In Galatians 3:10, Paul says: "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them." And at Romans 3:23 he says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Based on the above, it appears that Paul believes that God gave the Jews commandments they could not possibly observe and therefore (until the coming of Jesus) they were destined to sin without the possibility of redemption. Or in other words, He sandbagged the Jews by giving them the Torah. Can this be? God would condemn His people to eternal Hell because they accepted a Law that was impossible to keep?

Is it possible that Paul is also rejecting David's understanding that the "Torah of God is perfect, restoring the soul," that the "commandment of the Lord is pure" and His "ordinances ... are true, they are righteous altogether" (Psalm 19:8-10)? Is Paul also rejecting David's understanding that so long as he avoids intentional sins, "that they may not rule over me," and if God helps him to avoid unintentional sins, "then I will be perfect and I will be cleansed of much transgression" (Psalm 19:13-14)?

Also, please consider how Paul's position that the Torah is impossible, compares to Deuteronomy 30:11 which explicitly says that the commandments "are not too hard for you."

  • I don't understand all of your question. First Paul is writing about humans being cursed if they follow only human laws, but then he's saying they have a choice to follow God's laws and they'll be fine. They've decided to not always follow God's. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 16:41
  • 2
    @JohnMartin From the text and context he appears to be talking about the Torah's laws. His claim throughtout his epistles is that the Torah is "obsolete" and that observance of the letter of the law "kills". His preference is for a faith-based culture, not one based on observance of commandments. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 17:11
  • @BruceJames A very good question, and one that must be answered straitforward, not prejudiced by "Covenant/Replacement advocates. We are ALL responsible to obey the Law-no one is exempt. Jesus says "Heaven and earth will pass away before one jot or tittle of the Law be changed."(Matt. 5:17) The question is, "Is an individual justified by the Law or by Faith"?
    – Tau
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 4:01
  • @BruceJames Paul does not condemn observance of the Law, in fact, he does it himself in Acts 21:20-24. The Gentiles were not required to keep all 613 ordinances; but they are bound to keep the 10 Commandments, and the 2 Great Commandments(Love God with your whole mind, soul, heart, strength, and your neighbor as yourself). The "Romans Road" argument of Paul is a man is justified by faith, apart from the deeds of the Law. He "fulfills the Law" when he accepts by faith the promise of God for redemption, and lives out that promise through the obedience of faith.
    – Tau
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 4:15
  • I suggest reading Heikki Räisänen's Paul and the Law, which goes in depth with Paul's views on the Law and the question of whether or not he in fact presents contradictory views on the Law. Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 4:30

8 Answers 8


It is helpful to understand the purpose(s) of the Mosaic Law. Quickly:

  1. It was intended to point people to their need for a Savior (Gal 3:19; Rom 5:20).
  2. It was intended to highlight their sinful nature (Rom 7:7).
  3. It taught many aspects of God and peoples' relationship to him. For examples, the sacrificial system was a reminder of humanity's need for a permanent, perfect atonement (Heb 10); the priests showed them their need for a mediator; the temple reminded them of holiness; the dietary laws reminded them of being "distinct" themselves; etc.

With that information, no, God did not "sandbag" the Jews with the Law because the Law was never intended to save. It was never a means to salvation. It was always intended to teach them (again, Gal 3) about sin, about atonement, about Christ, etc. So in that sense, it was a great blessing: no other people groups had that teaching.

Also, it was never the Law (alone) that condemned one to Hell. It was sin, and one doesn't need the Mosaic Law to sin. See Rom 2:12-ff (but really, it's the whole argument of Rom 1:18-3:20 0 - with or without the Law, someone is a sinner and is condemned to death). Yes, the Law made the Jews more guilty, but that is true of anything that gives knowledge -- we become responsible for what we know.

But to your point: yea, it was impossible to keep. Not because it's so strict, but because they were sinners. David understood that: he understood points 1-3 above and that is why he knew they were holy and good. The precepts taught him about God, and about himself. See also Eph 2:11-ff.

EDIT (added per @Bruce James comment) Re: Deut 30:11, I would argue that what is not "too hard" is understanding the Law. Look at vv12-14. They have to do with how "near" the Law is. You don't have to go to heaven or into the sea to "get" it. It does not have to do with ability to obey the law perfectly.

