Biblical Coherence in Galatians 3:10-14

This paper proposes that Paul, in Gal 3:10-14, indicates that justification may be realized by a faith that comports with the spirit and intent of the Law of Moses, and that reflects “faith working by love,” as he writes later in 5:6. Such faith stands in marked contrast to an effort to secure justification “by works of law,” a phrase used by Paul as a reference to a formalistic misuse of the Law.
While this is not an entirely new idea, it warrants fresh consideration as an alternative to the prevailing analysis of Gal 3:10-14. The traditional reading holds first that justification must be attained by faith alone, and second, that reliance upon keeping the Law for justification results in one falling under the curse of Deut 27:26. This widely held analysis, however, features at least three significant vulnerabilities.
First, it treats the phrase “works of law” as an equivalent to “doing what the Law requires.” This reading, however, renders Paul’s claim in 3:10a (“As many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse”) contrary to the plain sense of Deut 27:26 (“Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them”), which Paul cites in in 3:10b in support of his assertion in 3:10a.
Second, in order to resolve the resulting incoherence between 3:10a and 3:10b, the traditional reading requires that one insert into 3:10 an inferred and unexpressed clause to the effect that “no one can do everything written in the Law.” This reading focuses upon the “all” in Paul’s citation of Deut 27:26 and thus implies that the curse mentioned falls upon one who fails to keep the Law perfectly. However, aside from the fact that it is a serious matter for a reader to infer an entire clause that a writer does not express in his text, the inferred clause fails to reflect the Law’s own perspective of grace, atonement, and forgiveness, when it comes to obedience to the commandments (Lev 4:1-6:7, Num 5:5-8, Num 15:22-29).
Third, according to the conventional analysis, Paul, in Gal 3:11, uses Hab 2:4 (“The righteous man shall live by faith”) to refute Lev 18:5, which appears in 3:12, and which reads, “He who practices [my statutes and judgments] shall live by them.” Thus, according to this view, Paul sets a passage from the Prophets against a passage from the Law, even though it seems implausible that Paul would set Scripture against Scripture. In addition, this would imply further that, while one part of Scripture teaches against reliance upon “works of law,” another portion of Scripture actually commends “works of law” as a means of justification, thereby compromising biblical unity and authority.
The reading proposed in this paper avoids the pitfalls noted above, taking all of Scripture at face-value, and trusting in the competence of the God-directed writers, while it also maintains coherence through the entire passage and between discrete portions of Scripture.

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