Law as Gospel

Justification and Pardon According to the Deuteronomic
Torah*
GEORG BRAULIK OSB
Catholic Theological Faculty
University of Vienna
Careful study of the deuteronomic Torah
shows that God's first word to sinners
is not a demand, but a consolation;
it is not law, but gospel.
M
ARTIN LUTHER, COMMENTING especially on the theology of Paul's
letters to the Romans and Galatians, made the differentiation between "law"
and "gospel" into the most important criteria for the interpretation of sacred
Scripture. In doing so, law primarily meant the "demanding will of God"; gospel
denoted the pledge of God's grace. Both the Old and New Testaments contain law
as well as gospel, even if not in the same proportion. To be sure, one is capable of
fulfilling the law, yet not of justifying oneself by doing so. One' s justification is,
instead, solely the work of the gospel, that is, God's work of grace. Law and gospel,
then, constitute not only theological but also anthropological categories. Accord-
ingly, human existence perceived as law denotes self-redemption; whereas, seen
as gospel, it refers to redemption by God.
The title of this essay connects both differentiations with one another. It deals,
therefore, with the following thesis: the demanding will of God—that is, the law in
the theological sense—is at the same time a pledge of grace—that is, gospel in its
* Lecture at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia and at the Unversity of California/Berkeley For a
more complete scholarly proof of the hypothesis brought forth in this article, see G Braulik, "Gesetz
als Evangelium Rechtfertigung und Begnadigung nach der deuteronomischen Tora, " ZThK 79
(1982), No 2 This article is intended to honor G Felling
All Biblical translations are the author' s
5
theological sense. Within the subtitle "Justification and Pardon according to the
Deuteronomic Torah, " both conceptions are then to be understood anthro-
pologically. Consequently, redemption, gospel, will in what follows first be exam-
ined as the fundamental justification of humanity; in Christianity it is conveyed
through baptism. Secondly, I would like to deal with redemption, gospel, as
pardoning of the sinner, namely, the previously justified sinner. As already stated
at the beginning, Luther drew his differentiation of law and gospel from Paul's
letters, that is, from the New Testament. Yet for Luther this differentiation was
equally as valid for the Old Testament as for the New. It is a matter of fact that
within theological research numerous New Testament texts have subsequently
been unlocked by means of this hermeneutical key. In so doing the Old Testament
has, however, most often been overlooked. What is worse, the term "gospel" has
often no longer been understood as "pledge of redemption," as justification and
pardon, but, falsely, has come to mean simply the literature of the gospel, has been
restricted to the New Testament as the epitome of redemption. The writings of
the Old Testament on the other hand, especially the bodies of law, have been
misunderstood as mere "law," as God's demand and as the epitome of human
self-redemption. Thereby, the law of the Old Testament appeared as something
fundamentally opposed to the gospel of the New. This is where the phrase,
"According to the Deuteronomic Torah, " of the subtitle comes in. Using a central
portion of the Old Testament law, the so-called fifth book of Moses, I would like to
show that the law, this demanding will of God, in the situation of the old covenant
is likewise gospel, to show that it conveyed justification and pardon through God
upon Israel. To put it another way, I should like to demonstrate that within
Deuteronomy there is to be found the same structure of redemption that we know
from the New Testament, with the exception, of course, of the Christ event, which
in the history of salvation meant the end of the law as a means of redemption for
Christians. In that way the Holy Scriptures of Israel became the Old Testament of
the Christian Bible. I have chosen Deuteronomy, since in this writing were
concentrated, as Gerhard von Rad says, "in relatively later times nearly the entire
treasury of Israel's faith, having been once again classified and theologically
elucidated." At the same time, "unmeasurable effects emanated from it," so that
"in every respect" one can "designate Deuteronomy as the center of the Old
Testament."
1
Furthermore, Romans quotes passages of this book for its theology
of justification. Indeed, it will become evident that, according to Romans, pre-
cisely Deuteronomy approaches that function which Jesus Christ fulfills in the
New Testament writings.
