Hubner on Development in Paul’s Thought on the Law

I started Hans Hubner’s Law in Paul’s Thought.

Hubner’s argument is that there was development in Paul’s thought regarding the law.  In Galatians, Paul presents the law as temporary, since Paul affirms that Christians are not under a schoolmaster, which the law indeed was.  Moreover, Galatians 3:19 states (in the KJV): “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.”  According to Hubner, this verse means that the law was given by demons in order to increase transgressions by human beings, and the verse corresponds with Galatians 4, which equates being under the law with being subject to the elements (and v 8 criticizes serving non-gods).  Hubner still maintains that Paul in Galatians believed that the law contained God’s desires regarding human conduct, but he holds that Paul viewed the law as an institution of slavery.

According to Hubner, Paul’s anti-Torah, anti-circumcision attitude alienated Jewish-Christians and the church in Jerusalem, and so Paul toned things down when he wrote Romans, since he wanted the support of the Jerusalem church.  That’s why Paul makes positive statements about the law in Romans—-about the law being God’s standard, holy, good, spiritual, and from God himself.  At the same time, Hubner notes, Paul regarded Christ as the end of the law in Romans 10.  I will note that (if we continue the trajectory) the Book of Acts goes a step further than Romans, as it depicts Paul as a devout Jew as well as attempts to refute charges that Paul is teaching Jewish-Christians to abandon circumcision and the Torah.  We go from the law being temporary and from angels (Galatians), to the law being temporary and from God (Romans), to the law being something that Jewish-Christians can still follow (Acts).

I encountered a similar approach to Paul’s thought regarding the law in W.D. Davies’ Jewish and Pauline Studies, only my impression (which could be wrong) was that Davies believed Paul thought in Galatians that demons exploited the law to enslave people, rather than being the actual originators of the law.  The belief that Paul has a different view on the law in Galatians and Romans contrasts with how my Armstrongite heritage handled Paul’s approach to the law.  In tapes that I heard on Galatians, the pastor started by looking at how Paul treats the law in Romans, the idea being that Romans is where Paul thoroughly lays out his ideology, and so we can’t understand Galatians without first looking at Romans.  And, the argument ran, the law in Romans is presented as God’s righteous standard of conduct, and so, since Paul regarded the law as authoritative and from God in Romans, he must also in Galatians.  (I was usually dissatisfied with how Armstrongites handled Romans 7, which presents Christians as no longer married to the law.)  But, for Hubner, we can’t understand Galatians by reading it through the lens of Romans, for Paul’s thoughts on the law in Romans and Galatians are different.

Published in: on December 1, 2011 at 8:01 am  Leave a Comment  

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