𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐮𝐩𝐞𝐫 𝐏𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬 “𝐀𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐭𝐥𝐞”
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
𝐏𝐚𝐮𝐥’𝐬 𝐢𝐝𝐢𝐨𝐬𝐲𝐧𝐜𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐜 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐝𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐆𝐨𝐝’𝐬 𝐋𝐚𝐰𝐬
While promulgating his doctrines, Paul has put forth so-called divinely inspired “verses” wherein he has provided bizarre, if not profaning, excuses for his decadency into sins. In the meantime, he even had good enough reasons to hold God and His divine Laws responsible for his retrogression. In fact, we would be highly interested to observe how Paul considered himself to be innocent and pure to know sins!
Thus, in this paper we would bring forth strange Pauline assertions and establish that Paul’s divinely inspired “verses” are merely his personal opinions, emotions and experiences with Laws because, as contrary to Paul, Laws were quite providential.
Actually, this paper is actually a part of another paper that would be out soon. However, we felt that the subject topic needs separate attention therefore we planned to press it separately.
𝐏𝐚𝐮𝐥 𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐝𝐬 𝐆𝐨𝐝’𝐬 𝐒𝐚𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐋𝐚𝐰𝐬 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐒𝐢𝐧𝐬
In his ongoing attempts to depreciate Old Testament (OT) Laws, Paul claims that the very purpose God revealed His sacred Lawswere to increase “wrongdoing”:
“law was introduced in order to increase wrongdoing; but where sin increased, God’s grace increased much more.” (Romans 5:20)
From the foregoing it is evident that let alone believing that God’s sacred Laws were revealed for good, Paul held that Laws were revealed by God to increase satanic activities, that is, “wrongdoing”!
In fact contravening whole of Old Testament, Paul claims that God never revealed a Law righteous enough to provide salvation:
“Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a LAW given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the LAW. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Gal 3:21-22, King James Version, e-Sword)
This was not the end as Paul eventually claimed that once he was away from the sins, however, with the knowledge of Laws (as Christians explain) lust was “stirred” in him and consequently, he morally died:
“Shall we say, then, that the Law itself is sinful? Of course not! But it was the Law that made me know what sin is. If the Law had not said, “Do not desire what belongs to someone else,” I would not have known such a desire. But by means of that commandment sin found its chance to stir up all kinds of selfish desires in me. Apart from the law, sin is a dead thing.
“Imyself was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died. And the commandment which was meant to bring life, in my case brought death.”(Romans 7: 9-10)
Paul categorically holds God’s sacred Laws responsible for his moral decadency! In fact he has gone so far as to claim that he would not have known lust, in other words, lust would not have influenced him if God would not have revealed His Law against it. The extremely modest, pious and upright “apostle” considered himself to be lust-free until Laws were revealed!
Grotesque and absurd, if not, profaning and desecrating, Christian Scholars have come out with a standard and strange explanation for Paul’s maledictions and low opinion about the Laws. Consider the thoughts of respected Bible commentator, Matthew Henry:
The great advantage that he had found by the law. 1. It was discovering: I had not known sin but by the law, Rom 7:7. As that which is straight discovers that which is crooked, as the looking-glass shows us our natural face with all its spots and deformities, so there is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin which is necessary to repentance, and consequently to peace and pardon, but by comparing our hearts and lives with the law. Particularly he came to the knowledge of the sinfulness of lust by the law of the tenth commandment. By lust he means sin dwelling in us, sin in its first motions and workings, the corrupt principle.
This he came to know when the law said, Thou shalt not covet. The law spoke in other language than the scribes and Pharisees made it to speak in; it spoke in the spiritual sense and meaning of it. BY THIS he knew that lust was sin and a very sinful sin, that those motions and desires of the heart towards sin which never came into act were sinful, exceedingly sinful. Paul had a very quick and piercing judgment, all the advantages and improvements of education, and yet never attained the right knowledge of indwelling sin till the Spirit by the law made it known to him.
There is nothing about which the natural man is more blind than about original corruption, concerning which the understanding is altogether in the dark till the Spirit by the law reveal it, and make it known. Thus the law is a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ, opens and searches the wound, and so prepares it for healing.
