This below is on Romans 7.14-25 form Witherington's commentary.
There is an ever-growing body of opinion, led by the reassessment of early Judaism offered by E.P. Sanders and his disciples, that Paul could not possibly be describing here the experience of a Jew as a Jew himself would have described it. If we take, for example, Psalm 119 as a sort of transcript of Jewish experience of the Law, Jews delighted in the Law and saw wrestling with the Law and striving to keep its commandments as a joy, even if such practice was always a work in progress. Nor will it do to suggest that Rom. 7:14-25 is how at least a very rigorous Pharisaic Jew, like Paul, would have described his experience under the Law, for in fact Paul tells us in Phil. 3.6 that in regard to righteousness in the Law he was blameless. As Stendhal says, the evidence is that Paul had a quite robust conscience as a Pharisaic Jew. It is true that Phil. 3.6 does not say that Paul was sinless or perfect, only that, according to the standard of righteous behavior the Law required, no one could fault him for being a law-breaker. Blameless before the law and sinless are most certainly two different things. Gal. 1.14 only further supports this reading, for in that text Paul says he was making good progress in his faith and was very zealous and excited about keeping the traditions of his ancestors. Furthermore, as we have said, as a Christian Paul also manifests a robust conscience, not a sin-laden one, if the subject is what he has done since he became a Christian. His anxieties are about and for his fellow Christian, not about his own spiritual state. This becomes especially clear in Romans 9 when Paul will say that he could wish himself cut off from Christ if it would produce a turning to Christ by many of his fellow Jews. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find any mea culpas of any kind in any of Paul's letters when he is describing his experience as a Christian, much less evidence that he saw himself as burdened by the body of death and the bondage to sin. Nor, if Paul when a Jew did not feel like other person described in Rom. 7. 14-25, is there any good reason to suppose that other devout Jews felt this way. It is time to stop reading Rom. 7.14-25 through the lens of Augustine and Luther, not least because it keeps fueling skewed views of both early and modern Judaism, which in turn fuel anti-Semitism.
Really now? The author of the commentary basically does not want to allow that Paul is speaking of himself in Romans 7. Previously he came up with a fictional rhetorical device that makes this passage the talk of a non-Christian only.
I am sorry, that is turning the passage on its head.
Paul's anxieties are only for fellow-Christians-- is the other argument here. Yes, he sounds extremely unselfish in Romans 9, but that does not fit here. Other Christians may struggle, but Paul not? That would make him the ultimate Pharisee, would it not? Also, if Paul's salvation really did not matter, then no body else's does either. Witherington does not see a rhetorical device when he does not want to.
And does this bringing in of "skewed views of early and modern Judaism", which supposedly "fuel anti-Semitism" make any sense here,at all?
No, they don't. Witherington, I submit, as a Methodist, does not like what Paul wrote here. That's all. And Luther and anti-Semitism have to be dragged in here, whether fair or not.
He finishes the chapter with the "Bridging the Horizons":
Paul Achtemeier warns about Romans 7: "Those who seek to preach or teach this passage face the problem of overcoming the weight of the long history of interpretation which has distorted Paul's intention in these verses." On the other hand, in an age of not only biblical illiteracy but also ecclesiological ignorance, not that many people, even in the church, know this history of interpretation. It is not necessary to remove a burden of interpretation that does not exist, but it is important to give a modern audience a sense of caution about over-psychologizing the text and especially about using it as a way to deal with modern psychological dilemmas of moral impotence or schizophrenia or the like. Reading this text through the eyes of Freud is about as unhelpful as reading it through the eyes of Augustine or Luther.
If, however, one can convey the sense of the flow of the text and that it deals with a spiritual crisis in the life of the non-Christian described, then this text could be used in fruitful ways. For example, one could ask: What is the nature of conversion? What happens not only to one's worldview but to one's moral compass and willpower when one is delivered from the bondage to sin? If conversion is not merely a cognitive event, what are its potential benefits vis-a vis one's emotions, will, and conduct? But if one goes down this road, one must also be prepared to talk frankly about the potential tensions in the Christian life, the struggle between inner and outer self, between person and persona, between flesh and Spirit. If one loads too much into one's theology of crisis conversion, one will then have difficulty explaining the struggles of the subsequent christian life.
Honestly, I don't understand this last bit. Is he now allowing for the "struggles of the subsequent christian life" and what does he exactly mean by that? Something other than what Paul wrote, there, obviously, because he supposedly did not write this about himself or the Christian life.
I, for one, am glad that Paul included this: "I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." He is also talking about himself in the present. Could he be putting it more plainly?
The simul-justus-et-peccator is exactly how this works. Witherington does not like simul-justus-et-peccator. I've asked him. And Luther and anti-semitism have to be brought in, instead of the genius of simul-justus-et-peccator.
Also Paul says: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Again we note the present tense and the first person pronoun. I will not believe that Paul is not talking about himself in the present.
Is Paul already in Christ? Yes. His rescue will not be complete until he is separated from this physical body of death. The struggle remains, no matter his supposed "robust conscience". What is a "robust conscience" anyhow? Your conscience is either clear or not. Which is it? There is no middle thing. Paul is also a sinner and needs to rely on Christ every day of his life. He was strong. He was so strong he needed an affliction to keep him knowing God's grace aright. But God's grace he needed every day.
This is really, really important stuff. If we cannot adopt Romans 7:14-25 as the talk of someone who is in Christ also, we must certainly fall off the wagon to either pride or despair.
The other day, I saw a friend who told me how very guilty she feels about everything in her life. By the time she has gone from communion back to the pew she has already sinned again, she says. And I said, yea, and you even sin when you sleep. She said, yes, she'd done that, too. I explained the simul-justus-et-peccator to her and said that she really will never be in a position where she would not have to rely on the mercy of God, and would she think it would be a good place to be if she did not need it. That made sense to her. She will always and continually need to rely on the mercy of God. That's how it is. But this will come to and end, when this "body of death" is done away with.