Having given a cursory critique of the other main views, in this post I'm going to expound view 2b more fully. My old view (view 1a) was motivated largely by lexicographical concerns. I was convinced that the word telos is most frequently used in a temporal sense, meaning "terminus." This was based on the fact that the temporal/terminal usage of telos predominates in both the Septuagint and the New Testament.
However, what got me thinking along different lines was reading a 1985 dissertation by Robert Badenas titled Christ the End of the Law: Romans 10.4 in Pauline Perspective (JSNTSup 10; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1985).
Badenas proved conclusively in case after case that in extra-biblical Greek telos has a strongly teleological meaning. He also showed that it can be used in a prospective or a retrospective teleological sense. When used prospectively, telos means "end" in the sense of a future goal not yet attained, and can be glossed "goal," "aim," "object," "purpose," or "intention." When used retrospectively, telos means "end" in the sense of a goal that has been attained, and can be glossed "completion," "culmination," "attainment," "fulfillment," "climax," "realization," "actualization," or "outcome."
With that extra-biblical usage firmly in place, when we turn to the New Testament – which uses the word around 40 times – we find that the teleological meanings, although infrequent, are not entirely absent. There is one indisputable text where telos is used in a prospective teleological sense: "The goal (telos) of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5 NASB; "aim" in ESV). And then there are seven instances where telos is used in a retrospective teleological sense. Of the seven, in six occurrences telos is rendered by the NASB as "outcome" (Matt 26:58; Rom 6:21-22; James 5:11; 1 Pet 1:9; 4:17). And on one occasion, it is rendered "fulfillment." This is where Jesus says to the disciples as he is about to go to the cross, "For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment (telos)” (Luke 22:37 ESV).
At the very least we have to admit that both the temporal and the teleological meanings are possible in Rom 10:4. In the end, the context must decide.
Now Badenas took the teleological meaning in a prospective sense in Rom 10:4 and adopted view 2a. His interpretation of the verse was: "Paul seems to say that faith in Christ is at the same time true faith in the Torah … Right understanding of the law leads to faith in Jesus Christ … The law always required a response of faith" (Badenas, 149-50).
I was convinced by Badenas's examination of the extra-biblical sources, but not by his exegesis of Rom 10:4. I especially did not agree that the law required a response of faith – after all, Paul says that "the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them'" (Gal 3:12). So I began to wonder, "What if we take Badenas's second teleological usage, the retrospective one, and what if we see the Law not as demanding faith but righteousness?"
And that is when the whole passage finally made sense to me. Here is my interpretive translation of the text:
Romans 10:3-4: "Being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness [by keeping the Law], the Jews did not submit to the righteousness that comes from God. For Christ is the one in whom the Law's demand for righteousness is fulfilled, with the result that there is righteousness [from God] for everyone who believes."
In other words:
"'Christ is the end of the Law,' i.e., its completion or consummation. He gives that which the Law requires, that is, whoever believes in Christ has that which the Law demands, i.e., he is righteous by imputation" (Philipp Melanchthon, Commentarius in Epistolam ad Romanos, 1540; translation mine; the Concordia translation by Fred Kramer gets it wrong here).
"The moment that a man believes in [Christ], the end of the law is attained in that man; that is, it is fulfilled in him, and he is in possession of that righteousness which the law requires … and consequently he hath eternal life" (Robert Haldane, Commentary on Romans, 1853).