Paul in Romans 7 Claims The God of Sinai Is Dead
At a sermon that I attended on April 30, 2016, the pastor at a prominent and large evangelical church said "Yahweh was the God of the Old Testament." This was in stark contrast to what was on the song-lyric monitor seconds earlier which read "Jesus Christ our God." (This was from Hillsong's "No Other Name.")
Do we treat Yahweh as a former God, and now we have a different God whose name is above the God of the Original Testament? Where does this come from?
On July 2, 2016, I read another similar view in an article claiming that the "Patmos" Jesus in the book of Revelation is a throwback to "the Old Testament God." The author complains that the "Patmos Jesus" teaches salvation critically depends upon Christians' works in Revelation 3:7-14, and 20:12-13. The author contends that this reflects the "Old Testament God," not the New Testament God. This article from Christian Community.org is entitled WHY THE BOOK OF REVELATION IS HERESY. It shockingly claims that "John's Patmos Jesus is that of the Old Testament God, holding grudges, ruling with an 'iron rod,' judging our works, and viciously punishing," and "He is not the loving Abba Father of Apostle John's Jesus."
This is obviously a Pauline Christian. He has no problem believing in TWO GODS. One New Testament, and One "Old" Testament. Where does this duality to God as two distinct beings come from? What impels any of us to think likewise -- typically subconsciously? As we shall extensively demonstrate below, it comes from Romans 7:1-7. It teaches that
- When Jesus died on the cross, this represented the death of the husband of the people of Israel -- Yahweh.
- This death dissolved the bond of Yahweh's wife, the people of Israel, to the Law which Yahweh gave Moses.
- When Jesus resurrected, God's people were free now to marry another husband -- Jesus; and
- The Law given Moses remains dead because the original husband who gave the Law to Moses remains dead. We now serve a Living God who must necessarily be someone other than Yahweh or the link to the Law would be revived. This will be extensively reviewed below.
Preliminarily, we need to see where else in Paul's writings we find the very same duality of TWO GODS -- not two persons in one God, but two Gods. This will help us explain how in Romans 7:1-7 that Paul teaches one God survives the death of the other.
Paul's Belief in a Duality of A Creator-Jesus versus A Pre-Existing Yahweh Who Only Created Jesus
When Paul's other concepts are brought into play, the implication is even clearer about the fate of Yahweh intended in Romans 7:1-7. Paul elsewhere explains that Jesus now represents our new husband and is our "Lord" (Romans 10:8-9) - whose name "is above all names" (Phil 2:9). Paul makes no exception for the name of the Original Testament's "Yahweh."
Moreover, Paul had a unique view of the God who lived at the Temple of Jerusalem. Jesus said in Matthew 23:21 that the God of the Mosaic Covenant, the "Creator who made them male and female" (Matt 19:4) -- Yahweh -- still "dwelled" at the Temple of Jerusalem. Similarly, the apostolic church at Jerusalem still worshipped that God at the Temple (Acts 2:42, 47; 3:1; 5:11-13, 19-20, 42: 22:18).
However, Paul said that the Creator of the heavens and earth does not live in that Temple or any temple at any time. In Acts 17:24, Paul says: "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands."
Then who is this present living God who created the world and everything in it but who does not live in Temples made of human hands, including the one at Jerusalem?
Paul gives this honor of creating the heavens and earth to Jesus in Colossians 1:15-17. This explains why Paul believes God - this God-Jesus -- does not live in Temples made of human hands, including the Temple at Jerusalem. Only the God-Yahweh lives there, it logically follows.
This passage of Colossians 1:15-17 is aptly titled by the NIV as the "Supremacy of the Son of God." It clearly gives the highest honor of creator of the heavens and earth to the Son, not directly to the Father. For Paul says after the Father made Jesus -- the "first-born of creation," then this Father-God of Jesus used Jesus to create the heavens and the earth. This makes Jesus the direct creator of the heavens and the earth. We read in Colossians 1:15-17:
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Thus, this explains Acts 17:24 for otherwise Paul would have made an outrageous insult on Yahweh. For Paul had to know his remark that the true God who made the heavens and the earth does not live in Temples made by human hands must exclude Yahweh. Otherwise Paul is saying a false God dwelled in the Jerusalem temple. Paul could not have said this in Acts 17:24 and thought Yahweh was the Creator of the heavens and the earth. No fact was better known to all Jews than that Yahweh dwelled at the Temple of Jerusalem, or at least had done so at some point in time. Hence, Paul could not believe Yahweh was creator of the heavens and the earth, and Paul have ever uttered the words we read in Acts 17:24.
What explains Paul's conviction in Acts 17:24 is that Paul simultaneously believed, as stated in Colossians 1:15-17, that Jesus was the creator of everything other than himself -- the "first-born of creation," and that the credit for the creation-of-the-heavens did not directly belong to Yahweh. Hence, Paul believed the true creator-of-the heavens and earth - the Son-God - made the heavens and the earth, and thus Acts 17:24 was supposedly true. Yahweh, a God who supposedly did not create the heavens and the earth, alone lived at the Jerusalem Temple
The Importance of the 257 BC Mistranslation of Psalm 102
Paul is not ridiculous for saying there was a God who created Jesus, and then Jesus created everything else. Scholars know what I am going to reveal to you on this point. Importantly, in the Septuagint Greek mistranslation of Psalm 102:23-34, this is expressly stated. There is a special creating "Lord" who after the Lord Yahweh created him becomes this 'creating-Lord of the heavens and the earth. Paul is clearly alluding to this Septuagint mistranslation in Colossians 1:15-17.
In fact, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews -- who many think is Paul anyway -- relies expressly upon the Greek Septuagint mistranslation of Psalm 102:23-35 in uttering similar statements as Paul does. [See link] . The Epistle writer to the Hebrews, like Paul in Colossians does, says Jesus is the "first-born" (Heb. 1:6). The writer of Hebrews says God "made [Jesus] lower than the angels" (Heb. 2:9), signifying a second time that Jesus was a created being. The writer of Hebrews then says God "made" Jesus become "better than the angels" (Heb. 1:4) by God assigning to Jesus the creation of all things (Heb. 1:2 ("by whom he [God] also made the world."). As a result, Hebrews 1:8 says God-Yahweh addresses the Son as "God" by directly quoting the 257 BC mistranslated-Psalm 102:23-35 where Yahweh addresses as "God" this sub-creator of the heavens and the world. (Heb. 1:8.)
The author of Hebrews does so to prove Jesus is God in that sub-creator sense, directly relying upon a valid quote of Psalm 102:23-35 in its Greek mistranslated form of 257 BC. The Hebrews' author does so even though he acknowledges these are two distinct beings. First, this epistle-writer called Jesus the "first-born" of God's creation (Heb. 1:6) whom God "made" lower than the angels at the beginning. It ends with Hebrews saying God made Jesus exalted over the angels by giving Jesus this role as sub-creator of the "world."
These identical words are present in Colossians 1:15-17 -- the only difference from Hebrews being that Hebrews directly quotes the Septuagint-257 BC mistranslated-Psalm 102:23-35 while Paul does not expressly do so in Colossians.
Not suprisingly, the author of Hebrews has a verse just as strong as Romans 7:1-7 that indicates the Yahweh- God who spoke to this sub-creator as "God" is himself now "dead." For the Epistle-writer in Hebrews says this God-Yahweh was the testator who created the New "Testament" as in the legal term "last will and testament." Then Hebrews says this testator supposedy "must by necessity remain dead" for the New Testament to "live." Otherwise, the New Testament "has no strength while the testator lives." (Hebrews 9:15-17.) We will thoroughly discuss this passage below as corroborating our reading of Romans 7:1-7 to the same identical effect on the fate of Yahweh-God as dead permanently so the New Testament would live.
Hence, we see in Paul's way of thinking, as well as in that of the author of Hebrews, this same dichotomy between a New and an Old God. Jesus is a begotten God after an original God named Yahweh had created him. The Newer God Jesus has "supremacy" as the NIV titled Colossians 1:15-17. Consequently, based upon Colossians and Hebrews we should not be surprised that Yahweh must take a back seat to the Newer God.
But what precisely is Yahweh's place or position in the New Testament era any longer? Can we ignore Him as the prominent evangelical pastor said in April 2016 by implication, saying that Yahweh "was the God of the Old Testament?" Can we belittle Yahweh as mean spirited, ungracious, unaccepting of our foibles, in contrast to the supposedly better God shown to us by Paul, as the Christian Community.org directly says about the "Old Testament" God?
If we believed Romans 7:1-7 and Hebrews 9:15-17 were inspired, we would find upon diligent study that the dualism of Colossians 1:15-17 and Hebrews 1:4-8 deliberately prepared us to understand in Romans and in Hebrews that the old God should fade into oblivion -- death -- as we embrace the "living God" -- Jesus -- as the new husband of God's people.
