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The Double “Law” and the Miserable “I”
ROMANS 7.21-25

When you do a complicated mathematical sum, you end up by drawing a line across the page and displaying the result, or, if you like, your ‘findings’. The same thing happens after a lengthy judicial review of some complex question. The judge writes a report, ending up with a summary of ‘findings’.

That is exactly what Paul does in these closing verses of the chapter. ‘This is what I find about the law’: he uses the language one would use in mathematics or law. That is why, despite a widespread tradition in translations and commentaries, I find it quite impossible to translate ‘law’ in verse 21 as ‘a principle’ or ‘a law’ in the sense of a general truth. The whole argument has been, quite explicitly, about The Law, God’s law, the law of Moses; the word ‘law’ in this verse has the definite article (‘the’); only by determining to misunderstand the passage, by deciding that we will force Paul to make a summary statement about something else other than the subject of the rest of the chapter, can we read this passage in any other way...

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