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Gal. 3:10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, cursed be everyone who does not abide by things written in the book of the law and do them.

Paul appears to contradict himself with this passage by first stating "rely on the works of the law are under a curse". In turn following it up by stating "cursed be everyone who does not abide by things written in the book of the law and do them"...

I see extreme contradiction in this passage as the one clearly opposes the other. Surely God did not intend people to be curse for both following and not following the law or Paul would actually be saying we are all cursed.

So is Paul trying to teach following the laws is putting a curse on yourself?

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Paul is not placing a curse on the Galatians but is defending his teaching against the Jewish law code. In Galatians 3:1-4, Paul calls the Galatians stupid because they have been informed that Jesus was crucified, and should have faith in what they heard, not in supposed benefits in observing the law. In the second part of verse 3:10, Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 27:26, which is part of a long list of Mosaic curses.

Christopher D. Stanley says, in 'Paul's "Use" of Scripture: Why the Audience Matters', published in As It Is Written (edited by Porter and Stanley), page 150, the primary problem is the apparent conflict between the wording of the quotation and Paul's assertion in the first part of the verse.

Where the quotation pronounces a curse on the person who does not continually follow the requirements of Torah, Paul appears to apply the curse to those who seek to comply with the laws of Torah. This blatantly contradicts the original sense of Deuteronomy. Stanley says the fact that the cited verse fails to support Paul's assertion (and could, in fact, be read as upholding the views of his opponents) could have raised serious questions about the legitimacy of Paul's handling of Scripture and perhaps of his entire argument.

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  • See one of my humble answers related to this: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/28076/13583 I don't believe St. Paul quotes Scripture as having to be positive or explicit support for his arguments, but rather like Peter quoting the Psalm about replacing someone's unfilled office and applying it to Judas, he uses its implications as the argument. This is a great pitfall in understanding Paul. Commented May 19, 2017 at 19:39
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When Yahveh offered the Torah (Law of Moses) to the Israelites, He dictated all the terms of the covenant (the Torah was the Old Covenant). One of the terms was that the Israelites would be "cursed" (אָרוּר) if they did not do everything commanded of them in the Torah.

In Deu. 27:26, it is written,

Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law, to do them, and all the people shall say, "Amen."

אָרוּר אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָקִים אֶת דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת לַעֲשׂוֹת אוֹתָם וְאָמַר כָּל הָעָם אָמֵן

Now, in Deu. 27:26, it doesn't say "all the words...," but it is implied, and elsewhere there is explicit mention of all the words of the Torah.

For example, in Exo. 24:7, it is written,

And he took the book of the covenant and read in the ears of the people, and they said, "All that Yahveh said, we will do and be obedient."

וַיִּקַּח סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית וַיִּקְרָא בְּאָזְנֵי הָעָם וַיֹּאמְרוּ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יַהֱוֶה נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע

Consequently, he who neglects to keep even one commandment is cursed. The apostle Paul is merely reiterating a fact of the matter, and that is that no one can keep the Law perfectly, therefore, everyone under the Old Covenant (under the Law) has subjected himself to a curse.

In Gal. 3:10, it is written,

For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse, for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all that is written in the book of the law, to do them."

ὅσοι γὰρ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου εἰσὶν ὑπὸ κατάραν εἰσίν γέγραπται γὰρ Ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὃς οὐκ ἐμμένει ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς γεγραμμένοις ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τοῦ νόμου τοῦ ποιῆσαι αὐτά

Did this give the Israelites permission to ignore obedience to the commandments of the Torah? No, for they made an oath to keep the commandments. Rather, Yahveh gave provision for the atonement of their sins via Temple sacrifices "until the seed should come to whom the promise was made" (Gal. 3:19), i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ and the New Covenant in his blood.

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1. Question Restatement:

Is Paul trying to say that if you follow the law you are putting a curse on yourself?


2. Answer - Moses Called The Law Itself BOTH, a Blessing and a Curse:

It was not an "Either / Or" covenant. It was both: a blessing, and a curse [because of the threat].

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 - “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. 17 But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 20 by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

God Knew Israel Would Not Choose Life:

Deuteronomy 31:16 - The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then My anger will be kindled against them

Scripture Explicitly States this Law was a Demonstration of God's Wrath Against Them:

Ezekiel 20:25 - I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live; 26 and I pronounced them unclean because of their gifts, in that they caused all their firstborn to pass through the fire so that I might make them desolate, in order that they might know that I am the Lord.”’

Any reasonable person would consider this a curse; but to Paul, it's not that simple:

NASB, Romans 7:7 - What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

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