Thus sin by the commandment does appear sin (Rom 7:13); it appears in its own colors, appears to be what it is, and you cannot call it by a worse name than its own. Thus by the commandment, it becomes exceedingly sinful; that is, it appears to be so.
We never see the desperate venom or malignity there is in sin, till we come to compare it with the law, and the spiritual nature of the law, and then we see it to be an evil and a bitter thing. 2. It was humbling (Rom 7:9): I was alive. He thought himself in a very good condition; he was alive in his own opinion and apprehension, very secure and confident of the goodness of his state.
Thus he was once, pote – in times past, when he was a Pharisee; for it was the common temper of that generation of men that they had a very good conceit of themselves; and Paul was then like the rest of them, and the reason was he was then without the law. Though brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, though himself a great student in the law, a strict observer of it, and a zealous stickler for it, yet without the law.
He had the letter of the law, but he had not the spiritual meaning of it – the shell, but not the kernel. He had the law in his hand and in his head, but he had it not in his heart; the notion of it, but not the power of it…” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Romans 7:7-14)
Without wasting any time, let us now seek the problems with Pauline verses and the standard Christian exposition thereof.
Notice how based on Paul’s teachings, Matthew Henry claims that Paul knew about his “spots and deformities” when he saw his face in the “looking-glass” of Laws. That is, Paul only knew about his sins when he knew Laws. In fact, commentators emphatically claim that there is no other way to know sins except by OT Laws.
On the foregoing, Matthew Henry asserted that Paul knew about the sinfulness of lust by the tenth commandment. In other words (and as commentators explicitly claim) – Paul knew that lust is a sin only after reading, “Thou shalt not covet”. (May be before that, Paul had other opinions about lust!)
𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐠𝐥𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐛𝐥𝐞𝐦𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐞𝐱𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐬:
(I) It is absurd to say the least, to claim that sin can be realized as evil only when one knows Laws and looks through it. As Bible claims that humans are created in the image of God so it would not be difficult to recognize sin as evil in one’s natural and innate being.
Furthermore, there are atheist communities who have no so-called Law-glasses yet they have their moral standards and they easily recognize lust (and other sins) as evil. Thus, to claim that there is no other way to know sin as evil but by Law is not at all a reconciliation of Paul’s negative imputations of the Laws.
(II) Notice how blindly Matthew Henry – one of the most prestigious Trinitarian Commentator, supports Paul’s claim that he never knew that lust is a sin until Law informed it to him, in fact, “stirred” it in him:
“Particularly he came to the knowledge of the sinfulness of lust by the law of the tenth commandment… This he came to know WHEN the law said, Thou shalt not covet.”
The problem is, emotions and feelings like hunger, lust, envy etc are inbuilt and men do not neither need any so called Laws to make them know that lust, envy etc are sins nor to incite them in – therefore, to claim that Paul knew not that lust is sinful until Law elicited it in him or was never incited in lust, is to either consider (i) Paul was as innocent as a new babe or (ii) Paul was angelic in his demeanor or (iii) Paul was outright lying when he claimed he knew not that lust is a sin until he read: “Thou shalt not covet.”
Think about it – Prophet Lot (peace be upon him) knew that lust is sinful and that his community has perverted into it yet no so called “Law” stating “Thy community shalt not covet” was revealed to him to let him know that lust is a sin. Therefore to claim that men can know sinfulness of certain acts only through Laws or they can be “stirred” by lust etc only by the knowledge of Laws – is false and a misrepresentation of the purpose of Laws – as we would soon prove.
Finally, who informs the agnostic and the atheists: “thou shalt not covet”, no one; yet we do find moral ethos in them in which they consider lust as sinful!
(III) On the foregoing, Paul even goes as far to claim that if there would have been no Laws, there would have been no sins:
“For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” (Rom 4:14-15. King James Version, e-Sword)
Notice that firstly Paul claimed that he would have not known lust if Laws would not have taught: “thou shalt not covet”, and now he claims that where there is no Law there is no sin. This is perfectly in harmony with his argument that he would have not sinned if Laws would have not “stirred” him up; after all, there is no question of crossing boundaries if there are none! – Wow! (divinely revealed arguments!).
