man's essential nature in contrast with God or 'Spirit,' to emphasize man's frailty, dependence or incapacity. … it's importance consists in its being the point of departure for the development of the Pauline doctrine of the flesh, with distinct ethical reference. (17-19, quoting H. Wheeler Robinson, The Christian Doctrine of Man, 25)
we are entitled to say that the ultimate enemy of the Spirit of God is not flesh but the Sin of which the flesh has become the weak and corrupted instrument,
the use Paul makes of the term sarx can be adequately explained as an accentuation of the ethical connotation that the term already had in certain late documents in the Old Testament... (19-20)
Say not: "From God is my transgression,”
For that which he hateth he made not.
Say not: “It is he that made me to stumble,”
For there is no need of evil men.
Evil and abomination doth the Lord hate,
And he doth not let it come nigh to them that fear him.
God created man from the beginning,
And placed him in the hand of his yetzer.
Let no one who is being tempted say,
“I'm being tempted by God,”
for God cannot be tempted by evil,
and He Himself tempts no one.
Each person is tempted when he is lured away
and enticed by his own desires.
Then desire conceives and gives birth to sin,
and when sin becomes full grown it brings forth death. (1:13-15)
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we'll go to this or that city and spend a year doing business there and making money.” You don't know what your life will be like tomorrow! You're like a mist that appears for a little while and then disappears! What you should say is, “If the Lord wills it we'll live and we'll do this or that,” but in your arrogance you boast. All such boasting is evil. For whoever knows what he should do and doesn't do it is committing a sin. (4:13-17)
But to keep from getting puffed up as a result of these extraordinary revelations I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan, to beat me so I wouldn't get puffed up. Three times I begged the Lord to take it away from me, but he told me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness."
the mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart (12:34)
from the heart come wicked thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and blasphemy. These things are what make a man unclean, but eating with unclean hands doesn't make a man unclean. (15:19-20)
"The appetites and passions are an essential element in the constitution of human nature and necessary to the perpetuation of the race and to the existence of civilization. In this aspect they are, therefore, not to be eradicated or suppressed, but directed and controlled"—through repentance and Torah study. (22)
I once was alive apart from Torah, but when the commandment came sin came to life and I died. (7:9-10)
I don't even choose my own actions, because instead of doing what I want to do I do what I hate. … although I want to do what's right I'm unable to do it, for instead of doing the good that I want to do, I do the evil thing that I don't want to do. (7:15-19)
“sin,” “the old man,” “the sinful body,” “the body of this death,” “the sinful passion aroused by the Torah,” “the mind of the flesh,” these are all “so many picturesque and paraphrastic names for the yetzer ha-ra. It is a likely conjecture of his [of Williams] also that φρονημα της σαρκος almost amounts to a literal translation of the yetzer ha-ra.
οἱ γαρ κατα σαρκα οντες τα της σαρκος φρονουσιν, οἱ δε κατα πνευμα τα του πνευματος. το γαρ φρονημα της σαρκος θανατος, το δε φρονημα του πνευματος ζωη και ειρηνη. διοτι το φρονημα της σαρκος εχθρα εις θεον, τω γαρ νομω του θεου ουχ ὑποτασσεται, ουδε γαρ δυναται, οἱ δε εν σαρκι οντες θεω αρεσαι ου δυνανται.
For those who are [living] according to the flesh think the thoughts of the flesh, while those who are [living] according to the Spirit [think] the thoughts of the Spirit. For the mentality of the flesh [yetzer ha-ra] is death, while the mentality of the Spirit [yetzer ha-tov] is life and peace. Therefore, the mentality of the flesh [yetzer ha-ra] is in enmity with God, for it doesn't obey God's Torah, nor can it, while those who are [living] in flesh cannot be pleasing to God. (8:5-8)
They knew God and yet they didn't honor Him as God or give Him thanks; instead, their reasoning became foolish and their senseless hearts were darkened. They claimed they were wise but they became foolish, exchanging the glory of God for an image...
And so God handed them over to the impure desires in their hearts... They exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, they worshipped and did service to creatures instead of to the Creator, Who is blessed forever, amen. This is why God handed them over to dishonorable passions... And since they refused to acknowledge God, God handed them over to corrupted reasoning... (1:20-28)
“This is the device of the evil impulse [yetzer ha-ra]: Today it says 'Do this,' tomorrow 'Do that,' till at last it says 'Worship an idol' and the man goes and does it.” According to this, idolatry is the last condition to which the yetzer ha-ra will reduce a man, so that, by implication, where idolatry is all other evils are present. Again another Rabbi said: “He who hearkened to this evil impulse is as if he practised idolatry ...” The thought that idolatry is the root of all evil would easily suggest itself: to fall down to worship Satan would mean submission to the yetzer ha-ra.
