Galatians 3:19-20: A Crux Interpretum for Paul’s View of the Law -- By: Daniel B. Wallace

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 52:2 (Fall 1990)
Article: Galatians 3:19-20: A Crux Interpretum for Paul’s View of the Law
Author: Daniel B. Wallace


Galatians 3:19-20: A Crux Interpretum for Paul’s View of the Law*

Daniel B. Wallace

* Thanks are due to Drs. Buist M. Fanning, Harold W. Hoehner, Douglas Moo, Thomas R. Schreiner, and Moisés Silva for examining a preliminary draft of this paper and making many helpful suggestions.

I. Introduction

1. Paul’s View of the Law in Recent Discussions

H. J. Schoeps begins his chapter on “Paul’s Teaching about the Law” in his highly acclaimed work, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History, with the remark that “the Pauline understanding of the law [is] the most intricate doctrinal issue in his theology.”1 It deserves this accolade, according to Peter Stuhlmacher, “not only because Paul’s terminology is highly nuanced but also because the development of his teaching about the law is diversely accented.”2 This is putting it mildly! Paul’s treatment of the law has sorely exercised the most competent of NT scholars,3 and has flaunted itself as something beyond the grasp of the rest of us who have been graced with less generous mental capacities. The problems and apparent contradictions in Paul’s view of the law are legion.4 Such Pauline tensions have created over the years a plethora of diverse interpretations, so much so that “Paul has been evaluated as almost everything from antinomian through schizophrenic to Pharisee on this issue “5

Most recently, five monographs have been produced which threaten to accost even the minimal stable core of scholarly consensus over Paul’s understanding of the law. The volume which broke “the mould into which descriptions of Paul’s work and thought have regularly been poured for many decades”6 is the tome by E. P. Sanders entitled Paul and Palestinian Judaism.7 The basic thesis of Sanders’ volume is that the picture of first century Judaism that NT scholars have drawn from the Pauline homologoumena is historically false: in Sanders’ view, the Judaism of Paul’s day was not one of legalistic works-righteousness.8 J. D. G. Dunn, who has adopted Sanders’ viewpoint, suggests that “to a remarkable and indeed alarming degree, throughout this century the standard depiction of the Judaism which Paul rejected has been the reflex of Lutheran hermeneutic.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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