This blog continues my notes on translating Galatians
In fact, those who rest in the prescribed actions of the Religious Law are under a curse, for it is written, “a curse upon everyone who does not continue to do all the things written in the Law Book.” Now it is clear that nobody is made right before God by Law because “the good person will live by trust.” But the Law is not based on trust because, “the person who does its commandments will find life in them.”
This is a closely argued paragraph, which would only convince someone who argued like a Pharisee, buttressing each point with Scriptural quotations. Basically Paul says that if you are committed to the Torah or religious Law of Israel, you are required to obey all its commandments and prescriptions. If you disobey, you are under the curse reserved for the unrighteous. Paul exaggerates here because the Torah assumes that people will fall into sin and provides the rituals which secure forgiveness and atonement. He may have recognised the weakness of this point because he then quotes Habakuk that the upright person will live by trust in God, or faithfulness to God. Paul is emphasising the centrality of trust in God as opposed to the practice of prescribed duties. In any case, the Law rewards only those whose obedience is perfect. It’s as if he sees the Law as coming between a person and God. Anyone who has read the beautiful words of Psalm 19 in praise of the Law will know that Paul’s analysis is wrong. The wisdom and discipline of the Law can draw a person nearer to God, in obedience and love. In fact, Paul rejects the Jewish Law because its way of pleasing God is undermined by God’s loving presence in Jesus with those who have not managed to please him/ her.
verse 13- 14
But Messiah bought us back from the curse of the Law by becoming an accursed man for our sake, as it is written, “A curse on all who are hung on a tree,” so that Abraham’s blessing might come upon the Gentiles through Messiah Jesus, and that we might receive the promised Spirit, through trust.
For Paul, the execution of Jesus is fundamental: all the benefits of the joyful news flow from Jesus’ willingness to suffer disgrace and death in order to express God’s love for people condemned by the Law. The fact that the Law condemned Jesus is for Paul the proof of its inadequacy. Through Jesus it is set aside, so that God’s creative purpose to rescue his whole creation may be fulfilled in the faith of Gentiles.
Paul uses the verb exegorasen usually translated redeemed, literally, bought back, to state a kind of substitution. Not the heresy that Jesus substituted himself as the victim of God’s wrath towards humanity, but the true recognition that he took the place of sinners and outcasts in respect of the Law in his death as in his life. For the sake of humanity he became an accursed person, establishing his unity with human beings, so that in the power of his resurrection they might be united with God.