Paul, The Law, Jews, And Gentiles: A Contextual And Exegetical Reading Of Romans 2:12-16 -- By: Jeffrey S. Lamp

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 42:1 (Mar 1999)
Article: Paul, The Law, Jews, And Gentiles: A Contextual And Exegetical Reading Of Romans 2:12-16
Author: Jeffrey S. Lamp

Paul, The Law, Jews, And Gentiles: A Contextual And Exegetical Reading Of Romans 2:12-16

Jeffrey S. Lamp*

I. Introduction

The issue of Jewish and Christian relations is one that occupies public attention to this day. This reality was evidenced with the dedication of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington on April 22, 1993. The report of the ceremonies, on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on April 23, brought the issue into bold relief. In a touching photograph, Vice President Albert Gore is seen with his arm around a Christian woman who had hidden several Jews during the days of the Holocaust, one of whom she eventually married. If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, this picture evokes a myriad of questions and assertions, many of which have infiltrated academic communities and imposed their agendas upon scholarly enquiry with great vigor.

The present discussion will, in some degree, reflect this trend. The passage under investigation, Rom 2:12–16, addresses the Jew/non-Jew relationship from the perspective of that which is integral in defining the essence of being Jewish: the place of the Law in God’s dealings with Jews and Gentiles. The passage raises several important questions. What is the relationship of the Law to Gentiles? Is there a “natural law” that is the Gentile equivalent to the Jewish Law? How is “conscience” implicated in the argument? Can Gentiles receive salvation through obedience to this natural law in the same manner in which the Jews were thought to be able to be saved through their Law? Is Paul’s argumentation in 2:12–16 a “flat contradiction” to the position articulated in 3:9 and 20? 1

This essay will investigate these and related questions. The organization of this enquiry is as follows. Rom 2:12–16 will first be examined with regard to its place in its literary context. This will require definition of the boundaries of the literary context as well as of the flow of Paul’s argumentation in this section of the epistle. Against the background of the literary context, 2:12–16 will receive its exegetical consideration. Finally, some theological implications of this treatment will be considered.

* Jeffrey Lamp is adjunct professor of New Testament studies at Oral Roberts University, 7777 S. Lewis Avenue, Tulsa, OK 74171.

II. Survey Of Literary Context

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