Friday, January 11, 2013

Reply to posting in "God and Man: The Nature of Grace, Sin and Free Will"

"Either the doers of the law will be justified as 2:13 says, or the deeds of the law do not justify as 3:20 says. You can't have it both ways." Like I mentioned before, these are letters from which the reader is only receiving information from one side. A grammatical survey is only one small step in the hermeneutical "process." In other words, there are calculations that are incomplete. At first glance, it may appear that the two Romans verses contradict each other, but further hermeneutical analysis will reveal that this letter was written to both Jews and Gentiles, and that the audience didn't seem aware that the Law places people in a position that they are unable to fight against because of the sin nature in humans. Even Jesus says in John 7:19, when speaking to Jewish contemporaries that oppose Him: "Has not Moses given you the Law? Yet none of you keeps the Law..." (NIV; NIV citations for readability purposes). Paul knew this, and this understanding hit home because he himself claims that he is "circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee" (NIV). In other words, Paul is a Hebrew trained well in theology. And again, Paul calls himself the chief of sinners in 1 Tim. 1:15-16: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life" (NIV). So, even though Paul was a man in a very high spiritual position (a pharisee), he could not uphold the Law. You can see a taste of his struggle in Romans 7, because there is a desire to be righteous, which is part of the purpose of the Law (Romans 7:7).

With these things in mind, Paul is saying in 2:13 that those who will obey the Law will be declared righteous. That is clear. In Romans 3:20, It might not be so clear "at first glance:" He is saying that NO ONE is capable of holding or keeping the Law. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. Do you know what that means? It means that if you sin, you die! The statistics are serious... the death rate since the beginning of history is 1/1! Romans 5:12 says that death comes to all people, because ALL sinned. What is sin? It is breaking God's Law according to Paul. Now if one were born, not into sin, and lived a perfect life, then He would not need salvific grace through Jesus. The problem is, Jesus is the only One to live a sinless life! In other words, it IS impossible to obey the Law. James explains that once you break the Law, THATS IT (See James 2:10)! You are now a Law breaker in need of salvation through Jesus.

In Galatians 3:11, Paul is saying that "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law (because it is impossible for one to not be a Lawbreaker), for 'The righteous shall live by faith (Since they cannot keep the Law and must put their trust in Jesus for salvation)."

Habakkuk on the other hand, was under the sacrificial code of the OT. One thing is for sure, if you break the Law, there must be an atonement (which is blood; Levi 17:11) in order to restore a right relationship with God. This blood sacrifice was performed frequently as you might imagine. People are at their core, sinners and selfish. Hence the phrase, "sinful nature." Observe what the Psalmist wrote: "The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one" (NIV Psalm 14:2-3).

In any event, there aren't any interpolations that change the message in any way, and this is known because there are well over 5000 manuscripts of the NT of which are compared and contrasted which results in what is called the majority text. The M-text gives Bible interpreters the advantage of producing an interpretation that reports a functionally equivalent message to the reader. In other words, the message doesn't change because God's word lasts forever (Isaiah 40:8 and 1 Peter 1:25; see also Isaiah 55:11).

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

22 comments:

  1. "Like I mentioned before, these are letters from which the reader is only receiving information from one side."

    Yes, but this is beside the point. It is especially beside the point in Romans where Paul clearly has received no correspondence from Rome. He writes talking about how much he has longed to go to Rome and see them for so long, and now finally, after so long, and after so many prayers, (all of this is in the first chapter), he will come finally (for this we must skip to chapter 15) when he makes his trip into Spain, and how he hopes they will help fund the last part of the trip (i.e. from Rome to Spain).

    For some reason he decides to throw a bunch of doctrinal content into what should have been merely a letter advertising his trip to Rome and asking for help funding the journey from Rome to Spain. (This makes it seem likely a lot of the doctrinal content is interpolation.)

    In any case, even if they had sent him correspondence and asked him questions, it is absurd for you to suggest that the answer to one question would be "The doers of the law shall be justified" and the answer to another would be "Nobody can be justified by the law." That's just pure nonsense.

    "A grammatical survey is only one small step in the hermeneutical 'process.'"

    Your hermeneutical 'process' is corrupted by the assumption that all contradictions must be denied to exist. Don't people contradict themselves all the time? Yes. So, then, Paul also could (and clearly does here). Part of any good hermeneutical process would be to treat Paul as a real person who can contradict himself rather than a mythical demigod who cannot.

