Trinity Journal 10 NS (1989) 185-209

[Copyright © 1989 Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; cited with permission;

                    digitally prepared for use at Gordon College]  




THE USE OF DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13*

                                  ARDEL CANEDAY

                                           DEERFIELD, ILLINOIS




The NT uses cu<lon with two notable points of reference within
the OT. One, which is confined to the Apocalypse (Rev 2:7; 22:2, 14,
19) with its referent in the "tree of life," continues the imagery of
Gen 2:9; 3:22, 24.1 The other (Gal 3:13; Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; 1 Pet
2:24) apparently alludes to Deut 21:22-23.2

Of several NT allusions that apply Deut 21:22-23 to the cross of
Jesus, Paul's citation in Gal 3:13 is the clearest: "Christ redeemed us
from the curse of the law, having become on our behalf a curse--for
it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs upon a tree."' This NT
citation of an obscure OT text has been the occasion of several recent
studies, beginning with Lindars's programmatic study.3 He sees
Paul's use of Deut 21:22-23 as a "sharpened form in which this text


      *A paper read at the Evangeilcal Theological Society Midwestern Section
Annual Meeting at Bethel Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, March 16-17,

1 Cf. also post-biblical Judaism. E.g. I Enoch 24:4; 25:1-6; T. Levi 18:11; 4 Ezra 8:52;
1QH 8:5.

2 The NT does not merge these two reflections of OT images by identifying Jesus'
cross with the "tree of life," but some early patristic literature does. See, e.g., Justin
Martyr, Dialogue 86:1: ". . . Learn also that He whom the Scriptures show us as about
to come again in glory after being crucified had the type of the tree of life, which it
was said was planted in paradise . . ." (cited from trans. by A. Lukyn Williams,
Justin Martyr: The Dialogue with Trypho [London: SPCK, 1930], 182). See also Barn
cf. 11:6, (citing Ps 1:3-6; cf. also Justin, Dialogue 86:4), 8:1, 5; 12:1, 7. Barnabas states
5:13, e@dei ga>r, i!na e]pi> cu<lou pa<q^ ("for it was necessary for him to suffer upon
the tree").

3 Barnabas Lindars, New Testament Apologetic: The Doctrinal Significance of the
Old Testament Quotations
(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961) 232-37. See also A. T.
Hanson, Studies in Paul's Technique and Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974),
45-51, 155, 197; F. F. Bruce, "The Curse of the Law," Paul and Paulinism: Essays
in Honour of C. K. Barrett
(ed. M. D. Hooker and S. G. Wilson; London: SPCK, 1982) 27­-
36; and Max Wilcox, "'Upon the Tree'-Deut 21:22-23 in the New Testament," JBL 96
(1977) 85-99.

186                                                                                                               TRINITY JOURNAL


was already being used by the enemies of the Church."4 Accord­-
ingly, Paul employed Deut 21:22-23 in a creative and ad hoc manner
as it served his polemic purpose.5 Kim follows Lindars and sum-

    So the Jews must have looked upon the crucified Jesus as accursed
by God. . . .  The allusions to Deut 21.23 in Acts 5.30; 10.39; 1 Pet 2.24
suggest that from the beginning the Christians encountered Jewish
opposition based upon Deut 21.23 to their proclamations of Jesus as
the Messiah. The Christians would hardly have applied Deut 21.23 to
Jesus on their own initiative. Rather, they must have taken it from
their Jewish opponents, and turned it into a weapon of counter­


Against Lindars's influential approach, Wilcox argues that the NT
use of Deut 21:22-23 reflects a "tree-testimonia" as "part of an early
Jewish-Christian midrashic exposition of the Akedah" and was

used to facilitate "the application of the role of Isaac to Jesus.”7
His study of Paul's use of Deut 21:22-23 is dominated by Jewish mid-
techniques by which he seeks to "exhaust its influence" upon

the verses surrounding Gal 3:13.8 So Paul's warrant for using Deut
21:23 depends primarily upon his midrashic skills to find a text
with link-words to continue his catenation of citations.9


4 Lindars, New Testament Apologetic, 233. Cf. the earlier article by U.
Holzmeister, "De Christi Crucifixione Quid e Deut.
21:22 et Gal. 3:13 consequatur,"
Bib 27 (1946) 18-29. H
olzmeister suggests that Deut 21:22-23 was a text brought
against Paul by Jewish opponents, a text which Paul had to answer. See also John
Hoad, "Some New Testament References to Isaiah 53," ExpTim 68 (1956-57) 254-55.

5Cf. Barnabas Lindars, "The Place of the Old Testament in the Formation of New
Testament Theology," NTS 23 (1976) 64.
Contrast Peder Borgen ("Response," NTS 23
[1976] 75), who argues that the role of the OT in the NT "is much more than to be a
mere mode of expression used in an ad hoc way."

6Seyoon Kim, The Origin of Paul's Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) 46.

7 Wilcox, "'Upon the Tree'," 86, 99. So Wilcox states, "In the NT model, in the
fullness of time another [like Isaac] comes to the place of sacrifice, carrying his
'wood'/ 'cross'
. . . and is put upon it. . . " (p. 98).

8Ibid., 96-97. He finds not only the obvious link back to 3:10 (curse/blessing mo-
tif), but also a link back to the citation of Gen 12:3 by way of the promise of "the
land" (h[ gh?, Deut 21:23b), and a link forward to 3:18, "inheritance" (klhronomi<a)
possibly reflecting e]n klh<r& in the unquoted portion of Deut 21:23b. Finally, Deut 21:23

aids Paul's pesher of 3:16 with the presence of  cu<lon as the "link-word" that offers the

clue to Paul's interpretation of Gen 22:6.

9Cf. Nils A. Dahl, "The Atonement--An Adequate Reward for the Akedah?
(Rom 8:32)," in Neotestementica et Semitica: Studies in Honour of Matthew Black (ed. by E.
Earle Ellis and Max Wilcox;
Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1969) 23. Concerning Gal 3:13, Dahl contends,
"There is a conscientious interpretation in the background.
In Deut 21:23 it was stated that a hanged
man was accursed. This might be taken to
exclude faith in a crucified Messiah, but the passage could
be turned into an argument
in favour of the Christian faith if 'a man hanging upon a tree' was
combined with 'a
ram caught in a thicket' (Gen 22:13). Thus the crucified Jesus was understood to be the
lamb of sacrifice provided by God. Here there is an element of typology; but the ram, rather than Isaac, is
seen as a type of Christ."

CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                                        187


Generally, scholars see in Gal 3:10-13 an appropriation of the
Jewish exegetical device, gezerah shawah ("equal category").
Many argue that Paul finds verbal analogy in discrete OT texts
where, because "the same words are applied to two separate cases,
it follows that the same considerations apply to both."10 Paul's
"string of pearls" in Gal 3:10-13 may reflect Jewish literary appro-
­priation techniques, for link-words are readily apparent. However,
mere ascription of the use of gezerah shawah to Paul offers little or
no explanation for the apostle's use of the selected texts beyond an
ad hoc appropriation. So Paul's warrant or authorization for em­-
ploying the chosen texts (arising first from those texts and then
from his theological framework) is largely passed over without
discussion. Instead, some claim that the OT text is "wrested from its
original context or modified somehow to suit the new situation."11
Two questions must be asked to determine Paul's warrant for em­-
ploying Deut 21:22-23 in Gal 3:13: (1) How did the NT writers, Paul in particular,
use the OT to document their creed? (2) Upon what
basis did the apostle
select Deut 21:22-23 to give credence to his
assertion in Gal 3:13a?12

What is necessary is a reflective consideration not only of
Paul's hermeneutical techniques but also of his controlling
"hermeneutical axioms."13  The Christian community's theological
beliefs,14 that not only transcend but also shape its hermeneutics,
inform Paul's actual appropriation of OT texts. Accordingly, Paul's
appeals to the OT reflect this matrix of the community's beliefs
that bear directly upon the way Scripture is to be employed.

This fresh consideration of Paul's citation of Deut 21:23 in Gal
3:13 is born out of an acknowledgement of both Jewish interpretation
techniques as well as the matrix of Christian theological beliefs.
The aim is to give proper consideration to the contexts of both the
OT text and its NT citation to demonstrate Paul's warrants for ap-
­plying Deut 21:22-23 to Christ. Does Paul employ this Scripture
text in an ad hoc manner, i.e., wrenched from its OT context for the


10Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975)
35; cf. 117. See, e.g., F. F. Bruce, "The Curse of the Law," 30; Bruce, Commentary on Galatians
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) 165.

11 Joseph A. Fitzmyer, "The Use of Explicit Old Testament Quotations in Qumran Literature and
in the New Testament,"
Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament (London: Geoffrey
Chapman, 1971) 33. Concerning Paul's use of Deut 21:23,
Fitzmyer states, "The only connection here
between the verse of Deuteronomy and
the Pauline, use of it is the double pun of the Law's
curse and the word 'cursed' and
the crucifixion of Christ and 'hung on a tree.' The orator Paul is
the one who makes the connection by putting them together" (p. 45).

12Cf. Wilcox, "'Upon the Tree'," 94, where he essentially asks these two ques­tions, but fails to
seek the answer outside the entanglement of midrash.

13See the use of this designation in the extended discussion by Douglas J. Moo, The Old
Testament in the Gospel Passion Narratives
(Sheffield: The Almond Press, 1983) 56ff.

14Cf. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis, 50, who states, "Each of these, Pharisees, sectarians,
and Philo alike, worked from distinctive doctrinal and idealogical com­
mitments, which
produced distinctive features in their exegetical methodologies."

188                                         TRINITY JOURNAL

particular purpose at hand without further considerations? Or,
does Paul find authorization in the OT text validated by his con-
temporary context that gives his argument credibility?

