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5 The Ministries of Condemnation and Righteousness (2 Cor 3:7–11)

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Chapter Summary

In 2 Cor 3:7-11, Paul alludes to Exod 34:29-35 in the context of an a minore ad maius argument. This argument compares the lawgiver’s διακονία to his own ministry. This chapter questions how such an argument about Moses could fit into Paul’s apology to gentiles. In addition, it raises the question of why Paul would describe Moses’s glorious ministry as a ministry of death and condemnation. I will argue, against the opinion of many, that there is no implicit polemic here against Law observance or Judaism. Rather, Paul here makes the claim that Moses’s ministry had resulted in condemnation and a death sentence for gentiles. Like other Jews of his day, Paul considered the gentiles accountable for the Torah’s commands. In addition to examining passages from ancient Jewish texts, the chapter looks at other passages in Paul’s letters that support the thesis that the apostle believed that, prior to Christ’s death, gentiles were accountable to the Law. Finally, the chapter investigates the possibility that God’s “glory” could be associated with judgment and/or punishment.

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