It should thus be no surprise that the Gnostics similarly taught the same dualism in the 200s. They expressly cited Romans 7:1-7 as proof that Yahweh reigned now in Sheol (the Grave) over the faithful first-covenant people of Israel. The Gnostics at the same time taught Christians would live and reign on earth under the God-Christ in the new covenant. See our Study Notes at the end of this article.
Paul's view of an old and new God is also actually necessary to support Paul's doctrines on salvation. Without such a view, it is impossible to keep Paul's doctrines in tact, as we will touch on next. This may explain why Paul and the Epistle Writer to the Hebrews relied upon the Septuagint mistranslation of Psalm 102:23-35. It suited their doctrinal agenda not to go back and look at the Hebrew of Psalm 102.
What is the proper translation of Psalm 102? Simple.The Hebrew clearly has Yahweh as the sole creator being addressed by a mere petitioner (King David), and not a sub-creator second God. For a complete discussion on that Greek 257 BC mistranslation, see our article at this link.
A God At Total Odds With God The Father Known By Jesus
What can further corroborate that we are correctly reading Paul in Romans 7 below -- that Paul believes there is one God today and one God of yesterday?
Such duality perfectly matches Paul's notion of a New Testament God totally unlike the God Yahweh of the Original Testament. In the Ten Commandments, the original God taught He "shows mercy to those who love me and obey my commandments." (Exodus 20:6 KJV.) His Son Jesus taught likewise that you can go to "hell whole" or "heaven maimed" by cutting off fleshly temptations to sin. Mark 9:42-48 ASV; Matt. 5:29-30 ASV; and Matt. 18:6-9 ASV. His Son Jesus said similarly again that those who call Him Lord but do not feed, clothe and aid the poor will be "going to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41 KJV.)
But Paul offers a better God! A God who saves "by faith, not works" (Eph 2:8-9), as he -- Jesus -- supposedly "abolished [God's] commandments" (Eph 2:15). Paul is referring to the Jesus who after the Ascension supposedly visited Paul in "revelations" -- although Paul's epistles never once quote such 'revelations' to prove Jesus agrees with him. See link.
Moreover, while the God of the "Old Testament" says he "keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commandments" (Deut 7:9 NIV), and Jesus says similarly "if you keep my commands, you will remain in my love" (John 15:10 NIV), Paul found a better God. This God loves you despite you disobeying him. For even if you deny the God Paul found, and you are "faithless," Paul says this God cannot "deny you." (2 Tim. 2:13 NIV.) "Nothing" supposedly can ever "separate" you from "the love of Christ" (Romans 8:35) nor from the "love of God." (Romans 8:38-39.)
What about ungodliness? failure to do works worthy of repentance? and blasphemy? Can that separate you? No problem, says Paul. This new God allows you to deny you even know Him, and He will not deny you after you once had faith. (2 Tim. 2:13.) What a Great God!
What if you are ungodly and refuse to repent from sin, but believe alone? The old God said "I will not justify the wicked (ungodly)." (Exodus 23:7 KJV.) However, this new God found by Paul justifies "him who does no works" (such as repentance) and is "ungodly" (asebe, a Greek word for "wicked") as long as he has faith in such God (Romans 4:3-5). What a Great God!
What if you have blasphemed God? This was the one sin the God of the "Old Testament" said He will never forgive -- He will "never hold [you] guiltless." (Exodus 20:7.) His Son Jesus likewise taught a blasphemer of God "never has forgiveness." (Mark 3:29.) But Paul found a new God who now tells us "everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses." Acts 13:39. The only such sin was blasphemy. You could never receive justification by atonement or other means. But not to worry -- Paul found a God who says your belief will wipe out your irreversible eternal damnation. Paul had to believe this because he wrote:
Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. (1 Tim 1:13 NIV.)
Paul had a very self-interested belief that this new God would love you despite continuing sin, denial of that God, and even blasphemy of this God. Clearly Paul had to have in mind a different God than the original God of the Original Testament, or Paul would have to accept that he was irreversibly a condemned man.
This is the compulsion driving Romans 7:1-7 -- a man desperate to consign Israel's Law to the grave with Israel's allegedly dead husband -- the original God of the Sinai Covenant. This alone allowed Paul to find a second creator-God in the Septuagint 257 BC mistranslated Psalm 102:23-35 - a God who told Paul he would forgive blasphemy, cowardly denials, and every sin -- even unrepentant sin -- as long as you "believe" in such God / His Son, His resurrection. (Romans 10:8-9.) Not surprisingly, Paul in Romans 10:8-9 relied upon another Greek Septuagint mistranslation of 257 BC to formulate the faith alone doctrine. This time Paul used a mauled version of Isaiah 28:16. See link.
No Better Berean Test for Paul Than Romans 7:1-7
Are you prepared and willing to do a Berean like testing of Paul? There is no easier passage to analyze than Romans 7 to prove Paul was an extreme apostate -- claiming the eternal God Yahweh who revealed Himself at Sinai died at the cross and never revived -- because Paul clearly depicts Him as a dead husband replaced by Jesus' after the resurrection.
Simply put, in Romans 7:1-7, Paul explains the Law of Moses is dissolved because it only had dominion over us while the husband who gave it lives, but now that He died, we are loosed from the husband-God who gave the Law. We are now free from the Law accomplished by Christ's death. After Christ died and rose from the dead, we are free to marry "another" -- another husband who has no Law of Moses extended to us any longer. Paul elsewhere speaks of Jesus as the husband of the church. Then when read with Romans 7, this means that we do not commit adultery marrying Jesus only because the old husband who gave the Law is dead. The advantage of our new husband is that He no longer has any Law to follow. So Paul says.
Shocking, isn't it?
The only thing I added to Paul's words that turn them into this shocking claim is to make clear that the one who died is the husband-God who gave the Law. It is this element that is clearly implied, and once acknowledged (as do some Paulinists), the next frightening conclusion is inescapable: the God of Sinai died at the Cross. Then when Jesus resurrected, this did not resurrect the God of Sinai because otherwise the Law would be revived. We would still have to obey it. The next shocking element is Paul means that Jesus represents a new husband to replace the dead God of Sinai. As Paul says elsewhere: ""I have espoused you to one husband," Paul tells the Corinthians metaphorically, "that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2).
As you will see, Christian scholars who have studied this passage have recognized the problem and acknowledged to their own dismay: "Dodd is scathing, holding that Paul's illustration is 'confused at the outset,' and in the end "we should ignore what he is actually saying." (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (1988) at 270.)
Or they embrace it, agreeing with parts of the meaning that make Paul an apostate for such a claim. One even agrees 100% with the above as the most straightforward reading of Paul's words. You will also see below that some extreme Paulinists admit Paul's meaning and relish its complete elimination of the Law, and our freedom to marry Jesus as a replacement for the God of Sinai.
Now let's prove all this which in turn proves Paul to be the most extreme apostate voice in ancient literature.
Berean Testing of Romans 7:1-7
If we are being good Bereans, we cannot help but be troubled by this passage of Romans 7:1-7 most of all in all the writings of Paul. There is a lot of material below only because of the seriousness of the issue presented. We will hear every side of interpretation below so that the final verdict is only after the most thoughtful and careful deliberation. So let's begin a serious study of Romans 7:1-6.
Romans 7: The Verbatim Words Of Paul Condemn Him
Let's start by reading Romans 7 in pertinent part:
1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man (anthropos) as long as he liveth?
2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (KJV)
A straightforward reading formerly predominated until modern commentators realized what terrible implications this passage contains -- the death of the God of Sinai permanently at the Cross. For example, John Locke in his Commentary on Romans published in 1823 saw plainly Paul's point of Romans 7:1-6:
In the six first verses of this chapter, he shows the Jews that they were at liberty from the law, and might put themselves solely under the terms of the Gospel. In the following part of this chapter, he shows them that it is necessary for them so to do; since the law was not able to deliver them from the power sin had to destroy them, but subjected them to it. (Works of John Locke (1823) Vol. 8 at 316.)
And Locke saw plainly it must be they were "freed from it by the death of Christ, who was the end of the law for the attaining of righteousness...." (Works of John Locke (1823) Vol. 8 at 314.)
Yet, we shall see this straightforward reading leaves implicit that Jesus's death represented the death of the husband -- the God of Sinai -- of the people of Israel, if one tracks carefully Paul's argument.
Then when Jesus resurrected, Paul even implies that Jesus could no longer have represented that God of Sinai. For if Jesus still did so, this would have revived the bond to the Law of the husband (i.e., the God of Sinai). This means the God of Sinai must have remained dead when Jesus resurrected in Paul's analogy. In Paul's conception, Jesus must now represent a new and different husband-God -- a troublesome implication to say the least. As Paul says elsewhere: "I have espoused you to one husband... Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2)
This means Paul taught the God of Sinai died at the cross, and never revived. This is because "common sense should rule that, as 'Bride of our new Husband,' we are back at our legal obligations to Him" if the God-of-Sinai resurrected in Jesus and lives again. ("Apostle Paul, Man of Like Passions" at revelations.org.za.) That is, if the prior husband of Sinai revived, the Law would still be valid, but Paul says instead the Law is now dead to us, which means Paul teaches the God of Sinai remains dead.
