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13 thoughts on “Different Ways that Paul Uses “Law””

  1. Jared says:

    Thank you for this!

  2. Daniel says:

    I love the question marks in the footnotes. Since there are not any clear examples of nomos referring to a principle in the Pauline corpus, wouldn’t it be a safer approach to assume that Paul is consistent in using the term nomos to refer to the Law of Moses?

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      But then we would end with things like this:

      Rom 7:21 So I find it to be a [Mosaic law] that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another [Mosaic law] waging war against the [Mosaic law] of my mind and making me captive to the [Mosaic law] of sin that dwells in my members.

      1. Daniel says:

        Romans 7 focuses on the division of “I.” The things I want to do, I do not do. Sin splits the “I.”

        In the same way, sin splits the Torah in two. On the one hand, the Law is characterized by sin and death. On the other hand, the Law is characterized by the Spirit of life. James Dunn puts it this way, “The Law shares the same plight as the ‘I’.”

        In Romans 8:1-4, Jesus is the answer to this problem. He rescues the sinner and empowers Spirit-wrought obedience to the Law.

      2. Given this example passage, I suggest the non-legal uses could be expanded further. “Principle” is lumped with “force”. The law in verse 21 is descriptive of a principle where a desire to do right is found to be in proximity to evil. In explaining this, Paul discusses the law of his mind in verse 23 which clearly refers to the force of his intent to follow the law of God in the legal sense as he had just expressed in verse 22. So he uses one word with different meanings to convey a deeper truth about the nature of our struggle with sin. Beautiful!

        1. Daniel says:

          Are there any other instances in the NT or the LXX where nomos means “force”? If the vast majority of occurrences refer to the OT Law, then we must have a really good reason for not taking it to refer to the Law of Moses.

          1. Well, I don’t know without looking and I dont’ have the time to invest in it at the moment. I’m just observing how the context here indicates the meaning. It seems obvious in Justin’s example that taking “law” to always mean only “Law of Moses” is absurd. For example, what do you make of the phrase, “[Mosaic Law] of sin that dwells in my members?” That’s nonsensical. We have to understand “law” to mean something different and I see here that scholars who investigate these things observe that “nomos” was used at the time to mean perhaps as many different things as we use our modern English equivalent “law” to mean. That’s just the way that normal human language works.

  3. Steve Dawe says:

    Thanks for the heads up on the article. Very useful as I begin preaching in Romans.

  4. John says:

    I love posts like this. Thanks, brother!

  5. Ken says:

    Very interesting. No mention of it ever just being the Decalogue.

  6. MRS says:

    Seems to run counter to those of us who reject the third use of the law.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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