Your question occasions an interesting word study of the term normally
translated "law." The Greek word I have in mind is nomos. This
significant lingual symbol comes from nenoma (the perfect middle voice
of nemo). The Greek scholar, Zodhiates, has a fine discussion on the
semantics of the substantive nomos. I would briefly like to review
and critique some of his comments.
For starters, Zodhiates writes that nomos can refer to "a law in
general." To substantiate this view, he cites Rom. 4:15; 5:13. Both of
these Scriptures are of interest in their own way. Rom. 4:15 speaks of
ho nomos orghn katergazetai, and it is clear from the context that the
apostle has in mind "the law," not just any law. Following this
statement, he does speak of "law" in a generic sense
(anarthrous nomos), then he adds that where there is no "law"
(generically)--there is "oude parabasis." As a disclaimer, let me also
point out the fact that anarthrousness alone does not tell us whether
Paul has "the law" in mind or "a law." This will become evident below.
Based on the foregoing, one might conclude that Paul is saying there
is no "sin" where there is no _nomos_. But is this really the case?
Please note that Paul employs parabasis--not hamartia--in Rom. 4:15.
What is the distinction between the two terms? Zodhiates writes that
parabasis is a "transgression, an act which is excessive. The
parabasis as the transgression of a commandment is more serious than
hamartia." Parabasis denotes an "overstepping of God's commandments.
In the NT, it refers to "stepping on" a clearly enunciated statute of
the Divine One. Thus, Rom. 4:15 is saying: 'where there is no
explicitly stated law, there can be no overstepping of the said
statute'. Therefore, my conclusion is that Paul does not mean, without
the Mosaic Law there is no sin (hamartia). Rom. 5:13 seems to militate
against such a notion: "For until the Law sin (hamartia) was in the
world, but sin (hamartia) is not charged against anyone when there is
no law. Nevertheless, death ruled as king from Adam down to Moses,
even over those who had not sinned after the likeness of the
parabasews by Adam." In line with these thoughts, I would also like
to address 1 John 3:4 in a future post.
To sum matters up, Christians are not under the law of Moses, but this
doesn't mean there is no such thing as sin in the Christian view. In
Rom. 3:27, Paul speaks of the "law of faith." Rom. 8:2 refers to "ho
nomos tou pneumatos." James also writes about the "law of a free
people" (James 1:25; 2:8, 12). Also, we must not forget Gal. 6:2,
which tells us that we are subject to the law of Christ. I therefore
conclude that Christians are under a different law, and not without
law _in toto_. This means that we are accountable to God for all of
our actions, and it seems to cast doubt on the idea of 'once saved,
always saved'. How beautiful the refrain: "ti oun hamrthswmen hoti ouk
esmen hupo nomon alla hupo xarin mh genoito" (Rom. 6:15).
Saturday, November 26, 2016
The Law (NOMOS)-Old Dialogue
Written years ago, but I wanted to post here for the archives and possible discussion.