The Three Questions To Address
We will first address in this article whether Paul intended us to understand that the Law that is extinguished was the Law given Moses.
Then second we will ask whether Paul thus meant by the "death of the husband" which dissolved the Law given Moses was the death of the God of Sinai (symbolized by Christ) -- the God who gave that same Law.
We will conclude Paul did mean to refer to the Law given Moses, and did mean the husband who dies was the God who gave the Law and His death was effectuated by the death of Christ.
This will raise the third and final question whether Paul believed the God of Sinai is still dead after the resurrection of Jesus whom Paul says is our new husband.
We will conclude Paul believed this was true because if it were otherwise, then the first husband (the God of Sinai) still lives in the resurrected Christ and the Law from the first husband would not be dissolved as Paul contends. For Paul insists in verse 4 that the Law is dead to us when we marry the resurrected Christ, dictating that the old husband (the God of Sinai) remains dead in the NT era in Paul's teaching here.
In conclusion, if we are correctly analyzing these questions, we propose that Paul's ideas in Romans 7:1-6 lead directly to Marcion's view in 144 A.D. that Paulinism teaches there is a good God of the NT but the God of the OT is a different and now defunct God reigning in Sheol -- the land of the dead-- over Jews alone. See our webpage on Marcionism.
Of course, many modern Paulinists have retreated from Marcion, and from Paul's meaning in this passage -- claiming the "husband" and "man who lives" which died is somehow simply the Law, not the God of the OT. However, we cannot pick solutions which are only meritorious solely because they avoid embarassment and ignore that Paul uttered gross heresy.
Good Bereans must remain objective. Thus, we are supposed to try to understand what Paul really meant. For indeed, part of the Berean-like testing of Paul -- which is obedient to God (see Acts 17:11) -- must be to see whether Paul's views are at all compatible with Original Testament Scripture and the words of Christ.
It is our conclusion that Romans 7:1-6 correctly understood involves the grossest heresy from the Christian faith ever uttered by anyone except Marcion who had the same opinion. No wonder Marcion believed Paul was the sole apostle of the God of the NT era.
Paulinists Even Embrace The Incongruity and Say We Have a New Version of God
Before we answer these questions, let's realize up front that Paulinists actually realize now what Paul meant, and defend this -- that the God of Sinai died on the cross. ("Romans 7 in More Detail") Compare: "God died for all men...." (Middletown Church.) "God died for his creation." (Ron Graham.) "But God died for His enemies." (Lakeworth Baptist.)
They only hesitate about saying there are two Gods; they say rather that Jesus became a NEW version of the God of Sinai who died at the cross. That is not much better, but they believe this avoids polytheism.
In "Romans 7 in More Detail", the Paulinist realizes Paul's words point to polytheism as one possible meaning, but then says we all know God "is not two people." In other words, this Paulinist realizes Paul's words necessarily mean the God of Sinai should remain dead to explain why the Law remains dead to us after Jesus's resurrection. Then Jesus must represent a NEW GOD to explain why the Law remains dead yet God lives again. Hence, to truly understand Paul, the Paulinist should concede there must be two Gods -- one old and one new. However, to avoid this polytheistic dilemma, this Paulinist of today answers "not all of this may line up as perfectly as we would like, but the main thing is that Israel needed a new covenant where she would be free from the law and able to enjoy God's grace."
So who do we remarry who has no Law any more? Another God? The Paulinist there abridges his full willingness to follow Paul's words to their logical conclusion. The Paulinist insists Jesus in resurrection still somehow represents the God of the OT who died but simultaneously is a NEW GOD:
"Though she [i.e., the wife/people of God] may in reality be joined to the same husband [i.e., the God of Sinai] yet in a way he is new because he died and ordinarily when that happens if you want to get remarried you will need to find another husband." Id.
Hence, the Paulinist admits that if God died, the analogy of Paul requires God's people find a "new...another husband." The Paulinist simply avoids uttering the words "a new God," but it is the only deduction that fits. It alone explains Paul's true point of why the Law given by the God of Sinai does not continue when Jesus resurrected. This also fits Paul's view stated elsewhere that we marry Jesus as our new husband.
We thus see that even a Paulinist cannot wrap his mind around the full heresy involved in Paul's lesson in Romans 7:1-7. But what the Paulinist says is indeed Paul's heresy -- we find a NEW GOD upon Christ's resurrection. The Paulinist in that article "Romans 7 in more Detail" pretends this is the same as the God of Sinai who Paul said died. But if we follow Paul's logic, that conclusion is untenable. Paul clearly did not accept Christ represented the God of Sinai in Jesus' resurrection. Otherwise, the whole point of the passage is lost. Jesus would then have revived the Law by resurrecting. However, we see how close the Paulinist is to the doorstep of uttering what Paul truly said -- once the God of Sinai died at the cross, the resurrected Jesus represents a "new" God, and we could marry Him -- "another husband," abandoning the old God and His Law to the grave.
This is the terrible consequence of following Paul -- you are heading into a gross heresy to justify what God said is the mark of a false prophet -- one who "seduces you from following the Law." (Deut. 13:1-5). And as Isaiah says, one who speaks at odds with the Testimony (the 10 Commandments) "has no light at all." (Isaiah 8:20.)
Next, let us point by point study this passage with greatest care. Whether we as Christians should follow Paul can rest upon simply knowing what this passage says. For the one following Christ, this passage can be a turning point to teach us Paul cannot conceivably be speaking for God Almighty!
The Law is Abrogated: Which Law Is This? Whose Death Brought About Its Abrogation?
Some anxious to deflect the meaning of this passage insist Paul is talking about "law" in general and not the Mosaic Law.
However, Paul in this passage of Romans specifically addresses Jews about the Mosaic Law: "for I speak to them that know the law" (Romans 7:1.) The Greek word nomos translated as law can mean a law generically, but also it is the only term used to refer to the Law given Moses throughout the NT. Which is it here? This is important to determine because it impacts who Paul says is the husband whose death abrogates the "law of her husband" in Romans 7:2-3.
Paul in chapters 1 through 6 of Romans has been referring to the Law given Moses as nomos. There is hardly any reason to think Paul stopped making that reference to the Mosaic Law in Chapter 7. Tischendorf -- a faithful German scholar from the 1800s (discoverer of the Sinaiticus manuscript, the oldest copy of NT) -- agrees. Tischendorf says of Romans 7:1-6 that Paul refers to "the law in the sense it has been used all along, the Mosaic law." (Notes on Tischendorf's text of Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Ed. Jammes Robinson Boise) (1883) at 57.)
Henry Ripley likewise notes of Romans 7:1-6: "When we consider the apostle's habits of thought in regard to the Law, and those of the majority, at least of his earliest readers, it is most reasonable to think he had in mind the Mosaic code." (The Epistle ... to the Romans; with notes by H.J. Ripley (edited by Henry Jones Ripley) (1857) at 72.)
Similarly, the famous commentator Matthew Henry realizes Romans 7:1-6 is a message to teach us against following any longer the Law given Moses. Henry says Paul uses an illustration of the law of the husband to teach we are "not under a covenant of works-under the gospel of Christ, and not under the law of Moses." (Henry's commentary at Bibble-Browser Romans 7:4.)
And in verse 1, Paul makes an obvious reference to Jewish Christians at Rome who "know the Law" which makes the reference to the Mosaic Law even more obvious. As John Locke says in his commentary:
That his discourse here, is addressed to those converts of this church, who were of the Jewish nation, is so evident, from the whole tenour of this chapter, that there needs no more but to read it with a little attention, to be convinced of it, especially ver. 1, 4, 6. (Works of John Locke (1823) Vol. 8 at 310.)
One of the additional reasons to think Paul is talking about the Law given Moses in Romans 7 is that Paul makes a snipe about the Law in Romans 7:5 in the same way he elsewhere sniped clearly about the Law given Moses. In Romans 7:5 Paul refers to the "sinful passions through the Law" very much like Paul said elsewhere in 1 Cor. 15:56 that the Law given Moses made sin to be wrought in our members. Tischendorf comments on Romans 7:5 that Paul in that verse means "the sinful passions...[are] coming into active exercise through the law" just as Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:56 about the Mosaic Law. (Tischendorf, supra, at 57.)
Hence, there is little doubt Paul is intending to speak of the Mosaic Law in Romans 7:1-6 because Paul spoke the same way about the Mosaic law in the first letter to the Corinthians.