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    1. My hermeneutical process is not corrupted, But yours is still incomplete. Paul's purpose in writing Romans was not to ask for funding, but to announce his plans to visit Rome and present a detailed persuasion of the Gospel message that Jews or Greeks can have the gift of eternal life through Jesus. In other words, he was presenting the gospel to the Romans (1:15). Paul was definitely not a demigod, but he was definitely led by God. Even Luke attests to this in most of the book of Acts.

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  2. "In other words, there are calculations that are incomplete. At first glance, it may appear that the two Romans verses contradict each other, but further hermeneutical analysis will reveal that this letter was written to both Jews and Gentiles,"

    Or, rather, that Romans is a composite of two letters, one sent to the Jews saying "The doers of the law SHALL be justified" and one written to the Gentiles saying "by the works of the law shall NO FLESH be justified." In that case we would be dealing with a Paul who is a shrewd politician and says one thing to one constituency group and another thing to another constituency groups, kinda just like he says about being a Jew to the Jews and Gentile to the Gentiles. But this is still a form of contradiction. Plus it would mean the letter as we have it is not the work of Paul himself but of a redactor who pasted two letters together.

    "The problem is, Jesus is the only One to live a sinless life! In other words, it IS impossible to obey the Law. James explains that once you break the Law, THATS IT (See James 2:10)! You are now a Law breaker in need of salvation through Jesus."

    But this contradicts the whole of Romans 2:6-13. It is plainly written there that everyone who seeks glory, honor, and immortality from God by continuance in doing good will be given eternal life.

    This is why it is more reasonable to believe--especially since Romans 3:20 in Greek really says "Not all flesh shall be justified by the deeds of the law" (not, as our translations have it, "no flesh shall be...") -- it is more reasonable to beleive that Paul's point is that Christianity is a new way of salvation in addition to Judaism not one that nullifies Judaism, and that everything to the contrary is later anti-Semitic interpolation and/or the later church attempting to give itself a monopoly on salvation. Paul's point in Romans 3 and 4, when you weed out what is clearly mean spirited scribal addition, is that the Jews don't have a monopoly on salvation, that the law is not the only way to salvation, for one can be saved by faith in Jesus too now. This is why he says in Romans 3:20 "Not all shall be justified by the deeds of the law, but now a righteousness of God without the law is manifested...by faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe..." That is, in other words, "The Jews no longer have a monopoly on salvation; now there is also faith in Christ."

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    1. This dualistic theory doesn't even hardly exist anymore. The problem with it is that there is no obvious break in the letter. There is no part two, etc. The only thing that might come close to that is the fact that Paul wrote 14 chapters and then later added two more chapters himself. Is it an interpolation if the original author was the one doing the interpolations? No. In any event, the people in "historical theology" (lit. Christian history), placed the book of Romans in Canon. It has stood the test of time as a God breathed document.

      People who are persistent in doing good reveal outwardly the condition of their heart. Likewise, people who are persistent in doing evil reveal the condition of their heart. Paul is not saying that by works one can make it into heaven, he is saying that love (or, doing good) comes from God (1 John 4:7) and therefore will recognize God's love (and repent and come to know Jesus as his or her savior) when they hear the Gospel. Paul even admits that no good dwells in him (7:18), and also explains that NO ONE is righteous in chapter three. Christianity is not a "new" way of salvation... it is a "renewed covenant" of God and mankind, since man cannot keep his part of the bargain (Romans 5:8). Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the father but by Him (John 14:6).

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    2. Its amazing how you don't see the contradiction inherent in Paul promising eternal life to those "who seek glory and honor and immortality by constant continuance in doing good" (Romans 2:somewhere close to 10) and then saying in 7:18 that no good dwells in him and he can't do even the good he wants to do. He puts himself in chapter 7 in a worse position than the Gentiles in chapter 2 who "have not the law yet do the things of the law." If this is not proof that chapter is an interpolation, then it is proof that Paul is insane.

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    3. When you say that Romans "has stood the test of time as a God breathed document" what can this possibly mean? It only means that there are still people who refuse to admit that Paul contradicts himself, even after nearly 2000 years of people pointing it out. The same can be said of the Koran, that it "has stood the test of time as a God breathed document" because ignorant rubes in Arabia deny that Muhammed contradicts himself with the same zeal that you deny that Paul contradicts himself. This sort of claim about "standing the test of time" is meaningless. A long succession of people who refuse to see the truth that's hitting them right in the face establishes nothing but hat a sucker is born every day.

