TheoGeek has some good thoughts here. (I stumbled on his blog a few weeks ago and have enjoyed it simply because he’s open to asking questions.) I started to respond in his comments, but it was getting lengthy, so I thought I’d just add the thoughts here. Read his post first for context.
I’ve been rethinking what the Law is, but haven’t yet synthesized it all with what Paul has to say. As most Jews still seem to think, the Law was not meant to show us to be imperfect, but to guide us to what full life looked like. As I understand it, the promise of keeping the law was not heaven, but the benefit of a full life that would come through keeping the law. The concept of the afterlife began to develop more in the intertestamental period when the Jews realized that, though they had tried to keep the law, they were still being ‘unjustly’ overrun by other nations. The resurrection developed out of this period through a need for perceived justice on their part.
Moving on, as the Pharisees and teachers of the law (perhaps an oversimplification here) began to add their commentary, the law became more and more difficult to keep. Unfortunately, they made the law difficult to keep by adding more and more actions that were difficult to follow. If the people would follow these difficult laws, then that would also mean that they follow the Law, which wasn’t actually as strict. It was this corrupting of the law that Jesus came and spoke against.
Jesus, on the other hand, pointed out that the law itself was not only meant to point us to a fuller life, but even raised the stakes on how the law should effect not only our actions, but our hearts. He raised the stakes by saying that not only is it wrong to murder, but it is also wrong to speak harshly in anger. It is not only wrong to commit adultery, but it is also wrong to lust. He recaputred the fact that the intent of the law was to shape our hearts, not create perfect actions. And ultimately, he provided the best assistance we could possibly have by sending His Sprit to guide and convict us. Quite a better system than that of the Jewish leaders, don’t you think?
Now, as for how all this fits in with some of what Paul has to say about the Law — I haven’t sorted through all that yet…