That’s the question Paul asks in Romans 7:7-12. “That the law is sin?” N.T. Wright: this text “tells the story of the law’s arrival on Sinai and Israel’s recapitulation of the sin of Adam” (562). Some complex stuff here, but it is a good way to see how Wright expounds Romans.
The “I” is Israel as an instance of Adam. One could, of course, see the “I” as each human who is stirred into sin by the Torah, or of Paul himself. (I promise I’ll not do this constantly in this chp, but it needs to be seen what the options might be.)
Torah, Paul says, provokes sin; sin leads to death. Is that really what the Torah is all about? And Paul seems in this passage to be very close to saying “Yes, that’s what it is about.” That, however, does not make Torah sin.
What Paul says is that the Torah produces sin. And, at the same time, sin itself “seizes the opportunity” of the Torah to lead humans into sin. Sin is here personified as an ongoing power. Sin gains strength with the arrival of Torah.
To what event does this refer? A reading of Rom 5:20 shows that sin entered history at Sinai, so Paul may well be describing here the Sinai event through the word “I”. Hence, the “I” is Israel’s experience of being given the Torah at Sinai. Sin in general becomes “trespass” against Torah, and sin in general becomes SIN as a power.
Wright also suggests that Sinai recapitulates Eden’s Fall, so that this “I” experience is the consummate act of sin. Wright sees here the story of Israel with echoes of Adam.
Torah, Wright says, anticipates Life in the Spirit but, until Christ had died/been raised and until Spirit had come, Torah could only deal in death.