We will first examine Israel's justification and its righteousness in Deu-
teronomy, then Israel's pardon and its conversion. In doing so I shall single out
for any given time period those texts in which the key words of this Deuteronomic
soteriology are to be found. These words are fdâqâ for Israel's righteousness and
1. Denteronomium-Studien, FRLANT 58 (1947), 25. Gesammelte Schriften zum Alten Testament, II, TB
48:109-53 (1973), 127.
6
Law as Gospel
Interpretation
sub for Israel's conversion. Conjointly, I shall be dealing with these pertinent
passages in chronological order as regards their time of composition, beginning
with the oldest illustration and moving forward to the more recent.
Israels Justification and Its "Righteousness" s
e
dâqâ: According to deuteronomic
soteriology, Yahweh's redemption extends from the deliverance out of Egypt to
life in the land, within the blessing of which this redemption is present. The land,
"where milk and honey flow" (26:9) constitutes, therefore, the concrete sphere of
grace in which Israel lives in blessedness. "That Israel attained to salvation was not
its own doing. Whether it remains there, however, will depend solely upon itself.
If one inserts 'Christ event' in place of ' Exodus,' then the conception of many
Christian theologians is truly not much different."
2
As regards the theology of
grace one can speak of this saving event as Israel's "justification" through Yahweh.
In Deuteronomy Israel speaks of its "righteousness" (s
e
däqa) for the first time in
connection with its creed (6:20-25). This profession of faith first of all narrates
the history of deliverance which has been passed down. In doing so Yahweh's
bringing of Israel out of Egypt is interpreted as a legal act, as the liberation of a
slave by use of force. However, whoever "brought out" a slave, according to the
legal significance of this expression, thereby liberating him, became his new
owner and could "bring" him "in" unto himself: make him his slave. Yet the creed
does not say what one would expect: Israel had become a slave in Yahweh's land.
The consequence of being brought out, namely, being brought into the land of
Canaan, is mentioned only incidentally. Instead, the final verse formulates the
true objective as:
Yahweh commanded us to observe all these laws as an expression of the fear of Yahweh,
our God, so as to be prosperous forever, [and] in order to preserve our life as [we have it]
today. [Only then] will we be/remain in the right (fdäqä) [before God], if we are careful to
observe this entire command before Yahweh, our God, as he has commanded us (6:24—25).
Hence the entire history of deliverance is aimed towards the nation's obligation to
the laws. Yahweh's commanding that Israel observe the laws is, in fact, his decisive
redemptive act. The creed consequently acknowledges the law-giving as—
reformulated into the language of the New Testament—"gospel." Israel's righ-
teousness, however, is in this context concretized as "prosperity" and "life" as the
gift of all earthly blessings. Israel, of course, will remain in this state of salvation,
this condition of a full life in the promised land, only if it conducts itself in
accordance with the "state of s
e
däqa"* and fulfills the law of Yahweh. In other
words, Israel's justification through God must prove itself in obedience to his law.
Or, formulated from another point of view, that Israel is righteous, more exactly
"been made righteous," will then become evident when it observes the commands.
Thus, it is on the grounds of this behavior that Israel's righteous existence can be
2. Norman Lohfink, "Heil als Befreiung in Israel," in L. Scheffczyk, ed , Erlösung und Emanzipation,
QD 61:30-50 (1973), 46.
3- Lohfink, Das Hauptgebot, Eine Untersuchung literarischer Einleitungsfragen zu Dtn 5—11, AB 20 ( 1963),
162.
7
confirmed, that Israel can also be "attributed with righteousness" by human
beings. This did in fact happen in the Israelite cult. Such a liturgical practice of
declaring someone as righteous—not of making one righteous, justifying one—
appears indeed to stand behind each of Deuteronomy' s s
e
daqâ-statements.
