Re: Rom. 7.1-6

From: Andrew J. Goddard (
Date: Wed May 21 1997 - 12:20:11 EDT

On 20 May 97, Mark Goodacre wrote in response to my mail on the marriage
illustration of Rom 7.1-6:

>But is it flawed? I think the standard view that Paul's illustration
>does not work proceeds from a misreading of the characters in the
>analogy. If one makes the husband not the law (as is usual) but
>rather 'the body of sin' (6.6) or even the flesh, then 'the law' (of
>marriage) in the analogy parallels the Law (=Torah) in the
>That is: husband = body of sin (not the Law);
>the married woman = the individual + the body of
>Law of marriage = the Law;
>Husband's death = death of the body of sin, because individual now
>crucified with Christ (again cf. 6.6 for elucidation)
>Release from the law of marriage = release from the Law
>Second marriage to a new husband = marriage to Christ.
>i.e. overall - the situation has changed. The Law is irrelevant in
>God's plan of salvation for it is the thing that bound the individual
>to the past / sin / the flesh. Not surprisingly, this turns out to
>be the theme of the rest of Chapter 7, and, indeed of much of the
>rest of the Epistle.
Mark, I agree, with the basic point here that the first husband cannot be the
Torah but the Torah is played here by the law which binds the wife to the
husband who is Sin/Adam/flesh. That is, I think, the only way of getting
anything approaching coherence out of the passage. But I still have a problem
with your explanation and Tom Wright's which it largely follows. Are you saying
that the married woman is playing two roles, one of which is also played by the
first husband when you write that she is "the individual + the body of sin" ?
Or are you saying that she is "the individual" but by her marriage has been
bound to "the body of sin" ? Does that distinction make sense to you ? It's
important for your second point concerning who dies in Paul's application of the
analogy in v4. There you said in response to my mail

>But the woman does not die in the analogy. The husband dies, bringing
>to an end the marriage, and this is the point, that in the new
>situation, the woman is free to remarry....

Perhaps I wasn't clear. Of course, the woman does not die in the analogy of
vv2,3 but, in the usual interpretation of v4 [even your modified form] "you",
the individual who are playing the part of the woman in the application of v4 do
"die". So, above you talk of the husband's death [as in the analogy] but then
explicate that as "individual now crucified with Christ" which seems to me to be
saying that the "you" of v4 who is playing the part of the wife must die for the
application of v4 to make sense. But then - as you rightly say - it contradicts
the marriage analogy because the woman does not die there, the husband does.
Hence my question as to whether KAI HUMEIS ETHANATOTHETE TO NOMO could just be
another way of talking about the "discharge" and "freedom" from the law without
needing to read into it - as you do - the wife's death in and with Christ.

Mark's repsonse has sparked a debate with Jim Beale which I won't dwell on as it
raises much wider thornier questions of Paul and the Law rather than Greek
exegesis. However, Jim has a point that if we press the analogy then when the
wife marries the second husband [Christ] she is bound to him by the law as she
was to her first husband and if the law is the Torah then the Torah still has a
role. But Paul does not press the analogy and I don't think we should either.
This is because I think his concern in the whole analogy is simply to show how
Torah, sin and the Jewish Christian are inter-related: law was not a means of
keeping Israel from sin, it bound her to Sin [just as the marriage law binds a
wife to her husband], the only way out of that was to deal with Sin [ie get rid
of the first husband] and, when that was done, it was not in order to release
Israel to obey the Law but to marry the risen Christ. Now, as Jim says, that
new relationship is one of the slavery [as in 6.18,19] but Paul does not carry
over the illustration and speak of being bound by the law but rather of the law
of the Spirit of life and, elsewhere, the law of Christ.

At the risk of boring everyone to death, perhaps I can here throw in another
thought arising from my struggle with the passage. Why does everyone read HO
NOMOS TOU ANDROS in v2 as "marriage law" ? I've seen no one cite an example of
this exact meaning - they all pick parallel phrases which identify a particular
law by qualifying NOMOS [such as Lev 14.2 and Num 6.13]. I think - although I
fear I'm the only one who does - it must be, quite literally, "the law of the
husband" ie the husband's rule over the wife who is bound to him by law. This -
even if not very PC - then makes wonderful sense of all that follows in Rom 7
and early ch 8 - especially when the first husband is Sin. It also allows Jim
to have law, in some sense, still functioning for the Christian, but now the law
of the risen Christ/of the Spirit [the second husband] and not either Torah or
the Law of Sin [the first husband]. I could go on - I have a [too] lengthy
paper in draft on all this which I keep meaning to get back to finishing off -
but will spare you all the gory details. Nevertheless, any further
thoughts/comments warmly received.

Finally, yes, Mark I am the same Andrew Goddard. Thanks for the compliments.
You may like to know that Tony Cummins & I got a version of the Galatians paper
into JSNT 52 [1993] and a heavily edited and recast version of the paper on the
pounds appeared in Foi et Vie Dec 1994.

All the best,

Andrew Goddard.

Andrew J. Goddard,
27 Newland Mill,
OX8 6HH,

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