Why does Paul trash the Law in Galatians, but praise it in Romans? Backpeddling?

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4 thoughts on “Why does Paul trash the Law in Galatians, but praise it in Romans? Backpeddling?

  1. Paul doesn't trash the law in Galatians, not any more than he 'trashes' it in Romans. In both letters he teaches that the Mosaic law was only given to the Jews, not to the gentiles. In Galatians, he never says that the law is worthless (the professor speaks at some length about the image of the law as a “pedagogue”) or that the Jews cannot follow it (he is writing to a purely gentile population). He does say that Jews should not make the gentiles follow the law, nor should the gentiles seek to follow the law, but he never tells the Jews to stop following the law; in fact, he says the opposite (“seek not to become uncircumcised”). Note that even your professor never suggests anywhere the argument you are trying to make.

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  2. I think he uses much stronger language in Galatians than he does in Romans in condemning the Law. Why? I think it is because the church in Romans was started by someone else. It is not one of Paul's churches. So Paul must tread a little lighter, as he has already found himself in hot water with James and the mother church in Jerusalem over the issue of the Law.

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  3. Maybe I got the wrong impression from your post title. I thought you were suggesting that Paul contradicted himself in the two letters. I do agree that his tone is different between the two (since he's writing to different audiences), but his teaching on the law is not really different between the two. That may be due to political tensions (as suggested by Acts of the Apostles), and also due in to the fact that in the case of the Romans he was writing to a group that also had a significant Jewish component, unlike the Galatians. Considering Paul's writings as a whole together with Acts of the Apostles, his view of the law is consistent.

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  4. In Galatians Paul compares the Law to Hagar. Any Jew, then or now, would be outraged by such a comparison. Paul makes no such inflammatory, anti-Law (anti-Jewish) statement in Romans.

    From Galatians 4:

    Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. 23 One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. 24 Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia[g] and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

    “Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children,
    burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs;
    for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous
    than the children of the one who is married.”

    28 Now you,[h] my friends,[i] are children of the promise, like Isaac. 29 But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the scripture say? “Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.” 31 So then, friends,[j] we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman.

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