On which conduct, however, is Israel's living out of righteousness most clearly
to be seen? Deuteronomy says: on the individual's social engagement. To be sure,
the term s
e
daqâ is used only in one concrete case, namely, in regards to the seizure
of a loan's pledge, a seizure which could threaten a needy person' s existence: "If a
man is poor, you are not to go to bed with his pledge in your possession. You must
return the pledge to him at sunset so that he can sleep in his mantle; he will bless
you and you will be/remain in the right fdäqa before Yahweh, your God"
(24:12-13). In view of our theme this passage provokes the question: Does not
here one's good conduct, thankfully acknowledged as humanitarianism by the
one who has been spared, first produce a righteousness before God? It would then
have to be considered as that person' s self-redemption, that means, as law.
However, behind this text there stands a rite, which I have already mentioned and
which is well known also from other portions of the Old Testament, the so-called
"entrance liturgy." It regulated the admission into the sanctuary. Accordingly,
only those pilgrims who could declare their uprightness were allowed to enter the
Temple. This confession was to be made according to a formula, a Priestly Torah,
which contained various characteristic ethical norms. Whoever had fulfilled it was
declared by the priest as "righteous" (saddîq). Only the one to whom the predicate
of "righteousness" had been adjudged "before God" in this way gained entrance
into the Temple. Only that one could receive the gift of life, which was given in this
place of divine presence. The "unrighteous" (rasa'), on the other hand, whose
sinfulness had been determined by means of a guilty verdict, was turned away,
excluded from participation in the divine service and thus handed over to
"death."
As we know from the Book of Ezekiel (18:7; also vs. 12,16; 33:15), each formula
contains as one characteristic of the righteous person, among others, the social
obligation to return a pledge to the debtor. That means, on the treatment of this
poor man, the already existent relationship to Yahweh was exemplarily decided as
proper; according to this behavior it could be made clear who indeed was
righteous. Now Deuteronomy 24:13, the stipulation quoted earlier, deals with this
same case of humanitarianism. When in this case righteousness is spoken of, it
must be understood in regards to the liturgy of admission into the Temple, within
which the "being righteous before Yahweh" would be adjudged to the individual
Israelite. In the deuteronomic statute, of course, the spoken blessing of the poor
man replaces the priestly j udgment by which someone was declared as righteous.
To summarize: through social behavior, namely, the return of a pledge to a needy
debtor, the Israelite did not obtain righteousness before Yahweh. Righteousness
has already been given beforehand by God. Yet this state of righteousness lets
itself be acknowledged in social practice. It can, therefore, be ascertained by
means of this ethical behavior and may also be attributed to the individual.
8
Law as Gospel
Interpretation
Of course, the dialectic between "grace" and "merit," divine action and human
achievement, especially within a life of obedience to the Law, stood in danger of
becoming one-sided. In Romans, Paul calls it "seeking to establish their own
righteousness" (10:3). To the contrary, Deuteronomy 9:1-8 proves that no causal
connection exists between the occupation of the land as the concrete sphere of
grace and some earlier accomplishment, an inherent righteousness on Israel's
part. This pericope employs s
e
dàqâ as human righteousness for the third and last
time in Deuteronomy; in fact, it uses this term over and over again. Un-
fortunately, precisely this passage, which is—as will be shown—the Old Test-
ament' s closest parallel to the Pauline texts on justification, is totally overlooked in
the latest and most comprehensive monograph on "Justification in the Horizon of
the Old Testament," by Henning Graf Reventlow.