Hardly, did Paul realized, that humanity would have gone berserk into rampant sinning had God not provided restraints on their immorality. In fact, humanity started to delve into degeneration and to save them God had to reveal His Laws, not to “increase wrongdoing” as Paul unabashedly claims.
Paul’s fallacy is he assumes before Laws on lust were revealed there was no lust and without the particular tenth commandment, world would have been lust free – as he was, however, we know both are false as Lot’s (peace be upon him) community did know what lust is – in fact they were degenerated into it!
Furthermore, there is serious negative implication in Paul’s “verse”. Let us assume that God never gave His Tenth Commandment, namely, “thou shalt not covet” so “there is no Law”, however, how can Paul’s next statement be verified that “there will be no transgression”. We know people were into lust even before the tenth commandment was revealed!
Or, Paul does not want to consider Lust as sin (as we would soon observe) and therefore, expects God to get rid of His command against it!
(IV) In the light of the foregoing thoughts, we find Matthew Henry go overboard to claim that Paul never ever knew that lust is sinful and that he was never ever influenced by lust until the Tenth Commandment of God “stirred” him up:
“BY THIS [i.e., the Laws] he knew that lust was sin and a very sinful sin, that those motions and desires of the heart towards sin which never came into act were sinful, exceedingly sinful.”
After reading the above assertions from one of the greatest duo of Christian Commentators we think that if Paul was human then he was super pious and/or angelic!
(V) When noted Christian Commentators make comments like, “We NEVER see the desperate venom or malignity there is in sin, till we come to compare it with the law, and the spiritual nature of the law, and then we see it to be an evil and a bitter thing.” They conveniently assume that Lot (peace be upon him) and people righteous with him never “saw the desperate venom and malignity there is in sin, till we come to compare it with the law…bitter thing.”
𝐏𝐮𝐫𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐎𝐥𝐝 𝐓𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐋𝐚𝐰𝐬
With regards to the purpose of the OT Laws, celebrated Christian Commentators echo with Paul that it was revealed:
(i) To merely act as spiritual mirrors; to show men their hidden sins:
This is one of the key passages which reveal the concept of the Mosaic Law functioning as a mirror to reveal personal sin (cf. 3:20; 4:65; 5:20; Gal.3:14-29, especially v. 24). (Bob Utley, The Gospel According to Paul: Romans; Study Guide Commentary Series; New Testament, Vol.5)
But when the commandment came, came in the power of it (not to his eyes only, but to his heart), sin revived, as the dust in a room rises (that is, appears) when the sun-shine is let into it. Paul THEN saw that in sin WHICH HE HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE; he then saw sin in its causes, the bitter root, the corrupt bias, the bent to backslide, – sin in its colours, deforming, defiling, breaking a righteous law, affronting an awful Majesty, profaning a sovereign crown by casting it to the ground, – sin in its consequences, sin with death at the heels of it, sin and the curse entailed upon it.
“Thus sin revived, and then I died; I lost that good opinion which I had had of myself, and came to be of another mind. Sin revived, and I died; that is, the Spirit, but the commandment, convinced me that I was in a state of sin, and in a state of death because of sin.” Of this excellent use is the law; it is a lamp and a light; (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Romans 7:7-14)
Although Christian scholars make such comments however, traditionally and scripturally the benefits and usages of OT Laws are not just restricted to act as “mirror”.
For brevity of this paper we would quote just a few verses from Old Testament (OT) wherein Laws were considered much more than mere “mirrors” and X-Rays instruments!
(A) Observing Laws provide salvation:
“And so I led them out of Egypt into the desert. I gave them my commands and taught them my laws, which brings life to anyone who obeys them.” (Ezekiel 20:11)
“I may warn an evil man that he is going to die, but if he stops sinning and does what is right and good – for example, if he returns the security he took for a loan or gives back what he stole – if he stops sinning and follows the laws that give life, he will not die, but live.” (Ezekiel 33:14-15)
(B) Let alone restricting OT Laws to function merely as “mirrors” and X-Rays machines, biblical prophet Nehemiah states that Laws are full fledged way of life:
“But your (God’s) people rebelled and disobeyed you; they turned their backs on your Law…In your great mercy you sent them leaders who rescued them from their foes. When peace returned, they sinned again, and again you let their enemies conquer them.