      Again, I point out the contradiction between saying in chapter 2 that eternal life shall be given to "those who seek glory and honor and immortality by constant continuance in doing good" and then saying in chapter 7 that no good dwells in his own self and he can't do any good, thus making himself out to be in worse shape than chapter 2's "Gentiles who have not the Law but do the things of the Law by nature." I want to clarify that when I said "If this is not proof that chapter is an interpolation, then it is proof that Paul is insane" I was referring to chapter 7 as the interpolation. For chapter 7 represents an experience which no man can experience, that of being completely unable to do what we will to do. No man can experience this except if he is on drugs. If Paul was on LSD then chapter 7 could be experienced, but no sane person who is not abusing some kind of substance could possibly write a loony chapter like that. If it has "stood the test of time" it is only because of superstition, and the fact that most Christians just assume everything in Romans in decent and in order without actually reading it, just like Muslims do with the Koran. Once you start reading the holy books, however, then you discover that the Johny-come-latelys like Paul and Mohammed cannot be compared with Moses who doesn't contradict himself like an idiot.

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    4. The problem you fail to recognize is the fact that there have been several heretical writings that have not stood the test of time, because their words held no truth. Chapter 7 is not one of these, nor is it an interpolation. There are several theories (like the one you mention by J. C. O’Neill), but it is most likely that he had an experience in mind when he was writing to the Romans which caused him to struggle because of the demands of the Christian faith.

      Paul and Moses are two very different people who came at two very different times caused by several years of history with catastrophic events and who wrote two clearly different writings, that are not even in the same genre. How can you possibly compare the two? Moses wrote historical narratives, while Paul wrote one sided letters. Like I mentioned before, you are literally missing over half of the conversation. This is why hermeneutics much be performed CAREFULLY.

      "For chapter 7 represents an experience which no man can experience, that of being completely unable to do what we will to do. No man can experience this except if he is on drugs."
      So, you're telling me that either you will to sin (implying your need for reconciliation because of your sin nature), or that you have never sinned and are perfect (There is no need for parenthetical commentary here)? It has stood the test of time because people relate to it so well, and it in a sense commiserates with them. It is a common struggle in other words. If you have never struggled with sin in the manner that you want to do good but can't, then maybe you are not a slave of righteousness. Slaves of righteousness know that there are two natures in oneself, the sin nature and the spiritual nature. The flesh has its will and the spirit has His will: "For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Ga 5:17-18). Being a slave to righteousness is like when a person sins, he feels the pressure of the spirit within him to make things right with God. He is a slave of the desire to do good. This is the struggle. There is no contradiction with understanding.

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  3. "In Galatians 3:11, Paul is saying that "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law (because it is impossible for one to not be a Lawbreaker), for 'The righteous shall live by faith (Since they cannot keep the Law and must put their trust in Jesus for salvation)."

    If the phrase "The righteous shall live by faith" was merely a statement of Paul's own devising and clearly intended that way, I would agree with you. But since the phrase "The righteous shall live by faith" is a quotation of Habakkuk 2:4, you are clearly wrong, and this passage is shown to be an interpolation by an anti-Semitic later church writer. We must judge the phrase "The righteous shall live by faith" not by its usage in Galatians but by how the original author, that is Habakkuk, meant it, and there is no way that he meant by it "you can't keep the law so you have to be saved by faith in Jesus instead."

    Furthermore, the interpretation of Deut 27:26 which is given in this context in Galatians that makes it say "Cursed is everyone who does not obey the law perfectly" is at odds with the true translation: "Cursed is everyone who does not CONFIRM the words of the law" that is, confirm their correctness. Futhermore, since Gentiles were never under the Law, Gentiles could not be under the curse of the Law! The real Paul would not fall into the trap of suggesting that Gentiles who were never under the Law to begin with are under the curse of the Law! This is a later church writer saying this; Paul himself, the real Paul, says in Romans 2:14 "when Gentiles who do not have the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these are a law to themselves" showing he is not so ignorant as to suppose the Gentiles are under the Law and therefore need to be saved from "the curse of the law." Only an ignorant Gentile who doesn't understand that Gentiles were never under the law could say that! Paul the ex-Pharisee could not say something so biblically-illiterate.

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    1. Why would an anti-Semitic embrace Jewish writing to try to give strength to his Christian interpolation? Anyways, this same argument can be understood in my above reply. The righteous SHALL live by faith... Professing faith; working faith. Not salvation through works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but professing faith (James 2).