4
In the background to this text stands Israel's conquest of Palestine. It is
described as divine warfare; that means Yahweh is the decisive performer. Israel
also acts, but that which it does, it accomplishes out of the "prevenient" and
"cooperative" grace of its God. Now Israel admits that it is Yahweh who allows it to
move into the land. Israel sees the reason for God's deed, for this grace, as lying in
its own "righteousness." Indeed, Israel even awards itself this right to occupy the
land. Verses 4—6 begin by quoting this presumption but then place it under God's
j udgment through Yahweh's spokesman, Moses. Unexpectedly, this j udgment
condemns only the hostile nations and pardons Israel, in spite of their history of
stubbornness, for the sake of Yahweh's promise to their fathers. The verses read
as follows:
"After Yahweh, your God, has thrust them" [that is the nations of Canaan] "out before you,
do not say to yourselves, Ί am in the right, therefore, [because of my righteousness b
e
sidqâtî]
Yahweh has brought me in to possess this land.' Instead, these nations are in the wrong,
therefore [because of their wickedness b^is'at] Yahweh is driving them out before you. [It
is] not because you are in the right (b
e
sidqät
e
kä) and have an upright mind that you are going
in to take possession of their land. But because these nations are in the wrong (fóris'at),
Yahweh, your God is driving them out before you, and in order to keep the promise which
he made on oath to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
"Understand this, therefore: [It is] not because you are in the right (b
e
sidqät
e
ka) that
Yahweh, your God, is giving you this good land to possess. For you are a headstrong
people" (9:4-6).
The proof of this is then delivered by the history of their insubordination,
unbroken from the very beginning, which is amply narrated in the subsequent
verses.
How in the first place, does Israel, while in the process of taking possession of
the land, understand itself as having the right to occupy it? According to an old
oriental conception, every war is a lawsuit in which a verdict is reached in the event
of either victory or defeat: whoever is in the right, wins; whoever is in the wrong,
loses. In this way Israel can infer from its military success that it is itself in the right,
4. BEvTH58 (1971).
9
its enemies in the wrong. Verses 1—3, which immediately precede the text quoted
above, make it quite apparent that the conquest of the land west of the Jordan is a
war which Yahweh himself wages. Israel knows of this and must consequently
consider history also as a kind of divine j udgment . Therefore, Israel regards itself
as "in the right," not only over against the nations but also as concerns Yahweh.
This attitude is now opposed by the criticism of Deuteronomy. It makes use of
the catch-words "righteousness" and "unrighteousness." Yet the two terms no
longer describe the relationship of Israel and the Canaanites to one another, but
exclusively the relationship of Israel to Yahweh. When Israel seeks to establish its
"righteousness" (s
e
däqa) then this righteousness must be—as the test elucidates—a
state of "upright mind" (jöser lebäb). In the thought of Deuteronomy this even
means: It must be a righteousness which Yahweh deems fitting within a sort of
"divine entrance liturgy" and which then secures for Israel the admission into the
land, into the place of life. That an association with the Temple entrance liturgy is
being alluded to here is clear from the use of its technical terms: sfdäqa and ris
c
â.
Israel, however, is j udged to be a "headstrong people." From the beginning of its
history up to the present moment, it finds itself under God's wrath. Thereby, the
cleft between Israel's "being in the right," which it ascribes to itself, and the "being
in the wrong" of the nations, is filled in, this difference is done away with in the
face of Israel's relation to its God. According to the evidence of history, "all are
under the domination of sin" (Rom. 3:9 and elsewhere).
That which Israel's self-righteousness is not capable of attaining, however, is
freely given to this guilt-laden people by its God in abundant mercy. It is allowed
to enter into salvation's sphere, into the good land, given unto a sinful people but
as a people yet unconditionally pardoned by Yahweh. To put this more precisely
and to encode it within Deuteronomy' s historical fiction, when Yahweh helps his
people to victory over the larger and stronger nations of the land west of the
Jordan, he does not do so because Israel is guiltless or "in the right." Instead,
Yahweh's motivation is the promise he gave to the patriarchs (cf. Rom. 11:28).
Thus, Deuteronomy 9:4—6 implicitly destroys the thesis which says, "in the Old
Testament only those who faithfully remain in union, never the godless, are
justified," and that "Yahweh's justifying action is clearly divorced from his
unqualified deeds and from those which are grounded in a promise."
5
On the
contrary, these verses describe a "justification"—independently of Deuteron-
omy—which has been most recently theologically characterized by the statement
that "God turns himself to the sinner, who in no respect has earned this g i f t . . . .
God's saving action is at the same time his j udgement upon man. In this judge-
ment man is confronted with his guilt and, nevertheless, spoken righteous/
justified."
0
So, to summarize: Deuteronomy 6:25 and 24:13 presuppose "justification."
