On his blog Matthew D. Larsen has asked the following three questions in reference to Galatians 3.10 (here):

(1) How does the sentence Ὅσοι γὰρ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου εἰσίν, ὑπὸ κατάραν εἰσίν explain (γὰρ) Paul’s claim in Gal 3.6–9.

(2) In what sense does the citation γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὃς οὐκ ἐμμένει πᾶσιν τοῖς γεγραμμένοις ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τοῦ νόμου τοῦ ποιῆσαι αὐτά explain Paul’s claim that those out of the works of the law are under a curse.

(3) What mindset or activity was Paul primarily combating in Galatia in this verse?

Since I just wrote a brief summary on this passage for one of my professors I thought I would try to provide some answers from my perspective:

(1) In Galatians there is a juxtaposition between the old “Law” covenant and the new “Spirit” covenant (I do not read Galatians as being primarily a debate between “faith” and “legalism” as much as “Law/Letter/Torah” and “Spirit”). Since the Galatian Christians have already receive the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit absent from any covenant duties on their part it is surprising to Paul that having “begun in Spirit” they are now “finishing in flesh (3.2-3). In other words, they receive entry into the new covenant free of any obligations yet they are now behaving as if they are part of the old covenant that is built upon contractual obligations.

It would seem that Jeremiah 31:31-34 must be in the mind of the Apostle. In this passage the primary concern is that (1) the old covenant has been broken by Israel and (2) a new covenant is coming where the law will be written on the heart of the people of God. If one goes back to the old covenant one rejects the new covenant. Paul cannot understand why anyone would want to move back to the old covenant where Israel had already failed when a new covenant, that healed the breach between God and his people caused by the old covenant, had been provided.

Also, one must assume that Ezekiel 36:22-38 where the Spirit of God will indwell the people of God is in the mind of the Apostle. If we examine this passage along with the one from Jeremiah it is obvious that for Paul the contrast is not between “faith” and “action”, per se, but between the old covenant’s inability to make one faithful and the new covenant’s Spirit-empowered ability to actually make someone faithful.

It seems that from this point Paul wants to show that the new covenant is derived from the Abrahamic covenant (a covenant of “promise”, cf. Gal. 4.21-5.1). Abraham’s covenant was a covenant of faith. The covenant with Israel was a covenant of Law (for Paul). For the Gentiles to become part of the new covenant the obligations of Israel’s cursed covenant had to be removed (cf. vv. 13-14) so they too could enter via a covenant of faith. Likewise, with Christ becoming the curse, as Paul is about to say, this allows the Jews to set aside the aspects of the Law that prevent them from coming into contact with the Gentiles (which seems to be part of his argument using the story of the conflict with Peter in chapter 2).

(2) The quotation of Deut 27.26 is based on Paul’s understanding of this passage as meaning each aspect of the Law must be kept by the people lest the covenant curse comes upon the people. Paul appears convinced that this very thing has already taken place. Israel has failed to keep the covenant and therefore Israel is under this curse. Nevertheless, as he will show in vv. 13-14 Christ has taken this curse upon himself because Deut. 21.23 says that anyone who hangs from a tree is cursed and Christ was crucified (cf. 3.1) which is, essentially, hanging on a tree.

Those “from works of the law” refuse to abandon a failed covenant in favor of a new one. God has provided a means of repairing what was broken in the old covenant, yet some wish to remain in a covenant that plainly states that a lack of obedience results in a curse. It seems evident that Paul’s real problem is not so much “legalism” here as it is the rejection of the new thing God has done because of the crucifixion by the Holy Spirit. There is a sense in which this is eschatological.

(3) Again, it seems to me that Paul is concerned with the fact that the new covenant has come and that (1) there are those who are trying to maintain that the old covenant is still in effect and (2) that to be a Christian you must participate in this old covenant. If the old covenant has already been broken, resulting in the curses promised by Moses, demanding that the prophets proclaim a new covenant that will heal this contractual breach, why is it that there are people rejecting this new start in favor of the old way?

This is my shot at providing an answer. Thomas has provided one here. There are comments on the original post as well.