Paul and Law

Paul and Dung

image-dung-beetlesConcerning 1 Corinthians 9, when Paul was with the Gentiles, he no longer bound the Law’s restrictions on himself. Because he realized he was not under the Old Testament Law, “To those outside the Law I became as one outside the Law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ[2]) that I might win those outside the Law.” It would be counter-productive for Paul to live as a Jew, while he was with the Gentiles because he would risk becoming like the “judaizers” who tried to bind the Law on Gentile Christians.

What “law” is Paul referring to?

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman” (Gal 4:22). Where is this written? In one of the five books of Moses that contains all the law. This story is not from some ceremonial section of the law of the Old Covenant. It is found in the book of Genesis chapter 16. In Galatians 4:24 it is as clear as crystal that Hagar represents the Old Covenant established at Mt. Sinai which covenant means slavery for its children. “These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.”

In Gal 4:28 Paul says that his fellow believers are not children of this Old Covenant yoke of slavery, but are the children of New Covenant freedom. In v. 30 Paul tells Christians to “cast out” Hagar who represents the Old Covenant of slavery. What does this accomplish? “Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman” (v. 31). Christians are free from all the laws of the Old Covenant not just the ceremonial ones.

The “yoke of slavery” referred to in Gal 5:1 must be the same yoke of slavery that Paul has been referring to in Gal 4:21-31 and that is the whole Old Covenant. “These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.” Were only the ceremonial commandments from Mount Sinai? No, the Ten Commandments and all the other commandments were from Mount Sinai. Hagar represents the entire Old Covenant and Christians are to cast out that entire covenant in order to become children of freedom.

In Scripture, the Law of Moses is always spoken of as one unit comprised of 613 commandments. It is crucial for the serious student of the Bible to understand that the Mosaic Laws, all 613 commands, are viewed as one unit in the Bible. The Bible nowhere gives us permission to separate the laws of the Mosaic Covenant. The word “law” (Torah in Hebrew & Nomos in the Greek) when applied to the Mosaic Law is always singular even though it contains 613 separate commandments. For example;

“This is the law which Moses set before the Israelites. These are the ordinances, statutes, and decrees which he proclaimed to them when they came out of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 4:44-45).

Clearly “the law” here is all 613 laws not just the Decalogue.

“Then were read aloud all the words of the law, the blessings and the curses, exactly as written in the book of the law. Every single word that Moses had commanded, Joshua read aloud…” (Joshua 8:34-35).

Again all the law without separation is referred to[1].

“Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees as they are written in the Law of Moses…” (1 Kings 2:3).

All the requirements are the Law. One final example of many:

“Many nations will come and say, ‘Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths’.

The Law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:2).

The idea that the Law of the Lord equals the Ten Commandments and that the Law of Moses equals the now obsolete ceremonial law is not supported by Scripture. The ceremonial law is called “the Law of the Lord” numerous times in Scripture. “From his own wealth the king allotted a portion for holocausts, those of morning and evening and those on Sabbaths, new moons and festivals, as prescribed in the law of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 31:3). This obvious reference to the ceremonial laws (weekly, monthly, yearly sequence) is called the Law of the Lord and not that of Moses as the Sabbatarian/ Messianic thesis requires. In Nehemiah 8 we have the example of the “Law of Moses” and the “Law of the Lord” being used to refer to the same books. “…they called upon Ezra the scribe to bring forth the book of the law of Moses…” (v.1). “Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God…” (v. 8). In a clear reference to the ceremonial law we read, “They found it written in the law prescribed by the Lord through Moses that the Israelites must dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month” (v. 14; see Leviticus 23:33-36). From what book was this read? “Ezra read from the book of the law of God…” (v.18). This passage from Nehemiah 8 uses the two terms in question interchangeably. Other passages where the ceremonial law is called the Law of the Lord are Exodus 13:7-9; 1 Chronicles 16:40; 2 Chronicles 31:3-4.