5. Gegen Κ. Koch, "Rechtfertigung im AT," in H. Brunotte, ed., Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon (Göttin-
gen, 1959), 471-72.
6. Jürgen Werbick, "Rechtfertigung des Sünders—Rechtfertigung Gottes." Thesen zur ökumenischen
Diskussion um die Rechtfertigungslehre, KUD 27: 45-57 (1981), 47.
10
Law as Gospel
Interpretation
That is, Israel's "being brought into" the land of promise; and they speak in a
qualifying manner over the workings of justifying, sanctifying grace in the one
already justified. One contributes "good works" (the observance of the Deu-
teronomic commandments) to the "second grace" (to the blessing in the promised
land); a grace which God imparts in creative propriety. Deuteronomy 9:5—6, on
the other hand, speaks of the event of "justification" (the occupation of the
promised land). Thereby, the sinner, who in relation to God is unable to assert any
claim upon the land (Israel's appeal to its own righteousness) is declared righteous
by God, which can be deduced from the pericope as a "Pauline consequence."
Whoever accepts thisjudgment of God, totally entrusting all to God's grace, will be
accounted "faithful" and transmitted through God's word unto the grace of
justification. That is, an Israel which confesses its own guilt and professes Yahweh
as its savior may live in the land of promise. Thus, the truth of its sinful existence
becomes for Israel not a truth which condemns but a truth which saves; it becomes
"gospel."
Israel's Pardon and Its Conversion (sûb ) : The sharp accentuation of Deuteronomy
9:4—6, which prevents the nomistic misunderstanding of Israel's claim of righ-
teousness, could, of course, lead to another false interpretation: The effort of the
people who must live outside of the promised land is denied any meaning. Thus,
texts which originated towards the end of the Babylonian exile (Deut. 4:29—31
and 30:1-10) define precisely what constitutes Yahweh's work of grace and
Israel's merit. This is, of course, formulated with explicit reference to the crisis of
the exile and how it is to be overcome. The significance of the theology of
conversion of these pericopes is already shown by their position in the Book of
Deuteronomy; it constitutes a framework for the core of the book, the second
speech of Moses (chaps. 5—28). The conversion theme is found in the first
parenetic passage of the book as its primary intention and rounds it off as the
decisive message for the exile generation in the last parenetic text of the book.
When Israel broke the covenant and had to suffer the sanctions for falling away
from Yahweh, then the entire hope for the future rested and concentrated itself
in a "conversion (sûb) to Yahweh," or "a renewed heeding to his voice." Further-
more, this verb, (sub), is used by Deuteronomy in its religious sense only in 4:30
and 3:1—10. Yet does the following hold true: "Through Israel's apostasy the Sinai
covenant became ' shredded paper,' through the nation's repentance it was once
again made into valid 'law' "?
7
In regard to our line of questioning this would
mean that Israel can once again shift itself, by means of conversion, into the
proper relationship with God, thereby justifying itself. However, 4:29—31 says:
"There [namely in the foreign land where the remnant of Israel is living in dispersion] you
shall seek Yahweh, your God, and you shall find him when you search after him with your
whole heart and whole soul. In your distress, all these words shall find you. In later days you
7. Adolph Schenker, Unwiderrufliche Umkehr und neuer Bund Vergleich zwischen der Wiederherstellung
Israels in Dt 4,25-31, 30,1-14 und dem neuen Βwid in]er 31,31-34, FZPhTh 27:93-106 (1980), 96.
11
shall return (sûb) to Yahweh, your God, and heed his voice. For Yawheh, your God, is a
merciful God and will not desert and destroy you, nor forget the covenant he made on oath
with your fathers."