Re: Deut 30:15-20, there is nothing in there that has to do with eternal salvation. Obeying the Law did lead to temporal, earthly blessings and disobedience did lead to being enslaved and run out of the land. The rest of the OT bears that out.

Re: Psa 19, I'm not sure what you're looking at that has to do with your question. Based on my reply above, the Law remains "sure... right... pure..." What does Psa 19 have to do with keeping or not keeping the Law?

Paul never says anything bad about the Law, so where are you seeing disagreement with Psa 19?

To summarize, it was quite impossible for the Jews (or anyone) to keep the Mosaic Law perfectly. It exposed their sin and their need for a Savior. It also exposed the character of God. For those reasons, the Law is good and holy, and both the OT and NT allude to all of this.

  • 1
    The Hebrew Scriptures (aka the Tanakh) has a decidedly different perspective of the Torah law. You did not address the issues raised in Psalm 19 which make Torah observance very much within the reach of anyone. Also, Deut. 30:11 says "what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach." Furthermore, Deut. 30:15-20 explains the purpose of the commandments--that they are THE means for people to choose good over evil, and earn "life" (i.e. after death). You might also address that some commandments are given so those observing can achieve holiness, as God is holy. Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 19:11
  • @BruceJames - edited to address your specific questions
    – ironfist
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 20:41

Galatians 3:10

10 Ὅσοι γὰρ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου εἰσὶν, ὑπὸ κατάραν εἰσίν, γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι “Ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὃς οὐκ ἐμμένει πᾶσιν τοῖς γεγραμμένοις ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τοῦ νόμου τοῦ ποιῆσαι αὐτά 11 ὅτι δὲ ἐν νόμῳ οὐδεὶς δικαιοῦται παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ δῆλον, ὅτι Ὁ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται 12 ὁ δὲ νόμος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ πίστεως, ἀλλ’ Ὁ ποιήσας αὐτὰ ζήσεται ἐν αὐτοῖς. 13 Χριστὸς ἡμᾶς ἐξηγόρασεν ἐκ τῆς κατάρας τοῦ νόμου γενόμενος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα, ὅτι γέγραπται Ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὁ κρεμάμενος ἐπὶ ξύλου 14 ἵνα εἰς τὰ ἔθνη ἡ εὐλογία τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ γένηται ἐν Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ, ἵνα τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ Πνεύματος λάβωμεν διὰ τῆς πίστεως.

10 For as many as [live] by1 the works of the Law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do them”—all that is written in the book of the Law. 11 And it is evident that no one is justified by the Law before God because “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 The Law, however, is not [based on]2 faith, but rather, “He that does these [things] shall live by them” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written, “Cursed is everything that hangs on a tree.” 14 This was so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles in Jesus Christ; that through faith we might recieve the promise of the Spirit.

1 “as many as are of the Law”*

2 “the Law is not of faith”*

St. Paul's argument is that the Law was not even in the 'genre' of 'means of salvation' as such. The Law was never said to be a means of salvation per se, it was simply a way of living under God as a holy people, obedient to a set of rules which made them stand out morally and culturally from the rest of the world (and ultimately prepared them for the Law of Christ, which is based on this understanding that grace underlies salvation, not just 'our end' of things, and our own efforts—in fact, that it's almost inspite of our efforts).

He isn't saying the Law is impossible. In fact, St. Paul, writing of himself, says, “as touches righteousness in the Law, blameless” (Philippians 3:6).

Scripture elsewhere in the New Testament says as much about Elizabeth and Zechariah, “[B]oth where righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly” (Luke 1:6).

I think St. Paul is arguing, rather, that God humored the infant 'holy people' he plucked out of the fallen world for ages past, until the One who provided their salvation all along, Jesus, arrived. Before then He simply humored them in light of the merits of the redemption, which He applied to them all along.

