Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The NIV 2011 was recently asserted to be the best current English translation by none other than D. A. Carson, who seems to know a thing or two about things like Greek and translations and the like.

They made an interesting change in Galatians 3:24:

NIV 84: So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

NIV 11: So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith

The NIV 11 actually has the right idea here. In Galatians 3:24, I do not believe that the Law was a sort of roadmap to show us our need of Christ as Savior.

Rather the Law was a guardian until the time of Christ arrived.

The implications of that are significant. Many today (such as Way of the Master) use the Law in the NIV84 sense—to show us our need of Christ because we have broken the Law.

However, sin was in the world from the time of Adam, not Moses. And sin was well-known before Moses, and needed a sacrifice before Moses.

The point of the comparison in Galatians 3 is that the Law was temporary but the promise was permanent. This is made clear in Galatians 3:16-17 where Abraham and Christ are connected and the Law comes in between. Verse 17 plainly declares that the Law does not nullify the promise.

Of course, this has some staggering implications for those who believe that the church has replaced Israel, or the the church is subsumed in Israel, or some such. It is hard to imagine how one can read this passage and not be a dispensationalist of some sort.

It also undermines in a significant way the “third use of the Law” by those of the Reformed persuasion. This “third use of the Law” is essentially that the Law acts as a guide for believers.

However, this passage seems to teach relatively clear that the Law was temporary, acting as a guardian until Christ came. Now that Christ is here, the Law is no longer our guardian.


Jon Gleason said...

Hi, Larry. I think the KJV "schoolmaster" is excellent for British readers, though the term has been somewhat supplanted by "head teacher" in recent years -- similar to the way "principal" is often used in America, though many principals don't actually teach. A teacher and an authority, but the authority is only temporary.

Instruction is clearly in view both in the Greek word and the nature of the Law. A translation that completely discards the concept of education / guiding is flawed, but one that fails to emphasise the authority role (and its temporary nature) is partially obscuring the force of the passage.

Jon from Bucksport said...

I agree with you on the exposition of Gal but don't see how this addresses the third use of the Law or even the first use. The law clearly shows us HOW we have all fallen short of the glory of God and Christ seems to make this clear by his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. To undermine the third use is to undermine the concept of progressive sanctification. Paul clearly teaches in places such as Col 3 and I Cor 6 that we can no longer keep living the life of the lawbreaker when we are in Christ; but because of the finished work of Christ we can "put [unlawful deeds] all away."

Larry said...

Thanks Jon and Jon.

To Jon Gleason, I agree that we can't totally disregard the instruction aspect of it (after all, that's what "torah" means). But I think the focus of Galatians 3 is on the temporariness of it.

To Jon from Bucksport, I would distinguish between "law" and "Law" as the principle of law vs. the Mosaic Law. The third use of the Law is the Mosaic Law. The law in Col 3 and 1 Cor 6 are outside the Mosaic Law. The third use of the Law attempts to use a temporary law (much of which obviously has no relevance), and breaks it apart in some bizarre ways (such as separating laws from penalties, sentences from immediately adjacent sentences, etc.) I don't see any NT support for such a use, particularly given the vehemence with which Paul treats it in saying, "If you keep it at all, you must keep it all." (such as Gal 3:10, or 5:3). So I just don't see the merit at all. There is plenty of instruction for sanctification that doesn't involve in the Law.