The presentation develops around three procedural steps. First,
Paul's hermeneutical matrix is considered to establish his ap-
proach to scripture. Second, Paul's use of Deut 21:22-23 in Gal 3:13 is
studied in three major sections: (1) a brief survey of Paul's polemi­-
cal thesis in Galatians 3 to contextualize the OT citation; (2) a con­-
sideration of the warranted use of Deut 21:22-23 in Gal 3:13 from
the OT text and context, and (3) Paul's NT basis for employing Deut
21:22-23 and its place in his argument. A third brief section draws
conclusions with appropriate implications.



The study of any OT text cited by Paul in Galatians 3 quickly
involves one's own biblical-theological scheme, for it draws one
into the apostle's whole argument against the Judaizers by which
he disparages the law. The exegete is confronted with the problem
of accounting for Paul's negative perspective upon the law, for his
argument in Galatians 3 suggests that he ignores the fact that the
law promised blessing to those who obeyed it. Central to his
polemic is the sanction that the law threatened, namely the curse.
Noth correctly observes, "It is . . . noteworthy that the Old
Testament itself does not appear to share Paul's judgment upon the
law, for from the law it apparently opens out the perspectives,
'blessing and curse', i.e. either blessing or curse, according as the in-
­dividual or group fulfils or does not fulfil the requirements of the
law."15 Paul's view of the Mosaic law challenges the exegete's
search for an acceptable solution that properly acknowledges the
OT expressions concerning the law but also retains "what is nega-
­tive in the Pauline picture of the law if God's new act in Christ is to

receive due stress."16


A. The OT Is To Be Read Salvation-Historically

Paul's argument in Galatians 3 is tightly structured and is fun­-
heilsgeschichtlich. It is thoroughly influenced by
Jesus' teaching concerning the epochal and eschatological character


15Martin Noth, "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse," in The Laws in the
Pentateuch and Other Essays
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967) 119. Though Noth's observation
is correct, he attempts to resolve the problem of Paul's
perspective upon the curse of the law by
taking Deut 27:26 (cited in Gal 3:10) as a
seventh century BC expression of the final redactor that
"the threatened curse had already begun to appear as an actual reality. . . .The blessing is for him
[the opinion of the author] already something unreal, but the curse a reality which in his own
day had already appeared" (pp. 128-29).

16 Douglas J. Moo, "'Law,' 'Works of the Law,' and Legalism in Paul," WTJ 45 (1983) 100.

CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                                                          189


of his own ministry. Jesus summarily proclaimed that the promise
of the great day of salvation (Isa 61:1, 2) dawned in him (Luke 4:18­-
19), for he is the "sun of righteousness" (Mal
4:2), who rises to bring
salvation to his people (Luke 1:78, 79). He has disclosed a righ-
teousness from heaven that already announces the divine verdict of
forgiveness (cf. Matt 9:6; Luke
7:48-50) or of condemnation (John
3:18). So, for Paul, the coming of Jesus Christ, to fulfill "the law and
the prophets" (Matt 5:17ff), is the lens through which diverse and
previously diffused or unassociated elements of the OT converge.
Therefore, the apostle's retrospective reading of the OT, focalized
by Christ, sees the law functioning salvation-historically in keep­-
ing with an anticipation/fulfillment motif. Christ's epoch-making

entrance into salvation history has inaugurated the new age; it has
restructured the redemptive-historical understanding of the NT
writers.17 Because Paul interprets God's great act in Christ from the
vantage point of one dwelling in the tension between fulfillment
and expectation,
18 his two age construction is given two per-

­spectives. On the one hand, conscious of fulfillment and yet antici­-

pating consummation, he speaks in terms of "already" (2 Cor 6:2;

Eph 2:13; Rom 3:21, et al. ) and "not yet" (Rom 8:23-25, 33-34; 13:11;

1 Cor 1:30; Gal 5:5; et al. ). On the other hand, when Paul encounters

those who desire to extend the law's jurisdiction coexistent with

and coextensive to the proclamation of the gospel of Christ, the

present age is seen in sharp contrast to the former. So, Paul fre­-

quently punctuated his argument in Galatians 3 with this redemp-

­tive-historical contrast, e.g., "before this faith came" (pro> tou?

e]lqei?n  th>n  pi<stin [3:23])19 is contrasted with "now that faith has

come" (e]lqou<shj th?j pi<stewj [3:25]).20


   17 Cf. Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Princeton: Princeton University

Press, 1930; reprint Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979) 37ff; and George E. Ladd, A Theology

 of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) 68-69. See also Herman Ridderbos,

"The Redemptive-Historical Character of Paul's Preaching," When the Time Had Fully

Come: Studies in New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957; reprint

Jordan Station, Ontario: Paideia Press, 1982) 4460.

   18See Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 52f.

   19The epoch-making pi<stij, though debated, may be taken as Jesus Christ's faithfulness.

The writer recognizes the difficulty of speaking with certainty whether pi<stij  ]Ihsou? Xristou?

(in Paul seven times: Rom 3:22,26; Gal 2:16 [twice]; 3:22; Eph 3:12; Phil 3:9) is a subjective or

objective genitive. However, one must adopt the sense that best fits Paul's argument in Galatians 3.

The following are some rea­sons for adopting the subjective genitive reading of the phrase: (1) In

other places where Paul uses pi<stij followed by a genitive noun of person the genitive is invari­ably

subjective-[a] Rom 3:3 – th>n pi<stij tou? qeou? h[; [b] Rom 4:5 pi<stij au]tou? ei]j dikaiosu<nhn;

[c] Rom 4:12pi<stewj tou? patro>j h[mw?n ; [d] Rom 4:16kai> t&? e]k pi<stewj  ]Abraa<m. (2) The

peculiar change of idiom in Gal 2:16 favors the subjective

use over the objective. Gal 2:16 makes a dis­tinction in construction by alternately employing the

prepositions dia</e]k with the genitive to express the faith of Christ and ei]j with the accusative to express

man's belief in Christ [cf. Phil 3:9]. (3) Likewise, Gal 3:22 involves a strange tautology if e]k pi<stewj 

]Ihsou? Xristou? is made synonymous with toi?j pisteu<ousin. The tau­tology reads, ". . .  in order

that what was promised, might be given by faith in Jesus



190                                           TRINITY JOURNAL


B. OT Prediction Is Genuine and Perspicuous

True as it is "that contemporary Jewish exegesis is the proper
background to the church's use of the Old Testament "21 the coming
of Christ hermeneutically focuses the church's reading of the OT.
As much as Paul believes that Christ's coming has a great impact
on reading the OT scriptures, emphasis also must be placed on the
corresponding aspect, namely, the anticipatory character of the OT
scriptures. A proper christological reading of the OT does not start
with a confessional creed in need of apologetic support and then go
to the OT scriptures to marshal evidence for it, arbitrarily employ-
­ing Jewish appropriation techniques.22 Instead Paul and the other
NT writers read the OT with a belief that the gospel is the end­-


Christ to those who believe" (cf. NIV). But it appears evident that Paul deliber­ately

distinguishes the two expressions to differentiate between the basis upon which the

 promise is given and the means by which it is apprehended by individu­als. The giving

of the promise is grounded in the obedience/faithfulness of Jesus Christ; it is laid hold

of by belief. Though Paul does not specify an object after the substantival participle

toi?j pisteu<ousin, the object of belief is nonetheless clearly understood from 2:16

(h[mei?j ei]j Xristo>n  ]Ihsou?n e]pisteu<samen). (4) The subjec­tive genitive reading

better fits and puts into bold relief the christological central­ity of Paul's argument in Gal 3.

The phrase pi<stij  ]Ihsou? Xristou? has attracted many studies. Some more

 recent articles endorsing the subjective genitive are: Sam K. Williams, "Again Pistis

Christou," CBQ 49 (1987) 431-47; Richard B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ: An Investigation

 of the Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11 (SBLDS 56; Chico, CA: Scholars, 1983)

158-76; Luke Timothy Johnson, "Rom 3:21-26 and the Faith of Jesus," CBQ 44 (1982) 77-90;

Richard N. Longenecker, "The Obedience of Christ," Reconciliation and Hope: New Testament

Essays on Atonement and Eschatology pre­sented to L. L. Morris (ed. by Robert Banks; Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) 146ff; George Howard, "The 'Faith of Christ'," ExpTim 85 (1973) 212-14;

D. W. B. Robinson, "'Faith of Jesus Christ' -- a New Testament Debate," The Reformed Theological

Review 29 (1970), 71-81; Markus Barth, "'The Faith of the Messiah'," The Heythrop Journal

10 (1969) 363-70; George Howard, "Notes and Observations on the 'Faith of Christ'," HTR 60 (1967)

 459-65; Morna D. Hooker, "PISTIS XRISTOU," NTS 35 (1989) 321-42. Fewer have specifically

written to argue for the objective genitive: Arland J. Hultgren, "The Pistis Christou Formulation

in Paul," NovT 22 (1980) 248-63; C. F. D. Moule, "The Biblical Conception of Faith," ExpTim 68 (1957) 157.

    20Cf. several other markers that clearly indicate that Paul's argument is inher­ently salvation-historical:

"the law, introduced 430 years later;" the law "was added . . . until the Seed . . . had come" (prosete<qh

 a@rxij ou$ e@lq^ to> spe<rma [3:19]); "locked up until the faith should be revealed" (sugkleio<menoi ei]j

th>n me<llousan pi<stin ktl. [3:23]); "no longer under the pedagogus " (ou]ke<ti u[po> paidagwgo<j [3:35]).

   21 Lindars, "Place of the Old Testament," 61.

   22 Contrast Ibid, 64. Lindars implies this when he says, "Believing that Christ is the fulfilment of the

promises of God, and that they are living in the age to which all the scriptures refer, they employ the
Old Testament in an ad hoc way, making recourse to it just when and how they find it helpful for their

purposes. But they do this in a highly creative situation, because the Christ-event breaks through

conven­tional expectations, and demands new patterns of exegesis for its elucidation."


CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                                        191


product of OT anticipation.23 So the OT is much more than a source
book of proof-texts used "on an ad hoc basis" to validate its fulfill­-

ment in Christ "as the need arose."24 The OT is necessary and inte­-

gral for interpreting the coming of Christ, for it anticipates what is

now realized in him, not only by way of propositional prediction

but also in enigmatic expressions; corporate solidarity motifs; and

typological correspondences of persons, institutions, situations,

events, etc.25 Thus, Paul and the other NT writers are not dependent

on their own skills in pesher and midrash to search the OT with an

effort to find what is needed apologetically and make arbitrary

associations even if it includes wrenching texts from their contexts.26

Instead, they read the OT through the lens of Christ's coming,

which brings into focus and clarifies formerly unassociated and

enigmatic motifs and features of divine revelation. They believe

that what they see was genuinely predictive and anticipated

Christ, so that when they appeal to those elements to verify ful­-

fillment, they do so believing that the OT scriptures are perspicu­-

ous as they anticipate Christ throughout, not only in their proposi-

­tionally predictive parts (cf. Acts 17:11).27


III. PAUL'S USE OF DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13


A. Paul's Polemical Thesis in Gal 3:1-14

Having surveyed Paul's hermeneutical approach to the OT, it
is necessary to review briefly Gal 3:1-14 to set the context of his use
of Deut 21:22-23 and establish. its function in his argument. His ar­-
gument consists of four appeals: (1) reception of the Spirit (3:1-5);
(2) blessed with Abraham (3:6-9); (3) cursed by the law (
and (4) redeemed from the curse (

After reminding the Galatians that he had clearly preached
Christ to them as crucified, Paul begins his polemic by framing his
first argument around a question designed to bring the Galatians to
concede Paul's case. "This only I desire to learn from you--did you
receive the promised Spirit originating from the deeds demanded
by the law [
e]c e@rgwn no<mou] or in association with the proclama-­


    23 Cf. similar discussion by Max Wilcox, "On Investigating the Use of the Old Testament in the New
Testament," Text and Interpretation: Studies in the New Testament presented to Matthew Black (ed. Ernest
Best and R. McL. Wilson; Cambridge:, Cambridge University Press, 1979) 234-35; and Matthew Black,
"The Theological- Appropriation of the Old Testament by the New Testament," SJT 39 (1986) 7.
   24 Lindars, "Place of the Old Testament," 63.

   25 Cf. Richard N. Longenecker, "'Who is the prophet talking about?': Some re­flections on the New
Testament's Use of the Old," Themelios 13 (1987) 4-5.

   26 According to Fitzmyer, "OT Quotations in Qumran and NT," Essays on the Semitic Background of the
New Testament
, 33.

   27 Cf. Dan G. McCartney, "The New Testament's Use of the Old Testament," Inerrancy and
(ed. Harvie M. Conn; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988) 101-­16.


192                              TRINITY JOURNAL


tion of faith [e]c a]koh?j pi<stewj]?"28 The first appeal of the apostle's argument may be

summarized: "If you received the charismatic Spirit grounded in the law's demands, the

proclama­tion of the faith is superfluous. But if the promised Spirit came among you only

as an attendant of the preaching of the gospel and
attesting it, then it is obvious that you are being unsettled by a dif­-
ferent gospel."29

Paul's next appeal sets up his third: "If the blessing of Abraham comes to of oi[

e]k pi<stewj, what then is there for those who are oi[ e]c e@rgwn no<mou?"30 To establish

his thesis, that oi[ e]k


    28 The contrast which Paul draws is between the messages of two covenants. Based on

evidence supplied by Rom 10:16-17 and 1 Thess 2:13, in the context of Gal 3:2, 5, a]koh< may

best be taken as report or message. Cf. Gerhard Kittel, "a]kou<wa]koh<," TDNT 1.221; Hans

Dieter Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Hermeneia;

Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979) 128. Cf. esp. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ, 143-49. Those who

take a]koh< in the active sense ("hearing") against the passive sense ("message, report, the thing

preached") fre­quently follow J. B. Lightfoot, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians (Cambridge:

University Press, 1865; reprint Grand Rapids: Zondervan, n.d.) 135, who argues that it offers "a

better contrast to e@rgwn, which requires some word expressing the part taken by the Galatians

themselves" (Cf. Sam K. Williams, "The Hearing of Faith: AKOH PISTEWS in Galatians 3,"

NTS 35 [1989], 82-93, esp. 86; and Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians [NICNT;

Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 19881 132-33). Lightfoot's argument presumes that the expression e@rga

no<mou primarily has in view "human deeds performed." However, recognition that in Paul e@rga

no<mou is a fuller synonym for no<moj, leads one to conclude that both expressions represent the

old covenant with its demands and sanctions. Cf. Joseph B. Tyson, "'Works of Law' in Galatians,"

JBL 92 (1973) 423-31, esp. 429; Stephen Westerholm, Israel's Law and the Church's Faith (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 117, 121. Cf. also Moo, "Law," 90-99. But James D. G. Dunn ("The New

Perspective on Paul," BJRL 65 [1982-831107), restricts e@rga no<mou to circumcision and food laws.

     29 Paul's early appeal to the reception of the Spirit remains a central element in his argument, as

it resurfaces in 3:14 and 4:6. To Paul, the age of fulfillment is "the age of the Spirit." Cf. Geerhardus

Vos, "The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit," Redemptive History and

Biblical Interpretation (ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed,

1980) 91-125.

    30 Paul's two expressions – oi[ e]k pi<stewj and o!soi e]c e@rgwn no<mou ei]si<n -- are frequently

misread as oi[ pisteu<ontej ("the believers") or o!soi pisteu<ousin ("those who believe") and of

oi[ e]rgazo<menoi or oi[ poiou?ntej ta> no<mou ("those who do the things of the law") respectively.

However, both phrases have parallels elsewhere in Paul that suggest that this is an incorrect

understanding. Phrases simi­lar to the former occur in Rom 3:26 (to>n e]k pi<stewj  ]Ihsou?) and

Rom 4:16 (t&? e]k pi<stewj), both of which are best taken as subjective genitives. Also, phrases

similar to the second are found in Rom 3:19 (toi?j e]n t&? no<m& lalei?), Rom 4:14 (ei] ga>r oi[ e]k

no<mou klhrono<moi), and in Rom 4:16 (ou] t&? e]k tou? no<mou mo<non). Cf. also other phrases of

this nature: Acts 10:45 (oi[ e]k peritomh?j), Rom 2:8 (toi?j e]c e]riqei<aj), Tit 2:8 (o[ e]c

e]nanti<aj), and Gal 2:12 (tou>j e]k peritomh<j). These phrases, with the construction-substan-

tival article + e]k + the genitive--are appropriately classified by Zerwick. He states, "An important

usage, especially in Paul, is. . . described . . . in the following manner: as we use the ending

<< -ist >> to de­note a member of a certain class or party or sect or school of thought (<<socialist,

ide­alist, pessimist>> etc.), so Paul uses for the same purpose o[ e]k . . ., oi[ e]k. . . etc., with the

genitive of what is the characteristic of the class in question" (Maximilian Zerwick, Biblical

Greek Illustrated by Examples [Rome: Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici, 1963] §134).


CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                                        193


pi<stewj are the sons of Abraham,31 he appeals to Gen 15:6, which

is more than a claim of scriptural support; he claims solidarity

with Abraham, the patriarch held in high regard in Jewish

tradition.32 His citation of Gen 15:6 is followed by his interpreta-

­tion (ginw<skete, v. 7) that expresses his thesis. Then Paul

draws his first proof from the "blessing of Abraham" (Gen 12:3;

18:18) that is followed by the logical consecutive w!ste. This pas-

­sage leads Paul to assert, oi[ e]k pi<stewj eu]logou?ntai su>n . . .

 ]Abraa<m (v. 9), the link that prepares for the corresponding oppo­-

site, o!soi e]c e@rgwn no<mou ei]sin u[po> kata<ran ei]si<n (v. 10).

In vv. 10-12, the structure is reversed. Here Paul states his
proposition first, followed by the supporting OT citation. In this
way the quotations are not presented as premises leading to conclu­-
sions, as in vv. 6-9, but their entrance into the text is to support
assertions. So the introductory formulas to the passages cited have
causal rather than simply consecutive force." Thus Paul intensifies
his argument by asserting two propositions: (1) "Clearly no one is
declared righteous before God
e]n no<m&," verified by citing Hab
2:4; and (2) "The law is not
e]k pi<stewj, but [a]lla<] 'the one who
does these things shall live in them’" (vv. 11, 12).

These three difficult verses (10-12) have generated volumes of
discussion. For the purpose of this study, only v. 10 will be consid-
­ered, since it only is crucial for understanding v. 13. The "blessing"
motif associated with Abraham in vv. 8-9 is now contrasted with
the "cursing" motif connected with the law's sanctions. Therefore,
Paul abruptly states, "As many as are of the demands of the law
are under a curse [
u[po> kata<ran]!' To prove his point he cites Deut
27:26 with the causal introductory formula (
ge<graptai ga>r o!ti):
"For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all
the things written in the book of the law to do them.’" It is fre­-
quently observed that on the surface Deut 27:26 says the opposite of
what Paul claims.34 This would be true if the expression
o!soi e]c
e@rgwn no<mou ei]si<n
is read, "'as many as do the works of the


Accordingly, Paul's expressions – oi[ e]k pi<stewj and o!soi e]c e@rgwn no<mou ei]si<n

-- do not identify individuals by their actions but by their orientation either to the old

covenant or the new: "Nomists" or "Gospelists" (i.e., Christians). So, the term nomist,

without connotations of legalism, may best trans­late o!soi e]c e@rgwn no<mou ei]si<n.

See Longenecker, Paul, 82. Cf. also the term "covenantal nomism" in E. P. Sanders,

Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977) 422f.

   31 The conclusion to which Paul's thesis progresses is that "to belong to Christ" is

"to be Abraham's seed" (3:29).