All the speak of impossibility or inability to save and being bound to keep the whole of the Law is to drive the point through that when one assumes they can be justified before God purely by the Law, they have already erred. Since there exists no one who keeps it flawlessly in its every detail, only according to the human 'substandard' God suffers from them. And they are inconsistent in that, if they relied purely on the Law, then if they slipped even once, this implies they would go to Hell (i.e. "cursed is everone who does not continue to do them") (since receiving that one bit of mercy that one time would show how purely basing salvation on the Law is inconsistent, because this one mercy implies that it is God's mercy the whole time). (Romans 4:2).

It would also be incompatible with the truth St. Paul relates in Galatians 3:18: "For if the inheritance depends on the Law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God freely granted it to Abraham through a promise."

The Law, for instance, didn't give people the right to go to heaven. They were merely not condemned to Hell in light of Christ's redemption of them (from sin). Then, when He reopened heaven by defeating death, they were brought into glory. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

St. Paul would write elsewhere (Rom 4:2) that Abraham was justified by faith, and not the works he did per se (although they were not of the Law, but general works). The faith was why God was pleased because the faith led to a will to do what God wanted of Him. Works don't come without, first, intention. The fulfilling of the Law doesn't come without genuine piety toward the Law of God.

In summary, faithfully keeping the Law justified people not because when you 'do the Law' God owes to leave you alone and forgive you your sins, but because you are showing God that you are willing to do anything he asks (Abraham, incidentally, being probably the best example of this, hence why St. Paul uses it).

St. James writes the exact opposite (James 2~) of what St. Paul writes, but not univocally, that is, not using the same terms with the same nuance and context, in that he says that Abraham was justified by works (in general, not just of the Law), but only because without works, faith is also void and non-existent ("dead"). Much like how love is non-existent if it does not have a positive 'urge' to 'leap out' and spread itself to others—it's a dead seed.

St. Paul sums up that the Law was given to keep people from offending God further until Christ should come, in Galatians 3:19:

"Why, then, the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by messengers by the hand of a mediator."


Israel was carried "On Eagles Wings" as she was led from Egypt, to Sinai where God visibly appeared to her and made an Everlasting Covenant with her; making her a chosen people unto Himself, and a great nation, which would strike terror and dread amongst her enemies, and be a sign to all the nations of the earth that God was with them. He sanctified her, and gave her His Law, which by doing she would live. The point being, from the beginning God had extended great mercy and favor towards her, in spite of the many setbacks and backslidings, He had always been an "ever present help in time of need". Therefore, her relationship with God has always been one of faith, even as the faith of Abraham, who trusted God and was accounted righteous, in spite of his failings and setbacks.

Before one delves into the argument of Law v Faith, made by the Apostle Paul, one must be mindful of Paul's audience. 1 Cor. 10:32 says,

Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

There are 3 Different Audiences Paul addresses: 1) The Jew, 2) The Gentile(pagan, non-believer), 3) Church of God(Christian-including believing Jews, and believing non-Jews)

Paul makes a distinction in addressing each group: in Romans 2:17-29 he says

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, 18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. 25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Here, he addresses a man who knows the Law of God, is familiar with His ways, and yet infers that if he breaks the Law, "his circumcision is as uncircumcision", whereas, one who is uncircumcised yet keeps the Law, is the same as if he were circumcised.

2 things stand out: 1) Circumcision profits-if you keep the Law, 2) A Jew is one who's heart is circumcised. This begs the next question which Paul addresses in Rom. 3:1-2,

"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? 2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God

They know, and were given and taught the oracles of God. This is not the Gentile audience, nor the Church of God, addressed in Galatians.

The Gentile audience is addressed in Roman 1:20-23,

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

The result is,

For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

Lastly, we have the Church of God, who is addressed in Gal. 3, and it is with this group there is a controversy. There are believing Jews, which are "zealous for the Law". in Acts 21:18-24 it says,

And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. 23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law

Some had accused Paul of "forsaking the Law" and teaching other Jewish believers to do so. In response, they told Paul to "take a vow of purification" to prove once and for all that he was under the Law, as well as other Jewish believers.

