“The Blessing of Abraham” Versus “The Curse of the Law”: Another Look at Gal 3:10-13 -- By: Joseph P. Braswell

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 53:1 (Spring 1991)
Article: “The Blessing of Abraham” Versus “The Curse of the Law”: Another Look at Gal 3:10-13
Author: Joseph P. Braswell

“The Blessing of Abraham” Versus “The Curse of the Law”: Another Look at Gal 3:10-13

Joseph P. Braswell

In the preface to his commentary on Galatians, Hans Dieter Betz remarks: “Strange as it may be after such long and intensely scholarly efforts, Paul’s letter to the Galatians…still presents the scholar with a most formidable challenge.”1 The interpretation of this epistle is far from settled; questions, problems, and difficulties yet remain. Progress comes by inches, however, and in this article I wish to consider some aspects and implications of the interpretation of Galatians 3 suggested by David L. Lull.2 Building upon his work, though not necessarily in directions he himself would move, I hope to show what Paul is really arguing in Gal 3:10–13: what he sees as the problem of being ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, why this state of existence operates under a curse, and how Christ as curse-bearer provides a solution within the framework of the problem-situation of Jew-Gentile relations in the church.

Gal 3:10 reads: “For as many as are characterized by torah-works are under a curse; for it stands written: ‘Accursed is everyone who does not abide within all those things that have been written in the Torah scrolls to do them’” (my translation; for the distinction between torah and Torah, see below). According to Lull, Paul here asserts that all peoples are under the law-curse pronounced in Deut 27:26. In his words: “This question [of why the law was given], to which Paul has given an implicit answer in 3:6–18, namely, to place everyone, Jew and Gentile alike,under a curse,’ is raised and addressed explicitly in 3:19–25.”3

At first this may not sound especially new and original. Indeed, at least prima facie, it might seem to be simply the traditional Protestant Reformational understanding of the verse, a reading within the theological context provided by Romans 1–3.4 In the context of Lull’s article, however, an altogether different sense is intended. For Lull seems

to distinguish between being “under a curse” and actually being <...

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