   32 See the excursus on Abraham in Betz, Galatians, 139-40.

   33 Cf. Gerhard Ebeling, The Truth of the Gospel: An Exposition of Galatians

(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) 169.

   34 See, e.g., Betz, Galatians, 145. Even Luther states, "These two statements, Paul's

and Moses', are in complete conflict. Paul's is: 'Whoever does the works of the Law is

accursed.' Moses' is: 'Whoever does not do the works of the Law is accursed,' How

can these be reconciled? Or (what is more) how can the one be proved on the ba­sis

of the other?" (Lectures on Galatians 1535, Luther's Works, vol. 26 (ed. Jaraslav

Pelikan; St. Louis: Concordia, [1963]252).

194                                          TRINITY JOURNAL


law."35 This mistaken reading creates the first problem for inter-
­preting Paul's use of Deut 27:26. The second problem is generated be­-
cause Paul's warrant for selecting Deut 27:26 to prove his assertion
is generally submerged in the morass of interpretations offered.
With regard to the first problem, as long as one reads
o!soi e]c

e@rgwn no<mou ei]si<n as suggesting "doing the law," "relying upon

the law," or similar ideas of human action, one begins down a path

Paul's argument does not go. For example, Dunn argues that e@rga

no<mou essentially consist of keeping commandments concerning cir-

­cumcision, the food laws, and the sabbath, i.e., wearing badges of

covenantal identity." He clarifies his interpretation: "Yet once

more we must note that it is works of the law that Paul disparages,

not the law itself or law-keeping in general."37 He opens himself up

to Raisanen's criticism: "Dune thus presents a new version of an old

thesis: what Paul attacks is not the law as such or as a whole, but

just the law as viewed in some particular perspective, a particular

attitude to the law, or some specific (mis-)understanding of it."38

There are two problems with such an approach. First, it fails to

recognize that o!soi is linked with it e]c e@rgwn no<mou by the copu-

­lative ei]mi< to denote "belonging to" (BAGD, 225),39 and is not des­-

ignated as performing action upon the law. Second, it fails to ac­-

count for the fact that what is required to redeem from the curse is

the epoch-making death of Christ.40 In contrast, understanding o!soi

e]c e@rgwn no<mou ei]si<n to mean "as many as are nomists (i.e.,

identify with the old covenant)," observes Paul's equation of e@rga<

no<mou with no<moj and allows for the true impact of the redemp-

­tive-historical act of Christ (3:13) in relation to the law.

A solution to the second problem must be summarized. Paul's

logic is plain enough: "As many as are nomists are under a curse, for

it is written, "Cursed is everyone who fails to do all that the law

requires."' The text cited is part of the sanctions of the old coven­-

ant. The deuteronomical conception of the curse of the law, being

cast in terms of sanctions of a suzerainty treaty between king and

vassal nation,41 does not atomize the curse to individuals distinct


    35 But see the discussion above in note 30.

    36 Dunn, "The New Perspective on Paul," BJRL 65 (1982-83)110f.

    37 Ibid., 117. It is in this context that he criticizes Sanders who "keeps taking

the phrase 'works of the law' as though it was simply a fuller synonym for 'law.'"

    38 Heikki Raisanen, "Galatians 2:16 and Paul's Break with Judaism," NTS 31 (1985),

544 (italics original). The same criticism may be applied to H. J. Schoeps, Paul: The

Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (Philadelphia:

Westminster, 1961) 176-77; Bruce, Galatians, 157-60; C. E. B. Cranfield, "St. Paul

and the Law," SJT 17 (1964) 43-68; Daniel Fuller, Gospel and Law: Contrast or

Continuum? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 87ff..

    39 Cf. Zerwick, Biblical Greek, §134.

    40 Cf. Dunn, "Works of the Law and the Curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10-14),"

NTS 31 (1985) 536: "The curse which was removed therefore by Christ's death was

 . . . the curse of a wrong understanding of the law."

   41 See Meredith G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of

Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), 121ff and 13-44.

CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                            195


from identity with the covenant nation. The individual within the
nation was treated as a member of the covenant people until such a

time that his conduct violated the covenant. Then the nation was to

act as a community to punish the offender (Deut 13:9f).

Paul's citation evidently draws upon the LXX text-type, but it

conflates two texts, perhaps Deut 27:26 and 28:61. His inclusion of

toi?j gegramme<noij e]n t&? bibli<& tou? no<mou suggests that Paul

does not intend his citation of Deut 27:26 to be restricted to the

twelve curses of 27:15-26, but to include all the curses spoken to

Israel (27:15-28:68). The curse of Deut 27:26 had special reference to

the covenant-breaker, for it -vas pronounced at the close of a

covenant-renewal ceremony.

The citation of Deut 27:26, conflated with 28:61, both proves

the proposition of 3:10a and prepares for 3:13, redemption from the

curse. Reading the OT from his controlling hermeneutical axioms,

established by fulfillment in Christ, Paul sees Israel's history un-

­der the law typologically42 as a monument of human unfaithfulness

now, in view of the faithfulness of the "New Israel," i.e., "the

Seed" who is Christ (Gal 3:16). Because the covenant was tribal by

nature, it inflicted its sanctions upon all when the covenant was vi-

­olated by its fathers and leaders.43 Therefore, the nation's disloy­alty

incurred the curse of the law which enveloped God's covenant

people for centuries, including the remnant which cried out to

Yahweh for deliverance from the curse44 and for "the redemption of

Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38, cf. 2:25).

Thus, since the coming of Christ, for the Galatians to seek

adoption as Abraham's sons by becoming nomists, is to join them­-

selves to the old nation, Israel, which is subjected to the curse of the

violated covenant. The history of Israel's covenant unfaithfulness

cries out for a "new Israel" who is faithful to Yahweh and from

whom blessing spills out upon all who are identified with him.

Verse 13 breaks upon the darkened scene of the broken and vio-

­lated covenant, which holds its curse over all its subjects. One may

expect from Paul's strong deprecation of the law in 3:12a that he

would say, Xristo>j h[ma?j e]chgo<rasen e]k tou? no<mou, as he more

nearly does in 4:5a. However, Paul has argued that the law's curse

looms over Israel, and he recognizes that the law demands satisfac­-

tion in order for the curse to be lifted from God's people. Conse­-

quently, he states instead, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of

the law, having become a curse in our place" (Xristo>j h[ma?j e]ch-


   42 See e.g. Douglas J. Moo, "Israel and Paul in Romans 7.7-12," NTS 32 (1986) 122­-35; Mark

W. Karlberg, "Israel's History Personified: Romans 7:7-13 in Relation to Paul's Teaching on the

'Old Man,"' TrinJ NS 7 (1986) 65-74; idem, "The Significance of Israel in Biblical Theology,"

JETS 31 (1988) 257-69.

   43 Thus the proverb, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on

edge" (Jer 31:29). Contrast the new covenant which inaugurates the day when "everyone will die

for his own sin; whoever, eats sour grapes--his own teeth will be set on edge" (31:31).

   44 Cf. Daniel's prayer (Dan 9:5-13) and Zechariah's song (Luke 1:68-75).


196                              TRINITY JOURNAL


go<rasen e]k th?j kata<raj tou? no<mou geno<menoj u[pe>r h[mw?n

kata<ra). To prove his assertion, he cites Dent 21:23: "For it is writ­-

ten, "Cursed is everyone who hangs upon a tree." Before further de-

­veloping Paul's warrant for citing Deut 21:22-23 in the context of

Gal 3:13, it is necessary first to understand what it is in the OT pas-

­sage that attracted Paul's use of it to support his assertion concern-

­ing Christ.


B. Paul's OT Warrant for Citing Deut 21:22-23


1. The Text of Deut 21:22-23

(a.) Evidence from the LXX and MT. It has long been observed

that Paul's use of Deut 21:23 does not reproduce exactly either

the MT or the LXX.45 His brief citation reads, e]pikata<ratoj pa?j o[

krema<menoj e]pi> cu<lou, but the portion alluded to in the LXX

reads, o!ti kekatarame<noj (kekathrame<noj) u[po> qeou? pa?j

krema<menoj e]pi> cu<lou. Two main differences must be observed: (1)

Paul's substitution of an adjective for the participle of the LXX; and

(2) his omission of the words u[po> qeou?.46 Yet he agrees with the

LXX against the MT by adding e]pi> cu<lon after krema<menoj.47

First, Paul substitutes e]pikata<ratoj in place of kekatara-

me<noj (LXX). In the Masoretic text of Deut 21:23 the hanged man is

not said to be rUrxA (the word rendered e]pikata<ratoj, "cursed," in

Dent 27:26) but Myhilox< tlal;qi ("a curse of God").48 Whereas the

Myhilox< tlal;qi is rendered in the LXX kekatarame<noj u[po> qeou?,

Paul uses e]pikata<ratoj, the same verbal adjective the LXX em­-

ploys to translate rUrxA in Deut 27:26, thus connecting the two texts.

Accordingly, if Paul employs the exegetical technique gezerah

shawah here, the common term of the two texts brought together is
in neither the Masoretic text nor in the LXX. Did he employ an un-
­known Greek text? It may be that he used the verbal adjective


   45 See, e.g. Crawford Howell Toy, Quotations in the New Testament (New York: Charles

Scribner's Sons, 1884) 192-93; Otto Michel, Paulus and seine Bibel (BFCT 2/18; Gutersloh:

Mohn, 1929; reprinted, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1972) 65, 75.

   46 Because Paul's citation does not correspond exactly either to the MT or to the LXX, some

older commentators concluded that the apostle's variation was due to a reliance upon memory. So

John Brown, An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians (Edinburgh:

Oliphant and Sons, 1853; Minneapolis: James Family Christian Publishers, 1979) 132.