For though Adam first sinned,
And brought untimely death upon all,
Yet those who were born from him,
Each one of them has prepared for his own soul torment to come,
And again each one of them has chosen for himself glories to come.
Adam is, therefore, not the cause save only of his own soul
But each of us has been the Adam of his own soul.
Adam, the first man, became a living being;
the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.But the spiritual isn't first;
first comes the physical, then comes the spiritual.
The first man was made of dust,
the second man came from Heaven.
Those who are of the dust
are like the man of dust,and those who are of Heaven
are like the man from Heaven;
and just as we've borne the image of the man of dust,
so too we'll bear the image of the man from Heaven.
UPDATE: This update is by way of a response to the first comment, below. Since comments are limited as to length, that response is being added as an "update":
Paul's overall view is that the covenant with Abraham rested on faith--a matter of the spirit, not the letter. Paul maintains that Torah observance cannot abrogate that covenant of faith. The purpose of Torah was educative, but Paul likens that to slavery--the child (Man under Torah) is like a slave and is taught obedience by being required to perform written legal requirements that have no real moral significance. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 re the eating of food that had been previously offered to idols, Paul enters upon a highly rationalistic, almost deconstructive, analysis in which he maintains that eating or not eating certain foods cannot commend us to God. Paul's point is that by "knowledge" we know that we are free from Torah observance, but that that freedom by knowledge, while superior to mere legal observance, should be exercised in charity, not arrogance. Nevertheless, the freedom of the New Covenant is seen as intrinsically superior, since it rests on Man's higher capabilities that God has given.
In 2 Corinthians 3:4-4:6 Paul is concerned with the superiority of the New Covenant of the Spirit. This is a relatively brief argument that Paul presents, and is best read in light of Galatians. However, what comes across, just as in 1 Corinthians, is the inherent superiority of the New Covenant in the Spirit ("the Lord is the Spirit") over Torah, which was only intended as a "transitory" measure.
Galatians is, with Romans, Paul's most systematic treatment of Torah v. New Covenant. The tone is set early on when Paul writes:
But not even Titus who was with me and is a Greek was required to be circumcised, although it was urged by some false brothers who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and wanted to enslave us. (2:3-4)The rest of the letter is an extended argument for the inherent superiority of life in the Spirit--in "the freedom we have in Christ Jesus"--over the life of Torah observance. Now, it's true that Paul doesn't denigrate Torah observance per se. As human custom it is morally neutral, and when understood in its real essence (5:14) it is noble. However, Paul's larger point is that life in the Spirit encompasses all that is positive in Torah but takes man to a higher level, the level intended by God when He created human nature: that of freedom and spiritual fellowship with God. That higher level is what Jesus inaugurated.
Now, from all this we can see that part of the difficulty in understanding Paul's discussions of Torah has to do with the varying contexts of his letters and the varying ways in which he understands Torah. Which is to say, that Paul's letters are highly context driven, rhetorical in their approach, and even at times polemical.
So, the earlier letters that I cited above are negative in tone because Paul is dealing with backsliding in the churches. In these letters, Torah is treated in its whole literal sweep, for the most part (Paul hints at a more refined understanding by quoting Jesus at Galatians 5:12). That means that Paul includes, even emphasizes, aspects of Torah that in other contexts he would regard as cultural aspects, human traditions (cf. Jesus' remarks re purification). Romans, on the other hand, is far more irenic in tone, intended as it is from the beginning to set out an understanding of the essential equality of the entire human condition, embracing both Jews and Gentiles (not coincidentally, along the lines of Jesus' parable of the workers in the vineyard). His purpose here is not to address backsliding but to give a positive presentation of "his" gospel, central to which is the unity of Jews and Gentiles "in Christ."
It thus suits Paul to treat Torah not in its entire sweep but in its essentials. Thus, he maintains--in common with the Jewish understanding of the Torah as reducible to a mere handful of commandments (the "Noahide" law)--that the Gentiles were able to understand by reason the essentials of Torah. But, his main point as ever is the inherent superiority of life in the freedom of the spirit of Jesus (life "in Christ"). And the reason for that superiority is that it leads to dikaiosune, true fellowship with God "in Christ," which no amount of Torah observance or of Gentile philosophizing (no matter how noble in spirit) can give us.