But as to the non-Jewish believers, the disciples had already addressed that issue in Act 15:8-11

And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

The conclusion was,(vss 24-29)

Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

This is the context of Gal. 3; not that Paul is disparaging the Law, but that apart from grace through faith, it is impossible to keep the Law. Furthermore, in regards to the Galatians, who were non-Jewish believers,

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

They were originally preached to by Paul, and responded to the message by faith, the Holy Spirit bearing witness to their conversion. Certain Jewish believers came from Jerusalem(or Antioch) telling the Galatians unless they came under the Law, they were not saved. This is how to rightly understand Gal. 3:10,

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

They are abandoning the "righteousness by faith" to supposedly achieve acceptance "Under the Law", when the Law had not been given to them(excluding what I said concerning the 10 Commandments and the 2 Great Commandments). It became a "curse" to them, and a yoke of bondage when it was clear God wasn't requiring the "works of the Law", but the obedience of faith from them.

So then, what about the Jews? Is it a fair assumption to say they were "sandbagged by God" with the Torah, and without the means to keep it?

No, No, and a thousand times NO!

God GAVE the Torah to the Nation of Israel with the provision of grace to keep it. Unlike the non-Jewish nations, He made them a "holy nation", "a people set apart for Himself". He gave them the Land and the Promise of Descendants, which to this day He has fulfilled. He gave them an Everlasting Covenant, which He promised that the sun and the stars would quit shining before He would disavow His Covenant.

But the "Just shall Live by his faith"(Hab. 2:4). This is the message of Rom. 3:30-31,

Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

And for the believing Jew and non-Jew,(Acts 15:8-11) Peter says,

11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they

Therefore, all were to live by faith.

  • Paul sounds as if were all over the place and he fudges the meaning of the term "the Law" to suit his audience. He is everything to everyone, but it is hard to pinpoint his position. You could read these verses many ways. If, as he implies, he was born under the Law, how can he say he is not under it now, but under a different law, without also saying that all Jews are like him? Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 18:24
  • @BruceJames Paul makes his argument of justification by the Law vs justification by Faith throughout all his letters-the main theme is a person is justified by faith, the faith that Abraham exhibited. He believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness(Gen. 15:6). He demonstrated his faith by circumcising himself, and his sons, by offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice, by paying tithes(to Melchizedek). What is interesting is God tells him His plans(Gen.18:17), based on Abraham's future responses to sons not yet born. Paul's argument is by faith the Jew is justified, just as Abraham.
    – Tau
    Commented May 21, 2017 at 17:47

Scripture also says we must be holy, both in the new and old testaments. There's a whole list in Lev. 20. God is very specific. Holiness in this chapter means to abstain from immorality (which are sins against the body) and eating clean and unclean, which modern day Christianity rejects as legalism...and this is only one section. Holiness means to observe the Sabbath and the feast days.

The crux of the Torah is that God wants His presence in every area of our lives. Putting certain kinds of food in our mouth, for example, just doesn't seem to equate to holiness. But just advertise that you have a food that will turn back the ravages of time on the human body, and people will sign up "in a heartbeat". We need to return to the authentic expression of Christianity that was displayed in the first century...which, also, means persecution. What we eat, for example, tells us how we view the temples we are housed inside. We would not bring unclean things into the Holy Temple in the first century. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14303-temple-administration-and-service-of

  • 1
    Ginny - thank you for these insights, and I am sure that absolutely no one will disagree with you. But can you tell us the why behind your statements? Why was shrimp, lobster, and pork unclean to God? (Why can we eat these foods as delicacies before God today with a "clean" conscience?) For example, how does the image of God (in both men and women) define what is "moral" (and "immoral") in human sexuality? These are just suggestions. Thanks.
    – Joseph
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 22:21
  • @Joseph The dietary laws are from God. Is that not enough? The words "clean" and "unclean" are really not good translations: Rather, "clean" should be understood as those foods that were "sanctified" by God for Jewish consumption. That would exclude shellfish and mammals that lack a cloven hoof and do not chew their cud. The effect of the dietary commandments is to separate Jews from non-Jews culturally and to prevent assimilation, or as God put it, "you should be holy (sanctified or separate), for I am holy." Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 18:38
  • @BruceJames - Bruce, I wrote a comment on this very question. Based on my commentary to this question, what are your thoughts?
    – Joseph
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 22:19

