Cranfield On Why “Works Of The Law” Means More Than Mosaic Ceremonies

The Heidelblog | 10/25/2017 | Staff
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in Rome would be familiar with what he had written to the Galatians. That Paul was capable of using the same expression in different senses on different occasions is clear enough.

We turn now at last to Romans. The first occurrence of ἔργα νόμου is in 3:20: διότι ἐξ ἔργων νόμου οὐ δικαιωθήσεται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ, διὰ γὰρ νόμου ἐπίγνωσις ἁμαρτίας. Dunn explains ἔργα νόμου here as meaning quite specifically those observances like circumcision and keeping of the food laws ‘which marked the Jews off from the other nations as distinctively God’s people’.

Reasons - Explanation

But there are several compelling reasons why this explanation must be rejected.

1. It fails to take account of the fact that 3:20 stands in relation to the whole argument from 1:18 on. When Dunn says of 3:20, ‘The concluding summary of the first main stage of the argument must refer back to what Paul had been attacking for the last chapter and a half, particularly Jewish pride in the law, and especially in circumcision as the most fundamental distinctive marker of the people of the law’, he has lost sight of Paul’s argument. He should have referred back not just one and a half chapters, but right back to 1:18 where this section begins. Paul’s concern from 1:18 on has surely been to lead up to the conclusion expressed in 3:20a and then restated in the opening lines of the next section in 3:23 (RV: ‘For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God’), namely, that all human beings are sinners (Jesus Christ alone excepted) whose only possibility of being righteous before God is by God’s free gift accepted in faith; and his concern in 2:1–3:19 is not primarily to polemicize against Jews (Dunn speaks of ‘Paul’s polemic here’), but rather to draw out the...
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