God is no longer summed up in Law-keeping (praise Him for that). Attempting to maintain, or revert to, a Law-keeping system, or a system like it (as with certain fundamentalist Christian sects, Islamists, and others) leaves one without hope. Now, hopelessness in itself would not be reason enough to believe as I believe on this topic; it would be well within the rights of God to kill us, or make us all suffer, eternally, without hope of redemption. The major thing that causes me to reject your emphasis on Jewish law and custom is that it is hermeneutically unsound to carry it forward.

      Goodness, M. You will absolutely hate tomorrow’s post on my blog, which adds more delineation — rather convincingly if one accepts that New is New and Old is Old. Old doesn’t mean “dumb” or “retarded.” Here, it merely means “useful in a time now past.”

      Paul, by the way, is as verifiable as David and Asaph and Jeremiah. 🙂 And I find Paul to have been as true to His Lord as he was to his interpretations of the Law and Prophets.

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    • Mishayah 03/07/2013 / 2:32 am

      Hi Brian
      So then when David under the anointing says ‘thy Torah/Law is the Truth’ you find that that is only a poetic reference?
      But as Paul being true, if he was then why does he continuously quote completely out of context in order to prove a point that doesn’t exist, such as there are no righteous no not one.’ That would of course include Abraham, who by the way was chosen because God knew he teach the law and commandments to his household. And that would include Enoch, Elijah, Isaiah, jeremiah and all the prophets. It also makes Yahshua completely mistaken when he said ‘all the righteous blood from Abel to Zechariah would be required of that generation.’ Not possible in Paul’s version seeing as how he says no one was ever righteous before.
      But look Brian I completely understand that we are at impassable crossroads when it comes to Paul. It would seem that from your view point that hermeneutics is no longer applicable. Brian you can not find anywhere in any of the Gospels where Yahshua says the law is temporary as a matter of fact just the opposite. But you are comfortable with Paul and his anti-nomianism doctrine. That’s a choice. But when every writer of the Bible except Paul and the writer of Hebrews is in stark disagreement with Paul if that’s a good ground for you to walk on then have at it, but it is quite risky to follow a proven liar rather than the one is the Truth.

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    • Brian Casey 03/07/2013 / 8:49 am

      I think “Thy Torah is truth” is a gloriously poetic tribute, not “only” a poetic reference. “Under the anointing” is a theologically charged expression. Do you think the Psalmist (David, or Asaph, or Solomon, or whoever) wrote Psalm 119 thinking he was writing something that would be quoted as “law” itself? On the contrary, this is a series of meditations manifesting utter devotion, desire to do Yahweh’s bidding, longing for ultimate salvation, etc. In the course of expressing those ideals and so many more, the writer gushes with “consider how I love Your law,” “the unfolding of Your words gives light,” “my flesh trembles for fear,” “establish my footsteps in Your word,” and more. How, for instance, does one “step” in the law — a law that was written, understood, quoted, and copied, but which I assume was never laid out as a rug on a footpath for stepping on? These are exemplary poetic expressions that speak of devotion to God.

      You say that Paul quotes out of context, and I would agree, although I don’t think that’s a problem in itself. I have observed that the ancient ones viewed scripture differently from fundamentalists (or Calvinists or Catholics, for that matter). Their highest authority was God, and they knew God, and scripture could be reappropriated or even reinterpreted in order to make a point that God wanted made. (As I’m sure you know, Paul also quoted non-inspired sources to make points.) The goal is not adherence to that which is written; the goal is pleasing God. Toward this latter end, studying the scriptures responsibly and contextually, and only then applying them, is crucial.

      I’m not sure why you wrote this: “It would seem that from your view point that hermeneutics is no longer applicable.” That’s backwards, actually. I’m the one saying that we are hermeneutically active, i.e., that interpretation is at work both in you and in me. You are interpreting one way, and I happen to think you’re on a path that makes no sense hermeneutically. My path is not fully worked out and is fraught with mistakes, but it is a far better one, I’m convinced.

      Paul, should he ever be conscious of your opinion of him, would not care one iota what you think of him, as long as you ultimately accept Jesus Christ and the New Covenant on their terms. Paul allows for, and deeply cares for, the Jews who had not accepted Christ’s covenant and kingdom. His utter devotion is to God, not to a prior, God-ordained, but *time-bound* system of Law.

      The cosmos is time-bound by nature. If you could only see the Law as 1) standing proudly in its time and place, but 2) *constrained by chronological history of the cosmos,* your cognitive dissonance over Jewish Law and the “law” of Christ would dissipate.

