Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav
Understanding Law in Romans and GalatiansBy Jeff A. Benner
This passage, and many others like it, have a very negative view of "law". One of the most misunderstood words in the writings of Shaul (Paul) is the Greek word nomos (law), equivalent to the Hebrew word תורה (torah, Strong's #8451). When reading Shaul, we find what appears to be contradictions within his own writings because of this misunderstanding of the word "Law". Compare the following passages from the book of Romans;
Shaul is clearly using the word Torah in many different ways much like we use the word law in many different ways, such as;
When I use the word law, the context dictates which type of law I am speaking about. The recipients of Shaul's letters understood what context he was writing in.
Shaul uses the word "law" 108 times in his letters to the Romans and Galatians. The following passage shows what "law" Shaul is speaking of most of the time.
The 430 years is the time between the promises was given to Abraham and the Covenant given at Mt. Sinai with Israel. Was the Torah introduced at Mt. Sinai? No, for Abraham knew and obeyed the Torah (Gen 26.5), The "law" that was introduced at Mt. Sinai is the covenant, which turned the Torah into law by its blessings and curses. Shaul is contrasting the two covenants, the covenant of faith (living by the Torah internally) and the covenant of law (living by the Torah externally).
Another example to show that Torah can mean covenant is the term "Book of the law" as found in Deut 28.62 and 29.21 and quoted by Shaul in Gal 3.10. This phrase is equivalent to the term "Book of the Covenant" as found in Ex 24.7. The word Torah can be a reference to the covenant distinct from the "teachings" of God.
One other word used throughout Shaul's letters to the Romans and Galatians, is the Greek word pistos (faith), which is equivalent to the Hebrew word אמונה (emunah, Strong's #530). Somehow this word has come to mean "a trust in the work of another person", such as in "I have faith that God will do what he says".
The Hebrew word emunah means to be firm, such as in Exodus 17.12 where Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses during the battle with the Amorites and "his hands remained steady (emunah) till sunset".
The Oxford Greek dictionary defines pistos as a person that is credible, relied on, obedient, trusted, bound by a pledge. The Greek meaning of this word is clearly one who holds firmly to something. A man of faith is not one who trusts another, but one who can be trusted. What is the faith, which Shaul continually calls us to hold onto firmly? That we can be trusted with? The promises and teachings of God as in Yeshua's examples and the teachings of his Talmidiym (students); "this is love for God, to obey his commands" (1 John 5.3).
The word faith is paralleled with the Hebrew word אהבה (ahavah, Strong's #160), which is often translated as love but more means to take care of, protect and provide, as we can see in many places in the book of Psalms (57.3, 61.7, 85.10, 86.15, 89.14, 92.2, 98.3, 115.1, 138.2). Therefore, love and faith are similar in meaning. From all this we can conclude that faith is the covenant of promise, God promises to bless and we promise to follow his teachings.
If we re-read the Gal 3 passage which we started with, using the phrase "Torah of obedience" (the covenant given at Mt. Sinai) for the word "law" and the phrase "Torah of love" (the covenant of promise given to Abraham and to us in the Covenant of renewal) for the word "faith", the passage will be opened to a fuller understanding.
You can now read Romans and Galatians in this light and better understand what Shaul means by "law".