   47 Though the MT does not include the phrase corresponding to the LXX after krema<menoj

the phrase appears twice earlier: Cfe-lfI Otxo tAyliv; (21:22) and OtlAb;ni NylitA-xlo CfehA-lfa

(21:23a). Schoeps (Paul, 179) points out that yUlTA in Deut 21:23b, meaning "hanged" or "elevated,"

may serve the evangelist John's purpose in his verb yUlTA (John 8:28; 12:23) to indicate not only the

elevation of Jesus but also the man­ner of his death. See Schoeps's extended discussion (pp. 179-80).

    48 Paul may show that he is aware that the Hebrew text of Deut 21:23 involves a substantive

eaning "curse" rather than a participle meaning "cursed" when he speaks of Christ as geno<menoj . . .

 kata<ra (Gal 3:13a).


CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                                        197

kata<ratoj instead of the perfect passive participle of the LXX by
way of assimilation to his citation of Deut 27:2649 in 3:10.50

Second, and more difficult, is Paul's omission of the u[po> qeou? of

the LXX in his quotation. The additional phrase in the LXX at­-

tempts to clarify the Hebrew text, "a hanged man is a curse of God"

(yUlTA Myhilox< tlal;qi) by reading, "everyone hung upon a tree is ac-

­cursed by God."51 Scholars frequently regard Paul's omission of u[po>

qeou? after e]pikata<ratoj as his attempt to avoid suggesting that

Christ on the cross was really cursed by God.52 Paul leaves the

"curse" unqualified, for his point is that Christ became "on our be-

­half" (u[pe>r h[mw?n) "a curse" (kata<ra) absolutely, so he makes no

reference to God in either his assertion (3:13a) or the quotation itself (3:13b).53

(b.) Evidence from Targums and Translations. Whatever Paul's

reason for the omission, not only the form of the text he cited but

also its interpretation reflects a history of ambiguity. Symmachus

interprets the text, stating explicitly o!ti dia> th>n blasfhmi<an

tou? qeou? e]krema<sq^, "for he was hanged on account of blasphemy

of God." Tg. Onqelos approaches this, as it reads, bylFcyx yy Mdq

bHr lf yrx ("For he was hanged because he sinned before the

Lord").54 The Targum circumvents the association of "curse" with

"God" in the Hebrew text by translating generally tlal;qi ("curse)

with "'sinned" and then associates the act of sinning with man be-

­fore (Mdq) God. Similarly, m. Sanh. 6:4 responds to the question,

"Why was this one hanged?"--"because he blessed [a euphemism

for 'blasphemed'] the Name".55 In a similar way Tg. Pseudo-

­Jonathan states, "because it is a disgrace before God to impale

someone unless his sins were the cause of it" in an attempt to cir­-

cumvent the problem. At issue with these Jewish traditions is

whether Myhilox< tlal;qi means "cursing God" or "being cursed by

God." Symmachus, Tg. Onqelos and Tg. Pseudo-Jonathan are in-

­clined toward the former while the LXX favors the latter. Aquila,

devoted to the principle of literalism,56 and the Theodotion revi­-

sion reproduce the ambiguity of the Hebrew in the Greek. On the

other hand Tg. Neofiti is closer to the LXX and Paul: "for everyone

who is hanged is accursed before the Lord."

Paul may have excised the words u[po> qeou? not only to adapt

the quotation better to the earlier part of the verse ("having be­-

come a curse for us"), but even more to agree with the covenantal­


49 This quotation diverges from the LXX at several points.

50 See Wilcox, "'Upon the Tree'," 87; Bruce, Galatians, 165.

51 So also Aquila, and Theodotion: kata<ra qeou? krema<menoj.

52 Cf. Bruce, Galatians, 165.

53 Wilcox, "'Upon the Tree'," 87.

54 Cf. Israel Drazin, Tg. Onkelos to Deuteronomy (Hoboken, New Jersey: Ktav, 1982) 202-3.

55 Some texts read "cursed."

56 For a brief background on Aquila, Theodotion and Symmachus see Ernst

Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 53-55.

198                              TRINITY JOURNAL


sanction-form in which he casts the quotation.57 His use of e]pika-

ta<ratoj instead of the LXX kekatarame<noj may favor the omis­-

sion, since e]pikata<ratoj u[po> qeou? is doubtful Greek."

Among all the Jewish witnesses to the text thus far considered

there is no suggestion that "hanging upon the tree" is the means of

execution; in all it is the corpse that is strung up after execution.

Yet, apparently Deut 21:22-23 created a dilemma for Jewish trans-

lations and targums concerning Myhilox< tlal;qi, leaving a complex his-

­tory of the text.

(c.) Evidence from Qumran. Two other bits of evidence have at­-

tracted the attention of some concerning the use of Deut 21:22-23 in

the NT: 4QpNah 3-4; i.7-8 and 11QTemple 64:6-13. The former

speaks of "the furious young lion" who "hangs [or formerly hanged]

men up alive" (rw,xE Myyiha MywinAxE hl,t;yi). The line following (line 8)

adds a further note concerning "a man hanged alive on [the] tree"

(Cfe [hA]  lfaya yUltAl; yKi). The wording of this line is uncertain because

of lacunae.59 So, whether 4QpNah 3-4; i.7-8 alludes to Deut 21:22­-

23 is unsure60 -- too uncertain to warrant firm conclusions.61

More significant and closely connected with Deut 21:22-23 is

11QTemple 64:6-13, for this passage immediately follows a clear

reference to Deut 21:21, and it offers an interpretation of Deut 21:22­-

23. Of the explanatory features added to the text of Deut 21:22-

23, the most significant is the inversion of the order of the "hanging"

and "dying." Yadin claims that this pesher interpretation offers

evidence that the Qumran sect regarded "death by hanging alive"

(i.e., crucifixion) as valid punishment for certain offenses, espe­-

cially treason.62 Whether this text even suggests "crucifixion" is

disputed and doubtful.63 Besides, though 11QTemple 64:6-13 twice

reverses the sequence of "hanging" and "dying," it is not clear that

the text makes hanging the means of execution. Lines 8a (Tmyv Cfh

lf) and 11 (vyvx vlty) reverse the order of Deut 21:22-23. Yet, lines

8b-9a clearly retain the sequence of the MT ("On the testimony of

two witnesses and on the testimony of three witnesses he shall be


   57 Greater discussion of this follows in the next section.

   58 See Hanson, Studies in Paul's Technique and Theology, 49.

   59 The words Cfe[ hA] lfa are reconstructed from mere traces of letters, while the

last word of line 8, taken as xriq.Ayi, is cut short in the middle by a void in the MS. See J.

M. Allegro, "Further Light on the History of the Qumran Sect," JBL 75 (1956) 91.

   60 Gert Jeremias, Der Lehrer der Gerechtigkeit (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,

1963) 131-35, esp. 133 enthusiastically observes that both 4QpNah 3-4; i.7-8 and the LXX

of Deut 21:23 speak of "the one hung. . . upon the tree," whereas the MT merely reads

"the one hung . . ." (yvlt). He argues, then, that the link be­tween krema<menoj and e]pi>

 cu<lon in Deut 21:23, attested by the LXX, Gal 3:13, and Acts 5:30; 10:39, is finally

found in Hebrew as well.

   61 Cf. the discussion by Wilcox, "'Upon the Tree'," 88.

   62 Yigael Yadin, "Pesher Nahum (4Q pNahum) Reconsidered," IEJ 21 (1971) 12.

   63 See Joseph M. Baumgarten, "Does TLH in the Temple Scroll Refer to Crucifix­ion?"

JBL 91 (1972) 472-81, esp. 476-78.


CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                                                    199


put to death and they shall hang him on the tree").64 Accordingly,

the text hardly speaks of crucifixion, and at best it is unclear

whether hanging is even considered a means of execution.65 Still,

11QTemple 64:12 is evidence of a text of Deut 21:23 that is closer to

Gal 3:13b and the LXX,66 particularly with the inclusion of the

words "upon the tree" after yvlt, "hanged man."67


2. The Place of Deut 21:22-23 in Covenantal Context

(a.) Legal Regulations Concerning Capital Offense. The text

which Paul cites in Gal 3:13 (to verify the fact that Christ "became

a curse") is set within a context dealing with covenant sanctions for

capital crimes. Deut 21:18-21 addresses the case of a rebellious son

who is to be stoned to death. Verses 22-23 generalize concerning any

case of capital crime. This sanction concerned with hanging corpses

upon trees does not initiate the practice, a practice that is ancient,

but it only imposes certain restrictions on its use.68 The sequence

shows that the hanging was not the means of execution. Rather the

criminal's corpse was hung on a "tree" or "wooden post"69 the same

day of his death to be exposed as a warning. The gruesome display

forcefully warned the Israelites concerning the results of breaking

covenant laws that were punishable by death.

The limitation imposed upon the practice by the Mosaic law

was that the body of the criminal was to be removed from the tree

or wooden post before sunset, and the corpse was to be buried. To

leave the corpse upon the tree would pollute the land. The concern

is not so much over the decomposition of the body but the symbolic

desecration, for the land belonged to the Lord and would be given to

Israel by him.

The victim is not yUlT Myhilox< tlal;qi-yKi ("an object of curse,"

BDB, 887) because it is hanging upon a tree (CfehA-lfa) instead,

hanging upon a tree is a graphic sign of his being "an object of curse"

to God. Also, the body is not a curse to God because it is dead (for all

men die), but it is accursed because of the reason for the death,


   64 The texts reads vtvx vlty hmhv tMvy Mydf hwvlw yp lfv Mydf Mynw yp lf


   65 Contrary to Wilcox, "'Upon the Tree'," 90.

   66 See Ibid. Wilcox offers two conclusions from his study of 11 QTemple 64:6-13: "(a) that it

is no longer necessary to view the Peshitta form [on Deut 21:22 it reads "and if a man be guilty

on account of a sin worthy of death, and be hung upon a tree and be put to death . . ."] as due

to christianizing influence, in view of the early date given to the Temple Scroll, and (b) that the

form in Acts 5:30; 10:39, . . . put (him) to death by hanging (him) upon a tree,' may reflect the

same variant OT textual tradi­tion."

