Paul’s Gospel, The Law, And God’s Universal Reign In Romans 3:31 -- By: Gregory S. MaGee

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 57:2 (Jun 2014)
Article: Paul’s Gospel, The Law, And God’s Universal Reign In Romans 3:31
Author: Gregory S. MaGee


Paul’s Gospel, The Law, And God’s Universal Reign In Romans 3:31

Gregory S. MaGee*

* Gregory S. MaGee is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Taylor University, 236 West Reade Avenue, Upland, IN 46989.

I. Introduction

Paul’s claim that his teaching upholds rather than nullifies the law in Rom 3:31 seems to surface quickly and then recede just as quickly. This relatively fleeting mention of the law’s compatibility with Paul’s gospel has sparked a number of defensible interpretations. To support the various views, scholars appeal to other material within the letter, both before and after the verse in question. It comes as quite a surprise then that scholars rarely turn to the material in closest proximity to Rom 3:31 to explain the verse.1 Romans 3:29-30 presents compact but compelling reasoning for the superiority of Paul’s theological position over that of his sparring partner. Paul’s assertion about upholding the law through his gospel draws upon what was arguably the central tenet of Jewish faith during Paul’s lifetime. The fact that Paul’s gospel does justice to the Shema, which is recognized as an organizing framework or launching point for the entirety of the Jewish law, provides Paul’s basis for proclaiming that his gospel establishes rather than nullifies the law.2 This article will show the viability of this interpretation and examine potential objections that could be raised against it.

II. Summary Of Three Popular Views

There are three other common answers to the question of what Paul has in mind as support for his insistence that his gospel in no way abolishes the law but rather establishes it.3 The first possibility is that Paul’s insistence that his gospel upholds the law refers to the argument, summarized in Rom 3:20, that the Jewish

law reveals the depths of an individual’s sin and thus leads him or her to Christ.4 The second proposed solution is that “law” in Rom 3:31 denotes the OT Scriptures as a whole, as it does in Rom 3:21 with the reference to the Law and the Prophets.5 In other words, Paul’s teaching is faithful to the Hebrew Scriptures as a whole, since Christ completes the story ...

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