Friday, October 22, 2010

The Havoc of Exegetical Misconstrual, Unintentional, of Course

On Wednesday I posted a paragraph from the essay I am preparing for the ETS conference in Atlanta. Here is another paragraph to pique your curiosity and interest.

Worthy of passing comment is the havoc done to Paul’s argument by stating that “the doers of the law” (οἱ ποιηταὶ νόμου; 2:13), which is a statement characterizing who will be justified, “are no more and no less than those who ‘do the works of the law’; and ‘works of the law,’ Paul claims cannot justify.”[1] This is flawed and tortuous reasoning. Paul designs his statements in 2:12-13 to sustain his argument that Jewish possession of the law does nothing to insulate them from the coming wrath of God’s righteous judgment. So, a Jew, who possesses the law and hears it but does not do what the law requires, and a Gentile, who sins while neither possessing the law nor hearing what the law requires, equally will be condemned when God passes judgment. Possession of the law does not advantage Jews. Hearers of the law will not be set right with God (2:13a). Only doers of the law will be justified (2:13b). To negate Paul’s affirmative statement that concerns who will be justified, “the doers of the law” (2:13), with his much later negative assertion that concerns how justification will not occur before God, “all humanity will not be justified from the works required by the law” (3:20), amounts to hermeneutical “illegal procedure,” for it adjusts the apostle’s argument to fit a theological system.

[1] The expression, “works of the law,” has become infamously slippery with a “tendency to slide between two definitions of ἔργα νόμου (‘works commanded by the law’ and ‘actions performed in obedience to the law’ [cf. NIV as in Rom. 3:20])” (A. B. Caneday, “The Curse of the Law and the Cross of Christ: Works of the Law and Faith in Galatians 3:1-14,” [PhD diss., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1992], 151-152; on ἔργα νόμου, see pp. 150-155). See also, Stephen Westerholm, who agrees that Paul’s phrase means, “the deeds demanded by the Sinaitic law code” (Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988], 121). Cf. also Douglas J. Moo, “‘Law,’ ‘Works of the Law,’ and Legalism in Paul,” Westminster Theological Journal 40 (1987): 92.

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