Someone's Death Abrogates The Law
Then in Romans 7:1-6, Paul says that the link between "those who know the Law" (v. 1) -- Jews -- and the Law (given Moses) was done away with by the death of the "husband." Paul says of a wife that "if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband." (Romans 7:2.) "As long as the man (anthropos) lives" (v.1), i.e., the husband lives, the law formed by their marriage binds the two. But the "law of her husband" is thus "loosed" or "abrogated" by the death of the husband.
Paul's Greek in verse 2 meant the Law has been "rendered null and void" by the death of the husband in the marriage covenant that established the Law. (See Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (1988) at 270.) Paul means "you are released from the Law as to its demands and penalties...." (The Epistle ... to the Romans; with notes by H.J. Ripley (edited by Henry Jones Ripley) (1857) at 73.)
Paul says this particular husband's death killed off the Law between the parties. It is clear in Paul's illustration that the one who dies is the "anthropos" (man) -- the "husband."
First, Paul says the Law binds the husband and wife as long as the "anthropos (man) lives." Finally, in Romans 7:3 Paul specifies who died in the relationship: "if her husband be dead, she is free from that law;...." Paul is not talking about the wife dying in order to make his point. Paul is only talking about the husband / the anthropos (man) having died whose death then effectuates dissolution of the Law.
Henry explains that by the death of the husband in Paul's lesson, this frees us from the Law, making the Law dead to us (as this husband's death brought about). As a consequence, we are "free from" our "master" -- the husband who died. Henry explains:
Our second marriage is to Christ: and how comes this about?.... We are dead to the law ...[and] have no more to do with it than the dead servant, that is free from his master, hath to do with his master's yoke.
Locke concurs that it was the death of the husband that Paul envisions as what supposedly frees us from the Law, not the death of the woman (or the death of the Law):
" ye have been made dead to the law," the phrase here used to express that freedom, seems to refer rather to the 1st verse, where he says, "the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth," implying, and no longer, rather than to the two intervening verses, where he says, "not the death of the woman, but the death of the husband, sets the woman free," of which more by and by. (John Locke, Works of John Lock (1823) Vol. 8 at 311.)
This is why Henry can bluntly say Paul insists we are "free from [our] master." While Henry does not want to say it, and tries to senselessly claim the Law is the "man" and "husband" of which Paul speaks, Paul is talking truly about being free from the God of the Original Testament by the death of Christ (not the Law), as we shall next demonstrate.
Whose Death Is The Death of The Husband That Abrogates The Law Given Moses?
By someone's death -- Paul just referred to Jesus' resurrection from the "dead" -- Paul then teaches the Jews ("those who know the Law") "have died to that which we were firmly held" (v. 4) i.e., the husband's death dissolved their bonds to the Law. (Tischendorf's translation at 59.) The Law is no longer binding on Jews because someone -- the husband -- in the marriage relationship that established the Law has died.
Who then is the husband whose death in the marriage relationship supposedly caused the abrogation of the Law given Moses? Was it the death of the God of Sinai (represented by Christ)? Or was it, as some claim, the Law's death itself which caused its simultaneous dissolution?
The answer is Paul meant the death of the God of Sinai -- represented by Christ's death -- caused the cessation of the Law. It would be a nonsensical tautology to say the Law's death also was the cause of its own cessation. Why bother with the husband-wife analogy at all if one is simply affirming the Law is dead? Rather, someone in a relationship died, and only the God of Sinai fits the identity of the party at Sinai who was the "husband" and whose death would signify the end of the marriage bonds to Israel.
However, Paul was reluctant to say this directly. Yet, Paul clearly leaves it to be understood. John Locke in his commentary on Romans 7 saw it plainly. "This the apostle calls here serving in the oldness of the letter, and this he tells them they should now leave, as being freed from it by the death of Christ, who was the end of the law for the attaining of righteousness...." (Works of John Locke (1823) Vol. 8 at 314.)
As Pelagius (354-420 A.D.), a faith-alone advocate of Paul, comments on Romans 7, Paul here was "reluctant to tell them, according to the analogy," who or what had died, "but what he dared not say among the Jews he leaves to be understood." (Pelagius's Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Ed./Trans. Theodore de Bruyn)(Clarendon, 1993) at 101.)
Hence, Paul meant that Christ's death is the end of the Law between a husband and wife, as Jesus represents the God-of-Sinai -- the husband in the original covenant at Sinai: "For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified." (Romans 10:4.)
Paul Must Mean The God of Sinai Is The Husband Who Died, Dissolving the Law
Chrysostum in the late 300s likewise recognized Paul meant Jesus' death embodied the husband who dies in Paul's illustration. Chyrsostum said Paul means that "it was through the Lord's death" that the "power of the Law over us was removed." (Saint John Chrysostom, J. B. Morris, The homilies of S. John Chrysostom, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle (1841) at 189.)
Similarly, Henry Mandeville, a well-regarded Dutch Reformed pastor of the 1830-1840s, correctly says that Jesus's death symbolized the death of the husband -- obviously the God of Sinai. Jesus' death thus freed God's people -- the wife of Yahweh, Paul means, from the Law given Moses. Mandeville sees Paul means that upon Christ's death on the cross God's people are now free to marry "another" husband. In other words, Paul means that Jesus' death supposedly freed God's people from the Law given Moses because Jesus' death represented the death of the husband who instituted the Law given Moses, i.e., obviously the God of Sinai. Mandeville writes:
"But when the body (soma) died on the cross in the body (soma) of Christ, the believer like the wife in the illustration became free from the Law which bound [her] to obey...." (Henry Mandeville, An essay on the interpretation of Romans, Chap. VII. 14-25 (1837) at 162.)
Mandeville sidesteps explicitly expressing the implication that the God of Sinai died on the cross in Jesus' body (being as oblique as Paul is oblique). However, Mandeville continues with words which reconfirm that it is Jesus' death, not the Law's death, which Paul intends us to understand represents the death of the husband in his illustration:
"As the wife is released from the Law which bound her to obey her husband, by means of his death [NOTE: not by her death or the law's death], so is the believer released by the death of his [i.e., Christ's] body (soma) - the husband of his spirit (pneuma) from the necessity of obeying its dictates." (Id.)
Thus, Mandeville correctly understands that Paul means that Jesus represents the husband in the covenant relationship that established the Law given Moses. Hence, Paul must mean that Jesus's death represents the death of the husband who originally was married to God's people at Sinai, i.e., the God of Sinai.
Who Is The Wife In Paul's Illustration?
Who then are God's people in Paul's illustration who represent the wife of God? Paul says he is "speaking" here to "those who know the Law" (v. 1.) And the law which was abolished by the death of this husband was obviously the Law given Moses by the God of Sinai. Mandeville concludes on that issue: "we cannot agree with those who reject the notion that the apostle specifically had his eye on the Jewish Law." Id., at 161. Hence, the wife of God are the Israelites / Jews, as God repeatedly calls them His wife in the book of Hosea, and it was the Law given at Sinai that bound them as a wife to God.
Hence, the only logical conclusion is that Paul means that the God of Sinai died when Jesus died, and a different God with a different code of behavior emerged at the resurrection of Jesus. As Chrysostum said in the late 300s that "there is nothing, [Paul] means, against you living with another husband, now that the former is dead." (Saint John Chrysostom, J. B. Morris, The homilies of S. John Chrysostom, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle (1841) at 189.)
Hence, implicitly Paul means the former God of Sinai is dead. This is what frees God's people to now enjoy "living with another husband" -- evidently a different God whom the resurrected Jesus must now supposedly represent.
Why Is This Necessarily So?
Look at the converse possibility in Paul's illustration, and you will see it clearly. If Jesus represented the old God of the Original Testament (OT) not only when Jesus died but also when Jesus resurrected, then Paul could not say the Law given Moses is now dead. This would be because the Law was never truly loosed between us since the first HUSBAND is the same as the second HUSBAND. His death was reversed. Hence, Paul's statement we are now "dead to the Law" in verse 4 dictates that Paul believes the death of the old God of the OT is a permanent situation, along with His supposedly now dead Law. And moreover Paul must mean that Jesus once resurrected necessarily cannot be the old God; Jesus must represent (per Paul) a new and different God than our first betrothed God from the OT.
Would any of you want to be Paul on judgment day trying to defend this illustration to God Almighty? I hope not!!!!
Emil Walter Agrees On What Is Paul's True Point
Emil Walter, a German scholar (e.g., he wrote on Tacitus) saw this was the necessary meaning of Romans 7:1-4 in his work New discoveries in the origin of Christianity (1900) at 95-96. Walter realized Romans 7 contained the beliefs reflected in Marcion's teaching. Marcion was Paul's most devoted enthusiast of 144 A.D. Walter then gives an exposition of Romans 7 that mirrors Marcion's thinking about the Eon (i.e., the divine eternal being) who supposedly was different for the OT from that of the NT:
Yet no one has the right to break the Law but the Eon who gave it. Hence the same Eon became incarnated...and he suffered death, and by his death this law became null and void. For the law was like a marriage contract, the Eon being the husband, and when a husband dies, the marriage becomes null, so when the Eon died, the Law became null. This Eon was Jesus. Thus we understand Paul's argument, how Jesus by his death, made them free from the law. (E. Walter, New discoveries in the origin of Christianity (1900) at 95-96.)