   67 The text reads Cfh lf yvlt Mywnxv Myhvlx yllvqm yk ("for he who is hanged

on the tree is accursed of God and men").

   68 See Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1976) 285.

   69 The Hebrew Cfe, like the Greek cu<lon, is used for "tree," "wood," and "wooden articles"

(BDB, 781).

200                                          TRINITY JOURNAL

namely covenant violation. For an Israelite to violate God's law in-

curred God's curse, the death penalty. It was to die the worst possi-

ble kind of death, for the means of death was a formal and termi-

nal separation from the community of God's people.

The Hebrew phrase, Myhilox< tlal;qi-yKi, may denote either the

person who pronounces the curse (Jdg 9:57), or the person against

whom the curse is pronounced (Gen 27:13). Accordingly it may read,

"everyone who is hanged upon a tree is cursed by God" (LXX,

Vulgate, Syriac, Paul in NT, Gal 3:13). Or it may read "the one who

is hanged [yUlTA infinitive absolute, BDB, 1068] is a curse (injury, in-

sult, mockery) to God" (Symrnachus, Tg. Onqelos, m. Sanh. 6:4).

(b.) Deut 21:23 and Historical Cases of Capital Offense. The

context of Deuteronomy 21 suggests the practice of stringing up

corpses upon posts was employed in cases of capital crimes of

covenant violation (d. 2 Sam 4:12).70 Yet, later in Israel's history

the custom was employed in military operations. When Joshua de-

stroyed Ai, the king was captured alive (Josh 8:23). Apparently

upon killing the king, Joshua hung him upon a tree (CfehA-lfa hlATa)

until evening. Observing the law's restriction set forth in Deut

21:22-23, at sunset Joshua ordered that the body should be taken

down from the tree and buried under a pile of stones (Josh 8:29).

Also, when Joshua captured five Amorite kings who fled and hid in

the cave at Makkedah, he killed them and hung them from five

trees (Mlet;y.iva Mycife hwAmihE lfa, Josh 10:26). Again, obeying the Mosaic

restriction, Joshua had the bodies removed from the trees at sunset

and buried in the cave (10:27).

Two other passages, though referring obliquely to the sanction

outlined in Deut 21:22-23, are more promising in identifying Paul's

warrant for citing that text (Num 25:4; 2 Sam 21:6, 13).71 Instead of

hlATA, both passages employ fqiyA ("be dislocated, alienated," BDB,

429) in a figurative sense of a solemn form of execution.72 When

Israelites were seduced by Moabite women, the Lord's vengeance

was greatly aroused against Israel. The Lord prescribes to Moses

how his wrath against Israel may be appeased: "Take all the

leaders of these people and hang them to exposure [fqaOhv;] in broad

daylight before the Lord [hvAhyla], so that the Lord's fierce anger

may be turned away [bw.iyAv;] from Israel" (Num 25:4). The LXX trans-

lates the difficult phrase: paradeigma<tison au]tou>j kuri<&

a]pe<nanti tou? h[li<ou. Here paradeigmati<zw suggests public expo-




70 David had Baanah and Recab killed, for they had slain Ish-Bosheth, and

after severing their hands and feet he had their bodies hung (ult;y.iva;  e]kre<masan,

LXX) by the pool in Hebron. The context clarifies that David carried out the grue-

some act in satisfaction for a capital offense. ,"'

71 While the bodies of enemies killed in battle were evidently exposed largely;

for publicity purposes, this is less likely in the case of criminals, for the community

participated in the execution of the covenant-breaker, making it a public act. See

Anthony Phillips, Ancient Israel's Criminal Law (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1970) 25.

72 Ibid, 26. Neither passage makes clear the means of death.

CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                201




sure by hanging.73 Of particular importance is the fact that Yah-

weh not only prescribes that the death of the covenant-breakers

would displace his wrath from upon the nation, but the manner of

averting his anger includes hanging the violators up for exposure to

Yahweh's wrath (hvAhyla) for satisfaction.

In a similar way, David employed this form of execution upon

seven descendants of Saul to turn away the curse of Yahweh. God

had sent a famine upon the land for three years because of Saul's

violation of a covenant with the Gibeonites. Upon David's inquiry,

the Gibeonites prescribed that seven male descendants of Saul

should be hung for exposure (MUnfEqaOhv;; e]chlia<swmen ["expo-

sure to the sun"]) before Yahweh (hvAhyla) (2 Sam 21:6). The seven

were given to the Gibeonites who hung them for exposure (;

e]chli<asan, LXX) on a hill before Yahweh (ynep;li hvAhyE, 21:9). After

David had retrieved the remains of the seven who had been killed

and exposed (MyfiqAUm.ha, 21:13; e]chliasme<nwn, LXX), Yahweh again

favored the land (21:14). As with Num 25:4, this passage portrays

the vengeance of Yahweh being turned away from the nation by in-

fliction of the curse upon a substitute, in this case upon seven male

descendants of Saul.


3. Summary

Deut 21:22-23 does not address the death penalty per se, but re-

stricts an intensification of it. When this Mosaic sanction is ob-

served in the practice of Israel, it is evident that the exposure of

the corpse (by hanging?) is, at times, divinely sanctioned as the

means to propitiate Yahweh's vengeance on behalf of Israel. The

corpse is suspended upon a wooden post or tree (Deut 21:22), raising

the executed criminal from the earth, which he was no longer wor-

thy to tread (2 Sam 4:11). He is held heavenward, as without

hope, exposing him to the greater vengeance of God to turn away

his wrath from Israel (Num 25:4; 2 Sam 21:6). Because "anyone who

is hung upon a tree" is detestable (tlal;qi) or cursed of God, that one

must be removed out of sight before nightfall, lest the land given by

God be defiled (d. Lev 18:24-30; Num 35:34, Deut 11:12).

Accordingly, the suspension of the criminal in Deut 21:22-23 is

associated with the propitiation of Yahweh's wrath. There is no

need to search for a text tradition that interprets Deut 21:22-23 as

speaking of crucifixion, for the association which Paul expresses in

Gal 3:13 is not "hanging upon a tree" / "crucifixion" but "hanging

upon a tree" / "vicariously bearing a curse." With this covenantal

significance, Deut 21:22-23 provides a sufficient OT warrant for its


73 Heinrich Schlier,  "dei<knumi, ktl," TDNT 2.32. Coincidentally, the only use of

paradeigmati<zw in the NT is in Heb 6:6, where it speaks of the apostate's sub-

jecting the Son of God to open shame.


202                              TRINITY JOURNAL




use in Gal 3:13 with application to Christ who was hung "upon the

tree" as the bearer of the curse.


C. Paul's NT Warrant for Citing Deut 21:22-23

It has already been argued that the basis upon which Paul used

the OT, though undoubtedly influenced by Jewish exegetical tech-

niques, was hermeneutically controlled by his belief that the OT

finds its realization and fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the

exegete is obliged to give proper consideration to the contexts of

both the OT text cited and the NT citation to determine Paul's sanc-

tion for quoting scripture as he does. Consideration of both the text

and covenantal context of Deut 21:22-23 provides the "curse" / "re-

moval of curse" motif around which Paul's argument builds and

terminates in Gal 3:13. It is now necessary to find Paul's authoriza-

tion for citing Deut 21:22-23 with application to Christ by examin-

ing the counterpart of the OT text, Gal 3:13-14.


1. Gal 3:13-14: Contextual Considerations

The "blessing" motif is introduced by Paul's citation of Gen 15:6

in 3:8 to prepare for the "cursing" motif of 3:10ff. Still, Paul must

now explain two problems: (1) How can Gentiles receive the bless-

ing promised to Abraham apart from becoming his sons by circumci-

sion? (2) If the law no longer blesses, how is there any hope for

Jews, who being subjected to the law, reside under its curse? The col-

location of Deut 21:23 and Deut 27:26 points the way to resolution of

both. Paul contends that both the blessing extended to Gentiles and

the removal of the law's curse are resolved in the single act of

Christ: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a

curse for us . . . in order that the blessing of Abraham might be given

in Christ to the Gentiles." Of the two problems Paul poses, he ad-

dresses the second first.

(a.) Christ Redeems by Vicarious Curse Bearing. There is no

doubt that the kata<ra from which Christ has redeemed h[ma?j is

the curse of Deut 27:26. Yet, the act of Christ did not destroy the

curse of the law itself, for it still hangs heavily upon all who are

nomists (3:10).74 Rather, Christ's act is described by e]cagora<zw

("redeem"), used in both 3:13 and 4:5. Both texts speak of Christ's

"buying free" subjects of the law. In 4:5,75 e]cagora<zw depicts the


74 Cf. John Bligh, Galatians: A Discussion of St. Paul's Epistle (London: St. Paul

Publications, 1969) 265.

75 See Daniel R. Schwartz, "Two Pauline Allusions to the Redemptive Mechanism

of the Crucifixion," JBL 102 (1983) 260-62, who states, "Now one might note a serious

problem regarding 4:4-5: while it states that God redeemed the Jews by sending forth

His son, it does not state how this redeemed them" (p. 260). He disregards Paul's

explanation in 3:13 and contends that the problem is resolved by Paul’s use of

e]caposte<llw in 4:4 and links it, through the LXX, with Hlw (piel) in Leviticus 14

CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                            203

transaction in Christ that liberates tou>j u[po> no<mon from slavery

or minority (mixed metaphors) unto ui[oqesi<a ("sonship") and

e]leuqeri<a. ("freedom, 5:1).76 However, in 3:13 e]cagora<zw de-

scribes the act of Christ's releasing “us” from the effects of the

law's curse by interposing himself in our place as he became u[pe<r

h[mw?n kata<ra.. Riesenfeld appropriately points out that Xristo>j

. . . geno<menoj kata<ra is probably an instance of abstractum pro

concreto: "curse” = “bearer of the curse.”77 The expression u[pe<r

h[mw?n, by itself, need not mean any more than “on our behalf.”78 Yet,

in our place” is appropriate in view of the OT imagery to which

Paul appeals.79 So 3:13 portrays Jesus in his death as vicariously

taking upon himself the curse of the violated covenant to release

his people from the law's curse.80

(b.) The Referent of  h[mei?j. Bruce and other scholars contend

that h[mei?j; is an inclusive group of Jewish and Gentile Christians,

for Paul's argument excludes the possibility that only Jews were re-

deemed from the law's curse.81 Bruce argues this on the basis that

ei]j ta> e@qnh (v. 14) suggests benefits extended to the Gentiles and

that ta> pa<nta is inclusive language (v. 22).82 Westerholm suggests

that Paul's language is “an unconscious generalization.”83 However,

though scholars generally think that Paul indiscriminately

employs pronouns in Galatians 3-4,84 the progression of his argument

makes better sense if they are distinguished.85 In Gal 3:10-4:7, Paul

employs the first person when life under the law is in view and the


and 16 where impurity or sin is transferred to a live bird or the scapegoat and sent

forth from the camp into the desert (p. 261).

