As Michael Bird follows up with more thoughts on Rom 7, I too will wrap up yesterday’s post in brief. Michael now acknowledges that the Adam interpretation has more going for it than he initially supposed, but this isn’t good enough. Here’s why his argument about Israel is misguided.
To suppose that “I” in Rom 7:7-25 refers to corporate Israel is no better than supposing that it refers to Paul himself. Israel had no more problem fulfilling the law than Paul did (Philip 3:4b-6). Israel has problems only in hindsight, compared to what the Spirit now offers. So Paul needs to convince Israel that the law actually leads to sin and death instead of life, and he can only do this by using examples of those who truly experienced the futility of trying to do the right thing. He thus draws on the examples of Adam (Rom 7:7-13) and Medea (Rom 7:14-25) to apply the argument to Israel and himself (Rom 7:1; “I”). But Israel is no more the example being illustrated than Paul is.
In other words, Paul is saying this: “Even though we Jews never had problems fulfilling the Torah, we were blissfully ignorant of what was really going on. The best that the law could offer is now available by an entirely different route, the Spirit, which shows us in hindsight that we never did in fact fulfill the Torah, that we only repeated the sin of Adam/Eve — and indeed that we share more in common with the pagan than we were ever aware of.”