And, to complete the thought, Paul means that Jesus prior to His resurrection represented the God of Sinai -- the husband who gave the Law to Israel. Paul implies this was the marriage partner who died when Jesus died. Thus, as Marcion explicitly taught in 144 A.D., when Jesus resurrected, Paul must mean that Jesus represented a different God than the God who died at the cross. (See Marcion's views at our webpage on "Marcionism.") Otherwise the Law would still be valid, but Paul's point is that the Law is now "dead to us" and permanently so.
It is not difficult to see this as Paul's meaning. However, almost no one wishes to see it. They insist the Law given Moses is not the subject of this passage. Or if they admit the Mosaic Law is the topic, then they claim the Law is the "husband" and the "man" who died to dissolve the Law. They don't want to acknowledge that Paul meant Jesus died as a representative of the God of Sinai.
What Causes The Resistance To A Literal Straightforward Reading?
First, some like Charles Hodge believe the Law given Moses continues in the NT era despite accepting Paul as an inspired voice. So Charles Hodge refuses to see Paul's true topic in Roman 7:1-7 is the Law given Moses. Why did Hodge do so? Because Hodge said numerous verses, in particular from Jesus, teach the continuity of the Mosaic Law. So rather than admit Paul is a false teacher, Hodge implausibly claimed the Law of which Paul speaks about in Romans 7 is "law" in the generic sense, and not the Mosaic Law.
Others who admit Paul speaks in Romans 7 about the Law given Moses realize the illustration requires the death of the God of the OT which directly fed the similar heresy of Marcion in 144 A.D. So they don't want to see that conclusion is what Paul is defending. Hence, they nonsensically argue that the Law itself was the husband who died, thereby breaking the Law's hold over us. Matthew Henry falls into this camp.
However, that would make nonsense of what Paul is saying. Paul is saying the death of the husband causes the death of the Law. If the husband represents the law, then this is a nonsensical tautology. It would be saying the death of the law caused the death of the law. Would Paul speak so illogically?
Second, there would then be no purpose for Paul to mention a husband's death -- referred to as "anthropos" (a man) in verse 1 -- if Paul were simply affirming the Law was the husband who died and thus its bonds over God's people was dissolved.
Third, Paul is clear that someone dies, and it is the death of this "man" and "husband" whose death dissolves the bonds of the Law between husband and wife. Thus, to say the Law is the husband who dies and thus dissolves the Law with the wife is at odds with the clear mention of an "anthropos" and "husband."
In sum, to believe the "husband" in Paul's illustration is the Law itself would be reading a nonsensical tautological gloss into the verse at total odds with the language of the text. It also ignores that Paul is using a familiar illustration where the God of Sinai depicts Himself as husband to Israel. This can be found in Hosea and Jeremiah as well as many other passages of the Bible.
But we won't look away from these clear indicators. We will look straight into the meaning of this passage.
Others Realize The Incongruity
Leon Morris and Charles Hodge each demonstrate that reading the husband as dying, rather than the wife -- the people of God -- causes the meaning of the passage to point in an "incongruous" (unwelcome) direction. They obviously realize Paul would be pointing toward the death of the God at Sinai. They don't say it expressly, but they clearly say it would have been 'better' had Paul said the wife died to dissolve the Law; but saying the husband died causes an 'incongruity' -- namely the point we are raising here -- that Paul means the God of Sinai (Israel's husband) died on the Cross, and permanently so. Morris and Hodge write:
The main difficulty is that Paul's illustration refers to a wife who is bound to her husband, as long as he lives...[and] in the illustration it is not the wife but the husband who dies, not the husband but the wife who remarries. (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (1988) at 270.)
There is a...incongruity between the illustration and the form in which the principle is stated in the first verse....The illustration is that a wife is free not when she dies [but] when her husband dies.. (Charles Hodge, A commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1875) at 216.)
Thus, if the husband dies, but God's people represents the wife, as must necessarily be the case, then the only possible meaning Paul had was that the God of Sinai died. And someone's death who evidently represents the God of the OT is mentioned in the passage -- Jesus in His death on the Cross. But this then leaves us to conclude Paul means the resurrected Jesus does not represent the same God who died on the Cross, because otherwise Paul would not have said in verse 4 that the Law remains dead. If the same God who died then resurrected, then God's people continue to be married to the same person who was their first husband and thus the Law would continue. But Paul says the Law is now dead to us (v. 4), which means that the resurrected Jesus no longer represents the same divinity that died on the Cross.
Paul is not only a bad theologian. He is a dangerous one!
Is It Spiritual Adultery Then To Follow The Law From The God of Sinai?
But there are many who defend Paul's implicit meaning! They do so under a doctrine called "Spiritual Adultery." Numerous evangelical commentators claim that Romans 7 teaches that if we try to be just by the standards in the Law, this is "spiritual adultery."
Supposedly, Romans 7 teaches impliedly those doing so are wed to a different husband than the one who resurrected when Jesus rose from the dead. They try to portray the dead husband as the Law or as Moses, but this is designed solely to soften the listener's attention from what Paul truly said. To repeat, Paul implicitly said the God of Sinai died. But here you can see the commentary clearly believes we must kill off the first husband to marry Christ which shows how reprehensible are Paul's words when properly understood:
If we return to The Law, we are committing Spiritual Adultery. You cannot serve two husbands! Not only that you are trying to maintain a marriage to a dead man (The Law)! (Berean Wife).
The only way in which men are permitted to be married to Christ is for the first husband, Moses, to be taken away. "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God" (Rom. 7:4). In the physical marriage relation, one cannot be married to two husbands at one time. Men were at one time married to Moses, but they now are to be wed to Christ. Before one could be married to husband No. 2, Christ, husband No. 1, Moses, had to die. (Cecil Willis, Spiritual Adultery).
Clearly, these writers understand Paul means that the first husband remains dead. In fact, to try to remain married to the first husband, these writers claim is spiritual adultery. (More correctly, spiritual bigamy.) Thus, when we insert the true persona that died according to Paul, i.e., the God of Sinai, we realize Paul has made up a completely new divinity that guides us in the NT era. No wonder Marcion -- the ardent follower of Paul -- taught the identical lesson which almost overthrew the early church. (See our webpage on Marcionism.)
This Reading of Paul Aligns Well With The Point of Hebrews 9:16 That Affirms Too The God-of-Sinai is Dead
Paul's frequent companion was Barnabas. According to Tertullian, Barnabas wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews in our NT. (See our link.) Later, Jerome and Augustine attributed this epistle to Paul until the modern era where many simply believe the writer is unknown. (Wikipedia.) There is a passage in Hebrews that similarly implies the God of Sinai is dead, and only Christ lives as the "living God." The epistle-writer envisions Christ as a distinct God from God-Yahweh who is now supposedly the dead testator of the New Testament. It is found in Hebrews 9:16. It reads:
For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. (Heb. 9:16, KJV)
When we study this carefully below, this means that the God-of-Sinai established the promise of a new testament but it only remains alive now as long as the original testator (the God-of-Sinai) remains dead. Yahweh supposedly reflects now the "dead works" of the dead law. Instead, the epistle-writer means we move on to enjoy the resurrected Jesus who represents the "living God." He goes on that the new testament only persists as long as the "death of the testator" (i.e., Yahweh) remains a fact, for the new testament would disappear if the original testator still lives. This must be the God-of-Sinai who remains dead because the writer says the new testament would disappear if the original testator still lived.
Hence, Barnabas / Paul in Heb. 9:16 had the identical notion that we read in Romans 7 from Paul. If Barnabas was the author, then no wonder these men were common companions.
There is no doubt of this interpretation if one reads the entire chapter nine of Hebrews. It starts with talk of the "first covenant" in 9:1. Then it speaks of "Christ being come as an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle,...," that is, replacing the old temple system with a better one. (Hebrews 9:11.) After speaking of the old temple service required under the Law, Barnabas / Paul refers to it pejoratively as 'dead works': "the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God...." (Heb. 9:14.) The dead works of the Law, this means, belong to a dead system, but instead now you serve the "living God." Implicitly from what follows, this leaves the God-of-Sinai as God over dead works and a dead system in contrast to what is offered by the "living God." This becomes only clear when we arrive at 9:15-17. Here is the entire passage:
15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
16For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
17For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. (Hebrews 9:15-17.)
So here Jesus is the "mediator of the new testament." The Greek word rendered as testament is diatheke, meaning will or last will and testament. (See "Diatheke: Testament or Covenant?"). The fruits from it "prevailed" / was ushered in by the "death of the testator." The "testament" that now lives is the new testament, but it only has "force after men are dead." This necessarily implies that if the testator who died is indeed the same who now lives, the "new testament" would disappear and the old revive. The new testament would have "no strength at all while the testator liveth."