   76 Cf. Friedrich Buchsel, "a]gora<zw, e]cagora<zw," TDNT 1.126-27.

   77 Harald Riesenfeld, "u[pe<r," TDNT 8.509. Cf. Herman Ridderbos, "The Earliest

Confession of the Atonement in Paul," Reconciliation and Hope, 80.

   78 Cf. Fung, Galatians, 148.

   79 Cf. Zerwick, Biblical Greek §91; M. J. Harris, NIDNTT 3.1197.

   80 Cf. Ibid. Contrast Morna D. Hooker, "Interchange in Christ," JTS 22 (1971) 349-

61, whose scheme cannot adequately explain Paul's language in Gal 3:13. See also

James D. G. Dunn, "Paul's Understanding of the Death of Jesus," Reconciliation and

Hope, 123-41, who, like Hooker, attempts to interpret Jesus' death in terms of

representation only, without substitution. But contrast Ridderbos, "The Earliest

Confession," Reconciliation and Hope, 79ff.

   81 Bruce, Galatians, 166-67.

   82 Ibid. Cf. George Howard, Paul: Crisis in Galatia (Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1979) 59; E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law and the Jewish People

(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983) 68f, 72, 81; Franz Musser, Der Galaterbrief

(HTKNT; Freiburg: Herder, 1977) 231-34, 268-70; Fung, Galatians, 148-49.

   83 Westerholm, Israel's Law and the Church's Faith, 194-95.

   84 See Raisanen, Paul and the Law, 18-23, with a sufficient bibliography.

Raisanen points out that when Paul depicts the human dilemma outside Christ, he

occasionally appears to include the Gentiles and the Jews together as subjects of the law.

    85 Yet, it must also be kept in mind that underlying Paul's salvation-historical

argument is his typological use of Israel's plight as representative of humanity's

plight placed in contrast to the faithfulness of the New Israel. Cf. T. L. Donaldson,

'Curse of the Law' and the Inclusion of the Gentiles: Galatians 3:13-14," NTS 32

(1986) 105-6.

204                              TRINITY JOURNAL


second person when the gentile Galatians' own situation is


It is true, as Bruce points out, that ei]j ta> e@qnh (v. 14) indicates

that the Gentiles are beneficiaries of Christ's becoming a curse for

the h[mei?j. Yet, the blessing extended to the Gentiles is one step re-

moved from Christ's bearing the curse of the law;87 his bearing the

law's curse redeemed (e]cagora<zw) the h[mei?j (i.e. toi?j u[po> no<mou,

4:5) from the curse of the law, "in order that" (i!na, v. 14) the bless-

ing may extend to the Gentiles. The natural reading suggests that

the divine transaction of redeeming Jewish believers out from under

the curse of the law was a precondition to bestowing the blessing of

Abraham upon the Gentiles.58

(c.) Deut 21:22-23 Cited. Lindars astutely observes that the

apostle conforms his citation of Deut 21:23 to match the string of

curses in Deut 27:15-26, so the factual statement ("everyone is ac-

cursed who hangs") becomes an anathema ("cursed is everyone who

hangs").89 Paul's modification of the LXX kekatarame<noj to

e]pikata<ratoj; suggests more than mere assimilation. It reflects his

redemptive-historical understanding of the law as a covenant of

demands with sanctions; Paul reads the law as a cohesive covenant.

As such, its various and diverse parts together anticipated fulfill-

ment in Christ. Paul, not as a rabbi bound only to the middoth, but

as a Christian whose perspective is transformed by Christ's coming,

interprets Deut 21:22-23 not so much in the light of Deut 27:26

(gezerah shawah), but sees the two together through the optic of

fulfillment in Christ. The two texts, though isolated from one an-

other in the context of the law, converge in Christ. So, the simple

affirmation of the LXX is recast in the form of a sanction.


   86 See Moo, "Law," 81. Cf. also Douglas R. de Lacey, "The Sabbath/Sunday

Question and the Law in the Pauline Corpus," From Sabbath to Lord's Day, (ed. D.

A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982) 165-66 (on 3:23-4:7); Andrew J. Bandstra,

The Law and the Elements of the World: An Exegetical Study in Aspects of Paul's

Teaching (Kampen: Kok, 1964) 59-60 (on 4:3); Bligh, Galatians, 235 (who interest-

ingly finds in this segment of Galatians a reproduction of Paul's speech on the

Antioch incident); Betz, Galatians, 148-78. Ct. also D. W. B. Robinson, "The

Distinction between Jewish and Gentile Believers in Galatia," ABR 13 (1965) 29-48.

   87 Cf. Donaldson, "The 'Curse of the Law' ," 94.

   88 Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ, 116-21, who convincingly shows concerning

3:13-14 and 4:3-6, that "The pattern is the same in both cases: Christ's action enables

the Jews to receive redemption, the Gentiles to receive blessing/adoption, and Jews

and Gentiles alike to receive the Spirit. Furthermore, in both cases the formulation

moves from an initial division between 'us' and 'them' towards a final inclusive 'we'

that makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and in both cases this movement

is associated with the gift of the Spirit" (p. 117).

   89 Lindars, New Testament Apologetic, 232. Yet, he fails to show any significance

to his observation. Instead, he attributes this change not only to assimilation to the

preceding quotation of Deut 27:26, but he states, "It is also possible that it accurately

represents the sharpened form in which this text was already being used by the

enemies of the Church" (pp. 232-33).

CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                                        205



Paul's appeal to Deut 21:22-23 is not to speak to the manner90 of

Christ's death, for clearly the OT text does not address the means

by which the criminal is to be executed. The apostle finds in this

text a prophetic anticipation of Christ, not in his being suspended

alive upon the cross, but in his relation to the law as the final and

superior one who, "hung upon the tree," bears the curse of the law on

behalf of Israel, and effects an epochal change in salvation

history. His manner suggests that he expects his use of Deut 21:22-

23 with 27:26 is perspicuous and gives credibility to his argument

concerning the law.

(d.) Messianic "Blessing" Spills over to the Gentiles. Paul's

question raised by 3:8 (How can Gentiles receive the blessing

promised to Abraham apart from becoming his sons by circumci-

sion?) is answered in 3:14. Verse 14 specifies the purpose for which

Christ became the substitutionary bearer of the law's curse for

those dwelling under the law. It does so with two i!na. clauses, the

second of which is arguably subordinate to the former (d. NASB,

NIV).91 Both clauses express salvation-historical realities to be

realized at Messiah's coming: (1) the blessing of the Gentiles, and

(2) the arrival of the Spirit (d. 3:2-5; 4:6). Both effects mentioned

in 3:14 are dependent upon the redemption of believing Jews from

the curse of the law.92

When Christ was hung "upon the tree," he replaced unfaithful

Israel as he became the bearer of the law's curse. The propitious ef-

fect of his hanging "upon the tree" greatly transcends the effects of

those of old, who by bearing the law's curse, with temporary bene-

fits, turned away God's vengeance in cases of plagues upon Israel in

specific breaches of the covenant (cf. Num 25:4; 2 Sam 21:6ff). His

curse bearing is far-superior, for he did not merely bear the curse on

behalf of believing Jews and remove it from them, leaving them un-

der the law's jurisdiction. He "redeemed" them out from under the

law's curse by replacing the law (cf. 3:19, 22-25; 4:5ff). Therefore,

his curse bearing, which has salvation-historical ramifications, is

described in terms of Israel's law. So when Paul speaks specifically

of the benefits of Christ's death poured out upon the Gentiles, he

does not employ the language of "redemption from the curse of the

law." Instead, the blessing of Abraham spills out upon the Gentiles,

because Israel’s redemption from the law's curse opens the fountain

of God's blessing beyond the bounds of ethnic Israel. In Christ the


   90 Wilcox: ("'Upon the Tree'," 89-90, 93-94) fails to recognize the warrant for

Paul's citation of Deut 21:22-23 and unduly pursues the possibility of an alternate

explanation that, though the OT text did not "originally refer to crucifixion, it has

been the subject of an early midrashic interpretation to accommodate it to such a con-

text" (p. 90).

   91 Cf. Betz, Galatians, 152. Contrast Fung, Galatians, 151, who takes them as co-

ordinate clauses. He argues that the first "makes a statement from the perspective

of salvation history" while the latter expresses the same truth "in terms of individ-

spiritual experience."

   92 Cf. Bligh, Galatians, 272

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believing Jew has been “bought out from under the law” (4:5) so that

he, with the believing Gentile, now finds Abrahamic sonship de-

fined by belonging to Christ, not to the law (3:26-29). In this new

status, Jew and Gentile together are made recipients of the prom-

ised Spirit, for as the Galatians' own experience testifies, the

Spirit comes only apart from the law in association with the

preaching of the gospel (3:2-5).


