Romans 2 Paper Accepted for SBL Annual Meeting in New Orleans

Categories: Biblical Studies, New Testament
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I’m pleased to report that a few days ago I was informed that my paper on Romans 2, “Gentiles Who Keep the Law: Paul’s Law-Keeping Gospel,” was accepted for the Pauline Epistles section at the SBL Annual Meeting that will be held in New Orleans this November. The abstract is as follows:

Romans 2 and its “Gentiles who keep the Law” have long been a crux interpretum for biblical exegetes. E. P. Sanders, for example, relegates Romans 2 to an appendix because of its “peculiar point of view”; that is, “what is said about the Law in Romans 2 cannot be fitted into a category otherwise known from Paul’s letters.”
This paper argues that the Gentiles who “do the things of the Law by nature” (2:14) and thus “demonstrate the Law written on their hearts” (2:15), are references to the new covenant promise in Jeremiah, where God promises to restore Israel by writing his Law on their hearts. By applying this passage to obedient Gentiles, Paul shockingly claims that these Gentiles are in fact Israelites, part of the promised restoration. They have no need for circumcision because God has already confirmed their Israelite status by writing his Law on their hearts.
The paper is particularly distinctive in that it shows that the “true Jews” of Romans 2:28–29 are a separate group joined together with the “Israelites” from the Gentiles to form “all Israel”—the reunion of Judah and Israel promised in the new covenant. Paul thus firmly establishes his case for circumcision-free Gentile inclusion into new-covenant Israel while retaining an important place for physically circumcised Jews.
By starting from the new covenant prophecy, Paul’s Gospel redefines what it means to keep the Law and to be an Israelite. For Paul, the Law has now been written on the hearts of Israel through the indwelling Holy Spirit, producing the righteousness the external Law could not. With this reading, Romans 2 no longer needs to be confined to appendix status but can be seen as an essential part of Paul’s argument in Romans.

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EDIT: The paper has been scheduled for session 23-138, which meets at 9am on Monday, 11/23, and looks to be the first paper presented in that section.

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