Yet when they repented and asked to save them, in heaven you heard, and time after time you rescued them in your great mercy. You warned them to obey your teachings, but in pride they rejected your laws, although keeping your Law is the way of life. Obstinate and stubborn, they refused to obey.” (Nehemiah 9:26-29)
(C) Contrary to Paul’s claim that Laws were revealed to increase wrongdoing, Psalmist states that a person who follows the Laws can never do wrong:
“Happy are those whose lives are faultless, who live according to the laws of the LORD. Happy are those who follow his commands, who obey him with all their heart. They never do wrong; they walk in the LORD’S ways. LORD, you have given us your laws and told us to obey them faithfully.
How I hope that I shall be faithful in keeping your instructions! If I pay attention to all your command then I will not be put to shame. As I learn your righteous judgments, I will praise you with a pure heart. I will obey your laws; never abandon me!” (Psalms 119:1-8)
(D) Not merely Old Testament but even Paul’s contemporary James also echoes similar tones with Old Testament Prophets. From the following passage it would be established that James never held that Old Testament Laws were revealed to “increase wrongdoing”:
“Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put in into practice. Whoever listens to the word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks in a mirror and sees himself as he is. He takes a good look at himself and then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks closely into perfect law that sets people free, who keeps on paying attention to it, but puts it into practice – that person will be blessed by God in what he does. (James 1: 22-25)
Observe carefully that James is using the same analogy of “mirror” that Matthew Henry used. However, James uses it with a difference. Where Matthew Henry inspired in Pauline verses, uses “mirror” analogy to state that Laws merely serve the purpose to let sin be known; on the contrary, James explains that Laws are to be used to know evils inside men, nevertheless, its work does not end there for after knowing evil inside, men are to observe the same Laws to get rid of their sins.
Another interesting observation is: the Laws never “stirred” lust in James (and the Psalmist 119:9-16) in fact James (and Psalmist) are seen advocating for the Laws to keep themselves pure and upright. This alludes that Paul’s incitement was his personal experience with the Laws and it should not be generalized and passed on as divinely inspired “verses” to all Christians, let alone be made a corner stone of Christianity.
(ii) They serve to “stir” or nourish lustful sins in men:
Consider the following standard Christian usage of Sacred OT Laws:
One illustration of what Paul had in mind here is the story of the temptation and Fall in Genesis 3. Whenever someone establishes a law prohibiting something, the natural tendency of people is to resist it. If you tell a small child, “Don’t do such-and-such,” you may create a desire within him or her to do it, a desire that was not there before.
“Suppose a man determined to drive his automobile to the very limit of its speed. If . . . signs along the road would say, No Speed Limit, the man’s only thought would be to press his machine forward.
But now suddenly he encounters a road with frequent signs limiting speed to thirty miles an hour. The man’s will rebels, and his rebellion is aroused still further by threats: Speed Limit Strictly Enforced. Now the man drives on fiercely, conscious both of his desire to ‘speed,’ and his rebellion against restraint.
The speed limit signs did not create the wild desire to rush forward: that was there before. But the notices brought the man into conscious conflict with authority.” (Notes on Romans 2012 Edition, Dr. Thomas L. Constable)
𝐀𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐁𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐏𝐚𝐮𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐋𝐚𝐰𝐬 𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐫 𝐬𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐫𝐞𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐨𝐧:
Not came to life, but lived again. See Luk 15:24, Luk 15:32. The power of sin is originally and in its nature living; but before the coming of the commandment its life is not expressed. When the commandment comes, it becomes alive again. It lies dormant, like the beast at the door (Gen 4:7), until the law stirs it up. (Vincent’s Word Studies, Romans 7:9)
Widely read Matthew Henry also presses the same purpose of Laws i.e. Laws merely function to “stir” sins:
The corrupt nature would not have swelled and raged so much if it had not been for the restraints of the law; as the peccant humours in the body are raised, and more inflamed, by a purge that is not strong enough to carry them off. It is incident to corrupt nature, in vetitum niti – to lean towards what is forbidden.