So the writer of Hebrews, whether Paul or Barnabas, has the same idea as Paul that the death of Jesus represents the permanent death of the "testator" of the testament we now enjoy. Otherwise, the old would revive and the new would not live. But since Jesus actually lives must mean the testator in view who remains dead is the God-of-Sinai, not Jesus. The epistle-writer of Hebrews can only mean that the God-of-Sinai made this new testament as a promise after His death which now the testament lives because He (the God-of-Sinai) remains dead. The thanks we give this supposedly dead God Yahweh then (per this epistle-writer) is we now share life supposedly only with Jesus - the resurrected "living God" to whom we now solely focus our attention. The testator (Yahweh) is supposedly dead and gone.
Again, the epistle-writer offers up the grossest of heresy just as Paul taught in Romans 7:1-6. It is similarly dressed in legal concepts that need careful exposition to tease out the logic. But it aligns identically to Paul's words in Romans 7:1-6. This is one reason to support Jerome's belief Paul wrote Hebrews. But if Barnabas wrote it, as Tertullian said, it makes sense as Paul and Barnabas were frequent companions. This connection bespeaks both passages -- Romans 7:1-6 and Hebrews 9:15-17 -- have the same meaning. The study of Hebrews 9:15-17 positively confirms that we are correctly reading Romans 7:1-6.
In Romans 7:1-6, Paul is telling Jewish believers (v.1) that they are freed from the Law (given Moses) due to the death of Jesus (v. 4) under the law of the death of the husband (v. 3). The husband was God in the covenant declared by Moses. (See Hosea.) Christ's body, by its death, made us "dead to the Law." Paul's Greek meant the Law has been "rendered null and void." (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (1988) at 270.)
Thus, the only logical basis for Paul's conclusion that the Law of Sinai is void is that the God of the Jews supposedly died when Jesus died!
Then because Paul insists that the Law given Moses remains dead after Jesus's resurrection (v. 4), this must mean that the resurrected-Jesus no longer represents that former husband. Instead, that old husband -- the God of Sinai -- must necessarily remain dead as long as Paul is insisting the Law given Moses is dead. Paul thus must mean Jesus represents, just as Marcion interpreted Paulinism in 144 A.D., a new and different God than the God who died on the cross.
What more fantastically heretical notion can be found in any mouth!
Pelagius was right -- Paul was reluctant to directly say who or what died. Paul obviously knew the Jewish Christians at Rome would revolt if Paul had been more clear. For anyone trained in the Bible, especially Genesis, knows God is immortal. God's eternal being can never die! "God is immortal in that He can never die." ("The Attributes of God," Valley Bible Church Theology Studies.) In Genesis God has to prevent Adam eating from the tree of life or otherwise Adam would become immortal and never die. "He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” (Gen. 3:22.) Surely, God was incapable of ever dying Himself.
If what Paul left implied were true about the death of the God of Sinai -- taking the Law with Himself into death, then who resurrected Jesus when Jesus resurrected? Was there some second God waiting, as Marcion claimed, known as God-the-Father to resurrect Jesus? Of course not. That would depend upon polytheism! Paul's notions are thus utterly absurd and clearly heretical.
At first I had a hard time believing that if we could corner Paul on this he would ever actually admit he literally meant the death of the God of Sinai. But as you have again eloquently pointed out, this is the inescapable conclusion where his argument must lead. At the very least, if he were to defend himself by claiming we read too much into analogies and figures of speech, our point would be firmly established that his illustration is illogical …doesn’t work …and is therefore perfectly useless in supporting his anti Mosaic-Law doctrine. But now, as I go back and read it again, there is no indication at all that Paul was using analogy to describe a similarity between two things. His words are emphatic and hard core.
“Wherefore [not “likewise”], my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead,”
Unbelievable the blasphemy…! It’s no wonder all of Jerusalem was in an uproar and wanted him executed for the things he had been teaching among the Gentiles....It couldn’t be more obvious that we are dealing with two separate religions and not the perfection of one. It is easy to see that this is in all probability where Marcionism got its legs. (Scott N. July 11, 2010.)
Really appreciated the scholarship on Romans 7. (Ken 2/26/2013)
1. MacArthur Commentary on Romans 7:1-6. John MacArthur likewise looks at the "we are dead to the Law" in verse 4, and tries to portray us as the dead partner at Sinai. He pretends the wife died (which is what other scholars said they wished Paul said because of the 'incongruity' that results by the husband dying). MacArthur thus wholly ignores who is the marriage partner at Sinai who died to bring about the death of the Law. MacArthur portrays us as married to the Law at one time, but when we died to the Law, it broke our marriage to the Law. MacArthur says "The believer is no longer married to the law,...." But Paul spoke about the death of the husband (not the wife) breaking the bonds of the Law.
2. Wesley's Commentary on Romans 7:1-6. Wesley tries to portray the Law as our husband, and not God himself. What about the fact that Paul does not speak this way? Wesley says: "The law is here spoken of, by a common figure, as a person, to which, as to an husband, life and death are ascribed." If Paul meant we were married to the Law (personifying it as a husband), then Paul is talking illogically. This would mean Paul teaches that the Law became dead because the Law (the husband) died. That's a tautology -- the premise being identical to the conclusion. No, the only sensible way to read Paul is that the husband in the covenant at Sinai which created the Law died when Christ died. It is not hard to see this, but you can see why no one wishes to see this.
3. Forerunner Commentary on Romans 7:1-6. This likewise sees us as the partner who died. When we put to death the old man of sin, we supposedly thus ourselves break the bonds to the Law. "After the old man of sin died at baptism, we are now free to marry Christ." There is nothing about baptism in this passage. The death of the body of Jesus makes us "dead to the Law" (verse 4). Paul says in verse 6 that the 'law is dead'" ("the law that being dead....") The Law did not become dead by our repentance, as Forerunner implies. It became dead by the death of the "husband." Only if we are the husband could our repentance kill the Law. Again, Forerunner has us, like Henry (see below), taking on the role of the husband in Paul's remarks, which means a husband "marries" Jesus in Paul's analogy -- which is ghastly.
4. George R. Knight, Exploring Romans: A Devotional Commentary (2010) at 149 says: "This is certainly not the easiest passage in Romans to understand." Knight mentions this portion is for Jewish readers. (It addresses those "who know the law.") Id., at 150. Knight endorses F.F. Bruce's solution to the incongruity of the "husband dying" and insists contrariwise that it is the "believers' death with Christ" which breaks the bonds to the Law. Id. Knight says in Romans 7:4 it is the "believer who died, not the Law." But again, this is false, and contradicts also Romans 7:6 which says the "law, being dead...." Verse 4 likewise says that a believer became "dead to the Law...." by the body of Christ (dying on the Cross, evidently). The death of Christ must be the death of the husband in Paul's analogy, which perfectly explains why the law is supposedly dead, as it logically follows from his illustration of the law of the husband. Thus, Knight like MacArthur and Forerunner believes it is the wife who dies. But this is, to repeat, counter-textual, for it is clear the husband dies in Paul's analogy.
5. Barclay. "Seldom did Paul write so difficult and so complicated a passage as this."
6. "Dodd is scathing, holding that Paul's illustration is 'confused at the outset,' and in the end we should ignore what he is actually saying." (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (1988) at 270.)
7. Our "death to sin" in Romans 6:2 is read to be the meaning of "death to Law" in Romans 7:4. (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (1988) at 270.) But such a reading is unfounded. Paul is clearly talking about someone's death that broke the bonds to the Law at Sinai -- a wholly different point. Morris impliedly is another who sees the wife as dying, not the husband.
8. Leon Morris contends that Paul does not mean the Law given Moses is loosed, and instead Paul is supposedly referring to "all law." (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (1988) at 272.) However, this ignores that Paul in verse one refers to those "who know the Law," and the term is nomos -- the word for the Torah in Greek. This is an obvious reference to those who like Paul know the Law given Moses. And it ignores that in all the prior chapters Paul has been expressly talking about the Law given Moses.
9. Origen in approximately 240 A.D. in his Commentary on Romans (CUAP, 2002) at 21 said that Paul teaches in Romans 7:1-6 that one can "forsake the Law as a dead husband" and it was killed by the "coming of Christ." As a result, "you were joined to another husband," namely the one that rose from the dead. Thus, Origen does not see us as the husband. He sees us as the wife and Jesus remarries us after the death of the Law. Using an analogy to avoid Paul's meaning, Origen concluded the first husband was the Law itself, and the second husband was the Spirit of the Law. (Id., at 23.) Origen speaks of Romans 7 again in his Homily on Joshua where by analogy Moses had to die outside the promised Land, so that Joshua - an analogy to Jesus -- would take over and bring the people to the promised land. Hence, in this analogy, the husband who dies is Moses, symbolizing the Law. (See this link.) Such an allegory, superimposed on top of Paul's words, is incompatible with Paul's words at the same time. For again, Paul was trying to prove in a chain the Law was dead as a result of a husband who died, thereby freeing the wife from the Law that bound them together. Origen is saying instead Paul mean the Law died, and thus the Law died -- a tautology. Hence, Origen's allegories are a nonsensical means to make sense out of the heresy Paul speaks in Romans 7. Incidentally, Chrysostum later in the 300s would similarly provide an unsubstantiated gloss to the same effect, saying that the husband is the Law. (Saint John Chrysostom, J. B. Morris, The homilies of S. John Chrysostom, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle (1841) at 187.)
10. Augustine believes that the husband was our corrupt nature. (Charles Hodge, A commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1875) at 216.)
11. Hodge uses his presupposition that the Law given Moses remains valid to assert that Paul in verse 1 is not referencing those who "know the Law" of Moses, but simply those who know the law of marriage that Paul is about to reveal. (Charles Hodge, A commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1875) at 216.) Hodge realizes that if Paul actually taught the abrogation of the Mosaic Law, then this is "irreconcilable with many express declarations of Scripture...." Id., at 218. But the meaning of Paul is incontrovertible in context -- the Mosaic law is abrogated. Hodge's admission that the contrary principle is everywhere in Jesus's teaching should actually mean we are left with only one solution: Paul's words do not compel us to believe they are inspired, but rather force us to the opposite conclusion.
12. The Lutheran interpretation is to deny the Law in view is the Law of Moses in verse 1. Then the husband that dies is the law, not God or us. See Henry Eyster Jacobs, The Lutheran Commentary: Jacobs, H. E. The Epistles of Paul to the Romans (1896) at 127.
13. Pelagius (354-420 A.D.), a faith-alone advocate of Paul, in his commentary on Romans admits Paul deliberately does not want to identify who or what has died: "He was reluctant to tell them, according to the analogy, that the law is dead, but what he dared not say among the Jews he leaves to be understood." (Pelagius's Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans(Ed./Trans. Theodore de Bruyn)(Clarendon, 1993) at 101.
While Pelagius understood that the Law is what died to dissolve the Law, and this is supposedly what Paul intended to leave understood, Pelagius' reading is based upon the Latin translation of verse 1. In Latin, the 'person' or the 'law' "can serve as the implied subject of the clause "as long as he (or it) lives...." in verse 1 of Romans 7. Id., at 100 fn. 1. However, in the Greek, it is clear that anthropos, the man, is the subject of lives, not the Law. And in the illustration, the anthropos is the one who is the husband who dies which then has the legal effect of dissolving the Law that binds the anthopos and the woman in marriage. Pelagius's reading that the Law is the party who dies is nonsense because if Paul said the Law is the husband who dies and its death dissolves the Law's effect between the two, it would be a tautology. The premise would mean the same thing as the conclusion. It would be a silly argument. Moreover, if Paul meant the Law's death as a husband caused the end of the Law, Paul did not need to use the illustration of a husband dying to dissolve the Law between the partners. He could simply affirm the Law is dead, and not need to build up a tautology based upon a husband dying to prove the Law's dissolution. Thus, Pelagius' reading was (a) based upon an ambiguity in the Latin which is absent in the Greek; and (b) creates an illogical tautology unworthy of Paul.
14. Some Paulinists even admit the God of Sinai died on the cross: "God died for all men...." (Middletown Church.) "God died for his creation." (Ron Graham.) "But God died for His enemies." (Lakeworth Baptist.)
15. In "Sabbath Keeper's Refuted" Website -- article "Romans 7:1-7 Prove the 10 Commandments are Abolished in the Greek" a Paulinist defends Paul abrogated the entire Mosaic Law in Romans 7:1-7, completely unaware this makes Paul a false prophet by Deut. 13:1-5 and Isaiah 8:20. This writer unwittingly destroys Paul. Hear his argument -- set forth at length here -- directed at Seventh Day Adventists :
But now we have been released [Abolished: Strongs #2673 same as Eph 2:15] from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. 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."" (Romans 7:-7)
- Paul said that this is equal to spiritual adultery, because in order to be joined to Christ, all the old Law must be abolished!
- By creating an artificial distinction that does not exist, Adventists are ignoring God’s warning: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Mt 19)
- In a most interesting way, Paul uses the marriage analogy to prove the 10 commandments are abolished.
- Paul’s argument is that if the 10 Commandments (covet v7) are not abolished, then either we cannot be joined to Christ or we are guilty of adultery, just as a woman with two living husbands.
- The exact same word is used twice in Romans 7:2,6 for abolished that is used in Eph 2:15
- Adventists say the it was the ceremonial law that was abolished in Eph 2:15
- Problem is Romans 7:1-7 uses the exact same Greek word for abolished, as in Eph 2:15
Abolished (Strongs #2673)
2 Cor 3:7,11,13,14
V4-6 Paul begins with "Therefore" indicating he is making application of the main point based directly upon the illustration of a woman married to two men at the same time in v 2-3. If we are joined to the Law and Christ at the same time, we are Adulterers, just like a woman with two living husbands.
V7 Paul has been discussing the law throughout the book of Romans. Its all the same law from chapter 1-7. To the shock and horror of Sabbatarians, Paul identifies the abolished law: "Thou shalt not covet" … the 10 commandment law. But was the 10 commandment law abolished because it was sin? No! is the answer, but it was abolished anyways.
Conclusion: The Abolished Law is identified: "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."" V7
Here is what Romans and Galatians says about the law:
- "We are not under the law" (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18).
- We are dead to the law (Rom. 7:4).
- We are delivered from the law (Rom. 7:6).
- Christ is the end of the law (Rom. 10:4).
- "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ .... we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Gal. 3:24, 25). Interesting that Adventist's are forced to say that the term "the law in Romans means the 10 commandments, but in Galatians the exact same phrase, "the law" refers to the Ceremonial law.
- "The law" has been abolished (Eph. 2:15).
My Comment on the Sabbath Keepers Refuted Website:
It is great when without my help the arguments in favor of Paul destroy Paul. I need say nothing more except to correct what Paul meant by the HUSBAND WHO DIED. You see this writer is uncomfortable identifying what HUSBAND died that dissolved the Law. It cannot be the Law because that is a tautology: it is a tautology to say the death of the LAW caused the dissolution/death of the Law. Rather, Paul speaks of a "man" who "dies"--a "husband"--and Paul speaks of the "death of Christ" in the same context. Thus, Paul wants us to understand Jesus' death represented the death of the BEING who was the HUSBAND, and whose death DISSOLVED the bonds to the Law between a husband and wife. Hence, everything this writer at Sabbath Keepers Refuted said is correct except it is the GOD OF SINAI (not the Law itself) who Paul leaves us to understand died at the Cross -- represented by Christ. And this death must continue for otherwise Jesus by His resurrection would have resurrected the bonds to the Law of the first husband if He still lives. Hence, we are reading from Paul the grossest heresy ever recorded anywhere until his follower, Marcion, proposed a similar notion in 144 AD!
Miscellaneous Study Notes
My verse by verse exposition on Romans 7.
Tron:Legacy -- Paul's Ideas in Romans 7 Reflected Identically In This Movie
It is interesting to note that in Tron: Legacy , the Disney Movie from 2010, reflects Paul's notions in Romans 7:1-7 perfectly. The Father -- Flynn -- is the Creator of a computer world that humans can enter via a portal. The Father has to die in his 'grid' world within computers, to let his son Sam live by resurrecting on a beam of light out of the grid. The creator Flynn acknowledges to his nemesis -- a Satan figure -- Clue -- who has almost the identical glory as the creator -- that Flynn desired perfection but He, Flynn, "did not know the
unknowable" and hence the creator was flawed. So the movie ends with the Father Creator dying and His son resurrecting out, while simultaneously the Father's death enables the death of the nemesis - the Satan figure.
Whether this was consciously done to simulate the gnostic myth derived from Paul in Romans 7:1-7, it comes very close. And it shows you the power of the idea of a father God who dies and a son who lives. Paul's mythology of Yahweh and Yashua in Romans 7:1-7 lives on so that a movie like Tron can even be recognized for these elements, and Christians glory in a subtle allegory to the 'Christian' (sic: Pauline) view of God.
For more on this, see "Religious Allegory in Tron and Tron: Legacy" from Wheatstone Ministries (Jan. 2011). This Christian author points out the obvious religious connotations:
- "His son comes down to save his father not realizing his importance, not realizing that he will have to save more than his father."
- "We are forced to look away to the creator Flynn, who sends his son back to reality with a new savior from among the Isomorphs, Quorra, who is ready to save our world. In doing this he destroys himself and CLU to ensure safe passage for the two Christ figures."
- "As the Grid is destroyed, we watch Sam Flynn and Quorra being sent into the real world on a beam of light to bring something new to it. Flynn saves a file from his father’s computer (that we assume is TRON and what is left of the grid) and he moves on to change the world. It’s a myth that has “solved” the circumstances, but one that has destroyed a god and left us with another unperfected one."
The author does not correlate this to Romans 7:1-7, yet one familiar with that passage can see the direct correlations.
For more on the religious connotations, see Walter Hudson, "The Religious Legacy of Tron," Newsrealblog (Dec. 10, 2010). Hudson gets closer to revealing the parallels to Paul's mythology in Romans 7:1-7:
The Judeo-Christian references are quite bold for a modern Hollywood production. Yet the writers are clearly not attempting to evangelize a particular faith. Quite the contrary, the religious legacy of Tron is an ecumenical mix of various faiths which dispenses with the notion of an all-powerful God. The film suggests that creation is an unpredictable phenomenon which can baffle and surpass its creator.
Indeed, Paul depicting God as a husband who dies, dissolving the Law, but who does not revive, and we remarry Jesus, as Paul contends, is a notion of not an all-powerful God either. As Hudson continues, the allegory is plain:
The Judeo-Christian narrative is evoked immediately upon Sam’s arrival among the programs. Spoken of in hushed tones as “the Son of Flynn”, Sam is regarded variously with fear, reverence, and hatred. We learn that a program named Clu, made in the elder Flynn’s image, turned against his creator in order to craft a “perfect system.” The parallels are clear. Flynn stands in for God. Sam is the Christ, come to reconcile creation with the creator. Clu fulfills the role of Lucifer.
Yet, no one has yet seen the direct parallel to Romans 7:1-7 - the father God dies, and the son lives, resurrecting out of the world the son's father had created. Again, it is unknown whether this was a conscious or unconscious attempt to reflect a Pauline view of the Son and Father.
Gnostic Doctrines on Salvation and God's Love
The threat of Romans 7:1-7 on Christendom was only partly stalled by undermining the reliance upon Romans 7:1-17. The other issues on God's love and salvation were never directly addressed. As a result, they are still present today without regard to Romans 7:1-7. For Gnosticism taught a Gnostic God of unconditional love. But Jesus taught instead: "If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love." (John 15:10.)
A father who forgives without his child's repentance and correcting a child is a bad father, not a good one. God in fact says such a father "hates his children." Proverbs 13:4. Tertullian thus raised arguments about the injustice of a salvation by mere belief or gnosis. This would be an unjust God, he argued.
As to salvation by faith alone, this was easily defeated in those days when knowledge of Jesus' words were much greater than today. For Jesus clearly taught contrary to faith alone doctrine that "you" have / a "believer" has a choice -- you can go to heaven "maimed" by repentance from sin, or hell "whole" -- a clear doctrine of salvation by not mere faith but also by repentance and obedience. Mark 9:42-47; and in 2 places in Matthew: Matt. 5:29-30 & Matt. 18:6-9. There was no way your 'faith' excused disobedience. Your salvation critically turns upon obedience in addition to faith.
However, it was hard to battle Gnosticism in the early church for Paul created a very attractive myth of a God of unconditional love once you have acknowledged (epignosis) Him. This fantasty-father became a strong magnet that the Gnostics used to gain immense popularity, relying upon the death-theory of the creator God supported by Romans 7:1-7. For Paul wrote of God's supposedly unconditional justification of the elect, and His impossible refusal ever to condemn again the elect for sin as follows:
33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?...35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:33,35, 39 ESV.)
Today, the mainstream faith-alone churches, just like the Gnostics of old, justify why faith alone is true by relying upon this passage in Romans. For how can a God of unconditonal love, and justification, ever condemn those whom His love abides for despite their sin? A good argument, it would seem, but it is contrary to Jesus' depiction of Himself as the pastor who has to seek the lost sheep who starts among the 100 saved sheep but wanders off, and is now lost. Jesus depicts himself as the pastor who sets out to bring back such a lost sheep. See Luke 15:1-7. So what would Jesus the pastor say to bring back the lost sheep? Would it be either: (1) you can go to hell whole or heaven maimed (Matt 5:29-30; Matt 18:6-9), or (2) nothing will separate you from God's love -- continue to wander off here by yourself -- for nothing will cause your condemnation - so have a nice day! (Romans 8:33, 35, 39.)
Christian Gnostics Saw This Meaning in the 1st & Second Centuries AD
Let's also realize that our generation is not the first to see this. The early church knew of this interpretation that Paul taught the God who gave the law had died. The Christian Gnostic sects of Marcion (140 AD) and Valentinus (160 AD) believed this. These two men created extraordinarily popular sects within Christendom based upon the premise of Romans 7:1-7 that the God who gave the law had died, and was replaced by Christ as God. These two sects almost overwhelmed the early orthodox Christian church. (For our article on Marcionism, see this link. For our article on Valentinus, see this link.)
These Gnostic Christians embraced Paul's view in Romans 7 about the 'husband who gave the Law who dies at the Cross is replaced by Christ who has no more Law to follow.' These Gnostic Christians said this God who dies was the so-called God-the-Demiurge who bonded with the Israelites at Sinai.
This Demiurge-God (Yahweh) was the creator of all flesh and matter, rendering him inferior to the God to come. The Demiurge is supposedly earthly and material compared to the Christ who would resurrect into heaven. By Christ's death, this put to death the Demiurge God who supposedly was in Christ only at the crucifixion. This killed one God to be replaced by a good-God -- the Christ who resurrected. This replacement God offers unconditional love unlike the prior Demiurge-God who had a conditional salvation message that he applied to his wife, Israel. The Gnostics Marcion and Valentinus said that after the cross you were now saved by "faith" alone in this Christ-God. See links to Marcionism articles at the end of two paragraphs up.
Origen and other Christian orthodox leaders derided these sects as teaching one is saved by your "acknowledgement" -- in Greek, epiGNOSIS -- of God-the-Christ. These Christian commentators derided Gnostics for teaching salvation by a mere GNOSIS or knowledge. Origen and others relied upon James' reasoning that that if one could be saved by a "belief" in God / Christ, then demons would be saved. (James 2:19.) Hence, the orthodox church created the term of "Gnosticism" as a derisive label to dismiss such teaching as a heresy. See Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Paul (Trinity Press International, 1992) at 31-33.
How was this teaching from Romans 7:1-7 defeated by the early church? How was the Christian Gnostic reliance upon Paul undermined?
Well, the early orthodox church used two arguments to defeat Romans 7:1-7 used by Gnostics. First, Tertullian - the foremost leading figure of orthodox Christianity in the early 200s -- argued that God is one. He cannot die. He cannot be replaced by Christ as a New God. This is Tertullian's main argument in Against Marcion written in 207 AD. This defeated the Gnostic interpretation of two gods - the Demiurge and Christ-- by simple contrary affirmations.
Second, Tertullian went after Paul's authority. Tertullian ends Against Marcion by asserting Paul was the "apostle of the heretics," and not an apostle of Christ; that Paul was illicit cargo in Marcion's bag of arguments because Paul was not numbered among the 12 apostles; and Paul was inferior to the 12 as Luke depicts Paul's behavior in Acts 15 when the 12 apostles were present and Paul submitted himself to their superior authority. This was to answer the inquiry of the Antioch church about circumcision of Gentiles. Tertullian's final remark was that Paul apparently fits the criteria of a false teacher predicted by Christ in Matthew 24, and thus told Marcion "let your apostle (Paul) belong to your other god." Ouch! See our several links: link #1 (scope of quote); link #2 (addressing scholarly issues on Tertullian's quotes).)
At our website, we are already in the process of reviving Tertullian's critique of Paul's authority as the #1 answer to passages like Romans 7:1-7 and others.
But in this article above, we proved Paul has the same teaching in Romans 7:1-7 that the early Gnostics found there, and that many modern Paulinists concede in whole or part is present. The idea latent in Paul's argument is that God is not one; God can die which ends the Law which He gave at Sinai; and God can be replaced by Jesus who has no Law because that law is dead as long as the first God remains dead.
As we saw above, the Epistle writer of Hebrews -- who some believe was Paul -- says the very same thing as Paul says in Romans 7:1-7 -- that the Husband-God who made a promise of a New Testament for His people only operates as long as He, the testator, remains dead, and thus implicitly in the NT we necessarily serve an entirely new God -- Jesus:
15 And for this cause he [Christ] is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
16For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
17For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. (Hebrews 9:15-17.) Barnabas incidentally was the author of Hebrews, according to Tertullian in the 200s. Barnabas wrote an epistle that is recognized as his, and it says something akin to Hebrews 1 about a pre-existing Jesus who is Lord:
"And further, my brethren, if the Lord [Jesus] endured to suffer for our soul, he being the Lord of all the world, to whom God said at the foundation of the world, 'Let us make man after our image, and after our likeness,' understand how it was that he endured to suffer at the hand of men" (Letter of Barnabas 5).