Paul's unrestrained criticism of a covenant attributed to God raises perplexing questions. The depiction of the Torah, not only by Paul but by other apostles (such as the author of Hebrews who was himself pro-Pauline) and their followers, leads to several puzzles.
Answer for yourself: If God made such a faulty or pernicious covenant, how could Paul or his adherents have confidence in another one He would devise?
Answer for yourself: Would not or should not a second testament from the same source arouse suspicion and doubt?
Answer for yourself: Could people trust the new beliefs?
Answer for yourself: Might they also not be subject eventually to fundamental changes?
Answer for yourself: If the Law brought wrath, why would a just God give such corrupting commandments?
Answer for yourself: Additionally, would He impose them on a trusting and believing people?
Remember, the Israelites had agreed to accept the Torah at Sinai, without even knowing its contents--just because it came from the Almighty.
Paul claimed that the Law was given to Israel because the nation was so wicked.
Answer for yourself: If this were the case, were the laws supposed to improve their behavior or elicit even worse conduct?
Answer for yourself: If the goal were the former, and the laws failed in their objective, were God's commandments flawed?
Answer for yourself: How can we reconcile a belief in a perfect God Who is omnipotent and omniscient (which Paul acknowledged) with a deity whose laws failed in their purpose?
Answer for yourself: Are we to believe as Paul taught that these Laws were supposed to evoke good deeds but instead led to bad ones; they were meant to improve life and worsened it?
Answer for yourself: If God's power is unlimited, then would His will not be done and the purpose of His Law not be accomplished?
Answer for yourself: On the other hand, did God design the laws to elicit sin, transgression, and wrath?
Answer for yourself: Is He so deceptive and cruel?
Answer for yourself: How can we--or rather, Paul--believe that God is good and loving if He perpetrated such a ruse?
This portrayal more accurately fits the capricious behavior of the Greek gods on Mount Olympus, playing tricks on unsuspecting humans. It certainly does not describe a God of justice and righteousness which the Hebrew Bible assumes. Paul's damning representation of the statutes in the Torah stirs still other queries.
Answer for yourself: If the "old covenant" is so defective that it required rewriting and restructuring, why is it cited so often, especially as an authority, by its critics?
Answer for yourself: If the laws led to sin and death, why did Christianity incorporate so many of them into its canon, such as the Decalogue, injunctions to love one's neighbor and give charity to the poor, and restrictions on certain sexual practices?
Many of the injunctions do not appear in the Noachic laws. some Pauline interpreters say the latter were the only ones valid for Gentiles as rules for living while the Torah was incumbent on the Jews. However, Paul did impose "non-Noachic laws" on his adherents also. The Laws given at Sinai did not restrict them to Israelites. It is believed that along the Hebrews who fled from Egypt were large numbers of Egyptians. Non-Jews have always been welcome to join the covenant. Nothing in the Hebrew Bible speaks of God abandoning a people who had not accepted the Torah. The Book of Jonah is an example of God saving a nation which not only was not in the covenant but had been wicked. The righteousness or repentance of a people assured them salvation or redemption.
Answer for yourself: Why, indeed, has virtually every civilized society enacted a legislative code that encompasses many of the laws found in the Torah, such as establishing courts of justice, subjecting everyone equally to the same law, forbidding cruelty to animals, and isolating the contagiously sick?
Paul's assertion regarding the transitory nature of the Law creates another enigma. He claimed in GAL 3:8:
The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham.
Forget for a moment that Galatians Chapter 3 was not in the First New Testament collected by Marcion in 150 A.D. but surfaces under Irenaeus in 180 A.D. We will assume a Paul or pro-Pauline authorship in what is said below. Paul expected the end of the world shortly (1 COR 7:29- 31) and was convinced that God had a plan for all humanity, not only for Israel. His anticipation of the end of an era might explain why Paul and his adherents did not consider it strange that God had formulated a Law five hundred years after Abraham, gave it to Moses for transmittal to the Hebrews, and yet meant to abrogate it.
To Jews the Torah was immutable and irreplaceable, at least until the advent of the Messianic Age. Opinion is divided among scholars as to the continuation or the abolition of the Law in Messianic times. Paul expected the end of the age, and with it's coming, he believed that the Law would be abrogated. True Gnostics never accepted it; for Paul, who was a modified Gnostic, the Law was temporary. For Jews the age was not ending and neither was the Law as seen in the failure of the appearance of the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Messianic Prophecies. The Law of YHVH was to continue and Christianity had gotten it completely wrong!
Jews did not question the need to abide by the laws until that time, especially in light of the numerous passages in the Torah mandating devotion and obedience. Although there were apocalyptic groups among the Jews, none advocated the abrogation of the Law.
There is another problem which Paul's arguments raise. He claimed that Israel was given the Law because of sinful acts (Gal. 3:19).
Answer for yourself: Does this mean that laws are only for sinful nations?
Paul cleverly avoided reference to the famous Roman law through which an empire, consisting of many nations, was governed. If the transgressions of a society are measured by the presence of a body of laws, there are few nations which would escape Paul's stigma. It is, evidently, not the presence of laws which determines whether a people is sinful but the kind of laws it has and the way it enforces them. Paul's reasoning leads to a conclusion that he, himself, would have to reject as absurd.
Paul's doctrines regarding the Law bring still another matter to mind. Although Paul did not use the words, "the New Israel," for his Gentile followers, the term found validation in his writings. It was his thesis that the Gentiles were Abraham's heirs. This reasoning, not illogically, led his disciples, such as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and other apostles of the faith, to the conclusion that the Gentiles or Christians were the New Israel.
Answer for yourself: If Christians have received Israel's heritage, must they not honor Israel's covenant?
To do so, of course, would be to continue observing the Law. As the English Biblical scholar, C.H.Dodd, said, "It is confusing and misleading for Paul to say 'we uphold the Law' unless the moral principles which underlie the precepts of the Law are fulfilled by those who rely on divine grace (C.H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul To The Romans, p. 64).
Answer for yourself: In other words, does the heir of Israel not inherit all of its legacy--the responsibilities of keeping the Law along with the privileges of being God's people?