      Actually Gentiles were under laws according to Talmud, which Paul would have understood the position these laws held (this is deduced from considering the "historical background," which is another step in the process of hermeneutics). They are called the 7 Noahide laws; they are not the "Law." They are pretty much identical to the Ten Commandments. In chapter two of Romans as you mention, Paul even explains that Gentiles have the Law written on their hearts, indicating that the Law is innate knowledge, and it is deep within us because God put it into His creations (human beings).

      If people were just to "confirm the Law" in the OT, then what would be the point of the Law? "oh yeah, its the Law alright, now let's go break them because it doesn't matter." That sounds absurd. In any event, EVERYONE is under God's Law. This is why we need Jesus.

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    2. "If people were just to 'confirm the Law' in the OT, then what would be the point of the Law? 'oh yeah, its the Law alright, now let's go break them because it doesn't matter.' That sounds absurd."

      Because punishment incurred for breaking the law and the curse pronounced on those who do not confirm the law are not strictly the same. This passage deals only with the one.

      In any event, EVERYONE is under the Law.

      Please try to prove this from the Old Testament. You will fail if you try, which is why you simply dogmatically assert it.

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    3. "Why would an anti-Semitic embrace Jewish writing to try to give strength to his Christian interpolation?"

      Antisemites love to twist the Old Testament to confirm their antisemitism. For example, they love to claim that the Law teaches nothing but that the Law is invalid; or that God gave the Law for no purpose other than to prove that the Law is worthless. All such claims are inherently irrational, not to mention that they contradict various passages in the Law itself. But this is the amazing thing, that antisemites will even go so far as to say the Law is inspired of God, only so they can use the Law to undo itself! I am amazed all the time at the depths of stupidity they will sink to. And unfortunately, Galatians and a lot of Romans is their roadmap or their blueprint for most of this absurdity.

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    4. I do not need the Old Testament to prove that everyone is under expectations from God. Is not God the only God and the God of all? Are only certain people to obey the law he sets on our hearts? Since Paul said that the Gentiles even have God's Law written on their hearts, the idea of that wouldn't have passed the test of time because it would have been regarded as a heresy just like Marcion's writings don't exist anymore with an exception of citations from others' writings.

      While it is possibly true that there have been anti-Semites in the past who tried to interpolate their heresies into God's eternal Word, nonetheless, Paul clears this all up by explaining that the Law is NOT SIN, and that it is HOLY, RIGHTEOUS and GOOD (Ro 7:7-12). You cannot say that anti-Semites love to teach that the Law is invalid. Paul clearly states the validity of the Law. The Law is God's requirement, but as sinfully natured humans, we are incapable of obeying it. Does that mean we have a license to sin? No (see Romans 6:15-18)! How can a person call the Law good and try to make it undo itself? Pointing out that the Law is good brings this very thing to attention!

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    5. "How can a person call the Law good and try to make it undo itself? Pointing out that the Law is good brings this very thing to attention!"

      Its classic misdirection, like when a communist praises Capitalism to the skies only to follow it up with "but it is deeply flawed and doesn't provide a safety net for the vulnerables." He praises Capitalism only to trick you into not realizing what he is about to argue for is Socialism. So the antisemite says "the Law is good" and then proceeds to say something asinine like "the Law is not of faith", or he might say "the Law is spiritual" but then later "the Law was weak through the flesh." He says one thing only so that people not paying attention will not realize the full meaning of the next and will be tricked. So also, "I will not raise taxes on the middle class" and then, raise the FICA tax but not think of it as a tax because its technically separate from the Income Tax...well played Obama, and even more well played Paul. All politicians who "become all things to all men" are alike in the end.

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    6. It seems that there is no misdirection here since Paul kept bringing "the Law" up in his letters (1 Timothy 1:8-10; Romans 7,13; Galatians 3,5). Not to mention several other books in the NT written after Paul's letters not written by him.

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  4. Habakkuk on the other hand, was under the sacrificial code of the OT. One thing is for sure, if you break the Law, there must be an atonement (which is blood; Levi 17:11) in order to restore a right relationship with God. This blood sacrifice was performed frequently as you might imagine."

    This is also not entirely accurate. Although Deuteronomy would give you the impression that blood sacrifice was of utmost importance, the prophets frequently state otherwise. Take for instance Isaiah 1, or Amos 5, or better yet, Micah 6.

    6 Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?

