Romans Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 7
1. Surely you know, brothers — for I am speaking to those who understand Torah — that the Torah has authority over a person only so long as he lives?
2. For example, a married woman is bound by Torah to her husband while he is alive; but if the husband dies, she is released from the part of the Torah that deals with husbands.
3. Therefore, while the husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress if she marries another man; but if the husband dies, she is free from that part of the Torah; so that if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.
There is no reason to limit Greek nomos in these verses to the Torah, for the principle that death discharges an individual from his obligations under law applies to all kinds of law (see 4:15&N). One can find this same teaching applied specifically to the Torah in a rabbinic source:

"Rabbi Yochanan said, 'What is meant by the phrase, "With the dead, free" (Psalm 88:6)? That when a man dies he becomes free from the Torah and from the commandments.'"(Shabbat 30a: similar passages are found at Shabbat 151b. Niddah 61 b, and in one of the oldest collections ofmidrashim, the Pesikta diRav Kahana, Supplement 1:20) 

4. Thus, my brothers, you have been made dead with regard to the Torah through the Messiah’s body, so that you may belong to someone else, namely, the one who has been raised from the dead, in order for us to bear fruit for God.
You have been made dead with regard to the Torah. It is not the Torah that has been made dead (abrogated), nor is a believer made dead in the sense of no longer responding to its truth. Rather, he has been made dead not to all of Torah, but to three aspects of it: (1) its capacity to stir up sin in him (vv. 5-14), (2) its capacity to produce irremediable guilt feelings (vv. 15-25), and (3) its penalties, punishments and curses (8:1-4). A few remarks on each in turn (and also see v. 6N):

(1) How the Torah has the capacity to stir up sin in an individual, alluded to earlier (2:18; 3:20; 5:13,20), is analyzed carefully in vv. 5-14 and on through 8:13. This capacity of the Torah to make us sin is not a fault in the Torah but a fault in ourselves. A healthy person thrives in an environment deadly to someone who is ill; likewise the Torah, beneficial to a believer living by faith, is an instrument of death to those controlled by their sinful nature. The fault in ourselves is that we have a sinful propensity (5:12-21&N) to misuse the Torah, making it into a framework of legalism instead of what it is, a framework of grace (6:14-15&N, 8:2&N).

(2) The Torah can still produce guilt feelings in a believer — as it rightly should whenever he contemplates how his behavior falls short of the standard God sets in the Torah. But these feelings are not irremediable. The remedy is once-and-for-all trust in Yeshua the Messiah's final atonement for sin (3:21-26), followed by ongoing confession of and repentance from sins (1 Yn 1:9-2:2) coupled with restitution to injured parties and reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit (7:25-8:39).

(3) It is through the Messiah's body, through his atoning death (3:21-26), that believers have been made dead to the penalties set forth by the Torah for disobeying it. "The Messiah redeemed us from the curse pronounced in the Torah by becoming cursed on our behalf (Ga 3:13&N). This is clarified in v. 6&N. Sha'ul's metaphor switches directions at several points in this verse. It is through the Messiah's body, through our union with him that includes union with his death, that believers have been made dead (see 6:2-11) to the aspects of Torah on which Sha'ul is concentrating. Because a death has taken place they are now free to belong to

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5. For when we were living according to our old nature, the passions connected with sins worked through the Torah in our various parts, with the result that we bore fruit for death.
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6. But now we have been released from this aspect of the Torah, because we have died to that which had us in its clutches, so that we are serving in the new way provided by the Spirit and not in the old way of outwardly following the letter of the law.
7. Therefore, what are we to say? That the Torah is sinful? Heaven forbid! Rather, the function of the Torah was that without it, I would not have known what sin is. For example, I would not have become conscious of what greed is if the Torah had not said, "Thou shalt not covet" (Exodus 20:14(17), Deuteronomy 5:18(21)).
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8. But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, worked in me all kinds of evil desires — for apart from Torah, sin is dead.
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9. I was once alive outside the framework of Torah. But when the commandment really encountered me, sin sprang to life,
См. ком. к ст. 4.

