Throughout his letter to the Romans, Paul contrasts two means whereby one might try to be righteous before God. One means is through the Law, a means by which, according to Paul, one can only experience failure, for the Law is too difficult for one to keep and only reveals to one the need for some other means to attain righteousness. The other means is through faith in Jesus, and it is this means that is efficacious for the attainment of righteousness. All through his epistle to the Romans, he misrepresents the Hebrew Scriptures, Tanach, in order to “prove” his case. For example, in order to prove that no one can be righteous through the Law, he misrepresents Ps. 14, quoting: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one…” But the psalm is speaking about the fools that say in their heart that there is no God. Paul turns a statement about a specific type of person and makes it appear to be a statement about the universal condition of humanity. He goes along through his letter in this way, representing falsely statements and phrases in Tanach to impose upon them his own theology. Perhaps no portion of Tanach is more ill-used than Deut. 30.
In order to support the opposition of these two means toward righteousness, Paul uses Deut. 30 in support of the idea that righteousness comes through faith in Jesus. Note the juxtaposition in the language of the first Romans 10:5 and 10:6. Verse 5 begins: “Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law…” And verse 6: “But the righteousness that comes from faith…” Just as he has done throughout the letter, he is going to juxtapose the Law and Faith.
In support of his thesis that righteousness comes through faith, he quotes Deut. 3:11-14:
“But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:6-10).
To make comparison easy:
“Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.” (Deut. 30:11-14).
Paul has so badly misrepresented these verses, performed such an act of violence against them, that he clearly had no love of the truth and no fear of God. Of course, he does to this passage what so many Christian misrepresentations do, he makes it to be about the person of the Messiah. His interjections about “Christ” have no relation to what Moses is speaking about in Deuteronomy 30. But this is almost the least of his crimes in regard to this passage.
Paul has made Moses’ words to be about Paul’s word of faith. But Moses is speaking about the Torah, about the Law, the same Law to which Paul has juxtaposed Faith. Paul has turned the passage on its head entirely. Moses, in telling the people not to seek “it” in the heavens or across the sea, is not talking about Christ but the commandment. It is the very opposite of what Paul has made the passage seem to say. (Paul also changes the relation to the sea from “across” to in its depths, which is a minor point compared to the other points. However, this misquote leads to the interjection about “bringing Christ up from the dead,” which imagery would not make sense with the original relation.) When Paul goes on to say that “the word [that] is near you” is the word of faith, this is an absolute lie. Moses is talking about the commandment, the teaching of the Torah, in Paul’s terminology—the Law. Paul attempts to hide this by omitting the end of Deut. 30:14, which continues where Paul stops. Moses indicates that the people have been given the Law just so that they can observe it, that it is not impossible to keep the Law. But, because the thrust of Paul’s argument is that the Law is impossible to keep, he must omit the end of v.14.
Omitting the end of the quote also allows Paul to impose a new meaning upon the portion of v. 14 that he does quote. He relates the lips to the confession that Jesus is Lord and the heart to belief that God raised Jesus from the dead. However, this is clearly not what Moses was speaking about. These misrepresentations by Paul would make no sense if you quoted the end of the verse, which talks about observance. Moses has given the people the key to Torah observance, internalizing it and speaking about it constantly. When one’s focus is on the Torah, he will be able to keep it. But Paul’s whole argument is the antithesis of this: he claims that the Torah is impossible to keep.
Paul has made the promises of God into nothing. As Deut. 30 continues, it says that obeying the commandments of God brings blessing and life. And, disobedience brings curses and death. According to Paul, however, because no one can keep the Law, it does not bring blessing and life, only curses and death. It is bad enough that he would make this argument at all, but it is particularly brazen to hinge this argument in part upon a passage that is the antithesis of his doctrine.
Paul greatly abused Tanach in his letters. He treated Torah like it was his plaything, rather than the holy words of God. He created his own doctrines, and then he misrepresented Torah in order to make his teachings appear to be divine. In so doing, he misled a great many people. His letter to the Romans is littered with his misrepresentations. His misrepresentation of Deut. 30 stands out for its being so blatant, but it is only one of his many crimes against Torah.