2. “Tree" Motif in the NT


The presence of other allusions to Deut 21:22-23 in the NT re-

quires brief consideration to examine the extent to which they co-

here with and are influenced by Paul's citation in Gal 3:13. The four

allusions are discussed under two heads: (1) References in Acts; and

(2) 1 Pet 2:24.

(a.) References in Acts. There are three passages in the book of

Acts that allude to Deut 21:22-23. The first two are ascribed to

Peter (Acts 5:30 and 10:39). Both passages employ krema<nummi e]pi>

cu<lon, a locution for crucifixion. For the purpose of comparison, the

two texts are set out as follows:

Acts 5:30                                             Acts 10:39-40

   o[ qeo>j  tw?n  pate<rwn  h[mw?n

           h@geiren  ]Ihsou?n,

   o{n u[mei?j  diexeiri<sasqe                      o{n kai> a]nei?lan,

         krema<santej e]pi> cu<lou.                      krema<santej e]pi> cu<lou.

                                                                    tou?ton o[ qeo>j

                                                                          h@geiren e]n t^? tri<t^ h[me<r%

Wilcox contends that these two texts employ a Greek version of

Deut 21:22 other than the LXX, for the LXX reads Kat a7t09a.vTJ,

kai> krema<shte au]to>n e]pi> cu<lou.93 However, that such brief

allusions to scripture differ from the source may be explained by the

conventions of extemporaneous speech rather than by a different

source text.

Whatever Peter's text may have been, the most crucial matter

is his change of the finite krema<shte of the LXX to the participle

krema<santej, making it depend upon diexeiri<sasqe (5:30) and

a]nei?lan (10:39). So, where the LXX accurately represents two dis-

tinct acts from the MT tmAUhv; (“he is put to death") and tAylitAv; (“he is

hung"), Peter's words do not separate the two. As a result, if kre-

ma<santej is translated instrumentally (by hanging," NASB,


    93 Cf. Max Wilcox, The Semitisms of Acts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965) 34-35;

idem, "'Upon the Tree'," JBL 96 (1977) 91. His argument is based upon: (1) the use of

diaxeiri<zomai (5:30, used only twice in the NT [cf. Acts 26:21]) and a]naire<w (10:39)

creating a difference from a]poqan^ of the LXX; (2) krema<shte is changed to the

participle krema<santej (3) both omit au]to<n after krema<santej; and (4) the words

krema<santej e]pi> cu<lou are introduced without explanation, though their link

with Deut 21:22-23 is apparent.

CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                                        207



NIV), the reference to Deut 21:22-23 is more oblique. A clearer allu-

sion is preserved if the participle is rendered purely circumstan-

tially, "whom you (they) had, killed, hanging him upon the tree."

In 5:30, the use of diaxeiri<zomai94 suggests an allusion to Deut

13:10 (LXX), where the Mosaic legislation outlines the procedures

Israel is to take with regard to a false prophet.95 The false prophet

is to be killed for seducing Israel away from Yahweh. The text

reads, "Your hands [ai[ xei?rej] shall be upon him first to kill him,

and afterwards the hands of all the people" (LXX, 13:10). If this

allusion is correctly identified, it strengthens the OT imagery of

Deut 21:22-23 referred to in the words krema<santej e]pi> cu<lon.

The Sanhedrin surely understood the reference, for it had con-

demned Jesus for blasphemy (Matt 26:65) and received testimony

against him for falsely prophesying (Matt 26:61).

The Sanhedrin's orders for the apostles to cease proclaiming

Jesus elicited Peter's response: "The God of our fathers raised up

[h@geiren] Jesus, whom you put to death, hanging him upon the tree.

This one God exalted to his right hand" (5:30-31).  ]Egei<rw is con-

ceivably a reference to "resurrection," as the word is frequently used

(BAGD, 215). Yet, it is better taken as the "raising up" of a

prophet, for two reasons: (1) In Acts, where e]gei<rw denotes resurrec-

tion, other indicators are present;96 and (2) it better suits the se-

quence of Peter's speech--God raised Jesus as a prophet among his

people;97 You put him to death, hanging him upon the tree; But God

did not ratify your condemnation of Jesus as a blasphemer, for he

exalted him.

The third allusion to Deut 21:22-23 in Acts is 13:28-30. Two par-

ticular elements in the text suggest that Deut 21:22-23 is regarded

here as fulfilled in Christ's Passion. First, and more obvious, is the

mention of the removal of the body from the tree (kaqelo<ntej a]po>

tou? cu<lou, vs. 29). Second, the expression mhdemi<an ai]ti<an

qana<tou, "no capital charge," recalls the occasion of the legisla-

 tion of Deut 21:22a.98

(b.) 1 Pet 2:24. Peter explicitly associates Deut 21:22-23 with

Isaiah 53:

o{j ta>j a[marti<aj h[mw?n au]to>j a]nh<negken,

 "who himself bore our sins" (cf. Isa 53:12);


    94 Cf. its use in Acts 26:21, where it is also used to describe an "arrest" with an

intention to put to death for an alleged violation of the Mosaic law.

    95 Cf. e]pe<balon ta>j xei?raj e]pi> tou>j a]posto<louj (5:18).

    96 Cf. 3:15; 4:10o{n o[ qeo>j h@geiren e]k nekrw?n;  10:40tou?ton o[ qeo>j

h@geiren e]n t^? h[me<r%; 13:30o[ de> qeo>j h@geiren au]to>n e]k nekrw?n;

13:37o!n de> o[ qeo>j h@geiren, ou]k ei#den diafqora<n; 26:8—ei] o[ qeo>j nekrou>j

e]gei<rei. Contrast Wilcox, "'Upon the Tree'," 94, who takes e]gei<rw in 5:30 as


   97 See BAGD, p. 215. a. Matt 11:11; Luke 7:6; John 7:52.

   98 Cf. the use of ai]ti<a in the Passion narraties (Matt 27:27; Mark 15:26; John 19:4,

6). Luke 24:20b reads, instead, kri<ma qana<tou, reflecting the LXX form of Deut 21:22a.

208                              TRINITY JOURNAL



e]n t&? sw<mati au]tou? e]pi> to> cu<lon,

in ‘his body' ‘upon the tree'" (cf. Deut 21:23).


By bringing together the two passages, he interprets Isa 53:12

as fulfilled in Jesus' death “upon the tree." Like Paul in Acts 13:28-

30, Peter does not merely associate Deut 21:22-23 with Jesus' death,

but also with his guiltlessness (cf. 1 Pet 2:22). But unlike Paul in Gal

3:13, it is doubtful whether Peter uses Deut 21:22 with regard to the

curse pronounced upon the criminal. Rather, he uses the passage to

draw attention to the shame of the punishment Christ suffered.

Though he was convicted of no capital offense, Jesus was neverthe-

less treated as the guilty man of Deut 21:22-23, for he was “hung

upon the tree" to be reviled. Peter's purpose is parenetic rather

than doctrinal.

There are, thus, indications that Deut 21:22-23 was early re-

garded as fulfilled in Christ's Passion. So, when Paul penned his

words to the Galatians, an early Christian exegetical tradition al-

ready interpreted Deut 21:22-23 concerning Christ's guiltlessness,

bearing the curse, hanging upon the cross, and burial, for the church

realized that it was the Christ whom the text anticipated.




Much of Paul's argument in Galatians 3 depends upon the OT

scriptures. So, to grasp the development of his thesis, one must un-

derstand how he is using his OT citations. This study has isolated

Gal 3:13 to offer a fresh approach to Paul's use of Deut 21:22-23.

This is done recognizing that he employed Jewish hermeneutical

techniques In his use of the OT, yet that these were governed by his

Christian hermeneutical matrix, namely, his belief that the entire

OT realized its termination in Christ. Accordingly, the OT must

now be read through the optic provided by his inauguration of the

OT's eschatological hope and anticipation. This lens now brings

into focus what was formerly diffused and enigmatically predic-


Reading Deut 21:22-23 from this hermeneutical matrix clarifies

the legitimacy of Paul's use of that passage in Gal 3:13. In its OT

covenantal context, Deut 21:22-23 prepares for and anticipates

Christ's curse bearing upon the cross. The corpse of the covenant-

breaker is hung “upon the tree" as a gruesome sign that he is an ob-

ject of curse. He is suspended between heaven and earth, exposed to

the vengeance of God to propitiate his wrath toward Israel (Num

25:4; 2 Sam 21:6ff).

From his salvation-historical perspective, Paul argues that

Christ hung “upon the tree" in Israel's place, bearing the curse of

the violated covenant and turning away God's wrath from his peo-

ple by redeeming them out from under the law's curse. This redemp-

tion of believing Jews from the law's curse is epochal in character,

for Christ replaces the law for Jews and in so doing extends to


CANEDAY: DEUT 21:22-23 IN GAL 3:13                                        209



Gentiles the blessing promised to Abraham. Thus, Jew and Gentile

together are made recipients of the long-awaited Spirit of the new


Paul's use of Deut 21:22-23 to speak of Christ's Passion is corrob-

orated by other NT uses of the "tree motif." Though Acts 5:30; 10:39;

13:29; and 1 Pet 2:24 all allude to Deut 21:22-23 with an application

to Christ's cross, they do so without bringing over to the NT all

that Paul does in Gal 3:13. Instead, they underscore Christ's guilt-

lessness, his divine vindication, and the shame he endured.

If this study is reasonably correct in its identification of bibli-

cal authorization for Paul's quotation of Deut 21:22-23 in Gal 3:13,

it demonstrates the short-sightedness of exegesis that becomes un-

duly entangled in pursuing hidden midrashic link-words. Paul's

warrant for employing his selected passage, though undoubtedly

influenced by gezerah shawah, is not bound to the middoth, nor is

he driven to find and appropriate in an ad hoc manner OT passages

to validate the NT creed. The eye of faith, reading the OT through

Paul's optic (namely the coming of Christ) will yield fresh and re-

warding insights concerning how the NT cites the OT.






This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

            2065 Half Day Road
Deerfield IL 60015

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: