Dunn makes explicit the understanding of Lev 18:5 contested here:
“he who does these things shall live by them”(Lev. 18:5). Paul seems to understandthe passage in its most obvious sense—that keeping the statutes and ordinances of the law was the way of living appropriate to the covenant, which the covenant re-quired. Moses did
say, and Paul did not understand him to say, that keeping thelaw was a means of earning or gaining life (in the future . . . ). Rather the law prescribes the life which is to be lived by the covenant people (cf. Hab 2:4). Thelife sustained by God is life in accordance with the regulations and institutionsof the law.
In Dunn’s view, this applies not only to Moses and Paul but also to the Jewish un-derstanding of the text in the postbiblical period.Citing texts from Deuteronomy through
Psalms of Solomon
Dunn writes that “Lev. 18.5 can be regardedas a typical expression of what Israel saw as its obligation and promise under thecovenant.”
Two problems come to the fore here. The first is Dunn’s interpretation of “live” in the verse. Dunn excludes (generally) the aspect of an eternal life not yetattained,
and this is in part a function of focusing on the meaning of the originalcontext of Lev 18:5 and the “first commentary” on it in Ezekiel 20.
Further,Dunn initially points to two elements in Lev 18:5: the regulatory aspect, and thedeuteronomic promise of “lengthening of days.” But it is only the first that really has an impact on the interpretation of the Jewish and Pauline usage. Thus Dunncan conclude that what Paul is ruling out is that
governed or regu-lated
by the Torah. We shall see that Wright reads Gal 3:12 in a similar manner.The second problem, and the focus of the study here, is that Dunn’s inter-pretation of the texts that he sees as referring to Lev 18:5 is somewhat inaccurateand incomplete. (It is, however, more comprehensive than that of Howard, whogeneralizes about “Tannaitic Judaism” and Paul’s “contemporaries” on the basisof one line from
We will examine here the use of Lev 18:5 from the sec-ond century
to the second century
. Dunn focuses on the original con-text of the Pentateuch and its interpretation in Ezekiel 20 at the expense of laterinterpretations of the text. His situation of the verse in the context of deutero-nomic theology is sound, but his focus on the regulatory aspects of the law inthese texts is considerably overplayed. This leads to an essentially tautologous
Torah, Life, and Salvation
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J. D. G. Dunn,
(WBC 38B; Waco: Word, 1988), 612.
Although, in his exegesis of Gal 3:12, J. D. G. Dunn (
[BNTC; London:A. & C. Black, 1993], 175) concedes the possibility of reference to eternal life, this aspectdoes not crop up again; that is, it does not affect his understanding of Lev 18:5 in Gal 3:12or Rom 10:5.
Theology of Paul,
Howard, “Christ the End of the Law,” 334–35, understands the focus to be notupon “perfection, but rather in terms of making Yahweh’s law the foremost aspect of one’s life,” which he takes from
§193 (on Lev 18:5). Since
dates from thethird century
, this essay will leave it out of consideration.