Ever since Adam ate forbidden fruit, we have all been fond of forbidden paths; the diseased appetite is carried out most strongly towards that which is hurtful and prohibited. Without the law sin was dead, as a snake in winter, which the sunbeams of the law quicken and irritate. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Romans 7:7-14)
However, the aforementioned comments inspired by Pauline verse, is not consistent with traditional knowledge, usage and providences of Old Testament Laws. Consider one such passage from Psalms:
“How can a young man keep his life pure? By obeying your commands. With all my heart I try to serve you; keep me from disobeying your commandments. I keep your law in my heart, so that I will not sin against you…I will repeat aloud all the Laws you have given.
I delight in following your commands more than in having great wealth. I study your instructions; I examine your teachings. I take pleasure in your Laws; your commands I will not forget.” (Psalms 119:9-16)
Notice the stark and ironical differences. Both Paul and Psalmist are talking about the same sin – the sin of Lust. However, where Paul claims that (i) he knew not that lust is a sin (ii) In fact Paul held that it was because of God’s Laws that he knew lust otherwise he would not have known it. (iii)and that when he knew God’s Sacred Laws, lust was “stirred” in him so much so that he degenerated in it.
On the other hand Psalmist does not make any bombastic claims that (i) he never knew lust is a sin (ii) he never overbearingly claimed that he would have not known lust in himself unless God told him “thou shalt not covet” (iii) In fact, he honestly accepts that abiding by God’s Law(s) is the only way to keep oneself “pure” from lust.
Unlike Paul, he does not impute God’s Law responsible for either “stirring” lust in him or that “Laws were revealed to increase wrongdoings” such as lust etc.
Thus, the same Law, namely, the Tenth Commandment given to Moses (peace be upon him) – is having two different effects on two different persons. One hold Law responsible for stimulating libidinous desires in him while other states that one can live a pure life only by following the Law(s) strictly; indeed and ironically, Matthew Henry’s comments fits snugly to this situation:
Many a precious soul splits upon the rock of salvation; and the same word which to some is an occasion of life unto life is to others an occasion of death unto death. The same sun that makes the garden of flowers more fragrant makes the dunghill more noisome; the same heat that softens wax hardens clay; and the same child was set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. The way to prevent this mischief is to bow our souls to the commanding authority of the word and LAW of God, not striving against, but submitting to it. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Romans 7:7-14)
Observe that in the concluding remarks Matthew Henry makes a very important comment. They are exhorting Christians to follow “the commanding authority of the word and law of God, not striving against, but submitting to it.” Thus, Christians should immediately desist from idiosyncratic assumptions that “Laws were revealed to increase wrongdoing” or they incite sins. In fact, it was Paul’s personal experience with God’s Sacred Laws, as he says:
“I myself was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died. And the commandment which was meant to bring life, in my case brought death”. (Romans 7:9-10)
Thus, the same sun that was to make the garden of flowers more fragrant made the dunghill more noisome in Paul’s personal case; the same heat that was to soften wax hardened the clay in Paul’s personal case.
Thus, rather than making Paul’s personal problematic experience with the Laws a corner stone of Christianity, Christians should follow Psalmist (or at least James) who was able to keep his life “pure” from lusts but by observing the Laws with all his heart.
𝐂𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐨𝐧 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧 𝐑𝐞𝐩𝐥𝐲
It is not hard to discern from Paul’s “verses” i.e., Romans 7:7-9 that he considered himself to be innocent and pure until God’s sacred Laws disturbed him so much so he was degenerated into lust etc.