    Micah 6:7 [Some guy asks the prophet:] "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"

    6:8 [Micah answers:] "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

    From this, would you still believe that there must be a blood atonement to restore a right relationship with God? No; not unless you simply are committed to such an idea as a matter of party loyalty. If blood sacrifice is of the immense importance you say it is, this would have been the perfect time for the prophet to point it out; yet as it stands, he actually dismisses the idea! As you can imagine, the Jews today make frequent use of this passage to defend the fact that they can be saved without blood sacrifice! And undoubtedly that use is more frequent than the amount of blood that was spilled in ancient times.

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    1. The thing with these examples is they all are asking the same question: "Are animal sacrifices or material oil sufficient for atoning my relationship with You?" The answer is no, they are not. "But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. [slowly read the following] How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (NIV Hebrews 9:11-14). In any event, the idea is not dismissed, but not yet matured. With Christ, the atonement and right relationship with God is complete.

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  5. "In any event, there aren't any interpolations that change the message in any way, and this is known because there are well over 5000 manuscripts of the NT"

    5000 manuscripts, most of them fragments of the gospels. Barely 100 are of the Pauline epistles. And even if all 5000 were the full New Testament, we are speaking here not of interpolations added after the 3rd century but before the year 150 AD. No full manuscript of a New Testament book dates before the 3rd century. There are some fragments of the gospels from the 2nd century, but certainly no full manuscript of a Pauline epistle. And all the fragments even date only to the mid 2nd century, i.e. circa 140-150. We have nothing going back any further, and so there is room there for interpolations that we cannot find by investigating a manuscript, interpolations that took place before any of our extant manuscripts was copied.

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    1. Some of your replies seem radical and I believe there are few orthodox theologians who would agree with them. The 5000 manuscripts were full manuscripts, and the reason that no full original manuscript has been found is because the original manuscripts and those immediately following were handled and read so many times that they fell apart. Hence the well over 5000 handwritten copies.

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    2. If I understand what you are trying to say here, you are trying to say that the 5000 manuscripts were originally all manuscripts of the full New Testament, but they fell apart due to use and that is why they are no longer full manuscripts.

      Its a nice try, but in the earliest centuries it wasn't technologically possible to bind the whole New Testament together as one book. They were constrained to split it into volumes. The gospel volume was copied more often than the Pauline volume because of its preeminance and the fact that Paul is of more academic interest. The book of Revelation was often copied alone or in a volume with non-canonical works like Shepherd of Hermes because either doubts about its authorship persisted in the Greek speaking churches or there was fear of accidentally adding to or deleting from it an incurring the curses mentioned there. All the manuscripts did not start out as full manuscripts. And even if they did, it is not relevant to my point that none of our manuscripts of a full book is earlier than 200 AD.

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    3. What I mean is there are over 5000 full manuscripts found of several books in the NT (which complete several full New Testaments). My point is that none of those considered are not fragments. In any event, the M-text leaves practically no room for interpolations.

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  6. "I do not need the Old Testament to prove that everyone is under expectations from God."

    Well, of course not. But in Gal 3:10 Paul uses Deut 27:26 to argue your position that God is a perfectionist who cannot forgive anyone on the basis of repentance (quite contrary to passages like Ezekiel 18). You need Gal 3:10 for that argument, Galatians 3:10 in turn needs Deut 27:26, but it also needs Deut 27:26 ripped out of context and interpreted in isolation from the rest of the Old Testament which teaches that God is merciful and forgiving to those who love him (like in Exo 34 I think) and only a tyrannical perfectionist to those who hate him, or as Psalm 18:26 puts it: "With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward [i.e. crooked] thou wilt shew thyself froward." There is this line of thought running through the whole Old Testament that God has mercy stored up for those who love him, that he forgives their sins easily and often without any penal atonement, but that on the other hand he will not do this for those who hate him.

    Exodus 20:5-6 "...I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."

    There is in the OT always the idea that God will forgive those who generally love him and usually keep his commandments, no matter how many times they fail and repent! But those who hate him and normally break his commandments will not be forgiven unless they change to being those who love him and normally keep the commandments.

    The Galatians 3:10 and so on reading of the OT that your version of Christianity is base on CANNOT admit this reality. You must depict God as a tyrannical perfectionist who cannot forgive without human sacrifice...which is contrary to the general thrust of the OT narratives.

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    1. "There is in the OT always the idea that God will forgive those who generally love him and usually keep his commandments, no matter how many times they fail and repent! But those who hate him and normally break his commandments will not be forgiven unless they change to being those who love him and normally keep the commandments."
      What is the point of sacrifice then? How did people in the OT get atonement for their sin? If the case is that animal sacrifice (or blood atonement) isn't really necessary, then you are calling God contradictory.

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