Is Perfect Obedience To The Law Possible? A Re-Examination Of Galatians 3:10 -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner
JETS 27:2 (June 1984) p. 151
Is Perfect Obedience To The Law Possible?
A Re-Examination Of Galatians 3:10
The precise nature of Paul’s argument in Gal 3:10 is a subject of debate today. The verse reads as follows: “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them’” (RSV). The question we want to explore is the logical relationship between the two assertions that are made in the verse, for it is obvious that Paul thought that the citation from Deut 27:26 was support for the assertion that he made in Gal 3:10a.
Most older commentators maintained that there was an implied proposition that made the verse clear—viz., the notion that it is impossible to keep the law perfectly.1 Paul’s point, according to this view, was quite simple. The reason that all those who are of the works of the law are under a curse is because Deut 27:26 demands that one obey the law perfectly to merit God’s favor. Paul does not bother to say that no one could obey the law perfectly because such a statement was so obvious that it did not need to be said. If this view is correct, Paul’s reasoning was as follows: (1) All who do not keep the law perfectly are cursed (Deut 27:26 cited in Gal 3:10b). (2) No one can keep the law perfectly (implied premise). (3) Therefore, all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse (Gal 3:10a).
In recent years, however, the above interpretation of Gal 3:10 has been the target of increasing criticism. In this article we shall examine and evaluate the views of several scholars who take issue with the traditional understanding of Gal 3:10.
D. P. Fuller, in a stimulating article, contends that the addition of an implied proposition to Gal 3:10 is a “highly arbitrary procedure.”2 Fuller maintains that
*Thomas Schreiner is assistant professor of New Testament at Azusa Pacific University in California.
JETS 27:2 (June 1984) p. 152
if Paul wanted to argue that no one could fulfill the law perfectly, then he would have said: “All who do not comply wi...
Click here to subscribe