Paul has unequivocally claimed that he would not have known lust if God’s law would not have “stirred” it in him. Acknowledging the hyperbolic nature of the statement, Christian Scholars came out with a standard explanation that although Paul was dead in the trespasses and sin but until the mysterious realization of Laws in his conscience, he never knew that he was dead; in other words, he was under the delusion that he was “alive”:
“…the apostle is speaking of himself, and that not as in his state of infancy before he could discern between good and evil, but when grown up, and whilst a Pharisee; who, though he was born under the law, was brought up and more perfectly instructed in it than the common people were, and was a strict observer of it,
yet was without the knowledge of the spirituality of it; he, as the rest of the Pharisees, thought it only regarded the outward actions, and did not reach to the spirits or souls of men, the inward thoughts and affections of the mind;
the law was as it were at a distance from him, it had not as yet entered into his heart and conscience; and whilst this was his case he was “alive”, he did not know that he “was dead in trespasses and sins”, Eph 2:1, a truth he afterwards was acquainted with; nor that he was so much as disordered by sin; he thought himself healthful, sound, and whole, when he was diseased and full of wounds, bruises, and sores, from head to foot;
he lived in the utmost peace and tranquillity, without the least ruffle and uneasiness, free from any terror or despondency, and in perfect security, being in sure and certain hope of eternal life; and concluded if ever any man went to heaven he certainly should, since, as he imagined, he lived a holy and righteous life, free of all blame, and even to perfection;” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Romans 7:9)
𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐛𝐥𝐞𝐦𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐬𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐚𝐧 𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧:
Firstly, it is too far-fetched and a wild assumption to hold that Paul did not know, until the realization of the Laws that “…he was diseased and full of wounds, bruises, and sores, from head to foot;” – Here is a religious Jew who knows that he has been made in the so-called image of God and yet even in his innate self he was not able to discern his OWN moral decadency! Even atheists know and perceive well their moral degeneration, if any!
How is it fair to assume that Paul did not know his moral decadency until Laws had to open his eyes to them – after all, how difficult is it to discern the “wounds, bruises and sore” of lust, murder and envy in one’s own self. It was even more-simple for a religious Jew like Paul! However in Christian paradigm, surprisingly, it is impossible to know that one is decaying in sin until God has to specially reveal His Laws to serve as scanner machines only to find out hidden tumors:
We NEVER see the desperate venom or malignity there is in sin, till we come to compare it with the law, and the spiritual nature of the law, and then we see it to be an evil and a bitter thing. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Romans 7:7-14)
Secondly, notice that Paul is not claiming that he did not knew that he was dead in trespasses etc; it is a desperate Christian stretch to reconcile. In fact by the construction of the Pauline “verse” it seems like he in fact never knew lust (and other evils) as evil until Laws broached and “stirred” them in him. Let us first have the “verse” then we would closely look into its construction:
“Shall we say, then, that the Law itself is sinful? Of course not! BUT it was the Law that made me know what sin is. If the Law had not said, “Do not desire what belongs to someone else,” I would not have known such a desire. But by means of that commandment sin found its chance to stir up all kinds of selfish desires in me. Apart from the law, sin is a dead thing.” (Romans 7:7-8, Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version)
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? By no means. On the contrary, I would not have known sin, but by the law: for I would not have known about coveting unless the law had said, You shall not covet.But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For without the law sin is dead (Romans 7:7-8, Revised King James New Testament)
What will we say then? The law is sin? May it not happen! YET I did not know sin except through law. For likewise I would not have known lust, if the law did not say, Thou shall not covet. 8 But sin, having taken opportunity through the commandment, wrought in me every evil desire, for apart from law sin is dead. (Romans 7:7-8, A Conservative Version)
Pay assiduous attention to key words/phrases like “…but…”, “…on the contrary…”, “…yet…” These words/phrases specifically serve to change the charge of the part of statements present before and after it. For example, if we say John is a good boy but/yet… it means that whatever is going to follow about John is certainly not good. With the foregoing, let us turn to Paul’s “verse”. Initially, he claimed that Laws are not sinful – so far so good,
however, he continued on to say that Laws are not sinful but/yet implying, that whatever is going to follow about the Laws, is not-so-good! Then Paul imputed God’s Sacred Laws (!?) that it was Laws which taught him lust for the first time – first time, because he claimed he would have not known lust; implying he was good and innocent enough not to know them but it was the not-so-good nature of the Laws which made them known to his upright self.
What is further interesting is three Pauline assertions: (i) Without God’s commandments sin is dead (ii) Sin used God’s commandments to bring about sinful desires in him (iii) once he was away from God’s commandment and alive. Thus, based on these assertions, we will have to conclude that Paul actually believed himself to be sin-free and it was God’s Sacred Laws which undid Paul and his uprightness.
