“The Law Evidently Is Not Contrary To Faith”: Galatians And The Republication Of The Covenant Of Works -- By: Ben C. Dunson

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 79:2 (Fall 2017)
Article: “The Law Evidently Is Not Contrary To Faith”: Galatians And The Republication Of The Covenant Of Works
Author: Ben C. Dunson


“The Law Evidently Is Not Contrary To Faith”:
Galatians And The Republication Of The Covenant Of Works

Ben C. Dunson

Ben C. Dunson is Associate Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX.

Abstract

The meaning of the apostle Paul’s statement in Gal 3:12 that “the law is not of faith” has long been the subject of intense debate. Recently, vigorous debate has developed among Reformed scholars as to the significance of this phrase for understanding the nature of the Mosaic covenant and its place in the unfolding of God’s covenant plan of redemption. Some, such as Meredith Kline, have argued that the phrase points to a certain kind of meritorious principle inherent (“republished”) in the Mosaic covenant as a covenant administration (on the “national-typological” level). This article puts forward an alternative interpretation of Gal 3:12 and then situates this interpretation within the context of other statements about the Mosaic law within Galatians. It then employs two concepts set forth by post-Reformation Reformed theologians to clarify further the exegesis set forth in the article. In brief, this article claims that Paul’s antithesis between law and faith in Gal 3:12 is restricted to the matter of how an individual is justified, and that Paul does not in this verse articulate an absolute contrast between grace and the Mosaic covenant, whether on the national or individual level.

I. Galatians 3:12 And The Antithesis Between Faith And Law

Given that his topic is God’s law, Paul’s statement that “the law is not of faith” in the first half of Gal 3:12 is stark, even jarring. This phrase has become a point of dispute in much recent writing on Paul’s understanding of the Mosaic law, with many contending that this phrase is a programmatic statement of Paul’s view, and that with this phrase we are given insight into the theological essence of the Mosaic covenant. The present article will examine the meaning of Gal 3:12 and related texts in Galatians especially with reference to recent Reformed debates over whether or not the Mosaic covenant is a republication of the creational covenant of works.

Meredith Kline’s distinctive view of the role of the Mosaic covenant in redemptive history is largely responsible for putting the issue of “republication” on the current map of theological debates among Reformed writers. He lays...

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