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'The Rabbis insist that the only effective remedy for the Evil Inclination is the study of fulfilment of the Law. Yet they sometimes seem to realize (in this, at least, like Paul!) that the yetzerha-ra is stirred up by the prohibitions of the Law. Such perhaps would seem to be the suggestion of the following story:

"'The evil inclination desires only that which is forbidden. Rabbi Mena (on the Day of Atonement, when drinking is forbidden) went to visit Rabbi Haggai, who was ill. Rabbi Haggai said, "I am thirsty." Rabbi Mena said, "Drink." Then he left him. After an hour he came again and said, "How about your thirst?" He said. "No sooner had you permitted me to drink than the desire left me.'" (Jerusalem Talmud Yoma VI, Sec. 4,43d, line 21)." {Rabbinic Anthology, p. 302) 

10. and I died. The commandment that was intended to bring me life was found to be bringing me death!
The commandment that was intended to bring me life was found to be bringing me death. Sha'ul is not unique among Jewish writers in pointing out that the life-giving Torah produces death when rejected or misused (compare 1 Ti 1:8-9):

"Rabbi Tanchuma said, 'The Voice of the Lord went forth from Sinai in two ways — it killed the heathen, who would not accept it; but it gave life to Israel, who accepted the Torah.'"(Exodus Rabbah 5:9)

"Rabbi Y'hoshua ben-L'vi said, 'What is the meaning of the verse, "And this is the Torah which Moses set before the children of Israel" (Deuteronomy 4:44)? It means that if a person is meritorious, it becomes for him a medicine that gives life; but if not, it becomes a deadly poison.' That is what Raba meant when he said, 'If he uses it the right way it is a medicine of life for him, but for someone who does not use it the right way it is a deadly poison.'"(Yoma 72b)
See also 2C 2:16, MJ 4.12, Rv 1:16. 

11. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me; and through the commandment, sin killed me.
12. So the Torah is holy; that is, the commandment is holy, just and good.
So the Torah is holy; that is, the commandment is holy, just and good. Those who think Sha'ul sought an escape from the Jewish Law in order to make Christianity easy for pagan converts must find this verse difficult. It proves that Sha'ul neither had an un-Jewish view of the Law nor desired to abrogate it. The verse witnesses to Sha'ul's lifelong high regard for the Torah, which corresponds to his lifelong observance of it (see Ac 13:9N, 21:21N). This attitude would have been with him from his youth, since his parents were Pharisees (Ac 23:6); it would have been strengthened by his studies with Rabban Gamli'el (Ac 22:3); and there is no reason to suppose that his coming to faith in Yeshua — who did not "come to abolish the Torah" (Mt 5:17) — would have changed it. So many errors about Sha'ul's opinion of the Law could have been avoided had this verse been understood as constraining everything he writes about it. God's holy Torah for holy living does not change. Why? Because God himself does not change (Malachi 3:6) and holiness does not change. Moreover, this verse is not alone: vv. 10,14,16,22 and 8:2,4, 7-8 all show that Sha'ul had a high regard for the Torah. 

13. Then did something good become for me the source of death? Heaven forbid! Rather, it was sin working death in me through something good, so that sin might be clearly exposed as sin, so that sin through the commandment might come to be experienced as sinful beyond measure.
14. For we know that the Torah is of the Spirit; but as for me, I am bound to the old nature, sold to sin as a slave.
For we know, without needing evidence, that the Torah is of the Holy Spirit. This remark shows that Sha'ul as a Messianic Jew retained a high view of the Torah, because in support of his main argument he presents the statement undefended, expecting his readers not to demand proof. It is a given, an axiom to which all can agree without requiring further demonstration.

I am bound to the old nature, literally, "I am fleshly" or "carnal." See v. 5N.

Sha'ul has explored the meaning of dying with the Messiah (6:1-14) and the concept of human enslavement to sin (6:15-23, building on the groundwork laid in 5:12-21).

Now, in relating these ideas to the Torah, he introduces a new analogy, marriage. Throughout this chapter it must be kept in mind that Sha'ul was not wsi-Torah, as some suppose, but had a high view of the Torah; see v. 12&N.

In v. 1 Sha'ul specifies thai he is writing these verses to those who understand Torah, primarily Jews, even though the letter as a whole is addressed in the main to Gentiles (see 1:5b-6N). 