Thus, it is just too weak to try to reconcile that Paul was actually dead in sins while he was under delusion that he was upright. Paul never considered himself to be dead in sins.
There were two major aspects of this paper. Firstly, we gave just a hint (not detailed) of Paul’s low opinion of the Old Testament Sacred Laws. We saw how Paul assumed that God never gave a Law good enough to give eternal life, God’s Law were revealed to “increase wrongdoing” so on and so forth.
However, contrary to these Pauline assertions, we found Old Testament prophets testifying that Laws not only can keep men “pure” and sin-free but they can also provide eternal life because according to OT prophets, OT Laws were no less than a “way of life”. In fact Paul’s contemporary James once again contravened Paul to advocate obedience and practice of Laws!
Secondly, and more importantly, as the main theme of this paper, we saw that either Paul would have been pure and without the influences of sin (lust) (or Paul, in his innocent self, would have never known that lust is a sin!) if God would not have revealed His Laws against lust (and other sins)! No wonder Paul claimed that, “…apart from the law, sin is a dead thing.”(Romans 7:7-8) and “…where no law is, there is no transgression”.
What was even more ironical, if not incredible, that even eminent Christian Scholars like Matthew Henry (and others) have believed that Paul would have been lust-free and innocent if God would not have revealed His Tenth Commandment against lust and concupiscence!
𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲 (𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐰 𝐇𝐞𝐧𝐫𝐲) 𝐮𝐧𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐝𝐥𝐲 𝐰𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐞:
- Particularly he came to the knowledge of the sinfulness of lust by the law of the tenth commandment
- THIS [lust is evil] he came to know when the law said, Thou shalt not covet.
- BY THIS [Laws] he knew that lust was sin and a very sinful sin, that those motions and desires of the heart towards sin which never came into act were sinful, exceedingly sinful.
- By this [Laws] he knew that lust was sin and a very sinful sin, that those motions and desires of the heart towards sin which never came into act were sinful, exceedingly sinful.
- Thus sin by the commandment does appear sin (Rom 7:13); [otherwise…???]
All of the above standard Christian exegesis proves that Paul never knew that lust is sinful – it is incredible to even assume it.
Christian Scholars even claimed that Paul would have NEVER known the “desperate venom or malignity” of lust until he compared it with Laws thus, wildly alluding, that Paul would never have known the wretchedness of lust as evil if God had not revealed Law(s) as gauge-meters:
- We NEVER see the desperate venom or malignity there is in sin, till we come to compare it with the law, and the spiritual nature of the law, and then we see it to be an evil and a bitter thing.
On the foregoing there are two very important implications which would come objectionable to any critical student of Bible:
(I) Paul elevated himself to such a pious and morally pure podium from where he even sneered at God’s Sacred Laws. Because of his innocent and pure station he had no scruples in incriminating God’s very own Laws responsible for misdeeds in him.
(II) What is even more distraught – Christian Scholars have accepted Paul’s claims of innocence and purity at the cost of God’s Sacred Laws! They have incredibly accepted that he would certainly have not known lust and that concupiscence is sinful prior to Laws.
Amidst sorry state of affairs, we request sincere truth seekers to give a thought to the following Qur’anic truth:
They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; Yet they were commanded to worship but one Allah: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to him: (far is He) from having the parents they associate (with him). (Qur’an 9:31, Yusuf Ali’s Translation, Al-Alim CD-ROM Version)
It is not that (all) Christians worship their saints with God – Almighty however, by weighing the words of their elders above God’s, they belittle God Himself.
If Qur’an is not good enough for Christians then they should at least ponder that Psalmist had no lustful incitements in him via tenth commandment of God; on the contrary, he was using the same to get rid of concupiscence! He was panting with open mouth and crying to follow the Laws of Old Testament (c.f. Psalms 119:129-136).
Furthermore, James had no negative experience with Laws as did Paul. Contrariwise, James was advocating that Christians have to obey and execute Laws of the Old Testament.
The truth of the matter is, in order to raise himself above sins, in order to portray himself as pure and innocent, Paul had to disparage Laws in a way of contrast or else Paul was incredibly a super pious “apostle”!
- Emphasize wherever not matching with the original, is ours.
- Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical texts are taken from Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version