Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Eschatological Torah in Romans

Having identified that a concept of eschatological torah exists in the Old Testament, and that Paul reflects the Old Testament teaching concerning this concept in his letters, it is interesting to consider how prominent the concept of eschatological torah is in Paul.

A good place to start is Paul’s epistle to the Romans. On my calculations, of the 74 instances of νóμοϛ (nomos) in Romans, it seems that around 5% of instances have eschatological or new covenant torah as their referent. The relevant instances are highlighted in bold in the following quotations.

For when Gentiles, who by nature do not have the law, do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law (Rom 2:14).

Gentiles by definition cannot keep Mosaic torah, so the law that the Gentiles keep (in accordance with Isa 2:2-3; 42:2; 51:4) must be eschatological torah.

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith (Rom 3:27).

The law of works is the law of Moses. The law of faith is the eschatological torah of the gospel, which breaks down the barrier of exclusive covenant membership that led to Jewish boasting.

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2).

The law of sin and death is the law that brought death to Israel, i.e., the law of Moses. This is evident from the wider context as Paul has just argued in Rom 7 for the condemnatory and mortifying effect of the law of Moses on carnal Israel. By way of contrast to the law of Moses, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is nothing other than the eschatological torah that is written in the heart by the Holy Spirit that brings life through Christ Jesus, in accordance with the prophecies of Deut 30:11-14; Jer 31:33; and Ezek 36:26-27, which speak of the law being written on the heart of God’s people in the eschatological age, moving them to obedience, “so that [they] might live” (Deut 30:6).

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom 8:3-4).

The phrase the law in Rom 8:4 most likely refers back to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus in Rom 8:2. That the referent of the pronoun us in Rom 8:4 presumably includes Gentiles confirms that it is probably best to take the phrase the law in Rom 8:4 to refer to eschatological torah.

Overall, therefore, the concept of eschatological torah is not frequently explicit in Paul’s letter to the Romans; but it is theologically very significant nonetheless.


jeff miller said...

I wonder if the way Acts and the epistles sometimes use the word "gospel" is not actually a reference to this "Eschatological Torah" of Christ.

Steven Coxhead said...

Hi Jeff,

Yes, there are a number of passages in the Gospels and Acts that portray the gospel in terms of eschatological torah. I’ll try and touch on some of these connections in future posts. But for starters: why did the preaching of the gospel by the apostles have to start from Jerusalem? Isaiah 2:1-4 gives us the answer.