15. I don’t understand my own behavior — I don’t do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate!
16. Now if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am agreeing that the Torah is good.
17. But now it is no longer “the real me” doing it, but the sin housed inside me.
18. For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me — that is, inside my old nature. I can want what is good, but I can’t do it!
19. For I don’t do the good I want; instead, the evil that I don’t want is what I do!
But now it is no longer "the real me" doing it, literally, "But now I no longer work it" (similarly at v. 20), but the sin housed inside me. One of Flip Wilson's best-known lines used to be, "The Devil made me do it." He could get away with blaming the Devil for his misdeeds because he's a television comedian. But if I am serious about my transgression I cannot blame the Devil or the sin housed inside me or my old nature (literally, "my flesh"; see v. 5N); I must take the responsibility myself: I did it. Sha'ul's purpose in drawing the distinction between "the real me" and "the sin housed inside me" is not to excuse me but to point up the fact that salvation brings one a new nature attuned to the Holy Spirit. He continues developing the implications through 8:13. 

20. But if I am doing what “the real me” doesn’t want, it is no longer “the real me” doing it but the sin housed inside me.
21. So I find it to be the rule, a kind of perverse “torah,” that although I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me!
22. For in my inner self I completely agree with God’s Torah;
23. but in my various parts, I see a different “torah,” one that battles with the Torah in my mind and makes me a prisoner of sin’s “torah,” which is operating in my various parts.
The rule, a kind of perverse "torah." The whole phrase translates Greek nomos, which can have at least these three meanings:
(1) "law" in the sense of "legislation, statute";
(2) "law" in the sense of "rule, norm"; and
(3) "Mosaic Law, Torah"; see 3:20bN. In these verses Sha'ul is engaging in wordplay drawing on all three meanings. Sin is personified as having, so to speak, organized its own Mount Sinai and there given its own "torah" which, willy-nilly, we find ourselves devotedly obeying with our old nature ("flesh," v. 5N). Similarly at v. 25 and 8:2. 

24. What a miserable creature I am! Who will rescue me from this body bound for death?
The anguished cry of the defeated person torn apart by this inner conflict leads to a desperate question seemingly addressed to blank walls and an empty sky: Who will rescue me. "the real me" (v. 17&N) or "my mind" (8:1), irretrievably bound together with "my old nature" (v. 18) and therefore hopelessly impotent in opposing the old nature's obedience to sin's "torah" from this body bound for death, literally, "from the body of this death"? 

25. Thanks be to God [, he will]! — through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord! To sum up: with my mind, I am a slave of God’s Torah; but with my old nature, I am a slave of sin’s “Torah.”
As rendered here, this verse answers the question of v. 24: Thanks be to God, he (God) will rescue me from my sin-controlled, death-bound body. How will he? Through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord. The words, "He will," are not in the Greek but added to convey the sense. A more literal rendering of the Greek which means almost the same thing would be: "The grace of God, through Yeshua the Messiah our Lord." This too answers the question.

But the more usual literal rendering, which depends on a different understanding of the Greek grammar, "Thanks be to God, through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord," focuses on our thanks to God being directed through Yeshua. This is true (see 1:8) but irrelevant at this point, since it leaves unanswered the pregnant question of v. 24.

Sha'ul explores the frustration of everyone who has ever failed to live up to principles which he knows are right. Anyone with a "bad habit" such as smoking or overeating knows the truth of these verses only too well. As Yeshua put it, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh" — that is, the "old nature" (v. 5N) or "human nature" — "is weak" (Mt 26:41, KJV).

"Sin" is presented throughout this chapter, but especially in this passage, as some alien entity that acts in us apart from and in opposition to our own will, bringing us ultimately to defeat and despair (v. 24). (Actually, this is not quite the case: only when we do not use God's way of conquering sin — by the Holy Spirit through Yeshua the Messiah (7:25-8:39) — does sin conquer us.) A similar personification of sin can also be found in Jewish sources, for example:

"Rabbi Yitzchak said, 'At first sin is like an occasional visitor, then like a guest who stays awhile, and finally like the master of the house.'"(Genesis Rabbah 22:6; the same teaching is attributed to Raba in the Talmud, Sukkah 52b; compare Ya 1:14-15)

As brought out in 5:12-21N, Judaism stresses that the individual is responsible and able to defeat this alien entity, sin (or the yetzer ra'), and that the means for doing so is obedience to the Torah. To this Sha'ul agrees, but he adds that it is impossible unless we stop trying to conquer sin by our own strength and accept God's rescue through Yeshua (vv. 24-25); in relation to overcoming sin, this is what obedience to the Torah means. 

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