The context of this pericope in chapter 4 is clearly formed by the structure of a
covenant formula, of which the verse just quoted constitutes the section of
blessing. Contrary to the otherwise normal conditional wording, this blessing is
historicized. That means that a time of blessing is pledged unconditionally as
God's grace. Above and beyond this, the text explicitly promises that Israel will not
only search for Yahweh, it will find him. Still more:
Yahweh will not only let himself be found. He has foretold that he will let himself be found,
and these words of prediction are already underway, they are already in search of Israel. It
is not Israel which will find Yahweh, but Yahweh's words which will find Israel. Israel must
not repent in order that Yahweh once again turns towards it; rather, if Yawheh's words
find Israel, then Israel will be granted the grace of repentance.
8
Now, "all these words," to which the text refers, contain more than the mere
pledge that Israel will once again find its God. For these words are further
interpreted as Israel's "conversion" and its "heeding Yahweh's voice." With this,
however, the fundamental demand of the divine covenant is addressed: Israel's
exclusive relationship to Yahweh. Not taken into immediate consideration is the
observance of individual commandments. This is because they concretize Israel's
relationship with God primarily for the living situation in the promised land and
are thus not yet pertinent to the situation of exile. "These words," which will find
Israel, thereby, also contain the covenant's central commandment pertaining to
Israel's relationship with God. They constitute the gospel for a guilty people. In
this way j udgment is cast upon Israel's sin in accordance with the logic of the Sinai
covenant. Yet, in the long run, even Israel's guilt can not prevail against Yahweh,
the "merciful God," who has unilaterally and irrevocably already bound himself to
Israel by an oath to the patriarchs.
The message of 4:29—31 concerns itself totally with the central hope which
Israel, despite the j udgment of its God, has not lost definitively, not even in exile.
A return into the promised land with its many blessings is, however, only implicitly
contained within Yahweh's oath to the fathers; the function of the individual
commandments is at most only implied in the "heeding of Yahweh's voice." Both
aspects are now developed in 30:1—10. In that development the verb, sûb, with its
various shades of meaning, is employed more repeatedly than anywhere else in
the Old Testament. Nowhere else are divine and human turning towards one
another combined in such strict correspondence. Now, the pericope is artistically
arranged around a center. Nevertheless, its theme is brought to discussion in
several ways and at the same time is handled ever more thoroughly as the text
progresses. The verses constitute once again the section of blessing within a
covenant formula, according to which chapters 29—30 appear to have been
8. Lohfink, Höre Israel! Auslegung von Texten aus dem Buch Denteronomium, DIE WELT DER BIBEL 18
(Düsseldorf, 1965), 113.
12
Law as Gospel
Interpretation
edited. As in 4:29-31 the blessing is historicized. Indeed, at the beginning
mention is explicitly made of the exile situation. The consequence of Israel's
breach of covenant, however, provides the exiles an occasion for self-inspection:
"And when all these words overtake you, the blessing and the curse I have set
before you, if you take them to heart (sûb >èl lebäb), wherever among the nations
Yahweh, your God, had dispersed you" (30:1). The verb sûb indicates a cor-
relation between Israel's "going within itself and its return, its conversion. Does
the initiative for this come from the human side? Strictly speaking, these words
provide the impetus for reflection—not the deuteronomic laws but the blessing
and curse of this covenant charter. With regard to the "justification of the sinner"
this means that those separated from God can indeed dispose themselves for the
reception of the grace of conversion: Israel, having fallen away from Yahweh, is
capable of preparing itself for the conversion to be awaited from God. However,
this surrendering of the old resistance against God is transmitted by God's word,
which first makes faith possible.
Israel's apostasy is to be replaced by a new fullness of grace. It is, however,
attached to certain conditions:
"And if you return (sub 'ad) to Yahweh, your God, and heed his voice in everything that I
enjoin on you today, you and your children, with your whole heart and whole soul; then
Yahweh, your God, will turn (sûb) your destiny. He will take pity on you, turn himself
towards you (sûb) and gather you once again out of all the peoples wherein Yahweh, your
God, has scattered you" (vs. 2-3).