In the New Testament we read from the lips of Jesus; “Have you not read in the Law how the priests on temple duty break the Sabbath rest without incurring guilt?” (Matthew 12:5). This is a clear reference to the ceremonial law called by Jesus “the Law”. This indicates that Jesus considered the Mosaic Law to be one inseparable unit—the Law. When Jesus was asked which of the commandments of the Law was the greatest he quoted two commandments neither of which was from the so-called moral law, that is the Ten Commandments (see Matthew 22:34-40). Instead he quoted from the so-called ceremonial or civil law (see Deuteronomy 6:5 & Leviticus 19:18). Again it seems that Jesus understood the Mosaic Law to be one inseparable unit. One final New Testament example, “When the day came to purify them according to the law of Moses, the couple brought him up to Jerusalem so that he could be presented to the Lord, for it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every first born male shall be consecrated to the Lord’. They came to offer in sacrifice ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’, in accord with the dictates in the law of the Lord (Luke 2:22-24). Here we see once again the Law of Moses and the Law of the Lord equated. The ceremonial law is clearly in view, as also can be seen in Luke 2:39, and is referred to as the “Law of the Lord.”

Paul in relative terms considered the whole of the law, his alleged tribal lineage, Pharisaic credentials and circumcision to be as dung because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus (Phil 3:8) because now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Rom 3:21


The point of this post is to point out the attitude of those who pretend to ‘love’ Israel, Jews and Judaism when in reality the NT clearly denigrates Torah, Jews and Judaism. The article clearly points out Paul’s attitude to the law, his alleged tribal lineage, Pharisaic credentials and how he grants a license for those in the missionary business to be ‘all things to all people’ so that they can be ‘saved’, i.e., pretend that they love Torah, Jews and Judaism by the usual methods we see: messianic synagogues, wearing Tallis, Teffilin and Kippa etc. This article/ post is in no way meant to denigrate those who genuinely claim to love Israel, Jews and Judaism whilst failing to see Paul’s attitude to the law, Judaism and the Jewish people.

reality check smiley copy

[1] Other passages showing that the Law of the Mosaic Covenant is one unit include Leviticus 18:5; 24:22; Deuteronomy 4:1, 5, 8; 6:25; 31:12-13; 2 Kings 17:3; 21:8; 23:25; 1 Chronicles 16:40; Ezra 7:6; Psalm 78:5; 119:1, 55, 108, 137, 174; 147:20; Proverbs 31:4-5; Isaiah 5:24; Jeremiah 18:18; Lamentations 2:9; Ezekiel 7:26; Hosea 4:6; Amos 2:4; Habakkuk 1:4; Zephaniah 3:4; Zechariah 7:12; Malachi 2:9; Mark 15:31; John 1:17; Acts 13:39; Galatians 3:10; Ephesians 2:14-15; 1 Timothy 1:7-8; Titus 3:9; Hebrews 10:28; James 2:10

[2]“The law of Christ” (ὁ νόμος τοῦ Χριστοῦ) is a New Testament phrase of uncertain meaning, found only in the Pauline Epistles at Galatians 6:2 and parenthetically (ἔννομος Χριστῷ “being under the law to Christ”) at 1 Corinthians 9:21.


4 thoughts on “Paul and Law

  1. 21 And saviors (מוֹשִׁעִים) shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S.

    Esau and Edom are comparative with Rome in Judaism.

    Jews born in the time of Jesus and Paul were born under the likes of Herod, an Edomite. They were in a kind of slavery or exile even in the Land and even while they were yet born into the true Covenant. This doesn’t make the Law of Moses bad. And Paul was not saying the old covenant was bad or dung. There were some things he did that he had thought were for G-d but were not and were really dung. He repented of those things and a mindset that had been involved with doing them.

    As for the common view of I Corinthians chapter 9, which you have shared, I would say it is not the case “Paul in relative terms considered the whole of the law, his alleged tribal lineage, Pharisaic credentials and circumcision to be as dung…” [but that the Church, nonexistent then, has done].

    I recommend reading

    “Was Paul a ‘Liar’ for the Gospel?:
    The Case for a New Interpretation of Paul’s
    ‘Becoming Everything to Everyone’
    in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.”
    Review & Expositor 110.4 (2013): 591-608.


    “Paul’s Relationship to Torah in Light of His Strategy ‘to Become Everything to Everyone’ (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).” Pages 106-40 in Paul and Judaism: Crosscurrents in Pauline Exegesis and the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations.
    Eds. Reimund Bieringer and Didier Pollefeyt
    (T&T Clark Int/Continuum: London-New York, 2012).

    which topic can also be found in pdf form (and free) from

    The author is not a Christian or Messianic,
    but is a scholar on this and related topics
    concerning Paul and Jewish-Christian relations.

    Whatever the case is understood to be with Paul, I am glad you showed that Jesus did not display rejection of Torah.


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