Yes. The law was (according to the very anti-Jewish authors of the NT) given in order to turn the sins of his People into crimes. This was because, though there was a nice symmetry between Adam's one boo-boo and Jesus' one obedience (one sin did the damage, one act of obedience fixed the problem), God would be more glorified if Christ's obedience to God would make Christ the "fixer" for lots and lots and lots of crimes:

[Rom 5:12-14 NASB95] [12] Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- [13] for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. [14] Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Now, this seems to contradict his earlier assertion:

[Rom 2:14-16 NASB95] [14] For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, [15] in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, [16] on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

IF sins are not counted outside of the purview of a Law, then what is Paul on about in Romans 2, where every human being already has a conscience, which serves as a law? Why do the Jews need a new law, in order to turn sins into crimes?

By the way, Romans 2 is plagiarizing an earlier work that I can't quite put my finger on right this second.

But in Romans 5, the LORD gives the Law (Torah, instruction) so that they would become criminals, instead of just personal failures:

[Rom 5:15-21 NASB95] [15] But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. [16] The gift is not like [that which came] through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment [arose] from one [transgression] resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift [arose] from many transgressions resulting in justification. [17] For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. [18] So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. [19] For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. [20] The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, [21] so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul says the same here:

[Gal 3:19 NASB95] [19] Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

Not "because of transgressions," but "to obtain" transgression:

Thayer's Greek Lexicon STRONGS G5484: χάριν, accusative of the substantive, χάρις used absolutely; properly, in favor of, for lite pleasure of: χάριν ἑκτορος, Homer, Iliad 15, 744, others; 1 Macc. 9:10; Judith 8:19; like the Latin abl.gratia, it takes on completely the nature of a preposition, and is joined to the genitive, for, on account of, for the sake of; Galatians 3:19 (on which see παραβοσις); 1 Timothy 5:14; Titus 1:11; Jude 1:16; τούτου χάριν, on this account, for this cause, Ephesians 3:1 (Xenophon, mem. 1, 2, 54); τούτου χάριν ἵνα, Ephesians 3:14 (cf. Winer's Grammar, 566 (526)); Titus 1:5; οὗ χάριν, for which cause, Luke 7:47; χάριν τίνος; for what cause? wherefore? 1 John 3:12. Except in 1 John 3:12, χάριν is everywhere in the N. T. placed after the genitive, as it generally is in secular authors (cf. Passow, under the word, I. 3 a., p. 2416{b}; Herm. ad Vig., p. 701); in the O. T. Apocrypha it is placed sometimes before, sometimes after; cf. Wahl, Clavis Apocr., under the word 6 b.; Grimm on 1 Macc. 3:29.

THAYER’S GREEK LEXICON, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com

The point of the Law was to make the forgiveness of transgression appear more magnificent:

[Rom 7:13 NKJV] [13] Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.

YEAH! That's how the LORD works! Make them need me!


1. Question Restatement:

Ultimately, I think the question might be answered, in: "Even supposing that God gave Israel a law they could keep, and live by - was that law preserved?"

2. Answer

Ezekiel 20:23-25 - 23 Also I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them among the lands, 24 because they had not observed My ordinances, but had rejected My statutes and had profaned My sabbaths, and their eyes were on the idols of their fathers. 25 I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live;

This passage and its context are not ambiguous: this was not "sabotage", but a judgment against them, given how they had provoked God, (that law acting as a schoolmaster, disciplining, until they came to maturity.)

Paul's Writing Style:

Paul's writing style is "legal" - and intended to be clear, religious rulings - exactly like the Jewish practice of doing this, (the form of his arguments and use of hypotheticals are exactly the same). Paul's writing style very clearly indicates that he really had been trained in Judaic argument, as a Pharisee.

To be understood - Paul repeats, and explains, over and again. His use of "qualifications" are wrongfully over-looked, and ignored - which are incredibly important in his style of writing. This causes many erroneous interpretations of his writings. (See the related question: Why is it possible to “fall from grace” by keeping the law?).

Even Jesus used "legal qualifications" in this way: "The greatest commandment - of the law." "... the one who has no sin." etc.

The problem with this question is that its emphatic qualification is not considered: "all who rely on works" Rely on it for what purpose?