In this passage the "heeding Yahweh's voice" is intentionally still only vaguely
explained. Individual commandments are not binding outside of the promised
land. The turn of Israel's destiny is grounded solely in Yahweh's turning toward
Israel, in his mercy, which here, however, is no longer anchored in the oath to the
fathers as it was in 4:31. Yahweh himself will gather those who have been
dispersed unto the ends of the heavens and bring them back into the land of their
fathers, the ancestors of the exile generation. The text continues:
"And Yahweh, your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants,
that you may love Yahweh, your God, with your whole heart and whole soul, and may so
have life . . . you, however, shall turn (sûb) and heed the voice of Yahweh and observe all his
commandments, which I enjoin on you today (30:6, 8)."
With these verses we come to the literary and theological center of the pericope.
Here is promised, as a gift of blessing, that which previously had been demanded
of Israel as its principal commandment which was to be fulfilled as the condition
of its covenant: to love God with one's whole heart and soul (6:4), as well as the
circumcision of the heart (10:16). Circumcision is the Old Testament initiation
into the people of God in a similar way to baptism after Christ. It is thus a
quasi-sacramental procedure. A circumcision which God himself undertakes,
therefore, theologically means a "justification through God." It so deeply changes
one's heart, that is, one's spirit, that the love of God is made possible. In it, then,
are condensed both conversion and obedience. This love for God, which Israel is
13
enabled to have by Yahweh himself and which is the essence of the relationship
with God, is rewarded with the equally fundamental gift of life. From the
circumcision of the heart there also arise consequences which concern Israel first
in its own land. There its conversion must be confirmed by its observance of all the
commands proclaimed by Moses. Thus, the circumcision of the heart through
God precedes the conversion of Israel and places it first in the condition of
obeying both the central and individual commandments. Thus, also here God's
first word to those who have fallen away from him is not a demand but a
consolation. Moreover, this circumcision of the heart is not only promised as a
solitary turning of God to the generation of the exile but also is assured at any
given time for the coming generations. For these, too, it constitutes the presuppo-
sition of once again receiving through obedience the rich blessings of the land.
This blessing in all undertakings, in the fruit of the womb, the fruit of the cattle,
and the fruit of the soil will outdo anything in the past. Its excess proves, as does
the obedience flowing from the transformation of the heart, that there will be no
mere restoration of the past but a surpassing of the past, a new beginning, when
Yahweh once again turns toward Israel and takes delight in bringing prosperity to
the returning remnant as he took delight in bringing prosperity to their fore-
fathers.
The concluding verse describes, now as the reason for Yahweh's blessing, what
the full conversion of Israel, the conversion "with the whole heart and the whole
soul," means: "Then you will heed the voice of Yahweh, your God, and keep his
commandments and laws that are [individually] written in this Book of Torah:
then you will return (sûb 'el) to Yahweh, your God, with your whole heart and
whole soul" (30:10).
So can an Israel, the heart of which has been circumcised by Yahweh (cf. Rom.
2:28—29), that is, theologically speaking, "which has been justified by grace alone,"
adhere to the Deuteronomic law, not only because it has been inwardly disposed
for it by a transformation worked by God but also because the Torah is now
immediately accessible and easy to observe. According to 4:29—31 Israel's sole
striving is to have once again Yahweh as its God. Above and beyond this, 30:7—10
develops a temporal hope for the future. Such a hope is possible, because
according to the subsequent (by way of editing) verses 11—14, the deuteronomic
law, upon the fulfillment of which Yahweh's blessing at last depends, "is very near
to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may keep it" (v. 14). With this,
then, the "righteousness that comes from faith" is made manifest in the deu-
teronomic Torah, according to the witness of Paul's letter to the Romans, which
(rightly) cites this passage (Rom. 10:6). The deuteronomic law, truly interiori/ed,
is the "word of faith" (v. 8), that is, gospel (v. 16).
q
9. On the identification of Christ with Wisdom-Torah in Rom 10 6-10 which resolves the tension
between gospel and law, see M J Suggs, " ' The Word Is Near You' Romans 10 6—10 within the
Purpose of the Letter," in Farmer, Moule, and Nieburh, eds , Christian History and Interpretation
Studies Presented to J Knox (London, 1967), pp 289-312
14
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