Donaldson: Who Is Under the Law? Should Gentiles Embrace the Law Now?

I’m continuing my way through Terence Donaldson’s Paul and the Gentiles.

An issue that I have focused on concerns the relationship of Gentiles to the Torah.  This item will overlap  with what I have written before on this blog concerning that topic.

In my latest reading of Donaldson, Donaldson refers to Galatians 3:13-14, which says (in the KJV): “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”  According to Donaldson, the “us” who have been redeemed from the curse of the law are Jewish Christians, for they as Jews were the ones who were under the law in the first place.  But their redemption has opened the door for the blessing of Abraham to come on the Gentiles.  Here, Donaldson overlaps with N.T. Wright, who believes that Christ’s redemption of Jews from the curse of the law led to blessings for the Gentiles.  Donaldson appears to differ from Wright, however, because Wright’s scenario essentially voids the significance of physical Israel after Christ does his work.  My impression is that Donaldson somehow preserves a role for physical Israel in Paul’s thought.  A verse that Donaldson continually revisits is Romans 15:8-9: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.”  The Jews play a role in the mission to the Gentiles, either because Jewish Christians were the ones who launched that mission, or because the rejection by most Jews of the Gospel influenced Paul to focus his energies on preaching to the Gentiles, or perhaps both.

Donaldson also refers to a view in the Dead Sea Scrolls, parts of rabbinic literature, and other Second Temple sources that Gentiles must convert to Judaism before the eschaton or they will be destroyed, and this differs from the views within Judaism that Gentiles after the eschaton will worship God, or that Gentiles could live righteous lives without observance of the Mosaic Torah.  Donaldson also cites Sirach 24:8, 23 and I Baruch 3:37-4:1, which equate the Torah with wisdom.  According to Donaldson, this equation was consistent with the view that the Torah was for all, for is not the wisdom underlying creation a universal sort of thing?  Donaldson argues that Paul had this view before his conversion to Christianity, and that, at his conversion, he switched from saying that Gentiles needed to join Israel by circumcision and Torah observance to be saved, to saying that they became part of Abraham’s offspring through faith in Christ, without circumcision and Torah observance.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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