Conclusion: So - if even Hebrew Scripture indicates that the law was "a curse / judgment against Israel", then it seems reasonable to interpret Paul at face-value.


Paul never argued that the Torah was too hard or impossible to be kept completely. The phrase about being under curse comes from Deut 27:26 which demanded complete obedience to the law. Paul's arguments to the Galatians is that they are compelled to obey the whole law and thereby lose the gracious salvation by faith under the new covenant. The Mosaic law was indeed very exhaustive and burdensome because of the ceremonial and ritual aspects; which repeatedly reminds and enhanced our sins. Psalm 19 or 119 are written in the spiritual, moral context of the law, whereas the arguments of Paul focuses on the ceremonial, covenantal works of the law. The spirit of function of the law is to protect from sin, acting as a protective custodian, Gal 3:22-23.

The inability to keep the whole law should be seen contextually. The sacrificial system covers all inevitable sin or uncleanness of the believers, thus, it was not a matter of objection, however, it was still very difficult to observe. Here, the context refers to the ceremonial and sacrificial aspect of the law, the key feature of the Moses covenant.

Paul's message was not that the law was vain and impossible to be kept rightfully, but that now the requirement for justification has been changed under the new covenant; in comparison to the grace under the Messiah, it is foolishness to cling to the law. Any Rabbinic Jew would agree that going back to the dead law in the age of Messiah would be sinful, and would lead to the curse of the law, that is the consequence of disobedience. Therefore, reading those text in their polemical context clarifies the traditional doubts that Paul calls the law inherently useless or defective.

Compare for this conception of the gospel, as manifested at a particular epoch of time, Rom. 16:25-26; Act. 17:30; Gal. 3:23; Gal. 3:25; Gal. 4:3-4; Eph. 1:10; Eph. 2:12-15; Col. 1:21; Col. 1:26; 1Ti. 2:6; 2Ti. 1:10; Heb. 1:1; 1Pe. 1:20.

The new requirement of righteousness is apart or independent of the law. Paul never argued that the law was ineffective or impossible, but that it was holy and good. Acts 15:10 refers to the difficult yoke of the law, it is indeed very burdensome compared to the age of grace.

Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

cf Rom 7:14; Rom 3:31; Rom 12:2; Deut 4:8; Deut 10:12; Neh 9:13; Ps 19:7-12; Ps 119


For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse

First off it's only those who rely on works of the law that are under it's curse. So what it is saying is that if you have no faith in Messiah then you are living totally by works and you will fail at that. We need to realize that the Israelite's had faith in the same thing as "Christians" (for lack of a better word) and that was in the Messiah. The only difference is that today we know his name and how he died.

All that have faith in Messiah will be saved when He returns, weather or not they keep the Torah. The difference is that those who do not obey Torah will receive the practical curses. This is what Paul is referring to when he says "the curse of the law". What do I mean by practical curses? By this I mean they happen in this life and do not affect salvation. To see them all read Deuteronomy 28:15-68

Also as a side note, the Torah was not given to the Jews... How may tribes where there at the base of Mount Sinai? Twelve. How many tribes became the Jewish people? One. And that was the Tribe of Judah. So the Torah was given to all of Israel.

  • Welcome to BHSE! We're a little different here, if you review our Site Directives they will assist you in asking and answering questions. Thank you!
    – Tau
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 7:33
  • I think you have a great deal more explaining to do in regards to "practical curses". Are you saying that those that don't keep the commandments only suffer in this life? There is quite a few verses in both Old and New Testament that contradict that statement. I would re-think what 'being under the law' means and then respond coherently. Thank you.
    – Tau
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 7:39
  • What I was saying was if you have faith in Yeshua you will receive the gift of salvation and if you don't obey His Torah you will receive the consequences. The first is a question of Covenant the second is a question of keeping Torah. That being said, if you have faith in Yeshua then you will desire to obey His Torah, but it is not the defining factor of salvation. As no one who come to faith in Yeshua will be able to perfectly keep all His Torah from the word go. But it will be that persons desire, and therefor not a deciding factor of Salvation.
    – thebigtine
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 9:41

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.