Applying a New Perspective Understanding to Romans 2:12–16 -- By: Gregory V. Hall

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 42:0 (NA 2010)
Article: Applying a New Perspective Understanding to Romans 2:12–16
Author: Gregory V. Hall


Applying a New Perspective Understanding to Romans 2:12–16

Gregory V. Hall*

When considering the purpose behind Romans 2:12–16, many questions and factors that need to be considered. Paul’s occasion for writing the epistle was to express his desire, after his ministry efforts in the east, to visit the church in Rome on his planned missionary journey to Spain.1 However, in moving past his greeting and explaining his desire to visit the church in Rome, what was Paul trying to accomplish in this letter? Was Paul, according to the traditional understanding, setting out a systematic theology of Christianity? Did Paul feel a need to defend himself and his ministry? Was Paul addressing divisions within the church in Rome?2 More specifically in regard to this pericope, what is Paul referring to as he repeatedly mentions law? When Paul refers to nature, what does he mean? Is Paul making a Stoic argument, condemning the Jews, or something else? And when Paul refers to the Gentiles who do what the law requires, to whom is he referencing? How one chooses to answer these questions will greatly impact how to read this pericope and the rest of Romans. While researching what scholars have said about this passage, one can quickly observe that there seems to be as many interpretations as are there are interpreters, with only a handful of factors generally agreed upon by the majority of the scholars. However, one position that effectively addresses issues that arise in this pericope comes from the New Perspective on Paul movement. While addressing issues over Paul’s emphasis on the law in this pericope, the New Perspective’s interpretation also notes how Paul addresses, “the tensions caused by a Jewish gospel being offered to Gentiles.”3 On account of the benefits that are offered by employing the New Perspective’s approach to Paul and Romans, it should serve as one of the primary lenses through which to read Paul’s epistle to the church in Rome.

Before looking in detail at what Paul is saying in this portion of his letter, it is important to look back to what has preceded in the epistle in order to begins the letter to the church in Rome by expressing his desire to visit them and stresses that he is eager to preach the gospel in Rome before moving on to a discussion of the immoral behavior of mankind. Not only is mankind acting

Having worked to understand the context of which Paul positions Romans 2:12–16, one is now almost prepared to engage the text t...

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