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    • Mishayah 03/07/2013 / 11:17 am

      Hi Brian
      Well I’m surprised that you have no problem with Paul’s utter lack of integrity as to how he treats the Word, quoting out of context in order to fabricate doctrines. At best it’s a very dishonest way to treat the Word, proving that Paul at no time ever trembled over the Word of God.
      But suffice to say, Man does not live by bread alone but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

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    • Brian Casey 03/07/2013 / 11:48 am

      Au contraire. Paul absolutely treated the message of God as what it was — the message of God. (The phrase “word of God,” as we hear it today, is loaded with centuries of misunderstanding — for instance, as though a specific word were dictated to Matthew by God.) Again you seem to put words in my mouth — or at least you seem to ascribe to me an emotionally charged value judgment that was not my own. Actually, I would have a great deal of problem with Paul if he indeed had shown a lack of integrity in treating the scriptures. I simply don’t believe he did that, nor did any other canonical writer. Apparent tensions are *our* hermeneutical problems, not Paul’s or Mark’s or John’s problems in actuality….

      Imagine Paul, if you will, at the throne of God. If you can really read his writings and imagine Him *not* trembling before God as Paul hears God’s voice, then you are reading a different Paul. The Paul I read is absolutely devoted to the supremacy of God and the Son and was willing to risk His life on many occasions for the same God and His saving message (or logos or kerygma — either emphasis would fit aptly here).

      God Almighty be praised. Yeshua the Eternal “Son” be adored. Come, LORD Jesus, and let every knee bow (Paul to Philippians 2:10), even now.

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    • Mishayah 03/07/2013 / 1:42 pm

      Hi Brian
      How is it possible that clearly taking scripture out of context in order prove a point that does not exist is somehow using integrity?Psa 14:1 begins ‘The fool says NO God! The subject of the Psalm is the fool that refuse to obey God. Among those fools there is not one righteous.’
      Clearly the intent is to expose the fate of fools for what they are. Even as Yahshua said ‘the fools come to him hear His word and DO NOT do it.

      But in one point that Paul said he was thoroughly correct when he claims that his followers are begotten of him and that Paul is their father.

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    • Brian Casey 03/07/2013 / 2:10 pm

      M, have *you* ever taken a scripture out of context to prove a point? I think you know the answer: you’ve done it time after time in this interesting, but exceedingly odd, communication. One point here is that scripture is not to be revered *because it is written and therefore somehow holy.* Scripture is to be studied and investigated because it tells of God and is one primary means of His drawing humans to Himself.

      All those sent specially by God to do His will had points to make, and they had much at their disposal, including literature recognized as scripture and other ancient literature, to help them make those points. Paul, in a sense, was spiritual father to the Thessalonikans (see early chapter 2 in first letter) and Philemon and Timothy and countless others. He used “father” language when speaking relationally but went out of his way to say he wasn’t claiming spiritual fathership of the Corinthians (mid-chapter 1). Why the difference? Because the situations were different, and there were different points to be made. Likewise, Jesus gave one answer in certain situations, but another in other situations, as to His relationship with God the Father.

      When John (gospel, chapter 9) has the blind man saying, “We know God doesn’t hear sinners,” that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t hear sinners. That means that in order to make a point, 1) God has 2) John saying that 3) the blind man either 4) thought or 5) wanted the Pharisees to think he thought God didn’t hear sinners. There are multiple hermeneutical layers at work here: Not only are the parents being portrayed as cowardly ignorant, but the Pharisees are portrayed one way, and the man, another. M, little is as simple as you want to make it in order to prove your bizarre point about Paul or about Jewish Law.

      One more case in point . . . of course it is foolish to say there is no God, but what exactly do you mean by repeating that here? Are you making the same point that the Psalmist was making? i think not, and I further think that the Psalmist wasn’t writing that in order to make a point for us readers 3000 (or however many) years later. The Psalmist was pouring out his heart to his God.

      I think we both suspect this dialogue must end soon because we are spinning wheels. By God’s empowering grace and Jesus’ disiples’ instruction, I will not be moving toward your points of view regarding Paul Jewish Law, and neither do you show any signs of moving toward mine.

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    • Mishayah 03/07/2013 / 4:14 pm

      Hi Brian
      I think you know Brian that when you see words in italics that they are additions. Simply remove the addition as in Psa 14:1 and you see what was really said, it has nothing to do with the atheist, but rather the fool that says in his heart No God, as in No God I won’t, which is the point I brought up concerning Yahshua defining of the fool, they hear the word of the Son, but do not do it. Nothing out of context there Brian.
      But you’re right on going nowhere, so adios

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    • Brian Casey 03/07/2013 / 6:11 pm

      I don’t know Hebrew, but I have enough of a linguistic instinct and experience with other languages to suspect you might have a mistaken idea about translation there in Ps 14. The understood verb may be an inappropriate addition, or it may be understood and helpful addition in English. Perhaps you’re correct on that one. (I sometimes have a tough time following your wordings.) I’m certainly not arguing for saying “No, God, I won’t” to the Father or the Son. Nor did Paul argue with the Son when he was blinded on the road to Damascus. Far from it — he changed His life to live for the will of Messiah Yeshua. May you do the same, and I may I do the same.

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